August 28th I Kings chapter 9 & II Chronicles chapter 8

Good morning!  Today we see that Solomon has finished building the house of God in Jerusalem.  There are a couple things that we can glean from these passages that apply to our lives today.  First, we see that Solomon, who was in line with the will of God and the wisest man to have ever lived, had a specific order of things in his life.  Solomon did not begin working on his house or his wives house until the house of God was completed.  The things of God came before the things of the flesh.  There is a priority in life that is set as an example here.  Many say that God is number one in their lives, but the proof is in the pudding, if you will.  Our actions reflect our heart; in fact the term “heart” is defined as the seat of the will, not a passing emotion.  Solomon’s heart was set on the things of God.  He was concerned for those around him and pointing them to the Father for worship.  We need to remember that the temple, in the most holy place, was the mercy seat, which is the representation of Jesus Christ. Solomon had a mission, as we talked about a couple of days ago, to bring the foreigner to know the true God.  His mission was obvious due to his actions.  Is our mission obvious due to our actions?  Does God come first in life?  I have noticed, while being in vocational ministry for eighteen years, that God needs to fit into most peoples lives.  My meaning is this:  We plan everything that we want to do, accomplish and enjoy in life.  After we have set up all of our wants, we see what may be left and divvy it up so that we can “give” some of it to God.  These small portions of time, energy and money seem to cause most to swell up with pride and think “what would God do without me?”  We find the dream home, the right car (or cars) and get all the payment plans set up then we set our children up in every secular activity and sport under the sun.  Now we have to work between two and three jobs just make the bills which begins taking our time and money away only to find that the little time that we have left will be spent on getting our kids to practice, games, recitals and the like.  We look at our lives that are full of duties and bills and become irritated that God would expect so much from us because there is nothing left to give.  We set up our finances before our tithes and offerings, we have set up our calendars with little to no regards to Kingdom work and we become, as the good Baptist would say, “burned out.”  My friend, if the priorities are set up like Solomon’s were in these chapters; we would not be burned out, but instead, we would be fired up!  I have spent a lot of time in guilt feeling like I have been such a poor leader.  The saying goes: “good leadership is getting people to do what they ought to do because they want to do it.”  Just recently I came to the realization that even Jesus could not get most folks to do this.  We are fallen creatures with a free will given by Him.  A leader can give all the encouragement in the world along with all the resources to boot but if the “want to do” is absent in the equation, leadership is worthless.  People make time and resources to do what they want to do.  Solomon wanted desperately to make a place of worship and it was number one in his life.  Oh if the people who claim His name put Him as their number one priority; imagine what could be done!

The other thing in this text that stands out today is the beginning of Solomon’s downfall.  If you noticed, he picked up a wife from Egypt.  God did not allow this to be done and Solomon did not do it out of ignorance.  Knowing that she was outside of God’s will for his life he “hid her” from God, so to speak.  Solomon would not let her live in the palace because the Ark of the Covenant was once there.  He began to act one way when he found himself in the presence of God, but yet in another way when he felt like he was not in His presence.  Solomon’s hypocrisy begins to show in his life.  Hypocrisy in the life of a leader is a terrible thing; and this small infraction grows, as we will see, into quite a mess.  This is the beginning of the divided kingdom that we have been talking about.  

August 27th Psalms chapters 134, 146-150

What a set of chapters to wake up to this morning!  All of creation screams praise to His name; I hope that we are joining them as we live our lives today remembering all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He has promised to do!

