Archive for December, 2018

1 Kings 11:14-25

Solomon’s Enemies

Yesterday, we talked about, basically, staying hungry for the will of God rather than self-seeking. Here, in this passage, we see that, though Israel was still a mighty power at this point, the beginning of the end of the Davidic-Solomonic empire was about to crumble from within. Even though there were enemies developing on numerous fronts, Israel became preoccupied with itself, as evidenced by what will happen in the next passages. It is kind of a look at where we are in the United States at present.

We have been spoiled by our own opulence since World War II ended that the hard work, dedication, and a collective belief that God had blessed us has given way to a sense of entitlement, lack of concern the future, and a sense that we can believe anything and do anything we want. I am not saying that there were not great flaws in our nation prior to the present era. There sure were. However, we seem now to be so much more preoccupied with self than we have ever been. We live in a world now in the USA where we manufacture less and less and we desire to entertain ourselves more and more. We used to be a country that made everything that the world uses as consumer products and now we import more manufactured goods than we export. We are preoccupied with the entertaining ourselves, taking vacations, working less, playing more, sacrificing less, spending more. Could we now in the 21st century make the same sacrifices that our nation collectively made during World War II? It was Khrushchev, the Soviet leader from the mid-50’s to the mid-60’s, who said that United States would be defeated from within without the Soviets firing a shot. It most likely will happen that way.

The same decay from within while enemies abound was the ultimate undoing of the Roman Empire. The world’s greatest empire was once an advancing force that took the world by storm, literally. However, at some point they lost their will to be a great power. They became so concerned with their own comfort that they started building a wall around their empire beginning with Emperor Hadrian. The intrigue and politics and the self-seeking within the empire was its undoing. The conquered lands were increasing taxed to support the opulent lifestyles of Rome and Rome became so out of touch with what was going on in the world that the military suffered for it. More concern was who would be emperor and who had power. More concern was opulent lifestyles rather keeping the country strong.

Every nation seems to go through these stages of development. At some point, we become spoiled by our success and stray from what made us great and become more concerned about entertaining ourselves and with political intrigue rather than continuing to maintain the leadership position of the nation. In Israel’s case, they began straying from God beginning with Solomon himself. Rome became self-centered and it defeated them too. America, once a nation collectively devoted to God in general, is now similar to past empires where our own opulence has become our god and not the God.

That’s the thing that I thought about this morning as I read about the developing enemies of Israel in 1 Kings 11:14-25. There is such a pattern that repeats itself in mankind’s history. When we have success we tend to begin to think it’s because of us and they we are entitled to it. Let’s read the passage now:

14 Then the Lord raised up Hadad the Edomite, a member of Edom’s royal family, to be Solomon’s adversary. 15 Years before, David had defeated Edom. Joab, his army commander, had stayed to bury some of the Israelite soldiers who had died in battle. While there, they killed every male in Edom. 16 Joab and the army of Israel had stayed there for six months, killing them.

17 But Hadad and a few of his father’s royal officials escaped and headed for Egypt. (Hadad was just a boy at the time.) 18 They set out from Midian and went to Paran, where others joined them. Then they traveled to Egypt and went to Pharaoh, who gave them a home, food, and some land. 19 Pharaoh grew very fond of Hadad, and he gave him his wife’s sister in marriage—the sister of Queen Tahpenes. 20 She bore him a son named Genubath. Tahpenes raised him[a] in Pharaoh’s palace among Pharaoh’s own sons.

21 When the news reached Hadad in Egypt that David and his commander Joab were both dead, he said to Pharaoh, “Let me return to my own country.”

22 “Why?” Pharaoh asked him. “What do you lack here that makes you want to go home?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “But even so, please let me return home.”

23 God also raised up Rezon son of Eliada as Solomon’s adversary. Rezon had fled from his master, King Hadadezer of Zobah, 24 and had become the leader of a gang of rebels. After David conquered Hadadezer, Rezon and his men fled to Damascus, where he became king. 25 Rezon was Israel’s bitter adversary for the rest of Solomon’s reign, and he made trouble, just as Hadad did. Rezon hated Israel intensely and continued to reign in Aram.

In this passage, we see that circumstances began building up to threaten the peace of Israel. Because of Solomon’s arrogance toward God, He began allowing enemies to develop that could threaten the stability of Israel. God permitted Hadad, through the impulse of his own ambition, or revenge, to attack Israel. During the war of extermination, which Joab carried on in Edom (2 Samuel 8:13), this Hadad, of the royal family, a mere boy when rescued from the sword of the ruthless conqueror, was carried into Egypt, hospitably entertained, and became allied with the house of the Egyptian king.

Later, the thought of his native land and his lost kingdom taking possession of his mind, he, on learning the death of David and Joab, renounced the ease, possessions, and glory of his Egyptian residence, to return to Edom and attempt the recovery of his ancestral throne. The movements of this prince seem to have given much annoyance to the Hebrew government; but as he was defeated by the numerous and strong garrisons planted throughout the Edomite territory, Hadad seems to have offered his services to Rezon, another of Solomon’s adversaries (1 Kings 11:23-25). This man, who had been general of Hadadezer and, on the defeat of that great king, had successfully withdrawn a large force, went into the wilderness, led a predatory life, like Jephthah, David, and others, on the borders of the Syrian and Arabian deserts.

