1 Chronicles 25:1-31

Duties of the Musicians

What is it that you are passionate about when it comes to your faith? Is it discipleship of believers who have less maturity in the faith than you? Is it teaching in a small group in your home? Is it teaching in a Sunday School classroom setting? Do you have a desire to start a day care and pre-school at your church so as to serve your community and give people in your church an outlet to raise up a new generation of potential believers in Jesus Christ? Do you have a desire to see an ongoing food pantry be established in your community to serve the needs of the less fortunate and use it to express the love of Jesus Christ? Do you have a passion to bridge the racial divide in your community by creating opportunities to do joint projects with a church in your community that is predominantly of another ethnicity than your church’s predominant ethnicity? Do you want to stage events for the entire town where your church can simply love on the community in which it is located?

Or are you a little less big picture right now but want to serve the Lord in some way? Would you like to serve in a way that is useful? There are parking attendants needed at your church on Sunday. There are greeters needed at your church on Sunday. Do you want to start a coffee and snacks ministry before and between services at your church? Do you want to participate in creating an early Sunday morning contemporary service at your traditional church that’s less formal and do it to reach a segment of town that your church is currently not reaching? Do you want to be a Sunday School teacher or an in-home small group leader? Do you want to start an in-home small group that specializes in reaching out and ministering to people that otherwise are not churched? Do you want to be a part of keeping your church’s people safe during worship services by participating on the security team? Do you want to be part of a medical team that ensures that there is an adequate response to medical emergencies in your church? Do you want to be an usher that serves as an information point and aid to the execution of a high quality worship experience? Do you want to be part of the youth ministry of your church? Do you want to be a part of the children’s ministry at your church?

As you can see, there are a myriad of established ways already there at your church in which you can service in an already established ministry team. Further, if you have a passion to start something new at your church, God’s kingdom needs that also. Don’t let the fact that a ministry at your church does not exist keep you from it. God want us to think outside the box, outside the established ministries, outside the box of tradition when it comes to reaching your community for Christ through your church. The most thriving churches are those that do not wait for the pastor to come up with the ideas. The most thriving churches don’t wait for the pastor to tap you on the shoulder. The most thriving churches are the ones where the congregation is full of people that are passionate for ministry and are not just filling positions because somebody has to or nobody else will do it. There is so much a church can do and so many places to serve when a congregation from top to bottom, east to west, is fully-engaged in the idea of “what can I do”?

That’s the idea that came to mind this morning as I read this chapter in the book of 1 Chronicles. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 25 now with that idea in mind:

Chapter 25

1 David and the army commanders then appointed men from the families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, and cymbals. Here is a list of their names and their work:

2 From the sons of Asaph, there were Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah. They worked under the direction of their father, Asaph, who proclaimed God’s messages by the king’s orders.

3 From the sons of Jeduthun, there were Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei,[a] Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six in all. They worked under the direction of their father, Jeduthun, who proclaimed God’s messages to the accompaniment of the lyre, offering thanks and praise to the Lord.

4 From the sons of Heman, there were Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael,[b] Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. 5 All these were the sons of Heman, the king’s seer, for God had honored him with fourteen sons and three daughters.

6 All these men were under the direction of their fathers as they made music at the house of the Lord. Their responsibilities included the playing of cymbals, harps, and lyres at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman reported directly to the king. 7 They and their families were all trained in making music before the Lord, and each of them—288 in all—was an accomplished musician. 8 The musicians were appointed to their term of service by means of sacred lots, without regard to whether they were young or old, teacher or student.

9

The first lot fell to Joseph of the Asaph clan and twelve of his sons and relatives.[c]

The second lot fell to Gedaliah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

10

The third lot fell to Zaccur and twelve of his sons and relatives.

11

The fourth lot fell to Zeri[d] and twelve of his sons and relatives.

12

The fifth lot fell to Nethaniah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

13

The sixth lot fell to Bukkiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

14

The seventh lot fell to Asarelah[e] and twelve of his sons and relatives.

15

The eighth lot fell to Jeshaiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

16

The ninth lot fell to Mattaniah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

17

The tenth lot fell to Shimei and twelve of his sons and relatives.

18

The eleventh lot fell to Uzziel[f] and twelve of his sons and relatives.

19

The twelfth lot fell to Hashabiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

20

The thirteenth lot fell to Shubael and twelve of his sons and relatives.

21

The fourteenth lot fell to Mattithiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

22

The fifteenth lot fell to Jerimoth[g] and twelve of his sons and relatives.

23

The sixteenth lot fell to Hananiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

24

The seventeenth lot fell to Joshbekashah[h] and twelve of his sons and relatives.

25

The eighteenth lot fell to Hanani and twelve of his sons and relatives.

26

The nineteenth lot fell to Mallothi and twelve of his sons and relatives.

27

The twentieth lot fell to Eliathah and twelve of his sons and relatives.

28

The twenty-first lot fell to Hothir and twelve of his sons and relatives.

29

The twenty-second lot fell to Giddalti and twelve of his sons and relatives.

30

The twenty-third lot fell to Mahazioth and twelve of his sons and relatives.

31

The twenty-fourth lot fell to Romamti-ezer and twelve of his sons and relatives.

In this passage, we see that there were many ways to contribute to the worship in the Tabernacle, and, later, the Temple. Some proclaimed God’s message (1 Chronicles 25:1). Some offered thanks and praise (1 Chronicles 25:3). Others played instruments (1 Chronicles 25:6-7). The passage demonstrates that God wants all His people to participate in the ongoing daily, weekly, and monthly activities or ministries of the church. In particular, Sunday mornings are a time when many volunteer opportunities exist. You may not be a master musician, a teacher, a preacher, or any of those who are the visible leaders of each Sunday’s service, but there are many ways to serve your church on Sunday. As well, there are other ways to serve that are not on Sunday but are equally important to the eternal impact of your local church. Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. If there is a ministry that is consistent with the Christian faith and aligns with the specific vision that God has especially designed for your local church, go for it. Talk to your pastoral leadership at your church and see how the church can assist you but, by all means, for the kingdom of God, go after what He has set your heart on fire to do.