I attended a Christian high school from my freshman year thorough my senior year.  The school that I attended was a church that had decided to make a difference in their community and I am so glad that they did because i became saved under that ministry.  The church that took part in this very difficult ministry was a very legalistic church with a lot rules that were not found in scripture, but instead, it was “the way we have always done it”.  There are still many groups of people who operate in this way.  Sadly, the members of that church followed all of the rules on Sunday morning, but did not during the rest of the week which showed a great deal of hypocrisy on their part.  Why is it a sin for a woman to wear pants on Sunday, but a bathing suite on Monday is just Jim Dandy?  At any rate, one of the things that can be most stifling in these types of churches is the music.  There is a common trend in these groups that the piano is the only instrument that can be used during worship.  All stringed instruments are banned (I’m not a music kind of guy, but I peeked in a piano once and there were 176 strings in that booger).  The other common theme is that there is a hymn book that is to be used and only that hymn book.  Now I don’t know if that hymn book was authorized in 1611 or what; but it was kind of sacred.  I enjoy when I read in the Old Testament and folks are really “getting their worship on.”  David danced in front of the entire nation when the ark of the covenant was returning to Israel, and when his wife scorned him and tried to correct him he said “I will become more undignified than this!” Today we read in Psalm 149-150 that the people were instructed to sing “a new song” and then goes on to say we are to sing these praises: “in the assembly of the saints.”  In this chapter it lists many different instruments that were being used to praise Him:  The trumpet, harp, timbrel (and dance! 150:3), lute, stringed instruments, flutes, cymbals and clashing cymbals (yes that means drums in worship).

God deserves much more praise than we can ever hope to give Him.  Let’s pull out all the stops!  Let’s not worry about what others think; but instead focus on Him and give Him the praise that He deserves to the very best of our abilities.  Imagine if newer believers actually saw us getting excited about praising God!  It may even become contagious.

“LET EVERYTHING THAT HAS BREATH PRAISE THE LORD”  

August 26th II Chronicles chapters 6-7 & Psalm 136

Before we begin with today’s reading I would like to point your attention the the new Bible study helps tab located at: http://www.blufftonbaptist.com There are links to: The Strong’s concoorinance, Matthew Henry’s commentary, a bible dictionary, the Bible online and the “blue Letter” bible reading site. If you click the Blue Letter icon and find the passages that you would like to read/study you will notice that to the left of the Biblical text there is a blue box labeled “tools” when clicking there you will have access to the original language, commentaries and much more. You operate the tools menu by choosing the tabs located at the top of the box that opens. I hope that these tools will help enrich your Bible study experience.

As we look at today’s reading I want to draw our attention to something that is probably overlooked by most in these chapters. In chapter six, Solomon has had a platform in which to address the people built. THe construction of this platform is a neat illustration of the condition of the heart of king Solomon. When kings addressed their subjects they would usually do so from a very elevated position. I think that I would be safe to say that it would be a balcony for most kings. THe kings palace and the kings balcony would be made from the best supplies that the nation and the surrounding areas had to offer. I would imagine that there was a lot of marble and gold involved in these structures. The balcony would be high enough for throngs of people to see and hear the king, much less to show his elevated position.

When Solomon was introducing the temple, the house of God, his platform was only about 7.5 feet square and about 50 inches high. The materials did not involve marble or gold, but bronze. At 50 inches high he was elevated no higher than anyones head that was an adult. Solomon was elevated only high enough to be heard by the people. The focus was on God Almighty not on a lowly king.
People in leadership need to be elevated only high enough to be heard, not to be elevated solely for the purpose of being elevated.

In chapter 7 and verse 14 we see the reaction of God in light of the obedience of His people. God was letting everyone know that the reason He was in their midst was not due to their being special, or rightous; He was there because they humbled themselves, prayed and were seeking His face.

Oh how blessed our churches would be if we followed this model! I’m telling you my friends, trying to get Baptists to focus on prayer is just about imposible. We will met to eat or talk; but not so much to pray. I have seen the power of humble prayer at work before and it is amazing to see God work through our prayers. I have challenged people to create prayer groups in their homes to pray for God’s will in our lives and church in more than one church. When I mention this, people look at me like a calf looks at a new gate! People look at me like I have lost my mind, as if I have asked for their first born child. I do believe that if we would trust enough to pray in faith that God would do so much in our lives, churches and our communities.

