Moreover 

MTS-3450

Moreover

“Moreover, I will give you what you have
not asked for…”

           1 Kings 3:13

 

The things that we often bring before the throne of grace are from our conscious need, for
the most part; and the items of which we are not aware, we tend to neglect. “The
squeaky wheel gets the grease,” so it is with our prayers. The problem is: the
things for which we pray often are not necessarily the most important ones. We
pray for what we deem essential or the most urgent, but the Holy Spirit
intercedes for us with “groans that words cannot express” concerning the things
that are truly necessary.

I prayed for my son’s application and interview for a very competitive summer job, and he
received an offer a few weeks later, for which I was very grateful; yet it
turned out to be not so good of a thing, for the summer employment would conflict
with his regular work, which created a problem for him. It would have been far
better if the Lord had disregarded my prayer and kept him from getting the job.

“Why do we still pray, then?” we may question. Only the Lord knows what the best is for us
and, no matter how passionately we pray, the Lord will not grant us our
petitions according to our wishes if they are not consistent with his sovereign
will. Are our prayers some sort of hit and miss type of thing?

Surely I have my children’s best interest in mind and I pray for them accordingly, which is
quite natural for us parents to do. The content of my daily intercession for
people would become entirely different if I somehow were to become omniscient.
What I can do is to familiarize myself more with the Scriptures and therefore
become better in detecting God’s will, and my prayers will become more in the
same accord with God’s will.

Humility and obedience are essential when we pray.  We
should humble ourselves when we are on our knees, acknowledging that we often
pray in ignorance, not in knowledge, and we pray that the Lord would enlighten
our hearts and minds so that we can pray according to God’s will. Secondly, we
must determine to accept whatever is handed down to us by faith, without
complaint or grumbling.

As a matter of fact, what we haven’t asked from the Lord may be far more essential to our
existence and wellbeing than the things we have earnestly pleaded for from him.
Unfortunately, we don’t always give the Lord thanks and praise for answering
the prayers which we have never uttered or the intercessions offered on our
behalf by the Spirit.

We should thank the Lord for the things we have taken for granted our entire life, for those are the
things granted to us so generously without us asking. Have we ever thanked the
Lord for the clear air and bright sunshine, which are both essential for our
existence? Have we ever prayed for the daily provision of air and sunshine?
Learning to be grateful for all the things that we have been taking for granted
is a good start.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Pleased 

MTS-3449

Pleased

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had
asked for this.”

            1 Kings 3:10

 

Are all our prayers equally pleasing to God, or are some more pleasing to him than others?

The Lord was pleased that, instead of asking for longevity or wealth, Solomon prayed for a
discerning heart so that he could better judge the people. Can we infer from
this that unselfish prayers are more acceptable to God than self-centered
requests?

There are two parts in the Lord’s Prayer - one is the petition for God’s kingdom and the
other is prayer for personal needs, and I presume both are equally acceptable
to God.

Certainly uttering a prayer to the Almighty isn’t a show of strength; it’s an expression
of weakness. Therefore, it’s pleasing to God no matter what the content of our
prayer is, isn’t?

We should not be reluctant in any way to bring requests of any kind before the throne of
grace. Sincere and heart-felt prayers are the ones that please the Lord the
most. It seems silly to me that we spiritualize our prayers and deem some more
acceptable than others.

What if Solomon had only asked for wealth and long life in his prayer? Would the Lord have
been offended?

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” said the Lord Jesus. There
seemed to be a tender spot in the Lord Jesus’ heart for children and we may
assume that he was very much interested in their prayers.

I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of children’s prayers are centered on their
needs. They have to grow into adults before they start to pray for the advancement
God’s kingdom in this world.

I doubt the Lord goes so far as to classify the prayers we offer to him regularly; they
are, however, indications of where we stand spiritually, and it pleases the
Lord if he realizes that we are making a progress as Christians.

My children have long ceased asking for money from us and their requests for us, if any at
all, seem to define our current relationship.

“Mom, you must retire or at least work part time,” they told my wife.

“Dad, it’s time for you to have an annual physical,” they urged me. 

“Hey, I really like Tim Keller’s message,” Michael said over the phone.

“Do you like my girl friend?” William asked after we met his date for the first time.

