WEEK 25, 2018 – God wants a relationship with us… the Bible is His pathway.

THIS WEEK:  Except… A Mind Transformed… The Greatest Story Ever Told… Growing Up… Future of Civilization

DAY ONE – 1 Kings 3-4, 2 Chronicles 1, Psalm 72

This fascinating story of King Solomon–his dream sent from God, his request, the amazing results–is marred by only one small word: ‘except.’ No king or world leader, before or after, can claim the wisdom, knowledge and renown of Solomon, whose fame drew leaders from all over the world to come sit at his feet and wonder at his amazing faculties. The wealth, influence and abundance in Israel has sometimes been called her ‘Golden Age.’ It’s quite remarkable and has no equal in ancient history. It’s all so wonderful… except. We might even suppose that Israel with Solomon was God’s masterpiece paraded for all the world to see… except. Why does there always have to seemingly be an exception? Why can’t all the goodness and blessing just continue? For that answer, we consult Moses’ warnings to Israel regarding kings, hundreds of years before: Deuteronomy 17:14-20  When you have come to the land which Yahweh your God gives you, and possess it, and dwell in it, and say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me;” 15  you shall surely set him king over yourselves, whom Yahweh your God chooses. You shall set as king over you one from among your brothers. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16  Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses; because Yahweh has said to you, “You shall not go back that way again.” 17  He shall not multiply wives to himself, that his heart not turn away. He shall not greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18  It shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write himself a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites. 19  It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear Yahweh his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; 20  that his heart not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he not turn away from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left; to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the middle of Israel. 

And so, Solomon was distinguished by the Lord as the greatest king who lived, who went down in history with unusual acclaim, and who might be considered exemplary… except. 1) Except he took multiple foreign wives who turned his heart to idolatry. 2) Except he multiplied silver and gold in abundance. 3) Except he built garrisons and staffed them with thousands of horses and soldiers. 4) Except he went back to Egypt to buy horses. 5) Except… and we could go on. Can we not see that, while God blesses and keeps us, supplies and prospers us, we ourselves are the problem when we succumb to the ways of the world? Romans 12:2  Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. Even the wisest and most highly acclaimed king of Israel, under God’s protection, made mistakes and demonstrated fatal flaws that eventually diminished God’s great work. 1 Kings 3:3  Solomon loved Yahweh, walking in the statutes of David his father; except that he sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. Except… it is because of ‘except’ that everyone of us needs the grace of God and His salvation. In our broken world, no amount of excellence or exceptionalism exempts us from our need to be repentant and humbled before the Lord. In fact, pardon me a moment as I lift up my soul to Him, to thank Him, to praise Him, and to ask that He help me… today.

DAY TWO – Psalm 119:89-176

Perhaps you noticed that this song is laid out in paragraphs, each one headed by a successive letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Of course we are reading the Bible as it has been chronologically arranged. I might suggest that some time you would enjoy a journey through this psalm by reading a paragraph a day for twenty-two days. We are told that habits are formed by repeating an action for three weeks, so I can certainly conclude that this psalm is intended to suggest lifestyle more than action. Our western mindset is to ‘do’ things in a performance manner. This psalm, however, suggests incorporating the underlying message into our daily routines by a process of transforming our mind. Imagine then, reading and meditating and processing each paragraph, day after day, until the total message begins to resonate in our unconscious behavior; in other words, it becomes PART OF ME. What is that message? Your Word, Yahweh, is settled in heaven; I LOVE your Word–laws, commandments, statutes, ordinances, testimonies. Without them I lose my way. Without them the wicked are emboldened and culture diminishes. With them my path is illuminated and my heart is instructed in the right ways. With them I find protection and safety that keeps me on a straight and right path.

King Solomon was encouraged by his father to do what Moses instructed: get your own copy of God’s Laws (His words) and keep it close to you; read it daily; meditate on it. Make it part of your daily lifestyle. Evidently he didn’t do that; and that oversight allowed him to drift–not run but drift away, from following the Lord God closely. It really cost him the kingdom, for his son Rehoboam, whom we shall soon meet, took a wrong turn and split the kingdom for hundreds of years. Reformation is not the key; TRANSFORMATION is the key, and that comes as we make God’s words part of us every day.

DAY THREE – Song of Solomon 1-8, Psalm 45

The Greatest Story Ever Told is a love story. Among all the creatures fashioned by Creator, only one is given the gift of love. Living beings of all species breathe, feel and procreate. They instinctively live out their useful life as part of God’s earthly provision. Some become domesticated and are capable of forming bonds and attachments with humans. Their service, loyalty and proximity endear them to us so that we are enriched by their presence. But the gift of love is reserved only for human beings–God’s masterpiece of creation. Originally in the garden of Eden, the first man and woman–Adam and Eve–lived in divine relationship with Creator God, Yahweh. Given dominion over all the animals, they were earth’s first steward/managers. And they did it well. But they found a unique love in the Creator that they shared with each other, a love that surpassed all other relationships in the created world. That gift of love brought joy and fullness to the human experience then, and still does now. The highest expression of love is reciprocity–loving and being loved. So God loved the world–His creation. He loved it so much that when sin marred its perfection, He continued to love as He laid His plans to save the world and restore its divine order.

his ‘Song’ of Solomon, son of David and Israel’s third king, is a love song, plainly and simply. It is a story of married love between two people who have discovered the incredible fullness of loving and being loved. The openly sexual overtones of the poem lift love’s expression to the highest pinnacle of fulfillment, described in beautiful metaphors and spice-laden surroundings. While daily life goes on, the yearnings of love draw these two back together again and again, to revel in each other and create amazement in the observers–in this case the daughters of Jerusalem. Can this poem have other meanings? Well, the Apostle Paul in the New Testament likens married love to that of Christ and His church, His ‘loved ones.’ So what is our takeaway from this unique writing? 1) God’s love is the highest and deepest expression of all love. 2) We are given the gift of love to give away and to receive from another. 3) Married love is between a man and a woman in deepest respect and devotion. 4) Human love can be marred by sin and cheapened by sexual union outside of a permanent commitment. 5) Love will consummate in the eventual ‘homecoming’ in which Christ gathers all of His ‘loved ones’ to be with Him in His permanent home. Love is the yearning in all of us which finds its ultimate fulfillment only in God Himself, for GOD IS love.

DAY FOUR – Proverbs 1-4

What would be the wise thing to do? This is a great question; and so King Solomon, to whom God gave superlative wisdom to be shared with the world, wrote the Proverbs, addressing them first to his son–“My son…” Now in my 70’s, I can only wish that I had the kind of wisdom in my 20’s that I have now! That is essentially the priority of fathers and mothers, to impart life wisdom to their children, to hopefully start them in a right direction for the rest of their life. There are some basic tenets in these first chapters that need to be almost memorized in childhood if we are to avoid the most obvious pitfalls (and pratfalls!). 1) Get wisdom… get understanding! 2) Learn to fear God, to have respect and devotion, to get to know Him. 3) Listen to your parents. 4) Hang around with the right people. 5) Avoid, stay away from the wrong people, who are out to get what they want, even if it hurts others. 6) Learn to spot a fool! 7) Become personally responsible for your actions. Don’t blame other people for your problems.

