Wednesday, May 26, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - In A Dream is a Wish

What is a wish? The dictionary defines it, "to want; desire." We find our daily reading this week in 1 Kings. The first two chapters we see the sibling rivalry between Adonijah and Solomon. A fight for the throne. Adonijah, decides for himself that he will become king over Israel. But, that was not the plan. Solomon was to become king. Instead, Adonijah's unwise aggressive action lead him down the road that lead to his death.

Solomon had grown up watching his father David lead Israel which had prepared him for the throne. But as soon as Solomon took that position, he cleaned house, doing away with many of his father's leaders. This way he could start from scratch. He knew the responsibility of this position was great and it was going to take much more than being a warrior and wealthy.

In 1 Kings 3, Solomon has married the daughter of Pharaoh in Egypt. This little compromise was Solomon's flaw. He kept every statute that his father kept, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense in the surrounding hills of Jerusalem rather than at the tabernacle. One day, Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices. It was there the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon, instead of while he was awake and offering his sacrifice. God did not agree with his sacrifices so instead came to him in a dream. In verse 4, the scripture says that God said to Solomon, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."

This was Solomon's response beginning with verse 6, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and rigteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 Now , O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen , a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distingquish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" I'm sure Solomon was feeling heavy with the weight he now had to carry.

The Lord was pleased with what Solomon had asked for. Verse 11 God said, "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, 12 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. 13 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. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statues and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." Even though Solomon's sacrifices weren't pure to the Lord, his desire was and even more, Solomon was humble. The Lord honored that by giving him wisdom. Solomon was known all over the world for his wisdom. The benefit of this desire was great wealth and a long life. Then verse 15 says, "Then solomon awoke - and he realized it had been a dream."
(1 Kings 3:11-15)

Last summer we did our study in Proverbs, the book of wisdom that Solomon wrote. In that we discovered that wisdom is not "what" but "who". Who is wisdom? Jesus. When Jesus is our desire, we now have a greater wisdom than even Solomon. The attributes of wisdom are knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is what Jesus is doing and has done. When we ask the Lord to help us make decisions, much like Solomon had to do when the two prostitutes came to him with their issue, it is the Holy Spirit that lives in us, who helps us to discern what is right and wrong. (1 Kings 3:16-28) Wisdom gives us understanding, which is knowing what Jesus wants you to do.
Proverbs 2:10 & 11 says "For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you."

Unlike Solomon, maybe the Lord has not appeared to you in a dream and asked you what you wish. Instead, He gives us the opportunity to ask for wisdom, Jesus, while we are awake and concious. The promise of wisdom is a long life. The promise of Jesus is eternal life. With Jesus not only do we receive wisdom, which leads to prosperity and health, but also we have power and victory over death.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Help Wanted

This past week as I've been reading 1Chronicles, David is now coming to the end of his life and giving instructions to his son, Solomon. He is helping Solomon with organizing his government officials as well as religious leaders. He is laying out the plans for the building of the temple. David's desire throughout his life was to build the temple for God's presence to dwell. Knowing that he would never see it come to pass, he wanted to make sure Solomon understood each detail and that it required participation. It was important for the Levites to partner with Solomon. I believe it was to give the Levites a sense of ownership, since it was their tribe who looked after the tabernacle. Unlike other kingdoms in the land that were built using slaves, this was a "family" project. When people work together on a project, it creates a unity and a connectedness. When people are called to a task with the same goal in mind, there is a natural bond that happens. It's like going on a retreat or to camp. At the beginning, you barely know your roommates and by the end it's hard to say goodbye because of the experiences you have shared have connected you spiritually.

First Chronicles 23 begins with this, "When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel. 2 He also gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. 3 The Levites thirty years old or more were counted, and the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand. 4 David said, "Of these, twenty-four thousand are to supervise the work of the temple of the LORD and six thousand are to be officials and judges. 5 Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose." (1 Chronicles 23:1-5)

That is a pretty large group of people just from the tribe of Levi that David is hiring to get the job done. This prompted something in my heart in regards to our participation in the body of Christ. Today many attend Church, but never participate in the community. Many Believer's live isolated and do their relationship with the Lord their way and in doing so, eventually walk away because they don't feel connected to the body of Believers. 1 Corintians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body." If it took thirty-eight thousand men to work on building the temple of the Lord, then why do we, who now are a temple for the Holy Spirit, live our lives alone? Notice too that each had a specific job to do.

