Archive for December, 2019

1 Chronicles 6:49-53

Aaron’s Descendants

The thing that you notice in this passage is not so much the listing of the names of the genealogy of high priest position from the first one, Aaron, down the line to the time of the exile. The thing that struck me in this passage was the final sentence of the first verse in the passage (v.49). In particular, in that sentence, the phrase that struck me was “by doing everything that Moses, the servant of God, had commanded them.” There’s no wiggle room in that phrase. They did everything that Moses commanded them to do. And that was passed down from generation to generation of high priests.

That was what struck me as it is a reminder that sometimes we pick and choose what we want to obey in the Bible and what we do not. I know that I was that kind of Christian and as a result an immature one for the first 8-9 years I was a child of God. I accepted Christ as my Savior in December 2001. But instead of the skies parting and the sun coming out on my life and everything being perfectly rosy, my life actually got worse for a time and I did not handle it well. My marriage fell apart because the age-old issues in second marriages of your kids vs. my kids. So, within three years of accepting Christ as my Savior, I was own my own again and living partially for God and mostly for myself. The Holy Spirit had a long way to go with me. It was the first time in my life that I had been really on my own. From my parent’s house to my first marriage, from my first marriage to my second. The space in between those things was pretty small. Finally, at the end of my second marriage, I was alone for a good long time. It was six years after the end of my second marriage before I met Elena, who would become my third (and FINAL) wife. During those six years I did not mature very much as a Christian. I was a baby Christian for a long time. I was one of those that thought God and I had a deal on many of the things that I was choosing not to obey in His Word. It as ok for me because I had been through so much in those previous two marriages. I deserved happiness and to do what I wanted, right?

Even after Elena and I got together as a couple (and that whole story is a God-thing that we can discuss another day), and we moved to California, we were picking and choosing what we wanted to believe. I moved out to California, related to my job with Fujikura America, Inc., about a year and a half before she came to join me. It was not until after she moved out there to be with me when we settled in the one of the furthest out of the Bay Area suburbs, Livermore, CA (about an hour or so east of the Bay), that we found a church in California that we connected with. But it was there that the game changer happened.

It was there that we found Livermore Alive Community Church and its pastor, Luke Brower, and his wife, Felisha. Even though they were 10 years our younger, they were our spiritual mentors. Through our relationship with them that I began to grow up as a Christian. And, it was under their care that Elena accepted Christ as her Savior. And we become so heavily involved in that church. We were all-in. So much so that when Luke thought the church had developed enough, he wanted to begin an elder team to surround him at the church. It was the logical next step to me. So, I applied to be an elder. And it was that elder interview that changed the game for Elena and me, forever.

It was at that elder interview, Luke flat out told me that he appreciated me applying for eldership at the church but that I could not be an elder at the church. Why? Because I was living with Elena and not married to her. My combat to that was that she and I both had been married twice before and we were not super-hyped up about the whole marriage thing. We loved each other and we were engaged but we did not want to make that final commitment because we had been burned badly in the two divorces each that we already had on the books. Luke lit into me about picking and choosing what I wanted to believe about God’s Word and that marriage was one of those things. The Bible is pretty clear that sexual relations are only condoned by God inside the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Outside that, it is unrepentant sin, plain and simple. You could have knocked me over with a feather at that moment.

It led to Elena and I getting married within two weeks right there in Livermore, CA at our church right after church. With out whole church as witnesses to event. The marriage moment was significant but it was also a beginning. Luke’s words about picking and choosing what we wanted to believe about God’s Word led us to examine every area of life in comparison to God’s Word. It was that challenge that led to take God’s Word seriously in our lives and begin molding our life toward its pattern for life rather than the other way around – the way that we had been living. Taking that road, to slightly misquote Robert Frost, has made all the difference in the world.

With that idea of doing everything that God commanded, let’s read this passage, 1 Chronicles 6:49-53, together now:

49 Only Aaron and his descendants served as priests. They presented the offerings on the altar of burnt offering and the altar of incense, and they performed all the other duties related to the Most Holy Place. They made atonement for Israel by doing everything that Moses, the servant of God, had commanded them.

50 The descendants of Aaron were Eleazar, Phinehas, Abishua, 51 Bukki, Uzzi, Zerahiah, 52 Meraioth, Amariah, Ahitub, 53 Zadok, and Ahimaaz.

In this passage, we see a listing of Aaron’s descendants. Aaron was the first high priest of the Israelite people. Aaron and his descendants followed the details of worship commanded by Moses. They did not choose only the commands that they wanted to obey. Note what happened to Uzziah when important details in handling the Ark of the Covenant were neglected (1 Chronicles 13:6-10). We should not try to obey selectively, choosing those commands that we will obey and those we will ignore. God’s Word has authority over every aspect of our lives, not just the areas that we select.

That reversal of molding our lives to better match God’s Word from making God’s Word conform to our lives (i.e., picking and choosing what we wanted to believe in God’s Word) has led us to a deeper and deeper relationship with God. It has led us to giving Him control over our lives, our finances, what we do to make a living. We have given it all over to Him. We have followed His call on our lives to several different places now and we will continue to follow Him wherever He leads. Our trust is in Him for our very existence now. He has and always will provide a way for those who love Him and obey Him. The trajectory of our lives was changed by a conversation that challenged me to no longer pick and choose what I wanted to believe in the Bible. In that conversation, I was challenged to trust God and His Word and do things His way even when what I want is the opposite, even when I am scared to do what God wants, even when I think doing things God’s way is going to fail. What I have learned is God never fails. He is always there to provide a way. He is always there right on time. That road has made all the difference in the world.

