Rebellious Children

In today’s #DailyBibleReading I read about the rebellion of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament and the baptism of Jesus in the New Testament, approximately 950 years later.

I find the rebellion of God’s chosen people fascinating because it is so relatable. Israel had been divided into two – Israel and Judah – because of their rebellion. And they still disobeyed God and worshiped other gods. God sent prophets to warn them about the consequences of sin and to tell them to repent, but they didn’t listen.

Fast-forward 950 years and God sent John the Baptist to again tell His people to repent and turn back to God. Nine-hundred and fifty years of telling your children to clean up their act, but having them ignore you. Nine-hundred and fifty years of loving your children and watching them walk away and make bad choices and show you complete contempt.

What does this teach me about the nature of humans: We have a sinful nature. Our inclination is to sin, rebel, and walk away from God. We need a power higher than our own will to keep us from sinning. We need a savior.

What does this teach me about the nature of God: He is patient. (I lose it with my disobedient children after 10 minutes!) He is loving. He wants to see us saved and he wants us to turn to him. After watching his chosen people reject him for 950+ years he didn’t just throw up his hands and walk away. Instead, he sent his son to die for them and for the rest of humankind.

What does this teach me about me: I need God, every day. I need his grace. I need redemption. I need the power of the Holy Spirit – which landed on Jesus like a dove during his baptism – to keep me from rebelling. I need His strengh to keep me moving forward. I need his love, his patience, and his forgiveness.

And I am blessed to have it.

 

 

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A Prayer for Tough Times

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord .

At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!

Psalms 69:13-18

logs surrounded by body of water during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Early Church: Living in an Over-Sexualized Society

My #BibleReadingPlan has me starting 2 Corinthians today. A little background on 2 Corinthians can be found here.  To get a better understanding of Paul’s audience I wanted to do some research on Corinth and the church.

Corinth was a town in Greece, located 48 miles west of Athens, on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. It was a wealthy trade city and home to a temple for Aphrodite. If you studied Greek gods in 7th grade, you’ll remember Aphrodite as the goddess of sexual love and beauty. The temple was full of slaves – some estimates as many as 1,000 men and women – who worked as temple prostitutes. The trade ports and prostitution made Corinth a very wealthy city.Ακροκόρινθος / Acrocorinth - Corinth

By the time Paul arrived, the city had been devastated by an earthquake and invasion – and rebuilt – and the prostitution had left the crumbling temple and moved into the streets. It was known as a city where sailors would stop to party. Think if Amsterdam and Las Vegas met up and had a baby . . . you’d have Corinth. The Greek word korinthiazethai had two meanings: 1) to live in Corinth and 2) to get drunk and indulge in sexual pleasures.

This was a city that not only had a culture of living for sensual pleasure – but it also made it’s living off of it and got very rich in the process. The goddess many of the people worshipped demanded it.

So Paul arrives in this city and starts telling people about Jesus. He goes to Aphrodite worshipers and tells them about Jesus. He shares the gospel with people who are sleeping around, cheating on their spouses, practicing homosexuality. He tells the drunk on the street. He tells the greedy hustler who is making money of the sex tourist industry. He tells the people who are known for yelling and cussing at everyone.

This was the church of Corinth. People who met Jesus right where they were – whether in the middle of hustle or coming off a hangover from a night of partying. And Jesus washed them clean from their sin. Sanctified them. Gave them a new life. Justified them, regardless of their past.

‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

This was like a church in the middle of the Vegas strip made up of Christians who had formerly worked on the strip, got rich off the strip, slept around and got drunk on the strip. Corinth was full of people who lived for sensual pleasure and whose religion even called for it. But now these Christians were washing clean and were learning a new way to live through Jesus, which makes Paul’s teaching even more impactful:

‘”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?

For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ‘ 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 

The people of Corinth understood temples – the ruins of a temple stood on a hill overlooking their city. They also understood slavery and what it meant to be bought with a price. They understood prostitution as it was a major industry in their city.

But Jesus was calling them to a different lifestyle. And He was also giving them the power – through the Holy Spirit – to be changed. He had died for them. And He was asking them to live for Him.

The greatest of these is love

Love.

Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It doesn’t try to get it own way and it isn’t irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Without Love, all my “good works” mean nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Love is the most important of all of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13).

All of God’s laws and commands can be summed up by Love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

Love is a Spiritual Gift. What does this mean? It means if I am walking by the Spirit, He will produce fruit in my life. His love will pour out of me . . . if I am going deep with God, walking with Him, storing up His words in my heart (Psalm 119:11), praying, meditating, fasting, obeying . . . He will transform me (2 Corinthians 3:18). Love will be evident in my life.

Love should be my #1 barometer of how I’m doing in my walk with Jesus. If I notice that I’m being irritable, impatient, unkind, etc. it isn’t an indicator that I need to work extra hard at being patient and kind. It is an indicator that I need to get rid of things in my life that are keeping me from going deeper in my walk with Jesus. I need to keep my eyes on Him. I need to pray and obey. I need to be more disciplined in my daily walk and spend more time with God. And Love will be the result.

‘You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. ‘ Galatians 5:13-18 

 

Prayer of Jabez or Prayer of Paul?