What is it that you are passionate about? What is it that you would love to see your church do? What ministry is missing at your church and you just wish the church would do something? I am here to tell you that your pastor would get a big ol’ fat smile on his face if you came to him and said “this is what I want to do and this is how I plan to do it! Will the church support in my this kind of ministry?” The pastor would smile and say, “heck yeah! the church will support you…let’s figure out what the church can do to help you start your ministry under the flag of this church!” Nothing makes a pastor smile more is to know that it’s not all on him. Nothing makes a pastor smile more than seeing someone so passionate about a missing ministry in your church that they can’t take it any longer and want to go fill that void! Nothing makes a pastor smile more than when he has a church full of fully engaged believers. Nothing makes a pastor smile more than seeing these ministries birth, develop and thrive with similarly passionate people from within your church. What is it that you want to do for your church? Is it to jump in and work in an already existing ministry of your church, that’s awesome! Go do it. Don’t wait for somebody to ask you. Jump in and tell somebody! Is it to start a ministry that does not exist right now at your church? Devise what that ministry would look like, talk to your pastor, and go do it!

Let us be a church that says “I will do…” instead of “I wish somebody would…”

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 24:20-31

Family Leaders Among the Levites

The thing that I thought about this morning was the fact that I did not initially know what to write about. This passage is basically just a listing of family names and the leader of those families. But then it gradually came to me that these were families that were dedicated to Temple service. Sure, the biggest reason that they were in the “temple business” was that they were descendants of Levi. However, there was the rankings of the families mentioned in here where it says “without regard to age or rank.” I am not sure whether that is a reference to within each family or among the various families. I am of the mind that within families there would not be much controversy as to ages and ranks. But, between families that would have been rankings maybe based on how dedicated to the Lord the families seemed to be. Of course, that would have been subjective rankings based on some obvious clues (much like the college football rankings by sportswriters and coaches). The thing that I came down on as to what to write about was this fact there these family were in the business of running the temple. It was their family business.

Without really trying to focus on that idea of serving the Lord full-time, it has basically become the family business of our branch of the Bowling family. When you look at my Pop and Granny’s family, it has become the family business. My dad was a lifelong pastor in the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (SCUMC). He was an active pastor (both full-time and then retired/part-time) for almost 6 decades. My Uncle Doug was similarly an active pastor for just over 5 decades in the same SCUMC. Both are now deceased. My brother is currently about to close out his 38th year as a pastor in the SCUMC. At age 59, he still has a ways to go, and miles to travel before he retires from the full-time ministry (and I am sure once he does retire from full-time ministry that he will serve as a retired/part-time pastor to some small charge of churches near wherever he settles in retirement). And as a side note, my brother’s wife is a Methodist preacher’s kid. Her dad, my brother’s father-in-law, was a contemporary of my dad and uncle and he too served for over 5 decades as a pastor in the SCUMC. And, then, there’s me. Most of my life, I had a pretty successful career in corporate finance and auditing. But I went into full-time ministry about 27-28 months ago. At first, I started out as an associate pastor in a non-denominational church in northwest Illinois. It was where I got my foot in the door in full-time ministry. However, events conspired in such a way that this time last year, I came back home to be a pastor in the very same SCUMC that is the legacy of my family. I am about to finish up my first year at my current appointment, Lamar UMC in Lamar, SC.

The SCUMC as the family business is kind of similar to these Levite families being dedicated to ministry in these Old Testament texts. In those days, the family members had no choice in the matter. It was God’s assignment for their family from the time the Israelites were in the desert of Sinai. In my family, however, the choice has been voluntary. What caused our family to serve the Lord as pastors full-time. There has now been a Bowling family member serving in the SCUMC as pastors since 1957 when my dad entered the ministry. That’s now 63 years of there being a Bowling as a pastor in the SCUMC. My brother will probably serve another 10 years before he retires. Because of my late start in the SCUMC, I will most likely serve full-time til the mandatory retirement age of 72 about 15 years from now. So, when I retire, it will most likely be the end of the family business unless my granddaughter, Ralyn, goes into the ministry in the SCUMC. But I bet she will become a schoolteacher just like her mom and continue another legacy in our family – my Grandmother Bowling was a schoolteacher and ultimately a principal, my Uncle Ed was a second career school teacher, my cousin Jennifer is a school teacher, and my daughter is a schoolteacher. With the exception of my Uncle Ed, that seems to be a legacy of the women in our family. If Ralyn becomes a school teacher, it would be the fourth generation of the Bowling family that had a school teacher in it.

When I retire most likely 15 years from now, that will have meant that our family will have been pastoring in the SCUMC for 78 years. That’s almost 8 decades of a Bowling being a full-time pastor in the SCUMC. That’s a legacy. That’s the family business.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this not very exciting passage of names that I just rushed right through. The idea that these were people where the family business was serving the Lord. That’s what got me to thinking about my own family, the Bowling family. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Chronicles 24:20-31, with that idea of “the family business” in mind:

20 These were the other family leaders descended from Levi:

From the descendants of Amram, the leader was Shebuel.[a]

From the descendants of Shebuel, the leader was Jehdeiah.

21

From the descendants of Rehabiah, the leader was Isshiah.

22

From the descendants of Izhar, the leader was Shelomith.[b]

From the descendants of Shelomith, the leader was Jahath.

