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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Eeyore Attitude (Proverbs 15:15, 19)

 "All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast."
"The way of the sluggard is blocked by thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway."

Winnie-the-Pooh has entertained and influenced several generations of children. When my children were small one of them identified with Christopher Robin's adventuresome personality while another identified with Eeyore's gloomy personality. Maybe you remember the following conversation Eeyore had with Pooh Bear:
"Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."

"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance.
Here we go round the mulberry bush."
Thankfully, our move overseas broke the spell that Eeyore had on my child. Just as Eeyore's negative outlook on life kept him from enjoying life in the 100 Aker Woods, the joys found in life are lost to many who can't see them. They have an Eeyore attitude--they see the glass as half empty rather than half full.

The oppressed, because of their hard circumstances, only see gloom and doom. Yet, there are those who live in oppressive situations who choose joy in the midst of their circumstances. They see possibilities.

The sluggard only sees what he wants to see--thorns, barriers to success, while the upright sees those same barriers as opportunities. The upright envision a highway where the sluggard sees nothing at all--only thorns. Yet, they both look at the same landscape.

Attitudes are congealed mental habits. With discipline they can become positive. Left alone negative attitudes prophesy of a life of gloom--life with an Eeyore attitude.

John Maxwell describes our attitude as "the speaker of our present and the prophet of our future." Do you have a tendency to see the glass as half empty or half full? Attitudes can be changed. Ask the Lord to make you more aware of how you allow your attitude to guide you instead of His Word and His Spirit.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Proverbs 14:1-15:33
  • Draw two columns and list the characteristics of the righteous (or prudent) in the first column and contrast those with the characteristics of the wicked (or foolish) in the second column.
  • What does Solomon say about a man's words and speech?
  • What does Solomon say about what a man's wealth does for him?
  • How does the lack of wealth affect the poor?
Turning truth into prayer: Choose a proverb from today's reading to write on an index card and commit it to memory. Ask the Lord to burn the message of this verse into your heart.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Wise and the Warped (Proverbs 12:8)

"A man is praised according to his wisdom, but men with warped minds are despised."

Solomon addresses many subjects throughout the remainder of Proverbs. Most of his proverbs, however, fit into two categories: those who are wise and those who are foolish. Imagine the joy you would experience if you always walked in the path of the wise! Then imagine a world full of wise people. Well, back to reality . . . we live in a world full of warped people--people who view and live life with sin-skewed understanding--and we ourselves aren't exempt. How we need the wisdom of God upon our lives! May Christ, the Wisdom of God, living in me manifest His wisdom through my life--then I, and others around me, will experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

Chapters 10-22 contain 375 sayings covering a wide range of subjects. Each of these fall into either the wise category or the foolish category. Subjects covered:
  • Family relationships (husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, parents & children)
  • Governing authorities (kings, rulers)
  • Servants and masters
  • Immoral women (dress, speech, attitude, actions)
  • Orphans, widows
  • The poor and needy
  • Social interaction (poverty and wealth, stealing, lying, drunkenness, honesty, kindness, cruelty, truth, slander, honor, shame, etc.)
  • Character flaws (diligence and laziness, self-control and dissipation, mercy and cruelty, generosity and stinginess, contentment and covetousness, love and hate, submission and rebellion, wise and reckless behavior, pride and humility, etc.)
Ask the Lord to identify areas in your life that fall under the foolish category as you read Proverbs 11:1-13:25. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who's Calling? (Proverbs 8:1)

 "Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?"

That Solomon chooses to personify wisdom as a woman is amazing. Especially since he spent much of the first chapters of Proverbs describing the seductress/adulteress and warning men of her snares. He has also spent most of his life collecting women (700 wives and 300 concubines). Yet in chapter eight he personifies wisdom as the virtuous woman.

In the same way that the seductress calls out, "The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house . . . calling out to those who pass by" (9:13-18), so wisdom calls out to be heard as well. She "calls out", "raises her voice", cries aloud" (8:1, 3-4). Both the virtuous woman (wisdom) and the seductress "call out" and offer their services to those who travel by--both the simple and the foolish. The simple are drawn to wisdom while the foolish to the seductress. While both desperately need wisdom only one turns aside to hear what wisdom has to say.

That wisdom speaks is apparent in Proverbs eight.
  • "I have worthy things to say" (verse 6)
  • "I open my lips to speak what is right" (verse 6)
  • "My mouth speaks what is true" (verse 7)
  • "All the words of my mouth are just: none of them are crooked or perverse" (verse 8)
Man has a choice in whether he will listen to wisdom or the seductress. Lest we think that only women are seductresses Solomon immediately mentions the lure of wealth. Power and wealth seduce many into finding meaning in temporal prestige and possessions whereas wisdom seduces the simple to find meaning in knowing and walking with God.

