July 09, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 12

Whodunnit. When David went out to meet them, this is what he said: "If you have come in peace and to help me, you are most welcome to join this company; but if you have come to betray me to my enemies, innocent as I am, the God of our ancestors will see through you and bring judgment on you." 1 Chronicles 12:17 (MSG)

My wife is great at guessing what's coming next in a movie or television program. Within the first few minutes of a program like "The Mentalist" or "Law & Order," she'll be saying, "I think he did it." By three quarters the way through the program she'll usually have announced who did it along with the means, motive and opportunity. Most of the time, she's right. Perhaps it's from hanging out on the couch with her, but I find myself doing the same thing now. I'm not as good as she is, but I've gotten better at it.

That's why the verse from today's chapter caught me off guard.

When I read David's opening words, "but if you come to betray me to my enemies..." my mind conjured up a host of likely conclusions that would come from a red-blooded male warrior:

  • I'll kill you 'til you're dead.
  • I'll make you an offer you can't refuse.
  • I will personally cut off your head and feed your body to the lions.

What I didn't expect was "God will see through you and bring judgment upon you." That's what I love about David and his story. In so many ways he is a flawed many like any other, like me. But, you constantly catch glimpses of why God called him "a man after my own heart." David does not presume, like most ego-centric, paranoid warrior kings, to be judge, jury and executioner. He reserves judgement for God and trusts God enough to reveal his betrayer.

How often am I quick to judge? How often do I jump to conclusions and make snap judgements about my children? My family? My co-workers? My friends? Today, I take my lesson from David's example. Reserve judgement. Stop being so paranoid or jumping to conclusions about who did what. Let God reveal what is true when it's necessary and in His good time.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and loopzilla

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July 08, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 11

Wilderness These are the chiefs of David's Mighty Men, the ones who linked arms with him as he took up his kingship, with all Israel joining in, helping him become king in just the way God had spoken regarding Israel. 1 Chronicles 11:10 (MSG)

Great leaders aren't great leaders without great followers.
Great followers are made when a leader earns their devotion.

The prophet, Samuel, anointed David as God's choice for king when David was just a young boy. David did not ascend the throne of Israel until he was 40. Between his being anointed king and his ascension to the throne, an epic story unfolds. After his initial headline grabbing defeat of Goliath, David's rise to fortune and fame was short lived. King Saul, jealous of David's popularity and God's favor on him, puts a price on David's head. David spends the better part of 20 years on the run living in caves in the desert with a rag-tag band of warriors and mercenaries.

It was in the Judean desert that God prepared David for the throne. It was in the wilderness that David became a great leader. As he and his men scratched out a living and hid from Saul's army, David earned the respect and devotion of his men. A select group of highly gifted warriors rose from the ranks. Like comic book heroes, the Mighty Men became legendary and helped David inherit the promise God made to him in his youth.

Life's journey has its share of stretches through the desert and wanderings through the wilderness. They are difficult paths to walk and they often seem endless. Nevertheless, they acheive God's purposes for us. They prepare us for what God has in store down the road. They prove us and refine us. They develop maturity and wholeness. King David would never have been King David unless he'd spent half of his life in the desert earning the respect of the men who were single-heartedly devoted to him.

Press on. There's a reason you find yourself in a difficult place.

July 07, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 10

Die well. Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to God. 1 Chronicles 10:13 (MSG)

I had been asked to perform the funeral by the deceased man's family. There was a distant connection, and I agreed to officiate though I'd never met the guy. A few days before the funeral I gathered with the children of the deceased to listen to family stories and get a sense for who this guy had been in life. Usually, this is kind of a special time that helps me learn about the person I'm helping lay to rest and becomes a time of healing and closure for the family. This time, however, instead of warm tears, laughter and precious memories heartfully related, I received a table full of empty stares and agonizing silence.

At the church, prior to the funeral, a stranger walked up to me. "This ought to be a challenge. How do you find something good to say about this guy?" he said with a sneer before walking away. After the funeral, many people commented that they appreciated how I handled the service in view of the terrible man in the casket.

How will I die? I don't mean "how" in terms of the manner in which I expire, but "how" in terms of the state of my heart and life when I reach the finish line here on Earth. It's not a question we think much about, but it's one worth pondering. Today's chapter states that "Saul died in disobedience." What a sad statement. What a rotten epitaph.

I want to die in obedience. I want to die in the love of God, my family, and my friends. I want to die having walked the journey well, having pressed on through adversity, having arrived at a place of deep contentment.

How will you die?

July 06, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 9

Musicians on call for God 24-7-365. And then there were the musicians, all heads of Levite families. They had permanent living quarters in The Temple; because they were on twenty-four-hour duty, they were exempt from all other duties. 1 Chronicles 9:33 (MSG)

It's funny to think about musicians being on call 24/7/365, but that was true of the Levite families in charge of music in God's temple back in the day. We think of doctors, police and firemen on 24 hour duty, but in God's house it's the musicians.

I love that God is a God of music. I love playing on a worship team and being part of the music on Sunday morning. While I'm only on two Sunday mornings a month duty, the thought of being on call with my bass 24/7 is actually an exciting thought. I feel honored everytime I plug in my Vander Well custom and play with others to glorify God.

