Archive for March, 2020

1 Chronicles 14:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)

David’s Palace and Family

We all have those, what I call, our kryptonite sins. I call them our kryptonite sins because we all have those areas in life where no matter how hard we try – when we get in the same neighborhood of a particular kind of sin, we always succumb to its siren song. It disables our good judgment. It causes us to throw away years of spiritual maturation. It’s like kryptonite to Superman. Kryptonite disabled all of Superman’s earthly super-powers. Our kryptonite sins are the ones that disable all our spirit-filled defenses against sin. These are the sins that overpower us.

For David, his kryptonite sin was sexual conquest. He loved women and what only women can give a man. It was his kryptonite sin area. David was awed by beautiful women. As you can tell, by the number of children that he had, he reallllly liked women. The episode with Bathsheba shows us that David allowed his sexual desire to override his good sense. This is the same man who has been given the nickname of being “a man after God’s own heart”! In addition, his sinful desire for Bathsheba caused him to commit the sin of complicity to murder. He directed the murder of Bathsheba’s husband. He may not have physically murdered the man but he may as well have. His sin weakness led to a host of other moral failures just so he could keep his pet sin (sexual desire) hidden.

We read about David’s episode with Bathsheba, but that’s not the only wife he had and then add up all the concubines, the dude had sexual desire issues. We all have our kryptonite sin areas. For some, it’s like David – sexual desire overrules all our good sense. For others, it is alcohol abuse. For others, drugs will bring us down every time. For others, it’s money. For others, it’s gossip. For others, it’s (fill in the blank) _____________. Each one of us has that sin area that no matter how hard we say we will not fall to that temptation again, we do it every single time, we get near that type of temptation.

With that in mind, let’s read this passage, 1 Chronicles 14:1-7. Seeing the comment about “more wives” and “more children” that he had by these wives, reminds us that David had a specific sin weakness nearly cost him everything:

Chapter 14

1 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber, and stonemasons and carpenters to build him a palace. 2 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had greatly blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

3 Then David married more wives in Jerusalem, and they had more sons and daughters. 4 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 5 Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, 6 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 7 Elishama, Eliada,[a] and Eliphelet.

In this passage, we see that David accumulated wives and concubines. Having a harem of women was the custom of the day among royals of Middle Eastern culture. However, it was not of God’s design (see Genesis 2:24). David’s marriages brought him great power and influence (because many of his wives, he married to create political alliances with other countries and so on). At the same time, though, the many wives and the children by multiple mothers was a constant cause of strife within David’s royal family. It was his family that caused him the most strife in his life. It was his family that almost cost him his kingdom.

What is your sin weakness? What is your kryptonite sin? What sin is it that you always succumb to the temptation of that sin…without fail? That’s the challenge for us is that usually our kryptonite sins are the ones that we refuse to see as sins to begin with. We refuse to see that we need help with them. We refuse to ask for help with them (because we secretly want to have no one to block us from them if push comes to shove). We must be honest with ourselves about those particular sins that suck us into the drain each and every time we get near them. We all have that one kind of sin! Don’t kid yourself…you do!

Lord, help us to find a true friend that will hold us accountable for our kryptonite sins and help us to avoid being even in the same zip code with that kind of sin! Lord, help us to be honest enough to share this with a trusted friend. Lord, most of us, help us to be honest with you and ask for your help with these particularly stubborn sins for us. Help us to shed ourselves of them through your power before we let them destroy us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 14:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

David’s Palace and Family

In this time of national crisis where we are in the midst of a social and economic shutdown because of the Coronavirus, we are reminded both of the best of humankind and the worst of humankind. In the negative, we see people hoarding goods such as toilet paper, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, soaps and other such goods that are deemed important. They buy as much as they can without thinking of anyone else. It has gotten to the point that you see stores limited the quantities of these products that one family can purchase on a single visit to the store. These rules had to be implemented by grocery stores and other retailers who sell these products to prevent this all-out brand of selfishness by a lot of people. It is not just some isolated thing. You see it from a lot of people all over the country, regardless of region, regardless of size of the local population, regardless of whether they are Christian or non-believers. It is just shameful to see people act in such an overtly selfish manner.

On the other hand, we have seen instances where people are being extraordinarily kind to one another. We see church members checking on each other by phone. We see church members who are bringing food to elderly folks in their churches who are shut-ins. We see churches whose ladies are sewing cloth surgical masks to help ease the short supply of these items. We see people bringing meals to hospital workers. We see neighborhoods creating food banks on the corners of key streets in their neighborhoods so that they can share goods that others might need, such as paper towels, canned goods, sanitary wipes, and so on. We see restaurants who use to not deliver to their customers that are now doing so. We see these acts of good at the same time we have seen the bad.

It is a reminder to us of what this passage is about. David remembered what his blessings were for. It was for his people, not just for him. With that in mind, let’s read this passage, 1 Chronicles 14:1-7, now:

Chapter 14

1 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber, and stonemasons and carpenters to build him a palace. 2 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had greatly blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

3 Then David married more wives in Jerusalem, and they had more sons and daughters. 4 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 5 Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, 6 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 7 Elishama, Eliada,[a] and Eliphelet.

In this passage, we see that God gave David honor and success, but not simply for David’s personal gain. David, as the passage notes, realized that God had prospered him for a special reason – for the sake of God’s people. This passage reminds us today that we can be often tempted to use our possessions simply for our own good. Instead, we must remember that our blessings are from God. He has blessed us with where we are, what we are given, all of it should be used to encourage others and be support to those who are in need. We must glorify God with the blessings that He has bestowed upon us.