Then, having acquired great power, he at length became king in Damascus, threw off the yoke, and was “the adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon.” He was succeeded by Hadad, whose successors took the official title of Ben-hadad from him, the illustrious founder of the powerful kingdom of Damascene-Syria. These hostile neighbors, who had been long kept in check by the traditional fame of David’s victories, took courage; and breaking out towards the latter end of Solomon’s reign, they must have not only disturbed his kingdom by their inroads, but greatly crippled his revenue by stopping his lucrative traffic with Tadmor and the Euphrates.

In the meantime, with these enemies developing everywhere, Israel became so self-involved to the point that the kingdom split into. Israel was more concerning with what was going on inside the kingdom than what was happening outside the kingdom. There was an old song by Don Henley called “All She Wants to Do Is Dance”. It was an indictment of the American desire for its own opulence and entertainment while not caring about what is going on around us in the world. That was where Israel was at, at this point in her development. It is where America is now.

It is where we can get in our walk with the Lord. We can become complacent and think we have arrived. We can think we no longer have to grow and that’s when we are susceptible to the siren’s song of Satan. We can think we know it all and start to become our own gods. It happened to Solomon. It can happen to each of us. We must remember that our success comes from God and not because of us. We must remember to cling to God in the good times as well as the bad. Why is it that we tend to stray from God the most when we have success? Help us Lord to remember that you are the source for us in good times and in the bad. Especially help us to remember that in the good times.

Amen and Amen. en we have

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1 Kings 11:1-13 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon’s Many Wives

Each morning as Elena and I descend the stairs from our bedroom down to our kitchen. We have a vision statement of sorts painted on the wall of the staircase. It says “It’s not about me!” It is a daily reminder that we are here to serve the Lord. This being our first full-time ministry position, we need the reminder because your first full-time ministry position is a huge learning experience always. “It’s not about me” is our mantra as we grow and learn. This vision statement helps remind us of why we are here. It’s about Him and following Him and obeying Him and being made more useful in His kingdom. This vision statement keeps us focused.

Vision statements. They are everywhere in the corporate world. They are everywhere in growing churches nowadays. Whether it is in the secular world or in Christian organizations, vision statements are meaningless unless they become part of the culture of the organization. Vision statements are only effective if they are lived out. It was author, Lynn Anderson, who once said,

“About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?”

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.  

The Apostle Paul had a clear vision of what his business was to be about. It was the laser focus of his life. Just as the Pilgrims initially had a clear vision of coming to America to establish a world where they could worship freely, Paul had a vision that led his life. Unlike the Pilgrims who lost their vision due to becoming comfortable, Paul’s vision led him to discomfort and death. However, nothing was more pleasing to Paul than living the vision given him by our Lord and Savior.

On this occasion, recorded in Acts 26, the new Roman governor Festus, invited Agrippa to Caesarea to hear Paul’s case. So Paul stood before Agrippa and again recited the story of the great events which occurred on the road to Damascus. The voice of the Lord directed Paul to rise to his feet and to bear witness to Christ among all people. He was to carry the life-giving Word throughout his world.

In Acts 26:19, Paul gave this testimony to King Agrippa: ” So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Ya know…If Paul was a corporation, his vision statement would have been on his desk. It would have been in every conference room. It would have been brought up in every meeting. Paul, Inc. was all about this heavenly mission statement. In today’s church, we need to remind ourselves daily of Paul’s heavenly vision statement so that it defines us, sets the agenda for what we do and to keep our passion alive. Otherwise, we lose our way. We forget what we are here for. We are not here for what’s in here. We’re here for what’s out there.

Where I serve as a staff pastor, our vision is “loving people to life” in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, He is blessing us with new people being drawn unto Christ. There is not one person on our staff that thinks we have arrived at some destination where we can relax. We, collectively, have an earnest desire to assist the Lord in what He is doing in our church. We may not always do it right. We make mistakes. None on our staff has got this thing fully figured out. But the passion is there in all of us. God has a purpose for our church in our city at this time in history and we take that pretty darn seriously. Even though our church is growing and people are becoming more and more mature in their walk with Christ, the work will never be done. We keep pushing and striving until the Lord says we are done when He returns.

That’s what I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 11:1-13 – how we as Christians and how we as groups of believers called the local church can lose our way because we begin focusing inwardly rather than outwardly. That is what happened to Solomon. He lost focus on God and began pleasing himself rather than pleasing God. Let’s read about it now:

Chapter 11

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. 2 The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. 3 He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech,[a] the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.

7 On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem,[b] he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods.

9 The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. 11 So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. 12 But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. 13 And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.”

In this passage, we see that Solomon’s powerful and glorious kingdom could have been blessed for all time. Instead, it was approaching its end. Solomon had God’s promises, guidance, and answers to prayer, yet he allowed sin to remain all around him. Eventually, it corrupted him so much that he was no longer interested in pursuing God. Psalm 127:1, which was written by Solomon, says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Solomon had begun by laying the foundation with God, but he did not follow through in his later years. As a result, he lost everything. It is not enough to get off to a right start in our walk with Jesus Christ, we must remain faithful to the end. God must be in control of our lives from start to finish.