Are you picking and choosing what part of God’s Word you are willing to obey and which that you are not? I’ve been there. I’ve lived that. How’s that working for ya? Not so much, huh? May you now step out in trust in the Lord and trust God enough to comply your life with His Word and stop trying to make it work the other way around!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 6:31-46

The Temple Musicians

Yesterday, we had our Christmas Sunday service and a major part of it was the music. Although my message, my sermon, was one of hope based on Jesus’ sinlessness even in his conception and birth and a message that I thought was one of my best, it would have all fallen flat if it were not for all the elements of the worship service. Without out the pastoral prayers and corporate prayers, without the hymns, without the special music by the pianist and without the anthem by the choir and the pianist, we would just be left with my message. And that would have been a boring service. We must have it all – the entire combination of elements to a worship service.

Yesterday, our music director, Ann Hudson, is one of the most humble servants of the Lord that you will ever meet. She is just precious. She has been a church musician for decades and has taught piano to probably two generations of people here in the Lamar area and southern Darlington County. She is aging now but man has she “still got game!” Yesterday, during her offertory musical piece, she tore it up. Even though I come from a decade of guitars and drums and modern worship songs, her dedication to her craft and the beauty with which she plays piano is unrivaled. To have a talent such as hers in my first appointment as the lead pastor of a church and for our church to be no larger than it is, my church and I are extremely blessed. She played an embellished version of Oh Holy Night where she simply used the music from the hymn but wow all the stuff she added to it. She brought tears to the eyes of many in the house of God yesterday morning. It was just beautiful no matter what generation you are from. It was amazing. And to watch the intensity on her face as she was playing was as moving as the music she was playing. She was in her own space. We were probably not there to her. She was simply in a zone and worshiping the Lord in a way that only she can. We were just witnesses to it and we were moved closer to God as a result.

That is the purpose of all the elements of worship outside the message. It is to melt away your cynicism and to focus you on the beauty of God. It is to melt away the cares of the world and focus you on what you may have forgotten during the week, that we are placed on this earth to worship our Creator. Music and the other elements of a worship service are to open the locked doors of our heart and allow us to say to our souls, “Ok, let’s listen to God now!” Music and the other elements of worship are essential and equal to the message. They go hand in hand. One without the other and Sunday morning worship is not complete.

It is why my music director and I met once a month to plan out the music for each Sunday in the next up month. In those meetings, I explain to her what each sermon in the coming month is going to be about. We pick hymns that go along with each sermon’s theme. She then plans her offertories and the choirs anthems around that theme. In this manner, each Sunday’s worship service is more cohesive and has a central gathering point theologically. That is the experience that I have been a part of in the two previous churches that I had been heavily a part of over the previous decade. Both of those churches were modern worship style churches but that idea of sitting down between pastor and worship leaders to plan out the music to match the idea of the sermon I brought with me to this traditional style church that I now pastor. Yesterday, reminded me of the power of music to set the stage for the sermon. The last two Sundays, so many of my church’s people have said that the totality of the service was awesome – that everything fit together and complemented one another. And, that, is what a worship service is to do. Soften the heart through music and prepare it for God’s Word and how it applies to our daily life.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read what basically amounts to a hall of fame of the musicians that played at the Temple from David’s reign to the time of the exile. Let us read this who’s who list of musicians at the Temple now here in 1 Chronicles 6:31-46:

31 These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they performed their service in due order. 33 These are the men who served; and their sons were: Of the Kohathites: Heman, the singer, son of Joel, son of Samuel, 34 son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah, 35 son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai, 36 son of Elkanah, son of Joel, son of Azariah, son of Zephaniah, 37 son of Tahath, son of Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, 38 son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, son of Israel; 39 and his brother Asaph, who stood on his right, namely, Asaph son of Berechiah, son of Shimea, 40 son of Michael, son of Baaseiah, son of Malchijah, 41 son of Ethni, son of Zerah, son of Adaiah, 42 son of Ethan, son of Zimmah, son of Shimei, 43 son of Jahath, son of Gershom, son of Levi. 44 On the left were their kindred the sons of Merari: Ethan son of Kishi, son of Abdi, son of Malluch, 45 son of Hashabiah, son of Amaziah, son of Hilkiah, 46 son of Amzi, son of Bani, son of Shemer,

In this passage, we are reminded that David did much to bring music into worship. He established song leaders and choirs to perform regularly at the Temple (see 1 Chronicles 25). Some of those who served with music in the Temple are recorded here. This passage also reminds us that you don’t have to be an ordained minister to have an important place in the body of believers. Musicians at a worship service are as important to the success of a worship service as the pastor delivering a message that interprets Scripture and applies it to everyday life.

In this passage, we have evidence of how important music was in the biblical era Temple in Jerusalem. They were named as musicians at the Temple. The Holy Spirit guided the writer of Chronicles to They were as important as any lineage of the high priest position. And it reminded me of the fact that Ann Hudson is as important to the success of Sunday morning as any sermon that I preach. Her music and my message are God appointed intersections each Sunday to prepare the heart, to soften the heart, to challenge the soul, to take us to the places of the highest heavens and to see the face of God and then to be challenged by His Word. And then to send us forth emboldened to take on another week in a fallen world in a way that honors the One who we just finished worshiping.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 6:1-30

The Priestly Line & The Levite Clans

The priestly line of the Levites. They were without land because of something Levi did when he was younger. Levi’s descendants defended God’s honor at Mt. Sinai after the Israelites pursued idolatry in Moses’ absence. Levi’s descendants did not have land in the Promised Land, but had cities that became cities of refuge for people accused of high crimes until their trials could be heard. The Levites had no land they could call their own, but yet they were the ones who interpreted God’s Word for the people. They were different and they were set apart. None of them were perfect. Even the original priestly family Aaron, Moses and Miriam, all had their troubles and their weaknesses. However, the priestly line of the Levites continued through this family of descendants who all had their flaws, made mistakes, but even in all their flawed humanity, God used them to achieve His purposes.