As we begin reading the Proverbs that Solomon wrote, we will see the importance of having advisers. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." I see so many times as people are in their journey, they refuse to include others in on their process. God's plan for us is that we would become more like Jesus and in doing so, it requires others to help chisel away the rough places in our lives. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Today I would ask that you take some time to evaluate your life. Who partners with you in your journey? Who do you partner with in their journey? Are you committed to the building of the Body of Christ that the Lord has placed you in? Or do you just show up because you live your Christian life your way? Be truthful with yourself. This is between you and God, yet His plan is that you would be connected. He said in the very begining, "It is not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18) Adam already had a relationship with God, but God knew Adam needed more. Living a life as a follower of Jesus requires help. Always keep your "Help Wanted" sign posted so you don't miss out on any relationship that God brings your way that will lead you to become all God intended you to be.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Bones to Pick

"A bone to pick" is an expression often used when there is a disagreement or dispute that needs to be settled. That was the first thing that came to my mind reading this passage in 2 Samuel. The passage reads:

1 There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord
about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”

2 So the king summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out. 3 David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”

4 “Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,” the Gibeonites replied. “Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel.”

“What can I do then?” David asked. “Just tell me and I will do it for you.”

5 Then they replied, “It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. 6 So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord.”

“All right,” the king said, “I will do it.” 7 The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth,who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord. 8 But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 9 The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. 11 When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) 13 So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed.

14 Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land. 2 Samuel 21:1-14 (New Living Translation)

In reading this passage, David and all of Israel is facing a season of famine. After three years, he finally decides to go to God. When he finds out it was from something that had happened during Saul's reign, he goes to make amends. He recovers Saul's and Jonathan's bones and puts them where they belong, in the tomb of his father. The place where the dead belong, buried. But not just in any tomb, the place where he should have been buried all along. The scriptures says that after all that was done, God ended the famine.

What I am trying to point out here is, how often do we neglect something that we should have dealt with when "it" was alive? Saul was supposed to give the Gibeonites some land, but instead his "flesh" got in the way and he decided to try and kill them off. Not part of God's plan. There was now a "curse" not only on Saul's family, but on the Israelites too because Saul did not follow God's direction.

When we make mistakes and make choices out of God's will, could this possibly bring a "curse" on our lives? (I think I've seen too many "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.) I see people all the time forfeit a life of blessing because they refuse to "bury" the bones of the past. They refuse to settle that dispute in their heart and it leads them to a spiritual famine. Often times, others pay for our disobedience to the Lord, especially our family members. It says, in this case, it was seven of Saul's sons. Not to mention Rizpah who was a "family member" who grieved this loss. She guarded the bodies to make sure they stayed in tact.

Rizpah is like the loved ones in our lives who suffer from mistakes that we make. Personally, I know of people who carry around "unburied bones" of other family members that have been dead for years. It's a generational curse. It then becomes apart of the heritage of the family. Not something to be proud of. It brings a weariness and a lack of blessing. And they wonder why they can't seem to get that break through the need.

The scripture says that when David finally put Saul's and Jonathan's bones in the tomb of Saul's father, Kish, the "curse" lifted. The famine ended. We too need to bury those "bones" from our past. When we do we end the famine in our spirit. This gives us more opportunity for blessings to come.

John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us "life" and "life" more abundantly. Not "death" more abundantly, LIFE. Jesus didn't leave any "bones" in his tomb, therefore, we shouldn't leave any bones in the "temple" where His Spirit dwells, which is in us.

Take sometime to examine your life. Have you been living in a spiritual famine? How long has it been? David waited three years to ask God. Have you asked God why and what is causing the famine? What bones are laying around that keep you from living in abundant life?