Bible Study

Jun 2018
All or Nothing

The zenith of Solomon’s accomplishments in 1 Kings 10 comes plunging down in 1 Kings 11. Beginning with the first verse you read, “But king Solomon loved many strange women…and his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:1, 3). He lost his perfect heart. Can you imagine what it must feel like when you read, “The Lord was angry with Solomon” (1 Kings 11:9)? What does it take to make the Lord angry? If you knew this, wouldn’t you avoid it at all costs?

Look early in Solomon’s life. He was aware of the possibility of God’s anger. At the dedication service for the newly constructed Temple, Solomon prayed, “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them” (1 Kings 8:46). We know God is not quick-tempered. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). The original word for anger centers on the word for “nose” or “nostril.” When God is longsuffering, He is slowly drawing in the breath which abates His wrath. In order to make God angry, you must continue to trespass His righteousness and violate His graciousness so much He no longer draws His patient breath.

What did Solomon do to outstrip God’s mercy? You may say it was his harem. This was certainly forbidden by God, but there is more. You may say it was the worship of his wives’ false gods. You are getting warmer, but let’s appeal to Psalm 2 for some insight. The last verse of the psalm offers the counsel, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry” (Psalm 2:12). Glance at the beginning of the psalm and you will find the single transgression which invites the anger of the Lord: “Why do the…kings of the earth set themselves…against the Lord” (Psalm 2:1–2).

What solicits God’s anger upon one’s life? Rival His kingdom with your own. This self-appointed reign takes many forms. In Solomon’s story, His kingdom became the pursuit of pleasing numero uno. “I was great, and increased more than all that were before me…And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them” (Ecclesiastes 2:9–10). Solomon “clave unto these in love” (1 Kings 11:2). He set himself against the Lord when he “went not fully after the Lord” (1 Kings 11:6).

The life which siphons off some of God in order to make room for something else eventually will see the expiration of God’s longsuffering. “Be wise now therefore…Serve the Lord with fear…Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:10–12).

Learn from Solomon’s unfortunate decision. Complete surrender (kiss the Son) and consecrated service will preserve your days upon this earth from the wrath of God. With God, it is all or nothing.

“My servant…had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully” (Num. 14:24).

Jun 2018
Hard to Get

The book of Leviticus catches you off guard. In most books, there is an introduction which warms you up to the content, but not here. Before you even get to celebrate the accomplishment of the Tabernacle, you are in the middle what seems to be a butcher shop. It really makes the sanitized, germaphobic, 99.99% bacteria free society we live in uneasy.
However, the point is clearly stated at the beginning, and we will learn that Leviticus is a bridge. The key is following Moses’ location before God. Exodus 40:35 says, “Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation,” so the Lord calls out to Moses from inside the Tabernacle. The instructions that God gives Moses while separated by the Tabernacle curtains are a list of rituals and rules which symbolically function to siphon the evil from the Israelites existence so they could come near to God.
As you read through Leviticus, you will be struck with the thought, “Could it be any more difficult to come to God?” It is extremely complicated. There were certain sacrifices, diets, duties, holidays, and restrictions which forced the seed of Abraham to live differently than the rest of the world.
Here is the point: Access to God is hard to get.
Some people are hard to get because they are too important. They do not have time for the little people. Obviously, this is not God’s angle otherwise He wouldn’t have had the Tabernacle built in the first place. Some things are hard to get because they are valuable. In Leviticus 2, you read four times about the oil frankincense (2:1, 2, 15, 16). This precious oil is mentioned more times in this book than any other book of the Bible. Why would a priceless oil be central to a proper offering?
Access to God is hard to get because He is unique; there is no one else like Him.
Access to God is hard to get because he is so pure and holy nothing can compare to Him.
Yet, he made a way, albeit a difficult way, but He still made a way for people to have access to Him. The degree of difficulty should magnify the value of knowing God. If you felt God was worth it, then you would do anything to know Him.
Do you wonder if the “easy-believe-ism” trend has cheapened the access we have to God through Jesus Christ? Romans 12:1 is still in the Bible: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice…” As complicated as those Levitical sacrifices were, living for God demands more devotion. Instead of bringing an offering, you are the offering.

Jun 2018
A Sense of Purpose

Anthony Bourdain.  Kate Spade.  If you follow the national news at all, you might recognize these names. Bourdain was a celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian and television personality while Spade was a fashion designer and businesswoman from New York City.  Unfortunately, both of these individuals took their lives this week.   Two people who had it all—national recognition, fame, fortune.  What more could you want?  Yet both of these people felt so empty in their lives that they couldn’t face another day and decided to end it all.  Unfortunately, they are not alone.  Suicide rates are increasing to the point that it is now the 10th largest cause of death in the United States.

Of course, each case is different, but we are forced to wonder what brings people to such a point of despair where they literally cannot face the thought of another day.   Certainly, there may be some true mental health issues at play but I wonder out loud if celebrities like these two just reach the point in life where they realize they have achieved it “all”, yet they feel empty.  They have no real meaning or purpose.  They have reached the pinnacle yet are still unsatisfied so why go on anymore?

