Archive for September, 2018

1 Kings 1:28-53
David Confirms Solomon as King

Have you ever heard someone say, “he is only remorseful because he got caught!” when speaking of someone who has committed a wrong and has been caught doing it. That’s the case here with Adonijah. Knowing what we know about the rest of the book of 1 Kings already, we know that Adonijah ultimately rebels again against the kingship of his brother Solomon and ends up being executed. But here in this passage, he seems contrite and accepts the grace of his brother and goes on home.

When I was a teenager, although I was not a bad seed and never was in trouble with the law, never did badly at school (I graduated high school with a 3.4 GPA, basically a 5 A’s and a B kind of student each 9 week grading period), but I pushed the boundaries of my dad’s hard and fast rules of behavior on every occasion I could. I was that classic preacher’s kid who was a little on the anti-authoritarian side. I remember right after we moved to Travelers Rest, SC (TR) (where my dad’s next appointment as a United Methodist Church preacher in South Carolina was located), me and one my buddies from the town we just moved from (Anderson, SC) who had came up to visit got bored during his summertime visit. We proceeded to walk around what was a small town then in the mid-70’s, TR. We got it in our teenage heads (me, age 14, and my buddy, age 13) that it would be a good idea to see what we could get away with that day. One thing was to vandalize the local elementary school building (it was summertime and nobody was there but the 12-month employees). For some reason, that I cannot figure out all these years later, was why we thought this was a good idea. But I am 56 now and I think so much differently than I did at age 14. But at age 14, it seemed like a good idea to see what we could get away with. Well, we vandalized and we got spotted and we ran. We ran to the local convenience store right down the street from the school – dumb mistake. By going inside, we cornered ourselves and the local police just came in and got us. Talk about being embarrassed. Talk about being fearful. Talk about a small town potential scandal for my dad who just moved to town as the pastor of the local United Methodist church.

Since small town TR did not have a detention facility and particularly for underage boys, we were transferred to the custody of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department and taken to their law enforcement center (LEC) in downtown Greenville. All the while, I was worried about going to jail and worried about my steely blue-eyed dad whose stares could bore a hole through you when he was mad at you. I was more worried about the punishment than the crime. No matter what happened with the law I knew that my dad was going to eat my lunch, so to speak. Finally, my dad came to get us at the LEC. And, yes, those steel blue eye bore holes through me when he saw me. He said nothing until we got in the car. He was so mad at me. I could feel the tension in the car on the way home. He finally spoke and none of it was flattering. He spoke of how stupid I was. He spoke of how he had raised me to know better than to do such stupid things. I dreaded this drive home almost as much as being in the LEC. Needless to say, my friend’s dad had to make the hour’s drive up from Anderson to TR to pick up his son. And oh my, the two dads together let us have it and talked of all the punishments that we would have to suffer separately and the fact that we would not see each other for a long time after this. This day and night go down as one of several seminal bad days in my life. It certainly was the worst day of my life to that point at age 14.

Hanging over both of us for the next six weeks or so was the upcoming pre-trial intervention meeting with the youth offender’s county official/attorney. Since we had no prior criminal record, the case was diverted into the county’s pre-trial intervention program. During that meeting, I learned that my friend’s dad and my dad had paid to have the damage that we had caused to the school repaired and that no charges would be filed against us. We would not have that hanging over us the rest of our lives. Oh what joy that brought my heart. Up until that point, I was more concerned about having been caught and what the possible punishment for that would be than what I had done wrong. In that sense, I was like Adonijah in this passage.

However, that day, I was shown grace by so many people that saw me as a kid with potential that did not need to be marred for life by a stupid mistake at age 14. How different would my life had been if I had not been shown grace that day back in 1976? I shutter to think about it. At that moment, I realized that I had done wrong and that I had been graciously forgiven for it. Not that I deserved it in anyway. I deserved whatever punishment that came from it. Not only did my friend and I get shown grace that Monday morning in the Fall of 1976 in the face of the law but my dad and my friend’s dad took us down to Anderson, SC that day and celebrated with a day on Lake Hartwell where my friend and I water-skied all day long. Not only did we get shown grace but we were shown a banquet of sorts by doing what my friend and I loved most at that time in our lives – skiing on Lake Hartwell, our water home. The moment was not lost on me then and especially not now as a middle-aged man. What grace was shown us that day! My friend and I are forever thankful and grateful for the grace shown us that day. What great love was shown us that day. We didn’t deserve it but we got it. It changed our thought process about life that is for certain. No longer were we kids after that day. We did understand what we deserved and how by miracle of our parents we had been shown grace. After that, we drew back from our “pushing the envelope” teenage ways because we had been shown grace. Life was altered that day – for the better.

That’s what I thought of this morning, how my event back in 1976 was similar to what happened with Adonijah. He had done wrong obviously but Solomon showed him grace. Then, what matters after that is what we do with our grace. As we shall see, in a future passage in 1 Kings, that Adonijah did not heed the grace that was given him. He simply saw it as getting a reprieve but there was no life change. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Kings 1:28-53:

28 Then King David said, “Call in Bathsheba.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him.

29 The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

31 Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. 34 There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.”

36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. 37 As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?”

42 Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.”

43 “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king. 44 The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, 45 and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. 46 Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. 47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’”

49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”

52 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”

In this passage, we see that Sometimes, it takes getting caught before someone is willing to give up his scheme. When Adonijah learned that his plans were doomed to fail, he ran in panic to the altar, the place of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He went there, however, after his plans for treason were exposed. If Adonijah had first considered what God wanted, he might have avoided trouble. So, in getting the process backwards, Adonijah thought he would be safe by clutching the horns (or corner posts) of the sacred altar of burnt offering in the Tabernacle court. By doing this, he hoped to place himself under God’s protection. Solomon granted Adonijah a reprieve, hoping this grace-filled act would end Adonijah’s conspiracy. Unfortunately, as we shall see in a future passage here in 1 Kings, it did not, and Adonijah was later executed.

What road are you on my friend? Do you need to be shown what could be in your life? Do you need to be brought to the edge of the cliff of hell? Are you one who can understand that God is trying to get in touch with your heart and change your path? Any grace that you have been shown so far – do you see it? Or do you see it as having been lucky and are hellbent on continuing your current lifestyle? Or are you one who thinks that because of the bad things that you have done, you are beyond the reach of God’s grace? The thing is here in this passage is what you do with your grace? All of us are sinners to the core. All of us, even those of us who are in fellowship with Jesus Christ as our Savior, are sinners who do not deserve grace. One sin taints us, not to mention our lifetimes of one sin piled on top of another. If we were literally on trial for our sins, and tried to claim that our sin for which we are being tried, God would bring out the evidence of our lifetime of sins. We are habitual sinners. We are addicts in need of a fix when it comes to sin. We have no excuse before God, our righteous Judge. We cannot claim that it was a one-time thing and we can throw ourselves at the mercy of the court because of that. Nothing can be repaid by us to make things right. We are no longer pure with our first sin. And then the purity is further and further degraded with each and every sin that we commit daily.

It is only through Jesus Christ that we are set free from the penalty of our sin. We are given a pardon and are set free only through Jesus. He died on the cross so that we would not have to suffer the consequence of our sins. All we have to do is cry out to Him to take over our life and cover us in His redemptive grace. He will come to us before the Judge of All Things and say I have paid the price for His sins, Father. Please let this one go. He is mine. Just as our earthly fathers did for us back that day in 1976, they paid the price for us to be set free. Just as our earthly fathers wanted us not to have permanent scars that follow and dog us for the rest of our lives, Jesus does the same for us. He cleanses us through His sacrifice and makes us pure and spotless before the Judge.