We must continue to be humble before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to chisel us daily more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Salvation is just the beginning. Sanctification is a daily journey that does not end until we are taken from this world to meet Jesus in heaven. It is only then that we can rest. On this side of heaven, we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us daily where we need to submit our will to the Lord and submit the desires of the flesh to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The same is true for us as local collections of believers that we call the local church. We must never feel as though our job is finished as a local church. We must never think that we have arrived. You read about churches closing their doors daily. There are scores of churches closing their doors each year. Why? Because they once had a great love of connecting with the world around them and sharing the gospel in real life, in real time, with real people with real hurts and needs and somewhere along the way these closing churches lost that vision and began focusing on themselves and taking on an “us in here” vs. “them out there” mentality.

In Acts 26:12-20, Paul is given his vison by which he lived by for the remainder of his life:

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.

Without vision, Paul focused on inwardly on achieving his checklist of ever increasing religiousness…that is until He met Christ…

(Philippians 3:4-8) though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c] blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Without vision, we focus inwardly. Them out there vs. Us in here. We focus on entertaining ourselves. Jesus was out there not in here:

(Matthew 9:11-13) And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

We must capture Paul’s vision that Jesus gave him

  • To open eyes
  • To turn them from darkness to light
  • To turn them from the power of Satan
  • To tell them of forgiveness in Christ

To open, to turn, to tell – these are all verbs. To open, to turn, to tell. Verbs indicate action. The indicate action of performed by a subject. Plain and simple, we must go. It started with Jesus (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. At His command, it is to continue through us – (Matthew 28:19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Notice there is a command to take action. We must go. We must go into the world. They will not come to us. It was Solomon himself who said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

Paul had a vision. Vision gives purpose. The vision given Paul. The vision given us should guide us. What kind Christ follower do you and I want to be? What kind of local church do we want to be? Christ gave Paul a vision and it is one that Paul passes on to us:

  • To open eyes,
  • To turn them from darkness to light
  • To turn them from the power of Satan
  • To tell them of forgiveness in Christ

That is what we are here for. That’s the vision. For it is the desire to continue running the race and it is time for us to be called home to be with Christ. The race is never finished until that time. We must continue to be humble before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to mature us so that we can be more effectively used for His work. We have a job to do here. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. It’s about the vision:

  • To open eyes,
  • To turn them from darkness to light
  • To turn them from the power of Satan
  • To tell them of forgiveness in Christ

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 11:1-13

Solomon’s Many Wives

As we approach this Saturday, many of you who are college football fans know that the College Football Playoff semi-final games are this Saturday afternoon and evening. As many of you know, I am a passionate fan of the Clemson Tigers. My Tigers are the #2 seed in the four team playoff. The Tigers are making their fourth straight appearance in the playoffs (that are now in their fifth year). These are heady times to be a Tiger fan. We are experience the second great stretch of success for the Tigers that I have experienced in my lifetime. The first during my lifetime was during the 1977-1991 time frame where the team finished in the top 15 every single year (some years in the top 10 and winning a national championship for the 1981 season). But that has been nothing compared to this era of success that began in 2011. We have won at least 10 games every season beginning in 2011 and have finished in the top ten all of those years. Hear in the last four years we have finished in the top 5 every single year and won another national championship in 2016. We have made the national championship game in two of those four years. It’s a great time to be a Tiger fan.

This year as we approach the semi-final game, we will play Notre Dame. Both teams are undefeated. It will be the toughest game of the year so far for the Tigers. Notre Dame has a talented offense and a great defense to match our equally talented offense and great defense. It will be a battle. When you have two teams that are equal like this, the point of the other team is going to be to find the weakness of the other team’s offense or defense. The thing that Notre Dame will try to do is exploit our defense’s weakness, which is our secondary. Their deficiencies have been covered up most of the year by the superstars that the Tigers have on their defensive line and linebackers. Opposing teams do not often have time to let long pass plays develop against the rush of the Tigers. However, we have seen against South Carolina that if given time to throw, opposing quarterbacks can expose the weakness of our secondary. The Gamecocks, though they lost to us by 3 touchdowns, exposed our secondary as being weak against talented receivers.

That is my fear for Saturday’s game. Although Clemson has a great defense overall and is one of the best in the nation, the defense is only as good as it weakest part. Against Notre Dame, who has the best set of wide receivers that we will face so far this year and they have a good offensive line, Notre Dame will get some shots downfield. Will the Tiger’s secondary rise to the occasion or will they be the reason we get beat? Although Clemson is a double-digit favorite to win the game, the secondary of my Tigers against Notre Dame’s receivers scares me after watching an average Gamecock team torch them for 4 long touchdown passes in that rivalry game.

That’s what I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 11:1-13. Just as the great Clemson defense (ranked in the top 5 in all defensive categories) has its weakness (its secondary), Solomon’s weakness was his lust for women. It ultimately led him down a path that would ultimately destroy his nation. Let’s read about his weak spot now:

Chapter 11

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. 2 The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. 3 He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech,[a] the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.

