Chapter-a-Day through the Bible

If you’ve been following my posts as I read and reflect on one chapter of scripture each day, THANK YOU!

Please follow me on Facebook at Felicia Bowen Bridges in order to continue to see this content.

I’m transitioning this blog to focus on my passion for learning more about different cultures. I love travel, but what I love about it more than the sights, is the incredible diversity of the people God created and sent His Son to redeem. I’ll be posting twice a week about what I’m learning about various cultures and people groups. I hope you’ll continue to follow this blog and join me in learning about the multitude who will gather around the throne to worship God in every language.

Thanks for joining me on the greatest adventure!

Felicia

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Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 19

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Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

2 Chronicles 19

As soon as Jehoshaphat returned, he was greeted with a rebuke from Jehu, the seer. Jehu’s rebuke serves as a pattern for us in how we might approach someone who’s taken a wrong turn in order to restore them.

First, he confronts Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab very directly. Ahab’s hatred and disdain for God were well-known and allying himself with wickedness hurt Jehoshaphat’s witness and leadership of his people. Loving someone does not mean accepting whatever they do without question or rebuke. Instead, when we love someone, we want what is best for them, and are willing to lose the relationship rather than to watch silently as they self-destruct.

Jehu next points out the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s sin—that God’s wrath was upon him. Loving someone means we are willing to explain the consequences of their behavior. We don’t sugarcoat it or brush it off. All behavior has consequences and an important part of maturing is considering those consequences and making wise choices based on them. In this case, Jehoshaphat “went out among the people and turned them back to the Lord.” No doubt, the lesson he had learned provided a parable he could share with others. We all fail at times to follow God closely, and suffer consequences — but those circumstances provide us with teaching tools to help others avoid the same pitfall.

Finally, Jehu encouraged Jehoshaphat. He didn’t leave the king wallowing in guilt and self-pity, but reminded him of the good he had done previously, and gave him hope for the future. When we must confront a loved one about sin, we have to bring the conversation back around to a position of hope and encouragement. No matter how far we’ve fallen, God loves and forgives. No matter how much damage we’ve done, God is able to restore. Leaving someone bruised from the realization of their sin is not loving, it’s bullying and demeaning. God’s discipline leads to restoration and reconciliation. His Word says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

Our purpose and goal in confronting sin must be to restore our brother or sister to a place of service, never to tear them down.

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 18

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Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

2 Chronicles 18

We had such high hopes for Jehoshaphat. He was following the Lord, leading the people well, tearing down the idols left by former kings.

But he allied himself with the godless Ahab. He valued the unity of Israel over unity with God. When asked about going to war with Ahab, instead of the first words from his mouth being that they should seek the Lord before making a decision, he commits to join Ahab, and then suggests maybe they should consult with God about it as a spiritual afterthought. His priorities are revealed—nationalism trumps faith.

This is a little convicting for me. How often do I jump on a bandwagon thinking that I’m being patriotic, making peace, or maintaining the unity of the body, without first asking the Lord which position honors Him? Aligning ourselves with sin, for the sake of peace or unity, is aligning ourselves against God.

We’re in a season where the emperors’ nakedness within the evangelical church is being noticed for the first time. Behavior of leaders that have been ignored for generations are being pointed out, called out, and rooted out for what they are: sin. Treating anyone within the body with disrespect, disdain, or discrimination reveals a view of them that doesn’t reflect their role as image-bearers of Christ. This doesn’t make those who have behaved badly villains, demons, or pariahs—it means they sin just as we all are prone to do. Just as we all must evaluate ourselves, hold one another accountable, and repent when sin creeps into our lives.

If it weren’t so sad, the second scene in this chapter would make a great SNL skit. I picture Micaiah saying, “Attack and be victorious” in a monotone, yawning, and rolling his eyes. Ahab is surrounded by a bunch of yes-men prophets who applaud his every foolish move. Micaiah, the only remaining prophet of the Lord who hasn’t been put to death or run out of the country, only has criticism for him. But instead of considering the value of the criticism, he turns a deaf ear.

