When I took a survey of my blog readers in 2014, the results of that survey were very telling of who you are. For example, I learned that most subscribers signed up for one of two reasons.
Most of you subscribed for the convenience of getting my posts automatically sent to you. Others sign up for my free e-book I give to all who subscribe.
But you also received something else when you subscribed.
I prayed for you.
Everybody likes to be an exception to the rule. No exceptions. This paradox seems especially true for individuals who are exceptional. Like Solomon. (And like you and me.)
“I have given you a wise and discerning heart,” God told Solomon, “so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12). Talk about exceptional!
And yet Solomon became the exception to the wisdom of Solomon. How?
It started with two small compromises that we can avoid.
Sometimes the only thing worse than God refusing to give us what we want occurs when He gives us want we want. Many years ago, our young daughter had only one thing on her mind.
She knew we planned an Easter egg hunt, and she asked if she could eat lots of candy on Easter. We told her no, but she kept after us, day after day. Easter came and she continued to plead. So we decided to let her learn by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. We let her eat as many little chocolate eggs as she wanted.
That night was pitiful.
“Oooooh, mommy, my tummy hurts!” She had learned by experience what she refused to learn by instruction. My toddler’s lesson gets repeated in the life of most of us adults.
But it doesn’t have to.
Which seems worse: refusing to follow God though He promises success, or stubbornly pressing forward without Him? Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference.
God’s people swung on both extremes of this pendulum in the course of one day.
What their experience teaches us can guide us as we anticipate the future God has for us.
There is only one way you will know God’s will for you this year. Relatively speaking, that’s the easy part. But once you know it, then comes the tough assignment: choosing to walk in it.
From the first verse of Scripture, God revealed how the Earth set the stage for the divine drama of history to take place (Gen. 1:1). From its formless, void beginning, the Lord fashioned the Earth with His intention in its details. From this ground, God made physical people spiritual beings in His image.
Finding and following God’s will was no different for Adam and Eve than it is for us.
We have the same problem they did.
Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.
The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).
But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)
The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.
Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.
On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.
The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).
The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.
His reply gave them more than they bargained for.
Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.
The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.
Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.
During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).
David felt very alone.
His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.
The superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1
The “dry and weary land” that David described also described his own weariness, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst.
At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life. He yearned for God.
Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.
I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.
I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.
I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”
“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.
His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.