Archive for April, 2020

1 Chronicles 16:43-7:15

The Lord’s Covenant Promise to David

At first when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:43-7:15, I said to myself that there had to be a deeper reason why David did not get to build the Temple for the Lord. All we have in this specific passage is the command not to build. We have to move over to 1 Chronicles 22:7-8 to find out why God did not allow David to build the Temple. There, it says that it is because David was a man of war and that God wanted the Temple to be built by a man of peace. I can see that.

By the time that Solomon was able to start and complete the building of the Temple, Israel was finally in an extended period of peace. Israel was at the height of its regional power under the Davidic/Solomonic reign, particularly in the time of Solomon. Therefore, there would be no distractions to what was the greatest building project of the Israelite nation up to that point. The building of the Temple consumed the focus of the brightest engineers, artisans, project managers, and other elite minds as well as the labor of many, many Israelites and foreign indentured servants. Thus, any war efforts would have drawn away from the project. It would have been one of those trying to do two things at once and, as a result, doing them both poorly. Thus, God wanted to wait for there to be a time when there was a long period of peace for Israel. Thus, in God’s omniscience, He knew that there would be such a time in the reign of Solomon – and thus, Solomon would be a man of peace whereas his father was a man of war.

It also got me to thinking about David’s role in the building of the Temple was important though and maybe more so, though the Temple is often affectionately referred to as Solomon’s Temple. In David’s time, God would not allow Him to build the temple, but God did give David the design through revelation and inspiration. David did two important things without which Solomon would not have been able to pull off such a magnificent construction feat in his own life (given the technology of the day). David, with God’s direction, came up with the design. He then evaluated the design and determined every material needed and the quantities thereof. He determined the lengths, widths, sizes, and such of everything related to the Temple’s construction. He then went about procuring those materials in their various shapes, sizes and forms. He then warehoused these goods in an organized fashion and in such a way that the first materials needed would be nearest the Temple site and so on. He was the very definition of “laying the groundwork” for Solomon’s construction of the Temple.

Isn’t that what we have to do sometimes in life and sometimes particularly as a pastor while serving a church for a period of time. In our situations in life, whether it’s your job in the secular world, or mine in the pastoral world, we may have to be the ones that do David’s job as noted here. Let’s read the passage of 1 Chronicles 16:43-17:15, with that idea in mind:

16:43 Then all the people departed to their homes, and David went home to bless his household.

17:1 Now when David settled in his house, David said to the prophet Nathan, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “Do all that you have in mind, for God is with you.”

3 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: 4 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: You shall not build me a house to live in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle.[a] 6 Wherever I have moved about among all Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar? 7 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; 8 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall wear them down no more, as they did formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will subdue all your enemies.

Moreover I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. 15 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

In this passage, we see that David felt disturbed that the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, sat in a tent while he lived in a beautiful palace. David’s desire was right but his timing was wrong. God told David not to build His Temple and David was willing to abide by God’s timing. God says here that He did not really need a temple but He was pleased at David’s desire to honor Him in this way. The thing to grasp here is that with the pressure off of getting the Temple built during his lifetime, David could focus on gathering the finest of the finest materials. And, later, David’s son, Solomon, did not have to worry over procurement, all he had to focus on was the building of the temple. Although Solomon gets the credit for the building of the Temple, it would not have been as easy for Solomon to have built the bright, shiny Temple without the lifetime of David gathering the finest of materials.

Getting back now to the idea I presented before we read the passage. Here, we have seen that God does not immediately give David the reason why he was not being allowed to build the Temple. However, David and Solomon between them performed the entire building process. Design and Procurement was David and Construction Management was Solomon. Solomon received the accolades for the finished product. From historical information that we have available to us in the Bible and outside the Bible, Solomon’s Temple was quite the magnificent structure. It was unrivaled in all of the Middle East. However, David set Solomon up for success.

When you look at your job you have now, you may be laying the groundwork for some future successor to have great success in your position. For example, in my previous career and my last position as finance director for my company, I set the next guy up perfectly for success. When I arrived at that company a decade earlier, the finance group was in total disarray and no one within our two layers of parent companies (all the way up to overall corporate in Japan) did not trust the financial reports or anything financial be reported from our business unit. It took several years to get it all straightened out. It took several more to establish policies and procedures that were consistent and consistently applied such that every financial report of our company became the most trusted in the organization. It took several years too to get all the right personnel in the right positions – the right people in the right seats. By the time I left there to become a full-time pastor over two years ago now, the finance department of our business unit was the most trusted in the entire organization. We even went through an accounting system change and implementation while I was there. We got all the bugs worked out with that and the reporting systems were running smoothly when I left. The next guy who was to come in after me was coming into a well-oiled machine and thus could concentrate on higher issues rather than having to lay the groundwork from the simplest levels to the highest levels like I did. All they gotta do is build upon the foundations that I laid down. The same may well be true for you in your position at your secular job right now. Always leave your job better than you found it. Always set your successor up for greater success than you had. Be the David to Solomon for the next guy who comes in and takes your position at your company after you leave. Leaving it better than you found it and setting the next guy up for success is glorifying to God.

The same is true for me in my current ministry position. It may be my calling at this church to reset the culture from what it is now to an eye toward being a more impactful church in our sphere of influence. It may well be my job here to ready this church for future growth and success for the kingdom of God. All my experience in the secular world and my experiences in leadership and pastoral ministry in larger, modern worship style churches may all be necessary for me to be able to see the amazing potential of this church and so create the culture and lay the groundwork for the future and for the future success of the pastor who follows me here. Always leave the church you serve better than you found it. Always set your successor pastor up for greater success than you had. Be the David to Solomon for the next guy who serves this church. That may be God’s task and assignment for you at this church. Do it to the glory of God!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:37-42 (Part 2 of 2)

Worship at Jerusalem and Gibeon

I think the interesting thing here is we see the name of Obed-edom again. He was the guy who kept the Ark at his house after the Uzzah incident put a halt to carrying the Ark to Jerusalem. Obed, I will call him that for short, simply served God in whatever way he could. He did what needed to be done. And whatever he did he gave it his best and his highest and his most. How do you think he ended up being a gatekeeper? It’s because David saw that Obed considered it a privilege to host the Ark at his house for those several months it was there. It was an honor to him. He took care of the Ark. He did what needed to be done with passion for the Lord. As a result, we see his name again here. He just loved the Lord and did what needed to be done. He gave it his best whatever job it was. It was not some side job that he fit in when he could. Giving glory to the Lord was not something he just did on a required occasion. No matter what is what he gave his utmost for His Highest. These subtle reminders about Obed are instructional to me and should be for you too. His name keeps popping up – as a person who is there and doing what was needed because he apparently WANTED to do that. It was not some forced or obligatory thing to him. He WANTED it.