23

From the descendants of Hebron, Jeriah was the leader,[c] Amariah was second, Jahaziel was third, and Jekameam was fourth.

24

From the descendants of Uzziel, the leader was Micah.

From the descendants of Micah, the leader was Shamir, 25 along with Isshiah, the brother of Micah.

From the descendants of Isshiah, the leader was Zechariah.

26

From the descendants of Merari, the leaders were Mahli and Mushi.

From the descendants of Jaaziah, the leader was Beno.

27

From the descendants of Merari through Jaaziah, the leaders were Beno, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri.

28

From the descendants of Mahli, the leader was Eleazar, though he had no sons.

29

From the descendants of Kish, the leader was Jerahmeel.

30

From the descendants of Mushi, the leaders were Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth.

These were the descendants of Levi in their various families. 31 Like the descendants of Aaron, they were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank. Lots were drawn in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the family leaders of the priests and the Levites.

All of us ended up in the ministry for a complex web of reasons, but certainly feeling a desire to serve the Lord, lead a flock of believers, deepen their walk with Jesus, and simply honor God in gratitude for our salvations were common to each of our experiences. However, not all believers (even ones whose depth of faith would make me feel less than) go into the ministry. That we had two sets of brothers from two consecutive generations of the family end up in full-time ministry says something. The family business is serving the Lord in the SCUMC. It is an honor to be a part of that lineage.

I used to tell people that my dad, my uncle, and my brother were Methodist pastors in South Carolina and that I was the black sheep of the family, I was an accountant! LOL! But now, just like a son of some multi-generational family business wanted to do things his own way, left the family business, made a name for himself out there, but now has come home to take over the family business. I am now part of the family business. I hope that there will be people in heaven one day that I will meet that say that one of us of these two sets of brothers from two consecutive generations helped influence them to the cross. Over eight decades by the time I retire, maybe, just maybe, there are some folks walking the streets of gold because of the dedication of my family to this, the family business.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 24:1-19

Duties of the Priests

Have you ever been to an amusement park and there were employees there that acted as if you were an imposition to them? Have you been to a fast food restaurant where it was like that? That one person or that group of employees that happen to be at that particular place in the amusement park or that particular store of a fast food chain can adversely impact your view of the entire organization! If they are rude, it can have an impact on your view. If they are clueless, it can do the same. If they act as if they would rather be some place else, it can do the same. If an employee at one store or one part of an amusement park treats a person poorly, it can have a ripple effect. That person treated poorly will tell all his friends and all of a sudden there is a whole group of people that will not go to that fast food restaurant chain ever again – no matter if the other stores have wonderful employees or not. It is the same with amusement parks. There was an old commercial for Faberge Organics shampoo back in the 70’s I think it was about “they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on”. It was about how good the product was and that you should tell two friends about it. The visual of the screen multiplying by twos exponentially was pretty cool. It is true that word of mouth can be crazily positive and at the same time it can be crazily negative. Negative experiences seem to exponentially grow and multiply more quickly than positive ones however! Just one employee with a bad attitude, just one employee having a bad day, just one employee who you will never see again, just one employee can adversely impact the loyalty of a customer to a store brand. One bad purchase of a product and impact loyalty to a product brand as well. Just think of the people that say they will never buy a Chrysler or Ford or a GM product ever again because of one bad purchase.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage about the division of the Temple duties among the various clans of the Levites. Because they were divided up into 24 groups that each served two weeks at the Temple, the full rotation would take 48 weeks to complete out of a 52 week year. Thus, during a given year depending where you at in the cycle and how the 48 weeks feel within a particular year, you would at most have to serve two times (a total of 4 weeks) in that year. It got me to thinking about ministry leadership by members of any given church on any given Sunday. While you think about that concept and wonder where I am going with this, let’s read the passage now, 1 Chronicles 24:1-19:

Chapter 24

1 This is how Aaron’s descendants, the priests, were divided into groups for service. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and they had no sons. So only Eleazar and Ithamar were left to carry on as priests.

3 With the help of Zadok, who was a descendant of Eleazar, and of Ahimelech, who was a descendant of Ithamar, David divided Aaron’s descendants into groups according to their various duties. 4 Eleazar’s descendants were divided into sixteen groups and Ithamar’s into eight, for there were more family leaders among the descendants of Eleazar.

5 All tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the sanctuary from among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar. 6 Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, acted as secretary and wrote down the names and assignments in the presence of the king, the officials, Zadok the priest, Ahimelech son of Abiathar, and the family leaders of the priests and Levites. The descendants of Eleazar and Ithamar took turns casting lots.

7

The first lot fell to Jehoiarib.

The second lot fell to Jedaiah.

8

The third lot fell to Harim.

The fourth lot fell to Seorim.

9

The fifth lot fell to Malkijah.

The sixth lot fell to Mijamin.

10

The seventh lot fell to Hakkoz.

The eighth lot fell to Abijah.

11

The ninth lot fell to Jeshua.

The tenth lot fell to Shecaniah.

12

The eleventh lot fell to Eliashib.

The twelfth lot fell to Jakim.

13

The thirteenth lot fell to Huppah.

The fourteenth lot fell to Jeshebeab.

14

The fifteenth lot fell to Bilgah.

The sixteenth lot fell to Immer.

15

The seventeenth lot fell to Hezir.

The eighteenth lot fell to Happizzez.

16

The nineteenth lot fell to Pethahiah.

The twentieth lot fell to Jehezkel.

17

The twenty-first lot fell to Jakin.

The twenty-second lot fell to Gamul.

18

The twenty-third lot fell to Delaiah.

The twenty-fourth lot fell to Maaziah.