We must always remember that whatever we have is given to us by God. He gave us the talents to earn money. He gives us the intelligence to do what we do. He gives us the expertise to do what pays us money. Let us remember that we are simply stewards of what God has given us. As a result, we must be a generous people who sees that everything is not about us. We must be generous with the wealth that our God-given talents have allowed us to acquire. We should not store up treasures for ourselves. We must give God glory by using our resources to, yes, take care of our family but also to make sure that others are taken care of who are in need. Help us to not hoard our wealth to ourselves and think of it all as a result of our own power. Help us to see that it all comes from you God so that we loosen our grip on the desire to hoard, to store up, to acquire only for the betterment of ourselves.

Give us generous hearts oh Lord. Help us to see that you were generous to us through what You did for us through Jesus on the cross and through His resurrection. Let us take this time to realize that it all comes from you and you desire us as Christ followers to be blessings to the world around us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 6 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

Today, in my blog for our church member’s consumption at our church’s Facebook page while we are in shutdown mode (due to the Coronavirus scare), I talked about my dad. One of the things that I wrote about was that Dad had his rules for behavior for us as his sons, his children. One of his famous sayings (and my dad had plenty of them seeing as how he grew up in the rural South on a farm) was “as long as you put your feet under my table, you will do as I say!” Translated for the non-Southerner, that means as long as you live in my house, wear the clothes I buy for you and eat your meals at my dinner table, you owe me your obedience. My dad was a loving dad. He was the kind of guy that expected a lot out of us but at the same time, he would play ball with us and just do stuff with us for fun. It was a well-rounded view that I got of my dad. He had expectations of behavior from us but yet at the same time he would show us love through his pride in us in a job well done, in achieving some milestone, and just a hug when we needed it.

That’s the thing that we get confused about sometimes with God. People often talk about they like the New Testament God better than the Old Testament God, as if He was two different Gods. When you press people on it, they see the New Testament God as a God of love whereas they see the Old Testament God as a spiteful, vengeful God. They see God in the New Testament as a cuddly kitten whereas they see the God of the Old Testament as this smiting pitbull of a God. They often point to this passage (and its similar passage at 2 Samuel 6:6-7) as evidence of a spiteful, mean-spirited God. They say that Uzzah was only trying to protect the Ark. That raises the question of … is there a difference between God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Are they not different aspects of the same God just like my dad who was equal parts high expectations and love?

With that idea of the exploring why God would zap Uzzah but yet be the same God that loves us so much that He died on the cross for us, let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that Uzzah died instantly for touching the Ark, but God blessed Obed-edom’s home while it was stored there. This passage demonstrates two of the attributes of God’s character. He is, at the same time, perfectly just and perfectly loving. Great blessings come to those who obey His commands, but punishment comes to those who disobey Him. This punishment may come swiftly and with immediacy, or it may come over time, but it will come. Sometimes, we focus only on God’s loving aspect of his attributes while forgetting that when we sin that God is a God of justice and cannot let disobedience go unnoticed. At other times, we concentrate on all of God’s “smiting” that we miss His blessings to those who obey Him. We cannot fall into a one-sided view of God based on a single aspect of His attributes. Along with God’s blessings comes the responsibility to continue to offer God our obedience to His commands. We must embrace His demands for fairness, honesty, and justice as much as we do His loving kindness and forgiveness.

In this passage, it is a difficult one if you simply look at it in isolation and not in the larger light of all of Scripture. Here, you see this earnest guy named Uzzah who was simply trying to keep the Ark from touching the ground and falling over on its side. For that, you would think Uzzah would get some props for extending himself beyond the call of duty by God. Right? However, we have to look at this passage in the context of the larger story of Scripture.

In Numbers 4:5-15, the Ark was to be only by the Levites, who were to carry it using special carrying poles – they were never to touch the Ark itself. To touch it would result in the death of whomever did it. God allowed His presence to be manifest in and around the Ark. Therefore, with His presence manifesting itself in and around the Ark, it was perfect and holy not because of the Ark itself but because of God. On this side of eternity, nothing imperfect and unholy can be in the presence of God without being consumed by His perfection and holiness. As people of a sinful nature inherited from generation to generation and then us being sinners in and of ourselves (we commit sins daily on our own not to mention we inherit unholiness all the way back to Adam and Eve), we cannot exist in the presence of God in and of our own merit. Therefore, God made specific provisions for the handling of the Ark so that His chosen people would be able to have the Ark near them. David placed the Ark on a cart and followed the Philistine pagan example of handling the Ark rather than God’s commands. Uzzah, though sincere in his desire to protect the Ark, had to face the consequences of the sin of directly touching the Ark – imperfection being consumed by the perfection of God.

How do we reconcile that with a forgiving God that we love to dwell on as we read the New Testament? God is the same God in both places. We must remember that and see that. Here are some examples of God being a God of justice in the New Testament:

The New Testament also has many examples of God as Judge:

  • The Jews for the rejection of Christ (Matthew 21:43-44, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
  • Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10)
  • Herod (Acts 12:21-23)
  • The church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:29-32)

As well, Paul writes of God’s coming justice for each us in his letters to the churches. For example, Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). He also says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Further, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). As well, Paul says, “This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:16). Additionally, other apostles said the same thing. Peter says, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

How can we not see that there is a theme of God’s justice throughout the Old AND the New Testament. Without the justice of God, His love is meaningless. Without His high standard for our obedience to His commands, His love toward us means so much more. Without His justice, his forgiveness is unnecessary and can be seen as an entitlement rather than a gift. Therefore, let us see God like what our earthly fathers are defined as being like as ideal for us. Our earthly fathers, when they are doing their jobs as fathers in the way that benefits us the most is when they are equal parts:

  • tough guy who has defined and in-concrete boundaries for our behavior who exacts consequences from us for having crossed those boundaries – no negotiations, no whining, just accepting the known consequences of known crossings of the fixed boundaries.
  • fun guy who quietly demonstrates to us that he loves us through playing with us, celebrating with us, praising us, and just those looks of satisfaction and approval he can give us.

