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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 180: Asking the LORD for advice

Today's Reading: 2 Chronicles 19-23

I like Jehoshaphat.

He is not your typical ruler who seems to have it all together. He is humble. He knows his limitations.

But the best thing about Jehoshaphat is that he always asks the LORD's advice.

He meets with the king of Israel who is a difficult ally. What's his contribution to the board meeting?

"Let's ask the LORD."

He hears of an enemy advancing. What's his response? Alarm. What's his next step?

"Let's ask the LORD for advice."

He sets up judges in the land. What does he tell them?

"Think carefully about what you do. After all, you aren't judging for mere men. You are judging for the Lord. He's with you every time you make a decision. Have respect for the Lord. Judge carefully. He is always right. He treats everyone the same. He doesn't want his judges to take money from people who want special favors....Have respect for the Lord. Serve him faithfully. Do it with all your heart."

Jehoshaphat lives up to his name: "The LORD will judge."

Let God decide.

Let God judge.

Let God be the advice giver.

I think that is a wonderful way to live.

Day 179: Listening to what you don't want to hear

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

Ahab said, "There is still one other man we can go to. We can ask the Lord for advice through him. But I hate him. He never prophesies anything good about me. He only prophesies bad things. His name is Micaiah. He's the son of Imlah."

"You shouldn't say bad things about him," Jehoshaphat replied.
1 Kings 22:8

One of the hardest things to do is to listen to the truth when the truth challenges, exhorts or condemns your behavior or you. We all want to hear good news. We all want to be encouraged. We all want to receive praise.

But sometimes the worse news is really the "best" news, the words of truth.

The book of Proverbs declares "The wounds of a friend are faithful." Friends who warn us, who guard our back against our own blind spots, who speak truth to us even when we don't like it, are true friends.

They are also rare friends. They love us enough to risk the friendship for the friend.

Instead of "hating" these people, these prophets, they are the very ones we need to embrace and love. They are rare, brave souls who will stand alone to warn us.

Jehoshaphat is right. We shouldn't ever say anything bad against them.

We should honor them.

Day 178: Fair play

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 20-21

Early in childhood, children are able to distinguish what is fair and what is not, especially if the situation is objective, one they can determine from the outside. They can very well distinguish if something is not fair if it involves a slight to themselves.

In kindergarten, we are taught to share, keep our hands off of other people's property and not to grab all the cookies for ourselves. But it seems these lessons take a lifetime to learn.

We can readily discern when we have been cheated or slighted; but have a very hard time discerning when we are grabbing more than our share or trespassing into another's property, space or authority.

Ahab, green with envy, and longing for what was not his, throws a temper tantrum, over steps his power boundary and out and out steals from another. Ahab not only steals property, but life and future inheritance from Naboth.

How is it that the king, the one who is to lead the people, the one who is to have the people's best interest at heart, the one who is to be the brightest and the most gifted, the one who access to all the resources is the very one who has not learned a basic elementary lesson.

Here is a warning to all leaders. Learn the basics of fair play before you think you are ready to rule over anyone. Power is to be used for the people, not against the people.

Ahab, you are a bad king. You are not playing fair.

Go back to Kindergarten, the beginning, and learn the basic lessons.

Day 177: What does it take?

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 17-19

We begin today with a proclamation of faith from a prophet who enters the scene.

I serve the LORD. He is the God of Israel. You can be sure that he lives.
1 Kings 17:1

Think about it; if you had to put who you are, who God is and your relationship one to the other, could you do it in three simple sentences?

Elijah appears on the scene full and sure of faith in God and sure of his identity. Was he born into a family of faith? Taught at his parents' knees? What did it take to produce this surety?

Elijah is hearing from God. Another faithful man is serving God by preserving God's prophets. Elijah has a task for him. Obadiah is frightened. Obadiah is not sure. What does it take for Obadiah to trust the word of the LORD from Elijah?

The people of Israel are under an idolatrous king, Ahab. They have followed the king instead of the LORD. Elijah stages a contest. As the drama unfolds, the people of Israel observe passively. The Baal prophets are in a frenzy with no results. Elijah prays and fire comes from heaven. Elijah kills all the Baal prophets. Is this kind of sign, miraculous and dramatic, what it takes to develop belief and faithfulness from a people?

Ahab and Jezebel respond with anger and revenge. They are plotting to kill the prophets of God. What would it have taken for their hearts to soften and bow to the LORD?

It seems, many times, over and over, the prophets, the people and the rulers of the land expect God to "perform" for them in order to respond in faith. But even when God bursts into history and meets people face to face in truth, in fire, in provision, faith and loyalty to God are not born.

What does it take?

Even after a dramatic day of God's activity, Elijah, the bold, articulate prophet of God wavers.

I wonder how that makes God feel...

I wonder if God in frustration declares, "What does it take, my Creation? When will you believe? When will you have faith? When will you be faithful?"

God comes and dwells with the people. God heals. God provides. God blesses. God clears the path. God dies. God rises from the dead.

And still the Baals have power...we give them power.

What will it take?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 176: Meanwhile, back in Israel...

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 15:25 - 16:34; 2 Chronicles 17

Judah's Lamp, Asa, is burning well with rest and peace, but the region of Israel is absolutely in turmoil. There is constant war, everyone is killing everyone else, and fires are burning. Why? Lots and lots of idol worship.

So, here's my question---which comes first, idolatry or war?

According to the books of Kings and Chronicles, idolatry brings with it war, destruction and fire. These physical realities get translated into spiritual realities as the theology of God's people develops.

No, most of us do not have idols in our homes--wooden or stone depictions of gods, although Buddahs and Hindu gods and goddesses are becoming popular wall and garden ornamentation in homes--we need to consider what has replaced the allegiance to God in our lives?

What behaviors, needs or greed fuel the wars of our land? What keeps us building weaponry and asking the "sacrifice" of our children to the fires of destruction?

With whom are we constantly arguing? Are there areas of unrest in our lives? Can we determine the root cause of the strife?

It would be an interesting exercise to trace the "bloodline" of our strife. To find the headwaters of the streams of anger.

Would we dare to do this kind of reflection? Or will we continue to bow to all that is not God?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 175: Give me a break...

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16

Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave Abijah a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son (Asa) to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong.
1 Kings 15:4

Sometimes I find myself reading along in scripture and getting involved in the big picture and all of a sudden, a word jumps out at me. Often the word catches my attention because it seems out of place or strange in the context. So it was today. I'm reading along about the kings and their battles and their idolatry--themes that seem to be the norm--and suddenly I stop. God is giving Abijah "a lamp" by raising up a son. What a strange choice of words. God is calling the gift of a son, "a lamp."