God’s sovereignty echoes through this chapter, but roars in the final scene. All Ahab’s scheming couldn’t save him when God had decided enough is enough. We can’t hide from God. We can’t disguise ourselves and think we can escape the consequences of our rebellion and sin. Even when our sin is hidden in our heart so deep that those around us see us as ministry leaders, pastors, elders, teachers—God sees what we do in private. God sees what happens in our heart when pride, lust, and greed take hold.

There have been several “letters” written in blogs and articles lately. Letters to our brothers and apologies from them for the blindness that allowed abuse to continue. Consider this a letter to all of us, a warning missive, if you will.

Our first allegiance, always, must be to God.

Our loyalty and oneness must be to the gospel.

Our solidarity must be with those who stand for righteousness.

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 17

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Photo by Annette Beetge on Unsplash

2 Chronicles 17

The pattern of kings who followed God, and were blessed with peace and prosperity, and those who fell into idolatry and were defeated, is often twisted to convey a prosperity gospel message. But the Bible also presents many who followed God and suffered, not the least being Jesus, who followed perfectly, yet suffered profoundly.

So why do followers of God suffer, atheists prosper, believers become wealthy, and unbelievers lose everything? Is there any rhyme or reason to our success and failure based on a relationship with God? (Or as some might say, “Is there anything in this for me besides heaven?”)

We see so much evidence for God using both success and failure in the lives of His people in the Bible. From Job to Lazarus, we see people who love God and whom God loves encounter pain, hardship, even death.

But God.

For me the key to understanding this complicated equation is that the sum is goodness and blessing, but I have to redefine what goodness and blessing means. We live in a world that equates blessing with dollar signs and goodness with abundance and prosperity. Especially in America, we have become so enamored with the rich and famous that we fail to see how wretched, poor, and blind many of them are. Is it a blessing when you have more money than you know how to spend, but are addicted to drugs, suffering from mental health issues, and suicidal?

In God’s definition of goodness and blessing the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, and the pure in heart are blessed, not necessarily with material things, but with eternal things— the kingdom of God, seeing the face of God, being called sons of God.

God does bless some followers with worldly possessions and He does so with great purpose. Jehoshaphat used the time of peace and prosperity that God had blessed him with to send out teams to the various towns with the book of the Law, to teach them God’s commands and how to live in right relations with God. Likewise, those who are blessed materially today are called to pour out those blessings not on extravagant luxury for themselves, but on sharing the good news that God loves you to all those who are made in His image.

And just in case our society’s definition of wealth leaves you feeling like the poor, country cousin (as it sometimes does me), check out where you stand compared to others around the globe here. Be encouraged! You are likely in the top 2% around the world. Do you have running water? Electricity? A roof over your head and walls around you to keep you warm in the winter and protected from the sun in the summer? Do you go to bed hungry or wondering where your next meal will come from? Do you have clothes and shoes? Rejoice! We ARE wealthy! How is God calling us to use this wealth He has given us?

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 16

board-1273117_1920.jpg2 Chronicles 16

Oh, LORD, forgive us our short memories!

Seeing yesterday’s account and today’s back-to-back puts them in stark contrast with one another.

Yesterday, Asa trusted God to deliver him though he was grossly outnumbered and surrounded.

Today, he reached out instead to another king, essentially robbed the temple of gold and silver that had been given to God in order to bribe this king to help him, when all he needed to do was cry out to God and trust His deliverance!

Of course, in reality years had passed. How easy it is to forget the boldness of our youth to trust God! How difficult it is to continue with that boldness when we become comfortable, well-fed, and complacent.

And in our complacency, how uncomfortable it is when someone challenges us about it. When someone asks pointed questions about our spiritual growth, our personal devotion or worship patterns, or our time in God’s Word we can immediately react defensively.

“Well, you know, we are so busy just trying to keep a job to pay the bills.”

“I’ve done dozens of Bible studies. I know God’s Word.”

“I’ve been a Christian for longer than you’ve been alive!”

But are we still following Him, or have we sat down alongside the path and taken a nap? Or have we let Him get so far beyond our view that we’ve wandered off the path altogether?

