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

Warriors Join David’s Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:19-22

Some Israelites Join David’s Army

It is interesting here that people were drawn to the cause of David as the rightful and God-anointed king of Israel. Cynicism would say that they were drawn to the cause of the underdog or that it was the trendy thing to follow David since Saul represented the establishment. However, for those that understand the Bible, it was because David was God’s chosen one to be king of Israel and God showed him favor with men. Further, it was obvious to anyone who knew of David knew that he “was a man after God’s own heart.” People are often drawn to others who are faithful to the Lord because they are just so different from what we know of regular, cynical, greedy, self-centered people in this world. People are often drawn today to those Christ followers who are just genuine, authentic, and bold in an everyday way about their faith. They are not necessarily the flashy headline grabbing type people but people of faith who other know that they are the way they are because of their faith in Jesus Christ. These people would be considered modern day people “after God’s own heart.” People living in a hopeless world are drawn to people who live out their faith in positive, real ways in their spheres of influence.

Now is the time. Carpe Diem, as the old Latin phrase goes, “Seize the Day!” It is exactly a time such as this that we are living in right now for Christians to stand up and reclaim their influence in society. Amidst this latest pandemic that threatens global public health, we must no longer be likened to football players standing on the sidelines holding our helmets. We have for far too long complained that the world has passed us by. We have complained for far too long that we are being marginalized as Christ followers in an increasingly secular society. We have for far too long talked about the world in terms of us vs. them. Us in our churches vs. the non-believers shaking their fist at God at our there. Now is our time to show the world who we really are.

That’s what I thought about this morning as I read about the increasing numbers of men that were drawn to David’s cause. Let’s read this short passage, 1 Chronicles 12:19-22 now and see why:

19 Some men from Manasseh defected from the Israelite army and joined David when he set out with the Philistines to fight against Saul. But as it turned out, the Philistine rulers refused to let David and his men go with them. After much discussion, they sent them back, for they said, “It will cost us our heads if David switches loyalties to Saul and turns against us.”

20 Here is a list of the men from Manasseh who defected to David as he was returning to Ziklag: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zillethai. Each commanded 1,000 troops from the tribe of Manasseh. 21 They helped David chase down bands of raiders, for they were all brave and able warriors who became commanders in his army. 22 Day after day more men joined David until he had a great army, like the army of God.

In this passage, we see that David “had a great army, like the army of God.” Men were drawn to David by the reputation of his great warriors, the news of their victories, and their desire to see God’s will done in making David king. People are often drawn to a great cause and the brave, determined people who support it. As believers, we have the greatest cause – carrying the gospel message to the world. If we are brave, determined and faithful to the Lord, and willing to work hard for the cause of Christ and not just stand back and watch and do nothing, others will be drawn to the cause of Christ through our efforts to “go and make disciples.”

The current health crisis in America and around the globe with its increasing shutdowns of normal human activities including schools and so on is an opportunity for us as Christians “to put up or shut up!” In a world that is day by day, hour by hour, being consumed by panic and fear and a sense of hopelessness, we must be what we are called to be, a beacon of hope in a hopeless land, a light from a city on the hill. If we miss this opportunity to love our fellow man with the gospel message and remain inside our holy huddles, then, we might as well take church off the names of our buildings. If we are not the hope of nations at this moment, then, we are just all talk. If we are not looking for ways to serve our fellow man in ways that truly matter such as opening emergency day care centers for families that have kids at home because of extended school closings but the parents must still work, we might as well call ourselves country clubs. If we do not provide food deliveries for kids that normally depend on school breakfasts and lunches for their daily meals, then, we might as well call ourselves irrelevant instead of letting the world continue saying it. We must take action as Christians to make ourselves relevant to the real problems in our communities so that we can say we are doing these things because Jesus Christ offers hope in a hopeless world. Otherwise our Christian faith is an academic mind game and not a real and relevant faith. We are called to serve our fellow man so that they will see Jesus in us. We called to serve our fellow man and not get anything in return from it other than the opportunity to tell the recipients of our goodwill about the Savior that saved us and compels us to serve the world around us.

