The Wisdom of Solomon?

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When you read about the Kings of Israel or Judah, their life is always summed up in one sentence, as a kind of Eulogy: King ­___ did right/evil in the sight of the Lord. That’s really all it boils down to, if we do right or we do evil in the sight of the Lord. None of the other things that they did matter. Take King Solomon for example. The wisest man who ever lived, the Lord appeared to him twice. Once he told him, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” He asked for wisdom to be able to lead the Israelites. God was so pleased with his answer that he said he would give him wisdom, riches, and honor, and if he followed his commandments that he would prolong his days. Solomon went on to build the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.

It sounds like he lived his life to bring God glory, but Solomon had one small problem.  Chapter 3:3 “Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” And in chapter 11 vs.1-6 it says (paraphrase), “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.  They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord….”  Contrast this to Ch.15:11&14 “And Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” “The high places were not taken away, nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.” You do not want your epithet to read:  He loved the Lord, EXCEPT….. We need to make sure that we keep our hearts wholly devoted to God. Solomon started out loving God, but then he put other people before him and his heart was pulled away.

Sherry Alcumbrack

Right from Wrong

WEDNESDAY

In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said.

1Th. 4:1   Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication;

 

The church at Thessaloniki was made up of mostly non-Jews, so Paul knew that it was important to teach them about sexual purity, because that was not something that was expected in their society. As Demosthenes wrote:

 

“We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.”

This attitude was not acceptable to God’s people. In Acts 15, when the leaders of the Jerusalem church welcomed the Gentile Christians into the body, they thought it important to remind them to abstain from fornication (Acts 15:29).

 

We live in such a world today. How do we make moral decisions? As we continue in this chapter we will see three more important points, but Paul begins with what we have been taught. In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said. Paul writes that they have been taught to abstain from fornication, meaning every type of sexual sin.

 

-Greg Demmitt

Unveiling the Past, Present and Future…And Then Repent!

Monday, July 17

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Revelation 1-3

The final book of the Bible is known as the Book of Revelation.  It is also known as the Apocalypse.  Apocalypse mean “unveiling”.  It has the idea of that which was hidden has now been unveiled or brought out into the open to be seen.  There are other passages in the Bible that contain apocalyptic material (parts of the book of Daniel and Ezekiel are two) but this is the only book of the Bible that is fully apocalyptic.
Revelation can be a little confusing (ok, a lot confusing).  A big part of this confusion comes from the challenge of pinning down the proper timeline.  It contains material that was past, present and future to the writer, John, who wrote toward the end of the first century.  The angel who gave this revelation to John said: “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”(Rev. 1:19).  There are different “schools of interpretation” that see Revelation as mostly focusing on John’s time period (end of first century in the Roman empire), others see it as being fulfilled progressively over the past 2000 years of the Church, and others see it as still to be fulfilled in the future.  This is compounded by the use of symbol and imagery that fill the visions of Revelation.  A lot of time can be spent trying to discuss and debate these issues, but for our purposes I’d like to focus on basic principles found in Revelation that can be of value to our lives as followers of Jesus today.
In chapters 1-3 a focus is on letters written to seven Churches throughout Asia.  John is writing to them as a pastor who at the time was living in isolation on an island in the Mediterranean sea.  He can’t be physically present with his churches, but he is with them in spirit and wants to encourage and instruct them, to help them stay strong during a time when many believers were suffering persecution by the Roman empire.  Imagine what it would be like to try to encourage Christians today living in places like Pakistan, or Egypt, or Sudan or Syria, where Christians were being killed because of their allegiance of Jesus Christ rather than to Mohammed.  What kinds of encouragement would Christians whose family members, friends and fellow believers were dying for their faith need to help them not lose faith?
In the Roman Empire during John’s time of writing it was required by law for citizens to declare allegiance to Caesar by publicly declaring Caesar to be Lord.  Jewish people were largely exempt from making such declarations (but not always).  Often Christians came under the umbrella of the Jewish exemption, but now always.  Thousands of Christians died as a result of religious persecution during the early Roman empire.  John writes to offer encouragement to keep faithful to their commitment to God and to Jesus Christ in the midst of such persecution.  The challenges we face today may not be the same type that first century Christians faced, yet we still have challenges, struggles and temptations.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain words of exhortation and correction to the various Churches to which John is writing.  Each Church had many good things happening for which they were praised, but several also had not so good things going on for which they needed to be corrected.  One of the common themes of each letter to each Church was a call to repentance.  To repent means to turn around or change direction.  To the Church at Ephesus, John said that you have “lost your first love.”  They were just going through the motions of their faith, without the passion.  Perhaps you can relate to that.  Anyone who has been a Christian for a while has to be aware the danger of “just going through the motions” and losing their passion for God.  John is trying to get them fired up again.  John says: “repent” and do the things you did at first.  Most Christians, start out enthusiastic… they read the Bible a lot, they pray a lot, they tell their friends about God and their faith a lot, and they consciously seek to get closer to God and do things to please God.  But over time, they lose the passion, lose the drive… become complacent.  John says- get back to the love and passion you first had for Jesus.
Maybe this is you.  If it is… let it be a wake up call.  If this isn’t you, then keep reading through Revelation 2 and 3.  Look at what is said to each of the seven churches.  Is there anything that rings a bell?  Is there anything there that applies to you?  I’m guessing there is.  Read it… and then repent.
-Jeff Fletcher

