Lucia's Blog: October 2014
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE BLESSINGS OF PAIN

"Do you not know? Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." 
Isaiah 40:28-31


During my journey with the physical pain of broken bones, I have learned that pain can be good regardless of whether it is inflicted or afflicted, emotional, spiritual or physical.  Pain has taught me to be more careful, so it keeps me from more harm.  Although I am not a fan of any kind of pain, I have learned that enduring it with the right attitude can bring us many blessings.  There are so many lessons we can learn from pain.  It is important to experience pain, that we may learn the blessings that spring out of it.  So often, we miss out on such blessings because we do not learn the spiritual lessons it can bring us.

Many times when pain strikes us, we get upset, angry and frustrated.  Most of us have been there! But it is faith in our God that has always brought us back to the fact that He is still in control, that He holds the future and that we must trust in Him.  He has many times brought me down from the clouds with difficult times that I have learned to trust Him.  Prayer, God's Word and singing songs of praise have helped me find my way back to hope and faith even when I could not see a way out.  In all these I have seen God's beauty.  I thank Him for being faithful and lifting me up when I am struggling.  I am determined not to fail to see the good in it and fail to see the blessings God is bestowing upon me.  He has shown me over and over how much He is mindful of me.  So I have purposed in my heart to keep my eyes open to be able to see the blessings He has provided for me.  I want to put on my blessing lens in order that I may see His hand and mindfulness in my troubled times.

During the past 7 weeks I have learned the blessings pain has brought to my walk with Christ.  It has brought me closer to Him.  Consider the following ways pain helps our Christian walk with our Lord and Savior:

Pain draws us closer to Christ

When one experiences pain, whether it is inflicted or afflicted, we are forced to choose whether we are going to run away so the pain will subside or cling to Jesus tightly.  It is so much easier to run away from pain.  But I choose to hang tightly to Him and draw all the strength I need from Him in order to face my pain.  I am aware whatever pain we go through, pain is very present.  Pain is good for us Christians because the more we learn how to draw strength from our Lord Jesus Christ, the higher our tolerance for pain and challenges is.  YES, this is where I have been blessed, learning TOLERANCE under any circumstance.  

Pain can help us focus on what is truly important

During the time of my healing I had to wear a cast which in the beginning I hated a lot.  I not only had to learn tolerance but I also had to force myself to stay focused on what was truly important.  I had to focus on something else that was not my pain, my discomfort and frustration.  My cast became a challenge and I felt like running away from it.  This taught me that although we face challenges and experience pain at many different levels, our Lord is giving us a tremendous opportunity to recommit ourselves to our walk with Him and to know the value of such a walk.  There is victory in all this.  It really boils down to your perspective.  The choice is ours as to whether we are going to allow ourselves to refocus on what is truly important.  In my case it was successful healing.

Pain strengthens our character

It is so much easier when one is in pain to give up and run away.  It is easy to lose faith.  But it is here that we have to rely on our Lord Jesus to carry us through our clouds and challenges.  It is here that our character is strengthened.

Pain deepens our Faith

When we find ourselves in the midst of pain, it is when we must force ourselves to open our Bibles, sing songs of praise and pray fervently.  It is in doing all these that we find rest for our souls and we start trusting God, trusting in His promises that He will be with us and that He will provide for our needs.  It is here that we need to believe in Him and go back to Him.  To wait on Him.  This is great gain, great victory.  It is the highest prize.

Pain teaches us compassion

Is it not something, that the people who have suffered the most are usually the most compassionate ones?  The more struggles and challenges a person has had to endure, the more effective they become in being compassionate toward others.  The more they uplift, encourage and help those who are struggling.  They seem to have a heart for others and feel their pain.

Pain makes us supportive

Pain teaches us to support those who have a need for relief from their pain and suffering. Compassion is the fruit of pain and it is manifested when we lift up and support those in pain.

Pain gives us understanding

It is a fact that no one can understand pain better than someone who has already been through it. Understanding is such a great blessing to those who struggle with either chronic illness, invisible illness or any other source of pain, spiritual or emotional.  This understanding of those who are struggling with pain is priceless.

Pain makes us good servants

Pain teaches us to be more compassionate, supportive, and understanding in helping others bear their pain.  Those who have gone through pain have learned to be hospitable and attentive servants even when they themselves are in pain.  They bestow blessings upon others who are suffering and struggling with life's toil, difficulties and storms.

Pain enables us to be sympathetic

Pain teaches us to say the right words in a spirit of sympathy which is so necessary to those who are struggling because of pain.

Pain teaches us empathy

Empathy is a more powerful support than sympathy.  It is a blessing to have someone who has been through the exact struggle you have been through, who can share with you and help you to understand.  It is more than a blessing.  It is a blessing to be a blessing to others.  To return blessings for blessings.

Pain makes us grateful

Pain teaches us to appreciate the little things.  There is so much joy in learning God's beauty in the midst of our suffering.  It is this appreciation for God's beauty that gives us hope and more hope.  We are learning to be grateful to God and others for their help in getting us through the tough times.  We learn the depths of sorrow.  Managing to be grateful helps us to find joy even in the midst of much pain.