Help us, oh Lord, not to sit quietly and let the unbelievers around us be consumed with the fear, hopelessness and hysteria of the random world that they see. Help us to provide them with evidence of the fact that there is hope when all seems hopeless through Jesus Christ. Help us to tell them that there is more than this. Help us to tell them of Jesus Christ and how He helps us make it through times of trouble through knowing that there is a heaven that awaits us even in the worst of times in this fallen world. Help us to tell them that God does exist and that He does love them. Help us to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that they once depended on to sooth their souls that has now gone haywire. Help us to teach the world in real and tangible ways that God is real and that He is in control.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:8-18 (Part 2 of 2)

Warriors Join David

One of the features of the success of Clemson football during its greatest decade ever is that they are not afraid to go after the best football players in the high school ranks anywhere in the nation. Since Coach Swinney took over as head coach, they have not shied away from go after athletes that experts feel are a slam-dunk for another major school. However, that’s not the greatest feature. They will go after the best athletes but their athletic prowess is always subject to whether they will fit into the type of program, the culture, of Clemson football and the university. As a result, they often sidestep the #1 guy in a position in the country and get the #2 or #3 guy because the #1 rated guy just won’t fit into the culture of the Clemson football program. There is a high degree of self-accountability established among the players within the program. Leaders among the players are expected to display real leadership and mentor and lead those that are younger than them. Getting their degree must be important to the player being recruited. Growing in a responsible citizen after college is important to the program. There is a sense of family that is instilled in the program where the guys do genuinely seem to really care about each other. I genuinely believe that Coach Swinney and his coaches will pass on a guy that is a behavior problem, a prima donna kind of player, those #1 guys who think the world owes them a favor because they are gifted athlete, even if that kid is one of those once in a generation kinds of talents if they do not fit into the type of program he has established at Clemson.

I think there is a lesson to be learned from Dabo Swinney and from David here. It is that idea of recruiting to the desired culture that came to mind when I read this passage again for the second time. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 12:8-18 once again now:

8 Some brave and experienced warriors from the tribe of Gad also defected to David while he was at the stronghold in the wilderness. They were expert with both shield and spear, as fierce as lions and as swift as deer on the mountains.

9

Ezer was their leader.

Obadiah was second.

Eliab was third.

10

Mishmannah was fourth.

Jeremiah was fifth.

11

Attai was sixth.

Eliel was seventh.

12

Johanan was eighth.

Elzabad was ninth.

13

Jeremiah was tenth.

Macbannai was eleventh.

14 These warriors from Gad were army commanders. The weakest among them could take on a hundred regular troops, and the strongest could take on a thousand! 15 These were the men who crossed the Jordan River during its seasonal flooding at the beginning of the year and drove out all the people living in the lowlands on both the east and west banks.

16 Others from Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold. 17 David went out to meet them and said, “If you have come in peace to help me, we are friends. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when I am innocent, then may the God of our ancestors see it and punish you.”

18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, the leader of the Thirty, and he said,

“We are yours, David!

    We are on your side, son of Jesse.

Peace and prosperity be with you,

    and success to all who help you,

    for your God is the one who helps you.”

So David let them join him, and he made them officers over his troops.

In this passage, we see that David was discerning about who was in his rebel army. They had to be “all-in” for David. They could not be there for any other reason than they believed in David as the rightful and proper king of Israel and that Saul’s pursuit of David was just wrong. They had to be sold out to protecting David. They had to believe in his leadership. They had to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure David’s survival. It was not going to be easy so they had to be sold-out in their belief that the struggle was a worthy one. They had to believe, really believe, that David was the anointed of the Lord for a time such as this one. David was recruiting

In today’s world where there are a limited number of churches that are actually growing out there while most are stagnant or declining, there is a lesson to be learned, like I said from what we see from Dabo and David. In each of these cases, Dabo with the kind of player he recruits and David with who he recruited to be in his army, there is a commonality that we can take from it as leaders of churches. What is common to all these situations is the buy-in to the vision by the people on the team. Everyone on the team must want a vision to unite them. As Solomon said, “without vision the people perish”. That is right there in Proverbs 29:18. The vision must be wrapped around a worthwhile goal and for the church, it must be the common vision of Matthew 28:19 – go and make disciples. There is no qualifiers in that statement.

