the God who dwells in darkness — Brim-Full with Immensity of Life

This is from Krystiana.  Decided to share it.

You’ve probably heard: I’m from the city, and right now I live in the deep suburbs. (Four more weeks and counting down, not like I’m counting down.) So one thing I’ve realized about the suburbs: it’s dark out here. We don’t have that problem in the city. In the urban center, if we’re talking about […]

via the God who dwells in darkness — Brim-Full with Immensity of Life

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Palmer St. Podcast: God-Given Resources

Sometimes we feel like David in the Psalms:

“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”

The believers in Thessalonica were experiencing severe trials and persecution. Paul, who had first preached Christ to them, had to escape quickly from Thessalonica and continue his ministry elsewhere. But God had not abandoned them. They could rely on the Lord in the midst of their trials and troubles.

1 Thess 3.mp3

1 Thess 3.pdf

An Assessment of Solomon

Solomon was not a good king, but I don’t mean that maliciously – more regretfully.  Spiritual success or failure is the only kind that counts in the Bible.  Solomon had enormous potential to be good, but he didn’t really live up to it.  So, it’s not that Solomon was intentionally evil; he only did evil by sliding down the slippery slope. We might say he was merely weak. Who knows whether any of us would do better in his position, confronted with his temptations, with such opportunity to sin? He gave in to his worst passions, the same passions we all fight against, and this made him a bad king, spiritually speaking. For example, take the following bit out of Deuteronomy about any future king of Israel:

“But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)

A quick perusal of 1 Kings 10:14 – 11:8 reveals that Solomon didn’t bother to obey any of these words.  He multiplied horses, even going down to Egypt to do so.  He multiplied silver and gold – more than anyone else.  He multiplied wives to a degree we might call twisted.  He failed on all accounts. And so he merited this negative assessment:

“Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.” (1 Kings 11:6)

The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes help explain this complex character. God answered his prayer for wisdom in 1 Kings 3, so he was wise.  Proverbs contains only a portion of his “many proverbs” (Eccl. 12:9), which totaled 3000 according to 1 Kings 4:32.  Yet Solomon seems to have failed to take his own advice.  He rather seems to have scooted around it.  In agreement with Proverbs, to be fair, we never read of him committing adultery, but again, with all those wives he probably never had the time.  Oh, that he would have lived according to this counsel:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

That passage alone might have rewritten Solomon’s biography.  Alas, instead, as we read Ecclesiastes, it discloses a life engulfed in regret – one without a happy ending.  He’s a miserable man with no real direction, no purpose, but still a man who has not completely forgotten about God.  Despite his remorse, he is still able to reach the right conclusion.  The Preacher ends his discourse in this way:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Solomon’s life contains many negative examples, but negative examples can still be helpful to us.  We can “do as he says, but not as he does”, to use a proverb no one really likes.  Solomon also does us a favor by living out our most carnal fantasies.  We never have to imagine what it would be like to have all the money we could ask for, all the women we might want, to rule over a great nation and command great military might.  He did it and it stunk. It’s better to just humbly serve God.

Who is He?

In Mark 3, part of today’s reading from the One Year Bible Plan, several ideas are given as to the character of Jesus.  All agree that he is no ordinary man.  The disagreement is about what exactly makes him so unusual.

Crowds Follow Jesus (Mark 3:7-12)
Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.
          Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him.  He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

Jesus and the Prince of Demons (Mark 3:20-22)
One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.
          But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

The teachers of religious law believe he’s possessed by Satan. His own family concludes that he’s gone mad.  The evil spirits that he casts out shriek, “You are the Son of God!” 

C. S. Lewis fans will see in this the Lord, Liar, Lunatic options that the author once suggested.  Lewis’s point was that no one can consider Jesus a great man or a wise teacher and actually take him seriously.  He’s either something much more or something much less.

The identity that Jesus claims for himself is found in Mark 3:12, where it says,  “But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.”

Wisdom

The Book of Proverbs continuously reminds us of the value of wisdom.  For example:

My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:1-5 (NLT)

One awful tendency I’ve noticed in myself, however, is that when I pray for wisdom, I often begin to doubt whether the Lord is really hearing that prayer.  James offers a straightforward cure for this malady: “Stop doubting.”

If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do. – James 1:5-8 (NLT)

The application of wisdom requires confidence – confidence that we really know what we’re supposed to do, confidence that gives us a settled state of mind, confidence that leads to action when action is needed.  This is not self-confidence, but the certainty that God loves us, lovingly leads us, and graciously gives us the wisdom that we need.

The Best Kind of Righteousness

“But I warn you – unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”– Matthew 5:20 (NLT)

The teachers of the law and Pharisees made it their goal to be as righteous as humanly possible.  But the key word in that sentence is humanly.  Jesus demands that our righteous be better than theirs if we expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is not humanly possible.  Happily, the Scriptures clear up this conundrum for us.  Paul explains it using the case of Abraham to illustrate:

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What were his experiences concerning this question of being saved by faith? Was it because of his good deeds that God accepted him? If so, he would have had something to boast about. But from God’s point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.” – Romans 4:1-3 (NLT) 

He then takes that wonderful truth and applies it to us.  The best kind of righteousness is ours when we put our faith in Jesus. 

Now this wonderful truth-that God declared him to be righteous-wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. – Romans 4:23-25 (NLT)

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day we can’t do much better than to consider a psalm like this.

 

Psalm 100

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

1  Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

2  Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.

3  Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

5  For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.