That got me to thinking about how in church today how people often think of church as an add-on to their lives. It reminds me of the book of Malachi. This prophet got all over the Israelites for bringing the Lord what amounted to their leftover sacrificial animals instead of their finest and their best. We often do that in today’s church. We fit church around our schedules instead of fitting our schedules around church. Everything secular seems more important sometimes than church even to some Christians. That was the question that came to mind this morning. Am I giving my church my best, my all, my highest importance, my firstfruits, my excellence, am I all-in when it comes to my church? And that’s the question for you too, this morning.

Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 16:37-42, now with this question about giving God your best in mind:

37 David arranged for Asaph and his fellow Levites to serve regularly before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, doing whatever needed to be done each day. 38 This group included Obed-edom (son of Jeduthun), Hosah, and sixty-eight other Levites as gatekeepers.

39 Meanwhile, David stationed Zadok the priest and his fellow priests at the Tabernacle of the Lord at the place of worship in Gibeon, where they continued to minister before the Lord. 40 They sacrificed the regular burnt offerings to the Lord each morning and evening on the altar set aside for that purpose, obeying everything written in the Law of the Lord, as he had commanded Israel. 41 David also appointed Heman, Jeduthun, and the others chosen by name to give thanks to the Lord, for “his faithful love endures forever.” 42 They used their trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments to accompany their songs of praise to God.[a] And the sons of Jeduthun were appointed as gatekeepers.

In this passage, we see that Asaph and fellow Levites ministered in the Tabernacle, doing whatever was needed each day. Also, we see Obed-edom’s name mentioned again having to do here with the Ark or the Tabernacle. To carry out God’s work is not merely to engage in religious exercises. It includes other necessary tasks. Even you are not the preacher of your church or the worship pastor or anyone else who gets “stage time” at your church, God can use you in ministry.

Everything is important when it comes to (1) making the worship, learning and fellowship opportunities for our present members to be enriching and (2) making these experiences for newcomers to be so compelling that they will come back and come back again. When we give whatever our volunteer job is at church our highest and our best, it provides our people and our guests with experiences that are professionally done and done with excellence. When there is evidence that we done give our volunteer jobs at church our very best, people will tune us out and they will not experience what we want them to experience. Statistics prove that people who visit churches will make up their mind within the first 15 minutes on your church campus as to whether they will return or not. We must give our church volunteer jobs the same excellence that we give in our jobs. We must view our volunteer opportunities at church as potentially being the difference between someone coming to Christ or NOT! Hopefully, that’s enough motivation to give our volunteer jobs at church our highest and our best no matter what that job may be. It all matters!

What needs to be done – cleaning the church before and after Sunday activities, preparing the sanctuary for services in prayer, greeting regular attendees and guests as they arrive, teaching a class, being an usher, being part of the security team, serving coffee and donuts during meet and greet time before and between services (if your church has multiple services), working as a parking lot attendant, being a member of the choir or worship team, being part of the accounting team (that prepares Sunday’s collections for deposit), being a leader of a small group that meets at a time other than Sunday before services, being an outreach team member who helps the church do things to impact the community with the love of Christ, being part of a mission team to a domestic or foreign location, being part of a tech team that helps with the sound and video for Sunday mornings and for special events, just to name a few of the ways that you can help your church. All of the jobs are necessary. It’s not about screen time or stage time, it’s about giving your church your best and most excellent service so that God is glorified. God is glorified when present members’ walks with Jesus are deepened and broadened or when an unsaved person is compelled by the Spirit through being in our church to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ.

Satan will use any excuse to contaminate the unsaved person’s mind about an experience at church. For example, if we do not do our best in our volunteer jobs at church that can be a reason Satan latches onto with a person visiting us. If the parking lot attendant is inattentive and doesn’t help, that could be a reason. If the greeters are in a bad mood, that could be a reason. If the Sunday School teacher appears to not even have studied the lesson for today and goes on a rant about something that has nothing to do with the lesson for today, that could be a reason. If the ushers don’t have the right information about what’s going on at church, that could be a reason. If the worship service is filled with mistakes, that could be a reason. If the pastor appears to have written his sermon late last night, that could be a reason. If there is no one available in the nursery, that could be a reason. If the rooms are dirty, that could be a reason. If the rooms look like they are stuck in the 1950’s, that could be a reason. If outreach events look as though they were thrown together with leftover supplies and leftover time, that could be a reason. If it takes forever for their contribution check to clear the bank, that could be a reason. If youth leaders are not passionate about Christ and about teaching kids and teenagers about him, that could be a reason. If they do not feel secure in the building, that could be a reason. Any one or a number of these failures could prevent someone from returning to our church. Further, any one or a number of these failures could cause one or more of our regular attendees to simply tune out and get absolutely nothing out of worship or teaching experiences at our campus. Satan will use whatever he can to shut the garage door of our souls whether we are unsaved or saved. He doesn’t want us to get anything out of being at a church event.

No matter what our volunteer job is at church, we must give it the same excellence and the same priority as we give our money earning jobs. Why? Because it is for the Lord. Because it could be the difference between (1) a believer having those a-ha moments that deepen their faith and (2) an unsaved visitor to our campuses coming back again and again and then coming to Jesus as their Savior or NOT. Would you give your earthly job, your second best or leftovers or just work it in when you can? With church, we could be the difference in the timing of when someone comes to Christ? Give your job at church everything you got. Lay it all on the line. Eternity is at stake. Remember Revelation 7:9-11? How many people will be there because we gave our volunteer jobs at church our excellence, our passion, our all.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:37-42 (Part 1 of 2)

Worship at Jerusalem and Gibeon

This morning was a bit of a struggle to write. I usually like to have researched a bit before I commit fingers to the keyboard to write my blog, but the question that came to my mind about this passage, I could not find the answer(s) to in my research. The question that kept plaguing me was “why were there two places of worship” (one now in Jerusalem where the Ark was moved and the other in Gibeon where the tabernacle tent was still sitting sans the Ark). So, what gives? Why did they not move the tabernacle? It was portable. It was made to be taken apart and moved. It was made to be easily movable. Why then was it not moved when David moved the Ark to Jerusalem? I couldn’t shake that question in my mind. There is certainly a devotional in this passage about Obed-edom and the other guys that ran the temple about all the necessary things that have to happen in churches and all are needed for the smooth operation of the church. I will write about that tomorrow. But, this one question, why didn’t they move the tabernacle when they moved the ark, just plagued me. I could not find any research on the matter anywhere. I am sure there is something out there, but my google search questions may have not been phrased appropriately. So, I will have to use my own reasoning that would seem most consistent with the general tenor of God’s Word.

The only thing that I can think of is that God allowed this temporary state to demonstrate a couple of things. First, it is symbolic of the coming of the church. Second, it is symbolic of both the holiness and mercy of God. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 16:37-42, now with this question about the two places of worship in mind:

37 David arranged for Asaph and his fellow Levites to serve regularly before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, doing whatever needed to be done each day. 38 This group included Obed-edom (son of Jeduthun), Hosah, and sixty-eight other Levites as gatekeepers.

