Archive for the ‘13-1 Chronicles’ Category

1 Chronicles 27:16-24

Leaders of the Tribes

Back in 2008, prior to the beginning of the college football season, hopes were high in Clemson for the coming football season. The 2007 season had shown real promise. The team finished the regular season 9-3 and just barely lost to Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on a last second field goal by the “other Tigers”. In 2007, the offense really clicked and they had beaten Florida State in the first game of the season, as well as beating the Gamecocks in the final game of the regular season. In between, when the team didn’t get hit by the turnover bug, they typically laid 40 points or more on their opponents. The losses during the regular season were because in each of those games they had way too many turnovers to win those games. In the Auburn game, we stood toe to toe with an SEC upper tier team and it took a last second field goal for them to claim a 2-point victory. Had the kicker missed, Clemson would have won and finished 10-3. That were that close to a 10-win season – something not seen in Clemson as of 2008 not since the Danny Ford era. So, with virtually all of the 2007 offensive starters coming back for the 2008 season and now with a young defense that was now a year older, hopes were sky high in Clemson. They were predicted to win the conference. They were ranked in the preseason top 10, coming in at #9, as the season approached.

Clemson was set to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Kick-off Classic in Atlanta to open the season – on the very same field as their last game of the 2007 season 8 or so months earlier.  Alabama was now set to begin Year 2 of the Nick Saban era. The previous year, Alabama had gone 7-6 and it was considered a successful year at the time because Alabama was in rebuilding mode. Little did everyone know, Alabama would regain their championship pedigree in 2008 and begin a run of unprecedented success that has not stopped yet as of the end of 2019 season. It began with that Clemson game to begin the 2008 season. Clemson the heavy favorite against the blue blood program, Alabama, that was digging itself out of mediocrity. It was supposed to be an easy win for Clemson. We fumbled on the first play of the game and things went south fast. It was a humbling defeat at the hands of a rising Tide football program. We lost 34-10 (with a very late touchdown by us to give us our only touchdown of the game). It was ugly. So ugly it was that my daughters and I (all rabid Clemson fans) still refer to that 2008 Alabama game as “the game we will never speak of!” It was that embarrassing. So unraveling was that defeat for the program, by game 6 of the season, Clemson (a preseason dark horse contender for the national title) was 3-3, out of the rankings and had just lost to Wake Forest. Wake Forest, yes, that’s right! After that game, things had gotten so sour, Tommy Bowden had resigned as head coach and some young buck named Dabo Swinney was tabbed as the interim coach to finish out the year. The Alabama loss that year caused a spiral downward that hit rock bottom when they lost to Wake Forest.

That was kind of the idea that struck me as I read is that idea of something we will never speak of. Like the 2008 Clemson game for me and my girls. There are things in our lives that we want to never speak of again because they are too painful. There are periods of our lives that are often too painful to speak of. Usually, these times or time periods of our lives are often the consequence of our own sins. When we reflect back on those times, we cringe at the decision that we made that cannot change. We wish we could but it’s in the past and we cannot do a doggone thing about it. So, sometimes, we take the approach of never speaking of it again. It’s just too painful to talk about. That’s what I thought about when I read, particularly, the final verse of this passage. Outside of that, it is a list of the leaders of the tribes of Israel at the time David was nearing death and Solomon was about to take over as king. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 27:16-24, now:

16 The following were the tribes of Israel and their leaders:

TribeLeader
ReubenEliezer son of Zicri
SimeonShephatiah son of Maacah
17 LeviHashabiah son of Kemuel
Aaron (the priests)Zadok
18 JudahElihu (a brother of David)
IssacharOmri son of Michael
19 ZebulunIshmaiah son of Obadiah
NaphtaliJeremoth son of Azriel
20 EphraimHoshea son of Azaziah
Manasseh (west)Joel son of Pedaiah
21 Manasseh in Gilead (east)Iddo son of Zechariah
BenjaminJaasiel son of Abner
22 DanAzarel son of Jeroham

These were the leaders of the tribes of Israel.

23 When David took his census, he did not count those who were younger than twenty years of age, because the Lord had promised to make the Israelites as numerous as the stars in heaven. 24 Joab son of Zeruiah began the census but never finished it because[a] the anger of God fell on Israel. The total number was never recorded in King David’s official records.