So, help us Lord not to focus on a single attribute of God at the expense of your multi-faceted attributes. You are a God of many attributes. You are a God of justice and a God of love.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 5 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

I recently saw a meme on Facebook about what’s going to happen with this current global pandemic has died out. It said something to the effect that there will be an explosion of those things that we cannot do right now. The restaurants will have two hour waits. The baseball stadiums will be sold-out. The beaches will be crowded. People will be hugging everyone they see. And other things to that effect.

That got me to thinking about how we ought to be when we get back to church, whenever we are given the go-ahead to have in-person worship services again. I hope and pray that the reaction will be similar to that which is predicted in the secular world where we can get back to enjoying the entertainments and the social gatherings (and the easy availability of toilet paper! LOL!). I hope that when we get back together as churches, we will be like a black churches when they get their praise on! I hope that we will be overjoyed to be together. I hope that we will be exuberant in our praise of God who has seen us through the dark days of the Coronavirus. I hope that Amens will be a part of our normal worship. I hope that we will be free to raise our hands in praise. I hope that we will be free to come to the altar and pray prayers of thanksgiving for what God has done. I hope that we will be open to new ways of expressing our praise in music and in how we personally show it.

There are times that we should be reflective in worship. There are times where we should be somber. Like right now in the midst of this virus, we should be somber and reflective in how we approach God. We should be crying out to Him to see us through this dark valley. And that is right to worship in this way right now. But when we get out of this thing – and we will because of our great God – we should not let social convention, the type of church we are, the denomination we are, or whatever else that holds us back from exuberantly worshiping the Lord, then, we will be wrong at that time. God wants both from us. Somber reflective worship when the times call for it. But when we have been delivered and set on that high ground, we should not let religious inhibitions cause us to contain our joy at what God has done.

With that idea of showing our joy in worship that we see from David (before the error of how the handling of the Ark caused a death), let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that worship in the Old Testament was more than a sober, religious exercise. David’s exuberance as he worshiped God, with dancing and exuberance, is mentioned several times in Scripture, and is thus approved by God. Our worship should reflect a balance of the two. Sometimes, we should be reflective and serious (See Exodus 19:14 and following). Sometimes, we should show enthusiasm and jubilation. David was so awesome that way. He had such a deep relationship with the Lord that He did not care how his praise looked. He simply praised God. He was somber when the situation called for it. But when it was time for all-out praise, David was always all-out in his personal praise. When it was time for all-out praise, David let it all hang out. Can we be that way or will we worry about what others think, when this pandemic is done?

That’s my hope when all this is said and done and things get back to normal. I would love to see my church filled with the people of Lamar that call themselves Methodists to be in our church excited. Let us be a Lamar United Methodist Church that people can hear across the street as we exclaim our joy at what God has done. I want that something good comes from this bad. I want that this church become alive with praise. That church is no longer just something you do on Sunday. That church is something that you can’t wait to get there. That church is where we let our hearts be filled with joy and purpose and that we get energized to reach a community that needs Jesus. That church is our top priority in life. That church is what we arrange our lives around and not the other way around. That we exuberiantly praise Him when we are together and that we have exuberance in sharing the gospel when we are not. That’s the church that I want to emerge from this crisis. A church that has exuberance. A church that can praise like nobody’s watching just like that song about dancing like nobody’s watching. A church with spunk. A church with fire. A church full of praise-filled life!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 4 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

One of the dangers that has worried me as we suffer through the worldwide pandemic of the Coronavirus is what will happen afterwards, particularly in the church – not just mine but all churches. Will we emerge stronger and more hungry? Will we emerge with renewed interest of non-believers in spiritual matters? Will we emerge with no new interest by non-believers and we lose some of the fringe folks that attend our church just because it’s the socially accepted thing? Will the neglect of gathering together as a body of believers of these two Sundays, if not more (and I believe it will be more), cause church to be further weakened in society and even among our own people?

That’s why there are four things that we have to do as the church – not just mine but all churches. First, we must endeavor to stay connected to one another in the fellowship by whatever means possible. If you were supposed to have a women’s small group meeting this week or early next month – figure out ways to create a video and audio link to hold the meeting virtually. Even if you have elderly members of your small groups that cannot handle modern technology and social media, at least get them to call in to the audio number for the virtual small group meeting. That’s just one example of the discipleship meetings that occur throughout the month that could be taken online. We need to stay connected in this way. More intimate settings of small groups need to continue. Further, we need to beef up our other electronic means of communication such as a church app on church member cell phones and improving websites and other social media pages.

Second, we must continue to innovate in the ways that we get our Sunday worship services online and/or before our people. Most of us did Facebook or Youtube Live services this past Sunday. At my own church, I prepared and posted daily devotionals each day during the week that were shorter versions of what I would have preached from the pulpit on March 22nd and this upcoming Sunday on March 29th. On Sundays, March 22nd and March 29th, I did and will upload a 10-minute video message that will summarize the past week’s daily devotions. However, we are quickly approaching two very important dates, Palm Sunday and Easter, on the Christian church calendar if the quarantine is extended beyond the end of March to the end of April.

We must figure out ways to continue to innovate. People will most likely tire of Facebook Live or Youtube Live after this Sunday. We must consider ways to have people physically present but yet still quarantining themselves. One of the things that I have been thinking of (and one of my parishioners talked to me about this too yesterday) for Easter is to have a version of “drive-in theatre” church – where people drive their cars to a parking lot (at church or some other public place), stay in their cars, and we have a sound system set up and such and we just have church right there in the parking lot.

