First

What’s the first thing a ruler does when he/she comes into power? They make sure that everyone knows who’s the boss. They make statements and interviews. They get on the cover of as many newspapers and magazines as possible. Social media lights up with their feeds. Back in the day, they built statues, commissioned art, and distributed propaganda. They let the world know who they are.

Solomon was the first king in Israel to inherit the throne. Through a series of rather unfortunate events, many of his brothers did not outlive their father. Solomon, however, grew into adulthood and was even given the throne before David died. We know that he was a wise man. When God offered to grant him anything, he asked for wisdom above all else. A wise move for a man claiming to need more wisdom. So when Solomon took over the throne with the wealth of David behind him, he built himself a grand palace. But not before he built a temple for the Lord.

In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spend seven years building it.

It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.

1 Kings 6:38-7:1 (NIV)

Solomon had near endless resources at his disposal. He could have used them to cement his place as ruler of all Israel, but he instead chose to build a place of worship. He build a place to house the ark of the covenant. He made building a house for the Lord a priority over building a house for himself.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Solomon’s wealth is still spoken of today. So is his wisdom. So is the temple he built. Not so much his palace.

When we, like Solomon, make God’s kingdom and His house, a priority, God will ensure that everything else is taken care of. While his palace was grand, it was the temple that Solomon was remembered for.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Read: 1 Kings 6-7, Luke 23:27-38

Suck it up, Buttercup

Feelings are good. They can let us know when things are okay or bad or scary or wonderful. Some would have us believe that we should be ruled entirely by our feelings. We should always feel safe. We should never feel threatened. We always have a right to feel whatever we want to feel and express those feelings however we choose. And how is that working out for us?

Even King David, upon learning of the death of his son Absalom, had a moment when he let his feelings overtake him. He retreated to his safe space. And you know what that earned him? A big, fat lecture from the leader of his military.

The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son, Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab when into the house of the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from you youth till now.”

2 Samuel 19:4-7 (NIV)

Ouch! Who would be brave enough to tell a king to get off his butt, wipe the tears off his face, and congratulate the army that killed his son? From David’s perspective of intense grief, one may say that Joab was overly harsh with his king. What right did he have to say what he did in the manner he said it? Was David not allowed to mourn for his son?

Had David chosen to put his feelings first and wallow in his grief, it would have cost him the kingdom that had just been saved. Instead of closing the door on Joab, David heeded his commander’s advice.

So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

2 Samuel 19:8 (NIV)

We are all entitled to our feelings, but our feelings are not entitled to rule us unless we allow them to. God gave us feelings. He gave us the ability to rejoice and to grieve. He made us to be glad as well as sad. But He also gave us dominion. To be ruled by our feelings is to look solely on our inward selves. To give in to every feeling with the unction to express every little emotion that comes upon us is to become utterly selfish.

Was David selfish in wanting to grieve for his son? No. But in his grief, he stole the joy of victory from his men. They thought they had done well in restoring the kingdom to its rightful ruler. But instead of a pat on the back, all they saw was David’s back as he turned to mourn the death of his enemy.

While we should welcome feelings and emotions, we cannot be entirely ruled by them. Sometimes how we feel must take a back seat to what we must do. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do what is best for the greater good rather than our own good.

Take a page out of David’s book, literally. He learned to channel his feelings and emotions, pouring them out to God in the pages we now know as the Psalms. There, the shepherd boy who became a king, let it all out. He figured out how to handle his emotions while balancing them with the responsibilities of ruling God’s chosen people. He learned humility above all.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

Read: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38 

The profession of Christianity

Let us try not to join the profession of Christianity, with seeking after worldly advantages.

Matthew Henry

“You’ll never have to worry about anything again!”

“God wants you to be rich!”

“This is the best life ever!”

“Everything is good!”

All of these claims have been touted by Christians, preachers, and televangelists. They have brought untold millions to their knees to pray a prayer that they’ve been conned into reciting. While they all contain a partial truth, they are not indicative of the Christian life.

