Category Archives: Solomon

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 337

11/28/15 – 337

As we have one more day this week, rather than use it to begin a new story and be interrupted immediately on Sunday, I thought it would be nice – and hopefully, beneficial – to take a brief look at one last part of the mysterious, complex man that was King Solomon. We have read his story, and touched on his writing in Ecclesiastes. But we haven’t even peeked at one of his most famous and beautiful works of poetry. This is the book we know as the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs.

It begins as no other book of the Bible:

Song 1:1-4 Solomon’s Song of Songs.

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth —

for your love is more delightful than wine.

3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;

your name is like perfume poured out.

No wonder the maidens love you!

4 Take me away with you — let us hurry!

Let the king bring me into his chambers.

It goes on from there, in fact getting to the point where many have accused it of being almost softly pornographic. Even more have openly questioned its inclusion in the scripture at all. Could it be a mistake? Graphic (albeit beautiful) physical descriptions notwithstanding, we believe that the answer to that question is a very loud and resounding NO! As a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, I believe in the inerrancy of the scripture in all things relating to our salvation – that would include which books are canonical (the Word of God).

So the next step is this – if this incredible book is God’s Word, what exactly is He saying to us through it? The answer is this. Solomon, in the early years of his life and reign, obviously had a relationship with God second to none. His poem we know as ‘Song’ tells us of a love the likes of which few of us are ever fortunate enough to know.

Here’s the thing. God’s Word must speak to all of us. And, we don’t all speak the same language. Some of us will understand through simple and direct language. Some of us will connect through emotion alone. Some will connect through the artistry of the mind – that visual, mental, and emotional – often soul-reaching picture that forms through a special kind of writing called allegory.

Solomon’s description of this soul-deep love connection is truly a description of what joy can be found when one commits completely to that kind of relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no greater joy, no greater love.

I know, it still sounds a little one-sided, maybe? Well, it would, until you remember that He already gave Himself completely to that same relationship with you. He’s just been waiting patiently for you to do the same.

Now, my guess is that most of you reading this already have a relationship with Him, at least to some degree. But do yourself a favor. This weekend, take a little time out from all the post-holiday shopping and hubbub. Find a quiet spot, and read the Song of Songs. Really. (It’s not really very long.) When you’re through, ask yourself one question. Is that how you feel when you think about your relationship with Jesus?

If not, the second question is – don’t you want that? You can have it, you know. It’s up to you. Need help? Talk to your pastor. Give me a call. Pray.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 336

11/27/15 – 336

How ironic that during Thanksgiving week, we finish up our story of Solomon, the man who could never be satisfied. Although there are many things about him that are truly noteworthy, I think there are many things that we need to notice that aren’t there as well – the missing pieces. Gratitude is one of the big ones. This is, after all, the man who was given more than anyone who ever lived, yet instead of reading about how he constantly praised and thanked God, we read about the burden God has placed on him.

Eccl 1:12-18 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is twisted cannot be straightened;

what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;

the more knowledge, the more grief.

I would have to agree with him – to an extent. Having been in a position at times to have more knowledge (and hence, probably more insight) into touchy or emotional situations, but bound by confidentiality restrictions, I have often felt burdened or attacked by people who don’t understand, who don’t have all the information – and often don’t even seem to care.

Yet who is it that really carries the weight of those burdens? Hint: It’s not supposed to be you or me.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

To me, the saddest thing about Solomon’s story has always been this – we don’t know how it ends. Oh we know that he died and was succeeded as king by Rehoboam, his son. We know about the treasures he accumulated, the cities and alliances he built. We know about many of his accomplishments. But we don’t know about him. Did he ever reconcile himself with God? Did he ever find his way home, as the prodigal son did? Did he ever again find joy, real love, contentment? Was he ever satisfied, truly grateful for what God had done for him? Sadly, we don’t know.

How many funerals have you attended at which the same questions were asked because that person died without ever having talked about their faith? This is the final lesson we will let Solomon teach us today.

Don’t let that happen. I don’t care how much wealth or knowledge you’ve accumulated – don’t leave that question unanswered for your loved ones.

God has given you great gifts. Great gifts do bring with them responsibility, but then He also offers to carry that weight for you. All you have to do is walk with Him. Sounds like a good deal to me! How about you? Whatever you thanked God for yesterday, let’s continue today by thanking God for those gifts, and for His willingness to carry the burdens they may place on us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 335

11/25/15 – 335

Remember the meaning of the names of Solomon? The first was ‘peaceful’. This was ironic, since in the last (and maybe greater) part of his life he doesn’t seem to have found peace either external or internal. The other was Jedidiah, meaning ‘loved of God’. Like each of us, I don’t believe that God ever stopped loving him. As a parent, I will never stop loving my children no matter what they do. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll condone it; allow them to continue to hurt or use others or me. What they do may anger me, hurt me, and even break my heart. But I will still love them. In the beginning of this story I said there was usually a lot of importance in biblical names, especially those given by God as in this case. Maybe this is it – the greatest lesson we can learn from this story.

As I mentioned, the last part of Solomon’s life turned out to be anything but peaceful. Some of this is obvious by what is written in the last part of 1 Kings 11:

1 Kings 11:14 Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite,  

1 Kings 11:23 And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada,

1 Kings 11:26 Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king.

But the real truth of his inner turmoil comes out in his later writings, especially Ecclesiastes:

Eccl 1:1-2 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

 

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”  

Maybe that’s why Solomon was so over-the-top with everything. He couldn’t find a wife who satisfied, so he kept on marrying more. He couldn’t build a house big enough to hold them, so he kept on building. He couldn’t learn enough to find the secret he was searching for, so he kept on studying. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he had the means with which to do it, so there was nothing to stop him.

So what is the ‘secret’? Is there one? Has God kept something from us that only a select few can figure out? I don’t think so. In fact, that wouldn’t even make sense to me. I think Solomon actually did figure it out. His problem was in application. He knew what to say to everyone else, but didn’t take his own advice.