August 25th: I Kings chapter 8 & II Chronicles chapter 5

If you are just now jumping into the daily reading you are probably wondering why there are two scriptures that say almost the exact same thing.  I wan t to go over again what is happening here in these two texts.  The nation of Israel was a single kingdom under king David and under his son king Solomon.  After the reign of Solomon the kingdom was divided.  God allowed the kingdom to be divided due to the sin of the land.  We see in these two books the story line of two kingdoms, but their beginning stories are the same because they have not yet divided.  This is the reason for the redundancy in the two texts.

Today lets focus on something that king Solomon mentioned in his dedication prayer (we will read it again tomorrow in Chronicles).  In I Kings 8:41-43 we see that Solomon is praying in the will of God.  This was what God had intended for the nation of Israel.  He intended for them to be obedient to Him insomuch that the world would see His glory through His people.  The scene was in good standing and in full swing at this time and we see Solomon in the obedient years of his life, praying in the will of God that the “foreigner” may come and pray to God and “In that all peoples of the earth may know your name and fear You as Your people…” (verse 43).  Solomon had the plan down; to draw all men to God in repentance.  You don’t see the kings of Israel with this attitude again after this time.  The nation turned inward and selfish as they clung to idolatry and debauchery.  We have much to learn as the “new chosen people of God.”  God created a kingdom without borders when He came and gave His life.  He told us that “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me.”  Just as He promised Israel that He would bless them and bless the world through them if they were obedient.  We need to realize that if God could move His chosen people aside for disobedience, how much easier can He move us aside.  Are we “lifting Him up?”  Is He able to draw all men unto Him?  Or have we as the church, with this great gift and responsibility, become lazy and self centered like the Israelis?  Have we focused on comfort and debauchery as they did while giving lip service to God.  We need to look very closely at these writings because they were given to us as “examples” we are told in the bible.  Remember, they didn’t have examples, nor did they have the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We need to focus on lifting Him up to the world around us.

I hope you are enjoying our time together in the Word.  I hope we will all be different people as we read together.  

August 21st Proverbs chapters 19-21

We are now getting into the part of Proverbs that is for any one who will look at it.  The beginning of this book of proverbs explains wisdom, folly, gives a theme as to what we will be looking at and then moves along to give wisdom to the young.  Chapters 10-29 are general words of wisdom for all who will hear.  There are many who do not understand scripture because they are spiritually blind and the Word is “foolishness to them” as the Bible states.  But here, in this section, it is not so.  Solomon is speaking as the great wise king and he is giving instruction.  This is why the subjects jump, and very, at almost every verse.  These words pertain to the poor man as well as the rich man; to the wise man as well as the fool; to the prudent man as well as the lazy man.  There are a lot of principles in these verses that allow us to obtain some discretion and discernment when dealing with people.  Although we are not to turn our back on the poor (19:17, 21:13) we are also to be wise because there are those who are not so much poor as they are lazy (19:15, 19:24, 20:4, 20:13).  If we follow the principles laid out in this book, our lives would be much more simple.

As we read these together, I would like to challenge us again with something.  It is in our nature to look at examples and immediately think of someone who “fits” the profile of what is being mentioned.  As we look at Proverbs together lets try and  apply each one of them to our own lives and situations.  We would do well to remember these two proverbs from today’s reading:  

Proverbs 21:2 “Every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”   

Proverbs 20:6  “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?”