We must go. That means leaving where we are at. That means leaving where we are comfortable and what we are comfortable with. We must be willing to leave things behind to be in the going. We cannot sit still and rest on the laurels of what we used to be. To reminisce, we have to sit down on a bench to run through memories. We must go and by that I mean, we must get beyond where we are at and our staunch love of where we are at. In the business world, there is a saying, “if you’re standing still, you are falling behind”. If we stay in what we are comfortable with, we will die as churches.

We must make disciples. That statement had no qualifiers upon it. To make disciples, they must be disciples of all kinds, red, yellow, black, white, purple, green, whatever. Our churches, both black and white churches, should be reflective of the community in which we live. We should be not picking who we share the gospel with based on whether they are like us or not. We are called to make disciples. We are called to make disciples of folks that we might think do not deserve to be in our pews. We need to make disciples of people whose political views make our skin boil. We need to make disciples of people who right now are living lifestyles outside the biblical realm. We need to make disciples from all walks of life. In heaven, there will not be separate churches for separate kinds of people. There will be democrats, republicans, blacks, whites, people we didn’t think deserved Jesus here on earth, people that looked different and didn’t do things the way we have always done them. Say what you will about the churches out there that are actually growing, but they are reaching people that we are not. We must analyze what we are doing and be willing to change the methods we have always used so that we can reach more people. That’s every stagnant or declining church out there. To make disciples, you sometimes have to be as Paul said, “a Greek to the Greeks, and a Jew to the Jews!”

Thus, what we see in Dabo and David was that the recruited to the vision. We should be the same in our country’s stagnant and declining churches, our leadership must reflect an all-in willing to go and make disciples, whatever that takes, whatever that looks like, and we must be willing to submit ourselves to that mindset. We will be willing to follow the Matthew 28:19 vision into the wilderness like David’s men, where they were surely uncomfortable, and where things would have been easier in their comfort zones back in town. But they were willing to fight for the rightful king regardless of the sacrifices that needed to be made. Just like the kids that Dabo recruits are willing to submit to the vision he has for his program. We too must be willing to submit to the vision and be willing to follow that vision to the wilderness where sacrifices will need to be made, where we will most definitely be in those places that are not comfortable to us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:8-18 (Part 1 of 2)

Warriors Join David

Have you ever had one of those moments that you didn’t know where those words came from when speaking to a friend who needed those words? Have you ever just been given the urge to check on a friend that you haven’t checked on in a while? Then, you find out that there was something going on in their lives that you were able to help them with. Have you ever been writing about a passage in the Bible and then you just have this amazing moment of clarity of (1) the essential truth of the passage and (2) particularly, how that applies to our lives today. You get consumed and are in a zone when you are writing or journaling about it?

Those are the moments of true Holy Spirit inspiration. Does that mean that you do not have the Holy Spirit in you in those non-“in the zone” moments? No. It just means that there are times that the Holy Spirit really gets your attention and gives you special skill or special understanding or a special sense about something. Once we accept Christ as our Savior, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and He never departs from us. However, there are moments when the Holy Spirit just rattles our cage more so than at other times. You know those times, don’t you? Those special clarity moments. Those particularly moving worship service moments. Those intercession moments in another person’s life that really needed it. Those moments when a Bible passage just comes alive to you more than it ever has and it has a changing and profound effect on your life. Those moments when you were able to do something that you never thought you could do. Those out of my comfort zone moments when the Holy Spirit just takes over and later you go – whoooaaaa!, where did that come from? Those are the special anointing moments that we all have as believers but it does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not acting and indwelling in our lives in all the other times. That’s just not the nature of salvation. That’s just not the nature of what Jesus did for us when we accepted Him as our Savior. That’s not consistent with the eternal nature of the triune God.

The reason I bring this up in today’s blog is there is a phrase here in this passage that you often see in the Old Testament when it says, that the Holy Spirit “came upon” a person as if the Holy Spirit was not indwelt in their lives as believers? This is an old question to which there are contradictory answers when you read various sources. Thus, I wanted to discuss this issue in light of that phrase in our passage today, 1 Chronicles 12:8-18. Let’s read it now:

8 Some brave and experienced warriors from the tribe of Gad also defected to David while he was at the stronghold in the wilderness. They were expert with both shield and spear, as fierce as lions and as swift as deer on the mountains.

9

Ezer was their leader.

Obadiah was second.