It may surprise me if they ask for money from us like they used to do, since they are
financially independent, but I don’t think it would offend me a bit and I would
do all I could to meet their needs. I guess this illustrates the theme of this
essay somewhat. As we become more mature spiritually, the content of our prayers
may change as well. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Discernment 

MTS-3448

Discernment

“So give your servant a discerning heart
to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”        1 Kings 3:9

 

Solomon probably was feeling apprehensive about all the issues he would be encountering
as a ruler of a big nation and he thought a discerning heart was something he
needed the most at the time, since many would come to him with their problems
and conflicts that required him to give a final verdict. I suppose anyone would
feel quite inadequate under such circumstances. Surely the king desperately
needed wisdom from above.

Besides asking for divine help, the king could also turn to the book of the law, which
was available to him, for direction and guidance. Solomon would have great
difficulty knowing how to distinguish between right and wrong unless he
familiarized himself with the law of God.

The king couldn’t have done the judging all by himself. I suppose only issues of great
significance would have been brought before the throne, and his underlings
would take care of the rest. Therefore, a unified standard of judging should
have already been established for them to follow and all they needed to do was
to execute the law with reverence and fear.

The Lord was pleased, however, with the king’s request, for it showed that Solomon did have a fear of the Lord and a strong desire to do all things according to the will of God. Being man of lofty stature and great wisdom, the young Solomon must have been quite a confident and competent man, yet still bowed before the Lord when he was about to assume the kingship, acknowledging his own limits and insufficiency as a person.

What the king did in this particular incident was quite admirable. He might not have always
carried out what he intended to do, which was to abide by the law of God at all
times; he nevertheless knew exactly what the right things were, and continued
to strive to do them. Learning how to distinguish between right and wrong is
indeed the rudimentary thing from which all things start and end.

We don’t have to turn to God for direction concerning all our decisions if we are familiar
with the Scriptures. The Lord has clearly spelled out his comprehensive will
over all things in the Bible and it renders us inexcusable if we are ignorant
of them or misread them. Our issue may not be knowing God’s will; we may find
it thorny and difficult obeying his bidding. 

Instead of asking divine wisdom and a discerning heart, it may be wiser for us to pray for
a soft and obedient heart, which is something we desperately need. Indeed with
the Lord’s abundant blessing, Solomon had become the wisest man of the ancient
world, yet his practices weren’t always consistent with the divine wisdom which
he seemed to have possessed in such a great quantity.    

  

 

  
 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Great People 

MTS-3447

A Great People

“Your servant is here among the people
you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.”        1 Kings 3:8

 

Solomon had become a man of great influence and what he did from then on as a king would
have direct or indirect impact on all the people he was charged to lead. That
was indeed an awesome responsibility.

If he decided to launch a building project, the Israelites would have to provide the
necessary funds and manpower; if the king declared war against another nation,
many men would have to bid their loved ones farewell and march to the front to
shed their blood and to sacrifice their lives. What the king determined to do
did have great inferences upon the people in the entire country.

Our country was forever transformed after 9-11 and the world became a different place when
bombs rained down in Iraq. I am sure President Bush must have struggled long
and hard before he made the decision to invade the country which he deemed a
great threat to the US and the entire world.

Aren’t we all glad that we weren’t in his position?

There was a period of time in the Han dynasty when emperors decided the best policy was not
to interfere with what the common folks were doing, which was the political
philosophy generated from Lao Tzu; thus started a long period of “governing by
doing nothing (無為而治.”) I guess doing nothing was in fact doing something and inaction was a sort of
action, for it seemed to have produced a certain effect on the nation, both
positive and negative.

Most of us aren’t leaders of any great consequence, therefore we think we can just relax
and do whatever we deem appropriate. This is indeed a grave misconception, for
whatever we do does have certain impact on other people. We either bring them
an inch closer to heaven or a foot nearer to hell. We are either joy-dispensers
or sorrow-distributers by how we interact with other people, be they strangers
or acquaintances, friends or foes. We sometimes underestimate what a good will
gesture or a smile can do to people. Indeed a simple word of affirmation and a
smile of approval go a long way.

I spotted a ragged-looking man with a hoodie covering his entire face staggering along the sidewalk as I
pulling closer to the church building this morning and, instead of parking the
car, I continued to drive down the street to avoid having an encounter with the
guy. Indeed, for some unknown fear, I might have missed a rare opportunity to
become a blessing to one who needed it the most. Surely for a brief moment I
was a coward.

The majority of us are no Solomon by any stretch of imagination, but we are nonetheless God’s
servants with a certain mission to accomplish just the same, and the world
diminishes a little if we fail to fulfill our responsibility.

