Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

solomons-temple

 

When we think of the Old Testament temple most of us think of Solomon in all his glory.  The son of King David, usually recognized as the greatest King of the Jewish people.  He was rich beyond measure, recognized for his wisdom and international influence.  He reigned over an unprecedented era of peace for Israel.

Solomon was called upon by God to build the temple to house the Ark of the Covenant and God’s revealed presence in Israel.  He was able to call upon the best of the best materials and artisans in the known world.  Gifts poured in from all over to help complete this monumental task.  1 Kings 5-7 provides us with the glorious details of this building like no other in history.  The author of 1 Kings provides us with wonderful detail about the construction, decor and furnishings that defined this wonderful project.  All the wealth and influence that God provided to Solomon represented in Solomon’s obedience to this command of God.

There is another temple builder in the Old Testament.  He is less known.  One is unlikely to find anyone named after him.  In comparison to Solomon he did not have the wealth, the fame or the influence that Solomon was able to bring to bear on the building of the first Temple.  Zerubbabel was returning to Judah, less than half of the kingdom that Solomon ruled.  He was returning to a land that had been laid wasted by Nebuchadnezzar, suffering the consequences to rebellion both against God and against Babylon.  He returned to Jerusalem with a ragtag group exiles, born and raised in a foreign land.  He came from the line of David, but he was not really a king.  He ruled at the pleasure of Babylon and the land he governed was more of province than a kingdom.  He was surrounded by adversaries, not allies.  Zerubbabel did not command the immense respect given to Solomon.  Biblically he takes a backseat to Ezra and even to Cyrus King of Persia.  Even after the temple was completed, it was not all pats on the back and cheers.  There were jeers in the crowd also.  Those few old enough to remember the former glory of the Temple built by Solomon, decried this new temple as inadequate. Yet through all of this Zerubbabel ruled over an incredible revival in Judah.

Comparison is one the greater weapons that Satan uses to undermine the faith of the Hupomone man.  Here we have two men, both called to the same task, one from a position of wealth, strength and glory, the other from a place of defeat, servitude and subjection.  Zerubbabel could have well fallen into a rut of rebellious comparison.  “But God you gave Solomon everything to build your temple and I have nothing. I am not even really a king.”  We are so tempted to view the path that God has laid before us in comparison to others who seem to have it all.  Sometimes we even compare our current call to a place where we were before.  Paul well understood this risky place when he penned the words, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstances I have learned the secret of being filled and growing hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

This is the position of the Hupomone man.  He sees the nature of obedience resting not in the arms of ever changing circumstance but in the arms of an unchanging God.  We do not know a lot of details about Zerubbabel, but this son, of a son of exile did not shirk his duty to serve Yaweh.  He obeyed the call of God on his life and was true to his position as a son of David even when faced with opposition that compared his humble state to the glory days of Israel.  Though relegated to the closet of history, he stands as an example of the Hupomone man that we would do well to follow.

 

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Tablet heart

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

I recently read this verse during my morning devotions.  It was only about 5 minutes later that I snapped at one of my daughters for something silly (probably for interrupting my morning devotions….).  The importance of Binding kindness and truth around your neck became readily apparent.  Have you ever bound something around your neck?  How about something heavy.  Kindness and truth are not lightweights.  They have an heavy impact on everything we do.  How about writing them on the tablet of your heart?  The picture here is not the easy process that I am using now (typing quietly into my laptop, with the delete button just a fingers width away).  It is not even pen or pencil on paper.  The picture here is a clay or stone tablet (sorry not an Ipad or Android) inscribed by a stylus or sharp instrument.  Once written it could only be removed with considerable effort.  The deeper the inscription, the more permanent the message.