The ‘how’ of these sayings is called ‘growing up.’ It’s what we’ve all had to do, by necessity. The world doesn’t suffer well grownup children, who can’t figure out who they are, what they want to do, or why they should take responsibility for their life. These first chapters should be read to them over and over again during their primary and secondary years. Let’s face it, wisdom is difficult to accumulate in our modern world, with so many philosophies and worldviews crowding the landscape. I can’t help but revert to the first words of the Bible–“In the beginning God…” This must be the beginning for all of us–God. Not just any god, but God, the Creator, the Savior. For want of God, a person will have a difficult time getting wisdom and understanding. What is the great yearning in all of us? To be loved, to be noticed, to be cared for? And so our beginning must be in God, who has loved, noticed and cared for us. Our heart must be engaged, for it is the wellspring of our whole life. Let us begin from childhood to cry out to God, to long for Him, to welcome Him, to seek His wisdom for life. Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. 6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 

DAY FIVE – Proverbs 5-8

To believe that we all start out good and can only get better given the right education, social atmosphere and economic opportunity is to close our eyes to generations of evidence to the contrary. The man with superlative wisdom knew better. He wrote copious instructions to his ‘son,’ his ‘children.’ He laid it out plainly and simply–immoral sex and imprudent use of money will take you straight to hell–at least you’ll think so! It reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn, the cartoon character, who was always trying to teach his little ‘chicken’ son… “I say boy, listen up… pay attention, son!” What is so amazing about these chapters is that they are a bold call for wisdom and prudence–not a bunch of someone’s ideas, but a wisdom based on the laws and commandments of God, given hundreds of years before Solomon lived, through Moses. In other words, wisdom is embodied in an objective instruction given to us humans by God Himself. We observe it to our wellbeing; we ignore it to our peril. The decline of our national culture can be traced back to the middle of 20th century when our ‘wise’ legislators and judges decided that church and state must be separate; therefore the Bible and other semblances of religion MUST be eradicated from all public education and other institutions. Within the decade that followed, the Ten Commandments no longer a visible influence, it seemed rather easy for the Supreme Court to rewrite the law that legalized abortion on demand by claiming a woman’s ‘constitutional’ right to privacy. This surely was a defining moment in our cultural evolution. Even a casual reading through Solomon’s Proverbs will call attention to the various forms of wickedness that have invaded western culture in the last half century!

As we read Psalms and Proverbs, one thing stands out clearly: We don’t really break God’s laws; they break US… eventually! To get wisdom; to follow wise instruction; to guard one’s heart against the evil; to inquire of and to seek after God… these are the path to Life. Our children don’t know this; how can they, unless we teach them? If the ‘village’ loses sight of God, the child is left out in the cold. And so Wisdom continues to cry out in the streets, seeking the prudent man, the wise woman, anyone who will observe godly counsel. The future of western civilization, fragile as it is, may well depend on who will stop… look… and listen.

Week 24, 2018 – Want to know God better? Read His Word with us this year!

A weaned child… Templates… Highest praise… What goes around… Tension is normal…

DAY ONE – Psalms 131, 138, 139, 143, 144, 145

The depth of King David’s relationship with Yahweh God lights up these psalms. No wonder he was called by God ‘a man after my own heart.’ David seems to have clear vision of  and ‘righteousness,’ and ‘wickedness’ what we would call right and wrong. And though we can point to a few wicked things David did, we would still refer to him as a righteous man; why is that? Because God revealed Himself to David throughout his lifetime in significant situations that resulted in life or death. The result of REVELATION was DEVOTION. Over time David came to KNOW GOD in character and attributes. WHO is God? WHAT is He like? HOW does He deal with humankind? Track with David through his songwriting and you will see what He saw, or should I say WHOM he saw. So deeply devoted was David to the Lord that he described his contentment ‘like a weaned child with his mother.’ Can we describe our contentment in those terms? Do we, as David, praise the Lord for all the world to see? Do we, as David, really believe that God searches us and knows us? That He understands us because He made us? That He is truly leading us through life, in the good and bad times? That His thoughts toward us cannot be numbered–we are that important to Him? These are not emotional outbursts from David; they are settled convictions within his inner person that provide foundational centeredness and strength. God really IS who He says; He really DOES what He says; so says David, again and again. So whether David was in the palace or on the field of war, his unbroken fellowship with God sustained him and continued to grow within him. We might say, then, that having been broken, humbled and repentant, David arrived at a settled place of relationship with the Sovereign Creator God.

You are hearing my heart as well. Pursuing God for the last seventy years or so, I am finally coming to terms with what it means to live as a human being in a broken, fallen world that is seemingly in endless struggle with God. Perhaps the greatest revelation in my spirit is that God has, and always has had, a loving plan to save the world. That He would include me is the height of grace and mercy. That He would promise to guide me through my journey here, protecting and providing, doing what I could NEVER do, saving and delivering me, only adds to my devotion to Him. David has become a trusted ally, a friend and coach, my encourager to trust God all the time, and so to serve Him. That’s why I repeatedly return to the Psalms and give my voice a clear expression of thanksgiving and praise!

DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 27-29, Psalm 68

I love templates. A template is a working piece or model of anything from which many of the same item may be produced. Having read these chapters, we have seen a template of good government. David has produced a template, and now he is showing the template to his entire cabinet and staff–all the leaders of government. Not only that, but David says clearly that his template was given him by the Spirit of the Lord, along with the plans for the temple to be built in Jerusalem. We have a saying, “No need to reinvent the wheel.” In coming generations, the kings of Judah and Israel would be compared with David–those who walked in the ways of David their father and those who did not. And Israel’s fortunes would rise and fall accordingly. Solomon, who was already anointed king in David’s place, stood before his famous father to hear the charge… 1 Chronicles 28:9-10  You, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind; for Yahweh searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. 10  Take heed now; for Yahweh has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary. Be strong, and do it.” 1 Chronicles 29:1  David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great; for the palace is not for man, but for Yahweh God. So Solomon ascended the throne and sat in the place of David, blessed by God and exalted as royalty as never before.

What we see in David’s administration is the way heaven is run. Jesus came from heaven. He is God the Son and Son of God. When He taught us to pray He said, “Pray… Our Father in heaven… your kingdom come, your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” Heaven provided David a template by the Holy Spirit. From this template we get an idea of how things should look. Our world doesn’t look like that. Does your church? Does your family? Is God the Sovereign of our life, our Supreme Commander? Do we pray as Jesus taught us, and then do we look for heaven on earth? Since we are coming closer to heaven than ever before, may we study heaven’s template and order our lives accordingly.

DAY THREE – Psalms 111 – 118

A continuous note sounds in these psalms — Praise Yahweh! Again and again they herald Yahweh as the Sovereign and Great God who revealed Himself, first to Adam and Eve at original creation; then to Abram (Abraham); then to Moses, and on and on. The True God (Yahweh by name) is self-existing–without beginning or end; Sovereign–the Most High God, Creator of heavens and earth; Gracious–involving Himself lovingly in the affairs of mankind from the beginning. Israel’s history simply doesn’t exist without Yahweh; He is seen calling Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, entering into covenant with them, and preserving and building the race through them. Yahweh God is present at every intersection of human development, observing and directing human affairs according to His loving plans to save the world. He responds to Israel’s pitiful plight of slavery by reaching down into Egypt and defeating the pagan gods of the Egyptians while leading Israel to freedom and a hopeful future. He marches through history with Israel until such time as His Son Jesus Christ can be born into this world and bring heaven to earth. Jesus is Yah-Shua (God our Savior), fulfilling and completing God’s loving plan to save the world. Praise Yahweh!

According to these psalms Yahweh is good–intrinsically good. He is not good because He does good works; He does good works because He is good! And because He is good, He can be trusted; so we are exhorted to trust in the Lord (Yahweh). We are instructed to praise Him. We are encouraged to give thanks to Him. These songwriters are echoing the news from antiquity that will save the world–the Good News that God is Good. What part of that do we not understand? And if God is good, He must punish and destroy the evil that, without intervention, will ultimately destroy mankind. The evil that shows itself both in the cosmic world and in mankind’s behavior is openly hostile to our Good God and must be totally eradicated as part of God’s loving plan to save the world. We must conclude that our salvation is predicated on the victory over evil that began when Jesus Christ (Yah-shua) was raised out of death by His Father God, Yahweh. And it will continue until Jesus reigns as Lord of lords and King of kings. Praise Yahweh… and praise Yah-shua! For You are good, and your lovingkindness endures forever.

DAY FOUR – 1 Kings 1-2, Psalms 37, 71, 94

Adonijah was David’s son, Absalom’s brother. Even while David was still breathing, Adonijah decided to make himself king, hopeful that he could garner enough support to take over. It caused quite a stir but didn’t last long. When news reached David of what was going on, he quickly had Solomon brought forth, anointed, and placed on the throne to fulfill the Lord’s purposes. Then David died, and it was time to settle accounts with those whose hearts had been given over to evil–Joab, Adonijah, Shimei, and others who had defied God and the king. Solomon wisely extended mercy in such a way that final judgment would come at their own hands. Wickedness is a part of this world. It always seeks to dominate or destroy the good folks of the land, while seeking to aggrandize itself. It seems to feed on the lust for power and control. We see it, God sees it. We cannot always do anything about it. But this is what the Lord says for us to do…

  1. Trust in Yahweh and do good.
  2. Commit your way to Yahweh.
  3. Delight yourself in Yahweh.
  4. Rest in Yahweh and wait patiently for Him.

