God uses adversity to educate us.

God uses adversity to educate us.

2 Chronicles 12

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the idea we have that our lives here on Earth should be easy and relatively painless. We must have this idea buried deep somewhere in our minds, for it seems that when any of us face adversity or crisis, we react with shock. How could this happen to me? Next, we focus our energies on how to get out of the unpleasant situation.

God's gifts can be squandered.

2 Chronicles 10

Today’s chapter reminded me somewhat of the story of the Prodigal Son—you know, the foolish boy who squandered the riches of his father’s estate. And since we looked yesterday at what an outrageous giver God is, I thought it might be prudent to add a P.S. today—that all of God’s gifts come with freedom. That means, if we are foolish enough, we can squander them all. What God gives, He doesn’t force us to keep or use wisely. We are free to do with His gifts what we want.

When Rehoboam succeeded his father as king, it didn’t take long to discover that he had inherited none of Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, one commentator (Dilday) observed that "with a dozen rash words, Rehoboam, the bungling dictator, opened the door for four hundred years of strife, weakness, and, eventually, the destruction of the entire nation." It didn’t take very much to totally destroy everything his father had built in Israel. His reign ushered in a phase of rebellion that split the nation, a rebellion from which it never recovered.

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

With all his wisdom and insight, it seems that Solomon foresaw this possibility, although it’s unknown whether he had his own son in mind when he wrote these words: "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun." (Eccl 2:18-19) It seems Solomon accurately foretold the fate of Israel.

Rehoboam took everything his father had built and wasted it. He took all of the gifts God had blessed his family with and squandered them. And, although it may be hard for us to believe, God allowed him to do it, and He also allows us to do it. He does not cease to be generous, even if He knows we will squander what He has given us. He gives because He is a giver, not because He will force us to use those gifts in a way that is pleasing to Him. He doesn’t determine outcomes. He doesn’t dictate our behavior. He only determines His behavior.

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

God gives us the freedom to take what He’s given us and abuse it, if we wish. We can destroy His gifts, if we wish. There’s part of me that still doesn’t understand that, just as I don’t understand why the father of the Prodigal Son would finance his journey into the far country. The only thing I can say is that God loves to give, and He loves to give with no strings attached. Accepting His gifts doesn’t turn us into puppets. We are free, as Rehoboam was, to squander it all... if we’re that foolish.

God always gives more.

God always gives more.

2 Chronicles 9

There’s no doubt about it. The Queen of Sheba was totally smitten with Solomon. Everything about him and his kingdom took her in—the palace, the temple, the banquet, and especially his wisdom. She had been expecting to see great things on her visit to Solomon, but she wasn’t prepared for what she actually found when she got there: "She said to the king, 'The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.'" (vs 5-6)

God requires an undivided heart.

God requires an undivided heart.

2 Chronicles 8

Although I am the one who decided on the title of this blog, I feel the need to ask you to read until the end—especially if you might take immediate offense at the title. There are a lot of ideas floating around out there about what God "requires" us to do before He will accept us. Sacrifices to be made, penance to be paid. This is not how I am using the word requires. So, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’d like to explain what I mean.

Blind Spot {ex21:23-25}

exodus-mercy-blind-spot-poem.png

Ghandi once said that
an eye for an eye
leaves the whole world blind.

Yes, but it also
leaves the whole world alive.

If the previous rule was
your hand for my eye
and then
my child's life for your hand
and then
your whole family for my child's life
and then
and then

and then
an eye for an eye
is not revenge,
but mercy;

pandemic blindness
a blessing,
compared to
the alternative.

God sees and hears us.

God sees and hears us.

2 Chronicles 7

God sees you. God hears you. Have you ever found those things hard to believe? Has it ever felt like you were alone and abandoned instead? Like no matter how much you were hurting or how hard you were crying out, there was just nobody "up there" to listen to you? 2 Chronicles 7 would like you to know that those feelings aren’t reality.