The book of Proverbs is not gender, culturally, or generationally bound. It still speaks today to those who listen. It offers a blessing to those who hear and heed wisdom's voice, "Blessed is the man who listens to me . . . whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord (8:34-35). Seductive voices speak as well and they only bring harm, "Whoever fails to find me [wisdom] harms himself; all who hate me [wisdom] love death. Whose voice will you listen to?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Proverbs 8:1-10:32
  • Why is obtaining wisdom incomparable to obtaining wealth?
  • How does chapter eight define wisdom's role in this world?
  • What does a person's response to correction reveal about that person?
  • Can those who don't fear or know God have real wisdom? Why or why not?
  • As you read ask the Holy Spirit to highlight a verse that relates to your life today. Write that verse on a note card and read it throughout the day until you've memorized it.
  • Make a list of the subjects Solomon mentions in chapter ten.
Turning truth into prayer:
Thank the Lord that Jesus Christ is the personification of wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Confess your 'simple' state and your need for His wisdom on your life.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Full View of God (Proverbs 5:21)

 "For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths."

To live one's life in the presence of God is to live Coram Deo (Latin for "before the face of God"). God sees and knows everything we do; further, He knows the motive behind all our actions. Nothing we do or think escapes the eye and knowledge of God. We live in full view of the Lord all the time.

This truth should both warm and warn our hearts.

It should warm our hearts that He knows us intimately, better than we know ourselves. He knows when we are hurt by others and when we struggle with and against temptation. He knows our need for love and acceptance. He knows our insecurities and our flaws. We can hide our 'stuff' from others but we cannot hide them from God. Knowing that He knows all about me and still loves me completely and thoroughly in Christ Jesus is mind boggling; it warms the heart.

It should warn our hearts that He knows us intimately, better than we know ourselves. He knows when we harbor resentment and unforgiveness toward others. He knows when we embellish our stories. or 'spin' the truth to make ourselves look good. He knows when we entertain lust or covetousness. He knows the things in my life that may not seem destructive now but will one day lead to destruction if allowed to continue in my life. Knowing that He knows my capacity to do wicked things warns my heart to flee to Him and turn away from even the appearance of evil.

Living in the awareness of His presence is both a pleasure and a preventive.

It is a pleasure because there is joy in his presence - "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Because life is lived in full view of God. When one lives in the awareness of the "full view of the Lord" he or she will avoid doing certain things, thus the appropriated presence of God is preventive.

The writer of Proverbs teaches us that those who live in full view of God walk wisely.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Proverbs 5:1-7:27
  • List the consequences for being involved with an adultrous woman.
  • What protection against adultery does the writer of Proverbs give?
  • What is the implication then for the wife?
  • How does Solomon use nature in his teaching wisdom?
  • What does committing adultery do to a man?
  • What characterizes a seductress?
  • What characterizes those who are drawn in by the seductress?
  • What characterizes those who guard themselves morally?
  • What three analogies does Solomon use to describe what happens to the man seduced by the adulteress?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Holy Spirit to make you more conscious of His presence in your life--to help you live in full view of God.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Guard Your Heart (Proverbs 4:23)

 "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

When my children were small the phrase "follow your heart" resounded throughout children's movies. The small dinosaurs were told by their elders to "follow your heart" in The Land Before Time. As my children watched that movie I picked up on that phrase "follow you heart" to teach them that the heart isn't a trustworthy guide. Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart as "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."

There's a big difference between guarding your heart and following your heart. Why does Solomon urge those who seek after wisdom to guard their hearts? The heart is easily influenced by persuasive words and persuasive people. Solomon understood the importance of guarding his heart in retrospect. He violated the regulations regarding kings in Deuteronomy 17:14ff by marrying Pharaoh's daughter to solidify an alliance with Egypt (and many other women as well) and by amassing a huge personal fortune.

Throughout Proverbs Solomon warns men and women about many things. To name a few:
He warns about adultery and seductive women. Why? Seductive and adulterous women steal the heart.
He warns about stinginess. Why? Stinginess shrivels the heart.
He warns against laziness. Why? Laziness infects the heart.
He warns about pride. Why? Pride exalts the heart.
He warns about being undisciplined. Why? Undisciplined people follow their heart.
The heart has a tendency to drift--and never in the right direction!I think of the words of an old hymn, Come Thy Fount:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the One I love.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.

