We find a fascinating description of prayer in 1 Samuel 3:19. The writer describes Samuel as he grows up in the temple under the tutelage of the high priest, Eli. The scriptures say that, the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.
So, apparently you can pray and have your words, fall to the ground. I wonder how many of my prayers have done so? I’m guessing enough to trip over, or even enough to be buried under. How many selfish and insincere prayers never make it to the Lord? Across my lips and straight to the earth.
Food for thought the next time you pray. Try to imagine where your prayers might be going – to the Lord, or to the floor?
How do you approach the controversy that has sprung up this year concerning racial supremacy? As one who tries to live with the Bible as the primary guide to how to live and how to relate to others, I want to let the Scriptures inform my thoughts.
Here are two passages that have been in my mind the last few weeks:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This is a radial passage and was understood as such when Paul wrote it. He intended it to shock, to show his readers that all are valuable in the economy of eternity. There are no differences before God. All ethic groups, all genders, all stations of life are of equal worth to Jesus.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
The language used here for “nation” means “ethnos.” So, literally every ethnic group in the world will stand before the throne of God and worship. The only supremacy belongs to the Lamb of God.
If this is the picture of the future the Lord has planned for us, then I can see no reason to hold to a theory of racial supremacy today. All are valued by God and all will be represented before the throne. Let us treat our fellow citizens with at least some of the respect that the Lord has endowed into each person born into this world.
Of the many intriguing people you read about in scripture, Benaiah is one of my favorites. He was a famous warrior, one of King David’s “mighty men.” He fought and defeated powerful enemies of Israel. And while there were other great warriors in that day, Benaiah performed something unique, described in 1 Chronicles 11, which fascinates me to no end.
We are told that he “climbed down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day.” Wait, what? It seems that there are three unusual aspects to this story. One, snowy days were rare in this part of the world. Two, a lion in a pit was also uncommon. And three, a guy that would choose to climb down into that pit and fight that lion was one of a kind.
Was this a trap of some kind? Was the lion defending something valuable? Or when coming upon the lion in the pit did Benaiah’s buddies say, “I bet you can’t kill that lion,” and Ben said, “watch me,” and then hopped into the pit. I suspect it’s reason #3. That’s how guys role sometimes.
I don’t know why this story is included in the Bible, except that Benaiah is so badass that the author just couldn’t leave it out. You can’t make this stuff up. Regardless of the circumstances, all I know is that if there’s one guy from the Bible I’d want on my side in a fight, it would be Benaiah.
We find the story in 1 Kings 19. As Elijah stands outside his cave and waits for the Lord to speak, he first experiences a mighty rushing wind, near hurricane force. So powerful, this must be the Lord!
But the Lord was not in the wind.
Then, a massive earthquake. Surely, this is how the Lord sets foot on the earth.
But the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Next, a wildfire consuming the countryside. Of course, the Lord is like fire and everything He touches is lit ablaze.
But the Lord was not in the fire.
Then Elijah hears something soft. He turns his head in that direction. It’s an almost imperceptible brush against his ear, a quiet passing, merely a whisper.
It is the Lord. God is found in the whisper.
I love the way the Lord is so counter-intuitive. We think that when the Lord speaks He does so by smashing his way into our lives. God finds it better to whisper. We must listen, pay attention, cock our ear away from the noise of our culture and towards quiet places. Why do so many people find that they feel closer to God when out in the nature? Because it’s quiet. Learn to cultivate times and places of quiet, for it is there that we find the Lord.
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
So goes this prayer found in Psalm 119:18, the longest psalm and chapter in the Bible, written in praise of scripture and its benefits on our lives. The Holy Scriptures are worth reading, discussing, pondering, memorizing, praying over, listening to and generally spending any amount of time taking in. No moment in scripture is a waste of time.
The scriptures at our fingertips really are amazing. I don’t think about their life-changing qualities nearly enough. The prayer by the psalmist, “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law,” reminds us of the profundity of the Bible. The scriptures are a conduit to the ways of the Lord, a power cord connecting us to wisdom and insight. Wonderful things lie before us if we will allow God to open our eyes.
On the passion facade of La Sagrada Familia, the magnificent cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, you’ll spot this odd grid of numbers. Designed and placed here by the cathedral’s architect, Antoni Gaudi, this is known as a “magic square.”
Why is this so special? Try adding the numbers in any direction and discover the sum (the bottom number on the right is 15 – apologies for my photography). Then, think about what significance that sum has in a cathedral dedicated to the glory of God.
Gaudi used a variety of imagery, light and shapes to draw the visitor’s attention and devotion to God when they walked through his cathedral. In my mind, this square represents a clever way to catch your attention and entice you to give thought to the image of the invisible God.
Still stumped? Shoot me a note and I’ll fill you in on the secret.
As I write the post, it’s raining outside. Here in Colorado it’s been really, really dry. Wildfires have burned throughout the state this spring and my yard is crunchy. The rain is much needed and much desired. Isn’t it funny how we can be so appreciative of a simple thing like rain? We all know that although simple, rain gives life and that is amazing.
A needed rain coming just in time always reminds me of Matthew 5:45 where we’re told that the Lord sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. That’s called common grace – the Lord’s goodness that comes to all, despite our righteousness or lack thereof.
As for me today, I’m not sure if I’m just or unjust, I’m just glad it’s raining.
A statue of Brahmin in India where Hindus worship today
I’m reading in the Old Testament right now as part of my “read through the Bible in a year” discipline. I just read about Moses going to the mountain to meet with God and get the 10 commandments. While he was gone, he left Aaron, his brother and spokesman in charge.
You know the story. The Israelites freaked out when Moses was gone too long and revolted. Aaron responded by gathering gold and crafting an image of a calf, thus creating a new god to worship. Bull worship was common back in the day (and it still practiced in some parts of the world as the picture above demonstrates). Aaron crafts a common god to give the people what they want – something safe and familiar to worship.
There’s no indication that Aaron opposed this idea or stood against this move to idolatry. He folds under the pressure of the people. All this while Aaron and the Israelites stand at the base of a mountain engulfed with smoke and fire, literally looking at the miraculous presence of God.
Moses was a great leader. His brother, Aaron, a failure. Leaders are made, not born, and these brothers bear out that point.
The United States of American just inaugurated our 45th President, Donald J. Trump, into office. The Bible encourages us to pray for our leaders, whether you like them or not, voted for them or not, care about them or not, pay attention to what they do or not. I don’t say this flippantly. Regardless our our political swayings or convictions, we should pray. We may or may not be voting citizens, but as believers we should all be praying citizens.
Here’s a couple of verses to keep in mind as you pray:
When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.
2 Samuel 23:3,4
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
Let’s pray together for our nation and our nation’s leaders that they would rule in righteousness. Let’s also remember that it’s the Lord who directs the heart of presidents and kings. The Lord is ultimately in control, regardless of what world leaders may think, and we have the privilege of praying and communicating directly with the one in control. Why ignore this special opportunity? Take some time, right now, and ask the Lord to help our leaders to follow Him and to live by the principles found in the Scriptures.
Statue on the facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
Yesterday, many years ago, God entered the world as a baby. Today, many years later, the world is different. It may not seem different, but the divine became flesh and dwelt among us. The entire universe rocked as the Creator stepped into the boat. Creation is happily, joyously refreshed.
Don’t forget. As you return gifts and take down the tree, or as you travel back home and get ready for the new year, don’t forget. God has walked among us. Don’t forget why we now have hope. Don’t forget where our focus should be. Don’t forget. Because today the world is different.