And even more surprising than that, we are treated to the banquet with the saints much as the prodigal son was by his father in the parable. We are treated as if we have simply come on and we are celebrated as being a member of Jesus’ banquet table. We are made worthy to be at the table through his grace. Just as me and my friend were shown a day of fun in the September sun on Lake Hartwell as if we were being celebrated, so too can you and attend the banquet of the King, Jesus Christ, with all rights and all honors accorded to a child of God (even though we certainly do not deserve such treatment) through the grace of Jesus Christ. You have a place at the table of celebration. Come home to Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 1:5-27 (Part 2 of 2)
Adonijah Claims the Throne

Oh the mistakes that you make as parents! It’s a wonder that our kids make it through our parenting. As the old saying goes, “children do not come with instruction booklets!” What works with one child may not work with another. Add divorce situations into the mix and parenting becomes even more complex. My relationship with my youngest child is one that I made more than my share of mistakes. She was only about three years old when the ugly end of my first marriage came. Within 2 years I had remarried, and my second wife and her kids were so jealous of my relationship with my own kids that in order to keep the peace in that household I distanced myself from my own kids. For fear of being accused of favoritism and to keep the lovin’ coming from my then-wife, I only did what I absolutely had to for my girls. I did not have the kahunas to stand up to my second wife and her kids and say these are my girls and I am going to love them no matter what you say. All these blended family jealousies were ultimately the undoing of that marriage.

After the end of that marriage, Taylor was 14 and Meghan was 16. Meghan had her own thing going on at that point so my weekend visitations were with Taylor and I spoiled her rotten to make up for so many years of ignoring her. I gave her anything she wanted when she wanted it. Combine that with her mom’s own spoiling of this child, Taylor really never had any restraints. She grew up expecting that she would be taken care of and had no incentive to do things on her own. She had that classic entitlement mentality. So much so that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. Even then she did not make enough money to survive on her own. She would $50 me to death along with the other forms of support that I provided her. Finally when she was around 25 years ago, I finally cut off all financial support to her and that has altered our relationship for these last 3 years. She has barely spoken to me over the last three years. When she does it is only when she has an absolute dire financial emergency. The last time that I spoke to her face to face was in November 2017 when Elena and I gave her Elena’s car. Since then, she has missed every family event and will not communicate with me. She has not even come to visit my dad since his diagnosis with lymphoma. I honestly do not know what to do about it. I mean I love this child with all my heart and I have not done anything that I know of to deserve her “radio silence” over the last year and the periods of silence before that. I just keep praying that whatever Taylor-built walls that Taylor has built between herself and the rest of the family and particularly me will be broken somehow.

I know that mistakes were made in her parenting. Both my first wife, her mom, and I were way too easy on her. She was always handed the world on a silver platter. She never had to work for anything. Sure, my second marriage was not good for my kids and I know that. However, that’s all ancient history now. They have a stepmom who loves them unconditionally now in Elena. So, to any parents reading this out there now. Please think long and hard before you have kids. When you do, make sure that you show them equal parts unconditional love and strict discipline. I regret the mistakes that I made with Taylor and pray that whatever it is that is keeping her from our relationship right now will end and that she comes to me and says that she wants back into my life.

My relationship with my own child, my youngest, came to mind as I read today’s passage about Adonijah claiming the throne. As we know from this passage, he was given much and disciplined little, just as was the case with all of David’s kids. Again, we see how spoiling your child with no restraints will only cause them to be unruly when they grow up. Let’s read for the second time the latest sad story in this series of sad stories when it comes to David and his kids:

5 About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. 6 Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome.

7 Adonijah took Joab son of Zeruiah and Abiathar the priest into his confidence, and they agreed to help him become king. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and David’s personal bodyguard refused to support Adonijah.

9 Adonijah went to the Stone of Zoheleth[a] near the spring of En-rogel, where he sacrificed sheep, cattle, and fattened calves. He invited all his brothers—the other sons of King David—and all the royal officials of Judah. 10 But he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the king’s bodyguard or his brother Solomon.

11 Then Nathan went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asked her, “Haven’t you heard that Haggith’s son, Adonijah, has made himself king, and our lord David doesn’t even know about it? 12 If you want to save your own life and the life of your son Solomon, follow my advice. 13 Go at once to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, didn’t you make a vow and say to me, “Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 And while you are still talking with him, I will come and confirm everything you have said.”

15 So Bathsheba went into the king’s bedroom. (He was very old now, and Abishag was taking care of him.) 16 Bathsheba bowed down before the king.

“What can I do for you?” he asked her.

17 She replied, “My lord, you made a vow before the Lord your God when you said to me, ‘Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne.’ 18 But instead, Adonijah has made himself king, and my lord the king does not even know about it. 19 He has sacrificed many cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and he has invited all the king’s sons to attend the celebration. He also invited Abiathar the priest and Joab, the commander of the army. But he did not invite your servant Solomon. 20 And now, my lord the king, all Israel is waiting for you to announce who will become king after you. 21 If you do not act, my son Solomon and I will be treated as criminals as soon as my lord the king has died.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 The king’s officials told him, “Nathan the prophet is here to see you.”

Nathan went in and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan asked, “My lord the king, have you decided that Adonijah will be the next king and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has sacrificed many cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and he has invited all the king’s sons to attend the celebration. He also invited the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. They are feasting and drinking with him and shouting, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But he did not invite me or Zadok the priest or Benaiah or your servant Solomon. 27 Has my lord the king really done this without letting any of his officials know who should be the next king?”

In this passage, we see that, because David had never interfered by opposing or even questioning his son, Adonijah did not know how to work within limits. The result was that he always wanted his own way, regardless of how it affected others. Adonijah did whatever he wanted and paid no respect to others or God’s wishes. An undisciplined child may look cute to the parents, but an undisciplined adult spreads havoc and self-destructs. As you set limits for your children, you make it possible for them to develop self-restraint they will need in order to control themselves in adulthood. Discipline your children carefully while they are young so that they will grow into self-disciplined adults.

I think David would agree with all of this as he lies on his deathbed. He had to think that if he had been tougher on his kids, he would not have had half the trouble he had in his kingship. So let us learn from David to raise our children with limits and with discipline so that they will one day return to us as adults and tell us thank you for molding them into well-rounded, high-functioning adults. I pray that one day, Taylor and I can have a conversation like that no matter how long it takes for it happen. All a parent ever wants is for their kids to be able to function without them after they are dead and gone. It all starts when they are young, at home, and moldable by us, our love and our discipline.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 1:5-27 (Part 1 of 2)
Adonijah Claims the Throne

How much do I blame on my dad and how much blame do I place on myself? Why is it that a preacher’s kid does not come to Jesus Christ as His Savior until he was 39 years old? I think there is enough blame for both of us. In this day and age where nobody takes the blame for anything, often blaming it on their parents, I think my dad and I both can share the blame.

First, let me say that I love my dad dearly. When I was growing up, he was a tough but loving man. I knew when I had crossed the line with him. His discipline was firm and unflinching. The boundaries, the lines in the sand, for our behavior were unchanging and did not move. If you crossed the line, you paid for it in one way or another – always. He was consistent. However, he would play ball with us. He would wrestle with us. He would take us to ball games. It is from him that I got my passion for football, particularly college football. We would have great conversations about life. I have no fault with my father as to how he raised me. He provided us with a good life growing up. Sure, I didn’t have everything I wanted but hey standing here at age 56, it did not crush me. It was a good life growing up.

