Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 18

Fire from heaven. Then Elijah told the people, "Enough of that—it's my turn. Gather around." And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. 1 Kings 18:30 (MSG)

I have, at times, prayed for fire from heaven as I stood next to the ruined altar of my life.

Silly me.

God didn't answer Elijah until the altar, which lay in ruins, was repaired.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Elijah

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 17

Running on empty. This is the word of the God of Israel: 'The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought. 1 Kings 17:14 (MSG)

It's been a long week and I'm tired. The physical and emotional batteries are on empty.

As I read the chapter today, I was struck by God's promise to the woman of Zarephath to replenish the oil and flour in her home each day so that she, and her son, and Elijah could eat.

Just as Jesus would replenish the loaves and fish until everyone had their fill of fish sandwiches.

Just as Jesus taught us to pray "Give us this day, our daily bread."

God is in the business of replenishment. He provides what we need when we need it. And, that's a good thought as I head out the door this morning.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 16

Jesus owns a breadmaker. It was under Ahab's rule that Hiel of Bethel refortified Jericho, but at a terrible cost: He ritually sacrificed his firstborn son Abiram at the laying of the foundation, and his youngest son Segub at the setting up of the gates. This is exactly what Joshua son of Nun said would happen1 Kings 16:34 (MSG)

"If there is any purpose or value in this whole thing, it's completely lost on me," my wife said to me in the car yesterday. Behind her dark sunglasses, I knew her eyes were filled with tears. I understood. I feel the same confusion. Her statement echoed in my spirit the rest of the day and I've been chewing on it.

The purpose and value of difficult circumstances do not usually show themselves in the moment because they are not momentary in nature. We call them "lessons learned in time" because, for us, time is a required ingredient. We have a wonderful, state-of-the-art breadmaker in our kitchen. As good as it is, it still takes 3-4 hours to bake a loaf of bread. It can't speed up the time necessary for the yeast to perform its chemical reactions and make the dough rise.

God has all sorts of time because, unlike me, he exists outside of time's boundaries. It's likely that Hiel of Bethel and the people gathered at the dedication ceremonies at Jericho had no idea that the terrible sacrifice of his own sons had been spoken of 600 years earlier by Joshua. That's like Cristopher Columbus talking about the recent earthquake in Haiti. It seems an eternity to us, but not to God. He exists concurrently in both moments.

The difficult stretch of the journey I'm experiencing today is frustrating, agonizing, and confusing. I don't get it in the moment. I can only trust that someday I, or my children, or my grandchildren, or my great grandchildren will be on another difficult stretch and I will look back in time to find that the lessons learned through this time will profit me for that time.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and solidstate76

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 15

Cleaning house is making room for new things. Asa conducted himself well before God, reviving the ways of his ancestor David. He cleaned house: He got rid of the sacred prostitutes and threw out all the idols his predecessors had made. Asa spared nothing and no one; he went so far as to remove Queen Maacah from her position because she had built a shockingly obscene memorial to the whore goddess Asherah. Asa tore it down and burned it up in the Kidron Valley. 1 Kings 15:11-13 (MSG)

There is something about "cleaning house" that brings a fresh start. Cleaning house means purging old and worthless things that take up room, demand time attention and distract me from more important things. I might "rearrange house" so that there is a sense that things are fresh and new, but it is not the same thing as cleaning house. The old and worthless things are still there. They may be tucked away for the moment, out of sight, so I can fool myself to believing that things are clean. But, nothing has really changed.

"Cleaning house" requires uncomfortable decisions. I'm sure Asa's decision to remove grandma from power had tremendous ramifications in his life, his household, in his family, and in his community. She had been holding "position" within the family, the royal household, and therefore, the government, for multiple generations. The removal of something or someone that holds an old, secure position within any kind of system tends to throw that system into conflict and confusion for a while. That's why we avoid it.

"Cleaning house" is a requisite part of the process for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. You don't get far in the journey if you keep accumulating and never purge. A journey requires mobility and you can't move if you're loaded down. "Old things pass away, new things come," God's message tells us. But, there's no room for new things in our backpack if it's still full of our old stuff.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and questioneverything

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 14

"And that's it. Go on home—the minute you step foot in town, the boy will die. Everyone will come to his burial, mourning his death. He is the only one in Jeroboam's family who will get a decent burial; he's the only one for whom God, the God of Israel, has a good word to say." 1 Kings 14:12-13 (MSG)

I was struck by the blunt truth that Ahijah spoke to Jeroboam's wife in today's chapter. Sometime's I think that we avoid speaking plain truth in today's culture.

Instead of telling a child that they've failed the test and need to take the course over again, we pat them on the back and applaud them for doing the best they can. Instead of facing loss, learning from it, and letting it motivate us to improve, we hand everyone a trophy and tell them they are all winners.

God, help me to be obedient and "speak the truth in love."

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 13

Guide me in Truth. But he said, "I am also a prophet, just like you. And an angel came to me with a message from God: 'Bring him home with you, and give him a good meal!'" But the man was lying. 1 Kings 13:18 (MSG)

The promptings of God are a sticky wicket. I will hear the words "God told me" slip from the lips of others. In some cases, quite often. These are powerful words, as they presume that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God of Creation is the ultimate author of a person's comments or actions. There is a not so subtle claim of authority and pride in the subtext of such statement.