19 Each group carried out its appointed duties in the house of the Lord according to the procedures established by their ancestor Aaron in obedience to the commands of the Lord, the God of Israel.

In this passage, we see that each clan had to serve according to a schedule and were only there for two weeks each year (maybe 4 weeks depending on how the calendar fell). To these clansmen from their group, to serve at the Temple was the highlight of their year. It was such a great honor that they would not miss it for the world. While there, they served with precision. They served with great fervor. Why? Because it was just such an honor to be at the Temple. They considered it their duty toward God and would do it with amazing persistence and dogged perfectionism. Now, what if just one of those guys did not want to come. What if they had an amazingly bad attitude while they were there. What if they were there during the important festival dates in the life of Israel and they were ill and mean? What if they acted as if they did not care about the guests coming to the Temple for worship? What if they did not give their all? What if they did not seek perfection while they were there? You know what happens in those situations? You take the guests’ eyes off worshiping God and on what you did wrong, or what you didn’t do that you should have done, or what you did do that was rude?

That’s the thing that struck me this morning when thinking about what, if anything, I could take away from this passage to apply to my life and/or to yours. That thing is that in the church, whether we like it or not, we are in the customer service business. Impressions matter. For it can do two things. One, it can take your loyal customers (your regularly attending church members) eyes off learning more about God, about being swept up by the Holy Spirit into a memorable worship experience, about deepening their relationship with Jesus, about being challenged to seek harder after God’s will through a good sermon. If a bad experience at any point before the worship service has that person tied up in knots, what do you think they will be thinking about during worship service? It won’t be about God. It will be about that person who caused the bad experience. Two, visitors to your church campus will make up their mind as to whether to return to your campus a second or third time (and possibly making your church their home) by the way they are treated. From the moment, their car tires roll onto your campus, one volunteer can make a difference at to whether they return or not.

First, do you have a parking lot team? Do you have visitors’ spaces? If you have neither, you will lose a visitor before they even come into any building. If everybody knows where and how to park that’s been there for generations, but yet we expect visitors to just know that? it’s good to have a knowledgeable person in the parking lot to help any potential visitor find where they need to go. This person may not have any work other than greeting the regulars as they come through the parking lot, but just wait for that one time that nobody’s there! Then, not having teacher in a classroom on time for Sunday School makes a visitor wonder if they missed some secret handshake about what happened to the class they were supposed to be in. Having a Sunday School teacher that’s not prepared for that week’s planned lesson and just wings it makes a visitor wonder why you even have classroom materials? Having ushers in place and on duty well before service begins and who are knowledgeable about every aspect of the church’s ministries, activities, and upcoming events can be a difference as well? If they are not there before service and if they seem clueless about their own church, what signal does that send to a visitor. If the choir appears not to have rehearsed for this week, what signal does that send? If the bulletin has misspellings and different fonts and uneven presentations of information, what signal does that send? If the pastor’s sermon seems like he wrote a “Saturday night special” (the term for just throwing your sermon together the night before service). If the pastor speaks in passionless tones, what does that say to the visitor. What if no asks them to sit with them on “their” row? What signals are we sending when we are there but we don’t give our volunteer positions own best and highest for the glory of God?

What if we just didn’t show up for service on a weekend that we have been assigned to volunteer? What if we did that at our regular jobs? What if we had a leadership position in a ministry of the church but we just liked having the title but didn’t really give our full attention and passion to that leadership position? What if we did that our regular jobs?

All of these questions are ones that each one of us must answer in our various volunteer roles at church. Are we going to be the difference between someone being reached by the gospel who visits our church. Conversely, by our inattention or lackadaisical approach to our volunteer work at church, could we cause a delay in when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior? Could we cause a delay in a person finding a church that they can call home and can grow in their relationship with Christ? Let us be pastors who give it our all every week. Let us be church volunteers who see whatever they are doing as being done for the glory of God and to ensure that there is no reason that a person can come on our campus and be distracted from the purpose – worshiping God! Let our churches be that kind of church. No distractions that make Satan smile but rather people seeking to give God their all in the execution of their jobs so that people see a seamless operation with no hiccups and no reason to be distracted from worshiping God – Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, youth service, children’s church, main worship service, parking lot attendants, security, Sunday school teachers, ushers, acolytes, choir, musicians, preachers, all working toward giving God our best at every moment for our church!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:7-32 (Part 2 of 2)

The Levite Clans & Their Duties

This thought struck me this morning is what is going to be the epitaph on your gravestone and will it be truthful to who you were? I kid around with (no, I am really serious, LOL!) my wife and my three adult girls about what my tombstone should say. I keep telling them that I want it to say, “Well…I thought it was funny!” I think that encapsulates my personality pretty well. God granted me a pretty good sense of humor and the ability to always see that sliver of light in the dark times. And, yes, my sense of humor is pretty corny at times, sometimes witty, sometimes satirical. I am always looking for the humor in just about any situation. My innate sense of humor really has pulled me through some of the lonely, dark, emotionally difficult times of my life. There have been times in my life where I went through struggles where it was just difficult to get up and get going in the morning. But there was always that hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, things would get better. And it was that basic joy in your soul that allows you to laugh even when the circumstances of your life say you should just crawl in a hole and wait. That’s the thing that I thank God for in my life and it that “well…I thought it was funny” attitude that God gave me. It has given me strength. It has given me a sense of joy and wonder. It has given me that sense that no matter what joy can be found in the hardest of times and that smoother waters are just around the bend. That’s what I want people to remember about me is that I had infectious joy. That’s what I hope that people will remember about me. Basic joy. That joy that allows you to smile. That joy that makes you think of corny jokes. That “well…I thought it was funny!” attitude. That joy of knowing Christ as your Savior and Lord that gives you hope at all times, even when we have those stretches where life has run you down and run you over. That joy of knowing that He’s got you. That joy of knowing that He provides the light at the end of the tunnel. That joy of being able to smile because of Him.