7 On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem,[b] he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods.

9 The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. 11 So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. 12 But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. 13 And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.”

In this passage, we see that, although Solomon had clear instructions from God not to marry women from foreign nations, he chose to disregard God’s commands. He married not one but many foreign wives, who subsequently led him away from God. God knows our strengths and weaknesses. His commands are always for our good. When people ignore God’s commands, negative consequences inevitably result. It is not enough to know God’s Word and believe it, this belief cannot exist in a vacuum. It cannot exist only in our minds. We must apply it to our daily activities and decisions. Take God’s commands seriously. Like Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, according to God’s Word, we are not as strong as we may think.

For all his wisdom, Solomon had some weak spots. He could not say no to compromise resulting from lustful desires. Whether he married to strengthen political alliances or to gain personal pleasure, these foreign wives led him into idolatry. You may have strong faith, but you, just as everyone else, have areas of weakness – and it is in our weak spots that temptation usually strikes. Strengthen and protect yourself where you are weak because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If Solomon, in all his glorious wisdom can fall, so can we.

So just I worry about the Clemson secondary in Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, I should and you should examine ourselves for those spiritual weak spots. Those areas that we are sinning and rationalize it away. Those areas that we entertain sins in our minds but have not yet sinned. Those areas where we have turned away from sin from our past but still have a soft spot for that type of sin. What are the areas that you, as a Christ follower, know that you have a sin weakness. Steel yourself against your weak spot. Confess your weak spot to a valued confidant. Confess where you are weak. They can help you avoid situations in which you would be tempted to take the dive. Solomon did not have such a friend or either he did not listen to them. It ended up crushing his nation. Will your life be crushed by your weakness area? Let us each go to the Lord and ask that He steel us against the temptations for our favorite sin, our weak spot. Ask Him to take it from us and help avoid Satan’s siren song about these sins. Let us call on God and fellow Christians to help us remain strong and protect our witness to the world around us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 10:14-29

Solomon’s Wealth and Splendor

The prosperity gospel, as it is known in theological circles, is the current trend of certain evangelists that teaches that God wants to bless you and bestow wealth in health, finances, and family relationships. To obtain these things, you have to have the right amount of faith. If you are not being prospered by God in some way, you simply do not have enough faith. It is also marked by a compulsion to give financially to your chosen church or ministry. It is a divine payback plan when you think of it. According to the prosperity gospel, your giving will be paid back with prosperity granted by God. The more you give, the more you are blessed, according to the prosperity gospel.

The prosperity gospel is a perversion of the gospel of Jesus that claims that God rewards increases in faith with increases in health and/or wealth. As Stephen Hunt explains, In the forefront is the doctrine of the assurance of “divine” physical health and prosperity through faith. In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.

One writer, David W. Jones says, “In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because of its faulty view of the relationship between God and man. Simply put, if the prosperity gospel is true, grace is obsolete, God is irrelevant, and man is the measure of all things. Whether they’re talking about the Abrahamic covenant, the atonement, giving, faith, or prayer, prosperity teachers turn the relationship between God and man into a quid pro quo transaction.”

Obviously, the danger here is that if you start suffering in some way, either in health, relationships, or in your finances, the prosperity gospel says you do not have enough faith and you are not giving enough. Your investment in God is not good enough. There is a tie-in between things going good in your life and your investment in God. Life simply does not work that way in a fallen world. There no tie-in between things going well in our lives and the amount of faith we have or the amount of money we give away.

We all can agree that the prosperity gospel is flawed theology that is rampant in our midst these days. It is appealing for sure. And passages like this one often make you scratch your head. In 1 Kings 10:14-29, we see Solomon being mightily blessed by God. If there is no prosperity gospel, then, how do we explain Solomon’s blessings. Let’s read through the passage and then think on this a bit:

14 Each year Solomon received about 25 tons[a] of gold. 15 This did not include the additional revenue he received from merchants and traders, all the kings of Arabia, and the governors of the land.

16 King Solomon made 200 large shields of hammered gold, each weighing more than fifteen pounds.[b] 17 He also made 300 smaller shields of hammered gold, each weighing nearly four pounds.[c] The king placed these shields in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.

18 Then the king made a huge throne, decorated with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps and a rounded back. There were armrests on both sides of the seat, and the figure of a lion stood on each side of the throne. 20 There were also twelve other lions, one standing on each end of the six steps. No other throne in all the world could be compared with it!

21 All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver, for silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day!

22 The king had a fleet of trading ships of Tarshish that sailed with Hiram’s fleet. Once every three years the ships returned, loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.[d]

23 So King Solomon became richer and wiser than any other king on earth. 24 People from every nation came to consult him and to hear the wisdom God had given him. 25 Year after year everyone who visited brought him gifts of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules.

26 Solomon built up a huge force of chariots and horses.[e] He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He stationed some of them in the chariot cities and some near him in Jerusalem. 27 The king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees that grow in the foothills of Judah.[f] 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt[g] and from Cilicia[h]; the king’s traders acquired them from Cilicia at the standard price. 29 At that time chariots from Egypt could be purchased for 600 pieces of silver,[i] and horses for 150 pieces of silver.[j] They were then exported to the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram.