In this passage, we see that this record is a list of the hereditary chiefs or rulers of tribes at the time of David‘s numbering the people. Gad and Asher are not included; for what reason is unknown. The tribe of Levi had a prince (1 Chronicles 27:17), as well as the other tribes; and although it was ecclesiastically subject to the high priest, yet in all civil matters it had a chief or head, possessed of the same authority and power as in the other tribes, only his jurisdiction did not extend to the priests. But the thing that sticks out for our devotion this morning is the final couple of verses of the passage. It reminds us of the ill-fated census that David took for no other reason that to bolster his own pride. It served no other purpose. It was against the will of God and God then allowed Israel to fall into punishment for David’s sin. So painful was this period of Israel’s history, it was not recorded fully in the king’s official historical records.

It’s like the game we will never speak of for me and my daughters. It was too painful to talk about. Too embarrassing to bring up. We were so convinced that we were title contenders coming into the 2008 season and then ending up 3-3 after Game 6, out of the rankings, and even out of contention for our division title in our own conference. It was an embarrassing and humbling experience for all Tiger fans. It is the same for us with our sins of the past. We often don’t want to talk about them and so we don’t. We are embarrassed by the person we used to be. We are revolted by the whole “what was I thinking back then” discussions in our own minds. That’s a good thing. To be revolted by the sins of our past means that we are growing and maturing and that the memories will help keep us from ever going down those roads again. Experiences with sin and its consequences are often our best teacher!

However, as we mature in Christ, and we have become that person who is revolted by the sins of our past, the best thing we can do is TALK ABOUT IT. By sharing with others the sins and consequences of our past, we can teach those younger in the faith and even those are thinking about giving their life to Jesus about what we used to be like before we met Jesus. There’s an old saying, let your mess become your message, for us as Christians. The best thing we can do with our ugly past is to be honest about it and transparent about it. It should never be like the 2008 Alabama game where it was a game we will never talk about again. We should share. It lets people know that Christians are real people who have real problems and it shows how Jesus can redeem the worst sinners.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 27:1-15

Military Commanders & Divisions

Sharing the burden was the idea that came to mind when I read this rather mundane passage in 1 Chronicles. It’s another one of those Old Testament lists where you cry out to God as to what we are to learn from just a list of names. However, as with these lists and/or genealogies and such in the Old Testament, you have to take a higher-level view. It’s like of needing a drone to get a good picture of your neighborhood instead of taking 100’s of individual pictures. If you focus on the names here, you might just get lost in the minutia. But when you step up a step to a view of the whole passage, sharing the burden is the thing that I see. Here, you see rotations of citizen soldiers by tribe from throughout Israel who served as the king’s standing army throughout the year. No one tribe, no one group of people, was solely responsible for providing immediate protection of the king and of the capital city. Further, if there was a need all twelve tribes could send 24,000 men at any given time to serve if a military conflict arose or there was a need for the full scale military for another reason.

Sharing the burden was what came to mind this morning as it relates to my church, your church or anybody’s church. For a church to thrive and grow rather than being stagnant or, worse yet, dying, everyone must be at the ready to serve the kingdom of God through their local church. It can’t be all on the pastor. He is only one person. He only has 168 hours in a week. Sadly, he must sleep to get the rest that all human bodies need. So, if you say your pastor averages just 6 hours of sleep each night, that takes 42 hours off the pastor’s total time each week. We are now down to 126 hours of available time. If then you say you want quality sermons on Sunday morning, a pastor needs to put in at least 25 hours per week on his sermons. That now leaves 101 hours in a week that’s available. A pastor typically spends another 13 hours per week on administrative matters and in meetings. Now you are down to 88 hours per week. Knock off another 15 hours per week on visiting church members in their homes and/or in hospitals. Now you are down to 73 hours per week. Say then, he needs 5 hours per day for meals, down time, and family time. That’s another 35 hours a week knocked off. You are down to 38 hours per week. Building in at least one day off preferably two days, you are talking 16 hours there. Down to 22 hours now. Say planning for the future of the church (a pastor needs to be planning 3-6 months ahead of his people) takes another 10 hours per week, and then there’s about 12 hours per week for other things in a pastor’s max limit (like all human beings) of 168 hours per week. Some weeks this unclaimed time gets gobbled up by extra time on one or more of the above. As you can see, in order for a pastor to be an effective leader of your church, the demands on his week are pretty strong. He needs you and others like you.