The picture is not complete without consideration of the physical impacts.  I do not think that the writer wanted to shortchange the difficulty or even outright pain of righteous living.  It is neither comfortable nor enjoyable for things to be cut into our hearts.  Consider our modern culture.  TV shows, movies, books; they all extol the virtues of the free heart.  Our clothing is loose and light, even high quality body armor is extolled for its lightness and the fact that it does not inhibit the movements of the wearer.  We do not want to be restricted.  Here is a truth from this passage:  Kindness and truth are restrictive.  They set limits on our behavior both internally and externally.  Our human nature chafes at these limitations.  We want to redefine them in a way that maintains our perceived freedoms.  Kindness becomes a touchy feely thing we do from time to time when the circumstances are right.  Truth becomes a function of what is working well for us for the moment crossed with what is currently most inoffensive to all of those around us.  They cease to be bound around our necks nor etched forever on the tablets of our hearts.  Instead we wear kindness like a fancy necklace and truth is penciled in, with an eraser close by.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart…. not as easy as it sounds.

 

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police dog

 

I was driving down a local road on my way home recently when I passed a car that had been pulled over by the Toledo Police Department.  Just as I passed them the officer opened the back door of his cruiser and led out a police dog.  My view then turned to the young lady in the driver’s seat.  I caught her just as she became aware of the impending visit of the police dog.  Her face was a melange of fear, guilt, regret and despair.  In that moment it captured a whole series of decisions that led her to this moment.  I couldn’t help think that she personified in that moment the plight of humanity before a righteous God.  She was Adam and Eve hiding in the garden from the voice of God (Genesis 3:8); the mass of humanity pounding on the door of the Ark (Genesis 7:21); David standing before Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12:1); Ananias and Sapphira standing before Peter (Acts 5).  Granted the implications of her plight do not approach the consequences in each of these biblical examples, yet I can only imagine that her heart was very much in the same place.  I cannot speak to her knowledge of God or to the potential relationships  that have spoken truth to her.  I will probably never know the final consequences of this moment in her life.

This is a moment that we have all experienced.  We have all had those “sniffed out” moments.  We look in the mirror and see the dog that will “sniff out” our dishonesty, our greed, our anger, our sin making its way toward the vehicle of our life. Our hearts experience the same mix of emotion that I saw on our unnamed young lady’s face.  What I could not see, and what makes all the difference is what her soul (and ours) does with the emotions of being “sniffed out”.  Sin is universal and an unavoidable result of the human condition. (Romans 3:23)  The Holy Spirit is the ultimate “police dog”, perfect in His ability to sniff out and expose sin. (John 16:7-10) However the big difference is the Holy Spirit desperately loves the sinner. (John 3:16) When the Holy Spirit sniffs out sin, he wraps us in His arms and does His best to lead us to repentance and redemption.  God sacrificed His son Jesus Christ to ensure that this could happen.  We only have to reach out to Him and “take the deal”.  When we take it, the sentence is an eternity of praising God in perfect relationship with Him.  It is a deal that cannot be scammed, tricked or manipulated.  There is no negotiation.  It is the ultimate deal, offered by the one true God with only one alternative, death. (Romans 6:23)

God calls us to focus on the Gospel, the good news when the Holy Spirit convicts.  Hopelessness and terror are the message of the Devil.  He works to turn the work of the Holy Spirit into condemnation and despair.  Paul recognized this when he penned one of my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8:

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you from from the law of sin and of death.”  Romans 8:1-2

It is Satan’s greatest desire that we suffer the fear, the despair of the Law, twisting the loving act of conviction into the hateful act of condemnation. Paul goes on to speak of this very Holy Spirit that sniffs out our sin, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!'” Romans 8:15  

Imagine with me for a moment that even as that police dog sniffs out her sin, the young woman throws her arms around his neck and confessing her own blindness lets him lead her out of despair into the light of adoption, a light brighter and more full of hope than the lights of a thousand police cars.

 

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Lion's Den

 As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.  Daniel 1:20-21

Daniel is one of the most amazing characters in the Bible for a number of reasons.  Our canon of Scripture places Daniel among the prophets but the Jewish Scriptures do not.  The Jewish Canon places it in a group called The Writings.  While one cannot deny Daniel’s prophetic gift, he did not hold the office of prophet.  Certainly God calls on him repeatedly to speak  to the various leaders of Babylon, but that leads us to another unique thing about Daniel.  Other than the fact that Daniel was a Jew and was taken at a young age from his home in Judah the contents do not speak of or to the Jews.