In this passage we must ask the question, “Why does the Bible place so much emphasis on Solomon’s material possessions?” In the Old Testament, riches were considered to be tangible evidence of God’s blessing. Prosperity was seen as a proof of right living. Solomon began to believe that he was the source of his own blessings. That he controlled God. That was the beginning of his downfall. In the books of Ecclesiastes and Job, this concept is placed in a broader perspective. In ideal conditions, people prosper when we submit our will to that of God and allow Him to have charge of our lives, but prosperity is not guaranteed. Wealth does not prove that a person is living right before God, and poverty does not indicate sin. In fact, it is often more evident that a person is living right before God when there is the presence of suffering and persecution (see Mark10:29-31). The most important treasure is not earthly but heavenly (Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). The gift of greatest worth has no price tag – it is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Paul warned Timothy about this type of “gospel” in 1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11. These men of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (v. 9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (v. 10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.

Thus, wealth may be a blessing but it has no relationship to our faith. We cannot earn our blessings. Some of the most faithful and earnestly God-seeking people I know are the least wealthy people I know. At the same token, I have also known great men of faith who have been mightily blessed by the Lord with talents that allow them much wealth. The key is not worshiping money whether you have it or not. They key is putting God first in your life and realizing that all things come from Him. If you are blessed financially, you should be so thankful that you use your wealth to bless others and further the cause of Christ, not out of compulsion but out of joy! If you are suffering, know that your faith in the Lord in your perseverance in the faith will be rewarded, if not in this lifetime, then, in heaven – the real reward for being faithful to God in good times and bad.

Amen and Amen. 0000 000000000

1 Kings 10:1-13

Visit of the Queen of Sheba

When people come visit your or my church, what will they find? They may have been invited by someone within our church. They may be friends with or the family of someone in the church. Just as possible is that they are complete strangers to the church. They felt compelled, by the Holy Spirit (though they might not recognize that fact), to visit the church. Maybe, they are going through a tough time and are seeking answers to life’s tough questions. Maybe, they have never been to church EVER but something the church did in the community impacted them and they just felt the need to “check out that church.” What will they find? What kind of church will they find?

Is it a church that is welcoming or is a divine country club? I have visited many churches over the years. Some churches you can visit and never get spoken to except by those assigned to speak to people. There was one church that I went to in California went I first moved out there in 2008 where I went there for 3 Sundays in a row and was never spoken to once at any of the three services. That’s an extreme example but you get the idea. Even if your church does its best to make people feel welcomed, we sometimes can make them feel like they are on the fringes and not part of the central core of the church.

Some churches, though, you get hugged and spoken to by virtually everyone you see. Some churches realize that if you are new that they don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Some churches make the new person feel at home. Members are taught to remember when they were new and taught to seek out new people that they see and not depend on those volunteers that are charged with greeting folks. Some churches express the idea that we are all greeters. What kind of church will guests find at your church? Will they find a welcoming church? Will they find a well-organized Sunday morning service from the street to the parking lot to the doors to the kids ministry to the gathering of saints before service to the worship to the preaching and do they feel loved and wanted after the service as well? What will they find at your church?

People are drawn by the Holy Spirit to your church – some for the very first time to church in their lives. What kind of church will they find? Will they be loved? Will they be cared for? Will they be challenged by the truth of God’s Word? Or will they find nothing different from the world outside? The church’s greatest witness is that it is different from the cutthroat world outside its doors. The church’s witness is the love and wisdom of its people. The church’s witness is the demonstration of the agape love of Christ for the world. Our church services from the parking lot to worship & preaching and back to the parking lot should so intrigue people that they will come back. Those people made me feel loved. Those people seem so genuine in their love for Jesus Christ. Those people are sincere about doing things first class to reflect their desire to please the Lord. Those people are sincere about making me a part of their fellowship. Those people are sincere about me no longer calling them “those people” and me start calling them “my people.” What kind of church will they find?

That’s how I related to today’s passage, 1 Kings 10:1-13, about the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon. She was drawn to visit Israel because she had heard how different Solomon was to the typical king. She was so intrigued that she had to see it for herself. It got me to thinking about new people visiting our churches and what they will find when they get there. Let’s read the passage now with that idea in mind.

Chapter 10

1 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honor to the name of the Lord,[a] she came to test him with hard questions. 2 She arrived in Jerusalem with a large group of attendants and a great caravan of camels loaded with spices, large quantities of gold, and precious jewels. When she met with Solomon, she talked with him about everything she had on her mind. 3 Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the queen of Sheba realized how very wise Solomon was, and when she saw the palace he had built, 5 she was overwhelmed. She was also amazed at the food on his tables, the organization of his officials and their splendid clothing, the cup-bearers, and the burnt offerings Solomon made at the Temple of the Lord.

6 She exclaimed to the king, “Everything I heard in my country about your achievements[b] and wisdom is true! 7 I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told. 8 How happy your people[c] must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! 9 Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.”

