Tag Archives: King David

Connecting Your Story to God’s Story

Monday April 17, 1978 “was extremely windy and cold.” At work “the wind blew me off a ladder” and we were finally forced to quit and go home. In 1978 I was staying with my younger brother, sleeping on his couch. I was a twenty-one year-old depressed high school drop out and confused carpenter.

The economy was in shambles and getting worse. The Denver building boom was about to bust. Life looked and felt as bleak as the spring weather, except that I had started dating this young red-headed college girl who loved God with all her heart. I know this because Monday April 17 was the day I first began journaling, recording in a yellow notebook my thoughts and feelings and experiences.

“All in all this has been a good day,” I wrote at the end of my second day’s entry.  “Jesus has been on my mind quite a bit. I hope He is there more tomorrow.”

Looking back on those first entries, I can see Jesus was not only in my mind but always there with me tomorrow and the next day and next day for more than thirty years now. I now know Jesus was always ahead of me writing the next part of the story, the next chapter of my life. My challenge has been to faithfullyu live that story and then record it.

For me journaling is a spiritual discipline that helps me know myself and connect with God. David too practiced this spiritual discipline.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 60:1-62:5

Philippians 1:27-2:18

Psalm 72:1-20

Proverbs 24:11-12

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Philippians 1:27-2:18: This section of Paul’s letter holds one of the most beautiful lyrics and profound pieces of theology in all the New Testament. Chapter 2:6-11 is probably an ancient hymn or creed of the early church that proclaims the central truth of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, and exaltation.

All four aspects of the truth of Christ’s life are woven together and one cannot exist without the other. Though many focus on the cross as God’s ultimate act of salvation, Christ’s death would not have been possible without his making himself nothing and coming to earth. Nor was his crucifixion extraordinary with out the resurrection. And his life overall was unremarkable without his death, resurrection and exaltation.

This means Christmas, Easter, and Ascension are equally holy, mysterious and powerful in God’s plan of salvation for each of us.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

David, King of Israel, journaled also, obviously more poetic, profound, and inspired than my efforts. Psalm 72 ends saying, “This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.” The first seventy-two psalms, almost half the book, therefore, are primarily David’s poems, songs, thoughts, questions, struggles, answers, and epiphanies.

I have often imagined David sitting under a purple sky caring for his sheep and pouring out his heart to God in poetry. Or pacing his throne room muttering his complaints against God. Then finally in his bed chamber refining his ancient journal entries and, with God’s hand on his quill, turning his life’s story into a poem that millions would read and be touched and encouraged by. In them we learn about his view of and love for God, his failing family, his leadership, his adultery, repentance, and through it all, his dependence on God. In these journal entries we see real life, lived with a real God. Before God touched us through David’s journal, I can imagine David, in a difficult day, rereading some of his entries and being given new strength, new insight, new courage through his own story.

I’m glad I recorded some of the raw and real things I did over the last thirty years. I’m not so sure I’m as brave as David to let anyone else read them. I wrote about my doubts, my lust, my faithfulness, my fears (lots of those), my friends, family, failures, my slow, sometimes painful, growth and my red-headed wife always showing me how better to love God.

My old journals carry my story and show how it connects to God’s: how God has walked beside me in it all. Just as God did with David.

Though the Psalms are beautiful, like my journal they are not sanitized. David’s psalms tell us we too can be real with God. And that when we are real with him we open ourselves up to his touch.

Journaling is not just a literary practice. It lets us tell our stories and lets us know our stories are connected to God’s story.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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What Is Your Quest?

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table pursued one quest: the Holy Grail. For some of the knights, it cost them their lives, as this video shows.

All of us pursue a quest, some noble and some not so noble.

But what is the greatest quest of all?

Please join us as we explore it in our Daily Bible Conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Ezra 1:1-2:70
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5
Psalm 27:7-14
Proverbs 20:22-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Ezra 1:1-2:70. At the end of 2 Chronicles, Babylon, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. Seventy years later, King Cyrus gave permission to the Israelites who were in captivity to rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra begins where 2 Chronicles ends. In 538 B.C., Zerubbabel led a contingent of Israelites back to Jerusalem—which was prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28).

With the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was rebuilt.