     

Monday, February 25, 2013 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Continue 

MTS-3445

Continue

“You have continued this great kindness
to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.”                1 Kings 3:6

 

“O Lord, please continue to be gracious to my family,” I have been praying this prayer
for as long as I can remember, which might be an indication that I have the
fear that the Lord might suddenly suspend the mercy and grace that he has been
pouring out on our family of five.

Indeed the Lord has been very gracious to us over the years. Not only did he provide for
all our daily needs, he also kept us from physical harm and spiritual damage,
even though we haven’t deserved any of it. He seems to have based his love
toward us entirely on his mercy and grace, not at all on our deserving.

Yet because of my unworthiness of receiving his love and grace and plus a feeling of
inadequacy in serving him, I am so afraid that he may withhold what he has given
to us so graciously.

We are constantly changing, but the Lord never changes, for there is no shadow of turning in him;
therefore he is able to love till the end. We would be overcome by fear and
bombarded with dread if the Lord in whom we place our trust were a capricious
God.

The fear of punishment that follows hard after we sin does not come from the Lord; the evil
one is often the source. The Lord may chastise us after we sin, but he is always
motivated by love, and the end result is always positive, which is to make us
partakers of his holiness.

We should, however, avoid sin the best we can lest we provide Satan with an opportunity to
accuse us, causing us to lose faith in God.

The Lord determined to continue to show great kindness to David, based on his unchanging
attributes, not on David’s performance. Surely the king had done relatively well
compared to most people, but he would have fallen rather short had the Lord not
suspended his perfect standard of measurement a little.

Come to think of it, I doubt the Lord was showing his mercy to David by placing one of his
sons on the throne; what he did was to put the fear of the Lord in Solomon’s
heart, which was far more precious than any worldly fame and fortune.

What pleases my wife and me the most isn’t our boys’ worldly successes; it’s rather their
close walk with the Lord that brings unspeakable joy and comfort to our hearts.
Such is the grace that I crave for my children and I pray that the Lord would
continue to grant it to them.   

 

Friday, February 22, 2013 6:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Humility 

MTS-3446

Humility

“But I am only a little child and do not
know how to carry out my duties.”

               1 Kings 3:7

 

Solomon might have been groomed to be a king by his father for a while, but when the dream
became a reality, the young man was still overwhelmed by the awesome
responsibility he was assuming. The young king was indeed quite capable, yet he
still found his capabilities rather insufficient when he was sitting in the
throne, contemplating on the ways to lead and to govern a great nation with
millions of people.

It makes little difference whether one is capable or not, the awesomeness of the job would
have brought most people to their knees. The power seemed appealing looking
from afar, but it could have been extremely frightening when Solomon finally
got a hold of it.

Solomon did the right thing - he turned to the Almighty for help, which might have been a
natural thing for anyone to do. He humbled himself before the Lord, for he felt
inadequate at the time. The question was: would he continue to feel
insufficient as long as he was still governing the nation Israel?

Power would likely cast a spell on him, or anyone, and after a year or two sitting on the
throne and exercising his power, humility would gradually evaporate and pride
and arrogance would take its place, which appeared to be exactly the case in
Solomon’s reign.

The king was in fact stronger when he felt weak and he became weaker when he felt strong. He
was able to channel God’s wisdom and power into what he was doing when he was
feeling inadequate; the divine power ceased to flow into his life when he felt
self-sufficient.

May we all have a strong sense of insufficiency, no matter how capable or incapable we are
in what we are doing, both secular and sacred, realizing that we can always do
better regardless of how well we may have done. We will always fall way short
if our goal is to glorify the Lord in all we do, for the Lord demands the best
from all of us.

Have we done our best in all we do? Far from it, at least that’s my case. I have always done
just enough to get by, no more, no less, which is the reason why I have turned
out to be what I am today - a half-baked product, totally unsuited for anything
that demands high quality. Unless I have a complete do-over, I am afraid I will
end my life with my God-given potential unfulfilled and under-utilized.
Shouldn’t people my age develop a strong sense of urgency? Definitely. Perhaps
I just want to know what it’s like to do something with the best of my ability.
I am in fact curious what it’s going to be like. The downside of this, however,
is I may lose the humility that I have treasured so much, had I done all things
with my best and therefore become the best among many. Had Solomon remained
humble and lowly his entire life, he might have done a lot of things
differently.   

 

     

Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ask 

MTS-3444

Ask

“Ask for whatever you want me to give
you.”

