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A Prayer about Praying: 1 Kings 8:23-52

Have you ever waited for a dream you longed to come true? It may’ve been something you prayed about for years or worked hard on for decades. When the day finally comes (if God blesses it), how would you react? Solomon experienced something similar—his father David had a dream about building a temple for the Lord before he was even born. When Solomon took on and completed his father’s dream at great expense, he was overwhelmingly grateful to God. Only God enabled him to build the temple and only God could make the building worthy of his name. So Solomon prays a dedication prayer in 1 Kings 8:22-53 (2 Chr 6:14-40), surrounded by several other prayers and even God’s direct response to Solomon. While Solomon is dedicating the temple, his prayer is really about affirming and asking God to be faithful to prayer requests—its a prayer about praying. A Call to Hear Past Promises Kept Currently “Yahweh, God of Israel, there is not a god like you in the heavens from above and upon the earth from

Psalm 103: Limitless Mercy for Fragile Humans

 Psalm 103 (and its twin 104) contain the famous call to “bless Yahweh, O my soul.” It clearly presents a theology of God’s grace and mercy, well before the Christ came to atone for our sin. The descriptive imagery surrounding God’s limitless mercy and the fragility of the human condition act as the backdrop for the famous self-directed call to worship God. They present a powerful case for why we should keep God’s love for us always on our hearts.   Bless the Blesser Psalm 103 begins and ends with a self-invocation to “bless Yahweh my soul”, one of the most famous lines from this psalm. This establishes from the beginning that the poem is chiefly about God. As the psalmist rouses himself (and the congregation reading the psalm) to bless Yahweh twice, he also “commands” himself not to forget God’s benefits. God is to be blessed because he blesses. Then the psalm turns to a list of ways that God benefits his people: forgiveness of sin, healing diseases, protection from destruction, besto

Daniel's Powerful Prayer: Daniel 9

 Daniel prayed one of the most powerful prayers in the whole Bible. This prayer was so meaningful that he not only received an immediate response from God, God sent an angel with a vision ! Daniel’s deep concern for his people, the realization of their sin, and reverence for God’s reputation incited him to utter the heartfelt prayer we find in Daniel 9.  “ While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and that of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning his holy mountain, while I was still praying , Gabriel . . . came to me. . . 'at the beginning of your petitions, an answer went out, and I have come to tell you for you are highly precious. So consider the message and understand the vision.' ” – 9:20-23 We see in Daniel’s prayer an almost paradoxical situation—he prays that God would fulfill a promise for his own sake, almost as if Daniel was unsure if his people’s sin would invalidate God’s promise. In this prayer we find humble confes

The Twelve Curses: Deuteronomy 27:15-26

 Everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments but have you ever heard of the “Twelve Curses?” Throughout the Bible, we see lists of the good we ought to do (like the fruit of the spirit, the beatitudes, various blessings, etc.) and sins that God abhors (woes against the Pharisees, seven abominations, etc). In the closing portions of Deuteronomy, we find a list of twelve curses that have many similarities to the Ten Commandments. These specific curses were given to the Israelites alongside a lengthy description of punishments for breaking God’s law. While they function similarly to the Ten Commandments, they serve as an indictment against sinful behavior; warning what will happen if wrong is committed.  This curse tablet was discovered on Mount Ebal, the same mountain where the Israelites pronounced curses. Its discovery was announced in 2023, with research findings published in May of 2023. The Curses Idolatry “Cursed is the man who makes a carved idol or molten image—an abomination to Y

His Bride and His Body for Himself: Ephesians 5:21–33

 One of the most famous and powerful descriptions of the church is as the bride of Christ. This popular image comes from Ephesians 5 and is alluded to throughout Scripture (a fascinating book on this topic is God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery ). In this section of Ephesians, beginning in verse 21 (or verse 15, or perhaps verse 1, or even 4:25), Paul writes on submission in human relationships — while there are distinct individuals in every relationship described (marriage, slavery, families), they are to love the other person as if they were the same person. Here he talks about the relationship between husband and his wife, but he is primarily talking about Jesus and the church, “This mystery [marriage] is great, however, I speak to Christ and to the church.” – Ephesians 5:32 Head of His Body   “ …Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ…”  – 23-24a ESV  Here the image of a “head” is not th

The Church's Collective Purpose: Oneness with Jesus, Ephesians 4:11-16

What is the purpose of our lives, together as the entire church? Yes, we are to “love God and people” (Matt 22:37-39) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), but these are commands for Christians, not purpose statements. These are the actions by which we live out our purpose on earth but are not the same as our eternal purpose in itself (directly). The end goal of all Christians is to be “one with God”, or to have “union with Christ.” This is a major motif throughout Paul’s writing and is made the “clearest” in Ephesians. While reading the whole of Ephesians is the best way to grasp God’s vision of “oneness” with him, Ephesians 4:11-16 is one of the clearest passages on this as applied to the church, "[Jesus gave] [church leaders] towards the fitness of the saints for the work of ministry for the building of the body of Christ, until we all may arrive at unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God, into mature manhood [and] to the measure of the statu

Do Some Have Better Spiritual Gifts?