39 Meanwhile, David stationed Zadok the priest and his fellow priests at the Tabernacle of the Lord at the place of worship in Gibeon, where they continued to minister before the Lord. 40 They sacrificed the regular burnt offerings to the Lord each morning and evening on the altar set aside for that purpose, obeying everything written in the Law of the Lord, as he had commanded Israel. 41 David also appointed Heman, Jeduthun, and the others chosen by name to give thanks to the Lord, for “his faithful love endures forever.” 42 They used their trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments to accompany their songs of praise to God.[a] And the sons of Jeduthun were appointed as gatekeepers.

As noted, I think the fact that God allowed this for a period of time was that it was not against His will. He allowed it because it was to demonstrate something to the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. I think it demonstrates that worship of the Lord can take place anywhere. It is a foreshadowing of the coming day when worship of Jesus Christ began house to house and from town to town. There was no longer one central place to worship the Lord. We can worship the Lord anywhere. It is symbolic of church planting in a sense as well. You take a part of the mother church and you send it off (people and resources) to start a new church in a new location where God has led you to plant it. It then becomes a place of worship on its own. This idea of being able to worship God anywhere instead of one central place is given its seed right here in this passage in the Old Testament. The Tabernacle of David was a symbol or foreshadow of the church. In the Book of Hebrews, we are told to come boldly into the Throne Room of God (Hebrews 4:16). Because of the redeeming work of Jesus, we have full access to God’s presence, just like they did in the Tabernacle of David.

The second aspect of this demonstrates two of the equal qualities of holiness and mercy.

  • The Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon was to demonstrate the holiness of God. It required that you had to have extensive preparation to be allowed by God to go into the Holy of Holies where God’s presence resided. It was the location where a priest mediated on behalf of the people in the Holy of Holies. The Tabernacle of Moses had its purpose. It showed the perfection needed to come before the Presence of God. No sin. It was the reminder to the people of their sinfulness in the presence of God. It reminded them of the Holiness and purity of God. It reminded them that the two could not mix. We would be consumed in the presence of the pure holiness of God without extensive preparation and God recognizing that and not allow his purity to consume what was still impure (even though purified through symbolic washings). We would do well today to understand more so the holiness and purity of God and how we are tainted and impure because of our sins. And, as a result, that we need the mediator, Jesus, how is holy as the Father is holy as is the Holy Spirit is holy and thus can be in the presence of the Father on our behalf. It is well to remind us of our complete lack of holiness in the absence of the representation by and covering of the holiness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Equally as important is the mercy of God which is demonstrated by the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem. At the Tabernacle of David, King David now had full, free access to God’s Presence. Further, there was no veil separating people from Ark of the Covenant, as there was in Moses’s tabernacle. Everyone could come before God’s Presence at this simple tent. At the temporary Tabernacle of David, we see the foreshadowing of everyone having access to the presence of God, Jews and non-Jews alike. Here we see that God allows us to come into His presence through His mercy in that He chooses not to view us on our own merits, our deep state of sinfulness, but rather in the holiness of heart that worships and loves the Lord. We do not deserve to be in the presence of God because of our first sin, much less the lifetimes of sins we commit, but in His mercy God allows us to be in His presence when we accept the imputed holiness of His Son, Jesus Christ, when we ask Him to be our Savior. But the Tabernacle of David showed the mercy of God. He was going to make a way so all would have equal access to God’s Presence because of Jesus’ cleansing blood (1 John 1:7).

This line of reasoning seems to me to be consistent with the general overarching story of God’s Word. Everything has a purpose in God’s economy and this situation is no different. The two tabernacles for a temporary time in Israel’s history is to show us that everything has a purpose in God’s plan. This situation was symbolic to us of what God is like equally and at the same time. It also reminds us that there is too not one way to worship God – the tabernacle of Moses was the traditional church of its day and the tabernacle of David was the modern worship style church of its day. Each one gave glory to God and serve a purpose. Further, like I said, it was to demonstrate the mercy and holiness of God. We need to know both qualities of God so that we truly understand what we have been freely given in Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Part 4 of 4)

David’s Song of Praise

As we close out our look at 1 Chronicles 16:7-36 this morning, I think of how we as children trust our parents completely with every aspect of our lives. We may not always like what they have to say even as small children but the thought of being without our parents is not even really a thought. They were there when we came into the world and they have always been there. We don’t know a time that our parents were not part of our lives. They are the constant. They are our security. They are ever-present.

When I watch my granddaughter, Ralyn, with her mom and dad, Meghan (my oldest child) and Curtis (my son-in-law), she thinks that the world begins and ends with them. Sure, she is a spunky little thing and has her moments when she pushes back against their authority. However, she sees them as larger than life. You should see this child’s eyes light upon when her mom or her dad enter a room after being away from Ralyn for a while. She runs and hugs and kisses. She has to tell her mom and dad everything that is on her mind at all times. She loves their approval so it’s always “mommy” this and “daddy” that! And, she simply adores them. She will snuggle up to each of them at various points in the day and be as content and as happy as she can possibly be. Isn’t amazing the bond that develops between parents and child in just a few short years. Ralyn will be 4 years old this summer and the love that she has for her mom and dad cannot be measured. The love that they have for her is equally as immeasurable. Isn’t weird how by the time your child is Ralyn’s age, you really can’t remember with any degree of detail of what life was like without our child or children. And, Ralyn simply loves her mom and dad for being her mom and dad. Sure, she loves getting stuff from them, but I bet if you took it all away, Ralyn would love her mom and dad regardless. She loves them just because they are her parents and no other reason. No other reason is really needed.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36. That idea of just loving someone because they are that someone – like a child loves his or her parents just because they are his or her parents. Let’s read the whole passage now but with special attention to verses 34-36:

7 On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:

8

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.

    Let the whole world know what he has done.

9

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

10

Exult in his holy name;

    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.

11

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

    continually seek him.

12

Remember the wonders he has performed,

    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

13

you children of his servant Israel,

    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

14

He is the Lord our God.

    His justice is seen throughout the land.

15

Remember his covenant forever—

    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

16

This is the covenant he made with Abraham

    and the oath he swore to Isaac.

17

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,

    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:

18

“I will give you the land of Canaan

    as your special possession.”

19

He said this when you were few in number,

    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.

20

They wandered from nation to nation,

    from one kingdom to another.

21

Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.

    He warned kings on their behalf:

22

“Do not touch my chosen people,

    and do not hurt my prophets.”

23

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!

    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.

24

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.

    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

25

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

    He is to be feared above all gods.

26

The gods of other nations are mere idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens!

27

Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,

    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

29

Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

    Bring your offering and come into his presence.

Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.

30

    Let all the earth tremble before him.

    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

31

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

32

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

33

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,

    for he is coming to judge the earth.

34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

    His faithful love endures forever.

35

Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!

    Gather and rescue us from among the nations,

so we can thank your holy name

    and rejoice and praise you.”

36

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,

    who lives from everlasting to everlasting!

And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.

David wrote vv. 34-36 to sing praises to God for just being God. For just being our Ultimate Father, and for that we praise Him. No matter what’s going on in life, David wanted people to praise God just for who God is and what He means to us, His chosen people.