When we were little, I think he spent more time discipling us than he did as we grew into preteens and teens. Maybe, he thought we had gotten it. Maybe, those public professions of growth such as confirmation classes and such, maybe, he was assured that we had accepted Christ as our Savior and that we were maturing in faith. I don’t know but it seems that he took his hands off as far as discipling his children when I was about 10-11-12 somewhere in there. From that point on, it was up to us to want to seek Jesus Christ.

For me, personally (I cannot speak for my older brother), that meant that I was on my own in my faith (other than the influence of godly men in the churches dad served). For me, that meant drifting away from Christ – whom I had never truly accepted as my Savior and Lord. Oh I knew Jesus, the songs of traditional church, the Sunday school classes, I knew the general trek of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. One of my favorite movies (and still is) is the mini-series that came on NBC in 1979 and has been repeated many times since then, was Jesus of Nazareth. So, I knew the story. It was not like I was kid from a family that had not been to church in 2 or 3 generations and knew nothing at all of Jesus Christ. I knew the story but I did not know the faith, the life-transforming faith. To me, church was the family business. When church was open, we were there. Church was the topic of dinner table conversations. Church was everywhere for me. I became numb to it I guess. It was just not transformative to me. It was just the water in which my life was soaked. I considered myself a church-going Christian because…well…my dad was a preacher. How could I not be a Christian? In college though, my faith was shaken because it was so shallow to begin with. It made me question the validity of what I had heard and generally believed all my life.

After college, I had fashioned a Jesus Christ that was not so much the miracle man and Son of God that He really is but a radical philosopher. I had de-deified Him. He was a great man. The greatest of all time. He was a guy who changed the world with mere words and no army. I loved that about Him – a world changing radical rabbi who spoke of love and not hate, peace and not war. That was my Jesus, a cool dude that changed it all. I did not buy all the Son of God stuff. I thought of all the miracle stuff as fiction. I thought of all this Savior stuff and just one of the alternatives of many religions. I did not see him as He really is – the only way, the only truth and the only life. Besides, we Jesus being just a human that meant I could pick and choose what I wanted to believe that suited my lifestyle. Situational ethics and Jesus and me having a deal with each other allowed me to live in my favorite sins without having to change. It was not until I was 39 years old that I came to grips with my true state as a sinner before God and my need for forgiveness that can only be gained through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, Emmanuel.

If I fault my dad for anything, it would be that he did not challenge us about our faith. Whether it would have made any difference, I do not know. But my beliefs about Jesus Christ and Christianity were flawed and had no depth. It was on a shaky foundation. I just believed that I believed because I lived inside the church life. It was maybe an assumption of my dad that I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Maybe, he felt that it would be by osmosis that I would become a Christ follower. Maybe he spent so much of himself with his church people that when he got home he didn’t want to be a preacher. He just wanted to be Ralph Bowling, Jr. Sometimes, we have to not assume that our kids are getting it. Sometimes, we have to challenge them about their so-called faith. Just because you have them in church every Sunday does not mean that they “get it!” I am not mad at my dad by any means. Ultimately, I am responsible for my own standing before God. I cannot blame anyone for anything when I stand before God. I am responsible for how I responded to the gospel. Not my dad. Not my mom. Not my brother. Not my wife. Not my best friend. Not anybody. Just me.

That’s the thing that I thought about this morning is how as parents we may think that our kids will get this Christ follower thing by being in our mere presence. It is no guarantee. Just as just being in their life does not lead to discipline, we must act to raise them up right. So, too, we must challenge our kids to own their own faith. That thought pattern flowed through my head this morning as I read this passage about David’s continuing troubles with those darn kids of his. David was very hands-off and uninvolved when it came to his kids and he paid for it dearly throughout their adult lives. Let’s read the latest sad story in this series of sad stories when it comes to David and his kids:

5 About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. 6 Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome.

7 Adonijah took Joab son of Zeruiah and Abiathar the priest into his confidence, and they agreed to help him become king. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and David’s personal bodyguard refused to support Adonijah.

9 Adonijah went to the Stone of Zoheleth[a] near the spring of En-rogel, where he sacrificed sheep, cattle, and fattened calves. He invited all his brothers—the other sons of King David—and all the royal officials of Judah. 10 But he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the king’s bodyguard or his brother Solomon.

11 Then Nathan went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asked her, “Haven’t you heard that Haggith’s son, Adonijah, has made himself king, and our lord David doesn’t even know about it? 12 If you want to save your own life and the life of your son Solomon, follow my advice. 13 Go at once to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, didn’t you make a vow and say to me, “Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 And while you are still talking with him, I will come and confirm everything you have said.”

15 So Bathsheba went into the king’s bedroom. (He was very old now, and Abishag was taking care of him.) 16 Bathsheba bowed down before the king.

“What can I do for you?” he asked her.

17 She replied, “My lord, you made a vow before the Lord your God when you said to me, ‘Your son Solomon will surely be the next king and will sit on my throne.’ 18 But instead, Adonijah has made himself king, and my lord the king does not even know about it. 19 He has sacrificed many cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and he has invited all the king’s sons to attend the celebration. He also invited Abiathar the priest and Joab, the commander of the army. But he did not invite your servant Solomon. 20 And now, my lord the king, all Israel is waiting for you to announce who will become king after you. 21 If you do not act, my son Solomon and I will be treated as criminals as soon as my lord the king has died.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 The king’s officials told him, “Nathan the prophet is here to see you.”

Nathan went in and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan asked, “My lord the king, have you decided that Adonijah will be the next king and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has sacrificed many cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and he has invited all the king’s sons to attend the celebration. He also invited the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. They are feasting and drinking with him and shouting, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But he did not invite me or Zadok the priest or Benaiah or your servant Solomon. 27 Has my lord the king really done this without letting any of his officials know who should be the next king?”

In this passage, we see that even in his old age near death, David is still having to deal with his unruly children. This passage reminds us that God-fearing like David were used to lead nations. Nevertheless, he had problems in family relationships. God-fearing leaders cannot take for granted the spiritual well-being of their children. They cannot expect their children to manufacture faith upon request. Moral and spiritual character take years to build and it requires constant attention, patience and discipline.

We cannot simply assume by living next to our children that they will be like us. We cannot assume that by being an honest and hard working person that your kids will grow up to be the same way. We must actively teach them how to be responsible men and women who can operate in the world after they leave home. We must actively instill in them the work ethic, the morals, the fortitude, the stick-to-it-tiveness that is necessary to make in this world. We cannot assume that just watching us will do the trick.

The same is true with the faith of our children. They will not get it by osmosis. They will get it when we actively talk to them, teach them, using life lessons to teach the basics of our faith, to teach them what life was like for us before and after Jesus Christ. We must match our walk with our talk. We cannot just assume that they will pick up on it. We must teach them the reasonableness of our faith. We must teach them how to defend their faith. We must make our faith connect with their hearts AND their minds. We must teach them most of all that Christianity is not about do this and don’t do that. It is about a one-on-one relationship with a Savior, Jesus Christ.