Every church needs for its people to really claim the kingdom cause. Every church needs for every member to take as much pride in their church and what it’s doing for the kingdom as you are of your favorite sports team. Do you have passion for your church in the same way that you have passion for the Clemson Tigers, the USC Gamecocks, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, or so on. Every church member should see their volunteer positions at church as serving unto the Lord not just being a warm body in a position with a title. As church members, we need to be out in the community talking to our neighbors, to our co-workers, to everyone we know in the community about our love of the Lord and our love of our local church. We all need to be so passionate about our church that we arrange our lives around our responsibilities for our church instead of arranging church around other priorities. We need to share the burden of responsibility for the health of and the future of each of our churches. With that idea of sharing the burden in mind, now, let’s read 1 Chronicles 27:1-15:

Chapter 27

1 This is the list of Israelite generals and captains,[a] and their officers, who served the king by supervising the army divisions that were on duty each month of the year. Each division served for one month and had 24,000 troops.

2 Jashobeam son of Zabdiel was commander of the first division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the first month. 3 He was a descendant of Perez and was in charge of all the army officers for the first month.

4 Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah, was commander of the second division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the second month. Mikloth was his chief officer.

5 Benaiah son of Jehoiada the priest was commander of the third division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the third month. 6 This was the Benaiah who commanded David’s elite military group known as the Thirty. His son Ammizabad was his chief officer.

7 Asahel, the brother of Joab, was commander of the fourth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the fourth month. Asahel was succeeded by his son Zebadiah.

8 Shammah[b] the Izrahite was commander of the fifth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the fifth month.

9 Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa was commander of the sixth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the sixth month.

10 Helez, a descendant of Ephraim from Pelon, was commander of the seventh division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the seventh month.

11 Sibbecai, a descendant of Zerah from Hushah, was commander of the eighth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the eighth month.

12 Abiezer from Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin was commander of the ninth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the ninth month.

13 Maharai, a descendant of Zerah from Netophah, was commander of the tenth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the tenth month.

14 Benaiah from Pirathon in Ephraim was commander of the eleventh division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the eleventh month.

15 Heled,[c] a descendant of Othniel from Netophah, was commander of the twelfth division of 24,000 troops, which was on duty during the twelfth month.

In this passage, we see an account of the standing military force of Israel. A militia formed, it would seem, at the beginning of David’s reign was raised in the following order: Twelve legions, corresponding to the number of tribes, were enlisted in the king’s service. Each legion comprised a body of twenty-four thousand men, whose term of service was a month in rotation, and who were stationed either at Jerusalem or in any other place where they might be required. There was thus always a force sufficient for the ordinary purposes of state, as well as for resisting sudden attacks or popular tumults; and when extraordinary emergencies demanded a larger force, the whole standing army could easily be called to arms, amounting to two hundred eighty-eight thousand. The brief period of actual service produce any derangement of the usual course of affairs; for, on the expiry of the term, every soldier returned to the pursuits and duties of private life during the other eleven months of the year. The rotation system being established, each division knew its own month, as well as the name of the commander under whom it was to serve.

That’s the takeaway this morning. Share the burden. Let’s help our pastors ensure the health of our church not just on Sunday morning but every day of the week. We can do our individual parts to draw more people unto the Lord. We can do our individual parts by serving in some capacity in our church and doing it to the best of our ability so that (1) people see excellence in our church in everything that it does and (2) makes the church seem like a place where people are crazy about the Lord (and as a result are welcoming to all). Share the burden. Let us all be the church not just attend the church.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 26:20-32

Treasurers & Other Officials

It was so amazing to read in here that David and his military commanders gave some of their shares of the plunder from war victories to the Temple. David and his men did this voluntarily. It was not out of obligation. It reminded me as to one of the reasons that David was known as “a man after God’s own heart!” Sure, David had many shortcomings, as do we all, but, man, he gave God glory every chance he got. God was first in his thoughts virtually all the time. The times when he didn’t have God in the forefront of his mind is when David got into trouble. However, it is incidents like this one where his wholehearted pursuit of the Lord shines through. Even when there was an unexpected gain of assets, the first thing he did on the way back to the palace, he dropped off the firstfruits, the best, of what he had gained.

This mindset, in its very practicality, is one that has had more impact on my life than any other. It was when God impressed upon me to live as frugally I could and begin giving Him at least 10% of what income came my way. It was about taking God at His word in obedience. And taking that path has made all the difference in the world. When I began this discussion with the Lord, I was eyeballs deep in debt. He gave me a project then. Get rid of your debts and live more simply. Instead of spending tax refunds and work performance bonuses on frivolous stuff (that might even cause me to go into further debt), He impressed upon me to use those unbudgeted windfalls to pay off completely my maxed out credit cards, old outstanding debts that I had never dealt with, paying off cars, and so on. The burden that was lifted off me in that process was enormous. Once those things were in process, I was able to begin not yet tithing but begin the process of moving toward it. Finally, I was able to begin tithing and more.

