The books of Kings & Chronicles have taken me much longer to read through than the Gospels, the beautiful flowing poetry of the Psalms & wisdom oriented books such as Job. These two Bible verses (2 Kings 17:13-14) & writing this blog is inspiring me to look closer at the bigger picture & Biblical time line of events to orient myself. From 1050 to 586 B.C. there were forty-two kings & one queen (Athaliah) ruling over Israel & Judah. Apparently, only seven of them acted in ways that were pleasing to the Lord for some portion of their command!
Evil leadership is not surprising really, given our sinful natures (“As it is written: there is no one righteous, not even one." Romans 3:10). Those 464 years of kings' reign during the ancient world, are they really much different than present day's ruling class? Sadly, maybe not so much. Before the coming & death of Christ, there were many Godly laws - some consensus says there are 613 recorded throughout the old testament. Of these, most people know the moral laws; the ten commandments, (which Jesus summarizes in Mark & Matthew (22:38-39) by pointing out the primacy of 1a. & b. These instructions from God are woven into our DNA & the fabric of our society yet secularly, now claiming this is taboo).
1a). You shall have no other gods before Me.
b). Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:30-31)
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
Whether we are kings, pastors or just regular people, past or present, try as we might, no one can keep one hundred percent free from breaking any of these rules & thus committing sin & doing evil in the sight of the Lord. And so out of love for us, God gave us a way of salvation out of the "prison of sin" through His son, the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the new covenant. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
I love the simplicity of how the author of "God's Ten Laws" puts it:
"Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the temple, and became the new door through which to come to God. People no longer had to come to the temple and offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. Now they would come to the new Temple – Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all who would trust in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are told that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – the place in which He dwells...."
"A believer’s mission is not to obey the Ten Commandments – that is old covenant thinking and it proved inadequate (which was its purpose). A believer’s mission is to ..."
be moved by the Holy Spirit as described in Ezekiel 36:27 "And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." The difference in these missions is about intent. The new covenant is not about virtue signaling, compliance or works for self gain, rather, it's about love: "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for entering & reigning over our hearts & letting your Kingdom come through us to Earth as it is in Heaven. Lord, please help me up when I am discouraged about injustice & evil and when I don't see actionable ways Christianity is flourishing. When I'm concerned wondering where & how is your Holy Spirit moving us? When I am blind to the Kingdom's expansion & fortification by your grace, power & glory Lord, please clear my vision & place me safely wherever you want me. Equip me Father with all the fruits of the Spirit I need.
I Lord, do not know much yet about all this but YOU know & I trust you. You are always working your good & divine, almighty plan. Your love holds us steady in Faith & I thank you. Come Holy Spirit, come! Please Lord, banish everything that obstructs the Holy Spirit from fully filling, purifying, refining & moving all Christians to do YOUR will on Earth as it is in Heaven. Lord, I pray that the Holy Spirit moves deeply & undoubtedly into the hearts & lives of those who do not yet know you personally & those who have gone astray. God, please leave the ninety nine to reunite one more lost sheep as you did with me. I pray all this in Jesus precious name. Amen!
"The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 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, 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. 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." (1 Kings 3:10-13)
Solomon's request is not for self gain but assists him greatly with serving others in the way God wants him to do. Thank you God for directing me to keep studying & surrendering to your will with all I've got. Your grace is sufficient for me. Your POWER is made perfect in my weakness....
Lord, please continue to fill me with YOUR love & motivation, especially when I don't see the bigger picture or your plan for my life. Where are you carrying me Lord? Why am I so often so tired that my body & brain hurt? Even though the pain is difficult Lord, I trust that out of my situation must come something good or you wouldn't make it so. The Good that is coming out of my illness is not personal gain or comfort, rather it is for others who need it more than I do now because I already have the ultimate good, amen!
I am reminded of the preacher, Nick Vujicic's prayer & realization "God, please give me arms & legs. But if you don't give me arms & legs, change my heart; renew my mind..." - "If God doesn't change my circumstance, he's going to use my life to be a miracle for someone else."
If God miraculously gave Nick arms & legs, he wouldn't attract the specific attention that he does nor would he touch as deeply, others with disabilities. Likewise for me, even with less physical energy, God is inspiring a whole lot of prayer & loving through me (probably that's why I am so tired out, phew), amen & praise the Lord!
***Check out @jamc0808 on Instagram for more of my photography, Bible inspired art & reflections***
These are King David's last words of delight & warning before building an altar to the Lord, charging his son Solomon 'to walk in His ways...' & dying after 40 years of rule over Israel.
David transformed from a boy shepherd into a great warrior leader by following & fearing God. A healthy sense of fear towards The Almighty & Incomprehensible is only natural. With his elaborate songs of praise, David shows that fear of the Lord culminates into awe & reverence when the personally loving force of God is wholeheartedly pursued.
Not without sin, David confesses his wrongs & accepts God's correction. All his protection, successes & gifts ('first light' & 'fresh rain' etc.), David repeatedly publicly expresses thanksgiving to God for with beautiful poetry. How cool would it be if today's leaders did this? David's 'entire salvation' is his every desire & promise fulfilled by God. Amen!
"For Thou art my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness....The word of the Lord is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him."
(2 Samuel 22:29 & 31).
God offers everyone the ultimate free gift: eternal relationship with Christ! Why some people forever resist this supernatural love & protection is puzzling to me. Yet from my own experience, I see that acceptance of God's gift - belief in Jesus & faith in the Gospel, evolves. It seems that people go through a stage of fading belief & interest due to reasons that are probably similar to why some people never believe. For examples, life's atrocities & challenges ("How could a loving God..."); unanswered prayers & questions; other things & relationships (idols) made priority; adoption of the mainstream-reductionist, analytical worldview.