This passage is a reminder of several things. First, God does call and set apart those that will minister to His people and interpret His Word to the practical day-to-day workings of peoples’ lives. Second, he does not call perfect people to be set apart for this purpose. He sets them apart despite their flaws and imperfections. Third, you don’t have to be perfect to be used by God. You have to be willing and available.

It is the calling of a pastor to minister to his people under his care. We are called to take God’s Word and make it practical to the day to day. If we are not doing that, we are not serving God. If our leadership of the people in our care is not about the real world application of biblical texts and biblical principles then what are we doing here? We must make God’s Word come alive. If we are not making God’s Word practical and it seems of weird little exercise that we do on Sunday morning that has nothing to do with our day-to-day lives, then, we have missed the bus, missed the boat, and other such metaphors. The Levites were charged with caring for the Tabernacle and later the Temple but they were also charged with interpreting God’s Word for the day-to-day life of God’s people. And, that is why God set them apart for specific service and not owning land. He wanted them concentrating on God’s Word. He wanted them to observe life and be able to recall God’s Word and how it applies to a given thing that they observed in life. You can’t do that when you are preoccupied with other things.

All the Levite line, even Moses, Aaron and Miriam, all had flaws. They were all imperfect. To be called to ministry does not mean that you had to have been perfect before nor after God’s calling. God can redeem what was wrong and make it right. He can take your mess of your life and make it part of His message. He can make the worst into His best. He can take a murderer and make him the leader of His people out of Israel, in Moses. He can take a murdering persecutor of Christians and make him the greatest voice in Christianity other than Jesus in Paul. He can take a murdering adulterer and make him the greatest king Israel has ever known and make him the writer of some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, the Psalms. He can redeem the lowest of the low and make it the highest of the high.

All the bottom line is that God can redeem but we have to be willing to let him do it. We must be all-in when He calls us to ministry. We must want to shepherd, love, challenge, interpret and even say hard things that need saying as we ministry. If ministry is just a job like it seemed to become in later generations of the Levites, that ability to be in tune with what God has to say to His people through us gets cloudy and messy. However, when we simply have a heart that wants to serve God no matter what the culture is doing (like the descendants of Levi at Mt. Sinai) and just want to glorify God, He can use us. If we want to satisfy people and not God, the ministry becomes about something other than God’s Word. But if we put God’s Word and the things of God first, He can use us!

With that idea in mind, let’s review these names, and remember the flaws and imperfections of the major names in this list, in this passage, 1 Chronicles 6:1-30. Let’s read it now:

6 [a] The sons of Levi: Gershom,[b] Kohath, and Merari. 2 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 4 Eleazar became the father of Phinehas, Phinehas of Abishua, 5 Abishua of Bukki, Bukki of Uzzi, 6 Uzzi of Zerahiah, Zerahiah of Meraioth, 7 Meraioth of Amariah, Amariah of Ahitub, 8 Ahitub of Zadok, Zadok of Ahimaaz, 9 Ahimaaz of Azariah, Azariah of Johanan, 10 and Johanan of Azariah (it was he who served as priest in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem). 11 Azariah became the father of Amariah, Amariah of Ahitub, 12 Ahitub of Zadok, Zadok of Shallum, 13 Shallum of Hilkiah, Hilkiah of Azariah, 14 Azariah of Seraiah, Seraiah of Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

16 [c] The sons of Levi: Gershom, Kohath, and Merari. 17 These are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their ancestry. 20 Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, 21 Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, Jeatherai his son. 22 The sons of Kohath: Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, 23 Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son, Assir his son, 24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son. 25 The sons of Elkanah: Amasai and Ahimoth, 26 Elkanah his son, Zophai his son, Nahath his son, 27 Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son. 28 The sons of Samuel: Joel[d] his firstborn, the second Abijah.[e] 29 The sons of Merari: Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzzah his son, 30 Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, and Asaiah his son.

With this passage, we must recall several things. While Moses was receiving the law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites rebelled and made a Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-6). Moses interceded for Israel but made the Israelites drink the water with the ground up powder of the calf (Exodus 32:7-20). Moses then stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on Yahweh’s side? Come to me.” And the Levites, Moses’ own tribe, gathered around him (Exodus 32:26). So Moses called for the Levites to slaughter their fellow Israelites—“Thus says Yahweh God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” And the Levites killed about 3,000 men (Exodus 32:27-28). This episode recalls the violence of their ancestor Levi (Genesis 34:25-31). But here such righteous zeal brought the Levites blessing, as they were “ordained for the service of Yahweh” (32:29). This is the origin of the priesthood in Israel. The Levites were given the responsibility of the priesthood because of their zeal in defending God’s honor. Whereas God originally consecrated the firstborn sons of the Israelites (Exodus 13:11-15), now He chose the tribe of Levi to take that place in His service (Numbers 3:11-13, 41, 45).