He wrote it here:

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding 

We can so easily fall into the same trap – thinking that we are smarter or wiser than everyone else, and therefore don’t need God any more. And that, my friends, is when everything truly does become meaningless. We have disconnected ourselves from the reason for which we were created, the reason we live. Without that connection, there can be no hope or meaning – period.

Funny thing, though. You can read about some very vocal atheists who claim that they are the intellectuals of the world – college professors and even some geniuses. But then, looking at statistics, and remembering that intellect and knowledge are not the same as wisdom, we still have to ask ourselves this; why is it that only 10-11% of the largest group of geniuses in the world (Mensa®) identifies as atheists or agnostics? Maybe there’s some wisdom there after all.

Let’s pray today that we don’t fall into that trap – that we never think that we know so much, or are smart enough to handle this life (or any part of it) without God’s guidance and help. And ask yourself this question. Even if you could – why would you ever want to?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 334

11/25/15 – 334

Yesterday we heard God’s warning to Solomon, that because of his disobedience and breaking of the covenant, He was going to take the kingdom away from him. But then God added:

1 Kings 11:12-14 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 14 Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom. NIV

There are a couple of things we need to look at here. The first is this; why punish Solomon’s son for what Solomon had done? It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well, maybe not on the surface, but we didn’t complain when Solomon was blessed because of what his father David had done for the Lord, did we? Also, if we were to read on a little bit past the end of our current story, we would find that Rehoboam was the son that God had chosen to take the throne after Solomon.

Now I’m fairly sure that Rehoboam knew what was going on with his dad, and he had the opportunity to make his own choices, just like you and I. He chose poorly. He continued to worship the false gods that Solomon had, and ended up with Israel divided into 12 tribes, 10 of them lost to him forever, becoming the northern kingdom. Eventually they were lost to Israel itself as they assimilated into the world around them, and God’s chosen became only the people that were left in Judah – and that only after many years and much trouble.

The last verse we just read is really only the beginning. Solomon’s reign of peace turned into a time of apostasy (renunciation of faith – worshipping other gods) and fear. God raised up enemies that Israel had long believed were destroyed, like the Edomites mentioned in the passage we just read. But in all of this, did you notice something? God still kept His promise to David.

He kept the covenant. He hung on to a remnant, as He always did. As bad as things were, God always left a door open for the prodigals to come home. That’s what He does for us as well. Like the father of the prodigal son, I can picture him night after night, sitting at the window watching the road, waiting. Getting up in the morning and checking the sofa to see if his lost son had come home during the night. Praying every morning, noon and night that his beloved son would be kept safe until his eyes were opened and he made the right decision to follow God back home.

Do you have a prodigal child? Maybe you are one yourself. Maybe you feel that God has been unfair to you, that you are being treated unjustly because of the sin of your parents. It may feel that way, and I don’t claim to have an easy answer. But here’s my advice. As you pray today, ask the Spirit to show you the truth. Are you really being dealt an unfair hand by God, or do you need to take responsibility for your own actions, like Rehoboam? Is there someone in your life that needs to be reconciled with God, with you? Finish by thanking Him that He is a God Who keeps His promises.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 333

11/24/15 – 333

1 Kings 11:9-11 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates

Yesterday we saw that Solomon had married a few extra wives after Pharaoh’s daughter, and it got him into trouble. But the reality is that it wasn’t the wives that did it – it was Solomon who did it to himself. The problem, I think, was in his heart. It was in the fact that this strong and wise ruler didn’t seem to apply that wisdom when it came to running his own life, his own household. It reminds me of the plumber with leaky pipes, or the carpenter with the unfinished room.

It began with his first marriage to Pharoah’s daughter. Because she refused to give up her worship of the Egyptian gods, he built her a place of her own, as he recognized she couldn’t live in David’s palace. She appears to be the only one for whom he did this. But there is no hint that he ever even tried to get any of the other 999 wives to convert – he just let them worship as they pleased. Step 1. Then, he began to help them by building idols, altars and places of worship for them. Step 2. Then he began to share worship with them. Step 3. How far off can you go?

Two of these gods were named in yesterday’s passage – Chemosh and Molek. These were both Moabite gods, Chemosh often demanding human sacrifices, and worship of Molek involving burning infants alive – to make them immortal. It seems that somewhere along the line, when sin comes in, wisdom goes out the window.

There’s another lesson to be gleaned here also. No matter what gifts God gives us, we need to use them – apply them – even in our own lives. Maybe especially in our own lives. A gift unused gets lost, broken or forgotten. A spiritual gift, used as intended, grows stronger and more precious every time it’s applied. Do you know how God has gifted you? If not, you need to find out. If yes, are you applying those gifts in every area of your life – not just at church?

Let’s make that our prayer for today – that God would make us truly aware of the gifts He has given us, and show us the opportunities in which He would have us apply them.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 332

11/23/15 – 332

Saturday we read that Solomon had taken 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines – women who presumably didn’t have that royal blood that made them good enough to marry formally, but he fell in love with anyway. And we thought he was kept busy just building things and learning astonomy and botony and all that! Think about this – if he only spent 1 day with each one in rotation, he would only see each wife for one day every three years. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to remember their names, let alone claim that I ‘loved’ them all. Yet that’s what the writer tells us. Who knows, maybe Solomon found the secret for a perfect marriage – only see each other one day out of a thousand. Yes, I’m kidding.

It’s no wonder he needed to build a palace that took 13 years to build, though. It had to be big enough to hold most of them! I say most, because at least one (Pharoah’s daughter) and probably many more, could not live in the palace that David had built. This was because they would not give up worship of their own gods, and therefore Jewish law forbade them from being anywhere (especially living) where the Ark of the Covenant had been. That meant a lot of new construction.

1 Kings 11:4-8 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

See the pattern here? It’s the same still today, really. We start out great, with all good intent. We want to be good, pure, and righteous. We watch as people around us do things that we know are wrong and say to ourselves “I’ll never do that!”. But we don’t admonish them; in fact we usually don’t say a word. It’s not that big a deal, we say, or it’s none of our business. We condone their sin by our silence, and/or rationalization of it. After a while, it doesn’t look SO bad, does it? Instead of ‘falling’ into sin, we walk into it, very gently and surely, because we don’t walk away from it. ‘Clean don’t rub off on dirty’, someone I knew used to say.

