If you want to know what people really believe, the philosopher Roger Scruton once explained, listen to them pray. It is one thing to ask a person what he believes, but it is another thing to listen to him pray. Prayers reveal the underlying theology. As the old Latin formula reminds us, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — As we pray, so we believe.
Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has written an article worth pondering on this Memorial Day.
There are several things of interest to me in 2 Kings. 2 of them are interesting in a good way. The other is just plain disturbing.
1) Chariots of Fire (2:11) – Elisha was Elijah’s disciple – his prophet in training so to speak. Elijah is one of only a few people in Scripture who did not have to pass through death to enter God’s presence. Verse 11 says that “he went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” His disappearance was accompanied by a “chariot of fire and horses of fire.” Now I can only imagine what kind of impression this left on Elisha. And I suspect that it was something he thought about everyday for the rest of his life. And it reminded him, even when life and ministry got tough, to persevere with diligence and faithfulness because he knew what waited for him at the finish line. Now I have not ever had a chariots of fire experience but I have had some God moments that I often think back upon that sustain me when life is hard. They serve as reminders to me that God is alive and well and working to prepare me for the great and glorious day of salvation.
2) The Cloak of Elijah (2:13) – When Elijah went to be with the Lord he left behind his cloak. This was purposeful. He knew that it would be helpful for Elisha to have a tangible reminder of the time they had together. Elisha was bereft (v.12). But the cloak helped him deal with his grief as well as to give him a tangible symbol that he would always have of his mentor. So not only did he have the powerful memory of the chariots of fire but he had Elijah’s cloak to encourage him for the days ahead. This got me thinking – what tangible things do I have that I need to purposefully pass on to my kids and grandkids that can serve as motivating reminders for them as life comes at them full speed.
3) The Jeering of Elisha (vs.23-25) – This one is disturbing. But being a baldheaded fellow myself I find it kind of funny, in a tragic sort of way. Evidently Elisha was kind of sensitive to being bald. And evidently he didn’t understand that sometimes youth like to have some fun at the expense of other people. So when these youth made fun of Elisha’s follicly challenged head he called down a curse upon them in the name of the Lord and they were mauled by 2 bears. This didn’t really seem to bother Elisha as the Scriptures say rather matter of factly that he then “went up to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.”
There are a lot of things in Scripture that I find disturbing. But I appreciate that this stuff is included in the Bible. The Bible is not some kind of sugar coated holy book that only paints a pretty picture of a well mannered God. I like the way that C.S. Lewis puts it at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Susan (referring to Aslan) says to Mr Beaver:
“Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
“Preaching the gospel to myself each day mounts a powerful assault against my pride and serves to establish humility in its place. Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place. Also, the gracious love of God, lavished on me because of Christ’s death, is always humbling to remember, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the Hell I deserve.” (from A Gospel Primer for Christians)
A friend of mine recently shared this article on Facebook and I thought it well worth pondering. It was written by J.C. Ryle back in 1878 but is relevant, perhaps even more so, today because of the cultural battle that is being waged and how it effects those who call themselves Christians. It is not a short article but it worth spending the time reading.
One of the passages we read this week in the F260 Plan was Proverbs 2:1-5. This was the passage that inspired me to start being intentional about pondering Scripture many years ago.
A few years ago I put some thoughts together from these verses about how to ponder a passage. I have posted them before but it has been many years. So here they are again. Perhaps they will be helpful as you continue to learn how to ponder the Word.
Proverbs 2:1-5 1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
“Accept” Read the passage slowly 2-3 times. Write down any thoughts that stand out to you. Accept the words from God as a personal message to you.
“Store up” Choose a verse or phrase in the passage to memorize. The key to effective Scripture memory is repetition. Repeat the verse a dozen or more times throughout the day. Scripture memory is a vital key to spiritual health. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden (stored up) Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
“Turn your ear” Listen to what God has to say to you through the passage. Ask God to speak to your heart and to give you ears to hear what He has to say to you. Write down what He tells you. A great prayer to pray as you begin to ponder is from Psalm 1119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.”
“Apply your heart” How can you apply the passage to your life? How can you put it into practice? What will you DO as a result of reading God’s Word.
“Call out” Ponder the passage out loud with someone else. Talk about it with a friend or spouse. Ask what their thoughts are on the passage – what God is teaching them through this passage?
“Cry aloud” Pray the Scripture out loud. Turn the passage into a prayer to God. Praying Scripture is a great way to dialogue with God. Here are some other thought on how to effectively do this.
“Look for it” Meditate on the passage. Think about it in different ways. Chew on the Word as a cow chews it’s cud. Focus on different words or different verses in the passage and ponder their significance and meaning.
“Search for it” If there are aspects of the passage that you don’t understand, use reference tools to help you… Such as a Bible dictionary, concordance, or commentary. Google is a great tool also – if you don’t understand something just google the question you have. Some of the responses will be helpful and some will not but at least it gives you a starting place to learn more.
I don’t use all of these for every passage I ponder but I often use many of them to help me think through the passage. If I can help you become a better ponderer just let me know.
I think we should spend most of our creative energies on constructing in our minds and in our hearts and in our families great and beautiful and glorious alternative visions of reality than the ones we are being offered by the world. If we give most of our time to bemoaning and criticizing the world for acting like the world, our vision of God and his glorious future for his people will become smaller and smaller, and that could be a greater tragedy than the one we are living in.
Here is a good article to help parents as you disciple your kids in today’s crazy world. Don’t let the world educate your kids about the transgender issue – be intentional about having deliberate conversations to help them understand what is going on in terms of a worldview that does NOT exclude God.
“Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”
This verse captured my attention as I was reading this week (using the F-260 Bible Reading Plan). And specifically one word struck me big time: It was the word “except”.
A little background. When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they were supposed to destroy all the hilltop shrines of the Canaanites:
“Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire;cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from their places.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3, see also Deut 7:5 and Numbers 33:52)
Until the construction of the temple, Israel was only allowed to worship at divinely sanctioned sites. Solomon, however, continued not only to worship at existing high places but even to build more of them…
“On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” (1 Kings 11:7-8)
This is the danger of allowing exceptions into our spiritual lives. What starts out as a small exception that we rationalize and convince ourselves that it will just be this one time becomes a repeatable habit and way of life that slowly but surely lures us away from God and destroys our spiritual health. Note what 1 Kings 11:9 says about Solomon…
“The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”
And it all started with one word… “except.”
Here are a few questions that this verse provokes me to ponder:
What are the exceptions I allow into my TV and internet watching?
What are the exceptions I make with regard to the things I spend money on?
What are the exceptions I make regarding stuff that I read?
What are the exceptions I make regarding dietary habits?
Exceptions can kill you. Be careful what you “except” in your life!
“The health of the church has always been in proportion to the extent to which the difference between Christian and non-Christian has been kept sharp and clear. Once the line is blurred spiritual decline is a certainty, and the blurring of the line has been the main cause of the decline of the English speaking churches of the past century.”