The biggest impact of moving into and achieving the ability to tithe was that it changed my focus from earthly possessions toward a simpler lifestyle. An expression around my and Elena’s house now is that our favorite kind of car now is one that is paid for in full. The blessing of tithing and focusing on give God the firstfruits of our labors was not some investment in God with payback thing that a lot of people see it as but rather a change in the priorities of life. We give to God first in our finances. It is not an option to us to encroach on our ability to do that. It reminds us that all of “things” come from Him and that He comes first. We honor Him first and live off the rest. It’s a non-negotiable in our house. And you know what, we have come to not care about having the newest and best things. Sure, if we can get something nice with our disposable income of the 90% or less of what we make that we keep for ourselves, we will do it, but having a brand new car with all the bells and whistles is just not important to us. Having the finest and best when you can’t afford it makes the finest and the best of things your God and not God himself. The peace and contentment that has resulted from putting God first in our finances has resulted in peace beyond measure.

With the changed mindset and living within our means and living more simply, we are able to not only tithe to God through our local church, but there are other amazing benefits of working toward and then achieving and then maintaining living on 90% or less of what you make. First, because we live within our means, we can be generous not only to our church but also in situations that call for it –  a friend in need, a calling from God to give to a particular cause, just the freedom to be able to do that is amazing. Second, it allowed us to have the choice as to whether my wife works outside the home or not. In our society, no matter how you slice it, the wife has the bulk of the care of the home (and the children when they are still at home). It’s just the maternal nature that women have and their innate nature of wanting the home to be an organized and beautiful nest for the family. That my guy pals whether you realize it or not is a huge job in and of itself. Add to that, if your wife has to work outside the home, it’s like having two full-time jobs all your life. When your wife has the CHOICE to work outside the home instead of the REQUIREMENT, then it is a huge burden lifted off her shoulders. My opinion is that we men should arrange our family’s financial life such that if your wife does work outside of the home, it is to create savings for the family not to provide absolutely necessary funds to keep up with the family bills. With us, as part of gaining control of our financial hurricane, my wife and I decided to get to the point where she did not have to work outside the home. The stress of her job and keeping our home and all the other things she does was part of the peace that came with our decisions to get to where we could tithe. It also frees her up now to volunteer in causes that “turn her crank” and to be an integral part of the ministries of our church and to me as a pastor. We don’t see this as sexist. It was a choice we made together. If she had to go back to work, she would have my blessing in that but when we have the choice, she would rather not because of the freedom that she has now to focus on things that matter to her and that matter in eternity. Third, with financial pressure off of us, we were able to downsize our lives financially to the point that I, not just her, could follow what God called me to do but previously could not because of financial pressures. With us living on less and less over time, I was able to follow God’s call into ministry full-time. I could have never have done that without us deciding to work toward tithing over a decade ago. We made the transition because we had prepared for it financially. Can you follow your dream that God is calling you to or are you living off of more than you make and cannot?

I am not saying these things to brag but rather as evidence that if we are indeed obedient to God in putting Him first in our finances then something amazing happens. There is blessing that comes from it. God has never failed to provide for us because we trust Him so much with the firstfruits of our labors, we just trust in that. Also, the greatest blessing is that we no longer make having things the god of our lives. Putting God first in your finances leads you to becoming master of your money and not the other way around. Putting God first lifts the burden of making acquiring things a priority. That’s why that mention of David dropping off plunder at the Temple as part of his returns to Jerusalem from battles struck me. David was obedient in his finances. God came first. Let’s read this passage now, 1 Chronicles 26:20-32, with an eye toward David’s generosity toward God even in unexpected windfalls from war:

20 Their fellow Levites were[a] in charge of the treasuries of the house of God and the treasuries for the dedicated things.

21 The descendants of Ladan, who were Gershonites through Ladan and who were heads of families belonging to Ladan the Gershonite, were Jehieli, 22 the sons of Jehieli, Zetham and his brother Joel. They were in charge of the treasuries of the temple of the Lord.

23 From the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites and the Uzzielites:

24 Shubael, a descendant of Gershom son of Moses, was the official in charge of the treasuries. 25 His relatives through Eliezer: Rehabiah his son, Jeshaiah his son, Joram his son, Zikri his son and Shelomith his son. 26 Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David, by the heads of families who were the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and by the other army commanders. 27 Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the Lord. 28 And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish, Abner son of Ner and Joab son of Zeruiah, and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives.