God deals with us individually.

God deals with us individually.

2 Chronicles 6

Today’s thought is a simple one and uses these verses as a jumping-off place: "Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors." (vs 30-31)

God's plans are paramount.

God's plans are paramount.

2 Chronicles 5

I heard this quip recently: Wanna hear God laugh? Tell Him your plans. I’ve heard that before, and it always makes me chuckle (although I do believe that God wants to hear what’s on our minds). But I think it’s true that we sometimes have our days and weeks planned out so intricately that we forget about God and the plans He has for us. And even if we remember, often we try to somehow fit His plans into the plans we already made for ourselves.

God is the God of everyone.

2 Chronicles 4

Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, today’s chapter was about Hiram (aka Huram), the man who handcrafted all the objects in the temple of the Lord. From the altar to the basins to the sculptures to the lampstands and tables, Hiram put his stamp of handiwork on everything. What an incredible honor—to be chosen out of everyone in Israel for such a task! Hiram must have been the most skilled craftsman around.

What I especially liked about this is that Hiram was half Jew and half Gentile. So that means that the man who handcrafted every object for use in the temple of the Lord was not someone who could claim to be one of God’s "elite" chosen—in the sense that the Israelites often thought of themselves. By the time Jesus was born, the religious leaders in Israel espoused the idea that they alone were God’s chosen people, worthy of salvation. Jesus had to remind them otherwise.

Photo © Unsplash/Katie Moum

Photo © Unsplash/Katie Moum

And, right from the beginning, God was including Gentiles in the work of salvation by using Hiram to craft the objects for the temple. This is a lesson we would do well to remember: No group of people—no nationality, no religion, no denomination—has a corner on God. He is the God of everyone. He doesn’t have exclusive clubs and elitist groups. His arms stretch far and wide enough to take in all who will come to Him—no matter where they have come from.

In John 10, Jesus said that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. He also said that not all of these sheep were in the same fold, but when the time is right, they will all be gathered together—one flock with one shepherd. So, it’s probably best to not get in the habit of looking down on any other sheep—especially those that you think are outside the walls of your particular fold. God is the God of everyone. The question is, do you know the voice of that particular Shepherd?

Photo © Unsplash/Peppe Ragusa

Photo © Unsplash/Peppe Ragusa

God is beautiful on the inside.

God is beautiful on the inside.

2 Chronicles 3

All I saw in this chapter was gold, gold, gold. Gold on the floors, gold on the ceilings, gold on the walls. Gold, gold everywhere. It must have been something to walk into that dazzling temple, with every surface sparkling and shining. It must have been incredible to walk into the Most Holy Place (if you were the high priest) and see the wings of the sculptured cherubim spanning the room from wall to wall.

God is the greatest.

God is the greatest.

2 Chronicles 2

After Solomon became king, the first thing he set out to do was build a temple for God. As you might remember from the story in 1 Kings, Solomon enlisted the help of Hiram king of Tyre for building materials and skilled craftsmen. He wanted the temple to be the most glorious, most elaborate sanctuary ever built for a god on the face of the Earth—and indeed it was.

The Association of Light with Darkness {ex20:21}

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Mighty God,
Great Dispeller of Night,
Awesome Disbander of Murkiness,
Glorious Dismisser of Shadows,
we prefer to hail You
as the One
who banishes darkness.
We prefer hymns which extol
the world-illuminating power
of Your light.

We never sing songs
about Your darkness-dwelling tendencies.
We don't lift our voices
to praise Your presence in the shadows,
but to question Your delay in dissipating them.
And we are careful
to keep our distance from dark clouds,
though we seem to find them just the same.
   /or, rather, they methodically
    hunt down and engulf us/

Mighty God,
Strong Dismantler of Gloom,
when the inky blackness swirls around me,
may I choose to praise You,
the ever-present Holy Squatter
in Earth's rundown tenement.

