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January 15, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 9

Achille's heel. sThe remnants from the original inhabitants of the land (Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—all non-Israelites), survivors of the holy wars, were rounded up by Solomon for his gangs of slave labor, a policy still in effect. 1 Kings 9:20 (MSG)

Every leader, no matter how great, has flaws and faults. A chink in the armor. An Achille's heel. A tragic flaw. We're all human. We can't help it.

Solomon is heralded through the ages as a great and wise king. He is praised for his massive building projects. A temple, palaces, and fortifications. Nevertheless, reading between the lines of today's chapter, we see two cracks in Solomon's character. One of those cracks would grow to divide the kingdom he built.

Think about it. Great building projects take time, materials and labor.

As for time, the land was at peace. Time was on Solomon's side.

As for materials, it appears that Solomon expected and took materials from neighbors and did not offer much in return. Wise King Solomon did not show the expected gratitude to King Hiram for all the gifts of building materials Hiram gave in cedar and gold. Solomon gave the King twenty towns in Galilee, but you see Hiram's response. He wasn't pleased.

As for labor, Solomon enslaved the non-Israelites of the land. He worked them hard and provided little for them. We will see as we continue our journey through the story that Solomon built up the kingdom on the backs of slave labor, and then left an explosive, political mess for his son to clean up.

I'm reminded today of my person areas of leadership. I'm a husband. I'm a father. I'm an employer. I'm a community member. I have both strengths and weaknesses in my leadership. As much as I may wish to do so, I can't ignore my weaknesses.

How can I build on the strengths while shoring up the cracks in my character?

January 14, 2010

Updating the Home Office

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Speaking of IKEA... the furniture we purchased was for the home office. When Wendy and I moved into the house here over four years ago we hobbled the home office together with door slabs and bricks. While functional, the office became a dumping ground for clutter and it was time for an upgrade.

So, we made a quick turn-around trip to the frozen tundra in sub-zero temperatures last weekend. We spent much of Saturday night and a good part of Sunday assembling and arranging. Since I spend most of my working hours in this room at this desk, it feels good to have a nice workspace!

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 8

Simple instructions. May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors. 1 Kings 8:58 (MSG)

My wife and I recently bought some furniture from IKEA. Shopping there is an experience. You walk through the expansive showroom to find the furniture pieces you want and write down the numbers for each piece on a list. You wind your way down to the warehouse where you go through an find all of the pieces to the pieces you chose. We ended up with four things we bought which translated into about 12-15 boxes of pieces we had to fit in our car.

When we returned home to assemble the pieces, I was surprised to find that the instructions had  no words. There wasn't a section with written instructions in five different languages. Instead, there were numbered drawings that illustrated how to assemble the furniture. Simple. I like that.

Being a person not given to detailed instructions, I like when directions are given simply and clearly. Perhaps that's why I so appreciated the simple life directive in today's chapter. In one small verse I have a roadmap for the journey:

  • Be centered on God
  • Be devoted to God
  • Follow the life path God has cleared
  • Watch for signposts
  • Walk at the pace and rhythm God has laid down

I can handle that.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jonk

January 13, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 7

Toms bass It took Solomon another thirteen years to finish building his own palace complex. 1 Kings 7:1 (MSG)

We live in such an instant society. We want gratification immediately. Our computers are never fast enough, and we complain when a page takes a few extra seconds. We pay extra to have our purchases delivered over night so we don't have to wait a few more days. We have microwaves to make prepared dishes so we don't have to take the time to actually cook something from scratch.

Perhaps that's why the beginning of today's chapter jumped off the page at me. It took seven years for Solomon's army of laborers to complete the temple and another thirteen years to build his own palace complex. That's a long time. In today's standards of construction, it was an eternity.

The truth is that some things do take time. My brother, the luthier, says that it takes in the neighborhood of 200 man hours to craft a guitar by hand, not counting the additional time that the guitar must sit at different places in the process. You don't take shortcuts. There are no microwave ovens for the process. It takes what it takes.

The same is true for maturity. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus there is no "add water and stir." There is no Star Trek transporter to beam us instantly to a spot on the horizon. God is not making us into a microwaveable pot roast, he's crafting us into a finely tuned instrument. We must each press on and walk our own journey. It takes what it takes.

So, I'm lacing up my walking shoes. Today is another leg in the journey. There's a long way to go.

January 12, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 6

Keeping up appearances. The word of God came to Solomon saying, "About this Temple you are building—what's important is that you live the way I've set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I'll complete in you the promise I made to David your father." 1 Kings 6:11-12 (MSG)

We are obsessed with appearances. Take a spin through the television channels in the middle of the night and look at what is being hawked by men with loud voices and beautiful celebrities. Make-up, pimple cream, exercise equipment, diet pills and flab gadgets. We want to look better. We want to keep up appearances.

It's really no different with our spiritual lives. Appearance is key. We want to look good for others so our spirtuality isn't questioned. Play the game. Say the right things. Show up in the right places. Look the part. But, you don't want to look too spiritual and attract unwanted attention. It's tricky. You've got to maintain balance. Fit in. We don't want to appear too crazy, too wierd, too over-the-top.

Solomon built a gorgeous edifice. Solomon's temple would attract considerable attention. But, in today's chapter God made it clear that he placed far more importance on the unseen condition of Solomon's heart than the public display of his temple.