29 From the Izharites: Kenaniah and his sons were assigned duties away from the temple, as officials and judges over Israel.

30 From the Hebronites: Hashabiah and his relatives—seventeen hundred able men—were responsible in Israel west of the Jordan for all the work of the Lord and for the king’s service. 31 As for the Hebronites, Jeriah was their chief according to the genealogical records of their families. In the fortieth year of David’s reign a search was made in the records, and capable men among the Hebronites were found at Jazer in Gilead. 32 Jeriah had twenty-seven hundred relatives, who were able men and heads of families, and King David put them in charge of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh for every matter pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king.

In this passage, which is a rather mundane naming of officials and such, but it does contain an interesting comment about Shelomith in vv.26-28 who was in charge of the things dedicated to the Lord by David and his military commanders. War plunder always belongs to the victorious army, as has been the custom of man throughout history. David and his commanders, though, gave of their portion of the plunder to the house of the Lord to express their dedication to God. Like these commanders, we should view our giving to the Lord as a thanksgiving of sorts to the Lord for providing for us. For David and his men, it was thankfulness for his protection and his guidance that allowed them to have victory. For us, our giving should reflect thanksgiving for God having given us the talent that we have to do our jobs and for making that skill marketable enough for someone to hire us to do it. For us, it should be a similar thanksgiving for God’s ever-present provision, protection, and blessings in our lives.

Are you putting God first in your finances? Are you fretting over how to pay the bills because you have more bills than income? Do you HAVE TO HAVE a car with a six year loan on it? Do you have to have a house that you strain to make the mortgage payment on? Do you have to have a boat? Do you have to have a blow-out vacation every year? Do you have to have these things because something is missing in your life and you need something to fill it? Things never satisfy. Only God does. Try putting God first in your finances and see what happens! Start by beginning to pay off the outstanding debts on your credit cards with any tax refunds or work bonuses you get. Then, pay them off each and every month (that means only charging on them what you can afford to pay off completely at the end of the month). With credit cards under control. Begin paying off assets that devalue over time such as cars. Then when the cars are paid off, start putting aside what you spent on the monthly payments into savings each month. Keep working on these things to the point that your income is under 90% of the husband’s income. As well as you start reducing these fixed costs from your budget, begin giving 1% then 2% then 3% up and up to 10% or more to the Lord through your local church. As we begin to trust God with our money, and fully believe that it is the right thing to do because God said we should, your mindset is changed and God will never forsake you in your trust of Him in this way. He says in the Bible in only one place that we should test Him in something. It is in Malachi 3:10, God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” That’s the only place in the Bible that God asks us to test him in something. He knew that our finances are often the last thing that we entrust to God’s care. Test Him in this. I promise that He will keep His promises.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 26:1-19 (Part 2 of 2)

Duties of the Gatekeepers

He’s baaaaack! Here he is again! Obed-edom. What a servant of the Lord. He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles multiple times and each time it is about him and his family serving the Lord. As Joshua 24:15 famously states, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Obed-edom took that to heart. He is not a superstar of the Bible like David and Moses and other Old Testament heroes, but, man, he is a story of quiet faithfulness to the Lord. Sometimes, we want notoriety for having done the smallest things for the Lord. However, Obed-edom simply went about his day to day business faithfully serving the Lord. He was richly rewarded but it was not because Obed-edom expected some financial windfall from obedience to the Lord. He simply gave the Lord his all. He gave his service to the Lord his top priority. We can learn a lot from Obed-edom.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning was those people who do things for their church because it is their way of saying thank you, Lord, for what you have done for me and, thank you, church for what the relationships at this church have done for me. That idea of serving quietly without expecting notoriety or fame or a pat on the back for it for your church is what came to mind as I read about the gatekeepers at the Temple. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 26:1-19 now:

Chapter 26

1 From the Korahites, there was Meshelemiah son of Kore, of the family of Abiasaph.[a] 2 The sons of Meshelemiah were Zechariah (the oldest), Jediael (the second), Zebadiah (the third), Jathniel (the fourth), 3 Elam (the fifth), Jehohanan (the sixth), and Eliehoenai (the seventh).

4 The sons of Obed-edom, also gatekeepers, were Shemaiah (the oldest), Jehozabad (the second), Joah (the third), Sacar (the fourth), Nethanel (the fifth), 5 Ammiel (the sixth), Issachar (the seventh), and Peullethai (the eighth). God had richly blessed Obed-edom.

6 Obed-edom’s son Shemaiah had sons with great ability who earned positions of great authority in the clan. 7 Their names were Othni, Rephael, Obed, and Elzabad. Their relatives, Elihu and Semakiah, were also very capable men.