So we see that the same violent nature that lost the Levites land also gained them the priesthood. Of course, there is a major difference—Levi acted foolishly by slaughtering foreigners in defense of his sister’s honor (Genesis 34), while the sons of Levi acted righteously by slaughtering Israelites in defense of God’s honor (Exodus 32). In this way, we see God’s redemption of the line of Levi. While the Levites did not receive land as an inheritance in Canaan, this was also used for good. In fact, the biblical text (post-Jacob’s curse in Genesis 49) focuses on the positives of the Levites not having land. God turned Jacob’s apparent curse for the Levites’ good. Thus the Book of Joshua states that the Levites received no inheritance of land because Yahweh Himself and the “priesthood of Yahweh” were their inheritance (Joshua 13:14, 33; 18:7).

May we as pastors to strive to hand over our imperfections to God and have Him mold them into something useful for the kingdom. May we as pastors strive to seek deep understanding of God’s Word so that we can make it real to day to day life for our people. May we strive to be humbled by our choosing such that we always seek Him and not ourselves. When we have those combination of things together, God can use us in His service.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 5:11-26

Descendants of Gad & The Tribes of the Jordan

I was reading the book, Pastoral Theology, by Daniel Akin and Scott Pace, and found this quote recently,

The authority of God’s call on our lives eliminates other options for fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives. While his call can be resisted (see Jonah), it cannot be revoked. If we resist God’s calling, we invite corrective discipline from God in our lives, but when we surrender to His will, our lives become anchored in His purpose. When people or circumstances become overwhelming in ministry, it is the definitive nature of His call that offers us security and comfort to help us persevere.

It reminded me that the call to full-time vocational ministry is one that will gnaw at you if you do not heed it. You will find no comfort from ignoring it or running from it. It will always be there. If it is a true calling, there will be no satisfaction, true satisfaction, in your life until you accept the call and actively pursue it.

There were times in my life that, because of family tradition (my dad, my uncle, my brother, and my brother’s father-in-law were or are pastors in the United Methodist Church in South Carolina), that I thought I was called to ministry but I would never pull the trigger on actively pursuing it. Why? Because my calling at that time was not real in the sense that it could not overcome my seeking what was comfortable for me more. I had a really good career in corporate accounting with progressively greater responsibilities and salaries over the years. I always had excuses about prior wives who would be unwilling to leave their hometown of Greenville, SC. I always had excuses of having children in school that would be uprooted. Then, it was children in college and so on. I always had excuses of why I could not pursue “the family business” (i.e., pastoral ministry). All of these excuses were because I was ultimately afraid to step out in full faith. I was trusting in my abilities and my own definition of what was comfortable and what was known. It was certainly my expectation that the perfect job in ministry would be one that was right there in the Greenville area and would be just blatantly obvious that it was for me – an easy transition.

But God’s calling to ministry is never comfortable. You cannot rely on your own abilities or your comfort zone or what you have known. God’s calling to ministry is one that He makes you so uncomfortable doing anything else (even if you have done it all your life) that you will not be satisfied until you actively pursue it. My calling began for real in 2011 and built over time to the point that I could not do what was comfortable to me anymore. That included going to a place that I had never lived or never even heard of until I was offered an interview for my first full-time job in pastoral ministry. Even then, the job was not what I had been envisioning as what I thought my pastoral ministry should be. I could have easily given up and returned to the corporate finance world but the call was still there. Still making me feel uncomfortable doing anything else. The call was such that I pursued other opportunities. It would have been easier just to say I give up and go back to the accounting world I knew. That’s where I was an expert. The struggle of that first pastoral position could have defeated a call that was not grounded in the heart of God.

That struggle galvanized my understanding of my call. I was going to do whatever it took, go again wherever God led me so that I could pursue the burden of my calling. Now, I am the solo pastor of a small-ish church in South Carolina and there is so much I do not know about being the “buck stops here” leader, senior, solo, pastor of a church. It can be overwhelming at times. It can be downright scary at times. But the burden of the calling carries me through. That I am outside my comfort zone. That I am probably right now outside my current capabilities as a leader can scare the buh-jeebies out of ya. But the burden, the calling is still there. And, in actuality, I am having the time of my life. That’s the thing about pastoral ministry and the calling to it is that you always are in the understanding that you are way NOT qualified to do what you do but, man, you’re having the time of your life! When you are in God’s call to pastoral ministry nothing else will do, nothing else will satisfy, but you realize that it is not your talents that are going keep your there. It’s the trust in the Lord to carry you along to what you need to learn and where you need to go. I have given up on relying on my own abilities and to pray each morning that God has me where He wants me, teaching me what I need to be taught, and using me to accomplish what He wants accomplished.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through another section of genealogy in 1 Chronicles. This time it was about the descendants of Reuben in 1 Chronicles 5:11-26. In that passage, we see mention of the fact that the Reubenites relied on their own skills and failed to give God glory for what He was accomplishing through them. Let’s read it together now and see how this all relates after you read the passage:

11 Next to the Reubenites, the descendants of Gad lived in the land of Bashan as far east as Salecah. 12 Joel was the leader in the land of Bashan, and Shapham was second-in-command, followed by Janai and Shaphat.

13 Their relatives, the leaders of seven other clans, were Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jacan, Zia, and Eber. 14 These were all descendants of Abihail son of Huri, son of Jaroah, son of Gilead, son of Michael, son of Jeshishai, son of Jahdo, son of Buz. 15 Ahi son of Abdiel, son of Guni, was the leader of their clans.

16 The Gadites lived in the land of Gilead, in Bashan and its villages, and throughout all the pasturelands of Sharon. 17 All of these were listed in the genealogical records during the days of King Jotham of Judah and King Jeroboam of Israel.

