30K Giveaway

Yesterday, I made an attempt to win $30,000 from a local radio station. For several weeks I’ve been listening half-interested for three specific songs played consecutively in a specific order. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would miss those three songs while I was at work or in a meeting or at church. That is, until I heard all three songs played consecutively in the correct order while I was on my way home from work. Once I pulled over (it’s not legal here to have a phone in your hands while driving), I dialed the number, several times, and was met with an automated voice each time telling me the number I had dialed was not available. I listened while another caller won the $30,000.

Then I got to thinking. What would I do with $30,000? As it turns out, $30,000 wouldn’t really last very long. With record high gas prices, I suppose I could fill up my car once or twice… While it would be great to be $30,000 wealthier, it wouldn’t really launch me into a new life.

In a dream, God gave Solomon a choice. A big choice. Ask me for anything. Anything. Solomon could have asked for all the riches in the world. He could have asked to conquer the world. He could have asked for the world. But he asked for wisdom.

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 riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

1 Kings 3:10-13 (NIV)

Like Solomon, we have been invited to make requests of God.

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:14 (NIV)

James then tells us what we should be asking for.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask of God, who give generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5 (NIV)

Sure, we could ask for health and wealth, but like the $30,000, where will that get us a month, a year, a decade from now? Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God gave him everything else. With wisdom comes the ability to make the choices to keep us healthy and make us wealthy.

Wisdom is in low supply. If what is perceived as wisdom is not coming from God, where then does it come from? We have the ability to ask for and receive wisdom, yet how many of us have actually taken advantage of that offer? Instead of asking God to rectify a situation, why not ask for the wisdom to fix it ourselves? Then the next time we find ourselves in a similar place, we’ll be able to repair it ourselves, or perhaps we won’t find ourselves there at all.

Like Solomon drew people from all over the known world, the world should be drawn to godly wisdom. But it has to exist to draw people. So go ahead, ask God. See if He doesn’t keep is word.

Read: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 23:1-26

The heart of the matter

Who would you choose as your leader? On the playground as children, we’d pick the big, strong, athletic kids. As teens, perhaps the best-looking guy or girl. As adults, the one that looks like they have it all together.

Saul was that man. He was big and strong. He stood a head taller than everyone else. He was good-looking. He had it all together. He was God’s first choice. But he wasn’t God’s lasting choice.

Three times in 1 Samuel 15, Saul, while speaking to Samuel, refers to God as the Lord your God. Never once did he say, the Lord my God. Even though Saul had been chosen by God, anointed as king over Israel, and had the Spirit of the Lord upon him, Saul had not sought the Lord for himself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance of his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Because Saul refused to seek after Him, the Lord chose to remove His hand and His Spirit from him.

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV)

Israel asked for a king and God gave them what they wanted. But when the king God gave them led them away from Him, it was time to replace that king.

God is not at all concerned with what position we may or may not have. He gives position and He can take it away.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Power and position here on earth are of no consequence to God. Just because Saul had been made king didn’t mean that he would remain king. By not following God’s instructions and for not seeking the Lord for himself, Saul disqualified himself from ruling over Israel. Instead, God led Samuel to seek out the one man who would chase after Him no matter what.

When we choose to honour God not matter what, He will elevated us to a position of His choosing. We won’t all be kings or queens, nor will we necessarily take up positions of great power or authority. But for those who search for the heart of God, He will make a place.

Read: 1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 14:25-35

Nothing more, nothing less

Gideon, for all his faults, had a few redeeming qualities. While he was not the leader Israel expected for their army, thanks to his obedience, Israel’s army of 300 routed the Midianites. That same army chased Zebah and Zalmunna, two kings of Midian, and killed them. Though Gideon was instrumental in leading his own family astray, there was some wisdom yet in the man.

But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

Judges 8:23 (NIV)

Some rules were bent or broken, but in this situation, Gideon stood firm. At the very least, he understood that his victory in battle was due only to the fact that the hand of the Lord was on him. His place was to lead the army where God told him to. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is important that we learn to keep to the purpose God had set out for us. Where would Gideon have ended up had he chosen to go against God’s orders and take the entire army of thirty-two thousand men into battle. Would they have been victorious? Maybe. Would they have given all the glory to God? Probably not.

It is only in the will of God that we will find our greatest success—not necessarily according to worldly standards, but certainly heavenly ones. And in that success, it is important to give glory and honour where it is due. To the one who calls us. To the one who makes mighty warriors of the least likely.

Read: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

The name game

Read: Numbers 18-20, Mark 7:1-13

What’s a name? Is it just something we call ourselves to differentiate us from others? Is it part of our identity? Is it our entire identity? Do our names make us who we are or do we define our names? We use names lightly and we take them seriously. They become associations and labels. They let others know who we are, what we do, and where we belong. Names can lift people up or tear them down. They can be forever or they can be for convenience.

Several groups in the Bible had some issues with their names. They assumed a name, but rejected the identity that went along with the name.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here?”

