To Be Counted Among The Wise

Wise Guy 1  Solomon succeeded David as king of Israel about 970 B.C. We do not know with certainty his exact age when he became King, but a study of Scripture suggests he was born around 990 B.C. which would make him about twenty years old when he took the throne. Think about any twenty-year-old you know right now, and you can imagine that becoming the ruler of a nation at that young age would present certain challenges. Solomon saw this, too, and described himself as “being like a little child” in his conversation with God in 1 Kings 3.

I do not think many twenty-something young men these days are too quick to see their own fallibility, so I think it is a safe assumption that it was an act of great humility for a man so young to recognize the limitations of his youthfulness. And as we shall see, the Lord agreed. Let’s look at Solomon’s conversation with God in its entirety; which is found in 1 Kings 3:5-14.

‘That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne. “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!  And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

Solomon knew what to ask for but maybe even more importantly, he also knew who to ask! And the result was that he became the wisest mortal person to ever live! These days, we have self-professed “gurus” seemingly on every corner. From our own friends and family, to talk-show hosts and Hollywood celebrities, to authors and motivational speakers, we are inundated with advice. Some might be good, some is clearly bad, and most of it, perhaps, is just what our itching ears want to hear.  The  Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” And the prophet, Jeremiah, warned us: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Because we really can’t trust ourselves to always discern correctly between good advice and bad, we need a source that has been proven trustworthy; and that source, as Solomon so famously knew, is the Word of God. When Solomon asked God for wisdom, he got more than he ever imagined and his wisdom became legendary. The Bible says “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore.” And that “kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:29,34)

Fortunately for us, we have the entire Bible to turn to when we need wisdom. The Bible has this to say about itself: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16) James wrote this, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5) And in the book of Job, “But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.” (Job 12:13)

I simply cannot say it better than God, so I think it more sufficient to simply share a few of my favorite verses on wisdom:

O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever! (Psalm 111:10)

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:2-6)

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. (Proverbs 3:7,13,14)

Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24)

No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30)

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom. (Isaiah 28:29)

He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. (Daniel 2:20)

But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it. (Luke 7:35)

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

In him (Christ) lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colassians 2:3)

It is our prayer you will grow in understanding as you turn to the one true source of wisdom, the Word of God. For those who are saved, God also gave us the Holy Spirit to help us with understanding and discernment. When we pray first, and read his Word daily, we find that God will transform us into new people by changing the way we think. (Romans 12:2) And if you do not yet know Christ as your Lord and Savior, now is the perfect time to seek him. For all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. For more information, please click this link:

KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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A Light For My Path

God's will 1 A frequent question asked by Christians and non-Christians alike has to do with knowing God’s will for our lives. It seems people instinctively perceive there must be a purpose for their existence and, therefore, knowing and understanding that purpose becomes a top consideration at some point in time for most of us. For those in a twelve step program, knowing God’s will is an integral part of the process as stated in the eleventh step: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Many of us have, or know someone who has, sought God’s will in very specific ways, such as which job should I accept, what college should I attend, should I own a home or rent, or even whom should I marry. Just as frequently, perhaps, we’ve heard a friend or family member (or ourselves) say something like, “I know this decision is God’s will because I have peace about it.” Still another may claim that they let their Bible randomly fall open to a page and the first verse they read confirmed their decision must be God’s will. Without a doubt, the tendency to seek God’s will in a specific circumstance can occupy much of our thinking (and can lead to some very errant methodology).

But what if I told you that’s not the way it works at all? What would it mean to you to learn there is no “magic dot” or “x-marks-the-spot” quality to God’s will? Will it help you to know that God’s will does not revolve around you and His purposes will prevail regardless of which job you accept or which college you attend? I find it quite encouraging to know that God has not created for us some mysterious puzzle that we must constantly attempt to solve to determine what he wants us to do. He has not set before us a hidden agenda buried within a complex maze of possibilities that we must persistently search for. Quite the opposite, we are given immense freedom to enjoy life and all that God has created.