When I re-read this passage for a second time this morning. There is one brief mention of one of the mighty men of the Bible, Moses. No other mention other than this one brief one. What does it say? “Moses, the man of God”. That’s it. That’s all that’s said about him. Nothing really need more be said. That’s the idea that came to mind this morning – about the gravestone, what will it say. What quick description will encapsulate your life? What will be your family’s answer? Let’s read 1 Chronicles 23:7-32 now:

7 The Gershonite family units were defined by their lines of descent from Libni[a] and Shimei, the sons of Gershon. 8 Three of the descendants of Libni were Jehiel (the family leader), Zetham, and Joel. 9 These were the leaders of the family of Libni.

Three of the descendants of Shimei were Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran. 10 Four other descendants of Shimei were Jahath, Ziza,[b] Jeush, and Beriah. 11 Jahath was the family leader, and Ziza was next. Jeush and Beriah were counted as a single family because neither had many sons.

12 Four of the descendants of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 13 The sons of Amram were Aaron and Moses. Aaron and his descendants were set apart to dedicate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s presence, to serve the Lord, and to pronounce blessings in his name forever.

14 As for Moses, the man of God, his sons were included with the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The descendants of Gershom included Shebuel, the family leader. 17 Eliezer had only one son, Rehabiah, the family leader. Rehabiah had numerous descendants.

18 The descendants of Izhar included Shelomith, the family leader. 19 The descendants of Hebron included Jeriah (the family leader), Amariah (the second), Jahaziel (the third), and Jekameam (the fourth).

20 The descendants of Uzziel included Micah (the family leader) and Isshiah (the second). 21 The descendants of Merari included Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22 Eleazar died with no sons, only daughters. His daughters married their cousins, the sons of Kish. 23 Three of the descendants of Mushi were Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth.

24 These were the descendants of Levi by clans, the leaders of their family groups, registered carefully by name. Each had to be twenty years old or older to qualify for service in the house of the Lord. 25 For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given us peace, and he will always live in Jerusalem. 26 Now the Levites will no longer need to carry the Tabernacle and its furnishings from place to place.” 27 In accordance with David’s final instructions, all the Levites twenty years old or older were registered for service.

28 The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the Lord. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God. 29 They were in charge of the sacred bread that was set out on the table, the choice flour for the grain offerings, the wafers made without yeast, the cakes cooked in olive oil, and the other mixed breads. They were also responsible to check all the weights and measures. 30 And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to him. 31 They assisted with the burnt offerings that were presented to the Lord on Sabbath days, at new moon celebrations, and at all the appointed festivals. The required number of Levites served in the Lord’s presence at all times, following all the procedures they had been given.

32 And so, under the supervision of the priests, the Levites watched over the Tabernacle and the Temple[c] and faithfully carried out their duties of service at the house of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that all that is stated here about Moses is that he was “the man of God.” What a profound description of a person! When you call a person “a man (or woman) of God” is a person whose life reflects God’s presence, power and priorities. A person of God (man or woman) is one who reflects the qualities and character of God – as much as we in our flawed humanness can do so. They are people who have a visible love of the Lord. A person of God is one who exudes a Christ-like lifestyle, one that is full of quiet charity for his fellow man, one that is full of wisdom, one that understands God’s Word and quietly goes about living it, one that is marked by gratefulness and humility before the Lord because they know that salvation is a unmerited gift, one that is marked by practical sharing of the gospel with both friends and strangers. Is that not what you want others to describe you as, “a man of God”?

As for me, I am sure that my family will not put “well…I thought it was funny!” on my gravestone. However, what I hope that they will remember me as is a person who had basic joy. I am not talking about jumping around dancing common perception of joy, but rather the Christian concept of joy where you are able to have contentment even in troubled times. Sure, we Christians have struggles just like anybody else. We have worries. We have days where it’s a struggle to get out of bed. We have days where our circumstances weigh heavily on us for long periods. We are not immune or oblivious to the troubled world in which we live. However, as Christ followers, we know that God has a sunny day coming for us and we hold on to that hope no matter what. For example, Joseph probably had some really bad days when he was in the Egyptian prison for those 12 years, but he had a belief in God that allowed him to serve God right where he was. From the outside, it might have looked like a bum wrap for Joseph (and it certainly was), but yet Joseph simply trusted God so much that He lived his life in the moment and did the best he could with it. That’s the basic joy of one who loves God. That’s the basic joy of a man of God.

Moses, the man of God. Simple but powerful description. What more needs to be said about Moses. Man of God says enough and says it all. That’s who he was, a man of God. My prayer for you and my prayer for me is that when we die, that it could be said of us that we had such a basic joy of living, that comes from trusting God even in the toughest of times, that we could be described as a “man of God” or a “woman of God”. What will your gravestone say?

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:7-32 (Part 1 of 2)

The Levite Clans & Their Duties

This thought struck me this morning. What are you doing for your church in the other 50%? We spend 50% of our life at work or sleeping. That’s the thing that churches struggle with these days. Where does church rank in that other 50% in our people’s lives?