We could extend that beyond our children to everyone we meet. We cannot assume that our neighbors and co-workers are going to be drawn to Christ by observing our actions. Maybe they will be intrigued by them but that will not challenge them. It may interest them but it will not change them. We must at some point actively get into the mess of our neighbors’ and co-workers’ lives and talk about the gospel when we have earned that right – to speak into their lives. They won’t just get it by being near you. You got to engage them with the gospel, challenge them with gospel, love them with the gospel.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 1:1-4
David in His Old Age

This passage at the beginning of 1 Kings where we see David as now this old man who is bedridden and near death is a reminder of where I find myself with my own dad right now. Where is talks about David being cold all the time, that really hit home with me. My dad right now is constantly cold. We can’t keep him warm enough. As well, he has become combative. I think his combativeness is a result of the fact that he, this brilliant man, the man with his Ph.D., and a preacher for over 5 decades, this brilliant man who not only could write dissertations but could also take a engine apart, fix it, and put it back together, this man who could speak to an auditorium of people but who could also farm, this man who could equally hang out with a doctor or lawyer and also the local auto mechanic, is just frustrated with himself. I think deep inside his mind, he has full capacity to think and reason but somewhere between there and his actions, the fog in his mind distorts the thoughts and mixes up the past with the present to such a point that sometimes the past becomes the present. Further, his physical capabilities betray those pure thoughts of action deep inside his mind. He is frustrated at his inability to make his mind and his body work the way that last vestige of my old man that lies deep inside his mind wants it to work.

My dad’s recent rapid demise has also brought something to light in my mind as well. My stepmon, Sharon (as my Dad remarried about 2 years after my mom passed in November 2010), has demonstrated to me that she does, in fact, love my dad and that, in my dad’s Honea Path, SC-native old school machismo, loves her too. My relationship with Sharon has been somewhat at arm’s length these past six years that she has been married to my dad. Sharon and my dad were both widowed as their relationship began. Sharon a widow for quite some time and my dad a widower for a short time after mom’s death. I just didn’t really know her that well at all so it was difficult to give her the same love and affection that I gave my mother. She was not my mother. She was just the woman that my dad married after my mom died. This taught me a lesson for how young children perceive their stepparents in divorce/remarriage situations. It gave me a lesson that kids though you may want them to see a stepparent as their real parent, it is just different.

However, in these last two weeks, I have grown closer to Sharon as I have witnessed her love for my dad. She does indeed love my dad. With me living in Illinois and my brother living close (but still two hours a way in a town near Columbia, SC), I am truly thankful for Sharon being in my dad’s life. She is his Abishag. As Abishag was brought in to be David’s nurse and caretaker, so too is Sharon fulfilling that role. What is not said but implied in the passage for today is that Abishag probably loved taking care of the aging King David. She probably grew to love him over the last days of his life. My stepmom is there for my Dad not because she was ordered to do so by some king’s right hand man but because she loves my Dad. Without her there, I honestly don’t know what we would be doing right now. I know that I would be freaking out being 15 hours a way by car and at least 6 hours travel time via Delta Airlines or American. Sharon, even though my Dad is combative at times toward her, still pushes through and takes care of him. She doesn’t pay any attention when he has harsh words. She knows that this stage of my Dad’s life is not the man she married. She loves him anyway. She serves him anyway. I am thankful for her. I have told her so the last time I was there two weeks ago. She said that I did not have to thank her. She said she loves him; no thanks required. I am thankful that she is there to be a nurse to my dad and to keep him warm.

That’s what I thought about this morning when I read this passage, what once was my dad is no longer even though he is still living and about the loving care of my stepmom. The scene played out here between David and Abishag reminds me of them. It also reminds me of how in 1 Kings that Israel begins as this regional power of a kingdom, strong and ready, and how by the end of this book is a divided, weak nation ready to be conquered. In that sense, this book of 1 Kings is a reminder of how kingdoms rise and fall and how that fall is often the result of decay from within. Let’s read this passage, 1 Kings 1:1-4, now:

Chapter 1
1 King David was now very old, and no matter how many blankets covered him, he could not keep warm. 2 So his advisers told him, “Let us find a young virgin to wait on you and look after you, my lord. She will lie in your arms and keep you warm.”

3 So they searched throughout the land of Israel for a beautiful girl, and they found Abishag from Shunem and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful, and she looked after the king and took care of him. But the king had no sexual relations with her.

As we begin this next book of the Bible, we see that Israel is near the end of the golden age of David’s reign. The book of 1 Kings begins with a unified kingdom, glorious and God-centered. It ends with a divided kingdom, degraded and idolatrous. The reason for Israel’s decline from the beginning of 1 Kings to its end appears simple to us – they failed to obey God and they decayed from within long before they were conquered. In that sense, it reminds me of what’s going on with my dad’s physical body. His body is decaying. He can’t make his body work nearly the way he used to make it do. His body is failing him from the inside out. His mind is also failing him from the inside out. As I stated earlier, my dad, I think, has this inner part of his mind that is still working properly but the there is a fog created by his brain tumor that prevents that inner core of his mind from getting the instructions out to the rest of his mind and body. It is frustrating to him to be betrayed by his own body. He is dying from the inside out and it frustrates that central core of his soul and mind that is still vigorous. That vigorous inner core is shrouded in a decaying body and mind.

As for this passage specifically, scholars have deduced that as 1 Kings begins, David is about 70 years old. His health has deteriorated from years of hardship. Abishag served as his nurse and to help keep him warm. Even as mighty as David was as a warrior and as king, he has become frail and old. He is not the young, vivacious, handsome young man that he once was. He is bedridden and near death. Death comes to us all, even larger than life biblical heroes. Probably in his old age here, he may have been combative as many of us are when we get to this stage of life. We are angry at ourselves for our body wearing out and our mind failing us. Inside us, there is this man or woman, but particularly with men, we see that we may want to do things or say things but our physical bodies including the brain have begun to wear out and we cannot. It can be a difficult time.

For those of us who have aging parents, it is difficult to watch, particularly with our fathers. Our fathers were always perceived by us as being 10 feet tall and bullet proof. They, in our eyes, could do anything, fix anything, fight anything, know everything, and just be our go-to guy for wisdom and protection. Let us just remember them in that way. What we see in our failing parents right now is a shell of the parent that we once knew. They are being defeated from within. We must remember that. Just love them through the memories that you get to keep. Remember this is the man who you once thought could do anything. Take those memories into every visit with them.

Also, be thankful for your dad’s Abishag. It may be your mom. It may be your stepmom. It may be a live-in caretaker. It may be a family member such as a brother or sister. Be thankful for them. Be thankful that they love your dad enough to be there and sometimes take abuse from them but yet still serve them. Be thankful that they can be there when you cannot. Be thankful that they love your dad.

Amen and Amen.

OVERVIEW OF 1 KINGS
Personal Reflection on Overview of 1 Kings
My momma used to say, “you are the company you keep!” What this wonderfully Southern women meant by that statement is that if you hang around with a bad crowd, you will end up being in the middle of trouble. When you hang around with a bad crowd, you always end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. My dad, the master of all clichés (at least when it came to parenting), would always tell me, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Well, sounded like fun when I was a teenager, but I didn’t dare say that to him. I knew what he meant. The same thing my momma said.

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, particularly as a teenager, I was one of those preacher’s kids that gave preachers’ kids that reputation as being wild bucks. I hung out with the party crowd and tried to be as normal and fit in as well as I could. I didn’t want to be singled out as one of those Bible thumping preacher’s kids that everybody picks on in school. Back in those days, there were not as many private Christian secondary schools as there are now. You just went to public school. With us moving as much as Methodist preacher families do, I don’t think my parents would have sent us to a private school any way. So, in public school, I just tried to fit in. I didn’t want to be seen as one of those religious freaks. It was more important to me to fit in that it was to follow Jesus Christ. It just seemed like it would cost you too much in the drama that is elementary, and especially, middle and high school. I would rather hang out with the party crowd and become known and accepted than it was for me to stand up for Christian principles (that I knew well having grown up in church). Getting in to trouble for partying too much, doing stupid stuff, and getting put on restrictions by my parents was more important to me than doing the right thing. You know the story?

That’s what I thought of this morning as I researched materials for an overview on 1 Kings. Trying to fit in even if it meant forgoing what you knew to be God’s way! That was me. That was Israel in 1 Kings. Let’s read about Israel’s decline in this overview.