In a departure from previous kings, Cyrus of Persia maintained a policy of respect for the religions of his captive nations. He believed that treating his captives fairly and allowing them to worship according to their native customs would keep his empire intact. His use of the term “God of heaven” is a term used from his native Zoroastrianism religion. King Cyrus also appears in the book of Daniel.

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5. This section is rich in meaning…

Rather than communicate the gospel as a dynamic speaker—which would draw attention to himself—Paul chose to avoid the conventions of most speakers in his day in order to preach the message of the Christ crucified, which he believed had inherent power. The idea of a crucified god was an affront to the people of his day.

And it’s still an affront to people today. Followers of Jesus gravitate toward what a former senior pastor of mine calls a “kick-ass messiah.” We want a Jesus who resembles Superman. We want to be the church triumphant. We want to dominate the culture. But that’s not Christ.

In the same way, most people (it seems to me) who don’t claim to be followers of Christ believe they need to be a good person in order to get to heaven. To receive salvation based on what Christ has done as opposed to what we’ve done is an affront as well. We don’t have to “do” anything to receive salvation. All we must “do” is believe. This doesn’t seem fair to many because it levels the playing field between “good” people and career criminals. “Good” people can go to hell and career criminals can go to heaven—if the criminals confess their sins to Jesus and ask him to save them.

God chose “foolishness” to confound the “wise.”

Proverbs 20:22. “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” Vengeance, in its many forms, communicates our lack of trust in God to defend and deliver us. While most people may not use physical means to take revenge, we can do it in more passive ways like slander, gossip, and passive aggression. Even unforgiveness and bitterness.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

It seems readily apparent that we find whatever we seek. When I look for my wife’s car keys (a daily occurrence), I expect to find them. I don’t expect to find her missing cell phone. If I don’t look for her car keys, I likely won’t find them. Of course, it’s always wise to begin with the refrigerator, but that’s another story for another day.

All that to say: our quest leads us to what we seek.

From reading Psalm 27, we can tell David was in a pretty difficult situation. He was on the run from his enemies and he needed deliverance. What was his quest?

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (verse 4)

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek (verse 8).

What was David’s quest? He was seeking God’s face.

To seek God’s face can also be translated “to come into his presence.” It far surpasses the mastery of information about a person. It transcends a conversation on the phone. It’s a face-to-face encounter with the holy God who loves us.

Seeking God’s face requires patience, waiting, and listening. It means seeking God for who he is more than what he can do for us.

Our relationship with God consists of more than a daily Bible reading or a checklist of prayer requests.

While God is everywhere, David recognized that God makes his presence known to people who seek him. So David sought him.

What is your quest?

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What spoke to you in today’s reading?

What is your quest? (Be honest!)

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

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

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Was Hitler a Great Leader?

“Hitler was too a great leader,” one of my high school students argued. “Look how many people followed him,” he continued.

The high school student I was arguing with was intelligent, persuasive, and right, at least in part. He was not using the word “great’ as in exemplary but rather in great consequences. Leaders have people follow.

I, however, was not willing to concede his point for two reasons. First, I was older and supposed to be wiser. Second, I didn’t want him to be right. As an idealist, I hold ideas (and the people who espouse them) to high standards. For me, even today, the idea of leadership must encompass more than having people follow you, especially if where you lead them is into disaster.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21

Romans 11:13-36

Psalm 22:1-18

Proverbs 20:7

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21: This chapter highlights the sad truth that if humans do evolve, we do not in the areas of morality and wisdom. Ahab, and all the kings like him, who led God’s people to “prostitute themselves” to other gods have failed horribly, personally and as leaders.

Jehosaphat succeeds by following the God of David. But Jehosaphat’s son decides to follow Ahab and not his father. And he repeats the evil and failure of Ahab. What is it in us humans that tells us to choose against God?

Romans 11:13-36: What a powerful description of grace. God breaks off grafts in the branches not because of who they are but because of who He is.

This chapter lays out several of Scripture’s most thorny ideas: election, grace, and God’s sovereignty. Of the three, people in the today struggle most with sovereignty. We are so steeped in the ideas of freedom and choice that we cannot imagine a God who, because he created all, sustains all, and is over all, has the last word. We want to argue, like we do with our parents, our friends, our leaders. But God has the last word–and that Word is good.

