“The Race Marked Out for Us” ( Hebrews 12:1, NIV-UK ) by Carley Evans


Since the author of Hebrews compares our walk with Christ as a race with clearly marked lanes and an easily identifiable finish line, I feel perfectly free to use the same analogy. (Paul often uses the same racing analogy, after all. And yes, that’s assuming he did not author the epistle to the Hebrews.) Here is what the author of Hebrews writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

The “great cloud of witnesses” are the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel; they show off what real faith looks like! Since we have so many excellent examples of working faith, the author calls us to “throw off everything that hinders.” Whatever hinders our faith, we should dispense with. Then the author encourages us to throw off “the sin that so easily entangles.” Whatever sin remains in our day-to-day walk with Christ, we are to do our utmost to disentangle ourselves! Then, we are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Notice the author does not call upon us to cross into the running lanes of other racers. He does not command us to grab ahold of our neighbor and drag him or her along with us in our running lane. Each person runs his or her own race in a lane “marked out” especially for him or her. We aren’t able to give someone else our “perseverance.” We have to trust that God provides for each racer as need arises.

We see this in the history of Israel. Each individual saint stands or falls based upon his or her own perseverance and the power that God provides within each person’s situation. Each saint must disentangle himself or herself; each saint must throw off sins that entangle him or her; each saint must run his or her own race and reach the finish line alone (and yet, together with other members of the body of Christ Himself).

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

“A Son Given To Us; Father Of The World To Come” ( Isaiah 9:6, WYC ) by Carley Evans


English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...
English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the juxtaposition in Isaiah of the Son given to us; the Son who is also the Father of the world to come [or to coming!].

“Forsooth a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is made on his shoulder (But a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is placed upon his shoulders); and his name shall be called Wonderful, A counsellor, God, Strong, Father of the world to coming, A prince of peace [and his name shall be called Marvellous, Counsellor, God, Strong, Father of the world to come, Prince of peace].”

Jesus’ birth is long anticipated. Isaiah knows He is coming and yet speaks of Him in the present tense: “But a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is placed upon His shoulders.” Jesus is here and now, but He is also in the future where He is “Father of the world to coming [or to come!]”

God is human and divine, simultaneously. Isaiah barely grasps this, yet here it is in his words – words the Holy Spirit writes through him: “A little child is born to us.” “And His name shall be called God, Strong, Father of the world to come, Prince of peace.”

Merry Christmas.

“Wisdom” ( 1 Kings 3: 5-14, 16-28, WYC ) by Carley Evans


5 Soothly the Lord appeared to Solomon by sleep in the night, and said, Ask thou that, that thou wilt, that I give it to thee.

God offers Solomon a choice. God says He will give to Solomon whatever he asks.

6 And Solomon said, Thou hast done great mercy with thy servant David, my father, as he went in thy sight, in truth, and [in] rightwiseness, and in rightful heart with thee; thou hast kept to him thy great mercy (thou hast shown him thy great love), and hast given to him a son, sitting on his throne, as it is today.

7 And now, Lord God, thou hast made thy servant to reign for David, my father; forsooth I am a little child (but I am like a little child), and not knowing mine out-going and mine in-coming.

Here Solomon recognizes how little he knows, comparing himself to “a little child, and not knowing [his] out-going and [his] in-coming.”

8 And thy servant is in the midst of the people, which thou hast chosen, of [a] people without number, that may not be numbered and reckoned, for multitude. (And thy servant is in the midst of the people, whom thou hast chosen, of a people without number, who cannot be counted, or reckoned, for their multitude.)

Solomon perceives the enormity of the task of ruling God’s people, “a people without number, who cannot be counted.”

9 Therefore thou shalt give to thy servant an heart able to be taught, that is, enlightened of thee, that he may deem thy people, and judge betwixt good and evil; for who may deem this people, thy people, this much people? (And so give thou to thy servant a heart able to be taught, that is, able to be enlightened by thee, so that he can judge, or rule, thy people, and judge between good and evil; for who can judge, or rule, this people, this great people of thine?)

Therefore, Solomon asks God for wisdom, for the ability to “judge betwixt good and evil.”

10 Therefore the word pleased before the Lord, that Solomon had asked (for) such a thing.

God is pleased.