The following is an excellent overview of 1 Kings provided to me at http://www.gotquestions.com, my favorite website concerning biblical issues from an evangelical perspective:

OVERVIEW

Author
The Book of 1 Kings does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that it was written by the Prophet Jeremiah.

Date of Writing
The Book of 1 Kings was likely written between 560 and 540 B.C.

Purpose of Writing
This book is the sequel to 1 and 2 Samuel and begins by tracing Solomon’s rise to kingship after the death of David. The story begins with a united kingdom, but ends in a nation divided into 2 kingdoms, known as Judah and Israel.

Key Verses
1 Kings 1:30, “I will surely carry out today what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

1 Kings 9:3, “The LORD said to him: ‘I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.'”

1 Kings 12:16, “When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!'”

1 Kings 12:28, “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”

1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.'”

Brief Summary
The book of 1 Kings starts with Solomon and ends with Elijah. The difference between the two gives you an idea as to what lies between. Solomon was born after a palace scandal between David and Bathsheba. Like his father, he had a weakness for women that would bring him down. Solomon did well at first, praying for wisdom and building a temple to God that took seven years to construct. But then he spent thirteen years building a palace for himself. His accumulation of many wives led him to worship their idols and away from God.

After Solomon’s death, Israel was ruled by a series of kings, most of whom were evil and idolatrous. The nation fell further away from God, and even the preaching of Elijah could not bring them back. Among the most evil kings were Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, who brought the worship of Baal to new heights in Israel. Elijah tried to turn the Israelites back to the worship of Yahweh, challenging the idolatrous priests of Baal to a showdown with God on Mount Carmel. Of course, God won. This made Queen Jezebel angry (to say the least). She ordered Elijah’s death, so he ran away and hid in the wilderness. Depressed and exhausted, he said, “Let me die.” But God sent food and encouragement to the prophet and whispered to him in a “quiet gentle sound” and in the process saved his life for further work.

Foreshadowings
The Temple in Jerusalem, where God’s Spirit would dwell in the Holy of Holies, foreshadows believers in Christ in whom the Holy Spirit resides from the moment of our salvation. Just as the Israelites were to forsake idolatry, so are we to put away anything that separates us from God. We are His people, the very temple of the living God. Second Corinthians 6:16 tells us, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”

Elijah the prophet was for forerunner of Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament. God enabled Elijah to do miraculous things in order to prove that he was truly a man of God. He raised from the dead the son of the widow of Zarephath, causing her to exclaim, “”Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” In the same way, men of God who spoke His words through His power are evident in the New Testament. Not only did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but He also raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15) and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:52-56). The Apostle Peter raised Dorcas (Acts 9:40) and Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12).

Practical Application
The Book of 1 Kings has many lessons for believers. We see a warning about the company we keep, and especially in regard to close associations and marriage. The kings of Israel who, like Solomon, married foreign women exposed themselves and the people they ruled to evil. As believers in Christ, we must be very careful about whom we choose as friends, business associates, and spouses. “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Elijah’s experience in the wilderness also teaches a valuable lesson. After his incredible victory over the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, his joy turned to sorrow when he was pursued by Jezebel and fled for his life. Such “mountaintop” experiences are often followed by a letdown and the depression and discouragement that can follow. We have to be on guard for this type of experience in the Christian life. But our God is faithful and will never leave or forsake us. The quiet, gentle sound that encouraged Elijah will encourage us.

2 Samuel 24:18-25 (Part 3 of 3)
David Builds an Altar (Conclusion of 2 Samuel)

It was weird when I left my previous job in the secular world after 10 years as the controller of Fujikura America, Inc. There was a part of me that was expecting this big sendoff. Yes, there was a lunch between me and some of my closest associates there, but that was it. There was no big official ceremony. My last few hours there were actually just doing my job – those last few little details that I would have normally done at that point in the month. I got those things done with about 30 minutes to spare before the end of the day. I gave a few hugs to my subordinates and then out the door I went. That was it. No parade. No official Fujikura proclamation. It was simply a quiet exit.

I was thinking that in some ways that was a fitting ending to my time at Fujikura. I was all about the work there. I had taken the finance department of this division of the company from a complete shambles when I became controller to one of the best finance groups in the entire Fujikura organization. We had been through a move of the department from the division’s California headquarters to the US group financial center in South Carolina. We had been through the transition from our old ERP system to the ERP system of the rest of the US group. We had been through a lot. By the time I left, though, we were a well-oiled machine. However, when I walked out the door on that final day in mid-February 2018, there was no bright lights, no ceremony. The last day was work as usual except for the lunch with close associates. Even up until about 30 minutes before the end of the day, it was work as usual. Just doing the work. Just being faithful to my assignment.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through the ending of 2 Samuel this morning. Having said all that, lets read 2 Samuel 24:18-25 for a third and final time today and look specifically at how this passage is not the amazing crescendo to the reign of David over Israel. It is simply a quiet, almost anti-climactic, ending to the books of Samuel. However, I think that this final glimpse of David’s public life is a fitting one. Let us read it together now:

18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver[a] for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
In this passage, we conclude the book of 2 Samuel. In this book we have seen virtually all of David’s reign. Since the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, they had been struggling to unite the nation and drive out the wicked inhabitants. Now, after more than 400 years, Israel was finally at peace. David had accomplished what no leader before him had done. His administration was run on the principle of dedication to God and to the well-being of the people. Yet David also sinned. Despite his sins, the Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) because when he sinned, he recognized it, confessed his sins to God. David committed his life to God and remained loyal to Him throughout his lifetime. One might expect a flashier ending to 2 Samuel. In 1 Kings, we actually see the conclusion of David’s life but here we see I guess the last great act of his public life before passing the baton to his son, Solomon.

It is a quiet conclusion to an amazing life. His final act as a public figure was to worship the Lord. His final act was in service to the Lord and his people. Quietly. No fanfare. Just doing what He always had done. Is that, in and of itself, a fitting conclusion. Continuing to be faithful to the Lord in whatever stage of life and whether or not the spotlight is on you. There was no nation watching. It was just David and a few of his men and Araunah. No one was around. No battleground with thousands and thousands of men around. No official ceremony of state with all of Jerusalem and the nation watching. It was just a quiet moment with a few people around. It typifies David I think. Here he is, no grand moment but just a small gathering of people, some of which were long-time associates of David. Some of his men, I bet, had been through the days of running from Saul, living off the land, sleeping in caves, having long talks with David and all of that stuff that draws guys together. These guys knew David very well. He did not have to put on pretense for them. But even here, we see David wanting to serve, honor, and pay tribute to God. Even the quiet moments at the end of his reign, he is a servant of God. Even though he is a king of a powerful nation now that is finally at peace, he is just like a kid who loves his dad so much that he wants to do everything his dad’s way. He loves God and wants to honor him at this quiet moment.

How is your relationship with God in the quiet moments, when no one is looking, or only the people that know you really well are looking? Is your relationship with God such that you honor and obey him in the private moments? Do you seek after Him when no one is looking?