I believe if more of us came to a place of seeing and believing and understanding God as sovereign, election, grace, and the other thorny issues we get impaled on would clear up, at least a little.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Charles Lynch, a Quaker leader in America’s Revolutionary War, had his name turned into a verb. Though he hung no one, Lynch’s brand of vigilante justice against British Loyalists became known as passing “lynch law.” Eventually this verb, “to lynch” evolved into a term used for hanging runaway slaves and–horribly–the mob hangings of blacks in the early 1900s. How awful would it be if your name became a verb describing something so ugly?

Past and current history is riddled with “leaders” such as Lynch, Hitler, Custer, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iraq, city counsel members, and even countless and nameless parents who have led people nowhere good (I am not comparing their moral standing or affect but the end result of landing people in a proverbial ditch).

Today’s reading in Chronicles repeats a sad history: God tells Jehoram he has “walked in the ways” of past evil kings and therefore “led” God’s people toward destruction.

From this we can see my idealistic definition of leadership as only directing people to good and great things does not stack up. My high school friend was right. Hitler was a great–but evil–leader. Tragically many people followed him.

Another problem with my naive definition of leadership is that it leaves no room for the consequences of bad leadership. If I say bad leaders are no leaders at all, then they escape the heavier responsibility God seems to lay on all leaders.

One of God’s constant refrains (I wonder if God tired of saying it) to the kings chronicled in this section of Scripture has been, “you caused” the people to sin. God seems to believe that leaders are responsible for what their followers do and do not do.

This truth holds today as well. Political leaders, parents, pastors, and employers will be held responsible for the things they advocated that are destructive as well as the things they did not stand up against.

As a pastor, in the day we see Jesus as he is and he shows us who we really are, I will stand next to my people. I will have a part (small most likely) in their triumphs and tragedies, in their stumbling, in their belief and unbelief. What I do and say and believe has consequences, not just for me, potentially for you as well. Then each of us will pass into eternal grace or judgement depending on which we have opened our hands and hearts to.

What makes for a great leader? A full definition won’t fit here. But, as a leader, I want my epitaph to be the opposite to the last words written about Jehoram, “he passed away to no one’s regret.”

Idealistic or not, that, in my mind, is what makes a great leader.

  1. Have you ever followed a great leader?
  2. Are you a leader? Of what and who?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Is Homosexuality the Unforgivable Sin? (Warning: You May Not Like this Blog Entry)

A small group of people in Topeka, Kansas have become infamous for their hate of homosexuals. They call themselves a church but consist mainly of the members of the founder’s family (I am torn here between naming the offenders to expose them and not naming them so as to not give them more publicity. I chose the latter.) These misguided, twisted sinners* travel the country and protest all things homosexual by holding up signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” and screaming vile slogans.

Romans 1:18-32 is one of the biblical passages they use to justify their hate. After reading  it myself, I wonder: if they feel these verses give them permission to protest homosexuality, why don’t they also attend church prayer meetings with signs reading, “God Hates Gossips,” or protest outside of their own meeting hall with signs saying, “God Hates Slanderers,” and “God Hates the Heartless and the Senseless”?

If I haven’t made you too angry or nervous, read on and ask with me, “Is homosexuality the unforgivable sin?”

(*Note: I too am a misguided, twisted sinner in need of God’s undeserving mercy.)

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING(click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36

Romans 1:18-32

Psalm 10:1-15

Proverbs 19:6-7

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36: When we last saw David, he was angry with God over (1 Chron. 14:11) the death of Uzzah. It seems David has reconsidered and has actually asked God about the ark and it’s treatment. David shows once again he is a “man after God’s own heart” by repenting of his actions and learning from his mistakes. Yet he still exhibits very human behavior in that he seems to blame the  Levites for “not bringing it up the first time.” I wonder if this is the first time the phrase “ignorance of the Law is no excuse.”

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Still with me? I hope so.