Sometimes, we need to be like Ralyn with her mom and dad when it comes to God. We just need to love Him for being who He is. He is God and that’s the only reason we need to praise Him. We can explain all the reasons that we love Him and many of them have to do with how he provides for us and cares for us. But the idea this morning is to just love Him, as a child loves a parent. No reasons. Just loving them for who they are and not what they are and what they can do for us.

A lot of times in life, we treat God as if He works for us instead of Him being the All Powerful Creator of the Universe. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Creator. He is beyond our comprehension. He is amazing. Sometimes, we just need to sit down and think about who God is and not come at Him with all our wants and desires like a kid looking for money to buy something. We just need to think about Him and WHO he is and not what He can do for us.

God. Think of Him. Think about Him with no agenda to bring to Him. Just think on and about Him. And then the praises will come!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Part 3 of 4)

David’s Song of Praise

One of our childhood vacation Bible school songs has a profound truth in it. “Jesus Loves Me” has the lyric in it that says, “They are weak but He is strong!” That is so true. What David writes about here is the simple fact of the existence of the intricate world in which we live is testament to the greatness of God. That’s the theme of the day. They (us) are weak and He is strong. It’s a comparison of us to God.

Even the earth sings His praises. We can observe the intricacy of the earth. It is very detailed. The entire planet is a vast array of interconnected ecosystems. Just go out in your own backyard or the common areas outside your apartment building and just sit down and look at the ground and in the trees and in the sky. All of it, just in your own range of sight, is teeming with life and activity that we barely notice most of the time. How complex the earth is just in our own little patch of it, much less the entire world, our entire solar system, our entire galaxy, the entire universe. When you think upon these things, it is amazing that some feel that this was all random, mindless evolution with no Intelligent Design by the Creator God. Have you ever left students in a classroom without a teacher? They will devolve from a cohesive unit of learners into a babble of talking voices. They need a teacher to orchestrate and lead their day and lead their learning process. It is the same with the earth and the universe to me. It is illogical to me that all of this was random occurrence. If that were the case, there would be no consistency to the universe at all. There had to be Intelligent Design just be the order in which the universe operates. To me, the discoveries that we make that are game changers about our universe are simply us learning more and more about our Creator as He allows us to learn these things – when He thinks we are ready.

Think too about how little we really know about the universe and even our own planet. We know the most about both than we ever have in the progress of humanity over the millennia. However, we know so very little about the universe. We have explored in person or via probes only a sliver of the vastness of the universe. We have explored on a portion of the depths of the oceans on our own planet as well. Everything that we think we know about the universe is just a guess at this point – because we have never been even to the places that our telescopes can see the farthest – and there is a vast, vast universe beyond that. Heck, our theories about the evolution of this planet alone as mere guesses. The theory of evolution that many in the world take as solid fact is only a theory. The time measurements that we use for the age of the earth are self-defined which makes the theory a theory and not fact. We don’t know.

Simply by observing our little patch of the universe, you become amazed by our Creator. The very existence of the little bit of the creation that we observe in our own little worlds each day is praise to His mighty, awesome power. He controls the intricacy of not only my little patch of the universe but all of the universe. He created the laws of the universe by which all things are governed. He was the original cause to all the causes and effects by which the universe continues to evolve. We think of ourselves as masters of our world in our grand intelligence, our collective grand intelligence. We feel we have explained away God. Yet, he so often reminds us that we are collectively small and individually even smaller before this great and mighty Creator of the Universe. The weather can debilitate and destroy us and everything we have worked in an instant. The heat and cold can force us to starve or have plenty of food. Earthquakes, floods, tidal waves, tornados, hurricanes, and any and all sorts of weather patterns prove that we in our self-declared supreme intelligence are pale in comparison to our Great God. The fact that we even at our best and highest collective advancement in civilization that we are at this moment still cannot control the weather. We are at its mercy and it is a reminder of our smallness in comparison to our Creator.

Further, in all our self-declared intelligence, we are now being ravaged by microbes that have almost within a month brought our advanced civilization to its knees. It has dropped our economy from all time, historic highs to all-time, Depression era comparative lows. It is a reminder again that we are not the masters of the universe. This pandemic has reminded us that we are not in control of our worlds. We may have the ability to minimize the impact of the laws of the universe on us and make our life comfortable, but it is a very slim margin between our comfort zone that we knew prior to the pandemic and our world being brought low. That is the sobering thought of the morning. Being reminded of our place by a mighty Creator God.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36. That idea of how little we are in comparison to our Creator is what I thought of this morning. Let’s read the whole passage now but with special attention to verses 30-33:

7 On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:

8

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.

    Let the whole world know what he has done.

9

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

10

Exult in his holy name;

    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.

11

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

    continually seek him.

12

Remember the wonders he has performed,

    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

13

you children of his servant Israel,

    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

14

He is the Lord our God.

    His justice is seen throughout the land.

15

Remember his covenant forever—

    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

16

This is the covenant he made with Abraham

    and the oath he swore to Isaac.

17

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,

    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:

18

“I will give you the land of Canaan

    as your special possession.”

19

He said this when you were few in number,

    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.

20

They wandered from nation to nation,

    from one kingdom to another.

21

Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.

    He warned kings on their behalf:

22

“Do not touch my chosen people,

    and do not hurt my prophets.”

23

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!

    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.

24

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.

    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

25

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

    He is to be feared above all gods.

26

The gods of other nations are mere idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens!

27

Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,

    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

29

Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

    Bring your offering and come into his presence.

Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.

30

    Let all the earth tremble before him.

    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

31

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

32

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

33

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,

    for he is coming to judge the earth.

34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

    His faithful love endures forever.

35

Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!

    Gather and rescue us from among the nations,

so we can thank your holy name

    and rejoice and praise you.”

36

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,

    who lives from everlasting to everlasting!

And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.

David wrote vv. 30-33 realizing that the very existence of the intricate nature of our world was a testament to the glory of God. He knew by how intricate and vast the world was evidence of the greatness of God. It was humbling to him to see the wonders of the world and know that we are insignificant in comparison to just nature itself and then you think about how all that vast intricacy was created by God. Then, it just blows your mind about the amazing intelligence and wisdom of God.

What does this all mean to us as Christians in the 21st century, today? It is a reminder that God is almighty. It is a reminder that He is vast and we are small. It is a reminder, even to us as Christians, that we are not in control, He is. It is a reminder to the world that He does exist. This pandemic is reinforcement that we do not control our world. It is a reminder that there are microscopic things going on in the universe that we don’t even know about and that God does. It is a reminder that we know oh so little even with the vastness of accumulated knowledge of mankind at this moment. God is allowing us bit by bit to learn more and more about the universe and even our own little planet. This pandemic reminds us that we are not “all that” like we think we are. This pandemic reminds us that we do truly depend on the graces of God for our very existence and for our very intelligence, individually and collectively.