8 All of these descendants of Obed-edom, including their sons and grandsons—sixty-two of them in all—were very capable men, well qualified for their work.

9 Meshelemiah’s eighteen sons and relatives were also very capable men.

10 Hosah, of the Merari clan, appointed Shimri as the leader among his sons, though he was not the oldest. 11 His other sons included Hilkiah (the second), Tebaliah (the third), and Zechariah (the fourth). Hosah’s sons and relatives, who served as gatekeepers, numbered thirteen in all.

12 These divisions of the gatekeepers were named for their family leaders, and like the other Levites, they served at the house of the Lord. 13 They were assigned by families for guard duty at the various gates, without regard to age or training, for it was all decided by means of sacred lots.

14 The responsibility for the east gate went to Meshelemiah[b] and his group. The north gate was assigned to his son Zechariah, a man of unusual wisdom. 15 The south gate went to Obed-edom, and his sons were put in charge of the storehouse. 16 Shuppim and Hosah were assigned the west gate and the gateway leading up to the Temple.[c] Guard duties were divided evenly. 17 Six Levites were assigned each day to the east gate, four to the north gate, four to the south gate, and two pairs at the storehouse. 18 Six were assigned each day to the west gate, four to the gateway leading up to the Temple, and two to the courtyard.[d]

19 These were the divisions of the gatekeepers from the clans of Korah and Merari.

In this passage, we see that it says in 1 Chronicles 26:5, in part, that “God had richly blessed Obed-edom” Here, in that verse, it is said of him after it has mentioned the many children of Obed-edom are mentioned by name. As is typical in the Bible and of the culture at the time, the ability to have children for women was highly prized and for a man to have an abundance of children was considered a sign of God’s favor upon him. Another thing to consider about Obed-edom is here in that he and his clan were assigned to the south gate of the Temple and they were assigned responsibility for the storehouse.

There are several symbolic things going on in this assignment that you might not catch unless you stop to think about it. All of these things show us that Obed-edom was truly a man who loved God and wanted to serve Him in any way possible. First, the fact that Obed-edom and his clan were assigned to the south gate is more significant than you might think. The south gate was the king’s gate. It was his passage to the Temple from the king’s palace. Therefore, to be assigned to this gate through the sacred lots was evidence of God’s favor upon Obed-edom. He knew King David very well. We first see David and Obed-edom encounter each other after the incident with touching the ark that resulted in Uzziah’s death. Because that incident ended any desire for a good while for King David to bring the ark to Jerusalem, he asked Obed-edom to keep the ark at his home. Apparently, Obed-edom and his family rightly and with great respect and honor took care of God’s ark, he was richly blessed because of his devotion during that time period. Because God knew of the richness of Obed’s devotion, He caused it to happen that Obed’s clan was assigned the place of honor of the temple gates. To serve the king in this way would have been considered a very high honor indeed. Faithfulness to the Lord leads to blessing. We often think that God will bless us with a winning lottery ticket or some other financial windfall but really the blessing is that through obedience and faithfulness to the Lord, we are changed in a person that wants and desires to serve the Lord – and that changed mindset is the blessing.

Second, the fact that Obed and his clan are put in charge of the storehouse is a reflection of the meticulous and faithful way that they took care of the ark when it was at the family homestead. The storehouse personnel needed to be manned by a clan that was meticulous and that had integrity. Otherwise the supplies and materials for the Temple could have easily gotten out of control fast. As a former auditor, I can tell you about business units of the companies that I have worked for where the inventory of raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods can get out of control really fast. It can cause the financial statements to be skewed or out and out misrepresented. Then, when it comes time for a physical inventory, there can be huge writeoffs or writeups when there is not proper control over inventory. When people can’t explain the variances of a physical inventory, then, there is a lack of proper internal control over inventory. This has been true since the first time somebody had to store supplies in an ancient civilization and would have been no less true at God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The fact that Obed and his clan had always taken their work for the Lord so seriously over the years is why they are given responsibility over the storehouse. Are we people who take our volunteer positions at the church seriously or do you or I give it our second best, our leftovers? Do we like having the title as a leader at church but do nothing but the minimum for that needed function at the church, if that? Do we assign people for positions at church because we just need a warm body to fill a position? Do we have a passionless church where we all give the church third or fourth priority in our lives. We will do for our church as long as it does not interfere with work, my leisure time, my kids’ sports activities, and so on.

