“I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the LORD. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes.” - Proverbs 1:24-31
"God hears us when we call" - We sing about this. We hear it in sermons. We read it in the Bible. We know this even though sometimes in the heat of the moment we may have our doubts. However, when you read Proverbs 1, you may go "Whoa, wait a minute! THAT's in the Bible?" Yes. It is. The idea that God would laugh at someone in their time of trouble, that He deliberately would not answer when we call out for Him is shocking!
And yet it's not. Think this through - when a kid takes for granted that "Daddy will cover it - I can go ahead and do what I want" its a case of counting on "premeditated forgiveness" as in:
Read the passage again and notice a couple things:
Today, think it through. Listen when He offers direction and correction. If you push Him away thinking you can call on Him later after you've "done your thing" then as the old saying goes - "You've got another thing coming".
“In addition, the crews of Hiram and Solomon brought gold from Ophir, and they also brought red sandalwood and precious jewels. The king used the sandalwood to make steps for the Temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and to construct lyres and harps for the musicians. Never before had such beautiful things been seen in Judah.” - 2 Chronicles 9:10-11
So here's a thought to start your day: Just because something looks good now doesn't mean it will stay that way. The story of Solomon looks great if you just glance at it:
See that last part is the rub - things looked great... for a bit. They had the very best stuff they ever had as a people (verse 11 says "Never before had such beautiful things been seen in Judah.") We like nice stuff, don't we? The problem is, their illustrious prosperity-generating-ruler was about to lead them down a dark path of idolatry and even government sanctioned worship that would involve child sacrifice (see Leviticus 20:1-5 and 1 Kings 11:1-11).
Today there's a simple two word reminder for this SPARK: WATCH OUT! Watch out that you don't value prosperity and nice things so much that you go down the wrong road without even noticing. Watch out for evaluating opportunities and people by the allure of the good things they can provide when God's things may end up getting left behind. Watch out for the way nice stuff feels very "now" and decline often happens so slowly we don't notice until the damage is done.
Solomon was wise - in fact in Ecclesiastes he makes a point of bragging about how wise he'd become, all while 1 Kings tells us he was rapidly losing his moral compass and leading the nation to ruin. Today, you need to aim for better eyesight than the "wise guy". Don't get blinded by short term "shiny-stuff" - Keep your eyes on God's bigger picture.
SPARK... and let the rest burn.
“If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far away or near. But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.” - 2 Chronicles 6:36-37
We like encouragements but aren't so excited about warnings, nevertheless here is one for you today. Solomon prayed the words above at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, and did you see what he prophetically said? Read it again, and you will notice that he describes EXACTLY what happened to Israel and Judah a couple hundred years later: they had turned away from God, and He allowed their enemies to conquer them and then take them away in exile. Solomon had a sense of something dangerous in their future... but didn't have sense enough to recognize how his own actions would set it all in motion. A few years after Solomon prayed this remarkable prayer asking God for mercy on future generations, Solomon turned sharply away from God through a series of poor choices which the Lord repeatedly warned him not to make. The wrongs Solomon embraced sowed the seeds of that captivity that would envelop their entire nation. He's asking God to show mercy for something he would actually cause.
Today, thank God for his mercy and great grace ABSOLUTELY. But with your thanks, how about adding a big dose of humility by asking Him to help you listen and obey His voice this week. Only fools believe in "Easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission." Forgiveness involves pain, damage, and the long slow task of rebuilding. It's far better to pay attention on the front and stay on track. If you get a glimpse of what might go wrong spiritually, morally, ethically - then ask God to help you go the right way. His forgiveness is already out there - what we need is for our obedience to be right here.
Father, thank You for being here when we fall - but help us remember that You'd prefer to help us stand in the first place!
Spark - ouch, that's hot.