Solomon went from being the one person most blessed in history, the one special enough to build the temple, to a pagan, an idol worshipper. He may have died rich, but he certainly didn’t die blessed. We’ll look at that more tomorrow as we come to the end of Solomon’s life and story. For today, maybe this is a good time to re-examine yourself and ask God where you have let this kind of sin creep into your life. This is a difficult question. I know you can’t cut ties with every unbeliever, nor should you. If you did, you wouldn’t be carrying out the Great Commission, would you? I’m talking about the areas where you have put yourself in spiritual danger of being dragged down, for whatever reason. Some battles are just not yours to fight. Some are. Let God help you to know which are which.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 330

11/21/15 – 330

Solomon just couldn’t seem to do much wrong – for a while. People kept bringing him gifts and almost literally throwing money at him in one form or another. He had everything a man could ask for and then some. But somewhere along the way something went wrong.

This is just a wild guess, but it looks to me as though Solomon was wealthy enough that he could have done some real good for his people, helping to build a healthy economy, alleviate poverty and such things. Instead he taxed them heavily, evidently needing quite a bit of money to fund all of his building projects, not to mention the decadence with which he surrounded himself. You can read about it in 1 Kings 10:14-29 if you like.

But the reality is that whether it’s Solomon or one of us, the problem is not with the money. It’s with the person who’s never satisfied with what God provides, who always thinks he deserves or needs more. This wise and beloved king may have appeared to be doing great to the world, but I have a feeling that there were more than a few Israelites who saw things differently.

But this was only the beginning. The same inability to find satisfaction showed up in other areas of Solomon’s life also:

1 Kings 11:1-3 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

One has to wonder where the ‘love’ won out over the wisdom. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but I think it’s pretty easy to see where it’s going. This is the same mistake (sin) that the Israelites made over and over, getting involved with women who worshipped other gods. What could go wrong? Well for one thing, there’s that pesky first commandment.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Details, details. Let’s continue to pray for open hearts and open eyes. That we would be open to listen to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us when we begin to veer off track, and strength to stay on the narrow path – obedience.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 329

11/20/15 – 329

Well, things continued to go well for Solomon, although I’m really not so sure we can say the same for everyone else. OK, I guess there must have been a good number who benefitted from Solomon’s prosperity, but not all were so fortunate. Remember his friend Hiram, the king of Tyre who supplied him with all the wood for the temple and palace, about 4½ tons of gold and the expert woodworkers as well? Solomon gave him 20 towns in Galilee, but apparently Hiram wasn’t happy with them.

1 Kings 9:12-13 But when Hiram went from Tyre to see the towns that Solomon had given him, he was not pleased with them. 13 “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day.

To give you an idea how unhappy Hiram was, ‘kabul’ sounds like the Hebrew meaning ‘good for nothing’. This is not the same Kabul you here about on the news today, that is in Afghanistan.

Somewhere along the way Solomon married the Pharaoh’s (king of Egypt’s) daughter. This guy must have really loved his daughter. For a wedding gift, he attacked and burned the Canaanite city/state of Gezer and gave it to them. Solomon rebuilt that, and many other cities. He enslaved pretty much anyone who was descended from the old enemies of the Israelites, and made the Israelites his fighting men, government officials, military officers and commanders. He had 550 chief officials to oversee his building projects.

Three times a year he fulfilled all his temple obligations – sacrifices, burning incense and such. He built ships and began new trade with them. Verse 28 says they brought back 16 tons of gold from one port alone, Ophir in Tiberia (now Spain). Every 3 years King Solomon received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, pearls, ivory, apes and peacocks from there. Busy guy.

Solomon was becoming pretty famous by this time as well. The next part of his story was about a visit by the Queen of Sheba, who came because she had heard so much about his great wisdom, wealth, and about his relationship with God. She was not disappointed. But what struck me about her response was that she really gave God the glory for what Solomon had been given – and she could only have learned that from Solomon.

1 Kings 10:9 “Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”         

All those years, and his walk with God was evidently still a good one. So how could anything tear it down after all this time? He’s been on top of the world, God has given him almost limitless wealth, plus almostlimitless potential to learn new things & understand and apply his learning (wisdom). More to the point, could something like this ever happen to us?

Is it possible that we could live a good life, be successful, happy and content with what we have, intelligent and wise, and still allow our relationship with God to fall apart? Is it possible that our blessings could turn out to be our downfall? We’ll study that, of course. For today, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to recognize and treasure every blessing, without allowing anything on this earth to come between Our Lord and us. If it does, it’s not a blessing – no matter how pretty the wrapping.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 328

11/19/15 – 328

Solomon finished his prayer and dedication of the temple. Then came the sacrifices – LOTS of them. 1 Kings 8:62-64 tells us that he gave 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats just for the fellowship offering. He also had to consecrate part of the courtyard in front of the temple for the additional burnt offerings, grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings because the bronze altar was too small to hold them.

 The celebration was a good one, and went on for 2 weeks, after which Solomon sent everyone home. He then got busy again on his next building project, his own palace. This one would take 13 years to complete and might have been just a little bit more extravagant than the temple. But anyone who has ever built their own home knows that things rarely get done right on schedule. Just imagine building a palace! So, after 20 years of building…

1 Kings 9:1-9 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The Lord said to him:

“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’

“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”

So, God is giving a pretty clear statement here, don’t you think? A statement of reassurance, reiterating His promise to the Israelites and to the line of David, but also a clear warning of what will happen if they should break the covenant yet again. Let’s take a few moments and ask ourselves ‘how would I react? Does this mean that something bad is about to happen? Is there something I need to do to avoid it or keep it from happening? Why does God feel those harsh words are necessary?’