I’m not a theologian. I didn’t go to Bible college and my Bible study is mostly personal reading, observing, comparing translations, etc. In other words: my blog posts are just my observations and thoughts and what I’m learning in my personal study.

In today’s #DailyBibleReading I read the “Prayer of Jabez”. This is my third time reading through the entire Bible, so I know I’ve read this paragraph before, but somehow I missed it.

‘There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.’ 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 

My first reaction: “Wow, what a fascinating paragraph in the middle of a chapter of chronology. I’d love to know more about this guy.”

Second reaction: “The prayer of Jabez sounds really familiar. Where have I heard about this before?”

So I googled “Prayer of Jabez”.

Whoa. I guess it is a somewhat controversial topic. It looks like there is a best-selling book, “The Prayer of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkinson. Per Amazon’s synopsis of the book: “Readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life.”

I’ve never read the book before so I can’t really speak to it, but there are a lot of posts criticising it. See here, here, and here for a few of the concerns.

My observations:

  1. Be careful what you read: There are a lot of people writing about the Bible, preaching, teaching, blogging, etc. (Me included.) Be careful of what you read. And make sure you are reading the Bible first and foremost. For everything you read or hear about the Bible go back to the Bible and make sure it is biblically based. Like I said a the beginning of the post, I’m not a theologian. And even if I was, that doesn’t mean everything I say is correct. And even if God is doing something in my life or leading me to do something, it doesn’t mean it is the same for everyone. We all have our OWN walk with Jesus.
  2. God doesn’t promise a life free from trouble: The prayer of Jabez and the snippet of his life is beautiful. But in today’s #BibleReadingPlan I also read about Paul who was also a man of prayer. Find some of his prayers here and here. Like Jabez, Paul was an honorable man who followed the Lord, but his life on earth was marked by pain, trouble, and prison:

    ‘A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.

    After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.’ Acts of the Apostles 24:24-27 

     

  3. Read the Bible: Over any biblical book, commentary, devotional, Bible study or blog, read the Bible. The more you spend time reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it, the easier it is for you to know what is biblically based teaching and what is false.
  4. Pray: I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray the Prayer of Jabez, but prayer is more than just reciting someone else’s prayer. Pray YOUR prayer. Be intimate with Jesus. Talk to Him. Plead with Him. Tell him the desires of your heart. Your fears, your doubts, your sins. Praise Him. Thank Him. Cry out to Him. Worship Him.

Along with reading the Bible and praying, trust God. Whether you have the life of Jabez or the life of Paul, God is in control. Follow Him. He doesn’t promise us a life free of pain here on earth, but he does promise heaven for those who put their faith in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Rising from Ashes

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

David, son of Jesse: anointed, but yet to be crowned king. An outlaw without reason. A wanderer with a pedigree from Judah a blessing from Samuel and a price on his head. Following God and being hunted by man.

Several years ago I read The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro, and it was life-changing in teaching me how to focus my Bible reading and to be disciplined in my walk with Jesus. I love how he describes the scene in 1 Samuel 30 from the perspective of one of David’s men:

The Divine Mentor
By Wayne Cordeiro

Prologue
Smoke billowed on the horizon. Smoke where there should be no smoke at least, not a towering column like this one.

It couldn’t be good.

Terrorists. What else could it be?

As we approached we could see a few flames licking at piles of rubble. Yet where there had been homes, streets, playgrounds, gardens . . . there was nothing at all. Smoke, ruin, ashes. Nothing more. Shocked into immobility, we could do nothing but gape. Where were the homes? Where were the women and children? 

We poured over the edge of the embankment some sliding, some jumping, some running headlong, falling, getting up, and falling again. Each man ran to the area where his home had been, hoping against hope to see someone moving in the wreckage: a beloved face, a form staggering out of the devastation. But there was no one. And no sound but the dry crackle of flames, fanned by a lonely desert wind.

Where were the bodies? We saw none. The terrorists must have kidnapped every woman and child in the village!

We wept without shame. Some cursed; some called out names in their anguish. Muttering among themselves, clusters began to gather, glancing at one another, nodding, fingering their weapons. It was like the moment before a violent thunderstorm, when the air becomes taut and stifling.

That’s when he collapsed on his knees and convulsed in agony. It’s not as though his loved ones had been spared.

We couldn’t help but watch. And as he poured out his sorrow, pleading for help and hope and direction, his body language began to change. Tension seemed to drain away from his shoulders. His hands unclenched, and he lifted his head as he prayed. Finally rising again to his feet, he wiped away his tears, squared his shoulders, and spoke with a steady voice.

Say what you will, something happened by that rock on the edge of total devastation. In those few moments, he had found strength, confidence, and fresh resolve. God must have given him a plan too, because it wasn’t long before we set off like the wind on the trail of the invaders.

In that moment, we could believe again. And rising among us was the confidence that we would recover from the ashes of Ziklag all we had lost . . . and maybe even more.

I love reading the Bible and seeing how God worked in the lives of Abraham, Judah & Tamar, Boaz & Ruth, Hannah & Samuel, and King David . . . All leading to Jesus. All pointing us to the Savior. Redemption. Forgiveness. We see God using broken people to weave His story. God giving strength to the weak.

We get a glimpse of God working all things together for good for those who love Him.