11 And the Lord said to Solomon, For thou askedest this word, and askedest not to thee many days, neither riches, neither the lives of thine enemies, but thou askedest to thee wisdom to deem doom, (And the Lord said to Solomon, For thou askedest for this thing, and askedest not for many days for thyself, nor riches, nor the lives of thy enemies, but thou askedest for wisdom to judge justly, or wisely,)

12 lo! I have done to thee after thy words, and I have given to thee a wise heart and an understanding (one), in so much that no man before thee was like thee, neither shall rise (up) after thee.

Therefore God gives Solomon wisdom but also the things he does not ask of God — “riches, and glory.”

13 But also I have given to thee these things, which thou askedest not, that is, riches, and glory, that no man be like thee in kings in all times afterward (so that there shall not be any man like thee among the kings in all thy days).

14 Forsooth if thou goest in my ways, and keepest my biddings and [my] commandments, as thy father went in them, (then) I shall make thy days long.

God provides a means for Solomon to demonstrate his gift of wisdom to the people of Israel.

16 Then two women whores came to the king, and stood before him;

17 of which one said, My lord, I beseech, I and this woman dwelled in one house, and I childed at her in a couch (and I brought forth my child in a bed when she was there).

18 And in the third day after that I had childed, also this woman childed (And on the third day after that I had given birth, this woman also gave birth); and we were together in the house, and none other was (there) with us in the house, except us twain.

19 And the son of this woman was dead in the night, for she slept, and over-lay him; (And this woman’s son died in the night, for while she was sleeping, she rolled over, and laid upon him;)

20 and she rose up in the fourth part of the night in silence, and took my son from the side of me, (while) thine handmaid (was) sleeping, and she laid it in her bosom; and she putted in my bosom her son, that was dead.

21 And when I had risen early, to give milk to my son, he appeared dead; whom I beheld more diligently by clear light, and I perceived, that he was not mine, whom I had engendered (whom I had begat).

22 The tother woman answered, It is not as thou sayest, but thy son is dead; forsooth my son liveth. The contrary, she said, Thou liest (But the other woman said, Thou liest); for my son liveth, and thy son is dead. And by this manner they strove before the king.

Two women claim the living child is hers while the dead child is not. Solomon arrives at a solution.

23 Then the king said, This woman saith, My son liveth, and thy son is dead; and this woman answereth, Nay, but thy son is dead, and my son liveth.

24 Therefore the king said, Bring ye to me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,

25 he said, Part ye the quick young child in two parts (Divide ye, or cut ye, the young living child in two), and give ye the half part to the one, and the half part to the tother.

26 And the woman, whose son was quick, said to the king; for her entrails were moved on her son; Lord, I beseech, give ye to her the quick child, and do not ye slay him. The contrary, she said, Be he neither to me, neither to thee, but be he parted. (And the woman, whose son was living, said to the king; for she was moved with love for her son; Lord, I beseech thee, give ye to her the child alive, and do not ye kill him. But the other woman said, Be he neither to me, nor to thee, but be he divided, or cut in two.)

27 The king answered, and said, Give ye to this (first) woman the young child quick, and be he not slain (Give ye this first woman the young child alive, and do not kill him); forsooth this is his mother.

Solomon recognizes the true mother; she is the woman who would rather give up her child to the other woman than have her son killed.

28 Therefore all Israel heard the doom, which the king had deemed; and they dreaded the king, and saw, that the wisdom of God was in him, to make doom. (And so all Israel heard the judgement, which the king had decreed; and they revered the king, and saw, that God’s wisdom was in him, to make judgements, or justice.)

Israel hears of Solomon’s wisdom. The people of God know “that God’s wisdom is in [Solomon]” and that he is able “to make judgements, or justice.”

English: Judgement of Solomon

“Discerning God’s Will” ( Romans 12: 1, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Paul warns Gentiles not to “be conceited;” not “to be unaware of this mystery:

“A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now may receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:25-32)

Because of this same mystery, which amounts to God’s extraordinary mercies and His irrevocable grace, Paul urges us “to present [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God; this is [our] spiritual worship.” And although Paul mentions our physical bodies, he moves directly to our minds, speaking of our transformation by renewing them. We renew our minds via the Word of God, fellowship with one another, and prayer. As our minds are renewed, “[we] are able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

How many times have you wondered what the will of God is for you? His specific will for your life is that you renew your mind, accept the “measure of faith” given to you, and use the natural and spiritual gifts He has bestowed. Paul says not to think more highly of yourself than you ought. He sets out with a list of God’s will for you. Here are a few choice ones:

“Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

“Pursue hospitality.” (Romans 12: 13)

“Be persistent in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

“Do not be proud.” (Romans 12:16)

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

“Be in agreement with one another.” (Romans 12:16)

“Do not avenge yourself.” (Romans 12:19)

“Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16)

“Live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

 

“No Matter How Dire” ( Deuteronomy 6: 4-6, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. (Deuteronomy 6: 4-6, HCSB)

Notice initially God is the Lord of a people, then He is the Lord of an individual. As individuals, we are part of the body of Christ and as such fit into a larger group of people, known collectively as ‘the people of God’ or as ‘the children of God.’ As individuals, each of us is a child of God. Paul calls us ‘sons’ and if sons, then heirs together with Christ. We are to keep in our hearts the key concepts expressed by Moses: God is One; and we are to love Him with all of our being and with all of our strength.

Moses calls for Israel to write these concepts on their door frames so each day the Word is visible to the eye and to the mind. He commands Israel to speak these truths with their children as they rise and as they go in and out.

At all times, the Word of God is to be within sight. As the Word is within our reach, we are prepared for any of the wiles of our adversary. Though he prowls about like a devouring lion, our armor — if intact — is able to withstand his assault. Keep the Word in your hearts, and so be ready for any situation no matter how dire. Love the Lord with all you are; and God is near.

“Scarecrows In Cucumbers” ( Jeremiah 10: 5, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Images carved from timber by craftsmen and adorned with silver and gold for the purpose of worship “can do no harm and they have no power to do good.” (Jeremiah 10: 5) Do not be awed by them or “by signs in the heavens.” (Jeremiah 10:2) These idols can not speak and can not walk. Others must speak on their behalf, and carry them from place to place. “The figures [a man] casts are a sham, there is no breath in them. They are worth nothing, mere mockeries, which perish when their day of reckoning comes.” (Jeremiah 10:14,15) “They can no more speak than a scarecrow in a plot of cucumbers.” (Jeremiah 10:5) People who worship these images carved by men “are fools and blockheads one and all, learning their nonsense from a log of wood!” (Jeremiah 10:8)

“But the Lord is God in truth, a living god, an eternal king.” (Jeremiah 10:10) “He is the maker of all.” “The Lord of Hosts is His Name.” (Jeremiah 10:16)

“Hark, a rumour comes flying, then a mounting uproar in the land of the north, an army to make Judah’s cities desolate, a haunt of wolves. I know, O Lord, that man’s ways are not of his own choosing; nor is it for a man to determine his course in life. Correct us, O Lord, but with justice, not in anger, lest Thou bring us almost to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:22-25)

“But now this is the Word of the Lord, the Word of your creator, O Jacob, of Him who fashioned you, O Israel: Have no fear; for I paid your ransom; I call you by name and you are My own. When you pass through deep waters, I Am with you, when you pass through rivers, they do not sweep you away; walk through fire and you are not scorched, through flames and they do not burn you. For I Am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)

“Appointed For Eternal Life” ( Acts 13: 39, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Here and there, as I have written before, a single verse in the Word of God presents the good news simply and directly. Paul, while preaching to the men of Israel in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, states:

“Through [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

Paul warns the men of Israel not to be scoffers. He tells them the truth — that he had to preach the gospel to the chosen people of God first. But, now that they “reject it and do not consider [themselves] worthy of eternal life” he turns to the Gentiles, functioning as “a light” for them. (Acts 13:46,47)

Paul knows that “all who are appointed for eternal life believe.” (Acts 13:48)

 

“We Know And Believe The Love” ( 1 John 4: 16, KJV ) by Carley Evans


One of the saddest personality flaws is the inability to know and believe that you are loved. Janis Joplin had such a personality flaw; she was incapable of believing people loved her. Despite accolades for her music, she lead a barren existence of self-doubt, self-hatred, and abject loneliness. By loneliness, I am not referring to solitude, but to that feeling of complete isolation in the midst of shouting people — people shouting adoration and respect and yes — love. The loneliest moments for Janis were likely those in the midst of her public admirers. Janis also unfortunately did not know and believe the love of those closest to her, no matter how they tried to convince her. She found herself totally unlovable.

The author of 1 John writes that “we know and believe the love that God has to us. God is love.”