We’ll make this our prayer for today, because the fact is that God does give us that same reassurance, and that same warning in His Word today. It is as valid for you and I as it was for Solomon. We’ll look at his reaction tomorrow, but for today, this is between you and God. Please don’t disappoint Him.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 327

11/18/15 – 327

Yesterday I said that I thought that God got hold of Solomon’s heart when he began to speak about God dwelling in the temple they had built. Here’s why. He began with great (and fitting) praise for a God who kept a great promise. But then his tone changed. He seemed to realize that as wonderful as this new building was, it was nothing to the infinite God who created the universe! Let’s pick up Solomon’s speech in verse 27:

1 Kings 8:27 But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, the heavens and heaven of heavens [in its most extended compass] cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built?

That’s when the great King Solomon became humble before his God. I get the sense that even as he knew that this was the fulfillment of God’s plan, it wasn’t the end in itself. It wasn’t to be a place that would contain God so that He would be there only for the Israelites, at their beck and call. It was to be a reminder of their special place in His family, of their covenant, of their relationship with Him – and their responsibility to Him to live according to that covenant. Solomon seemed to recognize this, and the rest of his prayer turned to a fervent pleading with God to honor the prayers of those that would remember this by praying in or even facing toward this place no matter where they might be.

28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

That’s just the beginning, but you get the drift. So as always, the question is – how does this apply to us? There are those today that still take Solomon’s words literally and face the east (toward the temple) when they pray. I doubt that applies to most of you reading these devotions, but who knows? The real application is in the way you consider your own relationship with God. Do you see Him as your personal insurance policy/bodyguard/vending machine? Someone who has to answer your prayers (aka demands) because you tithe, teach Sunday School or whatever?

Maybe you see Him as an equal (very common today), your BFF that you can call (or not), hang out with (or not), or talk to just like you’d talk to your friends at work. Or, do you see Him as the God who owns you not once but twice over, because He created you, freed you, then redeemed you from the slavery of sin in which you were trapped. Do you humble yourself before Him as His servant, willing not only to die for Him but to live for Him – every day of your life – no matter what He asks of you.

And here’s the kicker: the truth of your answer is not in what you say – it’s in what you do. It’s in how you live. Your prayer today should be very personal, a prayer either of commitment, or of recommitment to this God, the One who loves you enough to want you. The covenant is written. It’s up to you to accept it.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 326

11/17/15 – 326

The rest of 1 Kings 6 and 7 give us an account of all the detailed work that was done in the temple, as well as Solomon’s palace. The temple took 7 years to build, the palace even longer. It also tells of the massive amounts of gold, silver bronze etc that were used. I can never help but wonder, when I see such amazing elaborate buildings, whether we’re building them for God or for men. After all, all that stuff belongs to God already anyway.

I guess the way my mind works, I believe that God would be much more pleased with us if we justbuilt a simple structure in which to gather and worship, and used the rest of that wealth to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and that kind of thing. Maybe I’m just being silly.

Then again, even Solomon had to ask the question. When the building was done. And all the utensils were in place that his father David had prepared for the sacrifices, he called all the priests and elders of Israel together. The priests carried the ark of the covenant (which contained the stone tablets with the 10 commandments written on them) from the tabernacle to the temple to be placed in the Holy of Holies. Once it was set in place and the priests walked out, an amazing thing happened. The entire temple filled with a cloud so dense and dark that they couldn’t stand in it even to minister. Remember all the times God appeared as either cloud or fire? Solomon knew what it was.

1 Kings 8:11-12 So the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. 12 Then Solomon said, The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.

So God had obviously moved into His new home! This was a great and awesome thing. I’m sure it gave Solomon and all the people involved a great feeling of accomplishment. I’m afraid that it might have given them almost too much of a feeling of accomplishment or even security, as though they no longer had to worry about their part of the covenant – here’s why.

As we keep seeing, people haven’t changed much over the centuries. We still have plenty who feel perfectly comfortable with their salvation based not on their heart, or their relationship with Christ, but on how fancy the church they attend, how much $$$ they’ve given and how long their family has been going there. They begin to feel almost as though God has an obligation to them, rather than recognizing that it is in fact us who owe God , well, everything. Not just material wealth, but our very lives. Our time, our energy, our loyalty, our devotion. Our love.

I think Solomon realized this, after all the work, after God showed up. He turned to the people and began to address them, praising God for keeping the promise He made to David about the temple. Then he began a prayer of dedication, and that is when I believe that God again took hold of his heart. We’ll take a closer look tomorrow. For today, let’s pray that the temple that we are asking God to dwell in is the one that really counts – us. Not the building where you worship formally, but the life with which you honor God every moment, every day.

We know that those temples are not covered in gold and hand-carved cedar. They’re blemished and worn and bruised and broken. But they are the ones that God has built for us – not the ones that we have built to contain Him. See the difference?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 325

11/16/15 – 325

On Saturday we ended our time with 2 thoughts: the first that a temple is not temporary housing but an enduring, permanent structure, and the second was that we are God’s temple. How about that? If we could only get that concept down! Too often we act as though this ‘temple’ of ours is more like a bed’n’breakfast. With a revolving door.

Here’s another really interesting tidbit about the building project:

1 Kings 6:7 In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.

Have you ever been around a construction project? Quiet is NOT the first adjective that comes to mind. In the mid ‘90s I worked in the Emergency Department of a hospital in a Chicago suburb. During a very long and VERY noisy expansion project, it seemed that the jackhammer work would never end. I got so tired of patients asking what the noise was I just started telling them it was the dentist’s office next door. The funny part was how many of them believed me!

Anyway, the obvious question is why? Why go to so much trouble to keep things quiet? After all, the temple hadn’t been dedicated yet (although Abraham’s altar was at the site). To top it off, this was no ordinary construction project. The largest stone that we know of – that is still in place today in the Western Wall – is 45 feet long, about 13 ft. wide, and weighs about 570 tons. The ‘lightweights’ may run around 40-50 tons. These all had to be cut and dressed at the quarry, moved to the site and set in place. All of them fit so well that even though you can fit a piece of paper in between the edges, but just barely. Why?

The simple answer – reverence. Respect. A sincere desire to keep this place holy and pure, because the God Who would dwell in it is holy and pure. So what do you think? Were they just ‘over the top’ religious fanatics? Or were they doing things the way they should be done – acting toward God as we should, showing Him all possible reverence and love?