The Hebrew word here for "lamp" is "neer" which carries with it the understanding of breaking through, cutting through, as a plow would cut a furrow in the land. A lamp is that which breaks through, cuts through, the darkness.

In Genesis, we learn that darkness separates when light is ushered in. A lamp sheds light and cuts through darkness. God is giving Abijah and the people of Judah "a break,"--a lamp in the midst of their darkness--for the sake of their great grandfather, David. Despite the disobedience of the present generation, some of the generational blessings left over from David's faithfulness are still being bestowed.

Asa is born. His name means "healer" and he immediately begins healing the land by destroying idol worship and returning to the temple of the LORD God, reinstating the priests and humbling himself before God.

And because of this Lamp, this break, whose obedience is true before God, God gives the people of Judah rest from war.

I'm wondering if the story of Asa is the root of the phrase we use quite often when we are distressed---"Give me a break!" It means, "cut me some slack," "ease up a bit," "give me some breathing room."

I think it is a wonderful thing to realize that even in our disobedience or in our frazzled lives, we can say to God, "Give me a break! Send me a lamp! I need some light on this, please."

And God said, "Let there be light!"

"And God sent forth his Son," who made the claim, "I am the Light of the world."

Then Jesus says, "You are the light of the world." You are the lamp on a lamp stand.

Did you ever think that your witness, your testimony, your faithfulness to God might just be the "break" someone has been praying for?

You might just be the answer to some one's prayer, "Give me a break, LORD."

"LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let darkness prevail against you."
2 Chronicles 14:11

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 174: The crumbling of a nation

Today's Reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12

How many of you remember hearing the story of Rehoboam in Sunday School along side the stories of Noah, Moses, Joseph and Jonah? Probably not many of us could have told his story by heart, but his life is very important to our "family history."

Yesterday we talked about the issue of discernment and how we usually listen to the advice of those who agree with us. Today we hear some repeated lessons and learn a few new things.

1. Our actions effect others. Though we may not believe it, we cannot act independently. Our scorn and harshness hurt others, our humility and faithfulness bless others. After the harshness of the king, his ambassador is killed by the people. An interesting line follows which we need to ponder. Imagine the historical significance of this small verse at the end of chapter ten.
So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
2 Chronicles 10:19

2. The kingdom is dividing. Judah is reigned by Rehoboam and Israel by Jeroboam. In today's passage, the "little town of Bethlehem" is built into a fortified city of the region of Judah. Brother is fighting brother. Civil war is becoming the norm.

3. Though the king and his people are worshipping God, they are also bowing to calf and goat idols. In scripture, God has no tolerance for other gods. God is not willing to share our loyalties: God is jealous for us. This act of unfaithfulness brings the scorn of God upon not only a household but a nation.

4. We learn from this passage that God uses the enemies of Judah to discipline them. This concept is going to be further built during the age of kings and prophets. In this passage, God moves Shishak, the king of Egypt, into place. The sovereignty of God over all kings and kingdoms is a very strong theological understanding of the people of God.

5. When disaster comes, the king realizes his sin and he humbles himself, thus saving himself and his people from utter destruction. God is moved by humility; and humility begins with the recognition that God is god and there is no other.

Rehoboam received the kingdom in fairly good standing with a new temple and a full treasury but in a short time the kingdom is divided, the people are under an Egyptian ruler and idol worship is rampant. It makes you want to cry or at least shake your head in sadness.

So quickly, what God meant for good is corrupted by the disobedience of his creatures. Rehoboam's life is summarized with these words, these sad words that stand as a red flag upon the path we trod.

Rehoboam did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.

Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness and everything else will follow."

What will you seek in your life?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 173: Advice

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 12-14

Here is a truth. Most of us love to counsel with those who will agree with us. We follow the advice of those whose words please us. We take the road which will promote us.

Today's passage speaks clearly about discernment, or lack of it. Rehoboam disregards the advice of the elders who encourage him to be a servant leader and instead takes the advice of his peers and becomes a tyrant.

Jeroboam, afraid of losing a people's loyalty, goes against God's commands and while building golden calves as idols, he build the idol of egotism, thus, ruining his life and kingdom.

Even a servant of the LORD, a prophet unnamed, falls into the trap of listening to another prophet instead of following closely and precisely the word from God.

And the result in all situations? Death and destruction.

It is good for us to be reading God's word together. Here, we truly begin to comprehend who God is and what God allows.

God's ruling is not harsh, nor does it abuse others. It calls for servant leadership. But when God has to discipline or clean up after disobedience, God's ruling might seem harsh, but is full and complete.

God is a jealous god. Idolatry, forked loyalties are forbidden. God and God alone is our banner.

God's word is true and can be trusted. God doesn't waffle saying one thing one day and another another day.

Vengeance belongs to God, not to people. God is the one who raises up rulers and smashes them.

And every detail of God's word is important. We might seek advice which tickles our ears, that softens or twists God's word, but the Word of the LORD endures forever.

Along with God's lovingkindness.

Are we getting the message?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 172: Enough!

Today's Reading: Proverbs 130-131

"There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, 'Enough!':

the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, 'Enough!'"
Proverbs 130:15-16

One of the most important books I have ever read was Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. The book teaches us to establish limits to abusive and manipulative relationships. It teaches kind and meek Christians to say, "Enough!"

Despite Agur's humility in saying he is not wise at all, I think his sayings carry some merit. He points to four situations which feel like black holes; four realities which never are satisfied.

Starting at the last of the four and moving to the first, I have noticed fire is fairly consuming. I have friends who fight fires for a living and have learned that if you do not aggressively deal with fire, it truly will destroy everything in its path. This is true of physical fire and the fire of revenge. Praise be to God who gives water and oxygen robbing chemicals to the physical fires; and grace and forgiveness to vengeful resentment.

My friends are in Niger this week trying to bless a cursed land. Drought has made the land very gluttonous for water. Even in flooded plains, the land seems to gulp and gulp until all the water is consumed and then asks for more.

I can not imagine the pain of the barren woman. I don't care how "liberated" a woman is, there is something about having a life in your body that is not your own, feeling it grow, experiencing that first secret movement, knowing it is a part of you. To be barren must be horrible.

And death...all one has to do is open the newspaper daily to see the ones swallowed up by our common enemy, Death. Death will find us all one day and wreak its havoc.

All I can say is, that though these four gluttonous entities can not seem to discipline their appetites, I serve one who not only curbs the appetites but does say, "Enough!"

Our God is the best boundary keeper around.