Let us then be like the earth and praise His name. Let us understand his immensity and our smallness. Let us praise His name for what who He is and look to Him now more than ever for His wisdom, care, and love.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Part 2 of 4)

David’s Song of Praise

This week at the church I serve as pastor, Lamar United Methodist Church, in Lamar, SC, I will begin a new sermon series. This Sunday is the beginning of a six-week series called Certainty in Uncertain Times. In the midst of this global pandemic that seems to have been with us forever (but in reality is only a couple of months). It has wreaked havoc on the normalcy of life that we know beforehand. The loneliness, the isolation, the disruption, the changing of how we do business with and even associate with one another, all of it has changed. Our economy is on the brink of a complete meltdown and it was this same economy that was reaching new heights in productivity and gains in wealth of all Americans just a few short months ago. It’s all very disconcerting. It creates a feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty among many people in the world. This week’s first sermon in the series is about being able to have faith in the midst of trouble when you have no idea when the trouble is going to end. These times of life are what you might call the poo-poo times of life – when our circumstances are just plain awful according to our view of thinking. Let’s talk about praise in the poo-poo times of life.

The central character in my sermon is Joseph after he is sold into slavery by his own brothers. He is purchased by one of the most powerful men in all of Egypt. He rises in trust and responsibility in Potiphar’s household to the point he was chief of the household for Potiphar. Being a high-ranking official in the Egyptian empire, it is pretty certain that Potiphar had a big, swanky house with lots of employees. Then, the he gets accused (falsely) of raping Potiphar’s wife and his life goes into a tailspin again. My sermon finds him in prison where he stayed for about 12 years (based on the clues about his age given in Genesis). In the midst of the storm of his life, Joseph just continues being trustworthy, continues giving his best, continues doing his best wherever he was planted. I am sure he had his days of sulking while in prison, but overall, he kept going. He kept serving through Lord through being excellent at whatever he did regardless of what it was. He figured that God had him in that place for a reason and He just trusted it and kept on blooming where he was planted. He was in the midst of a stinking pile of poo-poo when you look at his life from the outside, but He trusted that God had a purpose in it and did his best at where he was.

Here, in this passage, we see David giving glory to God in vv. 23-29. When you reflect on David’s life, he had some really bad times – on the run from King Saul – for a looong time, and then on the run again during the civil war caused by Absalom’s rebellion (trying to overthrow his own dad from power). David had some long hard stretches in his life. Sure, some of them were of his own making, but some of them weren’t. But through it all, David was able to praise the Lord. The Psalms are a testament to David’s ability to praise God in the darkest of times in his life. He often only had his faith in God to get him through the darkest of times. We are reminded of that ability to praise the Lord in the darkest hours here in this passage. David even when he was on the run from Saul, for example, was able to see hope in the Lord. Why was he like that? Why was Joseph like that? I think its because they did not let their circumstances determine how much they loved and trusted the Lord.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36. That idea of the priority of loving the Lord first and seeing my circumstances second is what I find profound in my thinking this morning. Let’s read the whole passage now but with special attention to verses 23-29:

7 On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:

8

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.

    Let the whole world know what he has done.

9

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

10

Exult in his holy name;

    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.

11

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

    continually seek him.

12

Remember the wonders he has performed,

    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

13

you children of his servant Israel,

    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

14

He is the Lord our God.

    His justice is seen throughout the land.

15

Remember his covenant forever—

    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

16

This is the covenant he made with Abraham

    and the oath he swore to Isaac.

17

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,

    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:

18

“I will give you the land of Canaan

    as your special possession.”

19

He said this when you were few in number,

    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.

20

They wandered from nation to nation,

    from one kingdom to another.

21

Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.

    He warned kings on their behalf:

22

“Do not touch my chosen people,

    and do not hurt my prophets.”

23

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!

    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.

24

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.

    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

25

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

    He is to be feared above all gods.

26

The gods of other nations are mere idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens!

27

Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,

    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

29

Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

    Bring your offering and come into his presence.

Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.

30

    Let all the earth tremble before him.

    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

31

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

32

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

33

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,

    for he is coming to judge the earth.

34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

    His faithful love endures forever.

35

Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!

    Gather and rescue us from among the nations,

so we can thank your holy name

    and rejoice and praise you.”

36

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,

    who lives from everlasting to everlasting!

And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.

David wrote some of the most beautiful poetry about the magnificence of and his love for God and those poems became the Psalms. Those poems became the music of worship at the Temple long after David was gone. But the thing that strikes me about David here is this all out praise He has for God. And reflecting on David’s life, he had this level of praise for God regardless of what his circumstances were. His faith in the Lord was not contingent upon his circumstances. His love of God was not contingent upon what he saw in front of him. It was the same with Joseph. Both Joseph and David were mighty men of God because they looked at their circumstances as God having them there for a purpose. They believed that God had them in the moment that they were in for a purpose either for them personally or for some greater purpose that they did not understand or see. However, they trusted that God had them right where He wanted them at that moment.

Isn’t there a great peace that comes with that conception of life’s activities. God has you planted right where he wants you at the moment. It reminds me of that passage in Acts where Jesus speaks to Saul (who later becomes Paul) when he says in Acts 26:14, “14We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice say to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” We can fight against our circumstances, kick against the goads, or we can see that God has a purpose in our right now, right where we are. We can see that God may have a personal purpose for the valley that we are in or it may be something that God will use in our lives later. Or even more nebulous to us personally, maybe, God is using this moment in our lives right now to teach someone else something or to teach an entire people something. It is that idea that can blow you mind. It is that idea that we need to be our best for the Lord regardless of what we think of our circumstances. It is that idea that we don’t always know what God is doing or is going to do with our circumstances that we are in. We can either kick against the goads and not learn a thing and dissolve into self-pity, jealousy, and anger. Contrastingly, we can see this moment as part of God’s plan for our lives and trust that and then go about being the best we can be for the Lord in this moment we find ourselves in. Keep plowing the field to the best of your ability and to the glory of the Lord. Trust Him with what He is going to do with it…and that is enough reason to sing the praises of our God.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Part 1 of 4)

David’s Song of Praise

On Monday, Elena and I, along with my oldest daughter, Meghan, and Elena’s dear friend, Sandy, met at the house my dad and my stepmom (my dad remarried about 2 years after my mom passed away) lived in. My stepmom, after several decades in South Carolina, was moving back to her native upstate New York. As part of her move and Monday being her moving day, we had to get to the house and clean out my dad’s storage buildings in the backyard of the house there in Anderson, SC. We had been putting it off as long as we could. There were years of things in there. Years of mementos. Years of tools. Years of yard implements. Years of power equipment. And my God, Dad, how many gas cans did you need? Later, this process will be repeated at my dad’s lake property near Lake Hartwell. He passed that property on to my oldest daughter. She is planning to sell it soon so we will have to clean out the storage buildings out there one day in the coming months. There’s probably more stuff in those two storage buildings than there were at the home owned by my dad and my stepmom. There’s so much stuff at my dad’s lake property that my dad and my mom had separate storage buildings for each of their stuff. The contents of these two buildings are the result of 53 years of marriage so that will be a task to say the least.