Pump up the volume. In God's Kingdom, music is everpresent.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Jeanne.photography

July 02, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 8

After seven chapters of finding buried treasure in long chapters of family tree lists, I get to yet another chapter of who begat who and...I got nothin'.

July 01, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1Chronicles 7

Tom & Girls 2010 05 These were Asher's sons, all of them responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders. 1 Chronicles 7:40a (MSG)

Driving away from a client meeting in Wisconsin yesterday, my phone rang. Clear as a bell, on the other end of the line, was my daughter Madison calling from India. She is there on a month long mission to work with the poor and orphans and to encourage the local believers there. Her childlike "HI DADDY!" was music to my ears (she is doing great, by the way).

This weekend we get away to celebrate Taylor's 4th of July birthday (As Grandma says, "She's our firecracker!"). Taylor and Clayton are working hard this summer and prepping to help lead a team of Central students to Haiti to help with the on-going relief work.

Last night I talked on the phone to my old high school buddy Doug. He was telling me about his kids, and talking about what good kids they are. We had a dad moment, appreciating how great it feels to have good kids.

When I read about the sons of Asher, my heart nodded in understanding. It is such a blessing to have good kids. It is wonderful to look at your children and see "them responsible, excellent in character, and brave." As I tell them, "no pop could be prouder."

June 30, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 6

Adoption papers. The sons of Levi were.... 1 Chronicles 1:1 (MSG)

Reading through what seems like endless genealogical records in the beginning of Chronicles, I begin to appreciate how important lineage was to Israel in the Old Testament. The family you were born into determined all sorts of things from status, to where you lived, to what you did for a living and your responsibilities in temple worship.

I don't think I fully appreciate what it's like to have your life and social status completely determined by the family into which you happened to be born. Being born in a country and a time in which you're raised believing you can do anything and succeed at anything you choose to do if you put your heart and mind to it, it's hard to fathom being constrained by my family name.

One of the awesome things that Jesus did through his life, death and resurrection was to shatter this legalistic system in which your family was of utmost importance. Ephesians 1:5 says "In love [God]predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." Through Jesus, being born into the right family with the right genes and the right name becomes a moot point. When we place our faith in Jesus, we're adopted into the family that really matters.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and barbaradoduk

June 29, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 5

And even though Judah became the strongest of his brothers and King David eventually came from that family, the firstborn rights stayed with Joseph. 1 Chronicles 5:2 (MSG)

To this point in the book, the author of Chronicles has focused his genealogical listings on the tribe of Judah and particularly the house of David. We see it yet again in the verse above as the writer appears to explain to his readers why first born rights among the tribes of Israel were not with the first born Reuben, nor with his favorite team: Judah. He does, however, bring up an interesting connection.

Joseph and David were both the youngest among their brothers and were derided as such. God raised both of them to prominence over their brothers and gave them both positions of power, authority, and blessing. Both David and Joseph are constant reminders that God is a God of the underdog. God raises the lowest, most humble. When we are at our weakest, God tends to performs His greatest works in our lives.

June 28, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 4

Pleeeeeeeeeeease. Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor. His mother had named him Jabez (Oh, the pain!), saying, "A painful birth! I bore him in great pain!" Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: "Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don't let evil hurt me." God gave him what he asked. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (MSG)

As a father, I always desire to bless my children. I want to bless them. At the same time, I never want my blessing to be an assumption of entitlement. I don't like my blessing to be taken for granted. When a child asks rather than assumes, it is an honoring act. There is a recognition of authority and humility in the request.

Perhaps God blessed Jabez because he was the one who honored God enough to ask, and didn't assume God's blessing was a done deal.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and kingofmonks

June 25, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 3

"These are the sons that David had while he lived at Hebron...." 1 Chronicles 3:1 (MSG)

I'm currently reading a trilogy of novels. The first book felt a bit scattered and I struggled with parts of it. Only now, as I get into the middle of the second book, are the pieces coming together. Many of the things that confused me in the beginning are making sense, and I'm gaining an appreciation for the larger story told by the author.

In a similar way, the Old Testament can feel incredibly boring and confusing until you start connecting the dots and see how the whole of the story fits together.

When reading the Old Testament books of history, it's important to remember that David is a key figure. Not only is he key in understanding the Old Testament, but he is a key figure in the story of Jesus and beyond. God promised David that his throne would be established forever. When the Kingdom of Israel split after Solomon, the southern kindgom (referred to thereafter as the Kingdom of Judah) remained loyal to the line of David. All of their kings were descendents of David. The northern kingdom (continuing to be called the Kingdom of Israel) became a free-for-all in which the throne went to the most powerful (or treacherous) person who could ascend to the throne.

Because of God's promise to David, the prophets knew that the Messiah would be born of David's line. The family trees of Jesus listed in Matthew and Luke (one is the line through his mother and the other is through his earthly father Joseph) were critical in establishing that Jesus was descended of David through both.

The more you understand of the larger story, the more interesting the individual stories and chapters become.