God has limited destruction, drought, barrenness and death.

And one day, we shall see all the hungers of this world satisfied.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 171: Wisdom's Attraction

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.
1 Kings 10:24

Have you ever noticed all of creation's fascination with light? We are all mesmerized at a campfire; we ponder the stars; we chase fireflies; we sunbathe. Plants turn to the light; moths buzz around the light; roosters announce the dawn.

The Queen of Sheba (yes, even in Biblical times, there were women of power and intelligence) traveled to meet King Solomon, a man whose fame of being a light, a wisdom speaker, draws her from afar. She has questions. A wise man with the "light bulb" over his head has answers.

We are fascinated by wisdom. Wisdom rings true in our hearts. We recognize it. We are drawn to it. It is part of our nature, since we have been made in the image of God, to desire it. We know wisdom brings with it Truth's power.

Thus when Jesus is speaking to his disciples he says, "I am the Light of the World. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness." The one who embraces my truth will never walk foolishly, tripping over snares and getting entangled in traps.

Then Jesus says something very interesting: "You are the light of the world." I am teaching you so you become the ones who have the truth and wisdom that the world craves. People will be drawn to you. "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

The Queen of Sheba highly valued wisdom. She gave great gifts to hear it, to discuss it, to come along side it.

In our society, there is a saying, "Knowledge is power." That might be true, but "Wisdom is freedom." Knowledge is corruptible, according to the Apostle Paul. People try to hoard it for themselves. It puffs people up...it gives them a big head. But Wisdom, by its very nature, is to be shared not hoarded, because wisdom has with it not only truth, but love---discernment, stewardship.

So would you like to have some Wisdom? The book of James promises Wisdom is available to us.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

Imagine the generosity of God. God gives wisdom to all. You don't have to even belong to the Body of Christ. God gives when we ask.

So next time you are in a situation and you have questions, you don't have to raid your spice rack like the Queen of Sheba did or even spend all you have, travel far and ask a renown guru.

Ask God.

And God will generously give it to you.

Because God loves it when you act like the wonderful created being God made you to be--attracted to light, truth and wisdom--attracted to the Light of the World.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 170: Really?

Today's Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-12

A week ago today, a very prominent young man in my community died. He was a brilliant business man, a visionary, a kind employer, a diligent husband and father, a loving son and a faithful believer in Christ.

As the preacher went to the podium, he expressed our grief, shock and confusion over God's plan of taking one so young and so promise filled from our midst. "A very sad day for us," the preacher said, "but a good day for him."

Of course, the preacher was talking about the glorification process our dearly departed would experience as he resurrected into paradise with Christ. It is the believer's hope and promise.

The wisest man in all history said something that I think many would take issue with.

The day of death better than the day of birth

It seems when a baby is born, everyone is so excited! The anticipation is only exceeded by the actual event.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes is very realistic about life. He states life is hard, and after one strives, one discovers it is all for naught. Really? Is this your experience?

One someone dies, it seems that crying is the natural response. Death is called the enemy and most of us feel that way.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes shares the day of death is better than the day of birth, because then we can finally rest from the vanity of this existence. Really? Is this your experience?

Here is the wisdom of Ecclesiates: This world is not our home. This world offers fleeting moments only but will never truly satisfy. Our satisfaction begins with God and is fulfilled when we die and meet God face to face.

Another wise one once told me, "You cannot begin to pray, you cannot begin to live, until you understand eternity and begin to live with an eternal mindset."



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 169: Vaporous Vanity

Today's Reading: Ecclesiates 1-6

Is Solomon having a hard day or what?

Is he depressed and just needs a sunshiny day?

What is all this talk of vanity and life being a vapor, worthless and meaningless?

Well, friends, it is truth.

Solomon was as wise as he could be, possessing all knowledge and yet, it meant nothing.

Solomon had all the richest anyone could imagine, his wish was the command of all around him, and yet, he was not satisfied.

Though he built, he knew one day it would be torn down.

Though he lived, he knew one day he would die.

"What is the purpose; what's the use?" he yells out into the oblivion of space.

Solomon discovers that without a belief in God, without an understanding of eternity, humanity is trapped in a swirl of vaporous vanity. You are born, you live and you die, and in a generation, you are forgotten.

Was this the sermon text in front of Paul when he began to pen the words of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3?

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

We live in a society where people are chasing after vaporous vanity--nothingness. They consume and consume and still feel empty. They work and work and still fill unfulfilled. They strive and strive and gain little to nothing.

The lesson of the book of Ecclesiates is that there truly is no meaning in life whatsoever, without God.

And that wisdom scared Solomon more than anything else.

Day 168: Raca!

Today's Reading: Proverbs 27-29

There are raca among us. There is foolishness in each of us.

The proverbs help us to notice the fool and the foolishness around and within us so we can set foolishness far away from us and grow in wisdom.

So here's what God's wisdom says about fools in the book of Proverbs.

He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.
A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.
He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.
Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.
A fool's talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them.

A wise man fears the LORD and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler!
A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.
Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.
Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?
To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool.
A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.
It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury-- how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!
It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.
Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say.
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.
Like a lame man's legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.
Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.

Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding him like grain with a pestle, you will not remove his folly from him.
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
a servant who becomes king, a fool who is full of food,
If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth!

Jesus said we should not call each other "fool!"--"raca"--but we are supposed to recognize foolishness in others. We are especially exhorted to recognize foolishness in ourselves and be teachable in wisdom.

It is truly the wise one who know her own foolishness and turns from her ways.

Day 167: Wisdom Words

Today's Reading: Proverbs 25-26

In Proverbs, those familiar with the sayings of Jesus find their source. Much of the sermon on the mount finds its scriptural text, its origin in the book of Proverbs.

The parable of humility which tells us to always take a lower seat.

The admonition to not argue with a fool.

Giving drinks to the thirsty.

Heaping burning coals upon enemies by doing kindness toward them.

The Words of Wisdom are always the Words of Jesus, no matter whose mouth speaks or which pen writes them. For Wisdom Words are truth, and truth is Jesus. Jesus is the author, the source, the creator of all that is true.

How wise we would be to put them into practice on a daily basis.

This week, I watched an embarrassing moment for someone I did not know. I was attending a funeral and there was seating reserved for the family members. Someone who obviously thought themselves important, who wanted a front row seat and/or who did not or could not see or read the reserved signs had situated themselves in the place of honor set aside for the grieving family.

I saw the head of the household call over the funeral director (the steward,) who immediately went to the person, whispered in his ear and removed the person from the front to sit in the back.