So what do we know about this enigmatic figure and author of one of the 39 books of our old testament (one of the 24 in the Jewish Canon)? Daniel lived in the sixth century BC.  His family was either of the royal family or the nobility.  Pretty much everything that we know directly of Daniel comes from the book bearing his name.  The authorship of the book is much debated but I do not doubt that Daniel wrote it near the end of his life, probably after he had retired from public service.  I find most other textual criticism to be contrived either for academic reasons (you have to write your dissertation on something) or with the express need to explain away the miraculous.  He grew up during hard times in Judah.  His dedication to God from the very beginning would indicate to me that his parents were godly people living in ungodly times.  They are not mentioned here or elsewhere in Scripture.  If they did survive the siege and capture of Jerusalem Daniel was taken from them at around the age of 13.  This was the typical age at which the Babylonians of this era began training for public servants.  We are able to historically place the siege and capture of Jerusalem right around the year 605 BC.  This enables us to date many aspects of Daniel’s life, particularly when his service to Babylon began and ended.  This is what caught my attention and brought me to look a little deeper at the life of this man of God, this man of  hupomone (perseverance).  Daniel as we said was not a prophet, he was not a priest nor a missionary.  He was a public administrator and in many ways a politician by trade.  Daniel served God in the Babylonian courts and government until the year or year after Cyrus captured Babylon seizing control of that empire.  That event is historically established as occurring in 540 BC.  So Daniel served God in his capacity as an administrator for several versions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 605 BC until 540 BC, or including training around 65 years!  That is some serious Hupomone!  Throughout that time he maintained his dedication to and love for God, even facing death!  He probably spent the last few years of his life (from 540,41 to 543,44) penning the book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which would become of part of the canon of Scripture we hold as the Word of God today!  He was very much an Old Testament Missionary, called to a pagan people to speak the heart of God.  Consider his words to Nebuchadnezzar: ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’  Daniel 4:27 It seems that most often studies of Daniel focus in on either the eschatological aspects of his prophecies or just a few specific events within the book.  The next few weeks will be dedicated to looking at Daniel and the Long Haul.

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So, here I sit, pondering bravery.  What does it truly mean to be brave?  I have greatly enjoyed reading every devotional from those who have shared.  As I read them, I say all too often, “yep, me too.”  There always seems to be a little nugget I take away.  Morning after morning, I sit here, listening to my children clicking away on their computers while they work on school.  I listen to my mom busily cleaning.  I listen to the giggles of Nisa Faith and her daddy playing, and I ask myself once again, “What does it mean to be brave?  Who are my heroes of faith?”  Each day has been a different answer, and a different way their actions were brave.  But when I look at each one, one thing I see they have in common.  They are human.  Yep, that’s it.  They are imperfect humans.  [Well, I can do that, correctly? :)]
Today, I think of Beth Moore.  If you have never heard or read her story about the hairbrush, it truly is one you should Google. (I will also post it in the FB BGB group).  It is an amazing act of bravery.  But what I love the most about the story is how incredibly human she was in it.  I think so often, we raise people up much higher than they should be.  Many times, I have felt people do that to me.  We look up to them and he/she seems to have it all together.  Wanna know something?  No one truly has it all together.  We are all walking a road.  No one walks their roads perfectly.  None, but Jesus.

 

I shared in my last blog about my struggle with fear.  Paralyzing fear at times that robbed me of peace.  As I read my own words, something hit me… flashes of brave moments throughout my life came pouring through.  Girls, I think it is time to stop getting hung up by our human moments.  We need to start looking through God glasses and start accepting what He says we are. So many of us can go through this long list of how we are not brave,  but being brave doesn’t mean we don’t have fear.  We are brave while being afraid and doing “it” anyway.