Obed-edom has appeared like three times in the book of 1 Chronicles so far. He is always mentioned as having been richly blessed. He was richly blessed because it is so evident in these three references that he put top priority on his relationship with the Lord. It came before all other priorities in his life. God got his best, always. Does God get your best? Do you serve your church with a passionate heart? Do give your volunteer position at the church everything you have? Do make it a priority over vacations, over leisure activities, over children’s sports activities, over all things? Let us have churches full of Obed-edoms and just imagine what Christianity worldwide would look like! Let us have our local church be a church of Obed-edoms. Just imagine then the impact on your community that this would look like!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 26:1-19 (Part 1 of 2)

Duties of the Gatekeepers

Every church has that guy. He is either a volunteer serving the church in this way or he is an employee of the church. If the church is big enough and has significant enough of a physical plant, he may be a department head with one or more employees that work for him. Regardless of the case, these guys are the quiet and unassuming guys who without which the church would come to a screeching halt. Sometimes, that guy is partly the pastor himself when the church is smaller.

I am talking about the maintenance and operations guy at your church. He makes sure that the church’s mechanical equipment is working properly. He makes sure they get repaired when broken. He is the one who has a critical eye for every inch of the buildings on the church campus. He sees stuff others don’t see. He also can be the same guy who sets up rooms for events. Moves equipment around. He may be the one at the church through which all events must be scheduled. He may be the one who manages the church’s event calendar so he knows what equipment has to be supplied for which event and in which room. He is the one too that manages the church’s disaster reaction and recovery plan. He is the one that makes sure the grounds are in tip-top shape. He is the one that when it snows is out there plowing the parking lot because when it snows it always seems to be on the weekend right before a Sunday morning service. When a pipe bursts and destroys a bathroom, he is the one that manages the clean up and repair contractors. He is the go-to guy for the nuts and bolts operations of the church.

He is a background guy. He is there but nobody really pats him on the back for all he does. It is only when stuff breaks that we remember him. It is only when a room is not set up for an event that he is noticed. It is when the power goes off during church that people know who he is. It is only when wires get crossed and two group want to use the same space at the same time that he is called out. He is the maintenance and operations guy. No glory for a job well done but plenty of attention when things go wrong. Since being in full-time ministry for a little over two years now, I have personally known two of these guys – Chad Vallejo (when I was at Calvary Church in Moline, IL) and Harry Lawhon (the Board of Trustees chairman that assumes this same role on a volunteer basis at my current church, Lamar United Methodist Church).

The one characteristic about these two guys is that they love the Lord and they love their church. Although Chad has now moved on to another position, he worked at Calvary Church because he wanted to serve the Lord in this way and took a significant pay cut to work at his church. He was a salty, sometime gruff kind of guy, but when you cut through the rough, tough exterior, he was a guy that had a heart for helping people and I think that’s what God used to call him to work for his church for a couple of years there. A lot of things that Chad does in the community as well as what he did for his church went unnoticed by many, but Chad wasn’t doing it for the recognition. He just loved people and loved the Lord. It is the same with Harry. Nobody much sees what Harry does for the church. He is there one or more days each week checking on stuff. He doesn’t get paid for any of it. He just loves his church and he loves the Lord.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning was those people who do things for their church because it is their way of saying thank you, Lord, for what you have done for me and, thank you, church for what the relationships at this church have done for me. That idea of serving quietly in the shadows for your church is what came to mind as I read about the gatekeepers at the Temple. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 26:1-19 now:

Chapter 26

1 From the Korahites, there was Meshelemiah son of Kore, of the family of Abiasaph.[a] 2 The sons of Meshelemiah were Zechariah (the oldest), Jediael (the second), Zebadiah (the third), Jathniel (the fourth), 3 Elam (the fifth), Jehohanan (the sixth), and Eliehoenai (the seventh).

4 The sons of Obed-edom, also gatekeepers, were Shemaiah (the oldest), Jehozabad (the second), Joah (the third), Sacar (the fourth), Nethanel (the fifth), 5 Ammiel (the sixth), Issachar (the seventh), and Peullethai (the eighth). God had richly blessed Obed-edom.

6 Obed-edom’s son Shemaiah had sons with great ability who earned positions of great authority in the clan. 7 Their names were Othni, Rephael, Obed, and Elzabad. Their relatives, Elihu and Semakiah, were also very capable men.

8 All of these descendants of Obed-edom, including their sons and grandsons—sixty-two of them in all—were very capable men, well qualified for their work.