Our reading passage for today in Ephesians shows us our real purpose in life.  Eph 1: 4 says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”   Paul teaches us that God chose us to belong to Christ and furthermore, He chose us to live holy and blameless lives.  We did not just arrive here by accident and are forced to live meaningless existences until the day we die but instead, God has a purpose for our lives that He had in mind before we were born.  That purpose is not fame and fortune, which time and time again proves to be empty for those who achieve it, but instead a life that is God-centered with a desire to live the way He intended.

To further give us a sense of purpose and security, Paul writes in chapter 3 about us trying to get a grasp of the love that God has for us, a love that “passeth knowledge” in vs. 19.  So while others in this life are trying to find a sense of fulfillment and security in things that don’t really matter, God wants us to realize we have been chosen and loved in Him before the foundation of the world and have been given various goals and missions, one of which is to live holy and blameless lives.  May we recognize the security and sense of purpose we have in Christ!

Jun 2018
All the Things You Desire

New Helvetia.
It means New Switzerland and it was a 50,000-acre tract of land in California. The owner wanted to establish a simple life and invite level-headed, balanced people to join him as he transformed the rugged western wilderness into an inhabitable paradise. While he and his workers were building a sawmill along the American River, one of John’s workers discovered something which would change the world. News quickly spread across the country and around the world. The population of the California territory would balloon from a handful of Americans to over 300,000 people all because of a little nugget of gold found near John Sutter’s sawmill.
The Gold Rush of 1848 through 1849 revved into high gear. People risked everything to get to the rivers of California where you supposedly could overturn a rock and find riches to last a lifetime. They had to endure the harshness of traveling across the country in a wagon or around the cape of South America by boat. Many left with nothing but the clothes on their back, hoping to purchase their essentials for a new life in the new land. The merchants in California were the ones who really struck gold. It is reported a single egg and a pound of coffee was sold for $25 and $100 respectively in today’s dollars! People were buried along the trail, at sea, and near the mines. The rage of greed led to murder and pillaging all for fast and easy money. People would try and fail, try and fail, repeatedly hoping the next gold strike would be theirs.
All of this was done for the sake of a precious metal mankind has esteemed as valuable, yet many people scoff at the value and refuse to pursue the thing which “is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:14). Much like the scoundrels in the first chapter, the world craves riches and spoil, but they pan for it at all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. “We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil” (Proverbs 1:13).
If we seek as for silver and search as for hid treasures, we will surely find wisdom. Reflect for a moment on the blessings of wisdom: Length of days, riches and honor, pleasant ways and paths of peace, and sweet sleep. Compare and contrast that with the alternatives. How many suicides shorten the lives of the miserable? How many lives end in ignominy because of poor choices? How many drown their sorrowful ways in alcohol or shoot-up into another dimension? How many are saddled with so much guilt not even the strongest arsenal of prescriptions could provide a good night’s sleep for them?
Human nature has not changed. Men and women are chasing after a mirage. Once they think they’ve captured their dream, it wisps away like smoke.
But “all the things thou canst desire” cannot be compared to wisdom.

Jun 2018
Blessed Beyond Measure

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Ps. 68:19). Upon reading this verse, it is obvious that God is not stingy. He does not distribute scarcely, but “loads” the believer up! Assurance of salvation is a daily blessing of knowing we have been forgiven of our sins. That alone would be enough to consider ourselves “loaded up”, but He gives us much more.

Let us think of a typical day in our lives. We wake in the morning, knowing full well He protected us throughout the night. “When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet” (Pr. 3:24). He remains our Savior and salvation is assured forever, (“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” Eph. 1:13). Our eyes, though blurry at first, behold His blessings. We see our loved ones (or we know they are safe in His arms-John 14:2-3). We get a chance at another day (some folks do not have the option).

Each day the average human will breath 288 to 432 times, the heart will beat 1440 to 2400 times, the digestive system will process our food and a combination of our lungs and kidneys will keep our blood pH levels exact. In general, it is known as homeostasis. A well-oiled machine if you will. God has created our bodies to do this without any action of ours. What a blessing!

Then we must think of the material blessings that God has provided and His care for us. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? (Lu. 12:24). God meets our needs and our wants that are wholesome.

We, as Christian-Americans, are the most blessed individuals on Earth. Our God-given land is enough to say we are “loaded up”. We are so blessed to live in America. Dread to think the options. God has given us a land of milk and honey too (“And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (Num. 13:27). God sent our forefathers to this land and we reap the benefit (loaded up).

With the pressures of this old, sinful world it is easy to lose our perspectives. So, we must take time daily to focus on our blessings and name them one by one, as the hymn reads. Write down every blessing, however small, and we shall soon see how God has “loadeth us with benefits.” He has heaped great and wonderful things upon us!

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