Let us be like David. He was an imperfect man for sure. However, he was a man who truly loved God and wanted to obey Him. He was so thankful for God’s forgiveness for his mistakes and for the grace he had been shown that he was forever worshiping God. The Psalms are a testament to how much David thought and mused about God. May we be quick to repent of our sins. May we seek to have the forgiveness that God offers us through Jesus Christ. May we be so thankful for this forgiveness that our love and honor for God permeates every aspect of our lives – even in the quiet moments.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 24:18-25 (Part 2 of 3)
David Builds an Altar (Conclusion of 2 Samuel)

I love this passage. You see that David does not want to offer up a gift that did not cost him anything. He wanted there to be a sacrifice for him financially before he made his physical sacrifice at the altar. David for all his sins and all his mistakes raising his kids is a man who loves God. He just has it ingrained in him that he should honor the Lord in everything that he does. He just understands that God doesn’t want our leftovers. He wants our best. He wants us to honor him by foregoing personal pleasures or taking the easy way out. He could have easily taken the gift of the land but that would have been an empty offering in David’s eyes. He loved the Lord so much that he wanted there to be a sacrifice on his part, a foregoing of what he could have done personally with the funds that were used to buy the property. He wanted to honor God by using his funds to honor God instead of himself. How often do we get this wrong?

I was one of those people until about 9-10 years ago. Prior to meeting Elena, because of divorce and earthly priorities when it came to money, I had a lot of debt and poor credit. It was when we were in California, Elena and I decided then to clean up my debts and get my credit clean again so that we could live more simply and have A1 credit and begin to better be able to honor the Lord with our finances. That involved taking bonuses from Fujikura and tax refunds and paying off debts rather than blowing those gifts on vaporous things like extravagant vacations and the like. We were able in the course of about two years to get my credit cleaned and a virtually all of my non-mortgage debt paid off. Although we had begun tithing while in California, after all the debt clean up, we were able to do more and also to live more simply with less stress financially. The first check we write each pay period is our tithe check. It comes off the top. Over the years, I have seen what others say would be coincidences but when we have had a financial need since we have been tithing, there always seems to appear an unexpected amount of cash from somewhere. He provides, always. We trust Him implicitly with our money. Sure, we have to do our part and live simply and we are doggone happy with our expenses being below our income no matter what our income is. But He has always provided. We trust Him in that. He honors sacrificial giving. I promise you. He honors simple living. I promise you.

Having said all that, lets read 2 Samuel 24:18-25 for a second time today and look specifically at David’s insistence on paying for the altar site:

18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver[a] for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

In this passage, the concluding passage of 2 Samuel, we see David demanding that he must pay for the plot of land belonging to Araunah, even though Araunah would have gladly ceded his land to his king. David refused the free gift of land, saying, “No I insisr on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” David wanted to present an offering/sacrifice to God An offering should cost the giver in terms of time, talents, energy, and financial resources. To give sacrificially requires more than a token effort or leftover gift. God wants us to give voluntarily but wants it to mean something to us. Giving to God when it is not a sacrifice to you does not require any commitment on our part.

That brings up the question, “Why should I give to God?” Giving to God in today’s world means giving to your local gathering of saints called the local church. Why should we give to God in this manner? It certainly is not to enrich God himself. He is the Creator. He can speak anything into existence so He does not need our money by any stretch of the imagination. He has no needs and is complete in and of Himself. If He decided that He needed something, He could just create it. His mission in His Creation is in no way dependent on how much you and I give to our local church.

Our giving is an act of obedience and adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord. He commands us to give Him at least the first tenth of our harvest (in today’s economy that would mean at least the first 1/10 of our income). We are to give in obedience to His commands. We are to give Him the best of what we have right off the top. We should arrange our lives so that we can be obedient in this way. But God does not want us to give as drudgery. We are to give to Him in adoration and thanksgiving for what He has done for us through salvation in Jesus Christ. We were destined for hell because of our lifetimes of sin before we laid our life bare before Jesus and asked Him to become our Savior and Lord. There is a reason to give to the Lord joyfully if no other reason. We give to God also in adoration for his care and protection and provision for us when we are His obedient children. For those who are not tithing and more, please consider this form of obedience to the Lord. Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you get to. The Lord says test me on this. If we are obedient to Him in demonstrating to Him that we give him our first and best in our finances, he will make provision for us. He will care for us. He will. It’s not something investment and get a financial return thing. It is blessing according to God’s economy. Putting God first in your finances will change your perspective on what you HAVE TO HAVE.

When we invest in the kingdom through our local church, we get to make investments that have eternal dividends. We get to see people’s lives changed. We get to see our church reach people who need desperately to hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is a hopeless world out there and we get to finance the battle for souls. Do you not want to be part of that? Getting to change lives through Jesus Christ is much better and more eternal than some big fine house or that newest car or that third car or that nice boat or those season tickets to Clemson football or anything that requires more and more money and attention. Instead of paying for all that and then giving God the leftovers, let us move toward giving to God first and then living off the rest. We cannot pick and choose what we want to obey. He commands us on this. If we just give God our leftovers, it costs us little but obedience to the Lord. Let us put God first in our finances and you will see your heart change toward money.

I find it interesting also that David wanted his offering to the Lord to cost him something. To him, offering up a gift to the Lord that was given him by someone is no offering at all. Many of us are the opposite of David, we give God what we have left over, which often very little or nothing. We give God that extra $20 in cash that we have left over from our weekend activities. We may even give God that extra $20 every week and call it tithing. But when we do that we are making obedience to God with our money a low priority. To live our lives on 90% or less of what we make is strange to the American way of life. Most of us live off 104% of what we make, according to recent economic studies. Yes, most of us spend more than what we make (and wonder why we can never pay our credit cards off). But, yet, we honor the Creator of all things with our leftover cash. We may our material pleasures more important than honoring the Lord. Let us be sacrificial, spend less than what we make. Begin giving to the Lord first. Maybe it starts with 1% for you. Start budgeting so that you can give to the Lord in honor, obedience, and thanksgiving. Cut back on all those meals out. Take your tax refunds and pay off debts instead of blowing them on vacations, new car down payments, and so on. Work yourself toward living off of 90% or less of what you make. The Lord will bless it through changed attitudes about money, wealth, and what we use our money for and whose money it is to begin with. The Lord will bless it with timely provision. He provides for those who honor and obey Him when it comes to financial priorities. I can testify to that!

Let us be like David and give honor and thanksgiving and adoration to the Lord with our finances.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 24:18-25 (Part 1 of 3)
David Builds an Altar (Conclusion of 2 Samuel)

You know that there are special place in your life in your spiritual walk. Places that when you revisit them that memories of the significance of the place come flooding back and how the event(s) that took place at this location changed or took your walk with the Lord to the next level. For me, I have those places too. There are those places that are simply strategic geographic locations that have meant much to my walk with the Lord. Not because of the ground itself but because of what happened there.

For me there are several places that are holy to me. First there is Abundant Life Church in Greenville, SC. It was there in December 2001 that I accepted Christ as my Savior. I remember the moment with clarity these 16 years and 9 months later. If I walked into the worship center at this church now, I would most likely not know anyone there. From their website, I know that much has changed there. New pastors, new people, a different mix of people than when I was there as a member. However, if I walked into that worship center now whether it was a Sunday or during the week, the place would be holy ground to me. I would stand there is awe of the change that took place in my life at that moment in 2001. The slow change, the painful change, the process of sanctification that began at that moment when I submitted my life to the leadership of the Lord. I have not been back to that church since July 2004. But if I did it now, these many years later. I would stand in the worship center in awe and in tears probably for what started at that place that Sunday so many years ago. It’s not that the bricks and mortar are important but it was what happened there.