18 There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. 19 They waged war against the Hagrites, the Jeturites, the Naphishites, and the Nodabites. 20 They cried out to God during the battle, and he answered their prayer because they trusted in him. So the Hagrites and all their allies were defeated. 21 The plunder taken from the Hagrites included 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep and goats, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 captives. 22 Many of the Hagrites were killed in the battle because God was fighting against them. The people of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh lived in their land until they were taken into exile.

23 The half-tribe of Manasseh was very large and spread through the land from Bashan to Baal-hermon, Senir, and Mount Hermon. 24 These were the leaders of their clans: Epher,[a] Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel. These men had a great reputation as mighty warriors and leaders of their clans.

25 But these tribes were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors. They worshiped the gods of the nations that God had destroyed. 26 So the God of Israel caused King Pul of Assyria (also known as Tiglath-pileser) to invade the land and take away the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh as captives. The Assyrians exiled them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River, where they remain to this day.

In this passage, you will notice that the armies of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh succeeded in battle because they trusted God. Although they had instinct and skill as soldiers, they prayed and sought God’s direction. The natural and developed abilities God gives us are meant to be used for Him, but they should never replace our dependence on Him. When we trust in our own cleverness, skill and strength rather than in God, we open the door for pride. When facing difficult situations, seek God’s purpose and ask for His guidance and strength. Psalm 20:7 tells us, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord, our God!”

Also, here in this passage, you will note that these tribes did not continually seek God and began to be prideful. As warriors and leaders, these men had established reputations for their great skill and leadership abilities. But in the eyes of God, they failed in the most important quality – being faithful to God. We must remember that God gives us our abilities and we must recognize He is the source from which they came. We cannot become prideful because it is He that provides us with our talents. Conversely, we cannot shy away from what God challenges us to do because it is hard. As we push on through past our comfort zone, we will and must learn dependence on God. When we are far past our comfort zone, we are in territory that only He can provide the skills, the direction, and the answers that we need.

How does all this relate to going into and staying in pastoral ministry? It reminds us that pastoral ministry is a God-driven calling not our own. We can say that we want pastoral ministry but if it is not a true God calling, we will not actively pursue it. Why? Because we are relying on our own opinions and our own skills and it is easier then to make excuses for why we can’t pursue the calling right now. We can say others are keeping us from it. We can use excuses of money, people and time and so on. But ultimately, if our calling is true we are going to rely on God to make a way for us. That’s the only way that it will work. Pastoral ministry is tough and you can get discouraged so easily and walk away. It is only when we rely totally on God for our calling and our provision within it that we can go headstrong into and damn all the excuses that pop up in our heads. A true God calling in pastoral ministry is one that makes you so uncomfortable that you just have to, you MUST, pursue the calling. Nothing else will do. All the comforts. All your known skills. All the stuff you know. People. Places. Things. It cannot keep you from pursuing your call. You come to rely more and more greatly on the God of the universe. He will provide. He will give the victories. He will sustain you in the defeats. He will teach you what you don’t know. He will be your lifejacket in the rough waters. Dependence on Him not ourselves leads us to pursue our calling into pastoral ministry…because nothing else will do! Nothing else will satisfy than to plunge into that total dependence on the Lord to provide wherever that might lead.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 5:1-10

Descendants of Reuben

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a second to lose it. How often are we remembered for what we did wrong that what we did right. Yesterday, we talked about how what we do in front of our kids matters. Because our actions teach them lessons that mere words do not. Our children imitate what they see. It is a documented fact that those who abuse their spouses are most often a product of a childhood where abuse was prevalent. Many other socially deviant behaviors in us can often be traced to the environment in which we were brought up. What we do in front of our kids matters. The theme of that blog was what we do now matters.

Sin has its consequences. God offers us redemption and forgiveness from our sins but he does not take away the consequences of our sins. God’s universe is built on the simple immutable law of cause and effect. Actions have equal reactions. The physical universe is built upon this premise by God. In the realm of human endeavors, cause and effect rules that govern the physical world are also in effect there. All the actions we take cause reactions. God gives us His Word to guide us in our lives so that our actions will have positive reactions. Sin, however, has negative reactions. Sin is hurtful to us and to others and thus produces negative reactions. Sin has negative reactions. Sin has negative consequences. Sin is selfish behavior. It is always about what I want without consideration of what our actions will do to others. Satan wants us to be selfish because he is selfish.

Here in this passage, we are reminded about Reuben’s sin that had consequences. His sin of sleeping with his dad’s wife had long-lasting consequences. It effected all his descendants. He should have received the prime inheritance from his father Abraham, but his sin was remembered and he paid the consequences. Even in the retelling of the history of the tribes of Israel found in the books of Chronicles, his indiscretion is remembered and retold.

Sure, at the time, Reuben probably thought that Abraham’s wife was beautiful and sexy. David though Bathsheba was hot to trot. Throughout the Bible and throughout human history, you will find men that just thought a woman was just way too sexy not to take a taste. It is the ultimate in selfish behavior. Adultery never has no impact. We do not have to be famous people for such sins to play out publicly. We see it in our society. Where sex has become a recreational sport and marriage is disposable, we are suffering the consequences of sexual sin. Sin never has no consequences. It is a basic law of the universe. Cause and effect. Action and reaction. The reaction to the action of sin is always negative never positive. When Satan is enticing you to fulfill your selfish desires, he is going to make it sound so good but he never tells you about the negative impacts – that always come. Each of us has stories of how our stupid sin decisions have adversely impacted our lives. Some sins have long lasting consequences that some of us are still dealing with years later. Sure, the impact may diminish over time but nonetheless we may deal with the consequences of our sins for the rest of our lives. In many cases, our children and our children’s children on down the line have to deal with our stupid decisions to follow our selfish desires. Reuben is a biblical example of generations after generation dealing with Reuben’s stuff.