I love the way our pastor put it last Sunday when relating a story of someone telling him, “You believe once saved, always saved, right? So I got saved, and now I pretty much do what I want, because I’m covered.” He said, “It is true that once saved, always saved. It is also true that once saved, forever following.” The proof of our salvation isn’t our fervor in the moment, the holiness of the water we’re baptized in, or the boldness of our initial witness.

True salvation is seen in the “perseverance of the saints.”

Are we still following thirty-six years later?

Or have we turned to other sources for our rescue?

When brothers and sisters in the faith ask tough questions, do you thank God for the accountability and the opportunity to repent and return to your first love? Or do you get bitter and dig your heels in deeper?

 

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 15

IMG_10092 Chronicles 15

The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”

I’ve heard it phrased this way: “Hell is God saying, ‘As you wish,’ to the one who has said to Him, ‘I want nothing to do with you.’”

Since God spoke into existence the substance of everything we can see in the world today, rejecting Him means rejecting everything that He has provided.

It means being in a place where there is no light. Because without God, there is no light.

Rejecting Him means there is no land and sea, there are no stars, there are no plants or animals or other humans. There is no beauty, because He created beauty. There is no joy, because joy comes from His Spirit. There is no peace, or love, or kindness.

There is no life. There is only existence devoid of anything God created or provides. Even the hopes and dreams that arise from having eternity set in our hearts vanish when God grants someone their desire for independence from Him.

In America, we place tremendous value on independence. Some might suggest that we have idolized it, or that our quest for independence is inspired by the enemy of our souls. When we compare the pursuit of independence, both individually and collectively, to the wisdom found in God’s Word, we see the concept is diametrically opposed to the dependence God requires of His followers.

Simply acknowledging God’s existence is not the same as following God or of declaring His lordship over us. Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Such a declaration encompasses the idea of Jesus not only having command and control over our lives, but being the source of our sustenance. Acts 17:28 declares, “‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” As my daughter nears the time when she will deliver our first grandchild, this calls to mind a child in the womb. Our lives on earth are as dependent on God for every single thing as a child in the womb is dependent on its mother. And Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We are dependent on God for our next breath, for our heart to beat one more time, for the food we eat, for our faith in Him, for every single thing we have.

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 14

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Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

2 Chronicles 14

Asa’s cry to God is a beautiful illustration of the dependence God calls us to:

“Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

First, we must acknowledge that we are powerless. Whatever foe we are up against, it is not within our power to claim victory. How many times do we falter because we underestimate the force we are facing? We think, “I got this.” And find ourselves humiliated and defeated.

Next we must recognize that God, alone, has the power to be victorious. He speaks and life emerges; he defeated death and rose in power. Is there any battle before you that He cannot handle with ease? Of course not! We used to sing a simple chorus that says it all, “He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today.”

We must also confess that the battle belongs to Him. We are His treasure, and whatever is coming against us is attacking His beloved. Do we believe that He loves us? Do we trust that He is our Defender? Imagine a romance where the damsel insists on defeating the foe herself rather than trusting her Hero. It might play well in our modern, feminist world, but God’s love story with us is one where our Hero woos, He pursues, He rescues.

Finally, we must trust the outcome. This is probably the most difficult step of all. Sometimes the victory of God’s plan may not look like a victory at all from our vantage point. But God sees the end game. Judah won this battle, but eventually they were overcome, defeated and sent into exile. But as Ezra is proclaiming this story to the returning exiles, we see that even the darkest moment was part of God’s ultimate victory.

When we stray from a posture of dependence on the Lord to one of self-sufficiency, God’s love for us demands that He allow whatever circumstances are necessary to draw us back into right relationship with Him.

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 13

light-bulb-3104355_1920.jpg2 Chronicles 13

Have you ever faced impossible odds? Have you looked at a situation and thought it was completely hopeless? What do you rely on in that moment of desperation?

Going into war with half the troops of your opponent, and finding they had surrounded you while you were monologuing would qualify as a thoroughly desperate situation.

But God.

Whatever circumstance you are facing today that seems hopeless does not have the final word. And your victory in that situation is not about bootstraps or bravado.

Believing in a God who is sovereign means believing that there is no situation over which He cannot give you victory.

There is no diagnosis beyond His healing.

There is no financial crisis beyond His provision.