“There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!” - 1 Kings 8:5
So here's a lesson from history long ago: King Solomon was leading the nation of Israel as they were getting ready to dedicate their awesome new temple. It was an striking scene and so full of grand celebration that they people couldn't even keep track of it all! And in the middle of reading about the massive amounts of sacrifices they were making, my thoughts drift back to the words of the prophet who first mentored Israel's original king. Samuel was speaking to King Saul and told him these words:
““What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” - 1 Samuel 15.22
Solomon's big moment would be forgotten in the wrongs he would later do (check out 1 Kings 11:4-11) and in how much damage he would do to their nation. All this show ended up being meaningless as what he did in the long run overruled what he did in this moment.
I hope that today you will consider that: You are more than a moment - for better or worse. In a moment you can make big promises but its what you do day after day that determines if they come true. Conversely, in a moment you can also fail miserably and think all is lost but if you get up and walk on, there may be hope yet.
You are more than a moment.
I happen to own the best cat in the world. I mean it, there are no other cats like him. However, I grew up with several dogs, and while I don’t consider myself strictly a “dog person”, I truly love them as well. One interesting thing about dogs is their awareness of their own stature, and the sense that they will accommodate their attitude to project a larger presence. Big dogs? Awesome. They know their size and are all good. Small dogs- Yippy dogs? Uggh. Totally ridden with Complex, they know they are too small to take down anything, but they sure will snip at your ankles until you are persuaded to give them what they want. It paints an interesting picture of the effectiveness of the devil. He can’t really affect any eternal outcome; we are sealed in Christ and our salvation is secure. But that certainly doesn’t mean he won’t yip and snip at us, trying to get us to bend to his intentions.
Peter reminds us of just that (1Peter 5:8). “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”
Paul emphasizes that we are not to “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27). In theory, we could cast that aside and think, “well, that’s all he can get of us”, but be aware, be alert. He may only be snatching at your feet, but it might make you jump. Or maybe he’s got your heel, and you are turning in circles instead of heading forward on the straight path God intends for you. My point is this: he can’t affect the outcome, but he sure can weigh down your effectiveness.
So, with that said, as you are experiencing your day, know that the devil does yip and snip. See it for what it is, and don’t let him get you at the ankle. Remember who truely hasyou, the One who is holding you, and will never let you go. God’s got us, and rest assured that no amount of snipping changes that.
Psalm 46:7 says “The LORD of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Then, same chapter, verse 11 echoes it, “The LORD of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” So important, he said it twice.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance... The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16.7
Recently I had an odd encounter. After saying "Hi" and inquiring how an acquaintance was doing, their response was "Loving Jesus & changin' the world!" I laughed... and then the awkward silence set in. I heard someone else with a similar story (different person, same outcome) with the reply being "I'm living the dream - LIVING THE DREAM!" Again, it was followed by an awkward silence as, well, what does one say after something so cliche is given as a serious reply?
Sure, short punchy statements have their place (like Love God, Love People, Live Jesus!) but when you try to sound significant by distilling your existence in a single sentence, it just comes off flat. "Living the dream"... what dream? Whose dream? "Loving Jesus and changing the world"... how? For the better - I hope? There's a tendency to try to be this important, significant SOMEBODY by dressing yourself up or trying to sell people on this confident, self-assured image you want to project. For the record, God's not buying it - and probably not many people are either. While it is true that wearing one's insecurities on one's sleeve isn't particularly helpful either, there is definitely truth to the fact that God is looking for sincerity and authenticity. Who are you REALLY? Don't know? Unsure? Actually, most of us are in that same boat. But one thing is for sure: Trying to sell the world on your significance by a single cliche is a waste of time. Chasing people's favor and trying to appear powerful and popular is an empty enterprise.
The way up... is down. Humble yourself. Don't seek greatness. Hunger for holiness. Go after goodness. Cultivate Christlikeness. God looks at the heart. Give your attention to being more genuine and sincere rather than spouting soundbites - to pursuing what God says is worthwhile instead of buying into self-help's latest mantra. It'll payoff a lot more than trying to "live the dream".