With that in mind let us read 1 Chronicles 5:1-10 together, now:

Chapter 5

1 The oldest son of Israel[a] was Reuben. But since he dishonored his father by sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, his birthright was given to the sons of his brother Joseph. For this reason, Reuben is not listed in the genealogical records as the firstborn son. 2 The descendants of Judah became the most powerful tribe and provided a ruler for the nation,[b] but the birthright belonged to Joseph.

3 The sons of Reuben, the oldest son of Israel, were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.

4 The descendants of Joel were Shemaiah, Gog, Shimei, 5 Micah, Reaiah, Baal, 6 and Beerah. Beerah was the leader of the Reubenites when they were taken into captivity by King Tiglath-pileser[c] of Assyria.

7 Beerah’s[d] relatives are listed in their genealogical records by their clans: Jeiel (the leader), Zechariah, 8 and Bela son of Azaz, son of Shema, son of Joel.

The Reubenites lived in the area that stretches from Aroer to Nebo and Baal-meon. 9 And since they had so many livestock in the land of Gilead, they spread east toward the edge of the desert that stretches to the Euphrates River.

10 During the reign of Saul, the Reubenites defeated the Hagrites in battle. Then they moved into the Hagrite settlements all along the eastern edge of Gilead.

In this passage, we remember Reuben. His sin of incest was recorded for all future generations to read. The purpose of this epitaph was not smear Reuben’s name but to show that painful memories are not the only results of sin. The real consequences of sin are ruined lives. As oldest son, Reuben was the rightful heir to both a double portion of his father’s estate and leadership of Abraham’s descendants. However, his sin stripped away his rights and privileges and destroyed his family. We, too, must consider the disastrous consequences that sin may produce in our lives when we are looking at giving in to temptation.

Jacob declares that Reuben “will no longer excel” (verse 4) due to his sin of incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine wife (Genesis 35:22). Although that sin was committed forty years prior, there was left an indelible spot on Reuben’s character and that of his posterity. By committing this uncleanness with his father’s wife, there would be reproach upon his tribe and the family, to whom he ought to have been an example and a blessing. He forfeited the prerogatives of the birthright, and his dying father demoted him, although he did not disown or disinherit him. He would still have all the privileges of a son, but not of the firstborn.

Jacob’s sad prophecy for Reuben certainly came true. No judge, prophet, ruler, or prince came from that tribe, nor any person of renown except Dathan and Abiram, who were noted for their rebellion against Moses. Reuben’s tribe chose a settlement on the other side Jordan, a further indication of the loss of godly influence on his brothers to which his birthright entitled him. Although Reuben was the firstborn, the kingdom was given to Judah and the priesthood to Levi, leaving Reuben’s tribe to be small and non-influential.

Further, Reuben was “unstable as water” (some versions translate it “turbulent as water”), and in this phrase we find several lessons for all Christians. For one thing, Reuben’s virtue was unstable; he did not have control of himself and his own appetites. The charge of instability could refer to his being sometimes very regular and orderly, while at other times wild and undisciplined. As Christians, we are to be in control of our flesh and its appetites and desires at all times. Most importantly, we are to be steadfast in our faith and not “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

We also learn from Reuben that those who dabble in sin must not expect to save their reputation or maintain a positive influence upon others. Although we know our sins were nailed to the cross and we are forever forgiven for past sins, we still have to suffer the consequences of those sins, which include remorse and a loss of reputation and influence. Reuben’s sin left an indelible mark upon him and his family. As Christians, we must understand that dishonor is a wound that will not be healed without a scar.

Remember, your grandchildren and grandchildren’s grandchildren may be on the raw end of dealing with what may feel good to us in the heat of the moment right now. Action and reaction. Cause and effect. That’s the law of sin. That’s the governing law of the universe.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:21-43

Descendants of Shelah and of Simeon

Our actions effect our families for generations. It’s not just you and what you want, but what you do echoes down your family line. Just look at Simeon’s lineage. Because he and his pal massacred all the people of Shechem as an act of bold revenge against that city’s prince having sexual relations by force with Simeon’s sister (see Genesis 34), he was cursed to live a nomadic lifestyle after that. Once that caste was set, his descendants lived a similar lifestyle all the way up to the days of the exile when the books of the Chronicles were written. What we do now matters.

Most of us are all so wrapped up in our pursuit of what we want, they we do not have an eye toward what the future will hold for our progeny as a result of the decisions we make now. I know that when I was a young father, I was all wrapped up in how things affected me. I became a father pretty young compared to others in Generation X. So many of my friends that I went to high school with or college with waited until their early 30’s to become parents. I became a father at age 23, not too unlike my late Greatest Generation/early Baby Boomer daddy who was 21 when he became a father and again with me at age 23. I really didn’t think about the long-term effects of my actions on my kids. My first wife was not much better in that regard. Our marriage was a soap opera of mistakes. My wife with her addictions and her affair. My justifying my affair with what became my second wife because I had lived as a martyr during the decade of addiction with my first wife. I had a right to be happy, you know, and my first wife was the cause of all my unhappiness. You know the drill. Most of us who have been through divorces play the martyr and blame the other spouse for why we HAD to do what we did. Lost in all of it are our children. My generation was the first generation to be called self-centered. So self-centered one of the first names for my generation was The Me-Generation. We were and most of us still are—all about us and what we want, even as many of us are now in our 50s. I would dare say that most of us in the Me-Generation have been married more than once. We really didn’t think about what our actions were doing to our children.