People in disbelief or the 'estranged' stage of faith are either unable to experience the real life magic of Christ or integrate these experiences with their reality and rather than facing the dissonance, they focus on other aspects of life.
All the while, God orchestrates that which has us turn towards Him & say "Yes please, thank you God." When we choose to be close enough to hear God, he uses what only he can see in peoples' hearts to guide us. God makes a way, but in this fallen (from God's grace) world, it's often not an easy or pain free way towards His goal of one heart & mind. For instance like when the Lord ensured that Saul & 3000 of Saul's soldiers who were hunting David stay soundly asleep while David showed up Saul!
Forevermore, I'll be relaxing & trusting God not only when life is "good" but especially through difficult times. I'm reading God's word, learning, listening, praying & enjoying God's gift of the living presence of Jesus that keeps on giving :) Amen!
"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God..." (Ruth 1:16)
As bleak as things were after the deaths of her father & brother in laws and of her own husband, why did Ruth insist on staying with Naomi? What made Ruth so sure that being with Naomi was the right thing for her to do? It seems that it would have been more reasonable for her stay in Moab, as her sister did, to find another husband.
As with much in the Bible, we can speculate and pray for understanding, but we can't know Ruth's thought process (without being able to ask her). Was Ruth's decision impulsive or well reasoned & planned or somewhere in between, guided by God? Ruth certainly didn't hem and haw over this major choice point in her life, which leaves me wondering, when a tough choice is easy to make, is it preordained? Ruth's strong commitment to her family by marriage lead to an 'out of the ordinary' type of union between her and Boaz which eventually (31 generations later) lead to the magnificent birth of Jesus. I know ... wow, right? AMEN!
What does it mean to serve God? Obeying God's commandments & helping those in need, right? What if instead of serving God, we've become overly focused on looking good & doing the right thing? What if instead of actually serving God, we serve only our own comfort, security, success, happiness for our loved ones, prestige and power, so much so that we forget about God?
What if while serving God, we lose our way, buried within the vast array of technological distractions or fall prey to other addictions? What if we get caught in the frenzy of the times, bowing only to the 'sensible' gods of science, politics & skepticism so obediently that our hearts close in denial of the wisdom of the Word of God? What if instead of serving God - the Breath of Life - with moment by moment praise & devotion, instead we serve the gods of productivity and busyness? How much can God delight & fill us in the last five minutes of fading attention we offer up in prayer and service before drifting off to sleep? Amen.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong & courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) ~ When I am resting still and silently, I do a meditation in which I imagine/remember and feel myself within the infinity of God. Like a organelle within a cell of the 'body' of God/Christ. Its a pretty cool way to connect with the creator of this universe especially when I'm not feeling well. Just as organelles follow the commands of their environment, all brought into being and orchestrated by the natural order of God, I'm like that also, following God's instructions being strong and courageous through difficulties. P.S. This is a photo I took today :) Amen!
I love being curious and inspired to learn more about God when I don't understand something in the Bible. In this verse, it says God does not show partiality but yet many other verses say he shows favor. What do these mean and what is the difference?
Here in Isaiah 45:5-8, God confirms that he is it, the one and only:
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you (this is favor), though you have not acknowledged me so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me..." (God bestows us strength when we acknowledge that our strength comes from God alone. I sense this is referring especially to spiritual strength as well as physical strength).
"I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." (This is non partiality)
You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it." (this is just awesomeness)
Another example of non partiality is from Matthew 5:45
"That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
Psalms 5:12 describes what it feels like to surrender to God's will. God's favor does not guarantee an easy life or material prosperity but God's protection abounds especially through suffering and physical death.
"Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."
Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds me it really is such a blessing from God to have an awareness of God! Not everyone has this...yet, but everyone is capable of it because God put it into each of us as he formed us. The power of my words in prayer connects the godless with God:
Lord, I pray for those who do not have any sense of you, for those who have been deterred from developing their relationship with you and for those who have turned to other gods instead of you. I pray that you come to each of them, bringing the wisdom, peace and strength of your eternal love and they accept you as the God of gods and Lord of lords in their lives. In Jesus name, Amen.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."
Balaam shows us that with his mind, he can not see the angel of the Lord but his donkey (which represents his body) not only sees the angel but becomes the voice of the Lord's message. People often stay overly focused on worldly pursuits and ultimately discontented because “The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So why not read The Word as if you believe and see what happens?
As I consistently commit to God in tangible ways, my connection with His will strengthens. Fairly often this seems slow and invisible, like growing roots of a tree, nevertheless, I feel it. But do my actions & in-actions further God's Kingdom -- whether I'm supporting a loved one, making art or I'm held up by debilitating symptoms, or repenting my sins? Starting each day with prayer "Lord please fill & fuel me with your divine purpose" makes it all for something, sharing God's forgiveness, holiness and eternal life.
"... this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) Amen.
It's amazing to read the details of the old laws in Leviticus. Life back then centered around making offerings for guilt and sin, to be cleansed and acceptable to the Lord, holy and to be honored always. And to think, all these rules carried a much lighter load compared to the alternative of human sacrifice and slavery.
And these days, thank God for Christ whose blood through death cleanses away all sin - we are spoiled! As Jesus said "...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30). No animals to slaughter, just believe Jesus is the son of God, ask for forgiveness and it is given along with eternal life. Amen.
p.s. if you have trouble believing, ask God to help you with it. Ask God to open your heart, mind to the presence of Jesus.
I am writing this blog to highlight Bible verses that I experience as especially healing and relevant for daily guidance. My journeys in life have been truly amazing. Chronic illness with ME/CFS, as difficult as it is, continues to take me wild and loving places for healing.