And then we are told what Yahweh does to the evil, even if it takes what seems to us like a very long time. It’s not a very long time when we realize that the Lord lives in the eternities–that’s a very long time! The four “do this” referenced above have kept me occupied most of my life, again and again, as I calm my spirit and find every way possible to Trust, Commit, Delight and Rest! It’s not once. It’s not a ‘thing.’ It’s a lifestyle, the shifting of attitudes, the building of faith, the accumulating of God’s words from the Bible into my nature. I give you thanks, O God, along with my praises, for your goodness. Let me become as you are, through Jesus our Savior. Amen.

DAY FIVE – Psalm 119:1-88

Tension–that’s the word that occurs to me as I read this first half of the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s all about the laws, commandments, testimonies and ordinances of Yahweh God. They are given to us for instruction, comfort, hope and enlightenment. They are meant to lead us, to influence us, to help us in relationship with God while we live in our broken world. This psalm is written by someone who wants to believe, to obey, to walk with God, to be helped along his way. And yet… yet there is tension, that feeling of being stretched. We can hear it, sense it in the very way it’s expressed; over and over again the writer asks for help. Is this unlike what we read from Paul the Apostle? Romans 7:14-25  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin. 15  For I don’t know what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. 16  But if what I don’t desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. 17  So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 18  For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don’t find it doing that which is good. 19  For the good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice. 20  But if what I don’t desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 21  I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. 22  For I delight in God’s law after the inward man, 23  but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 24  What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? 25  I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God’s law, but with the flesh, the sin’s law. 

And so it goes: tension, conflict, righteous desire, and the reality of what it actually is like to live godly in our world. Godly doesn’t mean I get it all right. Godly doesn’t mean that I grow into perfection; but neither does it mean that I give in to the pressure of the world and give up on righteousness. No, godly means that inwardly I desire to love and serve God more than anything else. It also means that I throw the weight of dependence upon God to work His ways and His will within my heart. Finally it means that I trust Him fully to implement in me a righteousness that comes from his heart to mine. Yes, I value the Words of God and embrace them fully as His expression of love and salvation, but then I give myself unreservedly to His gracious working in my life, accepting the tension as normal. While He is saving me, I myself am also working out my salvation with fear and trembling. This is no easy road; it is a lifetime of living and trusting our Lord to accomplish all He desires to do in us.

Week 23, 2018 – Knowing the Bible, knowing God better, or BOTH?

A broken covenant… A time for integrity… Who cares how many there are… Giving myself to prayer… Dangerous course of revisionism…

DAY ONE – 2 Samuel 19-21, Psalms 5, 38, 42

Absalom’s death precipitated unmitigated grief and mourning as David wept with abject despondency over the loss of his son. Joab warned that his demoralized troops, who had fought bravely, would desert if David did not lead the victory celebration. That being done, the king’s return toward Jerusalem brought out all of his enemies who had supposed that he would be overthrown. Suddenly they were all smiles and so-o-o-o happy that the king survived and was returning to the throne! The political climate was so highly charged, with all factions weighing their options and future plans. But the right massaging and intervention from the right people, began to restore order. A short-lived rebellion by Sheba was quelled through the actions of a wise woman, sparing a city from further bloodshed. As Jerusalem began to settle down and people returned to their ‘normal’ lives, suddenly a famine appeared in the land. When David inquired he learned that God was displeased that Saul, David’s predecessor, had ignored a covenant struck during Joshua’s time and had attempted to wipe out the Gibeonites. Trying frantically to find a remedy, David honored the request of the Gibeonites, and the famine was broken.

If we are learning anything from these real stories of real people, it is that integrity is powerful and covenants are made to be kept. Consequences chase us down the way when we lose integrity and violate covenants. In a world that was originally wired by God to support truth and integrity, all kinds of mischief–and sometimes outright evil– erupts when we violate the basic principles of our created purpose.   Galatians 6:7-9  Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8  For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9  Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.  Isaiah 57:15  For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. 

DAY TWO – 2 Samuel 22-23, Psalm 57

Calling himself the sweet psalmist of Israel, King David penned his last words: 2 Samuel 23:1-5  Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse says, the man who was raised on high says, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel: 2  “Yahweh’s Spirit spoke by me. His word was on my tongue. 3  The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘One who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, 4  shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through clear shining after rain.’ 5  Isn’t my house so with God? Yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure, for it is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he doesn’t make it grow. Would that these words could be posted and read in the halls of government and in corporate offices across the land. Goodness, righteousness, integrity are attributes of God and are learned by men who seek relationship with Him. Wickedness and treachery are opposite traits and are picked up from our fallen, broken world of mankind. Always pursuing His plan to save the world, Yahweh God reaches to every one of us with mercy and love, hoping for a positive response to arise from within us. Government and culture represent the collective response to God from a people or nation and are closely related to those who rule in high places. When good people lead, good people follow. So David’s kingdom continued to grow, and prosperity and blessing followed as neighboring nations laid down their arms and submitted to God’s righteous expressions through David’s rule. Our world will never be a perfect place, and we will never achieve personal perfection so long as we live here. But God will continue to be merciful and gracious to those who seek Him and humble ourselves before Him. And as we continue our journey through the Bible, we will soon enough meet God’s perfect answer to every human conundrum.

DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22, Psalm 30

The ‘look-back’ is a powerful tool. In today’s story David recalls a dark moment in the history of his administration as king of Israel. One version of the story says that God’s anger was released as motivation for David to do another census in the country. The other version says that Satan stood against David and urged the action. Regardless, it turned out as a wicked act. David made the decision against the advice of his generals and advisers. He prevailed! The census was taken. What is so wrong in that? I can figure only that God had made promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as the ‘stars of the heavens’ and ‘sands of the sea’–in other words, too numerous to count. Who cares how many there are? God doesn’t deal in numbers. He does His best work through whatever groups of people are trusting Him and obeying His guiding orders. David’s actions were reprehensible and brought a swift response from Yahweh, which David himself had to choose. Unable to do so, David cried out to be left at the mercy of God, who always proved generous and merciful. A brief plague wiped out 70,000 Israelis before God showed David how to atone for the nation. It cost him big time. It humbled him greatly. It provoked him to long for the Lord’s presence in a new way, close to home. That’s when he decided anew to build God a house in Jerusalem. And that’s when Gad, David’s seer/prophet, brought him another personal message from Yahweh. His administration coming to a close due to David’s age, the king called his son Solomon and gave him careful instructions about being king over Israel in David’s place. His biggest accomplishment would be to build God a house. David had been preparing for a long time, stockpiling all kinds of building materials and precious metals for the project. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver and other, were stored in the treasury for the huge undertaking. David was the warrior/musician/king. His son Solomon would be a man of rest, endued with incredible wisdom and wit, able to solve deep problems and find wise solutions.

The Bible is the most honest and forthright collection of writings ever assembled to present God’s story to us all. Among other revelations, we learn that each and every one of us is endowed by God to represent a facet of His character and power to our generation. No single person has it all. The people of God, as a collective, demonstrate His grace, mercy and involvement in our time and culture. To reject or resist the Lord is to resist our very self, our highest and best nature; for God has written His own image into our DNA. To that end, let us pray and praise our way forward, working with God’s Spirit to reveal His glory to our generation.