10 Then she gave the king a gift of 9,000 pounds[d] of gold, great quantities of spices, and precious jewels. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

11 (In addition, Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir, and they also brought rich cargoes of red sandalwood[e] and precious jewels. 12 The king used the sandalwood to make railings for the Temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and to construct lyres and harps for the musicians. Never before or since has there been such a supply of sandalwood.)

13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba whatever she asked for, besides all the customary gifts he had so generously given. Then she and all her attendants returned to their own land.

In this passage, we see that the Queen of Sheba came to see for herself if everything she had heard about Solomon was true. Although Solomon had flaws in his relationship with God that were already beginning to show, he still sincerely tried to follow God at this stage in his life. The Queen of Sheba marveled at Solomon and claimed that God must live His people Israel greatly to give them such a king. Israel greatly prospered under Solomon. It was a powerful witness to God’s power and love for His people. The Queen was overwhelmed by the extent of Solomon’s wisdom and God’s blessings upon him and his people. She marveled at the organization of his government as well. She was impressed and lavished praise upon Solomon and Israel. It is apparent that Sheba understood that this was not your average king and not your average kingdom. Many kings and kingdoms of this era had great wealth, but she did not go visit them. Such kings were unlike Solomon. Such kingdoms were unlike Israel.

So, what can we learn from this passage? It is that we as Christians and particular as the fellowship of Christians called the local church are the local reflection of Jesus Christ and people will be drawn to us by the Holy Spirit to check us out. Let us be different from the world! That’s what draws people unto Christ is that they have seen the world and tried the world’s ways and seek answers that they are not finding. The church should be different. It is Christ’s church not the world’s church. We should be so unique, so loving, so welcoming, so engaging, so different than the world that it draws people unto Christ. Help us to be members of churches that seek out new people. Let us be members who care deeply about the eternal destination of our guests. Let us love them so much that they want more and want to find out more about this Jesus Christ. Let us make them feel at home right away. Let us be an example of what is missing in their lives. Let us be examples of the love of God in their lives. Let us be so unique that they stop becoming they and become part of the “we” – we, the church!

Amen and Amen

1 Kings 9:15-28 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon’s Many Achievements

Back in the 1980’s when contemporary music was…well…AWESOME…best music decade EVER…when MTV actually played music videos…there was a song by the one-hit wonder group, Timbuk 3, called “My Future’s So Bright (I Have to Wear Shades) whose chorus went something like this:

I study nuclear science

I love my classes

I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses

Things are going great, and they’re only getting better

I’m doing all right, getting good grades

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

I can see Solomon walking down the streets of Jerusalem with his entourage and he’s got his shades on with this music playing in the background. It would be one of those classic 1980s music videos where Solomon is walking down the street with his entourage of the coolest people in Jerusalem fawning behind him. He’s singing this song and he stopping by market booths along the way and throwing money at vendors and picking up cool little trinkets. Beautiful women come up and hug him as he goes along. Solomon has got it made. He is the man. His future’s so bright, he’s wearing his bad black Raybans with the darked out lenses. Israel is one of the most powerful nations on earth. It has great military might. It is a secure nation. The economy is strong. Everything is…well…AWESOME!

Although placing Solomon in a 1980s theme video, putting Raybans on him, and having him sing My Future’s So Bright is anachronistic, it could easily be the video of Solomon’s life. Everything that he touched seemed to turn to gold. He was well-respected both inside Israel and was quite the savvy diplomatic in international politics. He was a star. Things were going great. He was like a rock star whose put out four albums with each one being more popular and more well-received than the last. He was a big deal.

It was during this time, I think, that we see the downfall of Solomon begin. Just as with many music celebrities, they begin to fall in love with their own fame and believe that they can do no wrong. They begin to dabble in sinful behaviors…because they can, they can afford to. Money and fame are dangerous things if you fall in love with them. Solomon began to be enamored with his own fame. Solomon began to rely on his own idea of what life should be like and he began to drift away from God.

That’s what I want you to think about today as we read this passage. Let’s read it now with that idea in mind:

15 This is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s Temple, the royal palace, the supporting terraces,[a] the wall of Jerusalem, and the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had attacked and captured Gezer, killing the Canaanite population and burning it down. He gave the city to his daughter as a wedding gift when she married Solomon. 17 So Solomon rebuilt the city of Gezer.) He also built up the towns of Lower Beth-horon, 18 Baalath, and Tamar[b] in the wilderness within his land. 19 He built towns as supply centers and constructed towns where his chariots and horses[c] could be stationed. He built everything he desired in Jerusalem and Lebanon and throughout his entire realm.

20 There were still some people living in the land who were not Israelites, including Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 21 These were descendants of the nations whom the people of Israel had not completely destroyed.[d] So Solomon conscripted them as slaves, and they serve as forced laborers to this day. 22 But Solomon did not conscript any of the Israelites for forced labor. Instead, he assigned them to serve as fighting men, government officials, officers and captains in his army, commanders of his chariots, and charioteers. 23 Solomon appointed 550 of them to supervise the people working on his various projects.

24 Solomon moved his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter, from the City of David to the new palace he had built for her. Then he constructed the supporting terraces.