Last night, I had a meeting with our usher team concerning what Sunday mornings are going to look like for the foreseeable future (at least through the end of August 2020) as we begin worshiping indoors and holding regular meetings and such as a church once again (beginning Sunday, June 14th). In the protocols that were developed by the administrative council and me, we are going to increase the workload on Sunday mornings of our ushers exponentially. They will be called upon to monitor social distancing and the wellness procedures that we have put in place for in-person gatherings. Church is going to look different when we go back indoors. It is going to require our ushers to step up their game. Each one last night seemed willing to take on the procedures as they were laid out to them. It was pleasing to see that each one of the 17 guys on our team were eager to help and did not balk at having to do what was being presented to them. Without their support in this, we would not be able to go back inside and if they do not do their jobs, as presented, Sunday mornings will be a disorganized mess. That reminded me that even in the best of times at church, that we need faithful, available and willing volunteers to grab hold of their ministries and run with them with passion. Otherwise, the church becomes disorganized and stagnant.

It got me to thinking about our crisis response. You would think that it is simpler to worship outdoors, but it’s not. Even now when we are worshiping in “car church” or “parking lot church”, a team of three of my ushers (Rocky, James, and Harry) it would fall apart. Without my wife, the church services would only be observed by those brave enough to come in cars. Without the proper review of the sound system each week by Butch and me, it would not work. Without the contributing singers that we have had (Alan, Butch and Sarah Hannah), the services would have been less inspiring. Without contributions from my administrative assistant, Ann, and her husband, Hamer, some of the special event things we have done and will be doing at car church would have fallen flat.

That’s the idea that came to mind this morning. We need folks at church, mine, yours, anybody’s church, that are passionate about the mission and vision of the church. Without church members volunteering in their ministries and being passionate about those ministries the church becomes stagnant and begins to falter and fail. Without our ushers on Sunday mornings on any Sunday and especially now in these new protocols, Sunday mornings would be disorganized. And yet it extends beyond Sunday mornings too. We need passionate and willing and available people in all areas of the church ministries. The church lives on outside of Sunday morning and for us to be an impactful church in expanding God’s kingdom we must have those passionate people, those willing people, and those available people. With that in mind, let us look at how a whole tribe of people helped make sure the Temple operated to the glory of God. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 23:7-32 now:

7 The Gershonite family units were defined by their lines of descent from Libni[a] and Shimei, the sons of Gershon. 8 Three of the descendants of Libni were Jehiel (the family leader), Zetham, and Joel. 9 These were the leaders of the family of Libni.

Three of the descendants of Shimei were Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran. 10 Four other descendants of Shimei were Jahath, Ziza,[b] Jeush, and Beriah. 11 Jahath was the family leader, and Ziza was next. Jeush and Beriah were counted as a single family because neither had many sons.

12 Four of the descendants of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 13 The sons of Amram were Aaron and Moses. Aaron and his descendants were set apart to dedicate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s presence, to serve the Lord, and to pronounce blessings in his name forever.

14 As for Moses, the man of God, his sons were included with the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The descendants of Gershom included Shebuel, the family leader. 17 Eliezer had only one son, Rehabiah, the family leader. Rehabiah had numerous descendants.

18 The descendants of Izhar included Shelomith, the family leader. 19 The descendants of Hebron included Jeriah (the family leader), Amariah (the second), Jahaziel (the third), and Jekameam (the fourth).

20 The descendants of Uzziel included Micah (the family leader) and Isshiah (the second). 21 The descendants of Merari included Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22 Eleazar died with no sons, only daughters. His daughters married their cousins, the sons of Kish. 23 Three of the descendants of Mushi were Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth.

24 These were the descendants of Levi by clans, the leaders of their family groups, registered carefully by name. Each had to be twenty years old or older to qualify for service in the house of the Lord. 25 For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given us peace, and he will always live in Jerusalem. 26 Now the Levites will no longer need to carry the Tabernacle and its furnishings from place to place.” 27 In accordance with David’s final instructions, all the Levites twenty years old or older were registered for service.

28 The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the Lord. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God. 29 They were in charge of the sacred bread that was set out on the table, the choice flour for the grain offerings, the wafers made without yeast, the cakes cooked in olive oil, and the other mixed breads. They were also responsible to check all the weights and measures. 30 And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to him. 31 They assisted with the burnt offerings that were presented to the Lord on Sabbath days, at new moon celebrations, and at all the appointed festivals. The required number of Levites served in the Lord’s presence at all times, following all the procedures they had been given.

32 And so, under the supervision of the priests, the Levites watched over the Tabernacle and the Temple[c] and faithfully carried out their duties of service at the house of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that the priests and the Levites had different jobs in and around the Temple. Priests were authorized to perform the sacrifices. The priests were of the Levite clan but had be of the line of Aaron, the first high priest and brother of Moses. The Levite clan in total was set apart for service to the Lord. Those clans outside of Aaron’s were set apart to help the priests. They did the work of elders, deacons, custodians, assistants to the priests, musicians, moving men, and maintenance workers. Both priests and Levites were supported by Israel’s tithes and by the revenues generated in the towns dotted around Israel that had been given to them, according to the Law. Worship in the House of the Lord could not have taken place without the combined efforts of the priests and Levites. Their responsibilities were different, but they were equally important to God’s plan. No matter what place of service you have in church, you are important to the healthy functioning of the congregation.

For us in the 21st century church, we must have people that are like my ushers – faithful, willing, and passionate about what they do. We need people that see their service to the church in whatever role they are playing as necessary to the expansion of the kingdom and as necessary in making sure our members have an environment in which they are properly discipled. The pastor should not be the only one who is passionate about these two functions of the church. Everyone must be – in whatever capacity they serve the church.