While most of us believe we could manage the etiquette of funeral seating, we are warned to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. So it becomes a challenge to find the balance between being bold and courageous while being meek and humble.

The wisdom is found as we read the letters of Paul, where he says, "If you must boast, boast in the LORD." John the Baptist, one of the bravest and boldest said, "Christ must increase and I must decrease."

Lord of all TRUTH,
Increase greatly in me
Grow wisdom in me
Teach me humility.

Day 166: The laborers

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 9; 2Chronicles 8

We have heard of the splendor of all the places and buildings Solomon erected. We have heard of their grandeur, their ornamentation and their beauty. But today we hear of the human labor cost.

We hear of the forced labor.

How often do we hear of a building or a statue or a park whose designer is heralded the builder, but in truth, nameless people worked day in and day out, unnoticed, unnamed and unthanked.

I think of this every time I watch a movie. The stars get front billing. The director and the producer receive a nod. But at the end of the film as all the credits are rolling by naming the countless laborers, people are uninterested, putting on their coats, gathering their belongings and on to the next thing. The forgotten millions, billions and trillions of people who labor to make something great.

God puts a great responsibility upon Solomon: the success of this project lies in your faithfulness to me, its ability to stand the tests of time is dependent upon your purity and single minded adoration and obedience to my law. And so, the director and producer of such a great feat is named.

But imagine the great responsibility of the unnamed, the unthanked, the unnoticed. Their faithfulness to the smallest task determines the strength of the larger structure.

Jesus said, "There is a huge harvest needing laborers." We are called to labor diligently, faithfully and excellently whether anyone notices us or not. In fact, Jesus says, being unnoticed is something we should covet. Our service should be in secret as often as possible.

Let us pray for more laborers, for the task is great. But let us not fret when we go unnoticed by the human stream. God sees all and remembers all.

The servant girl who stitched the veil of the Holy of holies and the slave working in the brick pits.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 165: Lift up your hands in the sanctuary!

Today's Reading: Psalms 134,146-150

An ancient and universal movement in worship is to lift one's hands over one's head. What is this positioning of our body all about?

My earliest memory of lifting my hands up over my head was when I wanted my mommy or my daddy to lift me up to hold me. This was usually when I was tired and wanted to be carried, or when I wanted to be cradled and comforted.

Another time in life when I lifted my hands over my head was in school. It was a signal which said, "Hey, I'm here! I think I know the answer! I'm excited to share! Call on me! Pick me!"

Being the fourth child with three older siblings, another time I raised my hands over my head was when I had been pinned down or cornered. Raised hands at that time signaled surrender. "Put your hands up!" the sheriff used to say to the criminal on Gunsmoke. I would raise my hands and declare, "Uncle! I give up; You win."

I was also a very energetic child who grew to be a great sports fan. As a member of the "alternate" pep club, called the "Bleacher Bums," we would cheer wildly and boldly for our team, sometimes raising a threatening fist against the enemy and other times throwing our arms up in victory.

Now, as a pastor, I raise my arms and hands in yet another gesture, the gesture of blessing. As the wings of the Spirit encircle God's people with shelter and care, as a mother hen would gather her chicks, so we gather together to ask the LORD's blessing upon us each week.

So, why do we lift our hands in worship?

To beg for God to come to us, to carry us, to cradle us.

To signal, "Here I am, LORD!", call on me, I want to speak the answer you have given me on my heart.

To declare, "I surrender all to you," you win, I am yours.

To shout against the enemy of evil; to join the throng of "Hosannas!" and praise.

To bless the LORD, for the LORD has done great things for even me.

Don't be shy! Even if it has never been your tradition in worship, we are commanded--commanded--to lift up our hands in the sanctuary!

So get those deltoid, bicep and tricep muscles toned for a workout of worship in the sanctuary!

Day 164: Everlasting lovingkindness

Today's Reading: 2 Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 136

God's love endures forever!

The people of Israel have been working hard to build the temple.

Artisans have done their best work.

The king recites the saving history of the LORD God for God's people.

God dwells with us.

The repetition of Psalm 136--His love endures forever; His love endures forever; His love endures for ever--becomes not only a rejoicing chant but a comforting meditation.

Consider writing out your own "Psalm 136" today. Begin with all the blessings God has given you. After each write: God's love endures forever.

Now add the trials of your life, the struggles. After each write: God's love endures forever.

Write your dreams. Write the promises of God. Write your hopes and visions for the passions and purposes God has set on your heart. After each write: God's love endures forever.

What we discover is the pervasive quality of this truth---and the INVASIVE quality of this truth. We cannot escape the love of God in our lives. God's very nature is everlasting lovingkindness to each and everyone of us.

Get it into your head.
God's love endures forever.

You are beloved by God.
God's love endures forever.

You cannot do anything to make God love you less.
God's love endures forever.

God's mercy hounds you wherever you go.
God's love endures forever.

God's love endures forever.

God's love endures forever.

God's love endures forever.

...and ever and ever.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 163: The Entry of Glory

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5

The story of the entry of the Ark of the Covenant into the new temple built by Solomon parallels the entry of the Ark into the city of Jerusalem when David danced. There are some differences, though.

Solomon got it right.

Solomon realized that a place needed to be prepared for the Ark. He spent 13 years building a glorious temple.

Solomon realized the things of God were governed by God. Solomon listened to and obeyed God. The temple was built to the specifications God had given, the inner sanctuary was specifically prepared and the Ark was carried properly by the priests.

Solomon realized the power of sacrifice. God's love for us and our love for God is marked by extravagance! There is nothing lukewarm about it.

With all these things in place---preparation, obedience and sacrificial love---God's glory entered so profoundly the priests were unable to do their jobs. They were overwhelmed!

To all you temple builders out there, this is your heritage: to be so filled with the glory of God that you are overwhelmed by God's presence in your inner sanctuary!

O how great and wonderful is our God!

Come into my heart, LORD Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome
in this place.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 162: Hiram Nobility

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4

Something just dawned on me today...the book we are reading is called first Kings. Now before you think I'm stating the obvious, think about this: The very first request of the King was to ask for wisdom and his very first task was to build the temple.

I think this is what defines a Good King---a Great King!

Then, the King pairs up with Hiram (Huram). "Hiram" means "noble one." "Noble" is defined as "possessing very high and excellent qualities arising from superiority of mind, character, ideals and morals."

So leaders, listen up!

If you are called to serve over people, get your priorities straight before you exercise any power.

Get some wisdom. Better yet, beg God for wisdom. You will need it! The challenges of leadership are huge. You will have to make decisions. You will have to discern between truth and falsehood. You will have to gather people together to accomplish tasks. Wisdom is the key in leadership.