In conclusion:  Pain teaches us to be warriors.  It deepens our faith and strengthens our character.  It draws us closer to God with hope and joy.  Pain teaches us perseverance, tolerance and longsuffering which are necessary to the victory of our walk as Christians.

"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  Romans 5:3-5

May the Lord help us to wait for Him until He strengthens us in our times of weakness and pain.  The following song expresses these thoughts beautifully.


Luci

TEACH ME, LORD, TO WAIT

Teach me, Lord to wait
Down on my knees
Till in your own good time
You answer my pleas
Teach me not to rely on what others do
But to wait in prayer
For an answer from You

"He has made everything beautiful in His time."  Ecc. 3:11

Teach me, Lord to wait
While my heart is all aflame
Let me humble my pride
And call on Your name
Keep my faith renewed;
My eyes on Thee,
Let me be on this earth
What You want me to be

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  2 Cor. 4:18

Those who wait upon the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings like eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach me, Lord to wait

 "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.'"  2 Cor. 12:9

"And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:4


Friday, October 24, 2014

GIANTS OF THE FAITH: SOLOMON ( I KINGS 1-11)




As we have mentioned before in my study of the two Books of Samuel, the focus was mainly upon the establishment of King David's reign.  We saw David fighting to secure his kingship and maintain it as well.  The Books of Samuel are crucial for understanding the Books of Kings which begin with King David on his deathbed and the questions of who will succeed him as king.

The Bible books of I Kings and II Kings were originally one Book as was also I Samuel and II Samuel.  They cover the period from the reign of Solomon all the way to Israel's exile (captivity) in Babylon, circa 586 BC.

The end of David's reign and the beginning of Solomon’s reign (I Kings 1)



The Book of I Kings opens with David advanced in age. He is near the end of his life.  Since he could not keep warm, his servants sought a virgin to attend him and be his nurse. I Kings 1:1-2.  After searching diligently throughout the land of Israel, they found Abishag, a beautiful Shunammite girl.  David's men brought her to serve him and be his nurse.

Since David was no longer able to function as king, the platform was set for others to rise up and take control of the throne.  His son Adonijah was one of them.  He decided to exalt himself as king.  Adonijah, prepared for himself horses and chariots along with fifty men to run before him.  Joab and Abiathar the priest helped him, but Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David, were not in favor of his plot.

Adonijah invited all of the family members and all the men of Judah including all the king's servants. He offered sacrifices with sheep and oxen as if he were the crowned king.  Notice that he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men, and Solomon his brother. It is then that Nathan attempted to speak with Bathsheba saying, "Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king, and David our lord does not know it?  So now come, please let me give you counsel and save your life and the life of your son Solomon…  Afterward, Bathsheba said to David, 'My lord, you swore to your maidservant by the Lord your God, saying, 'Surely your son Solomon shall be king after me and he shall sit on my throne.'  Now, behold, Adonijah is king; and now, my lord the king, you do not know it.  He has sacrificed oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king and Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant.  As for you now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.  Otherwise it will come about, as soon as my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be considered offenders.'"  I Kings 1:17-21.  She wanted the king to keep his promise.  David then sprang immediately into action and anointed Solomon as king of Israel.  He renounced his own throne in favor of his son Solomon.  Adonijah was then forced to plead for his life before Solomon, who granted the request on the condition that he must prove himself worthy of life.  I Kings 1:49-53.

Solomon's revenge (I Kings 2)

David on his deathbed left Solomon these parting words, "I am going the way of all the earth.  Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.  Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel."'  I Kings 2:1-4.  David wanted his son Solomon to keep the LORD'S Laws which are His commands, His ordinances, His testimonies, His ways, and His statutes, Psalm 19:7-11.  He also asked Solomon to punish Joab, David's military commander.  Remember, Joab was the one who killed both Abner and Absalom against the king's wishes. David also asked Solomon to punish Shimei who cursed David in public.  Afterward David died.  He had reigned for forty years as Israel's greatest king.

With David now gone, Adonijah reappeared requesting to marry Abishag, the girl who served and took care of David keeping him warm at the end of his life.  With this request, Adonijah was ultimately putting the knife to his own throat.  It was an attempt to establish his own claim to the throne.  Solomon saw through Adonijah's scheme and sent his man to execute Adonijah.  Solomon had Shemei to swear an oath that he would stay in Jerusalem.  He was executed when he tried to run away to Achish son of Maacah, king of Gath.  

Solomon honored his father's requests when he executed both Joab and Shimei.  Now Solomon's place on the throne of Israel was secure.


THE REIGN OF SOLOMON (I KINGS 3-11)


Solomon made an alliance with the Pharaoh king of Egypt by marrying his daughter.  He took her as his wife bringing her to the city of David, while he finished building his palace and the house of the LORD.  He also fortified the wall of Jerusalem.   When Solomon married the Pharaoh's daughter, it was his first action within his newly established kingship.  Following his marriage to the Egyptian princess, Solomon began to worship in the high places.  He and his people were worshiping in the high places because there was no house built for the LORD.  Eventually, worship in the high places became a major issue in the Book of Kings.  Solomon's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter along with worship on the high places brought on major disaster.  His foreign wives turned his heart toward idols and their idol temples.  In His wrath, God tore the nation into two and gave only the tribe of Judah to Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  The rest He gave to Solomon’s servant Jeroboam.