We often ask God in prayer to do for us what He expects us to do for ourselves. Guarding our hearts is our responsibility and the door swings both ways. First, we keep the bad stuff from getting out (from out of the heart man speaks), which means that we discipline our thoughts and words. We then prevent the bad stuff from getting in (resentment, unforgiveness, etc.) which means we filter information coming our way. Because the heart is the wellspring of life, we can never afford to take a break from guard duty. Guarding our hearts is a full time job.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Proverbs 2:1-4:27
  • How does Solomon describe the search for wisdom?
  • What two things wisdom will save you from in chapter 2?
  • How does the wise man view discipline?
  • What analogy does Solomon use to describe wisdom?
  • What is the first revelation of God's wisdom?
  • Make a list of the "do not" statements in chapter 3:27-27. What are the negative consequences of these prohibitions?
  • Chapter 4:11-27 refers to path/s, way, travel, etc. Contrast the two paths, their descriptions, their travelers, and their destination.
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to reveal the unguarded areas of your heart.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Got Wisdom? (Proverbs 1:1-3)

 "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair."

What is wisdom? It is the practical and disciplined ability to navigate life wisely or well. In Proverbs Solomon provides practical guidance in matters of finance, parenting, women, lust, the tongue, work ethic (or lack thereof), harvesting, nature, etc. Many mistakes can be avoided by heeding Solomon's words of wisdom.

Four times in Proverbs Solomon urges man to "get wisdom":
  • Prov 4:5 - Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
  • Prov 4:7 - Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
  • Prov 16:16 - How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  • Prov 19:8 - He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.
Everyone pursues something and wisdom has to be pursued. Many pursue fame, love, power, money, knowledge, etc. Each can be obtained without wisdom but without wisdom fame, love, power, money, knowledge, etc. corrupt the possessor.

Solomon also proves that God's wisdom lived out of an ordinary life is supernatural and magnetic. After spending time with Solomon Sheba praises the God of Israel for enabling Solomon to "maintain justice and righteousness" in Israel.

In Proverbs 1:20 Solomon describes wisdom as "calling out", but in verse 28 wisdom rejects "callers" who hate knowledge. He then, in verse 33, promises safe living to those who listen to or hear wisdom. Every since the Garden of Eden man faces the constant choice to live life based upon God's word or to live from a poor substitute, the world's wisdom (which is really demonic in its origin - James 3:14-15).

Wisdom has to be "gotten", obtained, and pursued. It doesn't come easily or naturally. Wisdom still calls aloud in the streets, looking for someone to hear, understand, and to live out in the sometimes treacherous paths of life. James assures the believer of God's willingness to give wisdom to anyone who asks (James 1:5). We need God's wisdom and He has made it available to us.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12; 1 Kings 4:1-19, 29-34
  • What does the Queen of Sheba understand about God after she takes a trip to Jerusalem and meets Solomon?
  • What does she understand about the source of Solomon's wisdom and the purpose of his wisdom?
  • What did God's gift of wisdom do for Solomon and Israel?
Proverbs 1:1-33
  • What purpose does Solomon give for writing Proverbs?
  • According to Proverb's first chapter how does wisdom relate to parents, sinners & the simple?
  • What does Solomon communicate about the consequence of not having wisdom?
  • What promise accompanies the listening to wisdom?
Turning truth into prayer:
Thank the Lord for His wisdom. Ask Him for the manifestation of His wisdom in your situation or problem.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Temple of God or Temple of Doom (1 Kings 9:6-7)

"But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples."

Building a temple for the Lord wasn't an end but a beginning of greater accountability and responsibility. The temple symbolized God's presence, but God's continued presence and blessing were also conditional. God is not adverse to destroying something that once brought Him pleasure when it ceases to fulfill the purposes for which He created it. God has always been more interested in the hearts and obedience of His people than in buildings.

Post Christian Europe testifies of a past generation who placed more emphasis on large and ornate buildings than on obedience and evangelism. Many of those churches which flourished with life, though beautiful on the outside, now stand empty. Every generation has the opportunity and responsibility to fulfill the purposes of God with the tools, talents, and energy God has given to them--not to build ornate buildings but to build people who, in turn, build people. The saddest commentary on a people who once breathed with the life of God is that they become "a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples."

China's house church movement testifies that spiritual life is much more than maintaining a building with a steeple, but the building of a people who touch the world for Christ.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Kings 8:62-66; 9:1-9; 2 Chronicles 7:4-22
  • What conditions does God place on His promised blessings to Solomon and his descendants?
  • Why does God place conditions on His continued blessings?
Psalm 132 - This psalm was written in response to the fulfillment of David's desire to build a temple as God's dwelling place. What does the temple's presence in Jerusalem do for Israel?

I Kings 9:1-9; 2 Chronicles 7:11-22
  • Review Deuteronomy 28:15ff. How does God's response to Solomon in the completion of the temple reflect the the cursings found in the Deuteronomy passage? What does this tell you about God? about human nature?
1 Kings 9:10-14, 24-25; 10:22; 2 Chronicles 8:1-6, 17-18; 9:11-19, 26-28; 9:21
  • Describe Solomon's treatment of those who've helped him in building the temple and his palace.
  • What does Solomon do that violates God's regulations regarding intermarriage?
  • Describe Solomon's other business expansions.
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for your church. Ask the Lord to allow the people of your church to experience His manifest presence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

House of Prayer (2 Chronicles 6:20-21)

 "May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from Heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive."