25 Three times each year Solomon presented burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he had built for the Lord. He also burned incense to the Lord. And so he finished the work of building the Temple.

26 King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, a port near Elath[e] in the land of Edom, along the shore of the Red Sea.[f] 27 Hiram sent experienced crews of sailors to sail the ships with Solomon’s men. 28 They sailed to Ophir and brought back to Solomon some sixteen tons[g] of gold.

In this passage, we see the mention of Solomon’s marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter. It was a marriage to secure a military alliance with Egypt. He did not let the woman live in David’s palace where the Ark of God had once been kept. This implies that Solomon knew his pagan marriage would not please God. Although Solomon carefully followed God’s instructions on building the Temple and offering sacrifices, he paid no attention to what God said about marrying pagan women. No matter how good or spiritual we are in most areas of life, the unsurrendered areas of sin in our lives can begin a downfall and a drift away from God. When we give sin a foothold in our lives, it obstructs and dims our relationship with God. It can consume our lives to the point that we are more focused on maintaining our pet sin than we about growing closer to God. In this passage, we see Solomon demonstrations of the great leader that he was for Israel. However, we also see that in the midst of the height of his fame and power that there is a drift that is beginning. He makes exceptions for his own behavior (i.e., the marriage to a woman who does not worship the one true God). It is easy to do that when things are going great and there is no obvious fallout from our sins.

That’s the thing that I take away from this passage this morning. It is when things are going the way that we want them is when we are in the most danger of drifting away from God. It is when we are in the most danger of allowing sins to fester and gain a foothold in our lives. How often do we pray and give praise to God when things are going great. When our future’s so bright that we have to wear shades, we tend to lose our prayer life first. We will pray like crazy when we are in the valleys of life, but yet when things are going the way we want them to go, we often fail to praise God for them.

Yesterday, I wrote about counting your blessings. However, most of us do not think of how richly God has blessed us when we are experiencing good times. But yet, when things so south, boy, do we pray to God then! When things are going great, we tend to start making exceptions for this little sin and that little sin because there does not seem to be any negative consequences. We quit praying. We become proud. We think we are “all that and a bag of chips!” and we forget about God, His Word, and its plan to protect to us from a life of destruction under the power of sin. We start making decisions without reference to God. We begin to think we are in control. We make ourselves our own gods.

It is when we are experiencing good times that we are our most vulnerable. We learn so much and grow so much closer to God during the hard times of life. However, it is when times are good that we are in the most danger of succumbing to the temptations of Satan. Even pastors are not immune. Look at all the mega-church, wildly popular pastors who have fallen over the past two decades during the height of the mega-church movement. Satan comes a calling when we have got it good just like he did when Adam and Eve had it the best that any humans ever had.

Let us be awake from our slumber by the warning of Solomon’s life. Let not things that are contrary to God’s Word creep into your life when times are good and you think that this sin is OK for me to dabble in. Help us to always remember that our good times are not of our making. They are from God just as much Him being our life raft through troubled times. Let us remember that good times are not permanent. Let us remember that the central thing to our life in good times and in bad times is God. He is our anchor. Let us not let go of Him just because we have weathered the storm and we are now laying on the beach at the cabana. That’s when we need to cling to God the most. It is so easy to think our good times come from our own efforts. That’s when Satan can whisper in our ear that this sin is OK for you. No one will notice. God doesn’t care if you violate His command on this subject just this once. Go ahead. You’ve got it good. There will be no consequences!

Father, steel our hearts toward the temptations of Satan. Help us to cling to you even in the good times. Help us to not be self-absorbed with our own successes. Help us to see that our good times come from you. Help us to see that you give us seasons of blessing to give us rest and to give us opportunity to praise you for having delivered us. Help to see our seasons of blessings as opportunities to give you praise by blessing others. Help us to not let our blessings cause us to put on our shades and think that our future’s so bright because of our own efforts. Help us to let your glory inhabit our praise on a daily basis.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 9:15-28 (Part 1 of 2)

Solomon’s Many Achievements

Have you ever noticed that many times when we pray that we are talking to God about the things that are wrong in our lives? I am guilty of this as much as the next guy. I take my troubles to the Lord and ask for his guidance and protection through situations in my life that are difficult to deal with or situations where I just don’t have the answers. When life overwhelms me, I cry out to God to deliver me from my trouble or at least to see me through them. We complain to God … a lot! Have you noticed that? We seem to complain to Him more than anything else. I am not saying that we should not go to the Lord in prayer with the things that trouble our hearts. That’s what He wants us to do. He wants us to realize that He is bigger than any problem that we have! He really does!

But at the same time, how much time do we spend praising Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us. That’s what convicted my heart this morning as I read through 1 Kings 9:15-28. Because of historical perspective, we know how the story of Solomon ends. The thing that you notice here is that there is a lot of talk about the accomplishments of Solomon but yet there is no evidence of praise to the Lord for the blessings bestowed upon Solomon and, thereby, the nation of Israel. We all cry out to God when things are bad. When we go through loss (a job, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a tough situation in your work life or personal life, you name it…), we are quick to run to God with our troubles. But when we are blessed or you are in a full season of life when you are living in blessing, how often are we humbled by the blessings of God?