Solomon was king of Israel for forty years.  He was well known for the three w's:  wisdom, wealth and wives.  He is believed to be the writer of much of the Bible's "wisdom literature" in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  His wealth was huge.  His wives numbered 700 and his concubines 300.  He is also known as the builder of the Temple.

The first nine chapters that describe Solomon's reign form a five-part "chiasm."  In a "chiasm" the first section matches the fifth (Solomon's wives), the second section matches the fourth (Solomon's wisdom), and finally the climactic center section tells or speaks of the Temple.  The story was written in this form of style to help the listener remember it better.  This was the main purpose for the "chiasm."

Solomon's wives (I Kings 3:1 and 11)

Sadly, Solomon's reign began and ended on sour notes.  He first began with an Egyptian wife (3:1) and ended up with a thousand wives and concubines, most of them foreign (3:11).  Most of these marriages were made with the purpose of forming alliances with other nations.  Unfortunately, this had a profound impact on Solomon's faith toward His God.  It caused him to stumble.  Each of these wives brought along their own household gods.  Solomon was very accommodating.  He allowed his wives to continue to worship these false gods, providing places for them to worship and make sacrifices.  His many wives and their gods turned his heart away from the only true and living God.  In his last years, he foolishly turned away from his Jehovah God and followed his wives' gods.  As a result of this, the LORD raised up enemies both from within and from without Solomon's kingdom.

Fascinating facts:  Siamun

Solomon most likely married the daughter of Siamun, a Pharaoh of Egypt's twenty-first dynasty.  It is also believed that Siamun captured the city of Gezer using it as a dowry for his daughter when she married Solomon.  How about that!  The marriage's main purpose was for political alliances between Egypt and Israel.

The Wisdom of Solomon (I kings 3:2-28-4 and 10)

In the beginning of his reign, Solomon loved Jehovah God and walked in His Law.  Solomon's main problem was that he allowed burned sacrifices in the high places.  When he had established his throne, he worshiped at the principal high places at Gibeon.  One night while he was offering burned offerings there, the LORD appeared to him in a dream.  In his dream the LORD asked him, "Ask what you wish Me to give you. Then Solomon replied, 'You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted.  So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?'"  I Kings 3:6-9.

Notice that Solomon did not request wealth or immortality but rather wisdom so that he might judge the people with understanding.  God was pleased at his choice and so He granted Solomon great wisdom that surpassed the wisdom of all others.  Not only did God give Solomon great wisdom but He also granted him great wealth as well.  But in all of these riches that Jehovah God bestowed upon Solomon, He gave Solomon a warning saying, "If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days."  When Solomon awoke from his dream, he offered sacrifices of thanksgiving before the Ark of the LORD making a feast for all of his servants.

Immediately after this, Solomon was confronted by two prostitutes who tested his wisdom as judge. It was a difficult case because they both claimed to be the mother of the same baby.  Solomon's famous decree to cut the baby in two in order to give each woman a portion of the disputed child revealed the true mother because she gave up her claim out love for her baby.  Thus a just verdict in an impossible case left the nation in awe of his great wisdom and understanding.


The Temple (I Kings 4-9)

King Solomon chose officials as priest(Zadock, Abiathar) ); as secretaries(Elihoreph and Ahijah ); as recorder(Ehoshaphat); as one that was in charge of deputies over the army; and the son of Nathan was over the deputies (Azariah); as one in charge of all his household (Ahishar ); and one in charge of all forced labor(Adoniram ).  Solomon organized his kingdom officials and twelve governors.  He ruled from the River to the land of Egypt. Men of all nations came to hear his wisdom.

Solomon's kingdom enjoyed prosperity but unfortunately his kingdom began to have problems that subtly emerged within his kingdom.  These problems led to its collapse.

Before we continue with the building of the Temple, let us turn the pages of our Bibles back to Deuteronomy 12, where the LORD promised the people of Israel a dwelling place for His name. The prophecy looked down through time to when they would be settled in the Promised Land and at peace with the nations.  They were to tear down every other kind of worship place in that land.  There would be only one place where they could go and offer sacrifice to their Jehovah God, but God would choose it.

When David became king, his biggest desire was to build a place for the LORD, the LORD'S Temple.  But the LORD told David to leave the job for his son Solomon since he, David, was a man of war.   By the way Solomon's name meant "peace."

With all this being said, Solomon set out to fulfill his father's dream using the plans that his father David gave him.  Solomon hired Hiram of Tyre to help build the Temple.  Solomon sent a message to king Hiram saying, "You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet.  But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune.  Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he will build the house for My name.’  Now therefore, command that they cut for me cedars from Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.'"  I Kings 5:3-6.  In reply king Hiram said, "Blessed be the Lord today, who has given to David a wise son over this great people."  So Hiram sent word to Solomon, saying,  "I have heard the message which you have sent me; I will do what you desire concerning the cedar and cypress timber. My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea; and I will make them into rafts to go by sea to the place where you direct me, and I will have them broken up there, and you shall carry them away. Then you shall accomplish my desire by giving food to my household."  So, Solomon ordered cedar and pine logs from Hiram, the Phoenician king and recruited laborers and artisans to do the work.  The Temple building project created the basis for an alliance between King Solomon and Hiram the king of the Phoenicians.  This simply was setting up trouble to come.