Jesus had some choice words for some who wished to take care of business before taking up the business of following him.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)

In order to “close the deal” when it comes to leading someone to salvation, we are often apt to spout the benefits while making light of the cost. The truth is, there are many, many benefits to giving your life to Christ, but there is also a great cost—one that cannot be ignored.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

The benefits come as a result of us doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

It is a difficult road to walk, this life in pursuit of God. On one side, we can be easily distracted by the thought of a reward and, on the other side, we can be so focused on our call that we deny the existence of any reward at all.

Our purpose in serving God should be just that—to serve Him and Him alone. If the reward is all we seek, our hearts are in the wrong place. But that does not mean that we should not be prepared to receive a reward or blessing.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If is with a pure heart and pure motives that we must seek after God. Yet, as His children, we must not deny Him the joy of blessing us.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Read: Judges 12-14, Luke 9:37-62

One thing at a time

Read: Numbers 7, Mark 4:21-41

It’s winter where I live. Usually, living on the southwest coast of Canada, we don’t get much for winter but buckets of rain. Today, the temperature is below freezing and there is a thin layer of crunchy snow on the ground. Though some bulbs have managed to push their shoots through the cold ground, no seeds will be planted for months yet.

Many of us Christians, myself included, act as though we are in a perpetual spiritual winter. We withhold the seed in our hands claiming the soil isn’t ready. Or maybe it is, but we either don’t know how or just plain refuse to scatter it.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.”

Mark 4:26 (NIV)

Who is the man in this story? I am. You are. What is the seed? The Word of God. What are we supposed to do with the seed? Scatter it. Then what?

Mark 4-27.jpg

Too many of us hold on to our seeds unsure of what we’re supposed to do once we scatter. Sometimes it’s nothing at all. But what if it doesn’t grow? What if it does?

When you go out and plant seeds in the soil, aside from a bit of water, there is very little you can do to ensure your plant comes up. You can’t dig down and check on it. You have to wait and trust that the seed you planted was a good seed and that it will sprout at the right time.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NIV)

You have a seed to plant. We all have seeds that can be planted. And we all have water to help those seeds to grow. And still, we all have the tools to harvest those plants once they’re mature. It is rare that one person will plant, water, and harvest the same seed.

The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9 (NIV)

Instead of worrying about a whole field, focus on one thing at a time. Plant the seed that’s in your hand right now. Share the Word of God. Keep planting. You may find you encounter someone who’s already received a seed. Water it. Keep sharing the Word of God. Keep watering. You may come across a person who’s received a seed and had it watered. That’s your harvest. Keep harvesting.

This is not just the job of pastors and teachers and church leaders. It’s your job. Ephesians 4:12 says that all of those people were given to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith. We are all to do works of service.

One person doing their work may be able to change their circle of influence. But if we all do our work—just one thing at a time, we will change the world.

Eat your fill

Read: Leviticus 24-25, Mark 1:23-45

Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? In a culture where consumption of nearly every kind is at an all-time high, we want what we want, and we want it now! When we live our lives like that every day, it’s hard not to let that same attitude seep into our relationship with God. We use Him like a genie in a bottle, only rubbing away when we want something and then getting upset when we don’t get it right away. We forget that there were some stipulations or precursors placed on our getting.

Leviticus 25:18-19

If Israel wanted the prosperous land God had promised to them back in Egypt, a few things were required of them. Okay, maybe it was more than a few since the entire book of Leviticus is an instruction manual, but you get the picture. If Israel wanted the land to prosper like they’d been promised, they had to abide by the laws God had laid out for them.

Now, before you get all but-that-was-the-Old-Testament-under-the-law on me, Jesus said something rather similar in nature.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:29-31 (NIV)

When Israel entered the Promised Land, God had promised them so much that they would only harvest six of every seven years. That seventh year, they’d reap only what grew in the unplanted fields, and that would be enough to sustain them through the year. In the 49th year, they wouldn’t reap at all, but the previous year’s harvest would be three year’s worth! All of this, if they followed God’s decrees and kept His laws.

God knows we need stuff. We need food. We need clothing. We need shelter. We need. We need. We need. We know that. He knows that. Us telling Him we need that stuff probably won’t make that big of a difference. But what I believe will make a difference is how (and how often) we approach God. Do we go to Him because we need something or do we go to Him because we need Him? Do we go to Him because we want something or do we go to Him because we want Him?