“Hate” is a strong word and in humans an even stronger emotion. The word “hate” occurs about 128 times in the English Bible, and only a dozen or so times in reference to God hating (The word “love” crops up nearly 700 times). And most often “hate” doesn’t describe an emotion but rather an enemy. The sense is that God generally “hates” things that are destructive to us humans, but not an emotion God feels toward humans. God views them as our enemies. The list of destructive actions God hates includes “robbery and iniquity,” “wrong doing,” “violence,” “idol worship,” and “religious feasts.”   Proverb 6:16-19 says,

“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

In short, because God loves us so much, God hates sin, which means any minor or major human action that hurts or destroys us spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, or physically. We could spend 24/7 protesting such things and not exhaust the list.

And God seems to hate all of this self–and others–destructive behavior equally. No one enemy to humanity rises above the other.

Jesus equates anger with murder and declares calling someone a fool an eternally punishable offense (Mtt. 5:22). This confuses us because, to us, there are obviously sins worse than others. But Jesus is simply pointing out that anger eventually kills a relationship and possibly even a life, though in a less drastic way than murder. The destruction of the relationship and life are what seem to matter to God not the severity of the destruction. The earth-bound consequences differ, but both kill.

God views homosexuality and idol worship through the same loving eyes. To God worshiping a tree, money, success, or a god that does not exist is as “unnatural” (something we were not created to do) and soul-destroying as is misuse of the great gift of our sexuality. One is a fatal misunderstanding of who God is and the other a misunderstanding of who we are. Both may be love misapplied.

Is homosexuality an unforgivable sin? Some seem to act so. But Scripture, and God’s nature, belie that view.

  1. Do these readings connect in any way?
  2. If so, in what way?
  3. What enemies of God do you still harbor in your heart and life?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Very Superstitious: Christians and Baseball Players

Baseball players are infamous for their superstitious behavior. Watch almost any major league pitcher or batter. Before they pitch or hit, they repeat the exact same movements, adjusting their ball caps, fastening their gloves, pulling their shirts, spitting.

For example, relief pitcher Turk Wendell chewed and spit out four pieces of black licorice every inning he pitched. Slugger Barry Bonds kissed his gold necklace after he hit a home run. Worst of all was Kevin Rhomberg, who made little impact on baseball except for his obsessive need to touch back any one who touched him first. If he was tagged out on base, he would wait for the end of the inning and touch the opposing player back as the player left the field. If Rhomberg failed to return touch someone, he would send them a letter saying, “This constitutes a touch.” “The Seattle Times”

Laugh if you will (you should), but most of us, especially those of us who believe in God, behave superstitiously. Even King David. Read on.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17

Romans 1:1-17

Psalm 9:13-20

Proverbs 19:4-5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17: This section is largely a rehash of previous readings and the author seems concerned with telling us how David consolidated his throne. We see two things. First, many of the fighting men from other tribes, who presumably served with Saul, joined David, giving him military might. Second, unlike Saul, David seeks God before making any military moves, giving him spiritual heft.

Romans 1:1-17: I believe Paul was one of the greatest intellects in human history. If not for his strict Judeo/Christian worldview, Paul would be ranked with great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. Consider that in his letter to Christians in the city of Rome, he articulates the philosophies of reasoning from the natural to the supernatural (nature to God in chapter 1), the psychological concept of humans carrying dual natures (Jekyll and Hyde, chapter 7), the thorny idea of predestination (chapters 8-9), a nascent equality of races (chapter 9-11), and a brief but profound philosophy of government (chapter 13). These ideas and his powerful, often poetic, and logical way of communicating them  have earned him a respect that even Christians often do not award him.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Believers in God and baseball players are equally superstitious. By superstitious I mean that you, either consciously or subconsciously, believe that if you do or say certain things, that may not actually be connected, a specified outcome will result.

Outfielder Larry Walker fixated on the number three. He wore number 33 and was married November 3 at 3:33P.M. Some Christians avoid 666 and revere threes and sevens. Other Christians repetitively cross themselves, kneel, and touch religious objects in a certain way. Hall of Fame third basemen Wade Boggs tagged third, second, and first base in that order before each game. He would also walk on the baseline, step twice in the coach’s box, and take four steps to get into the dugout.

A stretch, you say. A truth spoken in jest, I say.

After Saul died, King David began to consolidate his throne by not only gathering his army and asking for God’s guidance–very wise moves–he also decided to retrieve the ark of God as a means of having something physically to show God was on his side.