Solomon building of the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem is perhaps one of most noteworthy acts of his reign.  The following is a fraction of what it took to build the Temple:

  • For the Temple's site, David had already elected the threshing floor of Araunah (Ornan) the Jebusite, I Chronicles 21:18-30 and 22:1.  Remember God had spoken to him there.  This threshing floor was located on Mount Moriah, II Chronicles 3:1.  This was the same mountain in which Abraham had offered Isaac as sacrifice, Genesis 22:1-19.

The LORD said to Solomon,  "Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father.  I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”  I Kings 6:12-13.  Is not this interesting that God reminded Solomon of the covenantal nature of their relationship?  It was extremely important for Solomon to remember this.  One thing that caught my attention was that the Second Book of Kings ends with the fall of this same Temple that Solomon built.
  • The Temple was about ninety feet long, thirty feet wide and forty five feet high.  It had three stories (levels) with a full-width porch.  This was actually a small place for worship.  Inside of the Temple, it was overlaid with gold, including the floors of both the inner and outer rooms.  The walls and doors were covered with carvings of "cherubim, palm trees and open flowers."


Solomon's Palace (I Kings 7:1-12)

It took thirteen years to build Solomon's palace.  That was almost twice as long as it took to build the Temple.  The two building projects worry us.  They give us a clue as to the direction that Solomon's heart was heading.  There were many differences between Solomon's palace and the Temple of the LORD. Another interesting fact about Solomon's palace is that it was much larger than the Temple and far more costly, which seems to indicate that Solomon was less devoted to God than he was to himself.  Does this sound familiar?  Are we not many times more devoted to our wants and desires than to our Jehovah God?

The palace had five buildings:  The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, the Hall of Pillars, the Hall of Justice, Solomon's palace and finally a separate palace for the Pharaoh's daughter, Solomon' first and most important wife.  The palace and the Temple had similar courtyards.

After building the Temple of the LORD and building Solomon's palace complex, Solomon furnished the Temple. Now Hiram made pillars, the sea and utensils for the temple of bronze. Solomon made the furniture of gold. I Kings 7:13-51.

The Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple (I Kings 8)

This chapter starts with Solomon gathering all the people of Israel to bring up the Ark of the LORD from the City of David to him.  After they had all assembled and the priests have taken up the Ark and brought it into the Temple, they offered sacrifice and praises there to the LORD.  While they are doing that, a cloud of God's presence filled the Temple.  Solomon said, "The Lord has said that He would dwell in the thick cloud.  'I have surely built You a lofty house, A place for Your dwelling forever.'" 

Then he faced the people praising God for keeping His promises to David allowing the Temple to be built.  Solomon said, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David and has fulfilled it with His hand, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought My people Israel from Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house that My name might be there, but I chose David to be over My people Israel.'  Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.  But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.  Nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will be born to you, he will build the house for My name.’  Now the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; for I have risen in place of my father David and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.  There I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt.'"  


Then Solomon stood before the people spreading his arms wide and dedicated the Ark and the people to the LORD and said, "O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart, who have kept with Your servant, my father David, that which You have promised him; indeed, You have spoken with Your mouth and have fulfilled it with Your hand as it is this day.  Now therefore, O Lord, the God of Israel, keep with Your servant David my father that which You have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before Me as you have walked.’  Now therefore, O God of Israel, let Your word, I pray, be confirmed which You have spoken to Your servant, my father David.... '"  I Kings 8:23-53.

Notice that Solomon's prayer is profound and prophetic.  There are seven sections regarding Solomon's prayer to His Jehovah God.  They became like windows of prophecy of what would happen to Israel a few years after his death.  Consider each section of Solomon's prayer.  Each section contains a pattern with a variation of the following components:

  1. A sin or sins have been committed.
  2. The LORD sends punishment/judgment.
  3. The sin is confessed by the people.
  4. The people cry out to the LORD in His Temple.
  5. The LORD  hears from heaven.
  6. The LORD  forgives them.
  7. The LORD restores them.

Notice that in Israel's past, the LORD followed this pattern as in the Book of Judges.  Today our God continues to follow the same pattern in our lives through His Son when one obeys the Gospel, repenting of past sins.  Then the LORD grants pardon or forgiveness of sins restoring us back to Him. As Christians, when we stumble, if we confess our sins before His mighty throne, He cleanses us by His blood, I John 1:9.

After Solomon had prayed, he blessed the people saying, "Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.  May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.  And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.  Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day."    Afterward the king and all his people offered sacrifice before the LORD.