But God does have a will for us and the good news is that he has made it pretty easy for us to know and understand what that is. And we need look no further than our Bible, for God’s Word is God’s will. As the psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And the Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” God changes the way we think when we read his Word and seek to understand the truths it contains.

I think it may help to understand that God’s will is more about who God wants us to be than what, specifically, he wants us to do. When we advance down the path of growing in Godliness, we begin to make decisions consistent with the way God would have us live. In this regard, we are likely to find it advantageous to attend a church with strong Bible teaching as this will guide us in our understanding of the Bible. Having fellowship with a mature Christian who can act as a mentor and/or joining a small group Bible study can also be quite beneficial, especially when it comes to determining what is our will and what the Word of God says. We will find, when we are diligent in our study of his Word, our decisions will begin to reflect the character he is building within us.

It may be a good starting point to look at a few areas of God’s will we can be certain of:

God wants us to be thankful: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)

We should avoid sexual impurity: “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

God wants everyone to be saved and to know the truth: “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

God wants us to trust him in all things: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He wants us to be wise: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5)

God wants us to be joyful: “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

And he wants us to pray regularly: “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The Bible is absolutely rich in the depth of its truth and its revelation of who God is and the relationship he desires to have with us. There is simply no greater endeavor one can undertake than to study the revealed truth from the One who is our Creator and the lover of our souls. As Paul taught his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Whether you have been a Christian for quite some time or you’re brand new to Scripture, once you commit yourself to studying the Bible I am confident you will learn to understand God’s will in new and meaningful ways and you will gain confidence in all areas of your life as you grow in His image. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

May the love and peace of God be with you and yours.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Imperfect…Just Like Me

Imperfect 3  When you think about the Bible, what comes to mind? Specifically, with regards to the characters in the Bible, do you think of them as role model types…the kind of perfect people whose stories are told for our benefit so we might know how we should live? The first time I walked into a Christian church at age 30, this is the idea I had in my head. Christians were perfect people who went to church, served the Lord, and committed no wrongs. Certainly, the characters in the Bible were like that, too.

It was on a Saturday in early September back in 1993 during a men’s morning gathering that I first came to realize Christians were not the perfect people I had believed. All my misconceptions melted away as two pastors shared their personal testimonies and I came to understand they were flawed men just like me. In fact, the similarities to my own story were more prevalent than I could have imagined. Years of feeling inadequate and outcast melted away as I listened to their stories of how God turned things around for them.

But even once I was saved and armed with this newfound awareness that Christians were imperfect people just like me, I still had this tendency to read the Bible as if every character I encountered within its pages was somehow a Godly example for me to admire. Surely the likes of Moses, David, Samuel, and Solomon were the epitome of the flawless kind of people God wanted all of us to be, right? After years of Bible study and teaching from some awesome pastors, I have come to realize that is not true. Not at all. With the exception of Jesus, every character in the Bible is an example of a fallen human being who has made mistakes, usually many of them, and is in desperate need of God’s grace just like I am.

To explore this further, let’s look at one such character: King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live on earth. Why? Because when the Lord came to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon did not ask for wealth or long life, he asked for wisdom and discernment to lead the Lord’s people. We read this in 1 Kings 3:7-9 – “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

This humble request was very pleasing to God and he happily granted it and subsequently, Solomon became wise beyond measure. In fact, I am personally certain no wiser man has ever lived even to this day. Solomon did many things that were pleasing to God, including building the Lord’s temple and writing the book of Proverbs, which is filled with practical counsel on how to follow the Lord. Solomon also wrote the Song of Songs, which presents a beautiful picture of what God intends marriage to be. Reading such things makes it easy to think of Solomon as a great example of Godly living.

But then we read that Solomon, the man who wrote the book on what marriage is supposed to be, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) in addition to the great personal wealth he amassed for himself. Many may be tempted to think that if Solomon had multiple wives and concubines this must be OK with God, but that is simply not true. In Deuteronomy 17:17 the Lord’s instructions are quite clear: “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.”