 

Last February, I had gone through one of my most difficult rounds of chemo.  I was extremely sick, truly wondering if I would live to see another day. Would my husband ever kiss my forehead? Would I have another deep talk with my teenagers? Would I be here to kiss the hurt away for my preteen? Would my newborn baby have me as her mother?  I remember lying in bed, crying out in my heart for God to help me.  I thought about Jesus calming the sea in Mark: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:37-39

 

I begged God to calm my sea… then I remembered another story… much like this one only with a twist: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them:“Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:22-32

 

Did you see it? Jesus called Peter out of the boat with the waves crashing around him. Jesus did not calm the sea first. When they climbed back into the boat; that is when the wind died down.  Jesus touched my heart saying I am the God who will calm your sea, but I am also the God who will have you step out in your storm.  This was a moment that Jesus encouraged my heart to be brave.  He may calm your storm or He may call you out of the boat with the waves crashing around you, but regardless, He is always there to catch you.

 

Allana Guidry: Urban Missionary at The Lewis House in Toledo, Ohio. Attends Compelled Church.  Three Passions:  Teaching children praise dance, Teen Outreach and sharing the Truth about God’s love for us with all who will listen.  (Facebook)

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Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot.”   Robert Bruce Shaw  Leadership Blindspots

 

I got this quote in one of the secular leadership blogs that come in my email.  Honestly most of them I don’t even look at closely anymore.  However this one caught my eye.  I am always intrigued when a secular article espouses a biblical truth.  I am certain that if you read Mr. Shaw in depth he differs considerably from Paul’s view on this subject.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

In Philippians 3 he talks about what was becoming a huge blind spot for many of the Jewish believers.  They had a strong belief in the overpowering strength of their religious heritage. Paul’s reply to this blind spot was that if anyone had reason to rest in the strength of religious heritage, it was Paul.   He goes on to say:

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death ;

These apparent strengths can even be gifts from God.  Unfortunately as the author notes, the more overpowering the strength, the closer the blind spot.  Consider Samson, called to save his people even before he was conceived and dedicated to God as a Nazirite from conception.

“Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4 “Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5 “For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb ; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:3-5

He had two great strengths.  The most obvious one was his physical strength.  The second was his godly discipline as a Nazirite.  As the story unfolds we see the blind spots that develop as he grows to be comfortable in his strengths.  He achieves victory after victory and as happens all too often, the blind spot involves a growing sense of powerful self eclipsing the very God that is the source and sustenance of that power.  He ignores the godly counsel of his parents and after that does not even seek wise counsel, after all he is the Nazirite, he is the chosen one of God, who would counsel him. Even when 3000 men of Israel come to hand him over to the Philistines he does not see the selfishness of his actions.  He uses the strengths given him by God out of anger, out of hurt yet he continues his disciplines and as promised God sets him as Judge over Israel.  We so often attribute success with righteousness.  We see the Spirit of the Lord come upon Samson time after time so he must be in a right relationship with God, right?  This is a misconception that leads to great disappointment and injury.  When men and women of God exercise their gifts in blind spots, God’s will still moves through those strengths but when we measure their fruit by Galatians 5 we see the disconnect.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control ; against such things there is no law.

Samson’s disregard for his parents; his failure to seek godly and wise counsel ( as his mother did cf. Judges 13:8, 8 Then Manoah entreated the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.”); his lack of concern for the consequences of his actions on the very people he was sent to save all point to the blind spots that Samson fostered and ignored.  While Scripture does not record it as a parent I can only imagine their continuing and more desperate attempts to reach their son.  Wise counsel whether it is from parents, mentors or just from people that God places in our lives is key in illuminating the blind spots that the Enemy will manipulate to our harm and harm to those around us. Samson is an apropos example of blind spots because in the end it brought physical blindness.  The will of God for his life was ultimately achieved as he brought the house down on Philistine power in the region but how much more of a story if his blind spots  had not interspersed such tragedy into God’s call on his life.

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Change is a part of the Christian walk.  Some change is sudden and some change comes slowly.  Last Friday our whole world changed but our hearts did not.  As The Lewis House website is no more I wanted to post this here.  The Lewis House is gone, a sudden death, and our lives have been turned upside down since this was recorded but our heart of ministry continues unchanged, building the Kingdom of God one relationship at a time…

 

 

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