God's Blessings and Warnings toward His people:  I Kings 9

After Solomon had finished building the Temple and his palace, the LORD came and spoke to him reminding him of his supplication and prayer.  He warned him to be faithful, walking before Him, as his father David did, in integrity and uprightness, doing His will.  Solomon was to walk according to what God commanded him to do, as his father did.  He promised Solomon He would secure his throne as long as he was walking in righteousness keeping all of His Law.  The LORD said,  "But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’  And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the Lord has brought all this adversity on them.'"

The Queen of Sheba (I Kings 10)


When this Queen heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to test him with difficult questions.  She came to Jerusalem and spoke to him all that was in her heart and Solomon answered all her questions with all his wisdom and understanding.  When the Queen perceived all his wisdom and understanding; when she saw all that he had built and all that surrounded him with his servants and material possessions, there was no doubt in her heart about the things that she had heard of him.  She said to Solomon, "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.  Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.  How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.  Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness."  She gave him gold, spices and precious stones.  She had never been so generous with anyone else.  Likewise Solomon gave the Queen all that she had requested.  She then went to her home along with her servants.  Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  There is no doubt he was the center of attention in all the earth because of all his wisdom that our God had put in his heart.  Do you know that we can be as rich as Solomon in wisdom and understanding and all the riches that our God bestows upon us if we willingly and diligently seek after Him?  All Christians are blessed this way in Christ.  What a wonderful God we serve!

"And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. "  Rev. 1:6
"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."   Rev. 5:10
"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."  I Peter 2:9

Conclusion:  We have been considering the rise and fall of King Solomon.  His reign brought the Golden Age of the kingdom to its pinnacle and then sowed the seeds of its fall.

In our next study, we will begin studying the chaos that began when the kingdom divided.  This era will introduce the great Age of the Prophets


Luci


Monday, October 20, 2014

THE BEAUTY OF OUR BROKENNESS

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  
Matthew 5:3-4


Breaking a bone is not nearly as life changing as breaking one's own spirit or being broken before a righteous and Holy God. I invite you to think with me about the beauty of brokenness in Christ Jesus.

Lately since my accident, I have been thinking a lot about my physical brokenness as well as the concept of spiritual brokenness: the remedy, the recovery process and the hope of restoration and healing.  This led me to write the following regarding our spiritual brokenness and the healing and restoration of our souls.  It is painful and slow, but with the right attitude of heart, we can become more than conquerors with God's help

It is vital when we submit to God, that we repent, completely surrender and realize our true brokenness.  Lack of submission to God robs us of our intimate fellowship with God and His power through the Gospel to touch our lives.  Our Lord Jesus demands loyalty to Him.  We cannot be loyal to two masters.  When we refuse to surrender our wills to God, along with our lives and our wants, we are walking in willful disobedience.  By NOT submitting to the King of kings and Lord of lords, we are automatically submitting to the prince of darkness, Satan, and his kingdom.  My question to you is:  who are you going to surrender to, God or Satan?

Lack of surrender to God is merely the result of selfishness on our part.  This selfishness robs us of the intimate fellowship we could have with the Father and the Son.  It also robs us of the power of the Gospel to touch our lives.

Why is it so difficult for man to submit to God?  First, it is because he becomes obsessed with controlling his own life.  In an attempt to do this he also manipulates the lives of others.  Second, because he loves sin and himself more than anything else.  Lastly, he fails to submit to God because he has not been completely broken.  He does this because he struggles to comprehend the spiritual condition of his soul and the need for healing.

What does it mean to be broken?  It means that our pride and self-sufficiency must be broken and so our love for sin must also be broken, along with the flesh and its desires.  All of our self must be broken.   Our love for material riches, pleasures and possessions must also be broken.  Indeed everything that is not of Christ and His righteousness must be broken.  This is the only way Jesus can dwell in us and we in Him.

Brokenness is not always a weakness as so many say.  It is coming to the end of one's life.  Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  Matthew 5:3-4.  It is through our brokenness of spirit that we comprehend our real spiritual condition, the condition of our soul.  We embrace the need for a Savior to rescue us from the weight of sin.  We also comprehend that we need the Great Physician to heal us of our sickness of the heart called sin.  It is here that we, as human beings, are aware that we deserve God's Judgment for sin and our only hope is found in Jesus, in His mercy.  This is where life for the broken sinner begins.  The broken man is then quick to repent.  He does not try to hide his sins under the carpet.  He does not ignore or forget with wasted excuses.  He is conscious that this is his time to heal all things.  He rushes into the presence of His Creator crying out for mercy, saying, “I have sinned and need God's mercy.”

Humility is the result of brokenness.  Until our selfish and carnal pride is entirely broken, we are not going to humble ourselves before the mighty throne of God.  Brokenness and humility are the results of a deep consciousness of our guilt before God; seeing and accepting the remedy offered by the Savior who offers to redeem us; then becoming dependent upon our Lord and Savior.  Those who are in an intimate relationship or fellowship with God have grown in brokenness and humility throughout their walk with Him.  "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.

Humility and brokenness are inseparably interwoven so as to bring us to surrender, repentance and victory.  We must practice these things throughout our lives.  The one who is broken before God can walk free from sin.  The greater the yearning for God, the faster a man will seek forgiveness and God's grace to overcome sin and remain faithfully in fellowship with God.  King David repented of his sin with Bathsheba, his adultery, when his pride and self-will was finally broken.  Then in his sorrow he declared, "Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge... Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.  Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me... For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise..."   Psalm 51.