As long as evil persists in this place,
draw my heart out
and steel it to brave
the onslaught of the whirlwind,
emboldening me
to seek You where You are,
willing to share and shoulder
some of the sorrow and suffering
that lives in Your own heart
for this forlorn and much-loved race.

 

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

2 Chronicles 1

I think this is one of the neatest stories in the Bible. Solomon asks for what is most important—and ends up receiving everything that is most important as well as all the "perks." It always reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples: "But seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt 6:33)

God exalts others.

God exalts others.

1 Chronicles 29

1 Chronicles 29 recounts the story of David’s "passing the baton" to his son Solomon. In his final speech, he challenged Solomon and the people to remain true to the Lord, and then there was a large celebration with music, feasting, and joy. But tucked away into the description of the festivities was, I thought, a very important lesson about God.

God understands you.

1 Chronicles 28

If I had ever believed in the theory of evolution, I'm pretty sure my first pregnancy would have blown that belief out of the water. As I went through that experience, week by week, I marveled at the little life unfolding in my own body. From the heart that is fully functional and begins to beat by five weeks to the whole development process, it was very hard for me to understand how people (especially doctors who know the intricacies of pregnancy) could believe that there is no design involved in human development.

Beyond those considerations, one of the problems with believing in evolution is that it erases the idea of a personal God who knows you, who knew you even before you were born. Maybe some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of such a personal God; is it a more palatable idea to think that there is no purpose to our existence? That we’re just random accidents and that there’s no meaning behind where we came from or where we’re going?

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that, and David certainly didn’t believe it either. In his final charge to Solomon, he challenged him to remember God: "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought." (vs 9)

Is that a comforting thought to you? It certainly is to me. God knows you. And it’s more than just knowing who you are or knowing your name or recognizing your face. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He understands the inner workings of your mind. He understands where your every desire comes from and hears every thought you have.

In addition to that—and probably best of all—He is gracious and merciful and sympathetic. You know, we’re all messed up. And the fact that He understands the intricate workings of your heart only makes Him more compassionate toward you. He doesn’t use this intimate knowledge as ammunition against you. On the contrary, because He understands you so completely, He is the one who is in a position to help you. And He wants to help you.

The only thing that surpasses God’s knowledge of you is His love for you. He knows every hair on your head, He hears every cry of your heart, and He loves every bit of you!

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

God gives specific gifts to specific people.

God gives specific gifts to specific people.

1 Chronicles 27

To me, there is a troubling trend in modern Western society. I see it happening in schools with children, as well as in the general workplace with adults. I’m not sure what has caused this trend to appear in our culture. Perhaps it has its roots in the feminist movement or the civil rights movement. Regardless of where it came from, however, the trend has become that everybody must be seen and considered as equal in most every way.

God is a treasure.

God is a treasure.

1 Chronicles 26

There are so many things in Scripture that I don’t believe are coincidences. So many things that have layers of meaning—literal to symbolic and everything in between. And I found one of these things in this chapter of Chronicles that further outlined which Levites were in charge: "Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David... Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the Lord. And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish... and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives." (vs 26-28)

Wonder-full Thunder {ex19:19}

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Thunderstorms are my favorite.

I love watching the thick, black clouds
roll in from the west,
the wind whipping up leaves and dirt,
compressing the musty air like a balloon
until it bursts,
giving way to slick, saturating torrents.

I love the paparazzi pops of lightning,
the long, jagged, hair-trigger flashes of noon
radiating through the bruised sky,
connecting heaven and earth
in less than a second
for less than a second.

And I love the thunder,
the low, distant lion's growls
and the ear-splitting cracks
that break over your head
like an egg spilling a clangorous yoke.

As the storm rolls in,
I count the seconds between every flash
and every bellow,
anticipating the moment
when the delay is gone
and the light arrives with a boom.

In all this time,
I have never wondered
if, at that moment,
You were speaking to me.