Another holy place to me is the old school in Livermore, CA where the church services and offices of Livermore Alive Community Church was located. The church no longer exists now. It folded back in 2012, two years after left there to move to South Carolina. However, I have driven back by the building which is now a multi-agency community center and the emotions of what happened there overwhelmed me. Just driving by. There was the sadness that the church no longer exists that was a church that was pivotal in my spiritual development, but there was gladness as well. It was there that I was challenged to be more than a baby Christian. It was there that I started growing up in Christ. It was there that I finally got it that being a Christ follower was more than just a weekend thing. It was there that I learned being a Christ follower is an all-in, all the time thing. It is a lifestyle not a hobby. It is the core of your being not just something you do. It was there that I gained a passion for Christ that sustains me to this day. That place is nothing in and of itself but it is what happened there.

The next holy place to me is the “that place on top of the hill” in Lyman, SC where LifeSong Church is located. Wow! What can I say about that place that I haven’t already said a million times in these blogs. It was there that my walk with the Lord was taken to the next level. Livermore Alive was holy ground necessary to prepare me for the holy ground of LifeSong Church. It was there on that holy ground that I became even more passionate about the Lord. It was there that I became a man spiritually speaking. It was there that I became sold-out for the Lord. It was there that Elena and I were ignited to be leaders in the church. It was there that we learned to do whatever it takes to follow the Lord and lead others in doing it. It was there that I heard the call to the ministry. It was there that I became part of a church staff. It was there that my faith in Jesus Christ was exponentially grown. Talk about holy ground! Take about exponential growth of some amazing men of God. Talk about equipping me for ministry. Talk about learning to be a missionary in every aspect of my life! Holy ground!

It was these places in my life that came to mind when I began reading the final passage of 2 Samuel this morning, 2 Samuel 24:18-25. Let’s read about this piece of holy ground in this passage. You may think it’s just a random place designated by God for David to give an offering at that moment in history. Oh but this place is so much more than that. Lets read:

18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver[a] for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

In this passage, the concluding passage of 2 Samuel, we see David at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Many scholars theorize that this threshing floor where David built the altar is the location where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). After David’s death, Solomon built the temple on this spot. Centuries later, Jesus would teach and preach here. So, this is not just some random spot. It is the focal point of Judeo-Christian history. It is the place where mighty things have happened. This is where the principal fathers of our faith have showed their true devotion to the Lord (Abraham), where David performed his final act of devotion to the Lord, where Solomon built a mighty temple unto the Lord, where Jesus spent his final days preaching and teaching the faithful and rebuking the religious elite. It was here that He sealed his fate to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins. This is a place of sacrifice then. It is an important place to God. Things happened here that are important to us as Christians.

What are your holy places? What are the significant landmarks in your life and your walk with Lord. The places themselves are just geography but what happened at those places are what the important thing is. What are those pivotal places where you met Jesus and gave your life to Him? What are those pivotal places that you became passionate about Christ? What are those places that you grew up in Christ? What are those places not for the places themselves but what happened there? It is good to remember these places not for the places themselves but to remember how far God has brought you! Looking back on occasion helps us see what God has done in our lives so far…and help us to trust where He is taking us now. One day I will look back at Calvary Church of the Quad Cities over there on 4700 53rd Street in Moline IL as one of those holy ground places. Already I have learned so much there. Just imagine ten years from now how special that place will be in my spiritual history.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 24:1-17
David Takes A Census

My wife and I have been in the process over the last couple of weeks of premarital counseling with a couple that has decided to do things God’s way. They have been living together not married and have decided now to honor God with their living arrangements. Prior to a few months ago, they had never really thought about their living together not married as being an issue. The reason that this couple is so special to us is that they are us 9 years ago. We see ourselves in them.

Nine years ago, I had been living in California for a year and a half. My temporary assignment at my company’s buy/resale division in Santa Clara, CA had now become a permanent assignment. I was sent out there from our main office in the Greenville, SC area to assist the division to get their accounting function straightened out. It was a mess and needed help. While I was out there, the controller decided to take a job outside the organization. Immediately, the division there offered me the job and I accepted. At that point, Elena had to decide whether to (1) break up with me or (2) move to California to be with me. Since Option #1 was not an option at all, she moved to California to be with me in August 2009. She got a transfer to her company’s location in Stockton, CA doing the same thing for her company that she had been doing at their location in Charlotte for many years. We found a town that was halfway in between Santa Clara and Stockton. It was Livermore, CA. We found a nice apartment complex there.

After several weeks of visiting other churches, we found one that fit us. It was Livermore Alive Community Church. We fell in love with this brand new church that was a church plant from its mother church in Fremont. We loved the pastor and his wife particularly. There was an instant connection there between the four of us. They were about 10 years younger than us but they were so engaging and their likes and dislikes were about the same as ours so the age difference didn’t matter. They became our spiritual mentors. Luke, the pastor, challenged me plenty and often about being more than “box on the shelf” Christian (a box that I pulled down on Sundays and played with and then put back up on the shelf afterwards). Felisha and Elena were like two peas in a pod. They had a soul connection. Felisha and Luke led my wife to the cross in their living room during life group. Luke pushed me beyond being the baby Christian that I had been since accepting Christ as my Savior eight years earlier. We got serious about being Christ followers while we under their care. We became aware and began to live the 24/7 Christian life. It was no longer church as a thing you do. It was now church and Jesus Christ being at the center of our lives. We saw being a Christ follower in a new holistic way that we had never known before.

Because of our deep involvement in every aspect of the small church, when Luke announced to the church that he “was looking for a few good men” to form the team of elders at the church, I jumped at the application process. I went through the application and elder test. Luke scheduled appointments for each of the men who applied. When it was my turn to have my interview with Luke, we met at his house alone. Felisha and the kids were gone. After a few general comments, you know the usual guy-talk between guys who love college football, he laid it on me square in the face. He said, “Although I think you are otherwise qualified to be an elder in our church, you will never be an elder in our church while you are living with a woman that you are not married to!” There it was. Plain and simple. There was a sin in my life that I was not calling a sin.

I tried to hem and haw around the subject but there was no disputing God’s Word and God’s expectations based on that. I had done the theological gymnastics in my mind as to why it was OK for ME to live with someone but not be married. I had this deal with God you know. I had been through so much with my previous marriages, I had rationalized it away that God would give me a pass on this one. Elena and I were committed to each other and we loved each other but the thought of marriage frightened us both. We had both been through two failed marriages already. We didn’t want another. We wanted our “out”, our emergency escape clause, if things did not work out between. We had rationalized it away. It was a deal between us and God, a special exemption for us, you know!

But plain and simple, what we were doing was a sin, and an obvious one at that. Luke exposed it to us and made us look at it. After some soul searching on our parts, we decided that we wanted to do things God’s way and not our own. We confessed our sin to the Lord and about a week after that meeting, Elena and I went over to Luke and Felisha’s house and told them that we wanted to get married the following Sunday, about 8 days away. We were willing to put our fears aside and trust Jesus with our relationship in the covenant of marriage. We were scared to death but we knew we had to trust the Lord with our future as a couple. The following Sunday during a sermons series called “Burning Questions” in which Luke was dissecting the biblical perspective on current hot button issues in society. This particular Sunday, the sermon was about sex God’s way. It was a sermon that celebrated sex but only as it relates to a marriage between a man and a woman. At the end of the sermon, Luke announced that there was a couple in our midst in the church that have decided to do things God’s way and get married instead of just living together. At that moment, we transitioned right into our wedding. It was an awesome way to illustrate in real life what Luke’s sermon was about.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 2 Samuel 24:1-17. I thought of how David, blinded by pride, did something against God’s will and did not even realize or had rationalized away the sin. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 24
1 Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.

2 So the king said to Joab and the commanders[a] of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”

3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?”

4 But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and the commanders of the army went out to count the people of Israel. 5 First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer, 6 then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim-hodshi[b] and to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon. 7 Then they came to the fortress of Tyre, and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah[c] as far as Beersheba.