Eliab was third.

10

Mishmannah was fourth.

Jeremiah was fifth.

11

Attai was sixth.

Eliel was seventh.

12

Johanan was eighth.

Elzabad was ninth.

13

Jeremiah was tenth.

Macbannai was eleventh.

14 These warriors from Gad were army commanders. The weakest among them could take on a hundred regular troops, and the strongest could take on a thousand! 15 These were the men who crossed the Jordan River during its seasonal flooding at the beginning of the year and drove out all the people living in the lowlands on both the east and west banks.

16 Others from Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold. 17 David went out to meet them and said, “If you have come in peace to help me, we are friends. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when I am innocent, then may the God of our ancestors see it and punish you.”

18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, the leader of the Thirty, and he said,

“We are yours, David!

    We are on your side, son of Jesse.

Peace and prosperity be with you,

    and success to all who help you,

    for your God is the one who helps you.”

So David let them join him, and he made them officers over his troops.

In this passage, we see that this passage states that the Holy Spirit “came upon” Amasai and it brings up a question that is a debate among biblical scholars and among us regular avid Bible readers. There is this debate as to whether the Holy Spirit indwelled people prior to Pentecost (when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon His disciples). There are those who believe the Holy Spirit did not work in the same manner during the Old Testament age as He does in the New Testament age beginning at Pentecost. Although it has been the same Holy Spirit all along, His methods have changed from age to age. They contend that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was not universal to every believer, but was available only to certain believers. It is possible that the references to the Holy Spirit being upon Joshua and others refer to a “special anointing” and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The reason for holding this view is because it is difficult to see how anyone could have entered a right relationship with God without the Holy Spirit indwelling them. The Bible teaches that we all have a sinful nature and need to be saved from our sins. If the Holy Spirit did not indwell individuals during the Old Testament period, how were they saved and how did they lead a godly life? It seems impossible for them to be able to do so without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

According to Jesus, everyone must have a spiritual rebirth to enter God’s kingdom. Therefore, for Jesus to have said that (and his interview with Nicodemus would have been before Pentecost), it must have always been eternally true and not just in the New Testament era. Furthermore, no one can serve God in his own strength. It seems more consistent to say that the Holy Spirit indwelt everyone who believed in the promises of God. Further, it seems more consistent with the eternal nature of God to say that there has eternally been the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within those who believe in and have submitted their lives to God (in his eternal triune form, The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit). What is true of God in the New Testament era must also be true of God in all eras for all time.

However, it is obvious from the Old Testament that the Holy Spirit gave special ability to certain individuals as we see in Exodus 31:3, for example:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.”

So, it may be the better conclusion that the Old Testament does not give a comprehensive picture about the work of the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament period. It seems more plausible that the leaving of the Holy Spirit was the leaving of the Spirit’s anointing rather than His indwelling. Thus, during the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit gave some believers special skills to perform certain tasks, just as He did and does in the New Testament era.

This is a difficult question because there seems to be a marked difference in the description of the workings of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament vs. the New Testament. But then I wrestle with the fact that God has eternal and unchanging qualities. Thus, what is true about him now is and was true about him in all ages past. Saying that God did not indwell true believers in God (and thus Jesus Christ, because of the eternal triune nature of God) in the Old Testament means that they did not need the ongoing sharpening and daily convictions of the Holy Spirit as we do now. Thus, were the Old Testament believers less depraved than us? I find that hard to believe, especially when you read about the stuff that was going on in the Old Testament era – they were just as messed up or even more so than we are today. Thus, the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives daily through indwelling seems to be a necessity, not just periodic visitations. Could anything less than or other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep a believer believing, repenting, hoping, obeying, etc.?

Of course, this is my opinion and you may draw another conclusion and this issue is not an essential feature of the faith that a person has to buy off on when they are responding to the call of the spirit to accept Christ as their Savior. So, it’s one of those debates among believers after they have had a few years in as believers. It’s a finer point kind of thing.