Make sure you are building for God's purposes and not your own glory. Be willing to work toward the good, no matter how long it takes. Don't be distracted.

Gather Hirams around you. Find skilled, willing and noble cohorts who understand the goals. Do not be tempted to grab people for leadership just because they are willing or available. Discern their "nobility."

Do you know some Hirams who have helped you in tasks of greatness?

Perhaps today is the day to thank God for them.

Day 161: Building Your Temple

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3

Solomon was building the actual temple of God. Paul says our bodies are the temple we are to build--a dwelling place for God. So here are a few tips I've extracted from Solomon's wisdom.

Instruction #1: Make sure there is rest on every side before you build.
God gave Solomon "rest" from all the nation's enemies so he could focus on the task of temple building. God gives us rest from our enemies, too. It's called the powerful weapon called "forgiveness." Before you start to work on the temple of your heart, get rid of all bitterness and resentment. Don't let it be a distraction in your building process.

Instruction #2: Get help from skilled people.
Solomon realized he had to go outside of his norm and hire skilled workers. Because he wanted quality work laced with beauty, he made sure he got help. When you are building the temple of your spiritual life, making room for God, seek out a spiritual director who can help you with some of the construction.

Instruction #3: Plan for greatness!
Solomon's work was all "best quality" and extravagant. He wanted the temple he was building to reflect God's image, power and greatness to the world. We, too, should settle for nothing less than greatness. Mediocre temples just don't cut it. Imagine your inner spiritual life dripping with gold and swathed in crimson! Put "cedars of Lebanon" as your pillars, they will not be destroyed by termites of sorrow or chaos.

Instruction #4: Listen to God for further instruction.
God had a say in the design and decor of the temple Solomon was building. Use God's "Good Housekeeping" magazine, God's word, to help you with character placement and spiritual fruit arrangements!

Instruction #5: Pay special attention to your inner sanctuary.
Solomon personally oversaw the building and ornamentation of the inner sanctuary where God spoke intimately with the priests. You are a priest of God. Keep that inner heart---its thoughts, motives, values, aspirations and goals---beautiful and pure.

Grab your tools and head to God's Home Depot and see what kind of temple you and God can build together!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 160: Parenting Tapes

Today's Reading: Proverbs 22-24

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

This verse from Proverbs has puzzled many a parent. Especially when they wake up one morning and find that their precious child has been kidnapped and has been replaced with a teenaged monster!

There is a time in every parent's life when she looks at her child and thinks, where did that child come from? I don't see a reflection of myself anywhere in him.

Sit with some mothers as they converse with one another and you will begin to see this is a normal pattern. Children act out in ways that seem rebellious to every lesson taught.

Even the most skilled in parenting experience this disappointment. Children seem to have a mind of their own. Imagine that!

I think the translation of this verse leads us down the wrong path. I prefer another translation I received from Beth Moore. She said a more accurate reading of this passage would be:

Train a child in the way he should go
and when he is older he will not be able to escape it.

This translation cuts both ways, for good and for evil.

What it implies is this. What you say and how you raise your children gets stored in their memory banks. It is like a tape being recorded. Even if your child goes a different direction from what you taught, either intentionally or unintentionally, either for good or for evil, that tape recording will follow them all the days of their lives and they will not be able to get it out of their heads.

As a counselor, I find this is true for most of my clients. If they are victims of poor parenting, many of them struggle with the "parent voice" in their heads. That parental voice carries great power even if the voice is totally bonkers and speaks falsehood.

In the same way, parental rules, customs and mannerisms often become so much a part of us that complete strangers who knew our parents can recognize our bloodline after a few minutes in our presence.

So here's the double edged sword.

Sometimes I hear my children quoting me to their peers. Sometimes I see my bad habits being passed on to the next generation in their struggles. Once in a while, I see my strength in them and that brings me joy.

Here's the truth: Our children are listening.

If they were on a game show called "What Would Your Mother Say," they'd probably win the million dollar question easily. They know what and how we think. They have studied us.

And that is either a great comfort or a great fear for us as parents, depending upon the strength or weakness of the moment we shared "training," knowingly or unknowingly.

Day 159: Wife Wisdom

Today's Reading: Proverbs 19-21

A foolish son is his father's ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.

Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,
but a prudent wife is from the LORD.

I have a gripe with Hollywood.

Rarely do I see a good portrayal of a wife; in fact, I can't think of one.

From Sex in the City to The Bachelor we see women as whinny sex fiends who manipulate and cat fight with one another.

I personally could not have lived with the laziness and sarcasm of Roseanne. And most NCIS and other action shows have smart women who are stupid when it comes to relationships.

Can anyone think of a show, movie or other form of media which demonstrates what a good woman/wife should be like? Though some might think this kind of media would be boring, I think it would blow the socks off American culture.

Here's what I think a good wife would be like...and I thank my great women friends for this portrait.

A good wife would first know herself--her strengths and weaknesses--and she would accept them. She would turn to her friends to help her with the areas of struggle and would lift up others as she exercised her strengths.

A good wife would have good boundaries. She would know when to say "yes" and when to say "no." She would live a balanced life of work, play, rest and worship.

A good wife would know how to cook a good meal and know how to throw an entertaining party with good conversation and play.

A good wife would love her husband, encourage him and tell him the truth. She would also love her children and grandchildren, encouraging them to discover who they are and delighting in their individuality.

A good wife would discover her passion and work to right wrongs. She would be generous with her time.

A good wife would keep the house clean and neat enough that all would feel healthy and restful, but would not nitpick or drive everyone bonkers.

A good wife would be a life long learner, a good conversationalist, an affectionate lover and a wise counselor.

A good wife would know her husband and love him faithfully, never disclosing his secrets or mocking him. She would pray for him and work alongside him.

A good wife would be spunky, mysterious and fun.

There's a start for my ideal.

Do you think Hollywood would buy it?

Can you add to the list?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 158: Motive

Today's Reading: Proverbs 16-18

All a person's ways seem innocent to her,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.

What causes you to act the way you do?

What motivates your daily chores?

What calls you to do your duty?

What stimulates you to serve?

The Wisdom Writer of Proverbs shares with us the truth that God "gets" our motives. The other day while I was serving at our local food ministry, my outside countanance displayed compassion, charity and kindness. Inwardly, I wanted to be home. I wanted to leave my discomfort with the poor, the dirty, the unsocial and just go to my comfortable environment.

What motivated me to be there in the first place? Was it my understanding of my role as pastor of the church; was it my "duty" that motivated me?