There are two things that make the temple in Israel a special place: the presence of God and the prayers of His people. This temple was God's dwelling place on earth and prayer is the response of God's people to God's presence. Prayer and the presence of God should be synonymous. Could it be then, that prayerlessness in the house of God today witnesses to the lack of the manifest presence of God?

Crowds of believers flock to the church house to hear famous Christian artists and speakers; few, however, come through those same doors when they are opened expressly for the purpose of prayer. Trouble, oppression, famine and drought all cause people to cry out to God. What will it take for the house of God to again become a house of prayer?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Chronicles 6:1-7:3; 1Kings 8:22-61
  • What does the completion of the temple teach Solomon and the children of Israel about God?
  • Review Exodus 25:8-9. Why is having a temple crucial to the spiritual life of Israel?
  • Read Luke 19:46 and Matthew 21:13. What activity should characterize temple life?
  • List the seven conditions given in Solomon's prayer which should draw people to God in prayer. What typically draws people to pray?
  • What reason does Solomon give for foreigners being drawn to Israel from distant lands?
  • How do most churches today account for their time?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to help you to become a person of prayer and to help your church become a praying church.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When the Glory Fills the Temple (1 Kings 8:10)

"When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple."

Solomon and his builders finally finished the work of the glorious temple that was born of David's vision and crafted according to his design. This magnificent house exuded splendor and greatness, and was indeed a temple fit for the LORD. One thing it lacked, however, and this was the heart--the ark of the covenant. The ark was the meeting place between holy God and sinful man, the place where shed blood covered the broken law.

The priests brought the ark into the temple on their shoulders in just the way God had commanded it be borne. All the Levites wore the holy garments God required. Musicians took the places assigned by David, lifted up their voices in unison, and offered praise to God accompanied by 120 trumpeters, as well as those who played cymbals, harps, and lyres. They sang the simple yet powerful song of the redeemed:
"He is good; His love endures forever."

As the people dressed in purity, sang in unity, and worshiped in verity, the Bible says, "Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God" (1 Chron. 5:13-14). God manifested His personal presence when His people worshiped Him properly.

This same glory came down again hundreds of years later; this time, however, the Glory was the person of Jesus Himself. John says, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3); He manifests Himself among His people when they worship Him in Spirit and in truth. The chronicler records the purity of the people, the unity of the worship, and the verity (truth) of their song. When God's people seek purity, unity, and verity, God delights to show up in worship.

Does your personal worship measure up? Are you worshiping in purity and truth? How about your church? Does your church seek purity, unity, and truth in every situation? The stifling lack of the manifest presence of God that pervades our churches may reflect His response to impurity, disunity, and dishonesty that fills hearts, pews, and pulpits. We need to seek the Lord in unity, purity, and verity--perhaps the LORD will show up once again among His people!

Questions for Today's Chronological Bible Reading:
1 Kings 7:13-51
  • Who does Solomon bring from Tyre? With what metals does he work? How does he cast these metals? What seems to be his main responsibilities?
  • What is the design of the Sea? What is its purpose? How do the basins work alongside of the Sea?
  • What items were made of gold? Why these particular items?
2 Chronicles 4:1-5:1
  • How much bronze was used in the construction of the temple?
1 Kings 8:1-21
  • How many times does the text use the word "all"? What does this tell you about this event in the life of Israel?
  • How many sheep and cattle does Solomon sacrifice?
  • What was in the ark of the covenant? What is the significance of this item?
  • Why did Solomon praise the LORD?
Turning Truth into Prayer:
Do you long to see God's glory revealed in your life, your ministry, or your church? God desires to manifest His presence to His people, but the text today reveals the price--unity, purity, and verity. Ask God to bring unity to your church, purity to your heart, and truthfulness to your lips. Perhaps--just perhaps--He will move in mighty power once again.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How Much is Enough? (1 Kings 6:38; 7:1)

 "In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He spent seven years building it . . . . It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace."

Seven years to build the temple. Thirteen years to build the palace. Seems disproportionate.

A friend recently showed me a 23,000 square foot home built by an older couple in her neighborhood. And, another friend told me about a 10,000 square foot house built by another older couple here in town. Recently I saw a study about how the average size of homes in America has more than doubled since 1970 while the size of the average family has decreased. Which leads us to ask, "How much is enough?"

Jesus warned of covetousness by declaring, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). He then tells the parable about the rich man whose fields 'yielded plentifully'. So, instead of sharing out of the overflow he tears down his barns and builds bigger barns to store his overflow. Sadly, he did not reckon on eternity, for that night Jesus said that the very riches in which he trusted required his soul from him. Then he summarizes his parable with the words, "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (verse 21).