I know that with my own children, my oldest was forced to mature way too early while my youngest has allowed the rough and tumble years of the divorce’s aftermath define her. What we have taught our children that it’s OK to quit. We quit on the most basic relationship of all, the marriage and the marital family. We taught them that it’s OK to quit when things get tough. They have been taught that you really don’t have to work at things. You can just give up and then say that it should have been given to you. We as divorced parents often spoiled our kids to assuage our guilt for having failed at their basic family unit. The statistics are so alarming about the mental health and legal costs related to the children of divorce. We accept these costs as a collective nation because we don’t won’t to change from our me-attitudes. We would rather be able to change marriages like we change underwear because it’s all about us. The effects of divorce and single parent homes will continue to have long-lasting effects on our kids and our nation. We must have a change of heart about our self-seeking and seek God instead of ourselves. There are always long-lasting effects when nations quit pursuing God – just look at the book we are studying right now. Israel deteriorated from within and was so badly decayed by the time of the Assyrian exile for the northern kingdom and the Babylonian exile for the southern kingdom, they were too weak to do anything about it. There is a clarion call to our nation. What we do now matters.

With that idea in mind, let’s read this passage now, 1 Chronicles 4:21-43, with an eye as to who these people are and what their history was:

21 The sons of Shelah son of Judah: Er father of Lecah, Laadah father of Mareshah, and the families of the guild of linen workers at Beth-ashbea; 22 and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who married into Moab but returned to Lehem[a] (now the records[b] are ancient). 23 These were the potters and inhabitants of Netaim and Gederah; they lived there with the king in his service.

24 The sons of Simeon: Nemuel, Jamin, Jarib, Zerah, Shaul;[c] 25 Shallum was his son, Mibsam his son, Mishma his son. 26 The sons of Mishma: Hammuel his son, Zaccur his son, Shimei his son. 27 Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their family multiply like the Judeans. 28 They lived in Beer-sheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, 29 Bilhah, Ezem, Tolad, 30 Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, 31 Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susim, Beth-biri, and Shaaraim. These were their towns until David became king. 32 And their villages were Etam, Ain, Rimmon, Tochen, and Ashan, five towns, 33 along with all their villages that were around these towns as far as Baal. These were their settlements. And they kept a genealogical record.

34 Meshobab, Jamlech, Joshah son of Amaziah, 35 Joel, Jehu son of Joshibiah son of Seraiah son of Asiel, 36 Elioenai, Jaakobah, Jeshohaiah, Asaiah, Adiel, Jesimiel, Benaiah, 37 Ziza son of Shiphi son of Allon son of Jedaiah son of Shimri son of Shemaiah— 38 these mentioned by name were leaders in their families, and their clans increased greatly. 39 They journeyed to the entrance of Gedor, to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks, 40 where they found rich, good pasture, and the land was very broad, quiet, and peaceful; for the former inhabitants there belonged to Ham. 41 These, registered by name, came in the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, and attacked their tents and the Meunim who were found there, and exterminated them to this day, and settled in their place, because there was pasture there for their flocks. 42 And some of them, five hundred men of the Simeonites, went to Mount Seir, having as their leaders Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah, and Uzziel, sons of Ishi; 43 they destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites that had escaped, and they have lived there to this day.

Simeon and Levi, two of the sons of Jacob, massacred the men of the city of Shechem (Genesis 34:24-30, 49:5-7) and were therefore cursed to be scattered. Therefore, the tribe of Simeon did not have a province to call their own, only these cities, villages, and dwelling places. Simeon was granted lands in Palestine only within the arid southwestern portions of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9; cf. 15:26, 28-32); and it campaigned cooperatively with Judah in their conquest (Judges 1:3). For after the division of Solomon’s kingdom in 930 B.C., elements of Simeon either moved to the north or at least adopted its religious practices (reference the inclusion of Beersheba along with the shrines of Ephraim that are condemned in Amos 5:5). Other Simeonites carried on in a seminomadic life in isolated areas that they could occupy, such as those noted at the close of this chapter. But his brothers did not have many children, nor did any of their families multiply as much as the children of Judah: The census data both at the beginning and the end of the Book of Numbers indicates that the population of the tribe of Simeon decreased radically during the wilderness years of the exodus. They were among the largest tribes at the beginning and among the smallest tribes at the end. Of this tribe was that shameless fornicator, Zimri (Numbers 35).

As you can see this particular genealogy shows how the actions of Simeon and Levi led generations of their own people to live a nomadic lifestyle. There in-the-moment thinking causes all their future generations to not have any land and live a hand to mouth existence of a nomadic people. What we do in our in-the-moment moments matters for generations. Think about what you are doing as your children watch. What you do, they imitate. What you do now echoes for generations. Why not consider living life according to God’s Word instead of your own selfish desires! You children are watching.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 5 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

As some of you readers may know from being with me in my blogs over the past 7 years, I jog and walk in the mornings. I used to do my jogs/walks 6 days a week but now that my weight is in the 180s, here in the last year, I have cut back to 3 days a week. I walk an 1/8 of a mile and jog an 1/8 of a mile for each quarter mile of the 10+ miles I do each time I go out. I do my exercise from 5am in the morning until 7am each time. It is dark and lonely out there each time in this little small town that we now live in. It was difficult at first to figure out how to get that much mileage in within the town limits (where all the streetlights are) but it is doable with doubling back over the same parts of my route in various parts of town.