How can I classify that as superstitious? First, David, by not investigating how God commanded the ark be moved, shows he was not really concerned with honoring God, but rather with gaining control of God through obtaining this religious relic. Witness how David transports the ark the same way the Philistines did when they superstitiously returned it.

Second, God takes the life of Uzzah, when he touches the ark. When God takes such drastic measures to make his point, the point is always a major one. God is not perturbed with Uzzah for touching the ark, but rather with David’s view and expectations of the ark.

Just like Wade Boggs, David is guilty of magical thinking.

We are too. We (subconsciously) believe if we go to church, or make a donation, or have enough people praying, or quote a Bible verse, or do God-stuff, God will be pleased with us, or heal us, or do what we have asked (demanded).

This is one of the fallacies inherent in the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In part this is magical thinking, much like Kevin Rhomberg’s. If I do good things, God must touch me back with good things.

God wants us to know he loves us so much he freely interacts with us. But God is not magic. God is a self-determined, living Being. God cannot be contained in an ark, and therefore controlled by the owner of the ark. God hears our prayers–and often answers them. God smiles on our good deeds–and often rewards them. But these things do not compel God or control him.

Far better would it have been had David regained the ark out of his love and respect for God. Far better also is it for us to worship, pray, serve, and give out of love and respect for God rather than hoping those actions will garner God’s gifts.

  1. Which reading spoke to you?
  2. How have you exhibited superstitious behavior toward God?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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The Signing of The Declaration of Dependence

Last Sunday the United States celebrated her two-hundred and thirty-fourth birthday. Though significant, the U.S. is still wearing diapers compared to other nations. Egypt is somewhere around 5,000 years old, Germany dates back to 190A.D. and France is over 1,000 years old.

With such a brief but remarkable history, how is it then that when the Marist Poll asked 1,004 U.S. residents, “From which country did the United States win its independence?” an alarming 26% had no clue?

Is education in the U.S. to blame? Or revisionist history, or bad parenting, or lazy students, or political correctness, or too much information? Yes. And more.

Mostly though, remembering is hard work. But important. And remembering our spiritual history more so. Read on.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4

Acts 24:1-27

Psalm 4:1-8

Proverbs 18:16-18

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” Paul tells Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16).

“Does he means all those hard to follow genealogies too?” I can just hear Timothy ask his friend Titus. “What are those about?”

Though there may not be a verse here worthy of pasting on your bathroom mirror or committing to memory, God is still attempting to communicate with us, even here. For the ancient Hebrews many of these names were attached to stories: stories of brokenness, of faithfulness, of hardship, joy, life, death, God. God touched each of these people whether they responded positively to that touch or not. Unfortunately we know only few of those stories.

Unlike other parts of Scripture, this is not poetry; this is reality. The reality is that God guided history from  “Caleb son of Hezron” all the way down to you. What’s your story?

Acts 24:1-27: Luke was one of the most accurate of ancient historians. Here is a treasure trove of historical detail. Interesting but to what purpose? Two reasons come to mind. First, as with Chronicles, we can see God superintending history and building Christ’s church through Paul’s story. Second, while a persecuted prisoner, Paul is granted audiences with some of the most powerful people in the world. Paul wastes not a minute and tells each the remarkable story of Jesus. Luke records two aspects of history here: factual details and a spiritual history of Paul’s persecution and pain being turned into a better story.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

We’ve all heard it said that, “those who can’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.” Been there, done that. Remembering history, however, holds more value than keeping us from looping back to the same old mistakes. Especially since many of us stumble into the same holes again, despite that we remember the last trip all too well. History is much more than a danger ahead sign.

Biblical history in particular is a genogram: “a graphic representation of the personalities and interplay within a family, used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior.” (Webster’s Unabridged) Biblical history is a graphic representation of who we are and who God is.

Our repetitive patterns are those of disobedience an destruction right along side glory and goodness. David begat the rebellious Absalom from a lawful wife and obedient Solomon unlawfully. Is this not a picture of me and you?

And who is God? God is the One who responds with reproof, correction, long-suffering and mercy.

Chronicles is our genealogy, our family, warts and all. Then Acts shows us God’s response, our story. Just as God’s children did in the past, the Jews tried to kill God’s messenger, Paul. Yet God, just as he did in the past, protects, guides, speaks and through a powerful mercy–in the end–overcomes. This is our story, then and now.