This was the beginning of Solomon's spiritual demise. His palace and his kingdom building became the focus of his life and it cost his people dearly. I Kings 12 tells the rest of the story. At his death the people of Israel approach his son, Rehoboam, and ask for relief from some of the tax and work burden experienced under Solomon. Instead, his son increased their load and it cost him dearly, for the people rebelled. And the kingdom divided.

Solomon proves the truth that man becomes enslaved to those things which he treasures.

Questions for today;'s Chronological Bible reading:
1 Kings 5:13-18; 9:15-16, 20-23; 6:1-38; 7:1-12; 2 Chronicles 2:2, 17-18; 3:1-17; 8:7-10
  • Who does Solomon use to construct the temple and his palace?
  • What stipulation does the Lord place upon his blessing the temple?
  • What is the significance of the temple's location on the threshing floor of Araunah?
  • Who does Solomon marry?
  • How closely does Solomon follow the regulations recorded in Deuteronomy 17:14ff which are to guide the behavior of future kings?
Psalm 127
  • What does Solomon understand about the temple, Jerusalem, and the people of Israel?
  • How does Solomon view the sons born to Israel?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to show you where you are caught up in "building greater barns". Ask Him to reveal and break down the stronghold of covetousness from your life.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Evangelism in the Song of Songs (Song of Songs 5:9; 6:1)

 "How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful among women? How is your beloved better than others, that you charge us so? Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?"

The storms of life have a way of clarifying priorities. Having spent her earlier life taken care of smelly sheep and vine dressing palace life became addicting. So much so that when the Beloved comes knocking at her door she turns him away with the words, "I have taken off my robe--must I put it on again? I have washed my feet--must I soil them again?" Notice that her hands dripped with myrrh so much so that she can't even get a grip on the door knob! (Perhaps she had spent too much time and money at the Bath and Body Works store that day!)

What happened to the Shulamite? Her affections moved from the Prince of the palace to the prosperity of the palace. She began to love his 'stuff' more than she loved him! At his departure she awakens to her senses and leaves the palace to look for him. The watchmen, who are supposed to protect her, beat her up and take away her veil. Undaunted, she continues her search. Stunned, her friends question her loyalty to the Beloved. The Shulamite's description of the Beloved is so compelling that they soon join her in her search.

That's exactly what happens in evangelism! Believers aren't immune to the storms of life; the storms of life clarify their view of the Heavenly Beloved. So much so, that when they testify of the Beloved to their friends who witness their storm, their friends are awakened to need to know such a great King.

No one is immune to trouble. Trouble to a believer, however, frames the greatness of God. Describing Him to those who watch us navigate the difficulties of life whets their appetite to know such love. We must, therefore, be quick to testify of Him in the midst of our troubles. We have a hope that the world only dreams of.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Song of Songs 5:1-8:14 (It is helpful to read the Song in a regular Bible so that you can see who is saying what.)
  • How does the Shulamite woman respond to the Beloved's knock at her door?
  • What happens to the Shulamite woman after she changes her mind, opens the door and finds her Beloved gone?
  • How do the daughters of Jerusalem respond to the Shulamite's inability to find her Beloved? (What two questions do they ask her?)
  • How does the Shulamite woman describe her Beloved to her friends? (This is the only time in the Song that the Beloved is describe. Isn't it interesting that it occurs after the Beloved is rejected and has gone away?)
  • How do her friends respond to the Shulamite's description of the Beloved? (In 6:1)
  • Obviously in the Song 6:4ff the Beloved returns to the Shulamite. He again describes the Shulamite. Can you imagine what this description must have meant to the Shulamite since she had just rejected him?
  • What does the Beloved call the Shulamite woman in 7:1? How does his statement compare with her own description in 1:5-6?
  • What changes occur in the Shulamite's relationship with the Beloved throughout the Song?
Psalm 45 - In Revelation 19:6-21 the Apostle John wrote about the marriage of Christ, the Lamb, in heaven. He describes the Bridegroom as one who is dressed for battle and the Bride as one clothed in acts of righteousness. The reader can't help but see in Psalm 45 a parallel passage.
  • How is the king's attire described?
  • What characterizes the king?
  • How is the princess (or bride) described?
  • Read the following verses to see how Christ's garments are described:
Matt 9:20 - "And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment."
Matt 14:36 - "and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well."
Mark 6:56 - "Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well."

1 Kings 5:1-12; 2 Chronicles 2:1, 3-16
  • Upon what basis does Hiram respond to Solomon's request for timber? What does he recognize about Solomon?
  • What does this tell you about those who have God's wisdom?
  • What purpose does Solomon attribute to the temple?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you aware of the watchful eyes and the listening ears of others as you navigate the troubles that come your way.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Going Behind the Veil (Song of Songs 4:1b, 3b)

 "How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves . . . Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate."