That’s what I want you to think about today as we read this passage. Let’s read it now with that idea in mind:

15 This is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s Temple, the royal palace, the supporting terraces,[a] the wall of Jerusalem, and the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had attacked and captured Gezer, killing the Canaanite population and burning it down. He gave the city to his daughter as a wedding gift when she married Solomon. 17 So Solomon rebuilt the city of Gezer.) He also built up the towns of Lower Beth-horon, 18 Baalath, and Tamar[b] in the wilderness within his land. 19 He built towns as supply centers and constructed towns where his chariots and horses[c] could be stationed. He built everything he desired in Jerusalem and Lebanon and throughout his entire realm.

20 There were still some people living in the land who were not Israelites, including Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 21 These were descendants of the nations whom the people of Israel had not completely destroyed.[d] So Solomon conscripted them as slaves, and they serve as forced laborers to this day. 22 But Solomon did not conscript any of the Israelites for forced labor. Instead, he assigned them to serve as fighting men, government officials, officers and captains in his army, commanders of his chariots, and charioteers. 23 Solomon appointed 550 of them to supervise the people working on his various projects.

24 Solomon moved his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter, from the City of David to the new palace he had built for her. Then he constructed the supporting terraces.

25 Three times each year Solomon presented burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he had built for the Lord. He also burned incense to the Lord. And so he finished the work of building the Temple.

26 King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, a port near Elath[e] in the land of Edom, along the shore of the Red Sea.[f] 27 Hiram sent experienced crews of sailors to sail the ships with Solomon’s men. 28 They sailed to Ophir and brought back to Solomon some sixteen tons[g] of gold.

In this passage, we see that Solomon was blessed in so many ways by God. It was a great period of peace in Israel. The nation was at peace with its neighbors and was strong enough militarily to ensure that none of them would invade their country. It was a time of great stability and economic expansion. Governmental infrastructure projects were all over the place (as archaeological excavations will attest). Times were good. Solomon had a standing army that was well supplied. He even had a navy. Needless to say, this was the zenith of the political and economic power of Israel, never seen before and, after Solomon, never to be seen again. By human standards, it was a great time to king and it was a great time to be an Israelite.

What can you and I learn from this passage? The thing that struck me this morning is that we need to, as the old saying goes, “count our blessings!” Just as it is God who guides us through troubled waters and teaches us much about our faith in Him during troubled times, we, too, must understand that it is from God that our blessings come also. That is the thing that strikes me right now as I write. Just how amazingly blessed I am.

First, I am blessed that I am saved. God did not have to save a wretch like me. I am a chief among sinners. My first sin canceled my personal right to stand before God blameless and pure. Add on top of that, my lifetime of sins these past 56 years makes me a habitual criminal in eyes of the Great Judge. I cannot claim ignorance. I cannot claim that I am a first time sinner before God. He knows my rap sheet of sins more than I know them myself. But yet, He gives me grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Through Christ, I am saved from the sentence to hell that I deserve.

Second, He has blessed me with a great wife and wonderful children who are now grown. When I think of Elena, I think how it took a long time to get to her but I thank God that I found her. And how I found her (a blog in and of itself). He meant her for me. She is my help-meet in the way God intended. She is my complementary half. She completes me as God intended. I thank God for her. Without her, my life would not be where it is today. Her counsel in my life is invaluable. That we make God the center of our relationship is something I treasure because it was something that was not there in my previous marriages. That is a blessing of the highest order. Also, I have children who are productive citizens and are just good kids. I am blessed to have these three girls. I love them beyond measure and to have them in my life is a blessing that I can never repay God.

Third, God has seen me through, as the old hymn says, many dangers, toils and snares. Even in the worst times of my life, God has looked after me and protected me. Even when I did not think that what I was going through was useful, God has used it to shape my life and my ministry. Everything is part of God’s plan for us. In this way, we are confident even in the hard times. We can cling to his life raft in the troubled seas of life. That is a blessing beyond measure.

Fourth, He has always been on time with the provision of what I need in times of trouble and in times of need. He has never left me hanging. There have been so many times since I have accepted Jesus as my Savior that he has given a blessing just when I have needed it most. Sometimes, it’s financial. Sometimes, it is the wisdom to see things clearly that I previously had not. Sometimes, it is choosing the path that He has guided me to take when one way seems broad and the other seems narrow. A lot of people think blessings are only financial but God blesses in so many other ways and often when we need it most. He is always on time with what we need when we need it most.

Fifth, He has blessed me with a roof over my head. Sixth, He has blessed me with the wisdom to live simply and pay off my debts as much as possible and not desire what the television commercials tell me to desire. Oh the blessing that this has become. It has allowed us to bless others because of our simple lifestyle.

These are just six blessings that interact with my life every day. There are numerous others that I just don’t have time for in this blog that I write in the few minutes I have each morning before I go to work. If I had longer I could think of many more ways in which God blesses me daily.

Let us never forget that our good times and our good fortune and our good days come from God just as much as His helping us through the bad times and bad days.

Count your blessings. It will change your perspective on God’s hand in your every day life.

Amen and Amen.