Was I there because I am a social person. I love to be around other people who volunteer; they are so positive in a sometimes negative world. We have so much fun! I love to cook. What better place would there be to be?

Was I there to assuage my guilt? I look at my life of privilege and think, "The least I can do is serve a meal once in awhile. Perhaps that will make me feel better the next time I see a transient with a sign asking for money, food or a place to sleep. I can inwardly comfort myself by saying to Self, 'You've given your alloted time this month; you're off the hook.'"

Was I there out of fear? I realize each one of us is very close to being homeless in these economic times. What if the one needing a meal was me; or worse yet, one of my children?

Was I there out of love? God has so graciously provided for my every need. Do I love God so much that I can't help but love my neighbor?

Most of us go through life "innocently" doing tasks day by day. What would happen if we decided to think about the heart of the matter, the motive behind our actions? Would we be pleased? Would we be shocked?

Why do I make my bed?
Why do I choose the foods I do?
Why do I pray?
Why do I select the friends I have?
Why do I choose one activity over another?
Why do I drive the car I drive, read the books I read, watch the TV shows I watch?

All these "innocent" activities' motives are being weighed by God (and probably keeping some angel very busy!)

In the Bible, "glory" is a word whose root is in the word meaning "heavy" or "weighty." In the world's eye, one's glory is determined by the amount of weighty gold they carry in their pockets, how much weight they can throw around.

What is the weight of your motives? Do they bring great glory to God?

Something to think about...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 157: Inexpressible

Today's Reading: Proverbs 13-15

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.

There is a saying, "A sorrow shared is divided; A joy shared is multiplied."

Yesterday, I experienced deep, deep joy. A prayer I had been praying for 19 years was realized. I caught a glimpse of profound hope. The joy I felt was inexpressible.

When the joy was shared, many rejoiced with me. I have very verbal and supportive friends who expressed the gladness of their hearts for me. But the Proverb is true; no one can share the depth of joy I experienced, because no one can see or imagine what cannot be expressed.

In the same way, no one else can know the depth of sorrow or bitterness we as individuals might be carrying around. Even those of us who are very open individuals or the most articulate among us cannot totally express what goes on in our own hearts. And even if we could, who could have the depth of compassion needed to set aside their own self to truly enter into the deep pools of another's soul.

Thus, it is an amazing statement when we are told that the Messiah is a "Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief," and that we have the privilege of "sharing in the sufferings of Christ."

It is also amazing to ponder the day when we will realize the joy of the kingdom--a time when tears and grief will be no more.

This is intimacy that is not possible now if all we have is our words; but I do believe it is possible when the Holy Spirit allows and facilitates "deep speaks to deep" moments.

Perhaps this Proverb speaks to the wisdom of God. Could I bear all the sorrow of not only my soul but the souls of those around me? Would the joy of my companions on the journey overwhelm me emotionally to the point of exhaustion?

God tells us not to worry about tomorrow because today's troubles are enough for one day. This is a wise command.

you know I am weak
and my flesh is not strong.
Thank you for limiting
my ability to know or experience
all the sorrow around me.
I do not believe I could bear it.
The same is true for all the joy.
But how wonderful you must be
to know and bear and share
all that each of us carries.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Day 156: Goofus and Gallant

Today's Reading: Proverbs 10-12

Remember the kids magazine Highlights?

I loved that magazine and spent a lot of time pouring over it while waiting in doctors', dentists' and piano teachers' offices. Finding pictures throughout the magazine, finding hidden pictures in a scene, reading the jokes and riddles, and looking at the art work of other kids were some of my favorite features.

My most favorite page, though, was Goofus and Gallant, a sketch that laid the actions of a "naughty boy" along side the actions of a "respectful and helpful" young man.

Goofus was always hurting someone, missing the opportunity to serve, being lazy, and being disrespectful and selfish while Gallant was living up to his name. I think I learned a lot of morality, conduct and "how to get along" with others from that column.

In today's reading, the Proverbs compare a wise Gallant to a foolish Goofus.

A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son grief to his mother.

What interests me is the parallelism. When one sees the wise one and the fool side by side in the Proverbs, one can definitely see the way of righteousness versus the way of thoughtless living.

Wisdom brings joy to the father. Fathers delight in their children's successes. Their chests swell with pride and they pass out the cigars as if to have people join them in congratulations of success.

But foolishness brings grief to the mother. Mothers seem to bear an immense amount of grief, shame, sorrow and worry over their children's mistakes and poor choices. In fact, most mothers stress out even when their children are making wise choices, wondering when the shoe will drop and disaster will hit.

I'm also interested in the ripple effect of our choices. The wisdom writer of Proverbs shares that our choices go way beyond ourselves. We are so connected one to the other that there is no such thing as "living on our own" or "freedom to choose" in the community of faith.

Paul goes as far as to say that even if something is okay for us but would make a brother or sister stumble, we must stay away from it, especially in their presence.

A goof, a slip, a weak moment, a foolish word can destroy.

Wisdom is not just a mental exercise; it is a way of life which builds up a gallant community of faithful living.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 155: Seductive Foolishness

Today's Reading: Proverbs 7-9

As teenagers in youth group, we put on a play called "The Choice." The stage was set with three doors. One was fiery red, one was made of gold and the third was a trashy, unkempt door. The play started with a seedy, "car-salesman" type figure dressed in a red tuxedo. By door number 2, the gold door, slept a man dressed in white, and by door number 3, the trashy door, slept a "hippie."

The man in the red tuxedo represented door number 1, the red door. He served as the scene setter, telling the audience that soon Common Joe would come and have to chose door number 1, 2, or 3.

As Common Joe arrived, the man in red threw him a sales pitch, offering him a world of pleasure, riches and fun. Soon the man in white for door number 2 awoke and warned Common Joe to not be deceived. He offered holiness, purity and fulfillment.

While Common Joe was troubling over whether to choose door number 1 or door number 2, the man in red brought out from door number 1 a woman dressed in very seductive red clothing, complete with very dark red lipstick and fishnet stockings.

Not to be outdone, the man in white brought out a beautiful young woman who was dressed modestly in white.

Common Joe struggled, being tempted by the woman in red and yet, knowing the woman in white would be the more righteous choice.

By the end of the play, Common Joe was so torn and confused, he decided to ask the hippie by door number 3 what he had to offer. The hippie was not a salesman at all; in fact, he was completely apathetic. He didn't care which door Common Joe chose. He just wanted to be left alone.

Common Joe chose door number 3, the door of no choice.