Could you and I write a “chronicle” of the names of the people (and remember their stories) God used in our lives? Could you and I write a history retelling the detailed facts and spiritual history of God’s “acts” in our lives?

Remembering is hard work. But important.

It’s a shame 26% of Americans can’t remember the details of the birth of their own nation. I wonder if other civilizations such as Egypt also suffer from a similar historical amnesia? Probably.

I suspect that many of us who live in God’s kingdom, have developed amnesia about our spiritual birth both as a people and as individuals.

For Americans the Fourth of July is a day to remember our “Declaration of Independence” from England. What if we the people of Christ took the Sixth of July to remember all God has done for us? And then with fireworks blazing overhead we all sign a “Declaration of Dependence,” a dependence on a faithful, loving God.

  1. Which reading spoke to you?
  2. Who are your spiritual ancestors?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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The Measure Of A Leader

In the 1993 movie Dave, Bill Mitchell is the philandering and disengaged President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. When Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him.

Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke during a tryst with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House—but unfortunately, he doesn’t count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady.

In the end, Dave hands the reigns of the presidency to the un-flashy, un-charismatic, and somewhat strange vice president, played by Ben Kingsley.

What makes a good leader–at least in God’s eyes? You may be surprised by the answer.

Please join me in today’s Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

2 Kings 13:1-14:29
Acts 18:23-19:12
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 18:2-3

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Kings 13:1-14:29. Although the king isn’t the designated spiritual leader of Israel—that’s the role of the high priest or  prophet—he definitely sets the tone. We read that King Jehoahaz followed in the sins of Jeroboam, but then pleaded for God to rescue them, while still continuing in the evil king’s sins.

King Jehoahaz and the rest of Israel follow a familiar pattern, which actually began in the book of Judges:

  1. The people worship idols.
  2. God becomes angry and allows the surrounding countries to invade them. T
  3. he people beg for God to save them. God sends a deliverer.
  4. The people begin worshipping idols again.

“The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before” (verse 5). Who was the deliverer? Probably Elisha the prophet, although at various times God used kings, or even pagan leaders of foreign countries who defeated any invading countries.

King Jehoahaz also exhibited little vision for Israel. When Elisha encouraged the king to strike the symbolic arrows of victory into the ground, he showed very little resolve. Has weak leadership resulted in a very weak army (see 2 Kings 13:7).

Nevertheless, despite Israel’s sin, we see a window into God’s compassionate heart:

Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence (2 Kings 13:22-23).

Next, we read about King Amaziah of Judah, whose arrogance caused the invasion by Israel and a pillaging of the temple. His unpopular decisions prompted his assassination.

Just a thought: what is the people’s recourse when they are led by an unfit king? Without an election every few years, their only alternative is assassination.

Acts 18:23-19:12. At the beginning of our reading, we learn of Apollos. Although he was preaching an incomplete version of the gospel, he had obviously become quite an effective communicator. His background is explained because he became a prominent leader in the New Testament church. In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for taking sides with various leaders. Apollos was one of those leaders (see 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-22).

Psalm 146:1-10. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save” (verse 3). Every election, politicians assure us that we can trust them because they can save us. This verse reminds us that while we should respect politicians, they will never be completely trustworthy and they will never be able to save us.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Historians and archeologists tell us that King Jeroboam II was one of Israel’s most important kings. In fact, we read that he restored Israel’s boundaries which had been lost through various battles. Oddly enough, the writer of 2 Kings only gives him seven verses (2 Kings 14:23-29).

This echoes the memory of King Omri, who was another highly successful king but given little coverage in 1 Kings (read 1 Kings 16).

Today, when the economy is struggling, people become very concerned about electing officials who can turn everything around. Not long ago, the rallying cry during one election tried to convince us, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

But witnessing the short shrift Kings Omri and Jeroboam II receive in Scripture prompts me to ask what is most important.

What is most important in God’s eyes—expertise or character? Obviously, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it seems like character triumphs over expertise.

Take King David, for example. What made him Israel’s greatest king? He was a strong military leader and he transformed Jerusalem from a foreign stronghold into the spiritual and political capital of Israel. We also know he was a poor father, a murderer, and an adulterer. Yet despite his flaws, we also know that he had a heart for God. When caught in a web of deception surrounding the murder of Uriah and the “sudden” pregnancy of his new wife Bathsheba, David acknowledged his sin and repented.