Jesus said that if we sought after the kingdom of God first, everything else would fall into place. This wasn’t a new principle he was announcing to the world. He was only reiterating what his Father had said centuries ago. Obey. Seek God. You’ll be fine.

If you want to eat your fill, you have to first do His will.

Cornerstone

Read: Exodus 27-28, Matthew 21:23-46

Matthew 21:42

Anyone who believes that the only side of Jesus there is belongs to a gentle shepherd has missed a few verses. This verse, quoted from Psalm 118:22-23, is powerful on its own, but in the context of Matthew, it’s a rather firm jab at the chief priests and Pharisees. I can imagine Jesus staring down the temple leaders with piercing eyes as he tells them exactly who and what they are. They are the ones who rejected the stone, the Son. And if that wasn’t harsh enough, Jesus goes on.

Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.

Matthew 21:43-44 (NIV)

The leaders that Jesus was talking to thought they had it made. Plans were in the works to put Jesus—a man they saw as a disturber of the peace—to death. This man who dared to cause division among the Jews would be dealt with and their position would once again be secure. Yet here he is, in no uncertain terms telling them that they will be usurped. These men had made a religion based on their own beliefs and interpretations, leaving God completely out of the picture.

The parable that precedes Jesus’ statements is about a landowner who rents out his land. When the time for harvest came, he sent servants to collect his share of the fruit. The tenants decided that they did not want to give what was owed to the landowner and beat, killed, and stoned the servants. The landowner sent even more servants who were met with the same fate. Finally he sends his son believing that he would be treated as the landowner himself. Instead, the tenants kill the son with the intent of taking his inheritance.

Jesus then asked what would become of the tenants when the landowner returned.

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Matthew 21:41 (NIV)

Without knowing it, the Pharisees had condemned themselves. By refusing to give the son the same honour as the father, the tenants robbed themselves of the right to remain in the land. God is the Father. Jesus is the Son. Because the chief priests and Pharisees refused to see Jesus for who he was, they essentially removed themselves from the kingdom of God.

Position is not what gets any of us into the kingdom. It doesn’t matter so much what we build, but rather how we build it. The Jewish leaders of Jesus time failed to recognise Jesus as the cornerstone. If Jesus, as the Son, is not given the honour that is due to him, any foundation we may attempt to build will crumble.

CORNERSTONE: The stone which lies at the corner of two walls, and unites them; the principles stone, and especially the stone which forms the corner of the foundation of an edifice.

Jesus has to be at the centre of anything we do in the name of our faith. Without him, our labour is in vain. He is the rock, the cornerstone, the foundation on which the entire kingdom of God rests.

All of it

Read: Genesis 42-43, Matthew 13:33-58

When asked if she was aware that Jesus loves her, my four-year-old niece matter-of-factly responded, “Yes, I know that,” as though it were a silly question that didn’t even need to be asked in the first place.

The love of God toward His children—us—is something we should be reminded of every day. But there are many other things from the Word of God that we, like my niece, scoff at. Of course we know that. Do we really have to go over it again?

Matthew 13:52

We often make the mistake of throwing out the old in favour of the new. We do it with almost everything we have. When something is of no use to us, it gets tossed rather than repaired or renewed. Many Christians have done the same with what we may view as old ideas. We accept Jesus’ teaching, but nothing else. Yet, Jesus himself told his disciples that the old is just as important as the new. Maybe even more so since the old is the foundation on which the new has been built.

An argument may be made that Jesus came to free us from the law. He did. He came to free us from the bondage of it. There was no way that any human being could fulfill every letter of the law. Another way had to be made to access God.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17 (NIV)

If we view the Old Testament—the Law and the Prophets—as obsolete, how then can we fully understand Jesus who is the fulfillment of it?

Matthew Henry said that, old experiences and new observations all have their use. Our place is at Christ’s feet, and we must daily learn old lessons over again, and new ones also.

I have never met a person who reads through their Bible over and over again and says that they discovered nothing new. If God’s mercies are new every morning, surely there is revelation to follow. And we should seek it with all that we are. God wants to reveal Himself to us through His Word—all of it.

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

James 1:5 (NIV)