There is no prodigal child beyond His reach.

There is no legal ramification beyond His redemption.

Regardless of whether our situation is the result of others’ malice or our own foolishness or sin, God is able to work all things together for good.

We just have to embrace His definition of good.

God created the universe and declared each of the things He created to be good, so it is His prerogative to define what good is. Trusting Him means trusting that when we see Him face to face, we will know without any doubt, without any question, and without any regrets, that ALL of what God has allowed in our lives was good.

Despite the overwhelming odds, God rescued Judah from the larger army of Israel which had them surrounded. “The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”

Judah wasn’t victorious because of military might, strategy, wisdom, or weaponry. They were victorious because they understood (at least for that moment) their source of power was submission to God.

The Bible resonates from beginning to end with the theme of trusting not in our power and strength, but in God’s. It proclaims the victory of laying down our lives for others. It celebrates the joy of giving rather than receiving.

Finding power and victory in submission runs counter to American culture. It’s why the notion of sharing any power or privilege is so challenging. When we have placed our faith in our own self-sufficiency instead of God’s all-sufficiency, we cannot afford to give away anything. We hoard power as if it were knick-knacks we’re paying monthly rent on a storage unit to keep, instead of plugging in to the Source of power and trusting it to be reliable when we need it.

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 12

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

2 Chronicles 12

Despite Rehoboam’s shrewd defensive strategies, his failure to remain faithful to God resulted in being defeated by Shishak, king of Egypt. Only when Rehoboam and the leaders of Israel humbled themselves, acknowledged their sin, and turned back to the Lord, did God relent and save them from destruction.

Instead, God said, “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”

How many times has the Lord allowed me to be enslaved by some idol in order to demonstrate the difference between serving God and lesser gods of my own design?

Whether our idol is wealth, prosperity, and fame, or family, good works, and religiosity, serving any god but the Lord will leave us worn out, frustrated, and ultimately unfulfilled.

Serving God, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to achieve His purposes, will energize us even when we are exhausted. It will allow us to be generous even when we have nothing more to give. And it will teach us to understand and embrace Paul’s sentiment in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Chapter-a-Day: 2 Chronicles 11

chess-1464959_1920.jpg2 Chronicles 11

The final verse of this chapter really made me stop and think. We are told that Rehoboam “acted wisely, dispersing some of his sons throughout the districts of Judah and Benjamin, and to all the fortified cities. He gave them abundant provisions and took many wives for them.” (New International Version)

Is God’s Word really suggesting Rehoboam’s encouragement of polygamy was wise?

So I researched the verse in multiple translations, hoping to better understand the context and whether the NIV translation was true to the original Hebrew text. Here are a few of the more enlightening variations:

And he dealt wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the districts of Judah and Benjamin, in all the fortified cities, and he gave them abundant provisions and procured wives for them. (English Standard Version)

Rehoboam was wise enough to put one of his sons in charge of each fortified city in his kingdom. He gave them all the supplies they needed and found wives for every one of them. (Contemporary English Version)

But I think The Message may provide the best insight into the point of the verse: Rehoboam designated Abijah son of Maacah as the “first son” and leader of the brothers—he intended to make him the next king. He was shrewd in deploying his sons in all the fortress cities that made up his defense system in Judah and Benjamin; he kept them happy with much food and many wives.

What are the sources of competition that most often lead to conflict? Power and property. By assigning each of his sons an area over which he had authority, he gave each of them a measure of power. By assigning them to cities which were geographically dispersed, he gave each of them plenty of land and avoided conflict between them. Dispersing them also discouraged them from uniting against his chosen successor, Abijah.

By providing them with abundant provisions, he removed any provocation to raid one another. And by arming the cities equally, he not only enabled them to defend the nation, but to have a level playing field against one another so that one might not easily gain the advantage over the others.

His provision of wives may have been to strengthen alliances both internally and externally to maintain peace, which was common in this time period and even in recent times. In addition, if the wives he obtained for his sons were from the areas he assigned them, this would have not only allied his sons more closely to that location, but bonded the people of that region to them as well.

Maybe not wise in terms of spiritual discernment or functional relationships, but certainly strategic and even shrewd.