If that’s the case, what does it say about our ‘temples’ today, whether we’re taking about our places of worship, or the bodies we wear? Do we use them solely for God’s purposes? Do we take the best possible care of them? Are they dedicated to Him, to serving Him? Do we recognize that openly?

I’m not talking about whether your church has a sanctuary or a ‘sanctinasium’, or what your diet of choice is. I’m talking about why you do what you do to and in your temples. After all, that’s what holiness is, right? To be ‘set apart’ solely for God’s purpose and glory.

Let’s make that our prayer for today – that all our ‘whys’ would be the right ones.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 324

11/15/15 – 324

Psalm 42:4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Wow! Sort of makes worship sound like a party, doesn’t it? You don’t have to travel very far to learn that in some cultures, it really is a lot more like that than it often seems to be in ours. I’ll admit, I was one that grew up being taught that in church, you sit quietly, sing reverently and sit in the back. I still have a hard time lifting my hands, shouting ‘Amen!’ and really letting go sometimes – but I love being a part of it.

I was once told that in Jesus’ time, tradition was that the rabbi who was to read the scripture took so much joy in it that he would literally wave the scroll over his head while he danced his way to the front of the synagogue. Which means that Jesus danced in church! Something to think about, eh?

I think we should take joy in worship, though. Seriously. After all, aren’t we celebrating the fact that we have a Savior who loves us no matter what, who has redeemed us and adopted us into His family, and is preparing a place for us to live with Him in His paradise forever? If that’s not worth a party, I don’t know what is! I just think that sometimes we lose sight of the reality of what we are doing and why we are doing it. We let our petty concerns and self-consciousness steal our joy. So today, I want to share a little gift that might help you find a little more joy in this morning’s worship. See how many of these you can identify today.

From an article in Christianity Today:

Sniglets are words that don’t appear in the dictionary, but should. Here are a few words to broaden your worship vocabulary:

Boiked—What an usher feels after going out of his way to take an offering plate to someone alone in a pew, and the person has nothing to contribute.

Pliturgist—The man or woman who is always half a second ahead of the rest of the congregation during a responsive reading.

Jobbling—The gradual rising of the congregation during the final hymn, after the pastor has forgotten to say, “Please rise.”

Pleech—A joyful congregant’s first note of verse four, when the bulletin said to stop after three.

Scruggles—The scattered, congregational coughs that follow inevitably after someone gets them started.

Grooncher—A 240-pound greeter who thinks his job is to crush hands, not shake them.

Scriggling—The act of wasting one’s time thinking up Christian sniglets.

Eutychus in Christianity Today

Enjoy your worship today.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 323

11/14/15 – 323

Well, Solomon had one main job to do that David had left undone as king. That was to build a permanent house for God to dwell in – a temple. In 2 Samuel 7 we read that David felt bad because he had built a pretty nice house for himself while the tabernacle (and the ark of the covenant) were still in tents. But God, through the prophet Nathan, told David that he was not to build the temple because he had shed too much blood. He said that one of David’s sons would succeed him as king, and that son would build the temple. We also read about this promise in 1 Chronicles 17.

For all the years that the Israelites had lived in tents, God had stayed with them. When they found a permanent home, He stayed in the tabernacle, never abandoning them.

To say that Solomon pulled out all the stops would be an understatement to say the least. He began by making a treaty with Hiram, the king of Tyre to trade for the vast amount of wood needed from Lebanon. He then gathered his laborers, starting with 30,000 conscripts (forced laborers) who were split into 3 groups, each working 1 month out of 3. These men were sent to work in Lebanon, cutting trees and building rafts. To this he added 70,000 carriers, 80,000 stonecutters and 3,300 foremen. They began to prepare the stones and stockpile materials, adding to what David had already gathered, and began actual construction in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign, or the 480th year after the Israelites began the exodus from Egypt.

Do you begin to get a sense of just how important this event was? Do you understand why it was so important? And the big question – do you understand how it relates to you personally?

God had been faithful to remain with them in a tent – even though He was God – for centuries! This was the fulfillment of their end of the deal, for one thing. Even more, a permanent temple would represent a permanent home for God right smack in the midst of the Israelite people.            This was taking tabernacle worship one BIG step farther, actually fulfilling it.

And to answer the last question – how it relates to us:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Under the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, God still lives in a permanent home IF we have done our part to prepare this temple for Him. That part is this – Confess, repent, and believe on Jesus as our Savior, God’s Son who died on a cross for us.

Here’s the thing. If you really have given yourself to Christ as a home, a place for Him to abide with you, you have to allow Him to be in control – all day, every day. We call this ‘lordship’. There can be no shared authority, no taking turns being in charge. Either you are a temple, or you are not. A temple is not a part-time condition, it is an enduring       structure.

How has your ‘construction project’ been going? Should it have been finished a long time ago? Let’s make that the focus of our prayer today.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 322

11/13/15 – 322

1 Kings 4:29-34 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

Solomon asked God for the right thing, and God responded in ways better than anyone could have imagined! Not only did He give Solomon great wisdom, but intellect and knowledge as well. I know we’ve talked about this in past devotionals, but I think we need to do a quick review of what those words mean. We so often use them interchangeably, as though they are all the same – but they really aren’t, and it’s critical to understand the difference. Why? Let’s find out. At the same time, let’s see if we can figure out why God saw fit to give Solomon all three.

The way I would define the difference is this:

Intelligence/intellect is the way your mind works – your capacity to learn.

Knowledge is what you’ve learned.

Wisdom is being able to apply what you’ve learned to life in the right way.

The Bible warns against intelligence without wisdom:

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

    fear the Lord and shun evil. 

Hey, by the way, guess who wrote that! Yep – Solomon. 00He should know, right?

When I read this I can’t help but think of the well-known atheists Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. Both are known for their extremely high IQs, yet in reading their arguments against the existence of God, I can find no logic. They are smart. They have a lot of knowledge. But, I see no wisdom.