But bottom line is that we need the Holy Spirit in us. Without Him, we would never mature as believers. We would never recognize our sins as sins. We would never repent of sins because they would never be brought to our attention. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives indwelt is essential to making us holy enough, along with the person and work of Jesus Christ, despite our sin nature to allow us to be in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit makes holy. The Holy Spirit spends our lifetime sanctifying us as well – making us more and more like Christ every day. We need the Holy Spirit every day. But we also need those times were the Holy Spirit really jogs our heart, mind, and soul and gives us that extra special something that is needed in a special moment for us or for someone in our sphere of influence. In those cases, those extraspecial moments, He comes upon us and consumes us to give us that extra special ummph that is needed for that special moment.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 12:1-7

Warriors Join David’s Army

The pastor at my home church, LifeSong Church (Lyman, SC), once told us during one of our leadership meetings that if, on a scale of 1-10, you are a leader that is, say, a 5, you will not enlist people on your ministry team that are a 6 or above, unless you are an humble leader and realize where you are on the leadership scale. Unless you are humble enough to realize your weaknesses, you will only seek out those who are at 4 or below on that scale. He said we must understand our weaknesses so that we will seek out folks to be on our team that not only are less skilled than we are but also those that have talents greater than our own in our weakest areas.

That was an eye-opener. It forced us to examine ourselves for our weaknesses in our leadership skills so that we seek out those who are more skilled than us in certain areas of weakness so that whatever team we are leading that we have the best and the brightest. We seek them out so that we are not limiting our team to the height of our own skills in each area of skill that is needed by that team. That is a key to life not only in leadership but also in life in general as a Christian.

In this season of the church year leading up to Easter, known as Lent, it is a time of self-examination. It is a time of self-reflection. It is a time where we look at ourselves plainly. Although Lent is an invention of the church after the apostolic era, it does have a biblical basis and it is good that we as Christians take time to examine our weaknesses. It is during this time of year that we have a focused opportunity as Christians, when we observe the centuries old church calendar, to do so. If you are not all into the traditions of the church, there is still something worthwhile about taking time to self-examine. When we are honest with ourselves, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us where we are weak when it comes to certain sins. This self examination will help us to identify our kryptonite sin areas where we are open to or susceptible to kidding ourselves about those sins. Those blind spots that we all have. Over time, the Holy Spirit has the hardest time with us about those sin bastions, those kryptonite sins, that we refuse to give up. Our pride often won’t allow us to see these weaknesses, because those are the sins that give us the most pleasure and the ones that we don’t want to give up.

Just as in leadership positions where we often do not choose subordinates that are not more talented than us, we often only choose friends who are not a threat to us either. We choose friends based on the fact that they will not challenge us. As Christians, we need to choose friends that not only are either where we are at or less mature than us, but we also need friends that are more spiritually more (in a way, more talented Christians than we are). We need those friends who are more mature than us so that our own game as Christ followers is lifted. We need those friends in our lives who challenge us when we need challenging. It is only through having our shortcomings revealed to us as Christ followers that we grow and mature in our faith. Never be afraid to have friends that will challenge you to be a better Christ follower.

That idea that in this season of Lent, we need the humility to understand our weaknesses and not let them limit us. That idea that we should not be afraid to self-examine ourselves will not only make us better leaders but also better Christ followers in general was what came to mind this morning. That idea is what I thought of as I read about David’s warriors in 1 Chronicles 12:1-7:

Chapter 12

1 The following men joined David at Ziklag while he was hiding from Saul son of Kish. They were among the warriors who fought beside David in battle. 2 All of them were expert archers, and they could shoot arrows or sling stones with their left hand as well as their right. They were all relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. 3 Their leader was Ahiezer son of Shemaah from Gibeah; his brother Joash was second-in-command. These were the other warriors:

Jeziel and Pelet, sons of Azmaveth;

Beracah;

Jehu from Anathoth;

4

Ishmaiah from Gibeon, a famous warrior and leader among the Thirty;

[a]Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, and Jozabad from Gederah;

5

Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, and Shephatiah from Haruph;

6

Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, and Jashobeam, who were Korahites;

7

Joelah and Zebadiah, sons of Jeroham from Gedor.