What an amazing statement — read it again. “We know and believe the love that God has to [or toward] us.” Why? Because “God is love.” And if we know and believe God, then we know and believe His love. Like Paul reminds, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) Essentially, assures Paul, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Do not insult God. Do not hold yourself in such low esteem that you fail to realize God is love. Know and believe the love God has toward you! His love does not depend upon you; His love is wholly dependent upon the sacrifice of His Son.

“A Conditional Treaty” ( 1 Samuel 11: 2, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


The Ammonite Nahash besieges Jabesh-gilead. The defeated men beg Nahash to make a treaty with them on the condition that they serve him. But the conqueror replies, “I’ll make one with you on this condition: that I gouge out everyone’s right eye and humiliate all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh say, “Don’t do anything to us for seven days. And let us send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. If no one saves us, we will surrender to you.” (1 Samuel 11:3)

Nahash must not be very intelligent. Why allow messengers to go about the territory seeking help for a conquered people? Nevertheless, Nahash allows this very thing! He allows these defeated people to seek a savior.

The messengers reach Saul’s hometown, Gibeah. They tell Nahash’s terms to the people who begin to weep loudly. Saul, coming in from fieldwork with his oxen, becomes aware of people crying. When Saul hears the reason for their sorrow, “the Spirit of God suddenly takes control of him, and his anger burns furiously.” (1 Samuel 11:6)

In his fury, he takes a team of oxen, cuts them into pieces, and sends them throughout Israel with — I presume — the same messengers. The message Saul sends is: “This is what will be done to the ox of anyone who doesn’t march behind Saul and Samuel.” (1 Samuel 11:7) The people “go out united” because the “terror of the Lord falls” on them.

The messengers return to Jabesh-gilead to tell the people there that deliverance is at hand. Rejoicing, the men go to Nahash and say, “Tomorrow we will come out, and you can do whatever you want to us.” (1 Samuel 11:10) The next day, Saul — with troops in three divisions — invades the camp of the Ammonites and slaughters them. “There are survivors, but they are so scattered that no two of them are left together.” (1 Samuel 11:11)

Obviously Nahash would be better off if he’d just make that treaty with Jabesh-gilead — plenty of servants, the result. No need to set such a wicked condition as gouging out the right eye of every man, woman and child. For Nahash winning is not enough. He wants total humiliation of his enemy.

Ever think of that way — that Satan isn’t satisfied with ruling in hell. It’s not enough for him that he ‘escapes’ the realm of heaven and roams the earth, that he controls demonic forces and defies God at every turn. He must bring us down with him — he is unable to bear the fellowship Adam and Eve enjoy with God in the garden. He must destroy this joy. He must totally humiliate us before God. Happily, God provides more than a Saul or a Samuel for us. Our deliverer is Jesus, the Son of God. With God, no conditional treaty is needed. Utter defeat of our enemy so that “no two” of his forces “are left together” is what we enjoy because of the power of our God.

 

“For You Alone Know Every Human Heart” ( 1 Kings 8:39, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Solomon prays “before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire congregation of Israel” (1 Kings 8:22) He asks, rhetorically, “Will God indeed live on earth? Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain You, much less this temple I have built.”

Solomon asks God for mercy when the people of Israel “sin against You, and they return to You and praise Your Name, and they pray and plead with You.” (1 Kings 8:33) Solomon asks God to “hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel.” (1 Kings 8:34) He begs God to “teach them the good way they should walk in.” (1 Kings 8:36) “May You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and may You forgive, act, and repay the man, according to all his ways, since You know his heart, for You alone know every human heart.”

Solomon adds, “When they sin against You — for there is no one who does not sin — and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and when they come to their senses and repent and petition You: ‘We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked,’ and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart and when they pray to You, may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, their prayer and petition and uphold their cause. May You forgive Your people who sinned against You, and may You give them compassion. For they are Your people and Your inheritance. For You, Lord God, have set them apart as Your inheritance.” (1 Kings 8:46-53 selected)

God alone knows every human heart. And every human heart has sinned.

Thank You, heavenly Father, for Your willingness to show mercy. Thank You that the Lord Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to approach the throne of grace, despite our sinfulness and unworthiness. Thank You that You give us Your own holiness through the shedding of Your Son’s blood and the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Let us forever be grateful, showing our love for You in praise. In Jesus’ Name, amen.