But on this day, it was a lesser task but still one that took a great deal of time. We were able to get it all done in one day, thank goodness. From clearing everything out to loading it on the rented U-Haul truck to taking the stuff to the dump and sorted it all by type as you have to do at the transfer station, we got it all done in 5 hours. It was a task and we were tired and sweaty when we were done. Lots of lifting and walking and walking while lifting. But one of my fears in the adventure was that we would get bogged down in memories. You know, you have seen it TV shows and movies where adult children are going through their parents stuff and each thing brings back a memory. And that was the fear that each thing would cause a period of remembrance and then nothing would get done while going through the memory. But that did not happen. I guess dad did not bring a lot of stuff from the lake property to the house that he and my stepmom bought back in 2012 or 2013 not too long after they got married. So, the bigger memory lane task is going to be when we have to clean out the storage buildings at the lake property. But for this past Monday, we were pretty much business like about it all. We were just simply amazed at the fact that when it came to tools, yard implements, gas cans, all the man stuff, my dad never threw anything away. His mindset was that he could use it later, I guess.

Cleaning out the storage buildings was a task but it did give me personal memories of my dad and what a tinker guy he was. How he could fix stuff. How he could shade-tree engineer stuff to make it work better, or to fix it without it costing him money. I guess that’s why he never threw anything away. He could use whatever it was later to fix something else. It reminded me that my dad grew up on a rural farm in Honea Path, SC where, as the oldest of 5 boys, his dad (my Pop) relied on him to make sure all the farm equipment was in running order. They were a long ways a way from the nearest farm equipment store so it paid to keep stuff from older broken down stuff. I complained about how my dad was packrat to the others in group of us doing the cleanup. However, inside, I knew that my dad was that way because he grew up that way. You didn’t through stuff away like you do now. He was a product of his generation. He was a product of living on a farm in the rural South in the 40’s and 50’s before he got grown up and left home. These are the things that we remember when cleaning out the story of a person’s life in a storage building. This story and the stories will be even more intense I think when we have to clean out the storage buildings at the lake property later this spring or summer.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36, this morning. That idea of remembering. That idea of why behind the what. All of it comes from remembering. And I think that is the point of verses 7-22 of this passage. Let’s read the whole passage now but with special attention to verses 7-22:

7 On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:

8

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.

    Let the whole world know what he has done.

9

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

10

Exult in his holy name;

    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.

11

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

    continually seek him.

12

Remember the wonders he has performed,

    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

13

you children of his servant Israel,

    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

14

He is the Lord our God.

    His justice is seen throughout the land.

15

Remember his covenant forever—

    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

16

This is the covenant he made with Abraham

    and the oath he swore to Isaac.

17

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,

    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:

18

“I will give you the land of Canaan

    as your special possession.”

19

He said this when you were few in number,

    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.

20

They wandered from nation to nation,

    from one kingdom to another.

21

Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.

    He warned kings on their behalf:

22

“Do not touch my chosen people,

    and do not hurt my prophets.”

23

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!

    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.

24

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.

    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

25

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

    He is to be feared above all gods.

26

The gods of other nations are mere idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens!

27

Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,

    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

29

Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

    Bring your offering and come into his presence.

Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.

30

    Let all the earth tremble before him.

    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

31

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

32

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

33

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,

    for he is coming to judge the earth.

34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!

    His faithful love endures forever.

35

Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!

    Gather and rescue us from among the nations,

so we can thank your holy name

    and rejoice and praise you.”

36

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,

    who lives from everlasting to everlasting!

And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.

In these first 15 verses of the passage, we see that David is reminding the people of what God has done for His chosen people in the past. He is helping them remember how God has provided and protected them for generations since they left Egypt. Remembering helps them understand and see God’s hand in their collective lives. The remembering is good to bolster the people’s faith in God. And this is particularly noteworthy in 1 and 2 Chronicles because Israel is in exile. Their kingdom is no more. The kingdom that David and Solomon made so powerful is a distant memory. But the remember of the whole history of Israel helps them see that God will care for them even when times don’t look so good.

That’s the takeaway for today is that God has demonstrated throughout history that He will providentially watch over His chosen people. Through Jesus Christ we are part of God’s chosen people. Therefore, we can reflect on Israel’s history as our history. We can reflect on the New Testament beginnings of Jesus’ church as our history. We can reflect on God’s prophetic words in Revelation to demonstrate to us that God will still be making history through us. All of it reminds us that as part of God’s people we will be cared for regardless of what the current situation looks like. We have ample evidence of God’s providential care for His chosen people. We must remember. We must read our Bibles. It is our memory lane for God’s providence over His chosen people. Those that have faith in God realize that He is our Protector and Provider. We also know through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have a future in heaven when this life is done. So, no matter how bad HERE is. We get to go there – HEAVEN – when we are done here. Therefore, we praise God for how He provides and protects His people on this side of heaven and how we have promise through Him of an eternity in heaven. Let us remember that. Let us go down memory in the Bible and read that and remember that and live that!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:1-6 (Part 2 of 2)

Placing the Ark in the Tabernacle

One of the things that came to light as a result of this global health pandemic is the noticeable change in attitude toward this crisis by those of us who live in Lamar, SC. We are a small farming town tucked away quietly off on Interstate 20. We are about 12 miles from where Interstate 20 ends with its intersection with Interstate 95 at Florence, SC. We are a small town as I said with farming and farming related businesses that span generations. We are a people of the land here. We pride ourselves in the fact that the world moves just a bit slower in our sleepy little town. It is such a small town that we don’t have any chain restaurants of any kind in our little place. All our restaurants, the few that we have, are locally owned. All the major retailers are in other towns as well. In jest, I have suggested that our town motto should be, “Twelve miles from anywhere…” Well, I thought was funny, anyway.

But one of the nice things about us being tucked away from larger towns is that it did take a while for the Coronavirus to get here. As a result at the beginning of the crisis, there was a sense that the virus was out there…away from us. Therefore, the virus was very conceptual to us here. We were worried but it was out there. It was a concept. It was something you observed on the nightly news and on social media newsfeeds. It was not truly real to us. It was as if we were watching a movie about a scientific goof or a terrorist release that led to this problem that….was out there. We were all fine here in Lamar. No infections reported. We began to observe the social distancing just like everybody else. But still…it was out there. We started quarantining ourselves when that became a thing too, but…still…it was out there. We stopped having in-person worship services and meetings at church just like everyone else…but…still it was out there. It was still a sense, we are doing this but it’s not a real thing to us. It was in no way a personal thing. It was like the difference between watching a news report of the fighting in the Iraq War vs. being a soldier fighting in the Iraq War.

Then it happened. It was not until early April 2020. But it happened. Someone here was the first in our zip code to contract the virus. It was no longer out there. It was here. It was personal. In just since that first person here in our zip code contracted the virus, we now have 8 confirmed cases in our zip code. As well, based on who those 8 people came into contact with during the incubation period and before they became symptomatic and got tested, there is the potential of another 49 people who could be infected as a result. These stats are as of 11:59PM on 04/20/20. Thus, the mindset changed here. It was now personal. We were finally part of the war and not just hearing news reports about it. It changes your attitude about becoming wholly conscious of social distancing, about the cleanliness of surfaces, and about just who you have been around for the last two weeks. The war had come to Lamar. It was personal now.