Spark. Bonfire. Burn the trash. Keep the good.
“These were the descendants of Levi in their various families. Like the descendants of Aaron, they were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank.” - 1 Chronicles 24.30-31
The Bible has a recurring theme that God does things differently than we do. One of the ideas is that "My ways are higher..." and this passage in 1 Chronicles refers to this again. In our culture, we pay attention to certain things like image, prestige, position, wealth, the perception of power. There is a way that we "rank" people. In the culture of this passage, age was also considered as the elders were to be respected. And yet, here the Bible tells us of a time when people were being selected for positions of great responsibility, and the usual considerations were set aside.
Today, maybe you need to press the PAUSE button on your usual expectations about who is qualified or should be chosen. Perhaps the Lord is up to something unusual and has a fresh path forward. There may be a certain logic to doing things the way you've always done them, but perhaps today the Lord wants something different - "...without regard to age or rank". Be open to letting Him do something different in His own unique way!
Spark... from an unexpected source.
“The king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!” Nathan replied to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that same night the LORD said to Nathan,” - 2 Samuel 7:2-4
Here’s a good lesson for today! Notice that David, a man after gods own heart, had a spiritual leader that he listened to… But God said something different than the Leader did!
Here’s the simple starting point for your week: sure, it’s great to have spiritual people that you draw inspiration and advice from. However, it is never a substitute for you hearing gods voice for yourself! It’s absolutely right to check with others to make sure that you’re not getting adrift – sure. But just as real, is the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to you.
Trust God today! Listen for his voice! Well-meaning people may share what makes sense to them… good advice isn’t always God advice! You are his, and you know his voice, (Jesus said so in John 10) so listen to Him today!
Dare to Compare
Which is bigger- a chair or a car? Answer: the car is bigger. What about a house, is the car bigger or smaller? Answer: smaller. But how can that be if the car is defined as being bigger? Of course, the explanation is that it depends on what you compare the item to, but that is a bit of a problem for us as humans, and Christians. We compare ourselves to each other and then define ourselves accordingly. Some days we end up A+ Awesome, then come crashing down because we ran into someone who does the same, but is nicer, more attractive, and has a better relationship with their spouse – or their mother. Or they do more things for their church, community, or… mother. Maybe they suck at personal relationships, and we are back to feeling Awesome again. Point is, we are not meant to live in that instability of circumstantial comparison.
One of the most difficult things for us as individuals to comprehend is God’s love for us. Now I don’t mean that it is a complicated concept, but the stark contradiction of his relationship vs. human tendency makes us want to question and put contingencies on it.
“Well, maybe God loves me, but only compared to his feelings towards murderers. – Oh wait, he loves them too. Okay, well maybe then when compared to the most wretched person imaginable – Chief of All Sinners (see what I did there, lol). Oh wait, the bible says that it’s all sin in God’s eyes.” (See Rom. 3:23 and Jas 2:10)
So, the answer is this: God loves you just as you are, regardless of where you are, because it is the way he says it is. There is no comparison. He sent his beloved son, not so that he could love us again, but because he already does love us. (See Jn. 3:16 and Jn. 15:13)
Sometimes we think Christ died for God’s benefit.
“We messed it up, so therefore God had to do something so that he could look at us again.” (Insert age-old Christianese of “God can’t look at sin”)
Truth is, his position on loving us has NEVER changed. There was never a “bigger” or “smaller”, it just was. What a beautiful gift! Let it free you today. You are wholly loved by God. Always have been, always will be.
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised;”
- Psalm 56.8-10
Good morning! As you start this new day in this new week, here is a reminder for you: God is on your side! He knows everything you’ve been through, and everything you’re going through. Remember what he has promised. “I will never leave you and forsake you.” He keeps track of all your sorrows, and is paying attention. What He promises, He will do. You are not alone. You are defended.
Short. Sweet. Should warm the heart… Spark!