When it comes to matters of faith, what is hidden is far more important than what is seen.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bbaltimore

January 11, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 5

Taylor in Morocco. Solomon responded, saying, "You know that David my father was not able to build a temple in honor of God because of the wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down. 1 Kings 5:3 (MSG)

My parents grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. While the 1950s were a time of increasing prosperity and mobility in the United States, their resources were limited along with the opportunities to travel and experience other cultures. When I was a young man, I had the priviledge of being part of a great church youth group. We traveled the state on weekends performing choir concerts and sharing God's message with different churches. During summer breaks we did short-term missions to Kentucky, South Dakota and Mexico. I had opportunities my parents could not have dreamed about when they were my age. My daughters, before graduating from high school, have ventured on missions to some of the same places I went along with Thailand, Costa Rica, Romania and Morocco.

We have been blessed to have the same experience of Solomon, fulfilling dreams and opportunities that previous generations could scarcely fathom. While some might be intimidated or even fearful of the march of time and all the change that it affords, I'm excited about it. I'm excited for my children and the opportunities they have to share God's love and message around the world. I'm glad that they've had greater and more diverse experiences than I could have imagined at their age. I'm thrilled to think of the impact they will have on lives that they touch here and around the world.

January 08, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 4

What we leave behind. God gave Solomon wisdom—the deepest of understanding and the largest of hearts.1 Kings 4:29 (MSG)

Along my journey, I have had the privilege of conducting a number of funeral services. Most people don't consider the task a privilege, but I've always found funerals to be an extroadinary event for individuals and families. Death is the ultimate rite of passage, and walking with a family through the traumatic event provides life lessons most people will never experience.

For example, when preparing to deliver a eulogy and a funeral message, I usually meet with the family and ask them just to take some time to talk about and tell stories about their loved one who has passed on. It can be a really tender, special time or it can be an agonizing, painful experience.You begin to learn a lot about who this person by the legacy they left behind through their loved ones descriptions.

When I read today's chapter and came to the writer's summary of Solomon, I was struck by the description that Solomon had "the deepest of understanding and the largest of hearts." Wow. That's not a bad legacy to leave behind. I'd consider my journey well traveled if my loved ones, gathering together at my passing, would describe me with those words.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickrand chuckumentary

January 06, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 3

Sears Christmas Wish Book.  "Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?" 1 Kings 3:9 (MSG)

As a child, there was nothing quite like the Sears Christmas "Wish Book" catalog that showed up in our house every autumn. Within days of its arrival, the extensive section of toys and games at the back of the catalog was dog-eared and worn from grubby little fingers flipping through the pages. My eyes poured over all the possibilities with an eye to figure out what to ask Santa to deliver.

As humans, we like to contemplate what we would ask for if suddenly given the opportunity to be granted whatever we wished. As children we play this game with Santa. We continue to contemplate the possibilities as we read stories about a genie in the bottle. As adults we contemplate our list of wishes as we buy a powerball ticket or enter the sweepstakes. And, we often approach God as though he is a similar sugar daddy type character.

The question is raised again as we read today's chapter and find Solomon weighing his option. When faced with the question Solomon looked at the enormity of the task before him and asked for wisdom to lead. I look into my own heart and ask if I can honestly say I have similar purity of intention. Too often I think that my heart has the same childish, self-centered motives it did when I sat in front of The Brady Bunch after school and poured over the Sears Wish Book for hours.

God, grant me purity of heart, that I might have the motivation to honestly ask you for the right things with the right intentions.

January 05, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 2

It's not personal. It's strictly business. The king then gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he went out and struck Shimei dead. The kingdom was now securely in Solomon's grasp. 1 Kings 2:46 (MSG)

All great stories are a reflection of God's great story. That's what my wife consistently reminds me, and she is correct. That's why, when I read the Old Testament historical books, like Kings and Chronicles, I'm constantly reminded of stories, plays and movies that reflect the same biblical themes wrapped in the language of the present culture.

We read in today's chapter about Solomon, the youngest son, and his succession to his father's throne. We read about his "settling accounts" with the enemies of his father and the contract killings of Joab and Shimei. We read of the killing of his own brother who betrayed him. 

How could I not help but think of Michael Corleone, the youngest son, and his succession in the family business, his bloody settling of accounts, and the killing of his own brother who betrayed him?

All great stories are reflections of the Great Story.

January 04, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 1

Empty nest.  At this time Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, puffed himself up saying, "I'm the next king!" He made quite a splash, with chariots and riders and fifty men to run ahead of him. His father had spoiled him rotten as a child, never once reprimanding him. Besides that, he was very good-looking and the next in line after Absalom. 1 Kings 1:5-6 (MSG)

It's humbling to watch your children grow into adulthood. No matter how hard you try to be the perfect parent, that silly sin nature thing gets in the way for both the parent and the child. If there is one thing I have learned in raising my girls it is that mistakes will be made. Pain will be part of the process. It's a natural part of the journey for every generation.

They say that hindsight is 20-20, and there is no doubt that your shortcomings as a parent come into focus in the lives of your children as they come into adulthood and start making their own life choices. I should have spent more time teaching her that. I didn't provide enough instruction about this. How could a child grow up in my home and not pick up that principle? Lord, help us.

King David, despite being God's man, had plenty of shortcomings as a parent. The consequences were disastrous. Rape, murder and rebellion were the big consequences, but we see in today's chapter that little things like anger, bitterness, pride, scheming, gossip appear to have been commonplace in David's household.

They also say that you never stop parenting. My elders have told me that the "empty nest" is somewhat of a myth since the birds always return home. That gives me hope. I have a chance to keep growing as a parent and to keep teaching my children in word and deed.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and beeep