In this passage, we see that David surrounded himself with great warriors, the best of the Israelite army. What qualities made them worthy to be David’s warriors and servants? The reasons were several. First, they had practiced long and hard to perfect their skills (with bow, sling, and spear). Second, they were mentally tough and determined (“as fierce as lions”, see 1 Chronicles 12:8). Third, they were physically fit (“as swift as deer”, see 1 Chronicles 12:8). Finally, they were dedicated to serving God and David. Weak leaders are easily threatened by competent subordinates, but strong leaders surround themselves with the best. They are not intimidated by able followers. Strong and maturing Christ followers are not afraid to be challenged and, thus, surround themselves with friends not only that are where they are at or less mature as Christians but also those who are more mature.

Able and humble leaders pick team members that complement our weaknesses and make the full team more capable of meeting their challenges. An humble leader realizes that the goal is the thing and not their accolades. An humble leader then is not afraid to have team members that have talents that he or she does not. An humble leader then is not afraid to have people that are not just yes-men. An humble leader is one who sees the more talented as an asset to the goals of the team and not a threat. Those leaders who can be honest about themselves and where they are great and where they are weak will then be able to fill out his team with a well-rounded group that will be able to meet or exceed the goals that are set out before them.

It is the same for us as individuals in our individual walks with Christ. To be a well-rounded Christ follower, we must be able to have three kinds of friends. First, we need those that we can disciple – those that are less mature than us. In this way, we are honed to be Christian leaders by fostering the growth of those less mature than us. Second, we need those that are in the same place that we are from a spiritual maturity standpoint – we need those that are going through the same stuff, the same life stages, the same struggles that we are so that we can learn from each other. Third, and most importantly, we need those friends that are more spiritually mature than we are. We need those who will challenge us to grow up in our walk with Christ. Those friends, we need, to point out to us where we are blind. Those friends that will kick us in the seat of the pants when we need it.

In this season of Lent, let us examine ourselves and then proceed in our lives and in our leadership opportunities to realize where our weaknesses are so that we can seek out those who will help us mature as Christians and as leaders.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 11:20-47 (Part 2 of 2)

David’s Thirty Mighty Men

Benaiah is probably one of the most obscure characters in the Bible but he provides us with some food to munch on as Christ followers on two levels. In my last blog, I talked about men of courage in times of trouble. Benaiah also teaches that point as well. Second, he teaches us that courage is realizing that trying to avoid conflict just so we can arrive safely at death is no way to live.

Over the last 8 ½ months as the solo pastor of a smaller church and over the last two years in full-time vocational ministry, I have wondered why I followed the call to full-time ministry. Even as the solo pastor of a smaller church, the task can be overwhelming at times. There are so many things that go into being the pastor of a smaller and long-established church.

First, there is the constancy of being the leader of the church that were not present in my secular career as a corporate accountant. In the world of corporate finance and corporate internal auditing, as I have explained before, there were cycles to that life each month. In my early career, I was an internal auditor and there were two weeks out of town where we worked 70-90 hours per week getting the fieldwork of an internal audit done and then back home for two weeks to get the audit report done and to cool down from the intensity of the workload of the out of town two weeks. In the world of corporate financial management, there was month-end closing week where you would put in 80 hours or so in a week to mange the month-end closings, quarter-end closings, and year-end closings. Then, there was two weeks of doing reconciliations and reports about what happened last month and so on. And then the final week of the month was time to take a breath before the whole process started up again. Here, now, as the pastor, the only pastor, at this church, there is a constancy of the job. There is no down week or weeks to catch your breath. You have to be planning 6 months ahead. You have to be writing sermons every week. You have to have meetings with ministry leaders and with full committees. You have to plan the worship service each week. You have to visit the sick. You have to visit members on a regular basis. I was telling someone the other day, as you stand at the rear of the church as everyone is exiting after the service, you have everyone telling you whether they liked the sermon or not. And for a brief moment, you have a feeling of accomplishment for the week at hand. As the last person exits the church, you then realize, the process now starts over again, immediately.

The weight of it all can be overwhelming at times and you wonder why you left your cyclical secular job to begin with. Then, there is the up and down nature of ministry. You have joy over something happening in one ministry of the church but that is offset by disappointment in another area of ministry. You can have agreement with one leader and disagreement with another. Sometimes all these things happen in the same day. It’s all just a very different animal from the cyclical nature of my prior career.

