Daily Archives: July 5, 2010

The End Of Your Greatest Fear

Years ago, at a low ebb in my life, I considered selling burial plots for a large conglomerate of cemeteries. “Pre-Need selling,” they called it.

“All you need to do is memorize the script,” the man told me in my interview. “You’ll be amazed at how easy you can make really good money.”

“If it’s that easy, why don’t more people do it?” I asked.

“Because people don’t want to work in this line of business,” he replied. “They get queasy talking about death.”

Avoiding death is a lucrative industry in our society. We spend massive amounts of money to get in shape, stay in shape, and tailor our shape. I’ve held the hands of people who laid on their deathbeds, gasping for every breath, focusing their energies to avoid the inevitable. We invest in security systems for our homes, carry guns (in America!) and wear seatbelts when we drive.

These efforts aren’t inherently bad, but at times I wonder if we get a little carried away.

Besides, the mortality rate has remained the same for thousands of years—100%.

Please join me today as we explore our efforts to avoid the inevitable.

TODAY’S READING

1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17
Acts 23:11-35
Psalm 3:1-8
Proverbs 18:14-15

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17. Originally, 1 and 2 Chronicles formed one book and was written after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon in 538 B.C. You’ll notice that it focuses primarily on the history of Judah, the southern kingdom. Remember, Assyria had already destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel 200 years before (722 BC).

First Chronicles was written to provide the returning exiles a sense of connectedness with their roots (hence the genealogies, especially at the beginning). But it also serves as an study of where Judah went wrong, which caused them to be taken captive by the Babylonians. The author, whom Bible scholars refer to as the Chronicler, was possibly Ezra (as in the book of Ezra).

Acts 23:11-35. Paul was in a tight spot. More than 40 Jewish men had vowed to neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. The New Bible Commentary offers an interesting insight into this point in the story:

There is irony in the Holy Spirit’s message through Agabus in 21:10–11, ‘the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’. It was in fact the Gentiles who saved Paul from two violent incidents and went on to thwart those Jews who wanted to kill him.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Paul’s life was in danger and he knew it. If he wasn’t careful, he would be killed by a contingent of men deadset on bringing a quick and violent end to his life. Then we read:

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”  Acts 23:11

Immediately following this visitation from Jesus, Paul’s nephew stumbled on some key information about the assassination plot.

After speaking with a sympathetic Roman centurion, nearly half the Roman garrison of soldiers in Jerusalem were sent to protect him while he traveled to Governor Felix.

Into this context, we read a psalm David wrote while on the run from his son Absalom:

O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Meditating on today’s reading, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that my life is in God’s hands. Nothing can happen to me without passing through God’s protective shield. We don’t need to worry about the future or our death because our lives are in God’s steady hands.

I’m still trying to sort through the difficult situations that seem to cast God in a negative, violent light. But I do know this: God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always good…and best of all, he can redeem every situation and struggle, no matter how bad it appears.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. To what extent do you trust God with your life? What prevents you from trusting him?
  3. What does it mean to you that God is in complete control of your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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