Also, you can know a lot about Christ without letting it affect your life. Peter gives us this advice:

2 Peter 13:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Obviously, God knew that Solomon would need a good measure and balance of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom to do the job that God had set for him. But here’s what I notice. Nowhere in this passage does it say that Solomon was the only one who could ask for this, or the only one to whom God would give it. In fact, I think there’s a good possibility that it would please God greatly if every one of us really wanted to receive His best, so that we could become the best representatives of our Father that we possible could. I think that our God, Who loves to bless His children, would love to be asked.

So let’s ask him today. Right now.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 321

11/12/15 – 321

1 Kings 3:16-28 has been subtitled ‘A Wise Ruling’.            This is arguably the most famous part of Solomon’s story. It’s the story of 2 women (prostitutes) who come to him to settle a dispute. The women apparently shared a home, and had babies only 3 days apart. One of them had lain on her child during the night, suffocating him. The accusation by the other was that the first had switched babies while she was asleep, leaving her the dead one. She couldn’t tell until morning light, at which time the dispute began.

Both insisted that the living child was hers. Solomon’s decision was completely unexpected.

1 Kings 3:24-28 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

In hindsight, Solomon’s action makes perfect sense. A mother insensitive enough to steal another’s baby just to ease her own grief (and guilt?) would certainly care more about herself than the child or the other mom. The child’s true mother would love him enough to want to give him life at any cost – even if it wasn’t with her. But hindsight is one thing; foresight is quite another, especially when it comes to predicting human behavior.

Maybe that’s the most remarkable thing about this ‘story within a story’ – that Solomon, at such a young age, had the wisdom to know people this well. Then again, as we read about him, we can’t help but notice the pattern of his own life. Everything he does is based on God’s guidance, and everything that happens is followed by a time of sacrifice and gratitude. He stays close to God, and gives Him glory for everything. So far.

1 Kings 4 tells us how Solomon’s kingdom sort of takes off. It contains a list of his many staff and governors. Verses 22-23 are devoted entirely to the amount of provisions needed to feed his household for a single day Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors[about 5 ½ tons] of the finest flour and sixty cors[ about 11 tons] of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl”.

But the last section, devoted to his wisdom is what we’ll look at tomorrow. For today, try to imagine that the same God who was with Solomon is with you and I. The same wisdom He gave Solomon is available to us, if we live according to His will and give Him all the glory He deserves. Let’s make that our prayer today. Not for the material possessions, but for that same nearness of the Spirit, that same sort of intimate relationship with God that Solomon had. And by the way – don’t forget to do your part to initiate that relationship – don’t just sit back and wait.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 320

11/11/15 – 320

Yesterday you were asked to pray the same kind of prayer that Solomon prayed, not that God would give you your greatest desire, but rather His greatest desire for you. This can be a scary thing to ask for, especially if you aren’t really sure of God’s will for you, or you are but it doesn’t coincide with what you want for yourself. Solomon pretty much knew what his God-given role was to be, and he had already shown some pretty good aptitude for the job.

Still, it seems he had that same measure of self-doubt that we often have, especially when faced with a major life change such as a new career or our first child. In 1 Kings 3:7 Solomon even says  “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.”

So in his dream, Solomon admitted this, and asked God for the thing he felt he needed most – not just to do the job, but to do it well. God’s response?

1 Kings 3:10-15 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

This is where our story really begins. But before we move on, I want to finish today by emphasizing the importance of what has happened here. Very often we pray for God’s will to be revealed, If we believe it has been, I think/hope that we do our very best at it. We say things like ‘God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called’. Yet too often we act as if that part is automatic.

God gave Solomon great wisdom. But for you and I, that wisdom may come in the form of a Sunday School teachers’ training or leadership seminar. For someone called to preach, it would likely come in some form of seminary training. Yes, there are those who have none. The point is, it’s one thing to know and accept God’s will for your life. It’s quite another to use the tools He provides, and put in the time and effort to do that thing to the best of your ability. Think about this – whatever it is He has called you to, what could be more important or worthwhile?

I can’t guarantee that God won’t ask you to do something uncomfortable or dangerous. The only guarantee I will make is that if you accept and embrace this gift – give it your very best – it will be more valuable and wonderful than you can imagine. Let’s pray for that today – that as God gave Solomon wisdom to be king, He would provide you with the tools you need to carry out His will for you to the fullest.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 319

11/10/15 – 319

After Adonijah was put to death and Abiathar removed from the priesthood, there were still 2 more that David had warned him about. One was Joab, the commander of the army who had used his position to get away with murder (literally), and also had sided with Adonijah in his failed attempt to make himself the king. Joab, like Adonijah, fled to the tent of meeting and refused to come out, saying in 1 Kings 3:30 “I will die here.” He did.

The last person Solomon had to deal with was Shimea, who had shown his disloyalty to David by calling down curses on him when another son, Absolom, had tried to kill David and take the throne. Again Solomon tried to be lenient by merely confining him to Jerusalem (assuming he wanted Shimea where he could keep an eye on him), with the condition of death should he ever leave the city.

Eventually Shimea broke his parole, and was subsequently executed. So much for learning from the mistakes of others. My point is that as king, Solomon tried to be as merciful as possible, but didn’t shy away from doing what he had to do, not out of hate or fear, but to protect the kingdom. I think this is a sort of snapshot of the way God works with us. He shows us great mercy – but it’s conditional. Our well-deserved penalty is stayed as long as we accept the conditions – repent, confess, and accept Christ’s forgiveness, making Him not only our Savior but our Lord as well. This in turn means that we must live according to His teaching and example. Should we break the terms of our parole, the consequences are on us – not Him.

Now Solomon was firmly established as king. He made an alliance (the first of many) with Egypt’s Pharoah and married his daughter (also the first of many – wives). In gratitude and love for God, Solomon traveled to Gibeon to offer a great sacrifice on the altar there. Why Gibeon? This was considered the most import ‘high place’. This was where the tabernacle and the brazen (brass) altar that Moses had made during the Exodus were located. It was here that God came to Solomon in that famous dream.

1 Kings 3:4 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” — v8-9 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

God’s response was more than even Solomon could have imagined.