That’s not to say that I do not enjoy what I am doing, I certainly do. I really don’t feel like I am working though I am working harder I think than I have since my internal audit days. When you are working at what God has called you to do, it doesn’t seem as much like work as my other work from my previous career. The rises and the falls and the constancy of this pastoral thing is just more of a toll because I am putting all of my heart and soul into be a pastor. It would have been easier just to stay in my safe, well-understood, predictable, cyclical secular job as a corporate controller but sometimes in life you must jump in the pit with the lion when God calls you to do so.

Let’s read this passage now with particular attention to the part of the passage about Benaiah:

20 Now Abishai,[a] the brother of Joab, was chief of the Thirty.[b] With his spear he fought against three hundred and killed them, and won a name beside the Three. 21 He was the most renowned[c] of the Thirty,[d] and became their commander; but he did not attain to the Three.

22 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant man[e] of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds; he struck down two sons of[f] Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. 23 And he killed an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam; but Benaiah went against him with a staff, snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. 24 Such were the things Benaiah son of Jehoiada did, and he won a name beside the three warriors. 25 He was renowned among the Thirty, but he did not attain to the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

26 The warriors of the armies were Asahel brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 27 Shammoth of Harod,[g] Helez the Pelonite, 28 Ira son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, 29 Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, 30 Maharai of Netophah, Heled son of Baanah of Netophah, 31 Ithai son of Ribai of Gibeah of the Benjaminites, Benaiah of Pirathon, 32 Hurai of the wadis of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, 33 Azmaveth of Baharum, Eliahba of Shaalbon, 34 Hashem[h] the Gizonite, Jonathan son of Shagee the Hararite, 35 Ahiam son of Sachar the Hararite, Eliphal son of Ur, 36 Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, 37 Hezro of Carmel, Naarai son of Ezbai, 38 Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar son of Hagri, 39 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah, 40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad son of Ahlai, 42 Adina son of Shiza the Reubenite, a leader of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, 43 Hanan son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, 44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel sons of Hotham the Aroerite, 45 Jediael son of Shimri, and his brother Joha the Tizite, 46 Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai and Joshaviah sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, 47 Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.

In this passage, we see that Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. This act one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, a blessed and audacious act that left no regrets.

What if I had stayed in my cushy, pleasantly-more-than-adequately-compensated position, where I was the man in charge of the finance team for my division of the company I had worked for a decade. I could still be there right now if I had not resigned. The job was good for me and my wife and securing our financial future. What if I had stayed? Since 2011, the Lord had been calling me to ministry and we spent the next 7 years preparing for it. What if I had ignored the call? I would certainly be in a more predictable and safe job where the conflicts were farther apart and the job was easier because that’s what I had been working in for 3 decades since college graduation. It would have been safe. But I would have had regrets. I know it. If I had not followed the call, I would not have jumped in the pit. I would not be fighting the lion of a new career. I would not either have known the satisfaction that I get for that moment at the end of the service and the last person has left the sanctuary. That’s the sweet spot every week. That brief moment.

That brief moment is a feeling of utter peace and satisfaction of having done what God called me to do for another week. That brief moment where I can sit for a moment in the pit after having killed the lion for another week. That brief moment where my soul is at rest in knowing that regardless of what anyone else thinks I have done my duty as the Lord has laid it out to me. That brief moment I get my greatest satisfaction of my life. Another week complete. Another week I have served the Lord in the way that He has called me to do it.

Then, it starts all over again. Another pit. Another lion. Another week to serve the Lord. And….

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 11:20-47 (Part 1 of 2)

David’s Thirty Mighty Men

“Where are you, men of courage?” It is one of the key moments in the faith-based movie, Courageous, that was released in 2011. That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Chronicles 11:20-47. We know from 1 Samuel that there were about 400 men that joined David as he was defending himself against the armies of King Saul. But there was here in this passage a listing of the members of the group known as the Thirty. There are 37 names which I assume means that not all them were part of the 30 for its entire existence and some had to be replaced. All of the men who served in The Thirty are listed in this passage. Of the original 400 men that assembled as David’s ragtag army, there were only these men who were part of The Thirty. Not much is said about them but their names are given. Every man who joined David in the wilderness entered into his kingdom, but only a few made the list of mighty men. These were the men who were the men of courage.