Third, we must as a church and me as a pastor commit to calling and checking on each other by phone or by video chat each day. Parishioners need to make a list of the people within the church and within our community that you come in contact with the most and then check on them periodically and pray with them over the phone or video chat. As a pastor, I have been talking a letter a day from the alphabet and calling all my church members whose last name starts with that letter and call them them. Today, I will be calling all my members whose last names starts with F. Tomorrow will be the G’s and so on.

Fourth, we need to beef up our people management systems in our churches, particularly smaller ones. We were planning to implement a church management software package called ChurchTrac later in this year – sometime in the second half of the year. However, the pandemic has forced us to up the implementation date to NOW. We are working to get it all set up now – the church calendar is set up, the attendance framework is set up, data tagging is complete (so that we can associate a person’s responsibilities and activites at the church with their name), the chart of accounts for the accounting module has been set up, the various rooms for meetings and events have been created for event planning, the online giving system has been set up, and now the names of our members and other regular attenders are being entered into the people database. That’s about 60% done. In the end, we will be able push notifications out to our people, keep them informed, help them track their giving, and to generate our financial reports and other data management activities all within one software package that is all cross-integrated. This will help us to communicate with our people and keep them informed going forward after the pandemic is over as much as it will aid us during.

Why do all this? Well, it’s to keep the church connected to its people. The worse thing that could happen is neglect. If we don’t actively stay in touch with our people, they may ask themselves a question that they may have never asked before – do I really need my church? We want them to answer that question with a resounding yes.

With that idea of preventing neglect of God’s people and God’s Word in mind, let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that the Ark of God was the most sacred object of the Jewish faith. It was a large box containing the stone tablets on which God had personally written the Ten Commandments. David had already made Jerusalem his political capital. At this time, David was bringing the Ark there in order to make Jerusalem the nation’s religious capital as well. The Ark of God had been in Kiriath-jearim for many years. The neglect of the Ark symbolized Israel’s neglect of God. Bringing the Ark back to the center of Israel’s life reflected David’s desire to remind the nation of its true foundation – God. Neglecting those things that remind us of God – the Bible, the church and contact with Christians – can cause us to also neglect God.

Oh Father, help us to continue to feed the sheep and keep the sheep from wandering away. Help us to be ready to accept new sheep into the herd when we are done with this pandemic. Help us to emerge as a stronger church and a church that is reaching more people. Help us to turn this bad thing into something useful for the kingdom.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 3 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

Yesterday, we talked about David’s fatal flaw in this passage was the fact that He did not seek God’s will through prayer before going through his decision-making process. It flawed the whole process from the beginning, regardless of what he did right following that. We must seek God’s desire for our actions first no matter what. We must go to God in prayer before making any decision – even before consulting trusted friends or your direct reports if you are a leader. That’s the starting point – always. However, given that egregious error, the process that followed was an example of David’s leadership qualities. He consulted with his direct reports and allowed them to weigh in on the decision and in doing so, got buy in for the decision. It also reflects David’s savvy in choosing his leaders.

One of the things that I did in December as we were heading into the new year as a church was to have individual meetings with each ministry area leader or ministry area leadership team. These meetings were held to develop the ministry goals for each area of ministry of the church for 2020. In each of those meetings I asked them what their dreams were for their ministry area. Then, we looked at those dreams and determine what, if any, parts of those dreams could be, practically, implemented within the coming 12 months of 2020. The thing that I learned from the process was that they had not been asked to dream before. So, the whole process was new to them. Maybe, they really had not been asked to think such things before. Maybe, they had never been asked to think beyond “oh one day I hope we can…” and actually take that hope and make it a reality. The results have been mixed so far but that was to be expected. Changing the culture of leadership to one of goal-making and moving the entire army forward is one that will take a while.

I learned some things in the process. First, I need to start the process sooner when we begin planning for 2021. I need to start it in October instead of December. I need to have my “dream the dream” meetings in October so that my leaders have time to personally process their dreams and so that they do not default to whatever my dreams might be. My dreams are already in 2022 or 2023 so I can’t let that affect their dream processing for the immediate next year. They need time to develop dreams that they are willing to own and not just say yes to what maybe my oversized dreams. They need to have time to process that. Second, I need to make sure that they have time to come back a second time with me in December to finalize the dreams that they are willing to buy into. Third, I must ensure that they have formal dream meetings with their own team members in November so that they can have time to flesh out the dreams that their entire team is willing to buy off on and these November meeting need to occur without me present so that they can talk freely among themselves about what needs to happen in the coming year in their ministry area. Fourth, size down the dreams for each individual year instead of trying to accomplish a whole bunch of things in one year. We need to have like one main goal for each ministry area each year. Each ministry committee then within itself may have multiple sub-goals to meet that one overall ministry goal but that’s on them. I just need to have agreement with each ministry area leader on that one goal they are willing to be accountable to.

Without time for the process as laid out above, the dreams were not fleshed out well enough and there was not time for complete buy-in. Thus, a hard leadership lesson has been learned. Buy-in takes time. Dreaming takes time. Leadership development takes time. So, I need to give it time if I want real buy-in.

With that idea of seeking buy-in for ministry decisions, let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that David took time to confer with all his direct reports, the various leaders within his army. As king, he had ultimate authority and could have given orders on his own, but he chose to involve others in leadership. Perhaps, that is why there was unanimous support for his decision. When we are in charge, it is tempting to make unilateral decisions. However, effective leaders listen carefully to other’s opinions and they encourage others to participate in making decisions.