Going behind the veil demands transparency and trust. Twice in this passage the Beloved King goes behind the Shulamite's veil and describes what he sees there. The Shulamite has to be willing to allow the Beloved behind her veil and trust in the Beloved drives that willingness.

I can't imagine standing still for such an intimate search. Imagine how vulnerable she must have felt as the Beloved's eyes traveled the length of her body. He describes her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth, temples, neck, and breasts. He summarizes his search with the following words: "All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you."

The writer of Hebrews understands the searching/knowing gaze of God in chapter 4 verse 13, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." God sees beyond the veil of our pretenses and knows all of our flaws, sin, insecurities, etc. and He loves us perfectly in Christ Jesus. We don't have to be afraid of His gaze, for 'perfect love casts out fear'. True intimacy is found behind the veil. Won't you allow Him access beyond the veil of your life. Be open and vulnerable with Him. It is then that you'll know and experience true love. You are loved by the Heavenly Father!

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

Psalm 50 - This Psalm opens with a courtroom scene whose Judge is God and whose witnesses are the people of the earth.
  • What are the two charges that God makes against His people? (7-15, 16-23)
  • Why do the people think that they can treat God as they do?
Song of Songs 1:1-4:16 - You may want to read the Song of Songs from another Bible that attributes speaking parts to the appropriate sections. As you read this Song think of the Shulamite woman as one who longs to be loved by the king. She suddenly finds herself in a intimate relationship with the king. This story describes the ups and downs in their relationship.
  • How does the Shulamite woman see herself?
  • Describe how the king sees the Shulamite. How does his view differ from hers?
  • Describe the setting in chapter two. Why does the king invite the Shulamite away and to where does he invite her?
  • What happens in chapter 3 that causes the Shulamite to experience some anxiety?
  • How is it that the king is able to describe the Shulamite in such detail?
  • Where does he begin in his description of the Shulamite?
  • What does he describe in chapter four that reveals their level of intimacy with one another?
  • What does this description tell you about his love for the Shulamite and how he communicates his love to her?
  • What does this description by the king require of the Shulamite woman?
Turning truth into prayer:
Allow the Lord to go behind the veil of your life. Ask Him to reveal to you what He sees.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Prayer God Answers (1 Kings 3:7, 9)

 "Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties . . . . So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

Many who enter politics today "fake it until they make it." They rely on their charisma or support teams to carry them through. Crying out to God isn't even an option. Leading others carries with it grave and great responsibility. It is only as leaders consider their people as God's people will they cry out to God for His wisdom and help.

Moses records a set of regulations in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 that are to guide the behavior of Israel's future kings.
  1. He must not be a foreigner
  2. He shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses
  3. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away
  4. Nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself
  5. He shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. It shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of is life, that he may learn to fear the Lord and be careful to observe all the words of this law and statutes
  6. His heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left.
In other words, he must not be a proud man. Humility in leadership recognizes that the task is too large simply to "wing it." The wisdom of God is required and it is available to humble leaders. Solomon exhibited humility in leadership. Though he was the son of a great king he didn't take his role lightly. He understood that just as David needed the wisdom of God so he too needed the wisdom of God to lead God's people.

David exhorted Solomon one last time before his death, ". . . observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in the ways, and keep the decrees and commands, his laws and requirements as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go . . .." (1 Kings 2:3) The LORD responds to Solomon's request by granting him wisdom. He then places a condition to the gifts of riches and honor, ". . . if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did . . .." (1 Kings 3:14). The LORD and David pointed Solomon to the 5th guideline for choosing a king given in Deuteronomy. Bible literacy accompanies wisdom from God.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: 1 Kings 2:13-3:15; 2 Chronicles 1:1-13
  • Why does Adonijah want to take Abishag as his wife?
  • What does Adonijah's request cost him?
  • Read 1 Samuel 2:31-35. Why does Solomon remove Abiathar from serving as priest?
  • What does this tell you about the promises that God makes to previous generations?
  • What had Joab done years before that has come back to haunt him?
  • What do the stories about Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei all share in common?
  • How does Solomon view the children of Israel and how does this view shape his request?
  • How does God exhibit the wisdom He gives to Solomon?
Psalm 72
  • Describe Solomon's heart for his people and how he planned to use his position as their king.
Turning truth into prayer:
Pray for the President of the United States. Pray that he will see his need for God's wisdom and that he will cry out to God for His wisdom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

God at Work Behind the Scenes (1 Kings 1:41)

 "Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, "What's the meaning of all the noise in the city?"

