Sunday, August 28, 2022

Inspired by Solomon's Dream

I have mentioned before that on my very first read through the Bible, I was deeply moved when I read of Solomon's dream. Here is a recap, as a refresher on the details: 

5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. (I Kings 3:5-12)

Remembering my first read, I was struck by the beauty of Solomon's wish, the purity of his heartfelt desire. I was heartened by the faithfulness of God in recognizing that prayer's purity and rightness. With more years of experience now, I'm familiar with more stories of people attaining power and how they use it. So many people, suddenly in power, would have seen to their wealth, their egos, their personal scores to settle, silencing their enemies, neutralizing rivals as perceived threats. Even the more civic-minded can easily have their thoughts firmly fixed on their own vanity projects, convinced in their own mind that they already know what is best. Solomon's humility leads to an honest self-appraisal, his heart is for his people, and his eye is on whether he can discern what is good and what is evil. Any one of those seems a rare trait in a leader; the combination of all three is a delight. In Solomon's early rule he is passionate to do what is right. And the Lord faithfully promises wisdom and discernment. 

Our current secular culture is a mocking, irreverent culture, hostile toward the idea of wisdom. "Wisdom" here does have specifically religious implications -- the necessity of humility, the rightness of acknowledging God's ways, the desirability of that understanding. 

From what I have studied before, I think of wisdom as knowledge guided by love. I desire for our world to be guided with more wisdom. That means for God's people to become more deeply immersed in it, directed by it. I think it starts here: that we desire it, and seek it.  

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Lilies and Lantana

Occasionally I find that my devotional time turns toward the beauty of nature. Today's meditation was on lantana, a beautiful complex flower composed of more than one color of flower. I think "Consider the lilies of the field" likely includes all the flowers: they have no day jobs, make no clothes, and not even the richest of kings can compare. Therefore, we need not worry: that's how God clothes the grass of the field. How much more will he care for us.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Discipleship, friendship, and brotherhood

Jesus had roughly three years when he directly taught his disciples. When he sent them out, he sent them in pairs, two by two. There may be practical or strategic advantage to sending out people together, but there is also spiritual advantage. In pairs, they could encourage each other, steady each other through unfamiliar situations, keep each other grounded. They could develop and deepen friendships. When family relations already existed, Jesus often encouraged those bonds: we see Peter paired with his brother Andrew, and James paired with his brother John. For others, Jesus helped forge new bonds. No one was left alone or excluded from fellowship, and human connections were made as a matter of course. There are no fifth wheels in the church.

Consider that, at times, Jesus told the disciples not to take extra clothing, extra food, or extra money -- but to take a companion. Having a companion was seen as the most necessary preparation for the journey: more necessary than funding, more necessary than food or a change of clothes. There was no material thing needed for equipment. But spiritually, the journey did not start without a companion. 

My own journey in faith -- modest though it is -- began that way. I started my journey when a friend invited me to Sunday school, and I was not alone. My own journey started with a companion -- and started because of that companion, who included me. 

There are many divisions in our world, many things preventing fellowship. Most of them are needless, pointless divisions. When we follow Christ and Christ alone, we walk together.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

The Holy Spirit v unclean spirits

I've mused before that holiness has more to it than we often credit, more than our irreverent age can easily understand. One thing that we can see is that the Spirit of God is holy, while other spirits are often referred to as "unclean." Is there a sense in which "holy" is the opposite of "unclean"? 

As mentioned, places in the Bible speak of "unclean spirits" on the one side, and the Holy Spirit on the other.

There are places in Paul's letters that use holy as the opposite of unclean, for example: "otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy." (1 Corinthians 7:14)

David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me." He spoke as if being clean and pure were part of what it means to have a right spirit. 

In some well-known passages of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is associated with baptism. There the Holy Spirit is associated with water -- especially in washing and cleansing.

Holiness starts with making us clean and pure; a clean heart is one of God's great gifts, and an honest person's heart-felt desire.