Solomon’s taking of many wives and concubines was in direct violation of God’s Word. And just as God had foretold, they turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. We read in 1 Kings 11:4 – “In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.” And a little further on, in 1 Kings 11:9, we see the Lord was quite angry over Solomon’s disobedience – “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” The consequences of Solomon’s indiscretion were far-reaching and eventually led to the division of Israel.

You can read more on this in the book of 1 Kings, and it would be a good idea for you to do so. These stories are rich in life lessons that can benefit us today. In Solomon we see an individual who was hardly a perfect man. He was, like we are today, given to pursuing his own pathway through life, making choices that he almost certainly knew were wrong, to fulfill his own lustful desires. He started out in great humility and became prideful and arrogant and the ramifications of his actions spread far beyond his own life.

It is never God’s will that anyone should sin, but He does allow us to make our own choices. The story of Solomon is not the story of a perfect man, but the story of an imperfect one, and it holds a powerful lesson for us. Solomon thought that having all those wives and concubines would provide happiness, but whatever pleasure he experienced was not worth the price he paid. Solomon came to realize the grave nature of his mistakes as we read in Ecclesiastes 12:14: “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

Solomon needed God’s grace just like we do. And through Jesus, that grace is available to us all. As we read in Romans 5:17 – “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Whatever mistakes we have made, whatever wrong paths we have followed; we can be assured God’s gift of grace is greater and we are able to live in triumph when we trust in Jesus Christ. May you find him now, if you haven’t already.

Blessings to you.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Help!

woman praying to GodI awoke that morning groggy and tired. It couldn’t be that time already. It felt like a suit of weights hanging on my body as I crawled from my bed. The familiar dread hit me hard. I didn’t want to go back to work. Work had become unbearable in the past few months. The atmosphere was toxic. I had never worked in a place so full of turmoil. There was a constant atmosphere of stress and I felt like if I made one mistake I was going to be hauled into the boss’s office and harshly reprimanded. I first noticed this the very week I started there, but I discounted it in the hopes that things would improve over time. They didn’t. One particular woman seemed out to get me. I found out later that her friend was the one I had replaced in my position, so it seemed she was bent on seeing me fail. I found myself crying out to God for help on a regular basis. I began to wonder if I was asking too much of Him.

Do you ever feel like you need help but might be asking too much from God?  There have been many times in my life when I have felt this way; this job I had being one of those times. I think the majority of us have seasons in life when all we can do is cry out to God; where serenity and happiness seem out of reach. If this is how you feel today, don’t agonize over it. God wants us to reach out to him always, and especially in times of need. The Apostle Peter instructed us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7.) The truth is, we can never ask too much from God.

I have had to cry out to God numerous times, when life or work or events have overwhelmed me. But God is faithful and always there. When I was in that job, I had a lot of turmoil around me, it seemed like the enemy was using everything and everyone around me to bring me down. It was so stressful it was impacting my health. I recall how God lifted me out of darkness and provided the assurance I was going to be okay, and through Him I could see there was light at the end of the tunnel, even though often it did not feel that way. Sometimes we are so focused on the darkness that we forget to seek and look for the light. In Psalms 3:1-5, David cried out to God in his time of need “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” The same God David cried out to will help you, too!

Strengthening my relationship with God has been the crucial factor for me in learning to handle these types of situations when they come along. I have found that while praying is important and essential, I still must do even more if I expect to experience the fullness of God’s work in my life. My experience tells me that it is difficult to realize the power of God if I am only sitting around waiting for it to happen. The Bible provides guidance on the things we need to do to strengthen our relationship with God. James 4:8 tells us “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” How do we draw closer to God? Prayer is one way, but I find spending time reading my Bible is also crucial. Having quiet time in communion with the Holy Spirit is another. It is important to do all of these things, for in this way we strengthen our relationship with Him.

Faith requires action. If we are making the attempt to draw closer to God and seeking a deeper relationship with Him, He is able to work in our life. Path corrections cannot be made if there is no movement. Give God your momentum so that he can direct you. Keep praying. Keep seeking. Keep praising and thanking Him. God wants to raise you up out of your circumstances. Strengthen your relationship with Him, and He will direct your path.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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