              1 Kings 3:5

 

The Lord asked Solomon this question in a dream while the king was making his sacrifices
in Gibeon. By asking this the Lord seemed to be giving Solomon a blank check
and appeared to be ready to grant whatever was asked of him.

What if the king asked for something that the Lord was not ready to give, something that was
not in exact accordance with his will? Wasn’t it too risky to ask a mere man to
determine what would be the best for him?

I think the Lord was fully assured that Solomon would be asking him for the right thing,
the thing that he had absolutely no problem with giving. He knew Solomon’s
heart was right so that he would pray for the right thing at the time.

One’s heart must be right to pray right.

Had the king been a lustful person, he would have asked for many beautiful women; had he
been greedy man, he would have asked for abundant wealth; had he been an
ambitious person, he would have prayed for much power and fame; had he been a
fearful man, he would have asked for protection; had he been a selfish man, he
would have asked for longevity.

What we pray for daily indicates who we really are. Can the Lord trust us enough by granting us
our every wish? Will he say the same thing to us as he did to Solomon: “Ask
whatever you want me to give you.”

What an awesome responsibly that was! I think my response would have been, had I been
placed in his position: “O Lord, I will let you decide what to give to me since
I have no idea what’s the best for me.”

Consequently, all my prayer items have remained pretty general and generic throughout the
years. I have been too reluctant to ask the Lord for anything specific, for
fear that it might not be consistent with God’s will. I have been doing far
more intercession for other people than making petty petitions for my personal
needs.

My greatest desire in life is that I may love the Lord more and follow him more closely,
and this has been my daily prayer. Of course I pray for some other things such
as my children’s general wellbeing and for their spouses and children, albeit
only one of them has gotten married. I don’t seem to make a lot of requests in
my prayers beyond these.

The Lord seems to have granted me all the specifics for which I have rarely prayed. I suppose
our Heavenly Father will take care of all the details if we focus on the big issues. “But seek
first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to
you as well.” This is indeed a wonderful promise. King Solomon only asked the
Lord for wisdom, yet what he received from above was far, far beyond what he
had requested.

 

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Burnt Offering 

MTS-3443

Burnt Offering

“…and Solomon offered a thousand burnt
offerings on that altar.”

         
1 Kings 3:4

 

King Solomon went up to Gibeon, one of the most popular high places, and offered a thousand
burnt offerings on the altar. Indeed the sacrifice was extravagant.

Being a newly-anointed king, Solomon wanted to show the Israelites how devout he was
and, by doing so, he also set a godly example for people to follow. The king
might not have been a man after God’s own heart like his father; his heart was
nonetheless in the right place.

Did Solomon know the Lord personally; or did he merely try to do what was right in people’s
eyes? Was his knowledge of God heart-knowledge or head-knowledge?

It might have taken a long time for Solomon to come to know the Lord in an intimate way, if
it ever happened at all. Solomon seemed to start quite well as a king over
Israel, yet he appeared to end his reign with a whimper as far as godliness was
concerned. If the book of Ecclesiastes was truly composed by the king, we might
conclude Solomon was a wiser, but a much sadder, person as an old man.

My concern here is not Solomon’s spiritual state; it’s rather our inner condition that
worries me. Are we making extravagant offerings to the Lord like King Solomon
once did on the hill of Gibeon? How much time would it have taken to slaughter
one thousand lambs or bulls and how costly would it have been? If it was enough
to kill one lamb as a burnt offering, why go so far as to butcher a thousand?

There is no end to our daily offerings as a living sacrifice. Are we willing to subject
ourselves to be burned daily so that we can produce a sweet aroma pleasing to
the Lord?

How rich and extravagant is our burnt offering to the Lord?

I become frightened when I sense the heat spewing from the altar and just throw whatever
I have to offer into the fire from far away. I may have the desire to offer
myself to the Lord, yet I remain overly cautious so that I won’t be charred by
the flame. Tithing has become a habit for me, but giving away one hundred
percent of all I possess does make me quiver a little. Serving the Lord in time
of ease seems easy for me, but remaining faithful to God in moment of tumult and
danger may be an issue for me. I long to offer my all as a sacrifice to the
Lord, yet I seem to crave people’s words of affirmation and praise after I have
done any work of service. I long to be god-centered in all I do and all I am,
but my ego is in the way everywhere I turn. O how I desire to offer the Lord an
extravagant sacrifice, yet I have found myself time after time carefully making
reservations of all kinds for myself.   