In this particular case, the decision process was far too short and his leaders really didn’t have time to process what they were committing to. As well, they did not have time to instruct their own men beneath them as to what was to be done. Uzzah paid for the rash decision making process with his life. In my own ministry, I was too hasty and too late getting the goal setting process started. It has already resulted in some goals not gaining the buy-in necessary to make them happen in 2020. The hastiness of the dream process was a mistake that will be corrected when it comes time for dreaming the dreams for 2021. David recalibrated his dream for bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. He actually took time the second time around to allow for deeper thought by everyone about how to achieve the dreams. I will learn from David when it comes to 2021. Allow the time for sensible, achievable dreams to be found and agreed upon.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 2 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

Have you ever tried to take a shortcut in doing something and it ended up causing you more work? In that situation, if you had just taken the time to do it right the first time, you would have had less work overall. I remember when I was a pre-teen back in the early 70’s, Alice Cooper was the big name musical artist in rock ‘n’ roll. He was huge back in those days. In the days before online ticket ordering services where tickets are sold out online long before they go on sale in brick and mortar locations, his concert opening day ticket sales would produce long, long lines at the ticket offices of the venues he was to play at. His shows were always sold out. Although he was a heavy metal artist, his lyrics were insightful at times, playful at times, but always well-written. His live shows were to say the least entertaining. He was big in the early 70’s through the late 70’s when disco took over. So, when I was around 10 or 11, though I loved his music, I was not old enough to go see him in concert.

One night though, he was going to be on the Grammy Awards show performing live. We had this little black and white TV on the kitchen counter. I was going to watch the Grammys there on that TV because dad didn’t want to “listen to all that racket” – referring to the heavy metal music of the era that was the dominant art form in rock n roll at the time. So, right as the Grammys were coming on, my dad asked me if I had taken my bath. I said no because I was waiting to see Alice Cooper on television. He said he didn’t care and that it was the same time of night every night that I had to take my bath, Alice Cooper or not. Well, me being me, bath be damned, I was seeing Alice Cooper. So, I went to the bathroom and ran the littlest amount of water in the tub as possible and took the quickest bath that a 10-year old has ever taken. I then ran back to the little TV in the kitchen and sat down. Phew. I had not missed Alice Cooper. Every commercial was saying things like “Up Next…blah, and blah, and Alice Cooper” or “still to come…blah and blah and blah and Alice Cooper!” However, my father knew that I had taken very liberal shortcuts with my bathing that night. He said there was no way that I could have bathed that fast. So, he made me go do it all over again. He supervised the running of the water – which seemed to take FOREVER! He then watched as I got in the tub and watched as I started the whole bathing routine. He said then as he was leaving the bathroom that he did not want to see me coming out of there for at least 10 minutes. I want you to be fully clean when you get out of the tub, he said. It was torture to have to go through the full routine, fearing that I would miss Alice Cooper’s live performance. Sure enough, when I got back to the little TV in the kitchen, they were just cutting away from Alice Cooper and the band and back to the emcee for the Grammy Awards show. I had missed it. I was crushed. I was angry at Dad and I was angry at myself. If I had just taken a good bath the first time, I would have not missed my favorite rock n roll artist at that time in my life.

With that idea of just doing things right the first time, let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that David had consulted with all his officials but he neglected to ask God. The advice of our friends and colleagues, while it can be valuable, is not substitute for seeking God’s direction. The next time David tried to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, he was careful to handle it correctly.

Instead of handling the Ark as it was supposed to have been handled (as directed by God), David had the Ark put on a cart, following the Philistine example rather than following God’s specific instructions. Uzzah’s act, though sincere, was out of compliance with God’s commands and therefore he suffered. David was angry that a well-meaning man had been killed and that his plans for a joyous return of the Ark had been spoiled. He, for sure, knew that it was his fault for taking a shortcut and not handling the Ark properly. After cooling down, he had the Ark put in temporary storage while he waited to see if the Lord would allow him to bring it to Jerusalem. This also gave David time to consider the proper way, the God-directed way, to transport the Ark. If David had simply obeyed God’s commands on the handling of the Ark the first time, Uzzah would not have died. The Ark carried the Holy Presence of God and thus could not be touched by anything unholy (as man is) lest it be consumed. David knew this as good as anybody, but he listened to others and wanted to get the Ark to Jerusalem quickly. He took a shortcut. He did not obey God’s Word.

Aren’t we like that sometimes, we try to take shortcuts around God’s Word just to get what we want? Let us examine ourselves for the ways that we are taking shortcuts around obeying God and justifying it because we want this or we want that. Let us remember God’s Word is not suggestions. Let us remember that we are called to be obedient to God’s Word even when it is not convenient to what we want. Let us remember to be obedient to God’s Word even when our culture tells us to take a shortcut around it. Let us be obedient when God’s Word is considered out of step and out of sync with the culture. Let us be an obedient people who take no shortcuts around our obedience to God’s Word. Let us not be like 10 year old Mark who took a shortcut with his bath, had to do it over, and missed his favorite musical artist. Let us just simply obey God’s Word the first time around and not have to backtrack through the consequences of disobedience.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 1 of 5)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

There was an old song by Bruce Springsteen called “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” that was released in 1980 as part of his landmark double album, The River. The title to that song seems appropriate as we begin a 5-part look at this one passage. There is so much in this passage. It is a complex passage that you must chew on for awhile before moving on to the next passage.

In the Springsteen song, the chorus goes like this:

You can look but you better not touch boy

You can look but you better not touch boy

Mess around and you’ll end up in dutch boy

You can look but you better not, no you better not, no you better not touch

It is a song about how we are subject to others’ rules in life and we often never have it explained why we are not qualified to be in the same area as some things in life. Sometimes, we are excluded from being places because we don’t earn enough money. We are excluded because we were born on the wrong side of the tracks and so on. Nobody explains to us why some can touch and some cannot. It’s just the way of the world. That unfairness of the world is the source of the song’s angst.