When he confronted the ugliness of the sin that he had committed in the presence of a Holy God, David realized that he had to lay aside all pride and rebellion.  It was his feelings of guilt and repentance, which brought David back into a relationship with His God.  Guilt is of no value if there is no hope for mercy, God's grace.  However, it is guilt because of sin that produces hopelessness toward self.  It can be extremely profitable when one realizes that there is no hope without divine mercy.  This divine mercy is evidently seen in the face of Jesus our Lord.  The divine plan of salvation is based on a Fatherly God who desires to save the hopeless and helpless.  God our Father so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son on the cross, and that is precisely why we can find the remedy for our hopelessness and helplessness.

In 2 Corinthians 7:-8-9  Paul stated, "For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—  I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us."  Paul declared that he did not regret hurting the church by preaching to them repentance, even though it broke his heart.  Though the message brought guilt because of sin and the church was broken, they turned from their sin drawing closer to the Lord.  It was God's will for them to become broken toward their sin, through the knowledge of His Word.  This sound knowledge of sin produced in them godly sorrow that moved them to a deeper surrender to their Father in heaven.

My question is, what is godly sorrow?  It is the fruit of God's everlasting mercy that is vital to our salvation and regeneration, the renewing of our soul.  Godly sorrow cannot be produced through needless human therapy, human theology or self-help principles.  It is through the Word of God, His Truth, that God calls men to find the remedy for their sinful way of living.  It is through His Word that He makes man's heart return to Him.  As Paul declared, "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death."  II Cor. 7:10

On the other hand, worldly sorrow is a cruel thing.  It is guilt without any hope.  One can have sincere remorse for offending God as well as others, but not to the point of repenting and changing his life completely.  Such a person is only sorry because he got caught in sin.  True repentance cannot take place on anyone who is unwilling to repent and turn from his sins and completely surrender to the will of God.  So I ask you, can the sinner's prayer for forgiveness save a man if he is not willing to repent of his sins, be renewed, and be transformed by the everlasting TRUTH?  It is impossible for worldly sorrow to produce genuine repentance that transforms and regenerates the character or heart of man.  If man is not willing to surrender, from his heart, completely to the Lord; surrender his entire life and being to Christ, he is wasting his time because worldly sorrow can only produce death which is eternal death, spiritual death, relational and emotional death.  It renders man hopeless because he is Christ-less.

For a person to come to know godly sorrow, he must humbly see himself as totally lost: lost because of sin and undone without God in his life.  He must feel sick because of sin in his life to seek the Great Physician who offers the remedy that can heal him.  This attitude is vital for one to receive pardon.  He must be aware of his spiritual poverty and bankruptcy.  He must be aware of his slavery to sin before he can find the only hope that is found in Jesus for the restoration and refreshing of his soul.  He must be thirsty for righteousness and willing to take up Christ's sweet and easy yoke.  He must feel cast down because of his unrighteousness before he will look for a Savior to redeem him.  This is godly sorrow that zeros in on the root of the problem called sin.  Through this godly sorrow, man regenerates a righteous and zealous character rather than just being sorrowful for the consequences of sin.

Godly sorrow produces action.  Notice how Paul described the Corinthians, "For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter."  II Cor. 7:11.  He had rebuked them for their sinful practices and exhorted them to rid themselves of these sinful practices.  In other words, he led them to die to sin.  Notice the words he used above: earnestness, vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, and avenging.  All of these actions follow when a person wants to correct the wrongs he has committed.  He longs to see his character transformed or regenerated no matter the cost. Indignation and vindication are not acts of violence against someone.  They are acts of mercy against sin and the source of the sinful practices.  Let us not become indifferent and be crushed.  Let us have a fervent desire to walk upright with God until the end of our life.

How can brokenness bring revival or bring life?  In Matthew 3:2 we read, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  John the Baptist prepared the WAY.  Which WAY?  "REPENT."  John knew well that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' shoes because he knew the meaning of being broken and surrendering to the will of God.  He just humbly and boldly prepared the WAY for the coming of the Messiah.  His authority as a prophet was enhanced by his own brokenness and surrender to God.

John's message back then will accomplish the same thing today; that man might receive salvation and be transformed.

It is the conviction and awareness of sin that produces brokenness in us when godly sorrow is present also.  It is brokenness over sin that brings on repentance which in turn will yield the gift of salvation. This is how God heals and brings to life individuals, families and nations.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read of the promise for revival, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."  The revival of a people requires brokenness. This promise contains four conditions for the people of God to fulfill and three responses from the Lord.

"If My People"

Notice that revival is dependent upon the people of God, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, not the world.  It is our duty as Christians to revive the dead because of sin into newness of life.  Bring them back from death to being alive in Christ.

1.   Humility is vital because brokenness and humility are inseparable.   In James 4:6 and I Peter 5:5 we read that God resists and opposes the proud.  Satan is cunning and wily.  He knows the damage that pride can cause of one's life.  That is why it is so important to understand, that it is through brokenness and humility that we are going to find freedom from the destructiveness of our pride.  Pride destroys our souls.