Those who lead and participate in each ministry of the church must see their ministry as important – as important to their life as their secular job, their secular hobbies, and so on. There is nothing more important that the expansion of the kingdom and the deepening of the faith of existing citizens of the kingdom. We must have passion for our ministries that we serve in. If you are in outreach, youth ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, ushering, security, worship team (choir and altar/sanctuary prep team), or any other ministry at your church, it should be your heart and soul 24/7/365 and drive you to action in that 50% of your life that you are not working at your secular job or are sleeping. It should drive you to take your ministry leadership role and dive into it like you do your responsibilities in your secular job. When we view our church and its mission as the most important thing in our lives and not just a nice add-on to our lives that we can focus on only when it suits us and we can work it after all the other things we place importance on, just imagine the impact a church can have on its own people and on the community in which the proclaim the gospel. When church becomes our passion and not just something we do on weekends and when it fits into our schedule, imagine what the impact on the kingdom of God will be.

Let us be that passionate church. Let us be filled with members who view their role in their church as their top priority. Let us be filled with members who are passionate about the ministries that they are part of and give it passion and life. Let us give God glory through our passion for Him.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:1-6 (Part 2 of 2)

Duties of the Levites

Sometimes, you hear one woman compliment another on her dress or some other type of clothing, and the other woman will say, “Oh, this old thing! I have had it for years!” It is a kind of way of humbly deflecting the praise being heaped upon her by the other woman. We laugh at that common phrase but there is something beautifully humble about it. May we think of ourselves in this deflecting, humble way each day.

One of the dangers of being a pastor, particularly a solo pastor of a medium to small sized church, is that you can become a minor celebrity among the people that you serve. In large and megasized churches, you can become like a rock star almost with a Sunday morning security detail and things such as that. In the smaller church, you are closer to the people and there are a lot of people that want a piece of you each week. In a larger church, you don’t get to know many of the church members on a personal basis anymore and you are buffered by a staff that you supervise. In the larger church, there is more rock star adulation it seems than there is in the smaller church. However, in both cases, there is a danger of all this stuff going to your head where you are a pastor of 90 people or 900 or 9,000.

The same thing happened to David back in 1 Chronicles 21. He had probably go through a phase of life where, with all the victories in battle, though he gave credit to the Lord, he was probably feeling pretty good about himself. He probably had a lot of people saying he was “all that” too. So, in the growing celebrity culture that sometimes develops around a successful leader, David was falling into the sin of conceit and pride in himself. To make him feel even better about himself and how superior his kingdom was to anyone else’s, he decided to number his fighting men and all the war machine equipment that he had. That would show himself and the world what a regional superpower that Israel had become under his leadership. That was what God took issue with. It was David’s pride. Not the census. The census in and of itself was nothing to God but the reason for it was an issue for God to deal with in David.

In the church world, as a pastor, like David, we have to keep our eye on the ball. Any success we have comes from God. That’s one thing that God keeps reminding me here lately. First, don’t get me wrong. I am having the time of my life as THE pastor. It was what I think I was born to do. I took a 30plus year detour into accounting (but even that is useful to me – I know what secular careers are like). Being a pastor and loving on people and helping them grow in their relationship with Christ is what turns my crank and always has since the day of my salvation. So, I love what I am doing. It’s the way I am supposed to finish the final third of my life. However, there are times, I beat myself up when things after this first year here aren’t really where I expected them to be.

As I beat myself up often for not having grown the population of our church in these first 11 months, not having my church totally diving in the deep end of the pool on doing community outreach, not having people desiring to grab hold of their ministry leadership positions and run with them, not having doubled the youth ministry, not having this and not having done that. God keeps telling me, you are here to serve me. God keeps telling me that it’s not my job to grow this church. It’s not my job to set people on fire for Jesus Christ. It’s not my job to develop a passionate leadership team. It’s not my job to create passion for outreach. It is my job to be faithful in all these things. I am not to sit back and do nothing. I am to be actively serving God in all these things – to push, to prod, to change the culture, to remind, to set a fire, to stoke the fire. However, as in all things, God will bring the increase. It is God’s church and I am to be his faithful servant. I plow the field and plant the seeds. He creates the miracle of a seed growing into a harvest.

With that in mind, let us read this passage, 1 Chronicles 23:1-6, now:

Chapter 23

1 When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel. 2 David summoned all the leaders of Israel, together with the priests and Levites. 3 All the Levites who were thirty years old or older were counted, and the total came to 38,000. 4 Then David said, “From all the Levites, 24,000 will supervise the work at the Temple of the Lord. Another 6,000 will serve as officials and judges. 5 Another 4,000 will work as gatekeepers, and 4,000 will praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have made.” 6 Then David divided the Levites into divisions named after the clans descended from the three sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

In this passage, you, as well as I, may be asking the question, “Why was THIS census acceptable when the one in 1 Chronicle 21 was not?” This census was different for a couple of reasons. First, this census was for a specific purpose. It counted only the Levites so as for David to know how to assign duties at the Temple (since they were the tribe directed by God to manage the religious life and operations surrounding worship in the Tabernacle and, subsequently, the Temple). Second, this census was not motivated by vain conceit as the first one was. In the first census, there was really no purpose in it other than to massage David’s ego about how big his army was.

As pastors (and in the secular world as leaders of any organization or department or whatever), we must remember that God is the one who brings the increase. We should simply be faithful to him in the field where he has us plowing. Keep plowing. Keep pushing. Keep dreaming dreams that are godly. Keep having vision. Keep in prayer about what God wants us to do. Keep you eyes on what’s on the next row in the field before you turn the plow onto that row. Keep seeing what five rows over. We must be planning ahead. But even the vision, the keeping six weeks and six months and six years ahead of the people is subject to the Lord. All of that must be subjected to the Lord in prayer. Only accept those goals and dreams that God has laid on your heart and not what you ego has. And above all remember we are here to serve God’s glory not ours. That keeps us focused and humble.