In today’s Bible passage, 1 Chronicles 13:1-14, we have to address this whole seemingly unfair thing of Uzzah being zapped by God. He died right there. He died doing what He thought was the right thing. He died because you can look but you better not touch. That just seems so capricious of God. Let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that Uzzah was only trying to protect the Ark, so that brings up the question as to whether God’s anger was just. According to Numbers 4:5-15, the Ark was to be moved only be the Levites, who were to carry it using the carry poles prescribed by God. They were to never touch the Ark. The Ark is where the presence of God manifested itself, at that time, to the people of God. Therefore, the Ark represented the pure holiness of God. Since we are descended from Adam and inherited sin from him, we have an unholy nature. Then, add to that, because of our inherited propensity for sinning, we commit our first sins very early in life and compound that unholiness with each and every sin that follows. We are so dark in our unholiness, on our own merits, when compared to a God who is pure holiness. Uzzah, then, brought his unholy nature in contact with the perfect holiness of God. Something had to give. Each one of us, because of our sin nature and our compounded amounts of a lifetime of sins, cannot exist in the presence of God, on our own. We would be consumed and die if we came into the presence of God while living on this side of eternity. In other words, if God chose to reveal himself to us in a theophany on this side of heaven, we would be unable to be in His physical presence without out being consumed. Our unholiness would kill us in the presence of His holiness. The only way that Moses survived is because he followed God’s directions for being in the presence of the Lord.

Further, since heaven is a place of perfect holiness because it is the place where God dwells, we are not qualified to be participants in the splendors and wonders and perfection of heaven. We are thus condemned to eternity in the imperfect place of pain and eternal anguish in hell along with other imperfect sinners who also in their own merit did not qualify to spend eternity in the perfect and holy presence of God.

As you may note, I have kept saying in these previous few paragraphs, “own our own” or “in their own merit”. As you can see the perfection and holiness of God is a pretty high standard and none of us, on our own, is able to match that because of our sin nature and our accumulated lifetime of sins. The natural thing is to say, “we’re screwed!” And we are, on our own merits. That’s what makes Jesus so vitally important to us as imperfect, sinful, and unholy humans. Jesus’ death on the cross pays the penalty for our accumulated sins and our basic sin nature. He already paid the eternal consequence for our being unholy and having sinned. Through his own holiness, Jesus, being God in the flesh, is the only one in history of man to be qualified as a totally sinless and perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. As a result of his paying our penalty on the cross, he clothes us in his perfection, holiness, and righteousness. It is only through Jesus’ perfection that we can be in the presence of God on this side of eternity if God so chose to reveal Himself to us in a theophany or on that side of eternity in heaven where we wish to reside in our eternal state. Without Jesus’ imputing His perfect holiness to us, when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord, then we are not holy enough to be in heaven. Through Him, we are. It’s all on Jesus and not us. He is our set of carrying poles for us to be in the presence of God.

So, what sounds like a capricious act of God has everything to do with holiness. And it reminds us of our need for Jesus Christ. For we, even when we are trying to act all perfect and churchified, are nothing but tainted sinners destined for hell in the absence of the imputed holiness and righteous that we receive from Jesus Christ. On our own, we just don’t have it in us. We are unholy. God is holy. Jesus is the bridge from our unholiness to God’s holiness. Jesus is more than just some nice guy that we should emulate. He is more than a radical rabbi railing against the established order of the world and of religion. He is more than one of many options. He is more all that. He is the necessity for us to be able to be in the presence of God for all eternity.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:23-40 (Part 2 of 2)

Warriors Join David’s Army

This morning in my own personal devotional time as I walk through the book of 1 Chronicles (completely separate from my pastoral devotions that I will be posting from the book of Matthew while we are in shutdown mode due to the Coronavirus scare), I am today in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40. In today’s personal devotion on that passage, the thing that struck me for today was the lavish way in which Israel celebrate David’s coronation as king. There was a Kool and The Gang song released in 1980 whose catchphrase was “Celebrate good times, c’mon!” That’s what the Israelites were doing when David became king. They were celebrating the dawn of a new era after a dark time in Israel’s history. The civil war was over. It was time to celebrate good times, c’mon! Right now, in our time, it may seem like the wrong song to have playing in your head, but let’s talk about that!

It reminds us that our time of hiatus from being able to have in-person fellowship with other believers during this Coronavirus pandemic is comparable to the time of Saul as king after he went nuts trying to get rid of David. It was a dark time for the Israelite people. Because Saul focused so much of his time and the nation’s resources on finding David’s rebel army and stamping it out, it is comparable to the moment in which we live. All resources and governmental attention are being focused away from the normal everyday operations of the government in our moment in time. It was a time in Israel in which Saul and his henchmen suspected everyone and I imagine Israel became like a police state. It won’t be out of the realm of possibility that we will find ourselves in a police state if this virus gets any worse. In Italy, it is already that way where people are not being allowed to move freely and there are checkpoints everywhere. So these are comparably bad times for the people of God in both times in the history of God’s people.

There is no telling at this point how bad this pandemic will become. It is growing exponentially every day. The economic impact of social distancing if it continues for any length of time will destroy every bit of the gains that the economy has made during the past 12 years of economic expansion, particularly the expansion of the last three years. This thing could get really bad economically on a global basis if the pandemic stretches into the summer. Not to mention the death toll from this virus.

There are some that say that this is God’s judgment on mankind that He sends regularly to mankind to demonstrate to us that we are straying from him just as Israel did in the post-Solomon era. Maybe, it is and maybe it is just. I cannot claim to know that such a claim is true or not. There was certainly evidence prior to the virus that our world was straying from God at an exponential rate equivalent to the spread of the virus. There are some who think that it is simply that we live in a fallen world where death and disease are part of life. Since the first sin occurred, the Bible tells us that the earth itself groans under the weight of man’s sins and its ripple effects. We have certainly genetically engineered a world that bites us back every so often and the rate at which it does grows exponentially with each passing decade. We have altered foods and animals to make the earth more productive. We have medicated ourselves into living longer individually on average than man has ever lived in the history of mankind. All these alterations of God’s original earth system certainly in some ways plays a role in unleashing unwanted mutations of diseases that we are not built to handle as humans. So, there is evidence of varying kinds that we ourselves have played a role in what is happening in our world right now – through straying from God, through altering the world that God gave us at creation.