Numbers 20:2-4 (NIV)

In one sentence, the spokesperson for Israel both declares them to be a nation belonging to God and a nation who rejects God. They had just gone through the whole ordeal of having proven Moses and Aaron as leaders of the nation, yet the people still weren’t pleased. They liked to remember and point out their status as God’s children, but quickly forgot all He had done for them and all they had done in disobedience to Him.

Jesus also encountered a group of people who used their name for status and wealth.

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teaching are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Mark 7:6-8 (NIV)

For both the Israelites and the Pharisees, it suited them to be associated with God. It was helpful and beneficial to assume a relationship with the name of the Lord, but that’s all it was—a nominal association.

Sound familiar? Who hasn’t met a person who call themself a Christian, but like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, merely honours God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him?

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

Being a Christian is far more than assuming a name. In the early days of the church, to bear the name of Christ meant a constant threat of painful death. Followers of The Way were all to aware of the consequences of those they associated with, yet they took the name anyway, giving themselves completely to the cause of Christ.

Few of us regularly consider why we even call ourselves Christians. We simply are. Do we take the time to meditate on what that really means? Or do we use the name because it is useful to us? We should all consider our purpose and reason for bearing the name of Christ. We must determine if our claim to Christ is one of convenience or commitment.

The wait

Do you ever wonder what this world would be like if Adam had never sinned? If no one had ever fallen prey to the enemy’s lies? Would we even have four seasons? Would leaves ever fall off trees? Would fruit ever spoil? And what about us? Would we still be wandering in paradise blissfully unaware of our nakedness? Taking strolls through the forest with God?

I wonder, like humanity, how much the rest of creation is aware of its fallen state. Romans 8:19 says that all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. It’s not only humans who wait for Jesus’ glorious return, but all of creation. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Romans 8:20-21).

In Revelation 5, we see a progression of praise. First it’s just the elders around the throne. Then they are joined by thousands and millions of angels. And, finally, the rest of the chorus joins in a culmination of the entirety of God’s creation.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever”

Revelation 5:13 (NLT)

I love the sound of a large choir, but can you imaging the entire universe singing God’s praise? For millennia, creation has been waiting, anticipating the time when we can all sing out. Like a bubble waiting to burst or a bud waiting to bloom, but only infinitely more powerful, beautiful, and wonderful. All of creation—animate and inanimate—longs for the day when we can all bow before the throne and join with the elders and the angels to sing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.

Revelation 4:8b (NLT)

Just the thought of that kind of praise and worship stirs my heart. An eternal, universally worship service will surely be worth the wait.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 1-3, Revelation 5

Get down and dirty

Down and dirty aren’t usually things people like to be. As humans, we tend to want to place ourselves on high ground. That didn’t turn out to well for the inhabitants of Babel. Most of us appreciate cleanliness. After all, we’ve been told it’s next to godliness. But what if I told you that our aim should be the opposite of up and clean? What if you’re more useful down and dirty?

When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.

James 4:10 (NLT)

In this verse, the act of bowing down is not meant to be when we feel like it. The original text indicates that bowing down before the Lord is a conclusive decision. It is not a daily choice, but an eternal one.

Like the roots of a tree, we must first go downward where we will find our sustenance before we can be brought up. No one sees the roots or the struggles they encounter as they wend their way through hard soil, yet we all enjoy the fruits of the tree that has a strong foundation.

Our foundation must begin where no one else can see it. Our roots gain more strength the deeper they go. The deeper the roots, the higher the heights a tree can reach. Trouble only comes when a tree grows up faster than it grows down.

When we try to exalt ourselves and show everyone the glory of our foliage before the time is right, we run the risk of toppling over at the slightest breeze because our roots are not strong or deep enough to support the weight of our own ideas about ourselves.

But when we dig deep, even if the struggle is unseen from the surface, we put ourselves in a position for God to use us and bring us honour. The deeper we root ourselves in Him—the more we can get down and humble ourselves all the while lifting Him up, the greater our potential for reward.

Leaves are not so nearly as important as roots. For without roots, nothing can grow at all. So let’s not be afraid to get down and dirty. God can work with dirt.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 27-28, James 4

Exactly

In all of our attempts to personify Jesus, I think we all tend to make a vital mistake—we imagine him as human.

Sure, Jesus was born on earth as a human, but that doesn’t make him human. To endow Christ with humanity would also be to endow him with the flaws that come with our nature. While he was human in the very base sense of the word, he was not really one of us.

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of our sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)

Jesus, in order to become a sacrifice for us, had to put on human flesh. But he did not put on human nature. He was and is the exact representation of God—because he is God.

When God sent Christ to earth for the purpose of becoming a sacrifice for all of humanity, He did not send just a portion of Himself or a feathered carbon copy. He sent all of Himself. The term glory in this passage refers to the perfection that is God—the perfection that Jesus reflected while he walked the earth.