That idea of converting from a concept to a personal impact is what I thought about this morning when I read about David giving away the bread and the cakes to every adult person in Israel. The Ark being brought back to Jerusalem was a reason to celebrate for the entire nation but for individuals who were not in leadership like David (just everyday joes and janes) it was conceptual. They celebrated because it was a national thing and you just did it. It was not personal. In 1 Chronicles 16:1-6 here, let’s read about how David’s act changed all that, now:

16 They brought the Ark of God and placed it inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. 2 When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord. 3 Then he gave to every man and woman in all Israel a loaf of bread, a cake of dates,[a] and a cake of raisins.

4 David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the Lord—to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph, the leader of this group, sounded the cymbals. Second to him was Zechariah, followed by Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel. They played the harps and lyres. 6 The priests, Benaiah and Jahaziel, played the trumpets regularly before the Ark of God’s Covenant.

In this passage, we see that, as I said earlier, the celebration was a corporate, entire body of Israel kind of thing that they were celebrating. It was like how we celebrate Independence Day in America because it is a national day of remembrance of how we came into being as a country. It is something we all do, but its not really personal. However, when David gives each adult person in Israel a loaf of bread and two kinds of cakes, it became personal to each and every adult in Israel. The gift made it personal. The gift took it from concept to personal. In that sense, it is like the Coronavirus is for us in Lamar. Prior to early April 2020, it was just a concept. It was just a thing we knew about, heard about, participating in complying with the Governor’s statewide orders when requested, but it was not real to us. It was not personal. It became personal in early April when we had the first person in our zip code for the Lamar area to be reported as having the virus. There are now 8 people who have the virus. It is now real to us. It is in our zip code. It is personal.

It is not too terribly different from what Jesus has done for us through is crucifixion and His resurrection. The concept of Jesus dying for our sins and being resurrected to give us hope of eternal life are all things that a person who knows anything about Christianity can acknowledge. You can accept it. You can learn how it all ties together logically and spiritually. You can acknowledge that Christianity is the most logically consistent of all religions. You can acknowledge that it is because it is of God and that all other religions are incomplete or just plain out faulty by comparison. You can then have fondness for the concepts of Christianity and eschew other religions as false. You can do this…all…without having yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. You can academically accept the logical consistency of Christianity. You can even intellectually and spiritually accept the Word of God as a great way to model your life. However, all of that is just conceptual when Jesus Christ is not your Savior and Lord.

It only becomes personal when you have come to the end of yourself and cry out to the Savior to forgive you for the mess you have made of your life and all the sins that you have committed. It only becomes personal when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you and begins to make you more and more like Christ each day. It only becomes personal when you make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. It only becomes a real thing to you when it becomes personal. If you have not made Jesus your Savior and Lord yet? Are you ready to make it personal?

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:1-6 (Part 1 of 2)

Placing the Ark in the Tabernacle

As I sit here in April 2020, on Friday, one of my days off, it is a cold morning, unusually so for this time of year. The temperature is in the low 40’s this morning. It is a time in which you just wish it would be warm and stay warm. We have been flirting with full-fledged Spring here in Lamar for several weeks now. But in April, fall type weather will occasionally pop back into the picture. It is an odd month weather wise. I can go on my early morning jogs in a t-shirt and gym shorts one day (when the early morning temps are in the high 50s/low 60s) and then two days later have to wear sweat pants, sweat shirt and gloves like I did yesterday morning. I keep telling myself that soon it will be warm and stay warm. I will be able to put away my winter jogging attire for good until late September or early October. The continuous warmth will be welcomed. The consistently warm weather for half the year is one of the things I love about my native South Carolina. It is that vision of warm early morning jogs where its just a baseball cap (to keep the sweat out of my eyes), a t-shirt, gym shorts, ankle socks and my just about worn-out jogging shoes (used exclusively for my Sunday-Thursday early morning jogs) that give me hope – something to look forward to. My morning jogs are a whole lot more pleasurable when I am not wearing three layers of clothing and its just cold. Those times make you question why you do this 5 days a week. But when its warm in the mornings, the jogs are pleasurable. You can then focus on the stillness and the quietness of the early mornings in Lamar and just commune with the Lord. It is that dangling out of the carrot that keeps you going. It keeps you looking forward to that extended time of good, warm early morning weather. I can’t wait to put away the winter gear! Hope drives us sometimes, doesn’t it?

This morning, I was thinking about how as a Christian, I always have had a sense of hopefulness in some size. There have been times in my life since salvation that the size of my hope was pretty small. Just a sliver for some periods in my life. But it was there. It was small sliver of light ahead, but it was there. That sliver of hope has gotten me through some of the darkest times of my life. Keep on keeping on toward that sliver of light in the darkness. Why do I have that perpetual, at least, sliver of hope that keeps me keeping on? That is the hope of knowing that God takes everything and works it toward our good. He even takes the tough times to mold us into something beautiful. He takes what we are going through and uses it to prepare us for what He has in store for us next. And then there’s the certainty that we have that in His promise to work things toward our good that we can put one foot in front of the other on the rough days. It is His promise to use all things for our good, even the bad stuff, is where that little sliver of hope comes from. We could be going through a whole lot of poo-poo right at the moment, but that “working all things for our good for those who love him” gets us through. It is a promise of a brighter day. It is also a promise that what we are going through is not wasted. There is a promise of still waters. There is a promise of warmer days in the early morning. It gets us through. It points us toward the sliver of hope in the distance. It gives us reason to praise.

That idea of there always being a reason to hope and be hopeful and thus able to praise the Lord is what I thought of this morning when I read about these guys who were to offer continual praise to the Lord. In 1 Chronicles 16:1-6 here, we see the guys that David designated to be the praisers in the Tabernacle. That’s your job. You gotta praise even on your bad days. Let’s read about them now:

16 They brought the Ark of God and placed it inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. 2 When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord. 3 Then he gave to every man and woman in all Israel a loaf of bread, a cake of dates,[a] and a cake of raisins.

4 David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the Lord—to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph, the leader of this group, sounded the cymbals. Second to him was Zechariah, followed by Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel. They played the harps and lyres. 6 The priests, Benaiah and Jahaziel, played the trumpets regularly before the Ark of God’s Covenant.

In this passage, we see that certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise and thanks to God. Praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our routine, not just reserved for times of great celebration. We should praise God continually and you will find that you won’t take his blessings for granted. Think about these guys that had to continually offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord EVERY DAY. Even when they were having a bad day, personally, they were expected to be praising and giving thanks when they got to work. I bet there were some days, they weren’t feeling it when they got to work, but they proceeded with their job anyway. And I bet by the end of their day, their hearts had been changed.