However, it has always been true throughout the history of God’s people in the Bible and through the prophecies of the future in the Bible that there is always hope for His people. First, he promises us provision and protection while here on earth for those who have full faith in Him. Second, even if in His providence He sees fit to allow us to be taken from this world through death, our reward is heaven – which according to what I believe from the Bible is a far, far better place than here on this side of eternity.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning was the outpouring of joy of the Israelite people at David’s coronation. The tough time was over and they were overjoyed. They gave praise and did so lavishly. Let’s read this passage now with that in mind:

23 These are the numbers of armed warriors who joined David at Hebron. They were all eager to see David become king instead of Saul, just as the Lord had promised.

24 From the tribe of Judah, there were 6,800 warriors armed with shields and spears.

25 From the tribe of Simeon, there were 7,100 brave warriors.

26 From the tribe of Levi, there were 4,600 warriors. 27 This included Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, who had 3,700 under his command. 28 This also included Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 members of his family who were all officers.

29 From the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s relatives, there were 3,000 warriors. Most of the men from Benjamin had remained loyal to Saul until this time.

30 From the tribe of Ephraim, there were 20,800 brave warriors, each highly respected in his own clan.

31 From the half-tribe of Manasseh west of the Jordan, 18,000 men were designated by name to help David become king.

32 From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

33 From the tribe of Zebulun, there were 50,000 skilled warriors. They were fully armed and prepared for battle and completely loyal to David.

34 From the tribe of Naphtali, there were 1,000 officers and 37,000 warriors armed with shields and spears.

35 From the tribe of Dan, there were 28,600 warriors, all prepared for battle.

36 From the tribe of Asher, there were 40,000 trained warriors, all prepared for battle.

37 From the east side of the Jordan River—where the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh lived—there were 120,000 troops armed with every kind of weapon.

38 All these men came in battle array to Hebron with the single purpose of making David the king over all Israel. In fact, everyone in Israel agreed that David should be their king. 39 They feasted and drank with David for three days, for preparations had been made by their relatives for their arrival. 40 And people from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. Vast supplies of flour, fig cakes, clusters of raisins, wine, olive oil, cattle, sheep, and goats were brought to the celebration. There was great joy throughout the land of Israel

In this passage, we see that the people were ready for change. They had suffered under Saul’s leadership because of his disobedience to God (See 1 Chronicles 10:13). They were so overjoyed with David’s coronation that they contributed lavishly to the celebration. It is right and proper to celebrate when God has seen us through a tough time. It is right and proper to hold on to that joy even in the midst of hard times. Knowing that there will be celebration one way or another through our belief in God is what we have to hold onto in dark days. Celebrate good times, c’mon!

So, as we trudge through these dark days of the Coronavirus outbreak, let us remember that we can have joy. We know that there is a celebration coming. God will provide for us even in the darkest days. We can have joy in our child-like trust in Him even in the darkest days. That sliver of hope is what gets us through the toughest times. When we see the tough times as a way to deepen our trust in God. When we see that Psalm 46:1-7 is so true:

1 God is our refuge and strength,

    always ready to help in times of trouble.

2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come

    and the mountains crumble into the sea.

3 Let the oceans roar and foam.

    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,

    the sacred home of the Most High.

5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.

    From the very break of day, God will protect it.

6 The nations are in chaos,

    and their kingdoms crumble!

God’s voice thunders,

    and the earth melts!

7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

    the God of Israel[b] is our fortress.

we can find hope even in the darkest of times. How can we have hope in times such as these? Because we believe in a mighty God! There is even cause to celebrate in the midst of the trouble. Even in the darkest times of my life and I have had my share, there is always that sliver of hope that God gives us to enable us to carry on. There is a basic joy that allows us to have joy at times like these. It allows us to see the joys of the moments of life – the laugh of your grandchild over something silly, the beauty of a sunset, the calm that comes from a good conversation about life with your spouse, the watching your cat freak out playing with and chase a leaf around the yard. There is room for joy in times like these. It’s just that you have to look a little harder right now, but it’s there and it’s from God. Celebrate good times, c’mon!

Then, when this is all over and done with and we have survived the dark days, we should celebrate God’s seeing us through it with unbridled passion. Those days of rolling over on Sunday morning should be gone. Let’s celebrate lavishly what God will have done for his people. Let’s fill our churches with joyous celebration of God’s provision and protection. Let’s be among the fellowship of believers every chance we get. No more spiritual apathy! No more wondering what the worth of church is! No more standing on the sidelines. Let’s celebrate what God has done. No more just going through the motions of going to church because that’s what we’ve always done. God will have provided real evidence that belief in Him is tangible and real and meaningful! Let us really, lavishly celebrate that when we do get through this crisis with God’s provision and protection! Celebrate good times, c’mon!

And, too, if God decides that you and I will not make it through this crisis, what joy will be awaiting us on the other side of eternity in heaven! There is a reason for joy no matter what the circumstance! Death has no victory over us! In death, we become citizens of the eternal city! That is a cause for hope! That is a cause for a lavish celebration in your heart and soul! Celebrate good times, c’mon!