The lights dimmed, and when they re-lit, the hippie was now the salesman for door number one and the red dressed man was the hippie at door number 3.

The point of the story was that by not making a choice, we still make a choice.

Now I've told you this story for a reason.

As we read the book of Proverbs, we see Wickedness and Foolishness personified as a harlot, the lady in red. She is seductive and aggressive. She is hard to deny.

Wisdom comes across as the beautiful and pure woman in white.

But ask any young buck which he would truly prefer and he would tell you, "Give me the Victoria Secret Temptress any day."

Now here is the sad thing.

When tryouts were held for the youth group play, all the guys wanted to be the charismatic and "wicked" man in red.

And sadly, we gals were all hoping we had enough sex appeal to be chosen for the "Lady in Red."

Even though we knew the obvious choice for church youth group kids was the door number 2 cast, we wanted to dabble in the seduction.

I am grateful for the book of Proverbs which sees so clearly into the human heart, its temptations and its weaknesses.

The red whore is always very seductive.

The pure way of righteousness, though the better choice, is not at all the easy one.

We should be more surprised when we meet someone doing the right thing, instead of being shocked when we find out someone has made a poor choice.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 154: Ingesting Wisdom

Today's Reading: Proverbs 4-6

For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.
Proverbs 4:7

Each day
as I pull up to the table
to feed my soul
I have a choice

Will I eat the meal of
or trash the fibers of my soul with
Wicked Foolishness?

What are my nutritional
What junk food should I

Are there any
to scrub out
the toxins
of previously
comfort food?

Give me the
and whole grain
Bread of Heaven.

Give me the
sippy cup
of the fruit
of your Vine.

Feed me
'til I want no more.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 153: The pitch for Wisdom

Today's Reading: Proverbs 1-3

The book of Proverbs has been attributed to Solomon, the one to whom God gave wisdom. The book is divided into 31 chapters, a chapter to be read each day of the month. Many read these chapters over and over as a spiritual discipline, beginning each first day of the month with chapter one and continuing until starting over the next month.


Not just knowledge, not just smarts, not even just common sense, but all of these rolled up along with morality, ethics and the special ingredient: the fear of the LORD.

According to the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is the most desirable quest, even ranking above Love.


But maybe one cannot recognize true love unless one is wise.

This book of Proverbs begins with the sales pitch for Wisdom. It will help us get along with our parents. It will help us choose our friends. It will keep us out of trouble and put our feet onto the path of true prosperity and long life.

I wonder what it would be like if we spent the pre-adolescent years of our children, drumming the book of Proverbs into their brains. Would it change their precarious teenage years?

I wonder what it would be like if we told employees, "Our employee handbook is the book of Proverbs."

I wonder what it would be like if we held our politicians, teachers, preachers, lawyers--all the professionals--to the wisdom of Proverbs.

"Do any of you want wisdom?" the author of James asks. "Ask God, and God will give generously to anyone who asks."

Quite the sales pitch, don't you think?

Here's to the next couple days in God's Word.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 152: Intimacy

Today's Reading: Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)

How many of you remember the day you discovered how babies were made?

And then do you remember the realization that your mom and dad had "done it" to make you?

I remember my brother sharing the details with me. I was horrified to realize my parents had "done it" six times, one time for each of us kids. I was even more appalled when my brother looked at me with the same horror and said, "No, they do it all the time and they LIKE it!"

Reading the Song of Solomon initially is like walking in on your parents while they are "doing it." It is downright embarrassing, all this talk of breasts, navels and lips, all this talk of longing, of sensuality and...well, sex. It seems inappropriate to have this book right smack dab in the middle of the Bible when many think one of the main purposes of the Bible is to keep us from thinking about such things.

But at the heart of God's Word...GOD'S WORD...is a book describing the most intimate, arousing, and pleasurable act known to humanity...the act of intimate intercourse between two lovers.

Rob Bell in his book Sex God shares that intercourse is the human example of God's great love for us. It is downright intimate and orgasmic.

Now, I have to tell you, I've never heard a sermon on this kind of love between God and us. I've heard about the sacrificial love of John 3:16 and the servant love of a Messiah who kneels to wash feet, but sensual, sexual love is not the usual image when we consider that God so loved...me.

But perhaps this romantic, pleasurable, orgasmic love is closer to the real love of God than we think.

Can we get our minds around that?

How would that concept change your theology?

A very wise person told me to listen to the Song of Solomon over and over and over until the language got under my skin. Until it exploded within me...now there's a sexual symbol for you.

This wise person said, until we realize God's great love for us, we miss the real power of the gospel.

It's scary and yet it's...seductive, isn't it?

The other name for the Song of Solomon is "Song of Songs"...ie. the number one hit of the universe.

Dare we peek into this part of the Bible? and realize we are not being voyeuristic but invited into God's chamber of love for each one of us?

Day 151: Drippy Desire to Please

Today's Reading: Psalm 119:89-176

I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.

It is summer. I sit on my back porch with ice tea to delight in the summer breeze. But suddenly I am hit with hot air...hot stinky air.

It is Mocha, my big chocolat lab, open mouthed and panting; breathing putrid, happy breath on me.

I tell her to "go on" which is master talk meaning "go away."

I move over a bit to politely get out of the path of her blast, but she thinks this is a game to draw her ever closer to me.

Her eyes twinkle. Drool begins to roll out of her mouth as she salivates with delight in my presence.

She will not be ignored.

Even if I wanted to pretend a regal silence, her longing for my approval, a command or a beloved tidbit keeps her doggedly close to me.

The Psalmist is panting open mouthed this morning. The Psalmist is drooling with desire for a command from God. There is no parched wilderness of disobedience or rebellion.


Just the living water drool of desire that will not "go on!" without a word...

...a word from the mouth of her master.

Day 150: Whatever you want!

Today's Reading: 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72

As I child, I loved Aesop's Fables. I loved cheering on the heroes and booing the villains. I warned the fool and laughed at the jesters.

Perhaps my favorite stories were the ones where poor fools were given three wishes. I secretly knew the best wish was to wish that every wish I ever wished would come true. Or at least I thought that was the best wish.

God comes to Solomon and says, "I will give you whatever you want, just ask."

How would you respond?

Would you think, this is my one chance to get ahead in life? How about a million dollars, or perhaps a billion? Thinner thighs, flatter tummy, more beautiful eyes and hair? How about the love of a life time? Winning the lottery? Travel? Beautiful house? A really cool car?

Or would you be more philanthropic in your request?

Would you grab the wish of Miss America and ask for world peace?

Would you look in the eyes of starving children and ask that all would be fed?

Would you ask for a gentle and more loving community where no violence could exist?