We’ll look at that more closely tomorrow. Today as we go to prayer, think about this: If God were to come to you right now and make you the same offer, how would you respond? Oh, I know we all know the right answer. But truly, in your heart, what is your greatest desire? Would you really give that up to ask God to give you what He desires for you? If you can honestly answer yes to that, you are miles ahead of most people – including many of those who call themselves ‘Christian’.

My challenge for you today is to pray that prayer. It can be a scary one if you really think about it. Pray it anyway, but only if you are really willing to accept whatever it is He has for you.

I challenge you to pray for that today. It can be a scary prayer if you really think about it. Pray it anyway, but only if you are willing to accept whatever it is He has for you.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 318

11/09/15 – 318

Have you ever known someone who just didn’t seem to know when to quit? Adonijah.had tried by trickery to take the throne before Solomon could be crowned, and the attempt had failed miserably. Solomon had let him off pretty easy, all things considered, basically just banishing him from the court and affairs of state as long as he behaved. Apparently he was compliant until their father David died.

As David’s main wife, after his death Bathsheba was elevated to the status of ‘queen mother’. She sat at Solomon’s right hand and generally had more influence than she had as queen. It was through her that Adonijah made his second attempt to ‘weasel his way’ to the throne.

1 Kings 2:15-18 15 “As you know,” he said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the Lord. 16 Now I have one request to make of you. Do not refuse me.”

“You may make it,” she said.

17 So he continued, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.”

18 “Very well,” Bathsheba replied, “I will speak to the king for you.”

Notice that he still thinks of himself as having been the king, even though he had never really been? At the same time, he acknowledges that Solomon is God’s chosen person for the job. Maybe he convinced Bathsheba that he had learned his lesson and was now simply in love with Abishag. Yes, this is the same woman who had been David’s concubine and bedwarmer. But when Bathsheba took the request to Solomon, his response was not quite what she expected.

1 Kings 2:22-25 22 King Solomon answered his mother, “Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him—after all, he is my older brother—yes, for him and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!”

23 Then King Solomon swore by the Lord: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! 24 And now, as surely as the Lord lives—he who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as he promised—Adonijah shall be put to death today!” 25 So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died.

Yesterday I asked some pretty tough questions about Solomon and the people he had executed after David died. But as I pointed out in our time of prayer, I made some too-hasty conclusions about his actions. As I dug deeper, I learned that had Adonijah married Abishag (who was essentially a king’s widow), combined with being the eldest brother, he and any son they might have had would have been a threat to Solomon – just a short step away from the throne. Basically this was his second attempt to grab power, and it cost him his life. At the same time, Solomon removed Abiathar as a high priest (the only time this ever happened), and had Joab put to death, as he had shown his loyalty to Adonijah and was likely part of this second conspiracy as well.

There’s a lot to be said for knowing when to quit. We all do foolish or sinful things in life. Usually they don’t end well. Sometimes God disciplines us – he always gives us what we need to learn from our mistakes. However, when we don’t – when we repeat the same wrong action – it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a choice. And like Solomon, there comes a point when our decision to knowingly remain in a sinful state will permanently separate us from God, our King. Like Adonijah, we will have brought the death penalty upon ourselves.

Let’s pray today that God would continue His work in us (and in those we love) who are in such a state; that our hearts would be softened and lessons not only learned but also applied – before it’s too late.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 317

11/08/15 – 317

Ephesians 5:18b-21 be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Have you ever seen, or maybe been involved in, a classic church controversy? Often these disagreements are over the most insignificant things, like the color of the new carpet, or ‘Somebody moved the picture my great-grandma donated’, or things like that. In fact, any change in the routine is likely to bring some level of irritation or even anger – and things like this have all to often been known to split churches, or drive people away permanently.

Conversations this week brought back memories of past battles, usually with the rallying cry of “This is our church!” That may be true, but the problem is, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be God’s church. Jesus’ church. If it really is your church (or mine), it’s not His. Regardless of what you are telling yourself, if church is about your comfort, the music you like, the decorations you’re used to, then what it all boils down to is that you’re worshipping you, not God.

Just hold on there, Pastor John! What’s wrong with having things the way we like them? We’ve worked hard to get things this way, invested a lot of time and money. That’s probably true also, but to what end? To please God, because everyone knows God’s favorite carpet color is blue, not red? The Bible must say somewhere that He prefers padded pews over tables and chairs, or Southern Gospel over contemporary music, doesn’t it? Sorry, I’m afraid not.

God tells us clearly what He wants from us in worship. We just read it. He wants it for Him, from the heart (v19), always keeping Him in the forefront (v20), shown (in part) by submitting to one another (v21). Wait, what?

Yes, I’m afraid that’s a big part of making sure you’re worshipping God and not yourself. Putting others first. Yes, even if they want to move great-grandma’s picture. Even if they want to play songs you don’t care for. The only question a mature Christian should be asking is not whether he/she likes something, but whether it is helping to fulfill our commission, to make disciples.

I have yet to hear of anyone who came to church seeking God and left because the carpet was the wrong color. I have seen many leave because they watched ‘Christians’ fight over such things.

As you go to worship today, think about what’s really important. Those things that annoy you? Ask yourself if they really matter enough to displease God by arguing with your fellow Christians about them. Don’t like a song? Smile and sing it anyway, and watch the face of someone who is truly worshipping, being blessed, maybe even finding Christ through it.

After all, isn’t that what’s really important?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 316

11/07/15 – 316

In order to stay on track, we need to back up just a few verses to a seemingly insignificant item that I may or may not have forgotten to mention. This is another of those details we usually leave out when we tell the story in Kid’s Church.

1 Kings 1:1-4 When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”

Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.

Actually, this was not an uncommon practice for someone whose body was losing the ability to regulate its temperature well. Servants would have tried warming the room, then adding on covers and warmers. If that all failed, they found a suitable person to share body heat. Somehow I don’t think this treatment is covered by most health insurance policies nowadays, but it worked then. Even though there were no sexual relations, Abishag would have been made a concubine with all the status that would go along with being married to a king. This becomes important in understanding some apparently brutal actions of the peaceful king Solomon.