God can dwell only with those who are lowly, humble and are contrite, broken in heart.  "For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite."    Isaiah 57:15

Pride is repulsive to a Holy God who walked the earth as the meek and lowly Jesus.  It is pride that stops men from repenting and surrendering their lives to Jesus in complete obedience to their Creator. The truth is that our Lord Jesus will not come in mercy to the arrogant.  Pride and self-will are the fruits of the flesh causing rebellion that damns the unsaved to hell and renders Christians ineffective when it comes to God's purposes.  Only the broken and the humble will know the Lord; will diligently seek Him and will know His reviving power.


2.    Prayer is vital to the revival of our souls.   Without it, there can be no awakening to flow out of brokenness.  Hearts that burn for their SAVIOR do not recite cold and formal prayers.  We cannot live in the flesh and pray to God fervently in spirit.  Pride has no place in genuine prayers to God because God resists the prayers of the proud.  Let us take this seriously!
When we finally grasp and understand the depth of our neediness, and of those around us, we will passionately petition our God to pour out His mercy upon us.  It is only then that we will understand the Truth that the world because of its darkness is at war with our Creator.  Broken saints, Christians, will know that they are not helpless, but they have an Almighty God who will transform their lives through His eternal Word.  There is power in the Word to accomplish wonders in the hearts of men.  Broken saints know that great transformation is possible through devotion to prayer and the guidance of God’s Word.

3.    We must seek His Face to be revived.  Prayer and seeking God's face are two distinctly different things.  A Christian may pray and never know what it means to seek God's face.  Seeking His face comes out of a heart that is burning with a desire to know the Lord and His intimate fellowship with us.  The heart is intensely hungering after the Lord and not just His blessings.  David wrote, "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God."  Psalm 84:2.

Prayer is vital for a Christian's survival and maturity.  But seeking God's face is the ultimate prize. Christians who have been broken of their selfish and self-centered lives become Christians who passionately desire to pursue this greatest of treasures.  They are driven to know their Savior.  This is far better than seeking to gain greater Bible knowledge; it is a quest for God Himself and no one else: a quest that causes us to become more like Him.

Those who diligently seek God's face, love our Lord and Savior more than they love themselves, their family, their friends or material riches.  Their desire is to know Christ and imitate Him.  They have tasted His glory and refuse to return to the mediocrity of nominal Christianity or the vanity of worldly pursuits.  They have determined to crucify self every day of their lives and let Christ live in them. They are dead to sin but alive to the Spirit of Christ.  They cry out, "Show me your glory."  Ex. 33:18.  This is the heart of revival.

Pride can never be found in true repentance where there is no humility to clothe man.  A proud man is wasting his time in prayer.  Those who are redeemed understand the concept of speaking face to face with Jesus.  They know that seeking God's face is an everlasting journey.  This is what we were created for, to glorify God.

"Turn"

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we read that the final condition for revival is to “turn” from our wicked ways. To turn from our wicked ways is precisely what is called repentance.  No man will turn from his sin unless he has first humbled himself before the throne of God.  Likewise, a man will not humble himself before God unless he has been broken unless he has been brought to the end of his self-life.

One of the problems the Scribes and Pharisees had was that they would not turn from their wicked ways because they would not first surrender and humble themselves before God.  They focused more on being righteous in the eyes of men, rather than having the right relationship with God.  Because they failed to repent, they neglected to take advantage of the fellowship that God was offering to them through reconciliation in Jesus.

The only way the heart of man is going to turn from wicked ways to our Lord is to have a passionate love for Him and His righteousness.  The only plan of victory we have depends on prayer and seeking God's face continually, walking in righteousness with Him.  It is in seeking God's face wholeheartedly and turning from our sins, that we may draw nearer to Him.  God is going to hear our prayers when they are offered out of our brokenness.  Only such a prayer can move God to forgive our sins.

God has promised that He will heal the land.  God saves a land by the preaching of the  Gospel of salvation to all men.  This is how God saves men.  It is the only WAY that Jesus is going to heal the sin-sick soul that is dying.  It sets the heart ablaze with a new love:  love for Him and His kingdom of righteousness.  He heals broken men by transforming them.  He heals nations; all through the power of His Gospel.  The Gospel is the power of God to change the hearts of men returning them to their Creator.

A land that has broken the covenant with God cannot be healed.  Sadly, we cannot change the world unless we use the power that there is in the Gospel, the Truth, the Word of God.  Remember that Jesus is standing outside, knocking at our door, calling all men to wholeheartedly return to Him fulfilling  their covenant vows, Rev. 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."  We must meet the conditions of revival which are found in the plan of salvation for God to dwell in us and we in Him.

The prize that we are yearning to win is our Lord Jesus and the revelation of His glory among all men.  Nothing on earth can compare to the boundless riches of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ, "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."  Acts 3:19.  He cannot resist those who humbly and honestly seek Him and admit to desperately needing Him.