His character distinguished him as a great man.

Perhaps our definition of a great leader differs from God’s.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What qualities do you look for in a leader?
  3. Why is a leader’s character important to God?

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

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You Get What You Pay For

My oldest daughter just finished her sophomore year in college. While we’re thrilled that Anna has chosen to attend Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, we’re not thrilled about the cost of tuition. Every year, the price of college outpaces inflation.

But I can’t blame colleges like hers for raising their tuition by 5-10% a year. Studies have shown that higher-priced schools attract better students. It just goes to show that people really believe “you get what you pay for.” In order to compete, colleges and universities are almost forced to increase their rates.

It seems like human nature to recognize that the cost we pay for something gives it increased value.

We’ll take a closer look at this in today’s reading. Please join me!

TODAY’S READING

2 Samuel 23:24-1 Kings 1:53
Acts 3:1-4:37
Psalm 123:1-124:8
Proverbs 16:21-24

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 23:24-1 Kings 1:53. As we begin, we read the names of David’s mighty fighting men. This tells us that David’s exploits were accomplished not by himself, but with the help of others.

Notice that Uriah’s name appears on the list. David forfeited the life of one of his top warriors in exchange for an affair. This certainly undermined the confidence the other men had in their king.

Second Samuel concludes, seamlessly transitioning into 1 Kings. Originally, 1 and 2 Kings were one book, but the people who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek (called the Septuagint) decided to break it into two parts.

Due to the death of his older brothers (Amnon and Absalom), Adonijah must have assumed the throne belonged to him. However, he never sought the blessing of his father…much to his dismay.

Acts 3:1-4:37. What I love about the story of the paralytic at the temple gate is how Peter couldn’t resist any opportunity to preach to the crowds—just like he did at Pentecost in chapter 2. Notice the graciousness in his voice. He tells them they crucified Jesus out of ignorance while explaining that God used their bad decision to bring salvation to the whole world (Acts 3:25).

The result? Five thousand men became followers of Jesus, not to mention their wives and perhaps children. Not bad for an impromptu sermon.

Then we read something that should encourage any person who believes that God can’t do anything significant through them:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

What made the difference? Being with Jesus. Not charisma. Not giftedness. Anyone can be with Jesus—which means anyone can be used by God to make a difference.

Psalm 123. This psalm expresses the longing of the psalmist for God’s mercy. Our longings reveal a great deal about our hearts.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

God was angry with Israel. We aren’t sure what fueled the anger nor are we told why taking a census was wrong. Everyday citizens of the various countries at that time didn’t appreciate censuses because they usually resulted in higher taxes, increased military quotas, and forced labor. For this reason, many of the surrounding cultures considered censuses to be a source of bad luck which could potentially incite their gods to anger.

Regardless, David’s actions in 2 Samuel 24 did incite God’s wrath. When asked to choose the source of judgment, David replied, “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men” (verse 24).

Despite his flaws, David truly was a man after God’s heart because his assumption proved correct. God relented from his judgment before finishing the job.

This is a great window into God’s heart. David and Israel deserved judgment, but God’s mercy was so great, his love was so great, that he couldn’t bring himself to finish it.

There, at the spot where God relented, David chose the site where his son Solomon would later build the temple.

More impressive, when the owner offered to give the land to David, he replied, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (verse 24).

Our lives are a response to the generous grace and mercy that God bestows upon us. This is worship—every bit as much as those moments when we sing to God with other believers in church.

But meditating on David’s words reminds me that living a life of worshipful response to God doesn’t mean I live as I choose. “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Sacrificial living isn’t a means of earning God’s grace and mercy, but it’s evidence that we’re thankful for Christ’s sacrifice for us.

What does this look like in our everyday lives?

Rather than ask God to bless the lives we’re already living, why not ask God to show us the kind of lives he blesses—and then live it?

Rather than regard lightly the price Jesus paid to forgive us, why not spend the rest of our lives thanking him for his generous gift?

Rather than worship in church in the way that’s most comfortable for you, why not worship God in the way that he deserves?

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What do you long for?
  3. What does it look like for you to live a life of gratefulness to God?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

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

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