There was nothing partial in who Jesus was and is and there is nothing partial about the salvation that he purchased. Jesus represents God exactly and that means that he was exactly what was required as a complete and final sacrifice for our sin. And, when he finished his work, he sat down. At the right hand of the Father. Exactly where he belongs.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 38-39, Hebrews 1

A hug a day

“As a belt clings to a person’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me,” says the Lord. “They were to be my people, my pride, my glory—an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.

Jeremiah 13:11 (NLT)

As I read this verse this morning, what came to mind were the actions of a father and son. On Sunday morning, as a group of volunteers were praying before the church service, one of the kids came running in. He made no sound as he rushed to his father, grabbed him tight and climbed into a position where he could be held. The boy’s arms were wound tight around his father’s neck, his legs wrapped around his waist. The father held on to his son just as tightly. They remained that way for the duration of our prayer time.

I think that’s how God would love for us to be—as innocent children seeking safety and comfort in the arms of the protective Father. It is to the benefit of both parties. We receive our comfort and God receives His glory. But only if we cling to Him.

CLING: To adhere closely and firmly, in interest or affection; to stick to; to hold fast upon.

If you’re at all concerned that this promise was strictly for the Jews, don’t be. God addressed it just a few verses back.

“And if these nations quickly learn the ways of my people, and if they learn to swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’ (just as they taught my people to swear by the name of Baal), then they will be given a place among my people.

Jeremiah 12:16 (NLT)

We’re good. Even long before Paul was sent out to reach the Gentiles, God made a way for all people to be able to come running to Him, to throw our arms around His waist, to hold on to Him, and be held by Him. He made a place in His embrace for all of us.

Studies show that the benefits of being embraced go far beyond that of a simple touch. In a physical sense, those who embrace others with regularity have stronger immune systems, lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and are less likely to become depressed. A hug is an affirmation of love and, according to Stan Tatkin, PsyD, can have measurable neuro-biological consequences.

While a physical embrace with God may not be possible, I have no doubt that, the closer we are to Him, the more we cling to Him, the more we can also reap these benefits along with many others.

Do not forget that you are God’s child. You are His pride and His joy, set apart for His pleasure. And when we pursue him as the boy with his father, we bring honour and glory to His name. Embrace it. Embrace Him.

Have you hugged God yet today?

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 11-13, 1 Timothy 4

Worthy

Do you ever have a hard time receiving a gift when you know you don’t deserve it? You try to give it back, but the person giving it to you insists that you take it.

Our lives in Christ are full of gifts that we are not worthy of. From beginning to end, God grants us gifts that we have no business receiving. Yet, in addition to giving us these gifts, He also makes us worthy of them.

And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NLT)

When God calls us to a life beyond our means, He holds no expectations that we work ourselves to the bone to become worthy of that life. He’s given us the gift and He is the only one who can make us good enough to receive it. That’s the point.

Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NLT)

Because we are undeserving and because we are unable to live up to the life God has called us to in our own strength, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish what God has called us to do. In this way, not only do we increase the Kingdom of God, but we bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus. When the world sees us do what we cannot do, they will have no choice but to recognise the power of God.

So go ahead, accept that gift. And in accepting the gift of the call of God on your life, accept the fact that He has made you worthy to receive it and He will give you all that you need to do it. And, most importantly, after all of this happens, be sure to give the glory to the only One who is worthy of it.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 65-66, 2 Thessalonians 1

Find her

We often look upon wisdom as this elusive, nigh unattainable thing. Wisdom is just for a select few. Maybe you’re born with it, maybe you’re not. If you have it, hold on to it. If you don’t have it, good luck finding it.

How we ever began thinking that way of wisdom is beyond me. Wisdom isn’t a country club for the rich and famous. Wisdom is out on the street corner calling out to anyone who will listen to her. She cries out to the foolish and simple-minded aching to be heard above the dull roar of humanity.

I call to you, to all of you! I am raising my voice to all people.

Proverbs 8:4 (NLT)

Wisdom is for anyone and everyone who will stop to listen to her voice. Wisdom isn’t fleeting or coy. She does not play hard-to-get. She isn’t corrupt, but rather pure. We should all seek wisdom above all else.

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.

Proverbs 8:10-11 (NLT)

Wisdom will not only lead you from foolish decisions, but she will lead you toward knowledge, understanding and wealth.

Unending riches, honor, wealth, and justice are mine to distribute.

Proverbs 8:18 (NLT)

But wisdom should not be sought for the purpose of gaining wealth. For if wealth is what you seek, wisdom is not what you will find.

I love all who love me. Those who search for me will surely find me.

Proverbs 8:17 (NLT)

This sounds a lot like something someone else said…

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Wisdom and God go hand-in-hand. God formed wisdom before He formed the earth. If we find Him, we will find wisdom. If we find wisdom, we will find God. The two are inseparable.

For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord.

Proverbs 8:35 (NLT)

Ask for wisdom. Look for her. Seek her. Find her. She will multiply your days and add years to your life (Proverbs 9:11).

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 7-8, 1 Corinthians 14:21-40