Adonijah obviously thought that he had pulled off his scheme to become Israel's king. Sure of his success he had thrown a huge victory party and invited all of his supporters. Behind the scenes, however, another scene is unfolding. David calls for the priest, the prophet, and other officials to anoint Solomon king. After Solomon's coronation they too throw a party. The noise of their celebration interrupts Adonijah's victory party.

Today's reading also covers a conversation between King David and his successor, Solomon. Joab and Shimei probably thought that they had gotten away with their evil deeds. And Barzillai, he probably never gave his generosity to King David earlier another thought. Neither of the men had any idea that behind the scenes a conversation was occurring between two men that would affect each of them and their families.

This story teaches us several things:
  • Victory celebrations are sometimes premature. Adonijah assumed too much too early.
  • The rewards for loyalty are rarely immediate. Upon his deathbed David rewards Barzillai for earlier generosity.
  • Though much time may pass evil doers eventually receive the penalty for their actions. Shimei thought that because David forgave him for his cursing that he had gotten away with it. Joab thought that his value as a military ruler would accommodate for his needless murder of Amasa and Abner.
Good is eventually rewarded and evil retributed. Maybe not in this life but certainly in the next.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Kings 1:28-2:9
  • How do the people respond to Solomon's coronation?
  • What is the basis of David's last words to Solomon?
  • What does this tell you about what David has learned about walking with God?
  • Why does David bring up Joab, Barzillai, and Shimei's names to Solomon?
Psalm 25
  • What are some of the things David struggles with in his old age?
  • What do his requests reveal to you about his struggles? His belief in God?
2 Samuel 23:1-7; 1 Kings 2:10-11; 1 Chronicles 29:26-30; 1 Kings 2:12; 1 Chronicles 29:23-25
  • How does David describe himself in this Psalm?
  • How does David describe his rule in Israel?
  • What two analogies does David use to describe those who rule in righteousness and in the fear of God?
  • How does God affirm Solomon's reign as king over Israel?
Turning truth into prayer:
Voice your trust in the Lord to vindicate you or others in your life who've suffered for doing the right thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Giving Reveals Heart Attitudes (1 Chronicles 29:3, 6, 9)

 "Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple . . . Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king's work gave willingly . . . The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord."

Jesus links treasures with heart attitudes in Matt 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Because David loved God and desired to build Him a temple he gave generously toward that cause. You support what you believe in. So, giving is an indicator of your heart's treasure. Show me where you spend your money and we'll soon know what it is that you love.

King David reveals his heart as he gives generously toward the building of the temple. Seeing his generosity prompts his leaders, officers, commanders, and officials to follow suit. When people see their leaders giving generously they too give generously. Stingy leaders lead stingy people while generous leaders create a climate of generosity.

You may say that spiritual things hold your affections, but does your pocket book reflect an investment in spiritual things? Where you invest your time, talent, and resources accurately reflect your heart's treasures.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Chronicles 27:1-29:22
  • How does King David spend his last years?
  • What does King David say that will safeguard future generations?
  • How comprehensive was King David's plan for building the temple that he hands over to Solomon and how had he obtained his plan?
  • What does this tell you about David in his later years?
  • What prompted the leaders, officers, and commanders to give toward the building of the temple?
  • What has David taught the people about their possessions?
  • How does David's philosophy regarding his possessions compare to today's millionaires?
1 Kings 1:1-27
  • Describe Adonijah.
  • Why do Joab and Abiathar act disloyally toward King David?
  • Who were Zadok, Benaiah, and Nathan and why do they expose Adonijah's plot?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to make you more aware of your expenditures, both in time and in resources.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Theologically-Rich Music (1 Chronicles 25:1)

 "David together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals."

David understood and utilized music to teach theology. He desired that this tradition continue after his death so he set apart certain men to put theology to music. Psalm 78 was written by Asaph. This Psalm tells the story of Israel's rebellion while in the desert and teaches the following lessons:
  • Israel's deliverance from Egypt was miraculous
  • Men are prone to forget what God has done for them in the past and need constant reminders
  • The heart is more deceitful and rebellious than we think
  • God faithfully shepherds His people in spite of their rebellion to fulfill promises given to Abraham
In every generation God raises up similar men and women to put theology to good and culturally relevant music. Before the Throne of God Above, recorded by Selah, teaches strong theology in captivating music.
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me there depart (2x)
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me (2x)
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God! (2x)

Theologically sound music honors the Lord while stimulating the mind, rejoicing heart, and lifting the spirit of man.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Chronicles 25; 1 Chronicles 6:31-53
  • Who supervised the sons of Asaph?
  • Who supervised Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman?
  • What does this teach you about authority and submission?
1 Chronicles 26
  • What method did David use to assign work assignments?
  • What was the purpose of posting Levite guards at various points around the temple?
  • List the various responsibilities given to the Levites.
Turning truth to prayer:
Thank the Lord for theologically sound music. Pray for your favorite Christian songwriter. Ask the Lord to protect him/her from sowing to the flesh, to keep them fresh and intimate with Him.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Well-Ordered Life (1 Chronicles 23:27, 31b)

 "According to the last instructions of David, the Levites were counted from those twenty years old or more . . . They were to serve the Lord regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them."