As we live through this pandemic of global proportions and the daily doses of bad news that come with it, we can have hope. As we live through this, even as we hear of 15-20% unemployment resulting from the shutdown of our economy to create the social distancing needed to kill the virus, we can have hope. Even as we hear that we can just now begin talking about opening the country back up but that it will still be weeks maybe a more or more before things return to some sense of normalcy, we can have hope. We can still praise. As God has used this time to kindle hunger for the Lord among the unchurched, and as God has rekindled a passion for church among the churched, we can have the hope that God has used this pandemic to make us think of things of the Lord. Maybe that’s the good. Maybe it has forced us as Christians to rethink our old ways of trying to reach the world that were faltering and embrace new ways – because we HAD TO. Maybe, too, it has been a time to prepare some hearts for what He will call them to do once the pandemic is over. Maybe, this has been an incubation time for several, maybe even thousands of folks to follow God’s call on their lives that they have been ignoring in the busy-ness of the pre-pandemic world. All these possibilities give us hope. Even the deaths are warnings to us all that we must consider our relationship with God because our lives can come quickly to an end. Maybe, this warning shot is teaching the unbeliever that God does exist, that hell exists, that life can be snapped away from us in an instant, and that they do need a relationship with that guy who is more than just radical rabbi, Jesus Christ, and that He is the Son of God! All these things can bring hope amidst the winter of our discontent.

There is always a reason to praise and give thanks to the Lord. He is working our own individual circumstances toward our good. He is working it toward what is next for us. He is preparing us for what’s next. He is making a way for us through the darkness. He is taking us from the cold winter to the warm spring. That is the sliver of hope that keeps us going. That is the joy. That is the reason to praise. That is the reason to give thanks. That is the reason to keep going. Warm weather is comin’ and that is reason enough to praise.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 15:25-29

Moving the Ark to Jerusalem

After reading this passage, the song that came to mind was Here As In Heaven by Elevation Worship where the lyrics go like this:

The atmosphere is changing now

For the Spirit of the Lord is here

The evidence is all around

That the Spirit of the Lord is here

The atmosphere is changing now

For the Spirit of the Lord is here

The evidence is all around

That the Spirit of the Lord is here

Overflow in this place

Fill our hearts with Your love

Your love surrounds us

You’re the reason we came

To encounter Your love

Your love surrounds us

Overflow in this place

Fill our hearts with Your love

Your love surrounds us

You’re the reason we came

To encounter Your love

Your love surrounds us!

Surrounded by Your love, Jesus

We need Your love, oh, oh oh

Feel the song, feel the song, oh

Come on let’s sing this together

From the depths of our hearts tonight

Spirit of God fall fresh on us

We need Your presence

Your kingdom come, Your will be done

Here as in heaven

Spirit of God fall fresh on us

We need Your presence

Your kingdom come, Your will be done

Here as in heaven

Spirit of God fall fresh on us

We need Your presence

Your kingdom come, Your will be done

Here as in heaven!

Here as in heaven, Lord

Sweep through this place, Lord

Sweep through this place, Lord

Heaven come to earth

Heaven come to earth

Kingdom come

A miracle can happen now

For the Spirit of the Lord is here

The evidence is all around

That the Spirit of the Lord is here

A miracle can happen now

For the Spirit of the Lord is here

The evidence is all around

That the Spirit of the Lord is here

That song is kind of prayer for me right now.

As we struggle to worship corporately in this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, the ability to express our praise to the Lord is, I hope, building up a hunger in our people to really, really, really, worship when we are able to return to our sanctuaries and worship centers after the quarantine orders are lifted.

The absence of corporate worship has led me this week to remember some of those memorable worship moments of the past. There are some moments of church. In my previous modern worship settings, I have some great worship memory moments. These were moments where the worship band’s leader or the worship pastor serving as the band leader sensing a moment where the music and the words of a song have the crowd in a profoundly worshipful moment. He would direct the band to back off on the volume of the music. The sound would retreat a bit and the worship pastor would connect with the heart of worship of the audience with his words and then the music would come up loud and powerful again. The congregation would have hands raised. People would come down to the altar for prayer. Prayer team members would come pray with them. People would be praising. People would be singing loud and powerfully. And you could just palpably sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the place. In the darkened, softly lit worship center, collective expression of the glory of God was felt. The worship band didn’t want to quit playing and the crowd did not want it to stop either. Sometimes, in these situations, when the move of the Spirit was profound, the senior pastor would cut short his message just to allow the power of the moment to have its full expression. Those are moments to remember.

As you know, I am now a solo pastor of a small town United Methodist church in South Carolina. Just because we are a smaller church with traditional worship music doesn’t mean these palpable moments have not occurred here. We have had our moments too in the traditional worship setting that I am in now at my church. A few weeks before the quarantine orders came down, we had one of those services, where the presence of the Spirit was felt. The combination of the traditional hymns, a modern worship style song sung by one of our choir members, the sermon, man, by the final hymn, I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit upon our place of worship. This particular service was where you just felt it. We had several people so moved by the service that during the last song that they came down to the altar. In my comments about the service later, they can’t all be like this past Sunday but glory to the Lord when they are. We can’t force it to be like that every Sunday but when services like that happen, you just soak it in and glory in the Lord. Since I am new at running Sunday morning worship services, I pray that when these spirit filled services happen upon us that I will get better at sensing the mood and allowing it to marinate in people’s hearts and get “off-script” if necessary.

In either style, traditional or modern, not every Sunday was a home-run service as far as feeling the spirit in the place, but ah, glory to the Lord when they do happen. Seeing as how we have not been able to worship in our sanctuary with full music, full choir, the congregation in close proximity to us in the worship team, man, oh man, do I hope and pray we have one of those services when we can go back inside our house of worship and worship there together. And I hope our people, with a worship hunger in their hearts, that they be like David here in this passage, letting the Spirit have full reign in their hearts and be unafraid to fully worship the Lord.

That willingness to let the Spirit reign is what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 15:25-29, this morning. Let’s read the passage now:

25 Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army[a] went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26 And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.

27 David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment.[b] 28 So all Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres.

29 But as the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.

In this passage, we see that David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly. In contrast, Michal was so disgusted by his undignified behavior that she could not rejoice in the Ark’s return to Jerusalem. Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king, but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expressions of worship. In the same way as David, we should not be afraid to worship the Lord just because of being self-conscious of other people potentially condemning us or because others do actually condemn you for being expressive. Allow the Holy Spirit to have free rein in your heart and soul as you worship the Lord, whether it be in a private moment or a public one.

When we can get back together inside our house of worship, I pray that we now realize what a treat it is to be able to come there and pour out praise on the Lord. I pray that we have pent up worship energy that will propel us for a long time. I pray that especially that first service when we get back, we praise without worrying what our neighbor in the pew beside us, behind us, and in front of us thinks. I pray that those beside, behind, and in front of us don’t care because they will be in their own praise frame of mind. For David, it was just him and God. I want it to be that way for each of my church members when we get back to the house of the Lord that we call our own. To quote that old song that had a phrase that said, “dance like nobody’s watching”, I hope we praise like nobody’s watching. It’s just each one of us, individually, wrapped up in our own personal praise of God.

Amen and Amen.