God’s DETEST List

Proverbs 14-16

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Wednesday, January 25

A phrase that is repeated numerous times in the Proverbs is “The Lord detests…”  It’s not just, “God doesn’t really like it very much when we ….”.   No, The Lord DETESTS!  I for one want to be far, far, far away from God’s DETEST List.  Sounds like we need some more information to know what to avoid.

— 15:8 – The Lord DETESTS the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
— 15:9 – The Lord DETESTS the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
— 15:26 – The Lord DETESTS the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him.
— 16:5 – The Lord DETESTS all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

My heart sinks.   Wasn’t it just yesterday I said my PRIDE leads me to believe I am usually right.  Perhaps I am inching closer to that Detest List than I would like to admit.  And, the dangers don’t end there – there are numerous other “The Lord DETESTS” throughout the Proverbs: haughty eyes, lying tongue, hands that shed blood, a scheming heart, feet rushing to evil, a false witness, a man stirring up dissension (6:16-19), perverse hearts (11:20), acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent (17:15), and dishonest scales (20:23).  We are so comfortable with the warm and fuzzy “God of Love”, that we sometimes prefer to forget about the Lord DETESTS list.  So, while we are spending some time evaluating our mouth this week, let’s also examine our heart and deeds and attitudes and thoughts.  May we not become like the Pharisees, so proud of our “righteousness” that we lose sight of God and His many-faceted and always right –  love AND judgment.
Dear God – Help me to see myself clearly, as You see me.   Help me to grow in my understanding of You and what You desire of me.   Help me steer clear of ALL that is on your DETEST list and seek to please you always.

And, speaking of pleasing God . . . here’s just a sampling of some more great lessons from these 3 chapters of Proverbs . . .

On our Attitude

  • “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (14:30)
  • “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” (15:15,16)

Contentment with what you have and what comes your way.  It is well with my soul – even if I don’t have what others do or what I thought I wanted.  Enjoy the feast before you – whatever it may be.

On Patience vs. Temper  –

  • “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (16:32)
  • “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (15:18)
  • “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” (14:29)
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1)

Watching our mouth is so much easier when we learn to think before speaking.  Slow down, simmer down – it will save you, and others, a lot of grief.

On Helping the Needy –

  • “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” (14:21)
  • “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (14:31)

How can you honor God this week with an act of kindness to the needy?
God Bless You as You Seek Him,

Marcia Railton

 

(Photo credit: photo by Bob Smerecki, found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapnpiks0304/10636599685)

How to Please God, The Promise Keeper (Deuteronomy 24-26)

Monday, September 19

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By Jill McClain

Moses gives more instructions to the Israelites about what they should and should not do to please God in Deuteronomy 24-25. He gives some clear directives about what should be done under some specific situations.  Then in chapter 26 the people are instructed to give a special tithe to the Lord when they enter into the Promised Land.  

Following many chapters of instructions and laws, the people are explicitly reminded that they must follow all of these laws.

 “The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.  You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”  (Deuteronomy 2:16-19)  

When God had initially led his people out of Egypt he had set up a special covenant with them.  There were vows taken by both God and his people that must be kept by both sides.  The LORD promised that if he was their God and they walked in his ways, then they would be his special people. Now in this passage the next generation of God’s chosen people were again repeating the promises of their covenant relationship before they entered the Promised Land.  Humans are extremely forgetful. By nature we often forget about the important commitments that we make to others, even important commitments to those we care deeply about.  On occasion, married couples will choose to renew their marriage vows.  The renewal of vows by a married couple do not make them “more married”, but it can serve as an important reminder of their commitment to each other.  In Deuteronomy 26 God’s chosen people are remembering the special commitment they have to God.  God is a promise keeper.  He will always be true to the promises he has made.  Are you keeping your commitments to God?  Are you following his decrees and walking in his ways?