Does it ever feel like people you know are more “spiritual” than you are? Like they have more opportunities to influence people for God’s kingdom than you do? Do you ever struggle with the comparison game: “if I had more charisma, I could lead more people to Christ,” or, “why can they understand the Bible so easily and I can’t”, or even “they must be a better Christian than I am, look at all their talents they can serve the church with!” The struggle in comparing ourselves to others is a legitimate one that everyone faces—even the people who appear the “most talented” or “most spiritual” can struggle with this. Does God really bestow better spiritual gifts to some and not others?  The answer is both yes and no. Differing Gifts “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think ; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith . For just as we have many members in one bo

Words of My Mouth and Meditation of My Heart: Psalm 19:11-14

 Psalm 19 is one of the most popular psalms in the psalter.  It beautifully speaks about creation declaring God’s glory and the value of God’s revelation for his followers. While most of the psalm is objective, focusing its attention on describing what is outside of the speaker, it becomes subjective as it closes in focusing on the speaker himself. The closing lines to Psalm 19 connect what is external to the psalmist (God’s word) to what is internal in the psalmist, his own sin.  Verse 11 marks a shift from describing what God’s word is to how it impacts the poet (representing all believers). “Moreover, by them is your servant warned [illuminated]; in keeping them there is great [positive consequence].” – Psalm 19:11  The law of God illuminates the best way to live and it creates positive life effects. The psalm then leaves God’s law as its direct topic and moves to what the law is implied to reveal, personal sin. Secret Sin First, the psalms speaks of secret sins,  “Who can discern e

Jude's 3 Evangelism Tips (22–23)

Jude’s epistle is a short letter addressed to all Christians, imploring them to fight for the true Gospel against false teachers who have infiltrated the church. While originally wanting to address the doctrine of Salvation (verse 3), the circumstances of the day compelled Jude to write a letter of warning. Toward the end of his letter, Jude switches from addressing the problem of false teachers to how Christians should behave (verses 17 and 20). Specifically, Jude gives some tips for reaching people who are not connected with God, potentially those who have been led astray by these false teachers, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” - Jude 22–23 Here, Jude is presenting a plan to engage three groups of those disengaged with Christ. This plan is not surefire a guarantee of their salvation, but the means by which we obey God’s will in an effort for them to be sav

What is Truth?

 Introduction We see the word "liar" and "lie" bantered about by many from all sides. When opinion is shared, or a story from current events is published, "fact-checkers" come out with the context, or sometimes just opposing opinions to counter the story. So, can we know the truth? When Jesus was on trial for blasphemy, disguised as "treason", Pilate asked "Are you a king?". Jesus answered that he was, and that his purpose was to "bear witness to the truth". Pilate reacted, saying, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38). Jesus remained quiet, but earlier he had told his disciple Thomas, when he had asked, "How can we know the way?", that "I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life"(John 14:5-6). Later, in praying for his disciples shortly before his betrayal and trial, Jesus prayed to the Father: "Sanctify [my disciples] through the truth: Your word is truth." (John 17:17) But, what does th

The Lost Art of Honoring Your Parents: Deuteronomy 5:16

 What it does mean to “honor your parents?” In western society, this phrase may feel outdated, antiquated, and irrelevant. As believers in God’s Word, we know the Lord repeatedly admonishes us to honor our father and mother. Yet, our society gives us a different message, making it difficult to decipher how this applies in today’s world. “Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.” — Exodus 20:12 Deuteronomy 5:16 elaborates upon this in more detail, “Honor your father and your mother, as Yahweh your God has commanded you , so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.”  A Weighty Ask The Hebrew word for honor means, “to give weight to”, or “to consider heavy.” When you add weight to an object, like weights to a barbell, it makes it more difficult to carry but also more important to carry. If you carry a heavy weight incorrectly, it can lead to injur

Why Hasn't Jesus Come Back Yet?

 One of Jesus’ pivotal teachings is that he would bring an end to the world as we know it. Jesus made this promise over 2,000 years ago. The early church was convinced that Jesus’ return would be imminent because he said that he would be “coming soon” (Rev 22:12, 20).  Now here we are all this time later and Jesus still hasn’t returned. What’s the hold up? Why is there a delay? What is so exciting is that Scripture gives us a direct, explicit answer to this very question; we don’t have to make an inference or an implication. Peter shares God’s direct answer to this question in the third chapter of his second letter. The “Hold Up”  — More to be Saved The explicit answer is found in verse 9 (with some important context to strengthen his rhetoric), “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” It seems as if the Lord is taking a long time to return. Viewing this