Recently, there have been several people that have told me that have been enjoying my sermons lately a whole bunch cause they’ve been so good. What they don’t know is that I personally think all the way up to starting to preach my sermon that this sermon is the most awful piece of literature ever written! That keeps me humble. What I think is horrible is God’s way of reminding me that it is Him who takes my sermon and makes it sing in someone’s ear, not me. As well, any leadership situations, I think I am a horrible leader, but I have recently had compliments on how I have led our church during this Coronavirus shutdown season. I think that is God’s way of keeping me humble so that I don’t think that I am this awesome leader, but rather a guy that is simply doing what seems to be the best course of action. Being open to the Spirit’s leading requires that we think that we are NOT “all that”. I hope that I never lose that feeling that I could always be doing better than I am doing. There’s humility there. There’s teachability there. There’s prayer there.

Lord, help us to be humble leaders and, thus, put us on our knees seeking what You want instead of what we want. Help us, oh Lord, to stay humble and remember that any increase that comes to our organization is from our obedience and faithfulness to You. Nothing else. Not us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:1-6 (Part 1 of 2)

Duties of the Levites

In small churches, the temptation to leave things unwritten is great. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody is aware of who is doing what and why. It is tempting to not have written procedures because of familiarity and people doing the same volunteer or compensated jobs at the church for years and years. However, that all changes when a church has regular attendance that starts exceeding 200 each weekend. That’s the “200-barrier” often referred to in church growth seminars. Once you get across that barrier, things change. You have to involve more people in the operations of the church. There is more administration needed to keep up with everyone. It is at this point that a church either plateaus and begins to drift back to smaller numbers or they make the changes in administrative styles and people management that will allow them to grow beyond 200. Having written procedures is one big thing that helps growth. Written procedures ensure consistency and trainability. Written procedures, when first written down, make you examine why you do things a certain way and may reveal inefficient ways in favor of more efficient ways. Written procedures often help us avoid conflict of inconsistent application of church intent between one leader and another. Written procedures help us to be consistent about why we do the things the way we do them. Written procedures also help us not to have to reinvent the wheel when leadership begins to pass from one generation of the church to the next.

One example of where written procedures help a church is the crisis time in which we are operating now. Within a couple of weeks, we are looking to return to in-person, inside worship and routine meetings. Because of the still-present possibility of the virus reflaring into a bigger problem that it was originally, we will have to “do church” in a less familiar and more cautious way than before. We cannot, at least through the end of the summer, go back to the way things were being done prior to our church’s March 15, 2020 last day of “normal operations.” Because of our return to some semblance of normalcy, projected now for June 14th, will be different, the administrative council and I had to come up with a reopening plan. Because of it being so different from the pre-March 15th world we knew at our church, we had to put all these procedures down in writing. We had our meetings six weeks in advance of the return to in-person activities date. We wrote those procedures down. We are now in the process of educating ministry leaders and their teams concerning these procedures. All ministries will be affected. None more so than our usher team. So, getting these team leaders comfortable with these procedures is imperative. We will then begin the processing of educating the general population of our church through social media posts, print documents, and a phone blitz about “what church is going to look like when we start meeting in-person and inside!” Without written procedures as we contemplate a return to in-person inside worship and in-person, inside regular meetings, we would be exposing ourselves to liability, to confusion, and just a general sense that we don’t know what we are doing and we didn’t plan. Written procedures help us to project to our people that we care deeply about this situation, that we have put some serious thought into it, and that we are prepared. That promotes security, fellowship, and unity among our people instead of the discord that would be there if we did not have a written plan in place. Which do think is of God and which do you think is of Satan?

That idea that David was proactive and wrote down all this stuff about the running of the Temple gave everyone a sense of security and it promoted unity when there was no need to quibble over operational details. David was forward thinking too because it allowed the post-exilic Jews to be able to re-establish Temple protocols after several generations had passed. It reminds us that in the post-Coronavirus era of our church as we re-establish our temple that it would be easy to descend into anarchy if our leadership had not been proactive. Order is of God and disorder is Satan’s playground. With that in mind, let us read this passage, 1 Chronicles 23:1-6, now:

Chapter 23

1 When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel. 2 David summoned all the leaders of Israel, together with the priests and Levites. 3 All the Levites who were thirty years old or older were counted, and the total came to 38,000. 4 Then David said, “From all the Levites, 24,000 will supervise the work at the Temple of the Lord. Another 6,000 will serve as officials and judges. 5 Another 4,000 will work as gatekeepers, and 4,000 will praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have made.” 6 Then David divided the Levites into divisions named after the clans descended from the three sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

In this passage, we see that although David could not build the Temple, he could make preparations, and he took that job seriously. He not only gathered funds and materials for God’s house but also planned much of the administration and arranged the worship services. The original readers of Chronicles, who would have been in exile or returning from exile in Babylon and were rebuilding the Temple, would have found this information about the procedures and numbers of people required invaluable. They did not have to “reinvent the wheel” because of David’s spirit-inspired documentation of how the Temple was to be run. Without these written procedures, they could have spent an inordinate amount of time quibbling over operational details instead of immediately being able to get things set up in the most efficient way and to begin worshiping the Lord.

In our context today, we are reminded that we struck a blow at Satan when we started planning for our return to in-person worship and meetings. Satan hates a plan. Satan loves for there to be no plan. Satan loves for there to be disorder and everyone doing their own thing and nothing getting accomplished and the church being at a self-destructive spin down the drain. Instead, we have a plan. Our people will know that there was thought behind what we are planning to do. Our people will know that we try to consider every possible health concern. Our people will then find security in that. Our people can find unity in that. When we are all in accord, then, worshiping the Lord is so much easier. Thus, God loves when things are orderly because it helps us not be distracted by the minutia of details and it helps us concentrate on the real purpose of why we are a church – to give glory to God by proclaiming His name to our people and to the world outside.

Amen and Amen.