There are some dark areas of my pattern in parts of town where there are abandoned buildings (as this town is living its post tobacco center years and is still trying to recapture what was once a much more vibrant small town). You see it a lot in the small farming towns of the Pee Dee region of our state. What were once vibrant farming centers with busy little business districts are now struggling with the urbanization of our state. People are leaving the small farming towns and going to the larger cities of our state such as Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and so on. The jobs are no longer in farming and there is less to keep people in these small towns. Lamar is no different. Farming is so mechanized now, there is simply fewer people needed to do it. People leave to go where the jobs are. Although there are many forward thinking, wonderful people in this town, it is at a crossroads in its post-farming development. We must find some type of industry to sustain our town into the future. Right here off Interstate 20 and near Interstate 95, Lamar is perfectly situated for such industry to come, if it would just come. If a manufacturer would see the potential and just come.

In the meantime, there are several places around town where there are abandoned building and even abandoned homes. There is one place at the edge of town where there is an old abandoned building that I run by each time I go on my morning exercise in the dark that just gives me a weird feeling as I run by it. Maybe it’s just me being weirdly paranoid because nothing has even given me a reason to jump as I have gone by this building. No animals have jumped out of the building as I have passed by. No weird noises or anything. But too much Stephen King’s “It” over the years with abandoned buildings, I can blame that! LOL!

But when I pass by it, there is a sense of uneasiness that creeps into my soul each time I pass it. A sense that something evil resides in that dark, abandoned building. Maybe it’s because it’s dark. Because I do not feel that feeling when I jog past this place when I have jogged during the day on my days off from the office at church. But in the early morning dark hours, there is just a sense of something not right, some evil presence when I run past there. Call me paranoid. I know that if I explored the old building I would learn once and for all that there is nothing there. But I don’t have time for that, even in the daytime. So, when I jog past this old dilapidated, decaying, and abandoned building, I invoke the name of Jesus. I chant “in the name of Jesus, He protects me” over and over as I jog past it the first time during my jog and again the second time. There’s a part of me that thinks I am just being overly paranoid and just plain stupid but whatever the reason, even if there is really something evil that dwells there, the uneasiness as I pass this building drains away when I invoke my chant of protection from the mere name of Jesus Christ. It tells us in God’s Word that every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus. Mark 3:11 tells us that “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” As we are children of Christ Jesus, He will protect us. When we fully believe in Him, submitted to His leadership of our lives, and fully believe in His power over all things, we are protected.

There is something to be said about having full faith in the power of who Jesus Christ is as we move through this life on this side of eternity. It is when we give evil a sit in the theatre of our hearts that it gains its power over us. With that idea of having full faith in the power of Jesus Christ, let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, we see that Jabez makes his most important petition of all and he saves it for last. None of the other petitions will happen if this petition does not happen. He will not be blessed if he falls into evil. God will not grant him more territory if he falls into evil. As we have seen from Israel, when they began practicing their evil ways, their territory was literally reduced until their nation was no more. If we ask the Lord to be with us in all that we do, we will stray or depart from Him when we are seduced by evil. Thus, this petition is the most important one. To be kept from evil.

I think my own little illustration is an important demonstration of what we believe about evil and evil spirits. We know repeatedly from the New Testament that Jesus had power over demons. They cowered in His presence. It is thus we who gives evil its power in our lives. Movies and books about demons and evil in general try to tell us that evil is equal to or more powerful than the powers of good or the power of God. This is simply not true. In the real world, Satan and his minions are subject to Jesus Christ. They are created beings. Jesus is part of the eternal Godhead that has existed since before creation and it is through Him that all things were made. It is us who gives Satan his power in our lives. It is us who gives evil its stranglehold in our lives.

So, when Jabez makes this final petition, He is committing to keeping his focus on God. He is committing to believe that God has power and dominion over evil and over Satan. He is asking God to help him remember that. He is asking for God’s help to keep him focused on the fact that everything else falls into place when we align our thoughts and hearts with the fact that God is sovereignly supreme over everything in our lives. We will be kept from evil when we keep our thoughts on God. We will be protected from evil when we think on godly things, when we seek to do God’s will. It’s when we take our eyes off Him that we are susceptible to evil.

So, call me whacky. Call me goofy. Call me childish. But when I have uneasiness in the dark, I will continue to invoke the name of Jesus and claim it that He will protect me from evil when I feel scared or uneasy. He is the king of my heart. He is the source of my strength. When I keep my eyes on Him instead of the waves, I will be kept from evil. I will be protected. And I am not just talking about during pre-dawn jogs around town. When I keep my eyes on Him, fully believe in Him, align my will with His, I will be kept from evil. I am reminded of that currently popular Christian contemporary song, King of My Heart, by Bethel Music. Its lyrics go like this:

Let the King of my heart

Be the mountain where I run

The fountain I drink from

Oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the shadow where I hide

The ransom for my life

Oh, He is my song

‘Cause You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

And let the King of my heart

Be the wind inside my sails

The anchor in the waves

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the fire inside my veins

The echo of my days

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the wind inside my sails

The anchor in the waves

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the fire inside my veins

The echo of my days

Oh, He is my song

‘Cause You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh…

Oh, Lord,  I pray as Jabez prayed. Oh that you would keep me from evil. In the name of Jesus, He protects me for He is the King of my heart. All things and all beings created are subject to Him. He is the song in my heart.

Amen and Amen.