8 Having gone through the entire land for nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem. 9 Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 capable warriors in Israel who could handle a sword, and 500,000 in Judah.

10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.”

11 The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message: 12 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”

13 So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three[d] years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”

14 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

15 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days.[e] A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. 16 But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

Here, David took a census of his people simply cause he could. It was a pride thing. He wanted to know how big his kingdom was and how many able bodied soldiers he could muster up if needed. It was purely vanity nothing else. He either did not recognize it as a sin or had rationalized away why it was not. He was OK with it until his prophet called him out on it. The one thing about David is that, even if he had been blinded by pride which caused him to sin and not recognize it here and in the past, when confronted with his sins, he was quick to repent. When called out, he went to the Lord and confessed. That’s the key thing here in this passage and in my illustration.

We must examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word. It is eternally true no matter what. It does not change. There are no special deals for you and me. There is just His truth and our behavior in comparison to it. Simple as that. We can play all the theological gymnastics that we can muster to come to the convoluted conclusion that, though the Bible says what we are doing is a sin, it is OK for us. However, when we have to go through extended exercises to justify why our sin is no longer a sin in God’s eyes, then that ought to be an indication to us that we are in opposition to God’s Word. For example, just think of the amount of time and press (commercials, shows, news reports) and legal wrangling (and reams and reams of paper) that floods us about sexual orientations other than the God-ordained marriage of a man to a woman. On the flip side, a marriage of a man and a woman requires no justification, no theological gymnastics. It is God-ordained. The truth requires no justification. Only sin does.

That’s why I am so proud of this couple that is going to do what we did. They were confronted with their sin. They confessed it. They will be married in just another day. They are us. We were confronted with our sin. We confessed it. We got married. No more theological gymnastics. Just living in God’s truth. The truth of God is timeless, ageless, and eternal. It will never change no matter how you wrap your argument that you sin is OK. The truth requires no justification. Only sin does.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 23:8-39 (Part 2 of 2)
David’s Elite Warriors

Glioblastoma. It was a word until yesterday that was not a part of my vocabulary. I did not even know that it was what caused the death of Senator John McCain a couple of weeks ago. Now, it is a part of our family’s vocabulary. The preliminary diagnosis of yesterday’s MRI is that glioblastoma is what is afflicting my 79 ½ year old father.

He had a mini-stroke two and half years ago in 2016 and at that time they saw a little tiny abnormality in his MRI then but no one was too concerned. My dad recovered from that pretty well. His speech patterns returned to normal. His mind got back to its quick-witted pace. He just moved a lot slower after the mini-stroke but, hey, he was 77 so…you are naturally going to move slower. However, here in the last six weeks his mental and physical state declined rapidly. Forgetfulness. Confusion. Bazaar behavior began cropping up. My stepmom, Sharon (my dad remarried about two years after my mom died in 2010. A romance of two who had lost long-time spouses to death), said that he would get stuck in memories of the past as if they were current events. He began to be unable to dress and bathe himself. All of these bazaar and peculiar behaviors, confused and nonsensical conversations, and detachment from reality came to a head this weekend. So much so that she had him transported to the emergency room to get more assistance from the medical world than she was getting from dad’s neurologist. During that visit, they decided to do an MRI. That scan revealed a large gray mass in his brain. The neurologist on-duty at the hospital, a long-time doctor, told my stepmom that his professional experience tells him that the mass is a glioblastoma cancerous mass. This type of brain cancer is really aggressive. It had grown from a pea size in 2016 to a noticeably large mass in 2-plus years. They will do a biopsy today (which means drilling into his skull near the mass and inserting a probe to analyze the mass and take tissue from it) to confirm the diagnosis. If it is true (which it most likely will be), the prognosis is not good. Typical sufferers from glioblastoma last 12-24 months after diagnosis. Due to its location, there is no real significant surgery that can be done. The only treatment is chemotherapy and radiation. There are about 5-10% of patients that have lived well beyond the typical 12-24 months but it is not common. There is a really small percentage that have fully recovered. At my dad’s age and state of general health, I am just not sure his body is up to the challenge.

All of that said and having shed a few tears over my once ten-feet-tall-and-bullet-proof-dad, it got me to thinking about my dad’s legacy. What is that? What will be said of my dad? His legacy I think is that he was a pastor first and foremost and that (now that I am in full-time ministry) he has two sons in full-time ministry. My brother has been a full-time pastor for thirty something years now and I am now (since 6 ½ months ago) a full-time pastor myself. You can say what you will about my dad. He was a flawed man for sure. But bottom line, his legacy is me and my brother. That will live beyond him. We grew up in it. My brother accepted it. I fought against it but eventually went into the “family business”. That’s the legacy.

That was the thought that came to mind when I read about David’s mighty warriors this morning in 2 Samuel 23:8-39. That thought being leaving behind a positive legacy, leaving behind disciples, is what we are all about as those who are the children of God:

8 These are the names of David’s mightiest warriors. The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite,[a] who was leader of the Three[b]—the three mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 800 enemy warriors in a single battle.[c]

9 Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10 He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11 Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12 but Shammah[d] held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.

13 Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

15 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 17 “The Lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men[e] who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.
David’s Thirty Mighty Men

18 Abishai son of Zeruiah, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty.[f] He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. 19 Abishai was the most famous of the Thirty[g] and was their commander, though he was not one of the Three.

20 There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior[h] from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions[i] of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. 21 Once, armed only with a club, he killed an imposing Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it. 22 Deeds like these made Benaiah as famous as the Three mightiest warriors. 23 He was more honored than the other members of the Thirty, though he was not one of the Three. And David made him captain of his bodyguard.

24 Other members of the Thirty included:

Asahel, Joab’s brother;
Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem;
25
Shammah from Harod;
Elika from Harod;
26
Helez from Pelon[j];
Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa;
27
Abiezer from Anathoth;
Sibbecai[k] from Hushah;
28
Zalmon from Ahoah;
Maharai from Netophah;
29
Heled[l] son of Baanah from Netophah;
Ithai[m] son of Ribai from Gibeah (in the land of Benjamin);
30
Benaiah from Pirathon;
Hurai[n] from Nahale-gaash[o];
31
Abi-albon from Arabah;
Azmaveth from Bahurim;
32
Eliahba from Shaalbon;
the sons of Jashen;
Jonathan 33 son of Shagee[p] from Harar;
Ahiam son of Sharar from Harar;
34
Eliphelet son of Ahasbai from Maacah;
Eliam son of Ahithophel from Giloh;
35
Hezro from Carmel;
Paarai from Arba;
36
Igal son of Nathan from Zobah;
Bani from Gad;
37
Zelek from Ammon;
Naharai from Beeroth, the armor bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah;
38
Ira from Jattir;
Gareb from Jattir;
39
Uriah the Hittite.

There were thirty-seven in all.

In this passage, we see that David’s legacy is not the mistakes he made. David’s legacy will be the love that he had for the Lord and the organization that he left behind that served Israel as a whole nation for another 40 years after his death. He left behind disciples that loved him dearly and carried on the quest for excellence that David instilled in them and the love of God that David taught them and lived out in front of them. Sure, David was flawed and sometimes just morally out of bounds completely but that’s not the legacy that we remember. We remember the love of God. We remember the strong nation that he built and handed over to his son, Solomon.

That’s the legacy that my dad will leave behind – my brother an me. We will carry on the family business of ministry in his honor. We will carry on his insatiable thirst for knowledge about God and theology. We will carry on his desire for excellence in what you do. We will carry on his love for Jesus Christ that he lived out in front of us.

What legacy will you leave your children?

Amen and Amen.