Once Solomon’s coronation was made public, there was a great noise of celebration. Adonijah, waiting with his friends, of course thought that the noise meant good news for him (probably that David had died). When he learned the truth, he ran to the tabernacle, climbed up on the altar and held on to its horns for all he was worth, refusing to come down until Solomon had promised that he would not put him to death for what he had done. Solomon gave his word, with a caveat:

1 Kings 1:52-53 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”

Things were apparently quiet for a while, as David lived another 6 months. During that time, he counseled Solomon about various things, including some old enemies and people who weren’t to be trusted. It was when David finally passed that Solomon had to act on his father’s advice. Unfortunately, That meant that there were people that had to be put to death in order to protect the throne.

This is where I had to work through some conflicts. How could such a man of peace so easily order multiple murders? Why didn’t God step in? Why couldn’t Solomon have won them over or at least found a more lenient form of punishment? Surprisingly, it took some real digging to learn the truth.

I’d like to focus our prayer time today on that – how often we draw conclusions about life, people, and about scripture based on limited knowledge or faulty perspective. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, and stop us when our minds leap to places they shouldn’t. Ask Him to give us the patience and diligence to do the work to gain the right understanding, especially when it comes to God’s Word.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 315

11/06/15 – 315

There’s a lot to be said for keeping your promises – especially if you’re sure what you have promised is within God’s will!

1 Kings 1:29-31 The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out today what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

31 Then Bathsheba bowed low with her face to the ground and, kneeling before the king, said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

We ended yesterday’s devotion with a passage about Adonijah, one of Solomon’s brothers who made a somewhat feeble attempt at proclaiming himself king of Israel. There were a few problems with that, not the least of which David was still alive, and the throne had been promised to Solomon.

Adonijah did have a small following, not nearly enough to take the throne by force. This included a high priest named Abiathar, who had been loyal to David earlier, but according to the Jewish Encyclopedia had been deserted by the Holy Spirit. Just guessing, but maybe this was his way of securing his position. Adonijah would need to be anointed as king, and have the support of the church to rule, Abiathar liked his job. They made the big announcement, then threw a party to celebrate, and apparently to wait for David to die.

But what I found interesting was that the writer thought it necessary to point out in 1 Kings 1:6 (His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” Maybe this is the first lesson we are to glean from this story – and one that still holds true today – about the importance of disciplining a child. It seems as though in our current ‘culture of entitlement’, it’s considered borderline abuse not to allow a child to have or do anything he pleases. But then as now, the consequences prove the foolishness of that theory.

Well, you don’t go around declaring yourself king without word getting back to the palace pretty quickly. When Bathsheba heard, she was upset (understandably), as she thought the promise had been broken and Solomon was out. This was probably even more upsetting since it was common practice in those days for a new ruler to eliminate any potential threats to his throne – which usually meant killing anyone who might think they had a claim to it – i.e. your family.

So, first Bathsheba, followed shortly by the prophet Nathan, went to David to inform/challenge him about what had happened. David responded quickly. True to his word, he called Solomon, Nathan and Zadok (who had been serving as a co-high priest). He had them anoint Solomon as king; David made the proclamation, and then sent them out to make it public. As I read and re-read this chapter, I am struck with the dynamics of David’s family. I realize that their lifestyle may have been a little different than yours or mine, but…

I’m sure there are many of you who, like me, have done your best in raising your children only to see one or more of them go in a radically different direction than you ever imagined. In this whole scenario, the saddest part to me is that the family is broken beyond repair. I don’t know that we can blame poor parenting, I’m pretty sure Solomon was coddled as much as Adonijah. But the question is always this; at what point does the child become responsible for his/her own actions – regardless. For the parents, it’s often ‘where did I go wrong’?

Let’s devote our time of prayer today for those families (both ours and those close to us) who have been broken – not by poor parenting but at the root, by sin. God can and does restore and heal relationships – if we let Him.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Solomon – 314

11/05/15 – 314

Okay, everyone, gather ‘round the fire – it’s time for another story! I was thinking that a good thing for us to try would be to seek something that seems to be sadly lacking in our world today, and that is wisdom. Specifically, godly wisdom – and where better to look for that than in the story of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived? At least, that’s what we were told in the children’s versions of the tale.

If I was a gambling man (although as a good Nazarene pastor, of course, I’m not), I’d be willing to bet that like most of the stories we’ve explored so far that there is probably more to the story than we were told. Some parts of the story may have been slightly glossed over in order to make the main point and/or protect young minds. That’s OK. But now, as adults, we are responsible to know the whole truth of God’s Word to the best of our ability. Our spiritual formation depends on it. So let’s get some background on our main character, King Solomon.

Solomon was the third king of Israel, the 4th son of David and Bathsheba. Their first son had been taken by God as a child as punishment for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, so that David could marry her. They gave him the name Solomon, which means ‘peaceful’, quite a contrast to his warrior father David. This was likely a purposeful reaction to God’s refusal to allow David to build His temple in 2 Samuel 7 because David was too warlike. It was also a good prediction, as Solomon’ reign was probably the most peaceful time in Israel’s history. Interestingly, 2 Samuel 12:25 also tells us that God, through the prophet Nathan, named the boy Jedidiah, meaning ‘Loved of God’.

Considering that names and their meanings in the Bible are usually important, especially those given by God Himself, I’d say it’s probably worthwhile to keep this in the back of your mind as we walk through the story of the man we think of as the wisest person there ever was. (This is not to be confused with being the biggest wise guy – a title I may or may not have been accused of being worthy of occasionally myself. But I digress.)

Even though Solomon wasn’t David’s eldest son, it appears that he had spent his entire life in the harem being prepared for the position. We don’t see him coming out in public until David is on his deathbed. Also, we know David had promised Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him as king. But in spite of this, Solomon had a competitor in David’s eldest surviving son by a different wife.

1 Kings 1:5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 6 (His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)

Here’s a hint: ponder that last verse for a day. Tomorrow we’ll continue to lay the foundation for one of the most important stories in the Bible. For today, let’s pray that God would give us the wisdom (see how I worked that in there?) to understand the multitude of things I’m sure He has to teach us through that story.