August 20th Proverbs chapters 16-18

There are so many different, good proverbs to choose to blog about that it is hard to choose just a couple.  Although we will only look at a few each day, I would like to challenge you to not brush through these short proverbial sayings.  If we will take time to ponder what each one means they will enrich our lives.  For those of you who have study bibles, I would like to also encourage you to see what the notes say.  Some proverbs are very straight forward while others have a little more depth to them.  For example in Proverbs 16:26 it says “The person who labors, labors for himself, for his hungry mouth drives him on.” It would be good for our government officials to look closely at this piece of wisdom from God.  On a deeper level we can see that, need produces productivity and that is not a bad thing.  In a country where there are many many “hand outs” given there is no drive for people to be productive.  This lack of drive gives way to idle time, idle time in the life of the “simple” or the “fool” leads to violence and civil unrest.  I had to wonder when the folks were occupying Wall Street: “what jobs allow a four week leave of absence for one to live on the streets and smoke pot?  The answer is clear my friends; those who have their daily needs provided for them without working.  There are also those who can make more money on un-employment benefits than they can on the work force.  This undoubtedly leads to a non productive nation that will implode on itself which we see happening today.  Our Government has borrowed so much money for social programs that they cannot afford to allow the interest rates to climb or there would not be enough revenue to even pay the interest on our national debt (both sides of the isle for those who may think that I have turned this into a political blog).  The effect of deflating the interest rates is that now, those who have worked their entire life and have put money back for retirement cannot retire due to the fact that there is little to no return on their investments.  Now these people are working into their late lives which causes the job market to be flooded, leaving young people with little opportunity for employment.  Then the entire thing comes full circle because now those who truly want employment cannot gain it due to the older generation not being able to retire, and in turn look to the government for help only to exacerbate the situation.  But in God’s Word, in one little verse there was the wisdom to stop this from happening.

This example leads me to the proverb that we will focus on today it is Proverbs 16:25 (the verse directly before the one I had mentioned in the last paragraph). “There is a way that seems right unto man, but its end is the way of death.”  It may seem, to some of our politicians and voters, that the hand out system is the best system and there are some that have done so with the best of intentions.  Some leaders really think that they are trying to help, but they lack wisdom.  There is a notion that they know what is best for the people and society, but without the wisdom that comes from above we are incapable of doing what is right, even with best intentions.  Charles Krauthammer, an editorial journalist, stated that he once felt this way.  But after looking at all the information  (I believe that he realized the heart of man and our self centered characteristics) he changed his mind and politically made a 180 degree turn. What seems right to us is slanted and bent toward sin and destruction because we are fallen creatures that are infected with a sin nature.  God’s Word is the only true sense of wisdom that we can depend on in this life.  

I hope that you will join me in studying the wisdom literature of scripture this week.  May God bless the studying of His Word.

August 19th Proverbs chapters 13-15

I want to begin by stating my apologies for the lack of posts recently.  The Bluffton Baptist web site has taken a lot of time and energy and some things have suffered; this being one of them.

As we are now in the book of Proverbs, although we are at chapter 13, I thought we should look at what the book is and what it is all about.  Solomon wrote most of the proverbs although not all of them.  The original title for the book in the Hebrew (and the Septuagint for all of you history geeks) is “The Proverbs of Solomon.”  If you remember reading in our time together in the Word, Solomon was promised by God to be the wisest man to have ever lived.  Wisdom is separate from knowledge; there have been many knowledgeable people who were definitely not wise.  Wisdom is knowing how to handle the knowledge that one has.  Most any one, with enough hard work, can gain knowledge; but wisdom is a gift of God.  So if Solomon is claimed by God to be the wisest man to have ever lived we should, indeed then, take in to account  what he is saying.  Proverbs contains 31 chapters and there are many believers who read a chapter every day in ensure that they read the entire book every month.  The wisdom listed in this small book regards almost all aspects of life; from lust to how to deal in business.  The word proverb means “a wise and pithy saying.”  I think that we will continue to enjoy them as we read them together.  

Another note for us as we read Is something that is key to remember in the life of Solomon.  Although he was the wisest man to have ever lived, he fell into temptation and into sin.  Due to Solomon’s dealings with foreign women he fell into idolatry and he was the cause for the divided kingdom that I mentioned a few weeks back.  Now, if Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, could slip into sin and fall, how much easier would it be for you and I to do the same.  We need to guard our lives and walk with Christ on a daily basis.  Solomon’s fall effected not only himself, but all those around him. 

My prayer for this book is that God would depart on us the wisdom that has been printed.  May God bless your being in the Word daily.