Solomon asks for wisdom. A pretty wise request, don't you think? Whether we think it was a good answer or not, God was pleased. Solomon ended up with lots of other kudos because of his wisdom gift. But, as we will learn, his life was not perfect.

Jesus asked that all believers would be one, united as God the Father and the Son were bound together in perfect affection and love. I can't even imagine what that would look like.

Every time I pray the Lord's Prayer, I turn in my wish list, knowingly or unknowingly.

Hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Give us today daily bread.

Forgive our boundary breaking as we forgive others who crash into our space.

Keep me out of temptation.

Deliver me from evil.

Unfortunately, the list is longer than three wishes, much less narrowed to one request.

Today, my wish would be that all may love as we have been loved by Christ; that we might all jump into the wish of Jesus in the new covenant.

So God, if you could just grant that request, quickly, it would be real nice...

Day 149: Birthday Present

Today's Reading: Psalm 119:1-88

Every year, I look forward to my birthday.

As a child, my mother would allow me to determine my birthday meal menu. It was always the same: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, frozen corn, green beans, pecan pie...everything rich, comforting and deeply satisfying. Perhaps the food was an expression of what I was hoping for the next year.

And then there was the list of wishes: a new doll, a pair of roller skates that fit, a guitar, designer shoes or purse, or the latest album of my favorite rock star. As I grew older, I wished for deeper, more precious gifts: a tree to plant, time with friends and family, beauty, conversation and truth.

Psalm 119 was understood to be the Hallmark birthday greeting card which heralded the best birthday present ever. Jewish boys and girls would scroll down the page with their fingers looking for the letter of the alphabet which coincided with their names. Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Daleth...

In my mind, my pointer finger touches the page until it reaches Mem and Lammed, the initials of my first and middle names.

Here the birthday card share the most lovely description of my birthright, birthday present...the love and the power of the Word of God in my life.

My thank you note back to the giver of the great gift is to live up to the gift's hope for me...meditating, speaking, loving the present more than life itself.

It is a birthday present which grows dearer and dearer to me with each passing day.

It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Day 148: Changing Hands

Today's Reading: 1 King 1-2; Psalms 37, 71, 94

The other day, I was carrying a five gallon bucket of water. As it grew heavy, my fingers numbed and my arm ached with muscle strain. It was time to change hands.

As I passed the bucket to my left hand, there was some spillage of water. Though I tried to be careful in the transition, I lost some of the contents of the bucket.

Changing hands from one place of strength to another is necessary in all of life. Teachers give students over to other teachers, parents play tag team, pastors receive calls to other parishes and new strength comes to carry on.

But these changing hand times, these transitions, though they bring release and relief, naturally bring loss of one kind or another. Besides the grieving and angst with leadership change, there is often a vacuum or flux in power which causes turmoil.

For the best transitions to occur, this reality and recognition of loss is essential for the leader who is leaving. As one's strength wanes, one cannot just become chilled, lie in bed and hope for a young, beautiful maiden to attend one's last years. One must specifically prepare the kingdom and empower the new leader.

The more attention paid to this time of passing the bucket from one hand to the other, the fewer the drops spilled, whether it be water...

...or blood.

awaken us to the transitions
all around us.
May we pass gently
the load
we carry
to the next

Day 147: The Fear of the LORD

Today's Reading: Psalms 111-118

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom..."

In many of our Psalms today, we hear the mantra, "The fear of the LORD."

It is hard for me to get my mind around the word "fear" in relationship to One who has promised faithfulness, love, provision and care.

Yet, there the word stands and invites a wrestling match.


I try to sugar coat it and make it easier to swallow. Surely the writers of wisdom mean a companionable respect and reverence, don't they?


The word is "fear."

For me, fear has to do with terror. Being so scared that you either make yourself as small as you can so you can hide or you do exactly as you are told.

I would fear an assailant who had a knife to my throat. It would be hard for me to be rebellious when my life is in the hands of another.

Perhaps this is the reality I need to comprehend.

M., you need to fear the LORD. Your life is totally in the the hands of God. One word from the LORD and you are dust. One breath from the LORD and you are vitally alive and on fire.

The only two wise positions before the LORD are hiding or obeying--Hiding like a child behind the skirt of my mother because God seems too great or too powerful for me to bear, or quickly doing whatever is asked of me because God's will is fabulously great and I want to be a part of bearing it.

Some days I do want to run and hide.

"You are too much for me, God."

That is my reality.

Then on other days, I want to do whatever God wants me to do.

"I want to be great, LORD!"

I want to be a part of the powerful, awe-filling wonder of YOU, You who are beyond all the limits of me...

Way, way, way beyond me.

In power.

In beauty.

In wisdom.

In faithfulness.

In love.

So wisdom begins here, in the fearing of the LORD.

And who knows where wisdom will take me...

Day 146: Courage to do the work

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 26-29; Psalm 127

David's passion was worship.

Though his life was that of a warrior, a defender, a protector and a commander of the army of God's people, his personal desire was to build God's temple.

But God said, "No. That task is reserved for another."

Even though it was not David's calling, it was his passion. And because it was his passion, he gave everything he owned, his personal treasury, to the task. He also gave his son to accomplish the task. The blessing was bestowed upon Solomon.

"My son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work."

In order to do sacred work, David knew his son needed to understand a few things.

First of all, Solomon needed to ACKNOWLEDGE GOD. This is a statement of awareness. When we acknowledge God, we turn from idols that would distract or comfort us and move into true worship and labor for the LORD.

Solomon is then exhorted to serve God with WHOLEHEARTED DEVOTION. This is focus. This is passion. This is the discipline of love.

A WILLING MIND is the next exhortation of blessing. Follow God willingly. Don't be rebellious or complaining. Delight in bridling the mind to the will of God.

In order to do the task God puts before us, in order to fulfill our calling, we will need STRENGTH. This not only refers to the physical energy needed to accomplish a task, this is the spiritual fortitude to stay on the task.

"Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command."

Often we weaken and become cowardly because we believe we are alone in the calling. The strength and courage come when we realize the presence of God and God's faithfulness to provide all that is needed for the tasks to which God calls us. God will not forsake us midway through the calling. The One who begins the work in us is faithful to complete it. God does not leave a job half done.

In the tasks God assigns you, God also provides others to come and "help you in all the work." These obedient servants provide the network of laborers who come along side us.

All we need is the courage to begin, to labor and to finish the work set before us.

Has God called you to a ministry?

Has God given you a work to accomplish for God and God's people?

Do not delay.

Step up with courage and begin the work.

Do the work.