 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Love God 

MTS-3442

Love God

“Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father
David…”    1 Kings 3:3

 

What King David desired most for his son was that his successor would love the Lord by
keeping his commandments. David was fully convicted that there wasn’t anything
more important than that. He realized that things in the world were fleeting
and the only constant was the Lord. He charged his son to anchor his life squarely
on the solid foundation that would never crumble or fail.

Did the young king do all things according to his father’s instructions? Perhaps not
perfectly, but he at least knew how crucial it was to walk with the Lord in all
he did. He might have fallen short in many ways during his life, but deep
inside he was often reminded of his father’s instructions.

How do Christians show their love for the Lord? Simple enough. They should do so by
obeying the law and by doing all things according to its teaching.

“Dear Lord, please help me to love you more.” I have prayed this prayer daily for the last
thirty some years and will continue to do so for the remainder of my earthly
days, for I consider this the most important in my walk with the Lord. We
should always remind ourselves of how our Lord Jesus summed up the teachings of
the law and the prophets. Unless the love is present, all our labor for the
Lord is moot and void of meaning.

Has the Lord answered my daily prayer? I often wonder. Surely the inner feeling of love has
always been there, but it might not be the only barometer by which my love for
the Lord is measured. I must express my love for the Lord by keeping his
commandments. That’s the only tangible way our love for the Lord is measured. “If
you love me, keep my commandments,” said the Lord Jesus.

I seem to have spent a lot of time trying to forge a warm and fuzzy feeling of love for
the Lord through singing, prayer, and mediation; yet have failed to put my love
for God into solid actions, such as doing evangelism and helping the needy. My
wife, who often calls herself “duty-bound Aeneas,” is constantly doing things
either to enhance her teaching skills or increase her Biblical knowledge. I
guess it’s a no brainer who between us loves the Lord more.

How do we know the love of God is still present when the warm and fuzzy feeling is no
longer there? By walking with the Lord and doing what he commands us to do.
Which of the two sons loved the father more in our Lord’s parable? Was it the younger
son who said “yes” to the father when he was asked to work in the vineyard, but
didn’t do what he was charged, or the elder son who said “no” to the father
initially, yet regretted it later and did what he was told? The feeling of love
might not have been present for the elder son, yet he did what he was told just
the same, which demonstrated that he truly loved his father.            

Monday, February 18, 2013 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

High Places 

MTS-3441

High Places

“The people, however, were still
sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the
Name of the Lord.”    1 Kings 3:2

 

High places were more remote and isolate and appeared to be fitting places for deities to
dwell. Such were the places where Canaanites went up to worship their gods.
Evidently altars to their honor were built there and the Israelites might have adapted
the pagan custom when they worshipped the Lord and the altars might have been
used for the same purpose. The Israelites’ worship had become more and more
polluted after they entered into the Promised Land and it became more urgent
for Solomon to build a temple for the Lord in order to unify and purify the
worship of the Lord.

Evidently the book of the law had been established and was proclaimed to the Israelites from
time to time when they gathered to worship, but words can easily be
misinterpreted or misrepresented when they are transmitted orally. Purity of
worship is extremely difficult to maintain unless people are all familiar with
the sound teaching of the law, which wasn’t the case at the time.

Even the King himself worshipped and sacrificed at the high places where pagan gods used to
be revered.

It’s impossible for Christians to achieve purity in their worship and practices
unless they take the word of God seriously. There was only one church universal
during the Middle Ages to which most Christians adhered, yet their belief was
more or less polluted by superstition because people didn’t know the word of
God. Church leadership became diversified and churches were scattered far and
wide after the Protestant Reformation, yet church purity was maintained for the
most part because Christians were able to read the Scriptures in their own languages.
What a great difference did the word of God make over the years!

We may still be worshipping the Lord in various “high places” if we are not serious in
studying God’s word. In fact, there are more Christians worshipping in “high
places” than we think.

“High places” are the grounds where pagans pay homage to their gods. Many believers seem to
either knowingly or unknowingly follow their neighbors day after day to the
high places to worship pagan deities. Christians and non-Christians have grown
so much like one another both in thought and action and we can hardly tell them
apart. This is indeed tragic! I believe these strange phenomena must have been
caused by Christians’ severe negligence of studying the Bible, the inspired
word of God. 

Our worship and practice should be purified by the holy word of God; otherwise we may fall
into the deadly trap of sacrificing to idols in high places. Do we really know
whom and what we worship?              

Friday, February 15, 2013 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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