After a quarter century or more of Christianity being systematically removed from public discourse, one wonders where today’s men of courage might be. We often complain about how Christians are marginalized in today’s society but yet we continue to quietly accept that we can do nothing about it. Will there be a day when there are names noted as men, and women, who stood up against the tide of secularization of our society. Ten commandments removed from courthouses. Prayer removed from public school and public school events. We are unable to do many things that were just considered a normal part of life just 40 or 50 years ago. We are afraid to speak up about so many things that are crucial to our faith that have gone out of fashion in the public marketplace. Where are the men of courage? Where are the women of courage? Will we continue to withdraw inside our church walls and complain about “them” out there and huddle inside our holy huddles?

Will we be men of courage? Will we be women of courage? Will there be remembrances of our names when there is a discussion of great men and women of faith of our generation? That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through the names of the courageous fighting men that were David’s closest advisors and protectors. Let’s read this passage now:

20 Now Abishai,[a] the brother of Joab, was chief of the Thirty.[b] With his spear he fought against three hundred and killed them, and won a name beside the Three. 21 He was the most renowned[c] of the Thirty,[d] and became their commander; but he did not attain to the Three.

22 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant man[e] of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds; he struck down two sons of[f] Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. 23 And he killed an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam; but Benaiah went against him with a staff, snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. 24 Such were the things Benaiah son of Jehoiada did, and he won a name beside the three warriors. 25 He was renowned among the Thirty, but he did not attain to the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

26 The warriors of the armies were Asahel brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 27 Shammoth of Harod,[g] Helez the Pelonite, 28 Ira son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, 29 Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, 30 Maharai of Netophah, Heled son of Baanah of Netophah, 31 Ithai son of Ribai of Gibeah of the Benjaminites, Benaiah of Pirathon, 32 Hurai of the wadis of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, 33 Azmaveth of Baharum, Eliahba of Shaalbon, 34 Hashem[h] the Gizonite, Jonathan son of Shagee the Hararite, 35 Ahiam son of Sachar the Hararite, Eliphal son of Ur, 36 Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, 37 Hezro of Carmel, Naarai son of Ezbai, 38 Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar son of Hagri, 39 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah, 40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad son of Ahlai, 42 Adina son of Shiza the Reubenite, a leader of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, 43 Hanan son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, 44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel sons of Hotham the Aroerite, 45 Jediael son of Shimri, and his brother Joha the Tizite, 46 Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai and Joshaviah sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, 47 Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.

In this passage, we see the names of fighting men who were among a group of elite soldiers that were known as The Thirty. They are among the first to support David and they were his most skilled soldiers. They honed their craft with David as he spent all those years on the run from King Saul. They stood with David against the tyranny of King Saul when everyone else just accepted what was going on and kept quiet so that they would not be at risk of the wrath of the king. These were men of courage who fought against the tide of opposition and stood out and followed David. They were not quietly acquiescing to the murderous tirades of King Saul in his attempt to stamp out David. They would not have it. It was wrong and they knew and did something about it. Ultimately, they were rewarded when King David came to power. Ultimately, they are remembered and immortalized here as great men of courage that fought with and supported “a man after God’s own heart”! So, here they are immortalized forever in the Bible as great men of faith, of great men of courage, of great men of loyalty.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr.  who once said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” What he was referring to was that often there were good people in the South who were against the institutional and systematic racism against blacks but who did nothing to stop it. They were afraid of retribution for their opposing “the way things had always been.” That’s the appalling silence that Dr. King spoke of. In today’s world, we could say the same thing about us as Christians in America. We remain quiet as the world continues to chip away at our beliefs and remove them piece by piece from the public domain. Christians in other parts of the world are willing to die for their beliefs and do so more often than we want to recognize. However, the question that arises for us in the United States as Christians is whether we have the courage of Christians in the Muslim world. Do we have the courage of Christians in China? Do we have the courage of Christians in North Korea? Are we willing to stand up and stand out like David’s mighty fighting men? Do we have the courage to be willing to lose everything for what we believe? Are we more concerned with our creature comforts and bank accounts and vacations and nice cars and nice toys than we are to stand up and stand out? There will come a day when being a Christian in the United States will cost us our secular comforts? Are we going to be silent to keep our toys or are we going to be among those that are recounted to future generations as great men and women of courage, as great men and women of faith? Will you be counted? Will I be counted? Or will we be the silent good people?

Amen and Amen.