The only way that we are going to know the beauty of Christ in our brokenness is by surrendering all to Him; all our will, all of the self.  Refreshing or revival flows out of broken and surrendered lives. Repentance is an act of submission, but we must become living sacrifices to receive the gift of salvation.  Holiness is the result of Christians yielding to the sanctifying Word of God.  Only those surrendered saints will be able to rescue a lost and perishing world.

May we all bring our broken lives to God.  The following song well expresses the blessings of brokenness.

Luci

Bring Christ Your Broken Life 

Bring Christ your broken life, 
So marred by sin. 
He will create anew, 
Make whole again. 
Your empty wasted years 
He will restore, 
And your iniquities, 
Remember no more 

Bring Him your every care 
if great or small 
whatever troubles you 
oh, bring it all 
Bring him the haunting fears 
the nameless dread 
thy heart he will relieve 
and lift up thy head 

Bring Him your weariness 
receive his rest 
Weep out your blinding tears 
upon his breast 
His love is wonderful 
his power is great 
and none that trust in him shall be desolate 

Blest Saviour of us all 
almighty friend! 
His presence shall be ours 
unto the end 
without him, life would be 
how dark how drear 
but with him morning breaks 

and Heaven is near! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

THE LORD HAS BEEN MINDFUL OF ME!

"O Lord, our Lord,  how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor." 
 Psalm 8:1-5


I have found joy and comfort anew in Psalm 8 in the light of our beloved song, "The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me!" I hope you enjoy these thoughts from my heart to yours.

Oh how I love this song!  It is dear to my heart since it keeps reminding me of the many daily blessings our Lord bestows upon us day in and day out.   In spite of earth´s days of shadow, darkness, grief, sorrow, adversity, sacrifice and troubles, our Lord is still mindful of us.  His blessings toward us His children are beyond measure.  The list of troublesome times in our lives is nothing compared to His blessings in our life.  One thing I try to recall is that in the end I will find joy in my heart that the Lord  has been mindful of me! through all the bad times and all the good times of my  life. Indeed, God blesses and blesses again.  Let us take to heart the precious words of this song that are based on Psalm 8:1-5.

With the words of this song, let us consider how much the Lord has been mindful of us and blessed us:

Though I, through the valley of shadow,
O’er mountain or troubled sea,
As oft in the darkness have traveled,
The Lord has been mindful of me!

This first stanza reminds us that we all must walk through  the valley of shadow at times, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Psalm 23:4.  We often must sail through the uncertainty of life, Psalm 107:23-32.  We must travel through the darkness of this sinful world, "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."  John 3:19-20.  But I know in my heart that our God is mindful of us through it all.

Much more than my grief and sorrow,
Much more than adversity,
Much more than all I have given,
The Lord has been mindful of me!

This second stanza points out His mindfulness in our times of trouble and hardship.  It is a fact that we all have our share of grief and sorrow while we walk our path here on earth, I Thessalonians 4:13; I Peter 2:19, "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly."  We all have to face a certain amount of adversity on earth since Satan is our adversary who goes about like a roaring lion SEEKING whom he may devour, I Peter 5:8.  I truly know and am aware that while we are serving our God faithfully, there will be many things that we have to give up or die to for His sake and His kingdom's as Paul did, Philippians 3:4-8.  However, our God is mindful of all these things!

I’m rich! I am saved! I am happy!
I’ve health and prosperity!
I’ve friends! I have doors ever open!
The Lord has been mindful of me!

This Third stanza calls our attention to His mindfulness even during our good and happy times.  He is mindful of us by saving us through the blood of His Son.  In Christ we can rejoice and be happy, Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 4:4. In addition to all such precious mindfulness of our journey here, He is also mindful of our physical, material needs, and social needs such as the needs of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children and the church.....  He has also been mindful of our spiritual needs, our eternal needs.  He is indeed mindful in His providential care toward us, Matthew 6:8, 33.

During the past few weeks since my accident, I have been thinking and meditating on God's blessings, His mindfulness.  He is mindful of our physical needs such as our health, permitting us to work and carry on life.  He has blessed us with the ability to see, to hear, to talk and to walk.  YES, even when we are handicapped or in poor health, we can still find an infinite list of things to be thankful for.  I am determined not to ever take any blessing for granted and feel sorry for myself as we so often do.  Truly, as Children of the Father we can say that the Lord has been mindful of me!

The Lord has been mindful of me!
He blesses and blesses again!
My God is the God of the living!
How excellent is His name!”


My conclusion is that no matter  how hard and difficult this life might be because of toil, tribulation and even tragedy, I will also have times of victory and triumph.  And that He will bountifully extend His hand  to supply my needs with many good things according to His kindness and mercy.  He will sustain me even during trying and difficult times, bearing me through it all.  This will be my reminder during my difficult times, "The Lord has been mindful of me! He blesses and blesses again!"

May the Lord help us to always remember that He is mindful of us in hardship and difficult times, but that He is also mindful of us in good times through victory and triumph.  May He grant us the wisdom to be thankful for the bountiful blessings which have come to us and for the promise of eternal life with Him one day.  May we find gratitude in our hearts and show it.  May we find find joy in His service, hope in sorrow and peace when the days are done.  May our faith sustain us in our shadows.



Luci