9 Meshelemiah’s eighteen sons and relatives were also very capable men.

10 Hosah, of the Merari clan, appointed Shimri as the leader among his sons, though he was not the oldest. 11 His other sons included Hilkiah (the second), Tebaliah (the third), and Zechariah (the fourth). Hosah’s sons and relatives, who served as gatekeepers, numbered thirteen in all.

12 These divisions of the gatekeepers were named for their family leaders, and like the other Levites, they served at the house of the Lord. 13 They were assigned by families for guard duty at the various gates, without regard to age or training, for it was all decided by means of sacred lots.

14 The responsibility for the east gate went to Meshelemiah[b] and his group. The north gate was assigned to his son Zechariah, a man of unusual wisdom. 15 The south gate went to Obed-edom, and his sons were put in charge of the storehouse. 16 Shuppim and Hosah were assigned the west gate and the gateway leading up to the Temple.[c] Guard duties were divided evenly. 17 Six Levites were assigned each day to the east gate, four to the north gate, four to the south gate, and two pairs at the storehouse. 18 Six were assigned each day to the west gate, four to the gateway leading up to the Temple, and two to the courtyard.[d]

19 These were the divisions of the gatekeepers from the clans of Korah and Merari.

In this passage, we reflect back to earlier in 1 Chronicles where it says that there were 4,000 gatekeepers (see 1 Chronicles 23:5). It was a large group. They were all Levites and did many jobs in the Temple. Some of their duties included checking out the equipment and utensils used each day to make sure everything was working in proper order and that materials had been returned to the storehouse. They were responsible for storing, ordering and maintaining the food supplies for the priests and for the sacrifices. They were responsible for caring for the furniture. They were responsible for mixing the incense that was burned daily. Also, they were responsible for accounting for the gifts brought to the Temple. In other words, the gatekeepers were the operations and maintenance department of the Temple’s day to day business.

We thank God and shout the praises of those who are like the gatekeepers at the Temple. We thank God for those maintenance and operations guys in our temples of the Lord in this day and age. We thank you, Lord, for placing these guys in our churches. Every church needs one whether you have 10, a 100, a 1,000, or 10,000 on Sunday mornings. There’s that quiet, unassuming guy that does all that necessary stuff that gets no accolades. He does it because he loves his church and he loves his Lord. That’s enough for him. That makes his work at the church far greater than the nuts and bolts. It makes it so that people can come to your church campus and worship the Lord without even worrying about mechanical or scheduling or any other logistical issues. That makes the maintenance and operations guy smile and His Lord smiles back at him.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-31

Duties of the Musicians

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

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

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

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

Chapter 25

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

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

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

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

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

9

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

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

10

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

21

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

22

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

23

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

24

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

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

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

29

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

30

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

31

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 24:20-31

Family Leaders Among the Levites

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

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

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

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

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

20 These were the other family leaders descended from Levi:

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

From the descendants of Shebuel, the leader was Jehdeiah.

21

From the descendants of Rehabiah, the leader was Isshiah.

22

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

From the descendants of Shelomith, the leader was Jahath.

23

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

24

From the descendants of Uzziel, the leader was Micah.

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

From the descendants of Isshiah, the leader was Zechariah.

26

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

From the descendants of Jaaziah, the leader was Beno.

27

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

28

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

29

From the descendants of Kish, the leader was Jerahmeel.

30

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 24:1-19

Duties of the Priests

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

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

Chapter 24

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

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

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

7

The first lot fell to Jehoiarib.

The second lot fell to Jedaiah.

8

The third lot fell to Harim.

The fourth lot fell to Seorim.

9

The fifth lot fell to Malkijah.

The sixth lot fell to Mijamin.

10

The seventh lot fell to Hakkoz.

The eighth lot fell to Abijah.

11

The ninth lot fell to Jeshua.

The tenth lot fell to Shecaniah.

12

The eleventh lot fell to Eliashib.

The twelfth lot fell to Jakim.

13

The thirteenth lot fell to Huppah.

The fourteenth lot fell to Jeshebeab.

14

The fifteenth lot fell to Bilgah.

The sixteenth lot fell to Immer.

15

The seventeenth lot fell to Hezir.

The eighteenth lot fell to Happizzez.

16

The nineteenth lot fell to Pethahiah.

The twentieth lot fell to Jehezkel.

17

The twenty-first lot fell to Jakin.

The twenty-second lot fell to Gamul.

18

The twenty-third lot fell to Delaiah.

The twenty-fourth lot fell to Maaziah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

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

The Levite Clans & Their Duties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

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

The Levite Clans & Their Duties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.