So, there is joy now and there will be joy after this crisis is over no matter how it is resolved for you and for me. Celebrate good times, c’mon! Celebrate like the Israelites when David became king! Celebrate good times, c’mon!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:23-40 (Part 1 of 2)

Warriors Join David’s Army

This morning in my own personal devotional time as I walk through the book of 1 Chronicles (completely separate from my pastoral devotions that I will be posting from the book of Matthew while we are in shutdown mode due to the Coronavirus scare), I am today in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40. In today’s personal devotion on that passage, the thing that struck me for today was the part of this passage about the tribe of Issachar. There, it says that the leaders of that tribe were in tune “with the signs of the time.” That just jumped out at me.

That’s the thing that has been striking me hardest during this unprecedented time that we are now living in. In all my 57 years of living, I have never seen society so completely shut down by a health scare as we have been by this Coronavirus. We have had health scares before. Even the AIDS scare of the early 1980’s was miniscule compared to this in the way that it has completely and quickly shut down societal interactions and the business of the world as this thing has. Many people are in panic mode. Many people are scared and think this is an apocalyptic event and going into hoarding and into survivalist mode.

That’s where we of the universal church with a little c which is made up of all the churches of the Christian faith have an opportunity now to, in my opinion, “put up or shut up!” In that statement, I mean that for decades now, particularly in this last decade, we have taken an embattled mentality in the church. We see a world that is seemingly shaking its fist at God and saying that we don’t believe you anymore. Every social custom and cultural morality that had its roots in the Christian faith in society have been ripped to shreds. It seems that society no longer lives by the standards established by God in the Bible and seems to revel in that fact. As the church, we have come to talk about the world as us vs. them. We have come to see the world as going to hell in a handbasket and we want nothing to do with it. At the same token, we complain about our church’s being empty and wonder why no one seems to care about church anymore. Further, there are two and three generations of families that have never darkened the doors of churches and have really no clue what Jesus Christ represents other than He is significant in the history of man, that he is a great philosopher, an anti-establishment rebel rabbi that had some cool stuff to say about love. That is, if they know anything about Him at all. As a result, we who are churchgoers often looking at the world nowadays and shaking our heads. We feel marginalized in a world that seems to revel in the very things that the Bible says we should not revel in.

The put up or shut up time is now. It is now the time that we have an opportunity to re-establish the church of our Savior and Lord as relevant once again. Let’s read this passage about David’s being established as king of all Israel and particularly about that part of the passage about the tribe of Issachar. Let’s read it now:

23 These are the numbers of armed warriors who joined David at Hebron. They were all eager to see David become king instead of Saul, just as the Lord had promised.

24 From the tribe of Judah, there were 6,800 warriors armed with shields and spears.

25 From the tribe of Simeon, there were 7,100 brave warriors.

26 From the tribe of Levi, there were 4,600 warriors. 27 This included Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, who had 3,700 under his command. 28 This also included Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 members of his family who were all officers.

29 From the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s relatives, there were 3,000 warriors. Most of the men from Benjamin had remained loyal to Saul until this time.

30 From the tribe of Ephraim, there were 20,800 brave warriors, each highly respected in his own clan.

31 From the half-tribe of Manasseh west of the Jordan, 18,000 men were designated by name to help David become king.

32 From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

33 From the tribe of Zebulun, there were 50,000 skilled warriors. They were fully armed and prepared for battle and completely loyal to David.

34 From the tribe of Naphtali, there were 1,000 officers and 37,000 warriors armed with shields and spears.

35 From the tribe of Dan, there were 28,600 warriors, all prepared for battle.

36 From the tribe of Asher, there were 40,000 trained warriors, all prepared for battle.

37 From the east side of the Jordan River—where the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh lived—there were 120,000 troops armed with every kind of weapon.

38 All these men came in battle array to Hebron with the single purpose of making David the king over all Israel. In fact, everyone in Israel agreed that David should be their king. 39 They feasted and drank with David for three days, for preparations had been made by their relatives for their arrival. 40 And people from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. Vast supplies of flour, fig cakes, clusters of raisins, wine, olive oil, cattle, sheep, and goats were brought to the celebration. There was great joy throughout the land of Israel

In this passage, we see that the 200 leaders from the tribe of Issachar “understood the signs of the times.” As a result, their knowledge and judgment provided needed help in making decisions for the nation. For church leaders, it’s equally necessary to know what is happening in society in order to plan the best course of action for the church. Knowledge of current events, trends, and needs helps us understand the thoughts and attitudes of the larger culture in which we operate. This understanding gives leaders information to help them make wise decisions for the church and make God’s message relevant to people’s lives.

Thus, this passage with its reference to “the signs of the times” is so relevant to us as the church at this moment in time. We have been complaining that the world no longer sees us as valid, no longer sees us as relevant. With the scale of this societal shutdown and with the possibility that it will not reach its peak for another month or two, people who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and the peace of the soul that comes with that will be looking for something to believe in, something to hold on to. We have a unique moment in time both individually as Christians and corporately together as individual churches of the Christian faith to show how we are relevant once again to the society that has for decades tried to marginalize and shun us. We have a unique moment in time to demonstrate that there is more to life than just this mortal existence in this life on this side of eternity. We have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that at death we have two options – to spend it with God in heaven or to spend it separated from Him in hell. We have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that we are sinners and the rampant disregard for God does indeed bring judgment to us all, individually and to this entire planet. We have a unique opportunity to share the gospel. We have a unique opportunity to demonstrate how Jesus provides us with the peace that we know that even if this life on this side of eternity ends that we have security in where we will spend our afterlife. We have peace knowing that Jesus died for our sins and our belief in Him provides us with that security. People will be looking for something to hold on to and we must give it to them by sharing the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. We must understand the “signs of the times” and seize the day. Further, as churches, we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and outside our walls and meet real needs of people that are suffering right now so that we can have opportunities, earned opportunities, to share Jesus Christ with people that we otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so. We must understand the “signs of the times” and seize the opportunities. Otherwise, we will demonstrate to the world that we really are not relevant to their lives.

Amen and Amen.