DAY FOUR – Psalms 108, 109

If we live long enough, every one of us is likely to feel deeply that God has somehow stopped taking notice of us, is no longer hearing our prayers, is hard to find. Even though we know better, the overwhelming circumstances that have accumulated or lingered over our life take a toll on our emotions and sometimes even our health. Then, out of our deep feelings of dismay or even despair we give vent to things we would never think or say in better times. These psalms could be OUR voice crying out to God. David went so far as to imprecate against wicked people who seemed to do evil for the sake of doing evil! Not caring for God or anyone else, the wicked often callously continue on their way, thinking only of their own enrichment, though it be at the expense of others around them. We don’t know exactly whether David was wishing a curse upon them or predicting that their own life would return to them as a curse. Surely we have occasionally been so angry at a wicked person that we could wish calamity upon him. In spite of all this, David says, “But I give myself to prayer” (109:4). Surely prayer is the crossroad at which I change direction. Giving myself to prayer will always lead to giving myself to God. And when I give myself to God in the midst of disturbing and discouraging circumstances, I am always reminded of His faithfulness and righteousness. God sees my situation but is not part of it. He feels my pain but is above it. He regards me but is still the Sovereign Creator of His universe and my life! When I give myself to prayer my eyesight clears; my heart revives; my thinking shifts; my understanding improves. David was a man of prayer; he was a great king. His detractors, his enemies, his adversaries wore themselves out plotting against him; but whether it was an individual or a neighboring king, that person always discovered God standing between himself and David. Let the wicked be. Don’t wrack yourself or twist in agony over them. Their own evil strategies are the platform from which they will fall into oblivion!

Here is our righteous strategy: Psalm 109:30-31  But I will give repeated thanks to the LORD, praising Him to everyone.  31  For He stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.

DAY FIVE – 1 Chronicles 23-26

When God is the foundation stone of government, He is also part of an orderly transition. Just so, when it came time for David to make his son Solomon king, he gathered together the Levites and priests along with all the leaders of Israel. It appears the government couldn’t be run without God! There were thirty-eight thousand Levites, numbered by family and assigned by lot to their various functions, all of which focused around the house of God, the tabernacle. What was once a theocracy–rule by God–at least maintained the semblance of God’s influence in government. Israel’s ‘golden age’ had come, and Solomon was to be the Lord’s choice to oversee it. So we have, once again, genealogies of the Levites all the way back to Moses and Aaron, original leaders of Israel from Sinai onward. Do we think it might be interesting to catalogue the spiritual genealogy of America? Would we be able to discover the spiritual roots of our nation–times when God’s Name and Presence presided over our development as a people? And what events or forces would we discover along the way that dramatically reduced God’s influence and caused the drift into secular humanism? At which intersections would we able to say that America turned away from the Lord and pursued a dangerous course of revisionism?

We shall soon visit Israel’s repeated forays into idolatry and apostasy, into which God had to repeatedly intervene with punishment and/or discipline. Remember, it has ALWAYS–from Adam going forward–been God’s loving plan to save the world. He has succeeded at every step by His OWN wisdom and power, by His OWN mercy and grace! Our Lord continues to initiate salvation and covenant throughout the nations in spite of man’s objections! Don’t we long for God to rule again? Isn’t heaven for us THE logical choice, and wouldn’t we love to see more heaven on earth? Have we a plan for ‘how’ we will live until our broken, fallen world gives way to God’s glorious plan to save it? Proverbs 14:34  Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. As we grow in our relationship with the God of the Bible, may we increasingly discover how each of us fits into His plan to save the world.

Week 22, 2018 — Through the Bible we get to know our God. Let’s keep reading!

Living the connected life… When bad things happen… Fake news?.. Chickens come home to roost…

DAY ONE – Psalms 32, 86, 102, 103, 122

The repetition of David’s inner musings–his thoughts and prayers, his crying out to the Lord, his deep expressions of love and devotion–confirm what we already know, that relationships are built on a lifetime of self-disclosure and earnest communication. That David did not say it once and leave it at that; that he repeatedly persisted in his songs of devotion and inquiry, demonstrate that he LIVED HIS LIFE WITH THE GOD who made him. David was truly a man “after God’s heart.” He lived a connected life, one that was replete with testimony of the Lord’s blessings on David and his posterity. I suggest you go back now, and read aloud Psalms 32 and 103. Think, muse, ponder; let what is known for sure about the Lord sink into your consciousness and shape your worldview. Set your inner person free to love this God, to love Him more than life, to serve Him, to stay connected to Him.  Need I say more? Oh yes, remember to take notes here and there–you can call it a journal–so that you have a record of your relationship with this Lord God who loves you.

DAY TWO – 2 Samuel 13-15

Does God cause bad things to happen? When Nathan the prophet told King David that the sword would never depart from his house, did that mean that Yahweh God was beginning a vendetta against David to punish the crimes he committed involving Bathsheba and Uriah? Not at all. If we are to ever understand the Bible we must understand our Lord’s nature and character. James 1:13-17  Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God can’t be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. 15  Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, produces death. 16  Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. David’s actions in the above account arose from within his own human nature. His son Amnon’s actions likewise arose from within his human nature. From Adam onward, the world has tolerated and responded to brokenness and destruction that arises within human nature. We are not good on our way to being better. Improving our circumstances doesn’t improve our character. Getting an education, having a good income, marrying well; none of these things shifts our essential human condition. Psalm 53 made it clear that there is none righteous, not one. And Isaiah 53 clearly points out that we have all gone astray, all have turned to our own way–the word is iniquity, or lawlessness. And our loving Father in heaven still has a beneficent plan to save the world. He never changes. He is the epitome of all that is good and right.

The rape of Tamar by Amnon her half-brother; the murder of Amnon by Absalom his brother; and the rebellious coup hatched in Absalom’s heart against his father David are all examples of the destruction that wastes away in the hearts of people, even in the king’s household! Nobody escapes the deadly effects of sin on the human race. That is why everyone of us needs a Savior and Healer. In His righteous way, Yahweh God was unfolding His plan to save the world until it could result in that Savior and Healer. God’s answer to the sword lifted against the human race is His Son, Jesus Christ. We will say much more later, but do remember what David said, Psalm 51:4  Against you, and you only, I have sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge. Curse the devil all you want for his dark interference in the human race, but determine to hold God guiltless no matter what happens in this broken, fallen world. Only He has a righteous plan that is working to save all that we hold dear. Try being thankful today; worship Him on bended knee and ask Him to repair broken things and heal wounded things. It might be you in need of His wonderful works!

DAY THREE – Psalms 3, 4, 13, 28, 55

Fake news. Conspiracy. Treachery. Betrayal. No, this is not Washington D.C., circa 2018. This is Jerusalem, circa 800 A.D.  David is king, anointed by Yahweh God to serve Israel. And if you fully absorb the ambiance implied in these psalms, humankind hasn’t changed much. The same envy, petty jealousies, behind-the-back gossip and outright efforts to destroy, plagued the political halls of his day as they do ours. From the sound of things David, though he reigned a total of forty years, faced constant rebellion and threats against both his kingdom and his person. Our attempts to romanticize, sanitize or spiritualize the stories told in the Bible diminish the reality it actually reveals. Mankind really HASN’T changed much. Yes, there are good people around us; and yes, there are loyal friends in every season of our life. But our detractors are in sufficient numbers to keep us before God humbly crying for help and deliverance, as David had to. Rather than resort to violence against his enemies, David again and again resorted to earnest pleas before Yahweh God. And in the midst of the persecution, after singing and giving thanks to the Lord, David lay down and slept in peace, secure in God’s keeping.

Today’s Psalms are wonderful prayers to be read, personalized and remembered. Let’s not make prayer an occasional event. It is really like breathing–in, out, in, out… prayer is a quiet (or noisy) conversation with God that goes on in the course of our day, sometimes filled with angst but mostly with faith and trust, resulting in peace. God IS for us, He IS with us, He IS including us in His wonderful plan to save the world. Let’s live in THAT reality and with that expectation. These psalms of David will strengthen your heart and resolve no matter what you face.

DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 16-18

The last few entries have been difficult to write, for the story is the sad fulfillment of Yahweh’s warning to David that his own crimes had brought the sword to his house. Though the Lord forgave David and established his kingdom, the consequences of his acts continued to play out through the broken relationships in his own family. The sheer treachery in today’s reading confirms what we know about human nature and behavior–that self-interest is a great motivator. Absalom, Ahithophel, Shimei and Barzillai are examples of those who used the confusion to serve their own interests. Others sacrificed their own interests to protect King David and help those caught in the middle of the attempted coup. David himself was terribly conflicted and was finally ready to give up the kingdom if it would restore order. But God… BUT GOD knows the hearts of all men and uses even our fallen nature to accomplish His eternal purposes. He loves us all and is always working His plan to save the world. So the counsel of Hushai, one of David’s loyal followers, was used by God to thwart Ahithophel’s counsel to Absalom, leading the would-be rebel king to amass an army and go up against his father’s army. That was not a good move, for David and his valiant and mighty men were highly experienced in war. Divided into three contingents, David’s men met the army of Israel and slew twenty thousand soldiers. The rest fled for their lives. Absalom, hanging in a tree by his own hair, died at the hands of the General Joab. So the crisis was averted, but another was just beginning, for David could not be consoled over the loss of his son. What would happen next?

The fact that we live in the New Testament era, several thousands of years removed from the story of David, affirms the salvation God has provided and confirms that He always has a ‘next move.’ No, the story is not complete yet, though it has forever been written by the Holy Spirit and the prophets. We know that Yahweh wins, yet we live with and through our own dramas as the world turns about us. And all we can do is trust Him–that is, we cannot control everything that is happening around us; but we can get up every day, give thanks to God, and trust His sovereign grace to turn all into good. Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. 

DAY FIVE – Psalms 26, 40, 41, 58, 61, 62, 64

If ever there was a man who foreshadowed Christ in ancient days, that man would be David. Even though we see him often in the agony of soul that comes from his enemies–both without and within–He is always crying out, reaching for the heavens and for the mercies of God to cover his soul and deliver him. And yet David reflects the ignorance of the ancient world when trying to understand the COSMIC war between good and evil. Why is there evil at all? And why can’t a man live the righteous life he desires to live? Basically, what is wrong with us in the first place? Until Jesus came, the mystery of good and evil kept the world on edge and in conflict. Good men would seek Yahweh God and attempt to serve Him and their generation. Wicked men would seem to flourish while plotting against the good and trying to make their own world after their own imagination. David, a king, was often caught in the middle. Hear his own words: Psalm 40:9-10 (NLT) I have told all Your people about Your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as You, O LORD, well know. 10  I have not kept the good news of Your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about Your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of Your unfailing love and faithfulness. That is so much like Jesus, who was yet to come, for a couple of verses earlier David prophesied of the coming Christ a passage that is recorded in the New Testament: Hebrews 10:5-9 (NLT) That is why, when Christ came into the world, He said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But You have given Me a body to offer. 6  You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7  Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do Your will, O God—as is written about Me in the Scriptures.'” 8  First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were You pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9  Then He said, “Look, I have come to do Your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 

Mankind was losing the cosmic war–Satan’s war against God and his people–until Jesus came to put an end to it. So while David continued to face his conflicts, crying to God for mercy and deliverance, we today also cry out to the Lord, but in the name of Jesus, the perfect, sinless man and the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus, who conquered evil and was resurrected from the dead to live forever in God’s glory, helps us face evil without and within, keeping us and leading us to the ultimate victory. Jesus is for all time what David–in all his humanness–was to His own generation. Thank you, God!

Week 21, 2018 – Reading thru God’s Word, getting to know Him…

The mysteries of life… dealing with sin… a deep settled peace…

DAY ONE – Psalms 89, 96, 100, 101, 107

All of the deep mysteries and yearnings of life crowd into these psalms (songs) we are reading today. Life can be so confusing and unyielding at times that we don’t know which end is up. When everything is going well we think we must be living in Divine favor. But when the tide reverses and goes out we wonder what happened to the blessing; what did I do wrong to bring these woes upon me? It’s difficult to understand COVENANT; it’s difficult to understand God when our world doesn’t function well. One good reason to read the entire Bible is to discover God’s true char acter and the power of His covenant. It is to witness His faithfulness to His Divine mission over the centuries and to realize that His love for mankind will NEVER FAIL. God will sustain His covenant of salvation and will bring everything to conclusion in its time. David was the great king of his time; Jesus became the Great King for all time, born into the lineage of David according to God’s word. David was a type of Christ Jesus. Genealogically Jesus was a son of David in a line of kings; but spiritually Jesus rules over the houses of all the kings, for He is also the Son of God and the Savior of the world!

As nations rise and fall; and as one century gives way to the next, every generation asks itself, “How then shall we live?” And the answer has always been, and still is–

Psalm 96:1-3  Sing to Yahweh a new song! Sing to Yahweh, all the earth. 2  Sing to Yahweh! Bless his name! Proclaim his salvation from day to day! 3  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. Psalm 100:1-3  Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! 2  Serve Yahweh with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. 3  Know that Yahweh, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 107:1-3  Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever. 2  Let the redeemed by Yahweh say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the adversary, 3  And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Our role is to always believe the best, always be thankful, and always give God our Father the glory He deserves. In that manner we recognize and uphold His covenant of love and salvation, which lasts forever.

DAY TWO – 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, Psalms 1, 2, 33, 127, 132

This seems like a bit much reading for one day, until we realize that our mysterious God is revealing a powerful truth about Himself–that He holds the power of history in order to accomplish His great plans for mankind! Remember that we are reading the Bible this year, not to explain God, but to KNOW HIM. And He very much wants us to know that history is not a juggernaut; it is rather an unfolding of His loving mercy and grace in the affairs of mankind to bring about the salvation of the world while judging and removing all evil. This encounter by God with David is only one small but important piece of that plan.

David wanted to build God a house as appreciation for all the Lord had done. So God replied, in effect, “Thank you David, but I don’t need or want you to build me a house; instead, I want to build YOU a house!” David had just built himself a new house, so he was rightly puzzled. Then God continued, “David, I took you from your place as a shepherd and made you king over my house of Israel. I defeated all your enemies and gave you peace on all sides. Now I will build you a dynasty that will last forever, a house that will stand for all time. Your son will build me a house, all right, but a line of kings that come from you will go on forever through time.” David went and sat before the Lord, deeply thoughtful. And He learned something more about Yahweh God–that the Lord’s plans stretch on through the ages as He wishes and are accomplished by His own might and power. The Psalms accompanying this event further explain that the nations may do what they will; but if they are wise they will keep God foremost in their plans, for their counsel against Him and His eternal kingdom amount to NOTHING! Psalm 33:11-12  The counsel of Yahweh stands fast forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. 12  Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. Psalm 127:1  Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless Yahweh watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain. To oppose God in any way is really to oppose oneself, for God created us to have fellowship with Him and to know Him. We haven’t historically done too well about knowing God; for we keep wanting to refashion Him into a being we can accept and get along with, while God is wanting to refashion us into the people we were CREATED to be. This might be a really good time to do what David did–go sit and ponder this question: “Dear Lord, how can I become all you want me to be?”

DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 8-9, 1 Chronicles 18

Most people remember the Gulf War fought in Kuwait and Iraq in the early 1990’s, a war which was mostly won in a matter of days. So superior was the firepower of the United States that elite Iraqi forces laid down their arms and abandoned their positions with little struggle. In some ways King David’s victories appeared almost effortless, as described in these chapters, for Yahweh God was granting him success in every war fought by his troops. Nation after nation laid down their arms and became David’s servants, bringing him tribute annually. By placing garrisons in conquered cities he maintained a forced peace that pretty much ended wars in that region.

From warrior to philanthropist–King David now made inquiry after the house of Saul, to see whether there was a surviving descendant to whom he might show kindness. It turned out that a son of Jonathan, David’s close friend, had survived the destruction of Saul’s house, although he was permanently crippled. David brought Mephibosheth forward and honored him by restoring to him all of his grandfather Saul’s property and placing him at the king’s table with the king’s sons for the rest of his life. In the prevailing custom of that time, David would normally have killed Mephibosheth so that no descendant of Saul could ever challenge his kingdom. But David was a man after God’s heart and valued the anointing that Saul had once enjoyed from Yahweh God. David also placed high value on the covenant he had struck with Jonathan, who valued David as highly as his own life. So for the king it was a no-brainer–Jonathan’s son received immediate and permanent relief in the house of the king. Our God is like that–He seeks out the lost, the homeless, the indigent, wherever He can find the remotest connection, in order to bestow a kindness and provide relief. And as we partner with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom on earth, we too look for opportunities to show kindness and provide relief with the Good News and whatever resources we can gather. ‘Philanthropy’ means literally a love for mankind. “For God so loved the world…” While the customs of war and peace in the Old Testament may seem brutal, the love of God shines through again and again as He bestows blessings on the righteous and justice among the nations.

DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 10, 1 Chronicles 19, Psalms 20, 53, 60, 75

While the world clamors for peace, wars continue to be fought in every generation. Kings are not gods. They are men who, either through noble birth or violent struggle, have succeeded to the top echelons of rule among their countrymen. And once they have arrived, they often reach for more. So wars are fought. Men of peace who are kings defend themselves for the sake of their people and their borders. Yet war continues. King David’s ambassadors, sent to comfort the Ammonite king on the death of his father, were rudely treated and shamed. With half their beard cut off and their skirts trimmed up to the middle of their buttocks, David’s men could but retreat in humiliation. It was an act of war. Of course, David and his army were triumphant, and the evil was repelled, and the Syrians lost forty thousand men, and they didn’t want to fight anymore! So that is the way with the world of mankind. And the world continues to clamor for peace, and wars are still fought. Will it ever end? And if so, when? When a world treaty is signed? When global government is put in place? When international armies police the whole world? Remember, men are not gods. The world is not heaven. And the human heart cannot be brought to peace through violence. The struggle for peace continues.

Psalm 53 is called a contemplation of David, himself a king, a man. After thinking over the problems of nations existing in his world, he said “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” When he was a shepherd, and still a teenager, David faced a bear and a lion that had come upon his father’s sheep. With his bare hands, perhaps a club, he killed the animal on both occasions. Later he told King Saul that God helped him and would therefore help him kill Goliath, the gargantuan champion of the Philistines. And God did. David, the shepherd/musician/warrior, knew God in a way that any of us wants to know Him. We want to know, to believe, to enjoy such a relationship. Yet David was a man; when he blew it, he REALLY blew it! We will soon come to his psalm of repentance. So will we ever really be content to let God be God in our broken world? We’re not fools. We know there is a God. We know that He is not a man. We know that He created everything. We know that if there is ever to be lasting peace it will be in a world of God’s making, not ours. Colossians 2:13-15  You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14  wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; 15  having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. This is the path to peace; it begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. Maybe it’s time we let Him be God in our world, in our life!

DAY FIVE – 2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Chronicles 20, Psalm 51

An event in David’s young life as king is so unthinkable and sobering that it took me two days to sit down and write this paragraph. It seems so… normal, so… human, and yet… Well, David looked down from his palace one night and happened to see a beautiful young woman bathing, and what happened next was predictable. He called her to the palace and spent a night with her. Okay, so she was married and her husband Uriah was with the army fighting another king. When she reported some weeks later that she was pregnant, a full government cover-up went into gear. First, David had Uriah summoned and tried for three days to get him to go home and sleep with his wife to make it appear the baby was his. When that didn’t work, David sent him back to the battle carrying a letter from the king to the general which was, in effect, Uriah’s death warrant. And so it was. Uriah died in battle, David took Bathsheba as another of his wives, and their son was eventually born. But heaven’s response sounded through the prophet Nathan, who was sent by God to call David out and make full exposure of the heinous crimes of adultery and then murder. That was how Yahweh God saw it. With nowhere to hide, his cover blown, David did what he could do; he made full confession. Psalm 51:3-4  For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me. 4  Against you, and you only, I have sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge. Yes, God forgave David. He remained king, and his dynasty endured. But the cost of that one night of pleasure followed him bitterly down the years. The baby died. The family was marred. His own son Absalom later rebelled and led a coup against David. The sword remained in his house, and things were forever changed.

The God I love is the One who loved me and forgave all my sin. The God I fear is the God who knows everything I have ever done, things I would love to forget but never will. The God I serve is the God I love and fear–the God who has blessed me more than I deserve and chosen me to represent His kingdom on earth as a full time minister. So I understand Psalm 51–the horror, the humiliation, the repentance, the crying to God, the yearning… and then the assurance of forgiveness, the restored joy, the gratitude that is so deep I will love Him and serve Him the rest of my life. And I wish everyone will know Him that way. God cannot be other than who and what He is. He is Creator, Provider, Lover. He loves with such passion that forgiveness is fully given in Christ, restoration and hope for the future always following. May we find our center in Him forever!

WEEK 20, 2018, There is so much to know about God through His Word…

This Week:  Feelings for God… Who’s your daddy now?.. When leadership changes… and much more!

DAY ONE – Psalms 81, 88, 92, 93

God has feelings. We are created ‘in His image,’ so we have feelings too. Our feelings are integrated with our thoughts and ideas. Our feelings, thoughts and ideas lead us to conclusions, from which we decide on a course of action. We are free to decide. And that is what makes us different… what makes mankind different from all other living things. We get to decide, to choose, whether we will live this way or that way; whether we will live here, or somewhere else; whether we will like that person, or not. God created mankind with feelings, thoughts and choices–His ‘image.’ In our readings today God’s feelings emerge with strong passion toward Israel, the nation He chose and loved well. His love was translated into a prescription for life, based on relationship. The Lord God instructed and admonished Israel on how to live in such a way as to guarantee a future and a hope. And He blessed Israel in that relationship with blessings above and beyond what sometimes even seemed reasonable. Israel’s response was often to choose lesser gods and be devoted to them, rejecting and insulting the God of their creation and salvation. Then God was passionate. Yes, sometimes He felt angry, sometimes sorry, yet always was He moved by love to restore Israel and lead her closer to His forgiving heart. And sometimes God was unsuccessful because Israel did NOT return His love, spurned His overtures, rejected His counsel. The relationship was broken, and even the God of all creation could not save those He loved.

Our readings today also include the passionate cry of those whose feelings reach deep lows and exulting highs–from cries of despair to praises and singing with reverence and joy. What’s interesting to me is that the low feelings always seem to be focused on the events and circumstances occurring in a person’s experience; while the high feelings find their expression in who God is, in what He has done, in the blessings He is pouring out from His own great store of character and creative love. Despair is rooted in the notion that God has forgotten, that He doesn’t care. But as soon as that thought gives way to the Lord’s eternal vigilance over His creation, to His unyielding love for His creation, thanksgiving and praises rise to fill the space of the worshipper. When God’s true and rightful place is acknowledged in this manner, the world is right again! When the Creator, the eternal God, fills my thoughts and feelings, EVERYTHING is okay. I’ll be all right. Now I know I can do this, and the Lord is with me… all the way.

DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 6-9

Would it surprise you to know you can google your own name and likely discover yourself on the internet? Certain pertinent facts will be there which statistically identify you but probably don’t contain much interesting information! In some ways this is like the genealogies of the Bible–people’s names are included by family, sometime location, and sometimes activity; but they don’t say much about the person–who he was in real life, what he was like, what contribution he made in his generation. In fact, most of us won’t make the history books either, unless we have contributed significantly in a public role. So that cannot be what life is about–a name, a place, kids, the usual. No, each of us is much more than that. Created in God’s image, we are personally known and loved at some point in our life. Someone ‘begot’ us. Someone loved us. Someone reared us. Each of us would have to tell our own story to make any sense of the statistical facts of our life; for certainly life is more than where I was born and grew up; more than what vocation I pursued, if any. To know me you have to know me in my family, in my relationships, in my daily work, in my worldview. You have to know what I think and feel, how I treat people, what I have on my mind. I may be listed in my genealogy, but only eternity will reveal what value I was to my own generation.

The Bible reveals the value God places on you and me in no uncertain terms: John 3:16-17  For God so loved the world (Ray, that’s me), that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (Ray, that’s me) believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17  For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world (Ray, that’s me), but that the world should be saved through him. Yahweh God clearly saw enough value in each of us that He sent Jesus Christ to give His life for every one of us, in order that we might be saved. Jesus’ life then, represents the value of my life! Knowing that the value of my own life is bound up in the value of Jesus’ life, I clearly want to know Jesus;  I want to know Him as a person, to bind my life into His, to value myself as He values me. I am willing to give the rest of my life to this great endeavor, whether it makes me great in this world or not. I cannot wait to meet my Savior face to face, to personally fall before Him with thanksgiving. I want to know Him and make Him known to others. So today I am reading through this Bible one more time, even the genealogies!

DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 133

We can survive changes of leadership if we understand what is happening. King Saul lost his position because of unfaithful character; King David was chosen and anointed in his place. But Saul could not accept that, and he chose instead to pursue and persecute David, with intent to kill. In the meantime, Israel divided in their loyalties to the two men. But all was not lost; God was still at work. David had a small but loyal following, while Saul continued to command most of the nation. Then Saul and two of his sons died in battle, and David asked God what to do next. He then went up to Hebron where he was crowned by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. For seven long years a war of attrition was fought by Saul’s followers, his kingdom slowly fading away. Finally elders from the ten northern tribes of Israel approached David and accepted his covenant to unite the kingdom again. Israel was back together, and David reigned as king for the next thirty-three years, bringing a lasting peace and vaulting Israel into a world power. In the process, notable and worthy men rose to the challenge and distinguished themselves in the new, united kingdom. This is the blessing that always results when God’s plans are being carried out.

We are insisting that understanding the word of God is really about understanding the heart of God. God always has a plan that is moving forward into and through history, to demonstrate his loving intention to save the world from itself! What do I mean by that? Left to itself, mankind reverts to ‘man-centered’ wisdom, philosophy and government. And that always leads down a path toward destruction, because we CANNOT save ourselves. We need a Savior, whom God supplied in His Son Jesus Christ. So to the extent that we recognize and cooperate with God’s plan to save the world, nations move forward successfully. To the extent that we reject and marginalize God’s plan with a view toward implementing our own plans, we run out of options and divide over the way to move forward. That is futility. According to Psalm 133, when the elders of Israel came together around God’s plan, it reunited the kingdom and led to generations of blessing–a blessing commanded by God Himself.

DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16

These chapters signal a shift in protocols of worship. Years before, the Ark of the Covenant of God had been stolen by the Philistines during the battle in which King Saul died and had been removed to the temple of Dagon in a Philistine city. The terror the Ark caused among the Philistines caused them to sheepishly return it after only seven months’ capture, and it remained out of the way for all those years. David, now King David, decided to return the Ark–not to its place in Shiloh–but to a new location he had prepared in the city of David. His first attempt ended in disaster, Uzzah dying for touching the Ark. Angrily David returned home, only to discover through research that he had failed the protocol for moving the sacred relic. Three months later they tried again, this time with the priests carrying the Ark as originally prescribed, and they found success. But another element was added–singing, giving of thanks, dancing, and rabid celebration! David was so animated during the procession that his wife Michal despised the spectacle he made of himself. Unlike at the original Tent in the Wilderness, proceedings in the new location in David’s city brought a whole new genre of worship. The priests and Levites were appointed to serve the sacrifices as usual, but an entire cadre of singers and worshippers were commissioned and stationed around the clock to sing and give thanks to the Lord. New songs were written, new instruments were added, and fresh inspiration took hold of the hearts of the people. There was joy and peace in the land as David settled into his kingdom.

The older generations usually decry the sounds of worship coming from the younger ones. Songs and styles that brought comfort and joy to our hearts fade into memory as youthful enthusiasm finds its own voices of expression. A chorus that has been around about twenty years says, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about you, Lord…” The HEART of worship–that’s the key. Not the sound, but the heart. Worship protocols involve the whole person, and the soul–where dwells our feelings and thoughts–must engage if we are to explore the outer limits of our salvation experience. 1 Chronicles 16:9-11 (see also Psalm 105) Sing to him. Sing praises to him. Tell of all his marvelous works. 10  Glory in his holy name. Let the heart of those who seek Yahweh rejoice. 11  Seek Yahweh and his strength. Seek his face forever more. This song composed by David touches the heart of worship; it not only praises the Lord but announces His wonders and works to the next generation. Let this be the standard for our protocol.

DAY FIVE – Psalms 15, 23, 24, 25, 47

Is it outrageous to think we can know Yahweh God, our Creator? Is it presumptuous to believe we can be close to Him? David asks, “Yahweh, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in your holy hill?” (15:1) Again he asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (24:3) You could bullet list the answers David gives in these two psalms, but what is the missing ingredient? He speaks of ethics, morality, good living and good attitudes. He talks about maintaining good relationships with good practices. And I do believe God takes all of these into account; but what is the missing ingredient? It all depends on what you mean by ‘good.’ A man once addressed Jesus as ‘Good Master.’ Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? There is One who is good, and that is the Father in heaven.” Well, then, if Jesus holds that view, where does that leave me? Occasionally I like to give a humorous response to the question, “How are you?” And I say, “Compared to what?” It’s really hard to admit that, when we compare ourselves to God, things don’t look that good. So we go about the process of comparing ourselves to everything and everybody else to find our place of ‘goodness.’ Maybe that way we don’t look so bad. So what is the missing ingredient? It’s LIFE itself. Life–eternal life–is the gift Jesus came to secure in the world and give to all who will follow Him. Even if I live up to every good quality or character trait that David has mentioned in these songs, I will discover that I cannot live up to them fully! Something will always be missing, or I will be filled with angst, always wondering what else I can do.

I like to read these Psalms out loud as worship; and as prayer. David has given voice to almost every feeling and question I have had over the years. As I read them aloud, LIFE springs up in me through the Holy Spirit, given to the world by Jesus and His Father to help us find LIFE!  It’s what keeps all my ‘efforts’ from turning into religion–which is nothing more than my attempt to impress or satisfy God with my efforts! God’s Word is filled with the life of Jesus, and as I recite these songs as prayers out loud, His life rises within me to bring assurance and hope. It works something like this:

  • I follow Jesus–that is, I respond in my heart to His claims and guidance.
  • Jesus gives me LIFE–that is, the eternal life He received in the resurrection by the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s Words support this life I live, helping me as I devote myself to Him and His eternal kingdom.

My suggestion is that you say out loud some portion of scripture every day, so that you get used to hearing yourself affirm what God has said, back to your own psyche, and into your own spirit. Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Week 19 – Reading thru God’s Word; getting to know Him better

This week – Songs from life… Chronicles (not of Narnia)… Intimate pictures of the soul…

DAY ONE – Psalms 6, 9, 10, 14, 16, 21

We went through Job some weeks ago, trying to understand the problem of pain and suffering. Now King David confronts the problem of human weakness and outright wickedness in the world. Lamenting his own weakness–he doesn’t say exactly what it is–he demonstrates the pathos and passions excited by his own failures. Whatever has overtaken him causes him to lie awake at night, drenching his bed with tears and pleading with Yahweh God to save him and deliver him from his enemies. “Have mercy on me, O Yahweh!” Listen carefully, for that is a prayer that God always answers and one we should pray frequently.  James 2:13  For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And Matthew 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It is clear that knowing God is to know mercy and to become merciful. This means that we overcome our own predisposition to visit people’s meanness back upon them. Instead, because we have received mercy from the Lord, we wrestle with our own weakness until we are able to be merciful without flinching!

Next David takes on the question of evil. Why do evil men prosper and go on their merry way while God is seemingly detached and uninvolved? Psalm 10:1  Why do you stand far off, Yahweh? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Please understand that David’s question is based entirely upon an assumption rather than a fact. From his viewpoint it appears that God just doesn’t show up when He should… so we think. His description of the evil man’s actions are laid out in lurid detail, so that we want to cry out, “Enough already! God, where are you?” But let’s be reasonable: just because we cannot see God doesn’t mean that He is not there. Just because we cannot understand the Lord’s actions or lack thereof doesn’t mean He is not acting. Our problem is that we cannot understand the problem of evil. And it is a problem… a real problem. And it must be dealt with; we know that. It is our quest then, to humble ourselves before our loving and concerned Father in heaven and decide whether we will trust Him to act becomingly and in a timely way. David’s conclusion? Psalm 10:16-18  Yahweh is King forever and ever! The nations will perish out of his land. 17  Yahweh, you have heard the desire of the humble. You will prepare their heart. You will cause your ear to hear, 18  to judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that man who is of the earth may terrify no more. Jesus put it this way: John 14:27  Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. 

DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalms 43, 44

We are introduced now to the books called the Chronicles (or stories), part of Israel’s history. And of course, there have to be more genealogies! These Chronicles roughly mirror the books of Samuel, which we are still in. Many of the stories are told in each set of books, with slightly different emphases. And since they chronicle the lives of Israel’s kings, the Psalms are interwoven into the fabric of that time in history. Hence, our readings are from the Chronological Bible–placing the readings in their proper timelines. By the way, it’s a big deal today for folks to want to know who their ancestors are, and where they came from. You can even trace your DNA! The really good news? We all came from Adam and Eve initially, and then from Noah and his family, who alone survived the Great Flood of Genesis 6. And if you trace your ancestry back a few generations, you might just discover some great… and not so great people! In the end, our quest is to be great in our generation, as Noah was: he found grace in God’s eyes.

King David of Israel was a great man–not because of his exploits or qualities, but because he was a man after God’s own heart! His exploits were shockingly bold and wonderful; his character was highly to be praised. He became a wealthy and powerful king. But after all, he was human; he had weaknesses like all men, and he suffered greatly in his time. For this we can be thankful, because he has left a legacy in the Psalms through which we can most feelingly express agony and praise to God. By simply reading the Psalms aloud or weaving them into your own prayers, you can share your deepest feelings of joy and pain with your heavenly Father. Until pain and suffering are history, we need all the spiritual, physical and emotional support we can get. In this, David is your friend and mine.

Psalm 43:3-5  Oh, send out your light and your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill, To your tents. 4  Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy. I will praise you on the harp, God, my God. 

5  Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God. 

DAY THREE – Psalms 49, 84, 85, 87

David wrote many of the Psalms, the evidence of his musicianship and relationship with Yahweh God (the Lord). But the sons of Korah also gave us a song book. They were part of David’s kingdom, appointed to provide continual worship as support for the daily life of God’s people. When all of life is distilled, what is left in the jar can be studied and made part of our existence. These four psalms offer up answers to various questions: 1) What do I see? 2) What do I want? 3) What do I hear? 4) Where is my foundation for life?

What do I see? I see people getting up, going somewhere to do something, coming back, then doing it all over again. In this manner, we all fashion something we call ‘life.’ Sometimes people get rich doing it; sometimes not. Those who do may decide their wealth gives them special privilege or importance, and they proceed to use it for whatever they want, even to believing that God Himself might be impressed! He isn’t, because His riches and the riches of heaven are beyond the pale; no human has ever seen the like of God’s riches. When I see the rich and poor, my choice is easy–I’d rather be rich than poor! But then I might miss what I DON’T see–God’s riches. So, I am intent on discovering the unseen as I make my way through life.

What do I want? I can tell you now, I have no real knowledge of what it’s like to live as a fugitive for years, running for my life. David knew, and perhaps the sentiments of this song give us a sense of how our ‘life’ may be seen by a fugitive. Cut off from God’s house, unable to join the worshippers, he developed a longing for anything that reminded him of God. Psalm 84:1-4  How lovely are your dwellings, Yahweh of Armies! 2  My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3  Yes, the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, near your altars, Yahweh of Armies, my King, and my God. 4  Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They are always praising you. I want in my life anything that reminds me of the Lord; anything that encourages me in my relationship with Him; anyone who is walking this journey with me.

What do I hear? Voices–so many voices; words, so many words. The air waves inside and outside are filled with voices, and in some way they all affect us. Social media have pretty well captured the mind and imagination of the current generation, filling our ‘life’ with mixed messages. What do I hear? Psalm 85:8-10  I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, his saints; but let them not turn again to folly. 9  Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10  Mercy and truth meet together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 

Where is my foundation? Ray Shelton, born March, 1943, Alameda, California. So what? That tells you exactly NOTHING about me. Alameda means nothing to me; I didn’t even grow up there. No foundations of my ‘life’ remain there. My foundations are not in a place, for I have lived in too many places. Rather, my foundations are in a PERSON–in God, known and loved through my Lord, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. 11  For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. We are all building something with our ‘life.’ What, or should I say Who, is holding it up?

DAY FOUR – 1 Chronicles 3-5

Ours is a crazy, mixed up world, messy in more ways than one! All of these genealogies we just read give us the mistaken notion that the times and seasons are planned, orderly and in good shape. Most of us hold some notion that our United States, for instance, has a wonderful past and great history, making us a people to be emulated. In some ways that is true. But we also have some deeply rooted messes in our past that can never be eradicated, such as slavery and native American ethnic cleansing. (Please don’t even go there–this is not the place for political and social comment.) As much as our history relates to freedom to worship God and carry His Good News to the reaches of earth, we shine in our intention… but are rather tarnished in execution. Whether we speak of Israel’s 4,000-year history as recorded in the Old Testament or our history as recorded within the last three hundred fifty years, we find profound flaws that bring us back again and again to God. For, after examining and parsing all of human history, answers to the ‘mess’ are, and always have been, in Him alone. If we learn anything from history, it is that we learn little from history! And yet God has always been there–patient, loving, forgiving, desiring that we will seek Him with all our heart and find Him, for He alone has the answers to where we are going, what we need along the way, and how we will get there.

As to the genealogies–God has in every generation reached out in love to find someone, or many, with whom He can make covenant to redeem our world and bring a future and a hope to many. Are you one? I am. While the Sovereign of the universe works tirelessly to destroy the evil and embed righteousness in people everywhere, we can nevertheless see that the evil will not go away quietly. Spurred on by the Evil One, people who reject or ignore God will join the conspiracy against the Holy One and seek to overthrow the heavenly kingdom brought to earth by Jesus Christ, in order to elevate mankind to a place of permanent control over this earthly kingdom and finally be free FROM God. It won’t work, of course, as we will note repeatedly in Israel’s story; but our question today is whether we will be wise in our generation, will be righteous, will be faithful, as was Noah and all who came after him. That is the point at which we receive GRACE from God. Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12  You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. 

DAY FIVE – 1 Chronicles 6; Psalms 36, 39, 77, 78

We are introduced in this latest genealogy to the tribe of Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Levi and his descendants were literally ‘set apart’ from their relatives to become God’s ‘ministering’ servants. As such they did not receive allotments of land in Israel; rather they were dispersed throughout the tribes of Israel, living in cities given them by their relatives. Their chief assignment was to ‘minister’ to God in behalf of the rest of the tribes. They were declared ‘holy’ in things pertaining to worship and service to God. They centered in and around any site used for worship. They became poets and singers, priests and intermediaries. Two of the four Psalms of our day’s reading were written by Asaph, a Levite, and perhaps King David’s secretary of state, whose instruction was aimed at the generations in Israel. They were devoted to keeping Israel in touch with their spiritual roots, keeping their memories alive to the mighty miracles and wonders God accomplished in favor of the people. Psalm 78 especially chronicles Israel’s history from Egypt to the present, urging the people to think of God, worship Him and serve Him. It recounted times of misery brought on by their idolatry and rebellion against God and His ways, recounting how God moved His worship center from Ephraim to Zion–Shiloh to Jerusalem–and raised up a young shepherd, David, to be their king and spiritual shepherd.

Remembering that Jesus became the Savior of the world two thousand years ago when He gave His life for ours, we must ask ourselves whether He is but a memory or a Living Witness in our generations. Given the current state of our culture and the erosion of law and order, will this generation, or the next, even remember God, or be aware of the amazing miracles that attended the founding of this nation? In the end, the kingdom of heaven–God’s heaven, the triumph of Jesus Christ–will displace all the kingdoms of this present world and make an end of the evil which seems to be creating a global conspiracy against our Creator and Lord. God has always been, and will always be, the Sovereign Ruler over all creation. My relationship with Him is always at the forefront of my daily living and commands my unyielding attention. God continues to love the world; He gave His only Son to save the world. I am part of that world and, having been ‘saved’ by Him, I continue to live my faith openly as a remembrance to the next generations.