Good leaders have a penchant for understanding and implementing effective structure so that their organization functions smoothly. Further, good leaders plan for the future, not merely for the present. David recognized that the coming temple would require an organized effective worship structure so that daily, weekly, monthly, and annual services would never lack qualified workers. David's plan ensured that every Levite had the opportunity to serve and worship, that every singer had an opportunity to exercise his gifts, and that every priest had opportunity to fulfill his calling. Such organization utilized the gifts that God put in place and eliminated any sense of competition and ensured that everyone understood their role.

While today's text may seem a bit repetitious, this careful attention to detail developed a foundation for orderly temple worship that lasted for a millennium. The fruit of David's organization shows up hundreds of years later when Zacharias enters the temple to offer the sacrifices and encounters an angel. Had David not established this organization then Zacharias wouldn't have been at the right place at the right time.

"So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord . . . then an angel of the Lord appeared to him" (Luke 1:8, 9, 11). And the rest is history. What you do or don't do today matters tomorrow!

God uses organization. Things simply work better when they have order. Paul instructed new believers in the first century church to "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). Order works! By it we are better prepared to receive the blessing of God.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Chronicles 23; 6:16-30; 23:24-24:31
What is the last thing King David does before he turns over the reins of the kingdom to Solomon?
  • How often were the Levites to stand and praise the Lord?
  • What does the giving of these instructions tell you about God?
Turning truth into prayer:
As you contemplate your life ask the Lord to show you areas that need order and structure. Commit yourself to the Lord and ask Him to help you become more structured in the areas of your life that are most overwhelming.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Wise Woman Saves the Day! (2 Samuel 20:22a)

"Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab."

 When we were kids, we used to watch the cartoons. Mighty Mouse was one of our favorites--he would come out and say, "Here I come to save the day, Mighty Mouse is on his way"! While cartoons are fun, the Bible gives real examples of heroes who saved the day. Many were women, and some were unnamed. The stories today tell of one such hero who rescued her city from destruction.

When David returned from Absalom's rebellion, a Benjamite named Sheba rose up in rebellion against the king. He led the men of Israel away from David, so David called Abishai, Joab's brother (and David's cousin) to lead his troops to find this rebel. When they finally found him, he had taken refuge in Abel Beth Maacah. Joab and his men began to build siege ramps against the city, intending to destroy the city.

In the midst of their work, a wise woman called out to Joab. She spoke to Joab with such wisdom that she was able to rescue the city from destruction, end the hostilities, and even eliminate the rebel who caused the trouble. This unnamed, wise woman is one of God's heroes. What motivated this woman to such decisive and wise action?

She realized the seriousness of the problem; her city was about to be destroyed. She appealed to the leader; she called on Joab. She learned the reason for the problem; one man was rebelling against the king. She reminded Joab of important truths about her city; it was a mother in Israel, and he was about to swallow up the LORD's inheritance. She heard his solution, and appealed again to her leaders to do what was right. She willingly sacrificed the head of one rebel to save the city. Wise women exist in every generation. God is waiting for wise women to see the trouble, learn to appeal in prayer, pray the truth about the situation, act in accordance with God's wisdom, and do what is best for the King and His kingdom. Will you be God's wise woman and save the day where you are?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

2 Samuel 20
  • Who was the troublemaker and why did he cause the trouble?
  • In what way did Joab act treacherously? When and how did he do this before?
Psalm 140
  • Describe the character of the enemies who have set out to harm David.
  • How does David respond to their attacks?
  • David prays in faith to God; find and discuss the basis of his hope.
  • David prays as well an imprecatory prayer. What is this type of prayer?
1 Chronicles 22
  • David is preparing the materials and the men for the building of the temple; why doesn't he build it himself?
  • For whom is David making this preparation? What specific challenges does his give to his son? How do these words remind you of God's commands to Joshua?
  • How much wealth does David lay aside for the temple? In what ways does David's commitment give him authority to challenge others to obey God?
Psalm 29
  • How should believers worship the LORD?
  • What does this psalm teach about the voice (word) of the LORD?
Psalm 30
  • Why does David praise God for His anger?
  • What is the promise of weeping?
  • When God is our help, what does he do to our weeping?
Turning Truth into Prayer:

God has put you in situations that call for wise heroes. You need to pray for the wisdom to know what to do, the grace to do it well, the power to appeal, the right words to speak, and the courage to act in accordance with what you know is right. Ask God to raise you up as a wise woman "for such a time as this."