The phrase used to pass my own lips more readily, but along the journey I grew more reticent to claim such a thing publicly and more discerning when I hear it uttered by others. I know there have been times when my own deep (or shallow, even) longings got mingled and confused with my perceptions of what God was prompting. I confess there have been specific instances in which my statement "God told me" was no more true than the prophet from Bethel in today's chapter.

God still speaks to my spirit through his message, in the midst of prayer, and in the course of a given day. His still, small voice whispers deep with me. I have just chosen to relinquish my human desire to broadcast it in most cases. I know God still speaks to others, so I don't immediately dismiss those who claim a message from God. Still, I wonder if they are a true prophet like the man from Judah, or a well intentioned fraud like the man from Bethel. It's not for me to judge the person either way. I simply pray that God give me the discernment to know Truth and the grace act on it accordingly. God can handle the rest.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Fickr and loswl

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 12

From chaos to creation. Rehoboam turned a deaf ear to the people. God was behind all this, confirming the message that he had given to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah of Shiloh. 1 Kings 12:15 (MSG)

There are many waypoints along the journey where I stand and wonder, "Why?"

Why did that have to happen?
Why do my prayers seem to fall on deaf ears?
Why would God allow that?
Why does it seem so easy for others and so difficult for me?
Why not me?
Why does this have to be so hard?

I stand and wonder. Then, I glance back on the broken threads of my life. My foolish decisions, my blatant disobedience, my ignorance, my stubborn pride not to mention the tragic events, painful actions of others, and random circumstances that resided outside of my control. I look back at the chaos surrounding them and, what seemed at the time, the seeming senselessness of it all. But I also see how God wove those broken threads together with His grace, mercy, purpose, and goodness so that a beautiful tapestry began to emerge. We begin to see, like in today's chapter, God is behind all this.

Chaos to creation. The paradigm of Genesis is revealed in each of us as God takes that which is formless and void and fashions a new creation, that in the end His ultimate purpose is revealed.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" Revelation 21:5

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and loswl

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 11

Still walking. As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful—he didn't stay true to his God as his father David had done. 1 Kings 11:4 (MSG)

I've watched many people as they grow older. I've watched certain individuals as their relationship with God grew deeper and more meaningful with each stretch of the journey. I witnessed them becoming more loving, more compassionate, more transparent, and increasingly grateful.

The other day my daughter spoke of a friend who was concerned with what she was witnessing in her parents. Children finally grown, the nest empty, her parents appeared to be drawing away from the things of God. I have, sadly, witnessed similar situations. Like Solomon, the further along in the journey the more alienated and distant they grew from God.

While my relationship with God has certainly changed with time, I can attest it has only gotten deeper, more genuine, and more pure. I often think of one of my wife's favorite phrases from C.S. Lewis: "further up and further in."

I find Solomon's story to be a tragic one. Wisdom was given and then that wisdom was abandoned.

God, may I be faithful in pressing on in life that I might journey further up and further in to relationship with you. May those around me witness the purification of my faith, the steeling of my hope, and the deepening of my love.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and stathis1980

“The Way Back”

A blast from the past. A few months ago I got a new company car. It's a crossover SUV, and because of it I used a certain term the other day while doing some shopping. It was a term that had not crossed my lips in many years having owned and leased countless compact cars and sedans. Wendy asked me where something was and I said, "I put it in 'the way back.'"

"The 'way back?'" she asked.

"Oh yeah," I replied. "You probably don't know about 'the way back.'"

Wendy laughed and exclaimed. "Believe me, I know about 'the way back.'"

Suddenly, I was transported to my childhood. Growing up in the early seventies with three older siblings and a Mercury Marquis station wagon complete with wood trim and a rumble seat that faced out the back window.

Mom and Dad got the front seat.

Tim and Terry got the back seat.

Me and Jody were in "the way back."

The "way back" was where you sat in the rumble seat and stared awkwardly at the people in the car behind you. The "way back" was where you set up a fort and play pen with blankets, toys and luggage. The "way back" was where you lay down to take a nap on long vacation road trips.

A lot of memories come flooding to me with the term "the way back." It's a term likely to be lost with subsequent generations. I'm glad it's re-entered my vocabulary to give me a smile and a warm memory, if nothing else.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 10

Patterns emerge in the journey. King Solomon was wiser and richer than all the kings of the earth—he surpassed them all. People came from all over the world to be with Solomon and drink in the wisdom God had given him. And everyone who came brought gifts—artifacts of gold and silver, fashionable robes and gowns, the latest in weapons, exotic spices, and horses and mules—parades of visitors, year after year. 1 Kings 10:23-25 (MSG)

One the most awesome things about journeying through God's message is the way the various pieces and themes fit together. Today as I read the chapter my synapses started sparking and I saw patterns emerge in the text!

A few chapters ago, we read that God gave Solomon a choice of wisdom or riches. Solomon chose to ask for wisdom, and as a result, God said he would grant Solomon's request and added: "As a bonus, I'm giving you both the wealth and glory you didn't ask for."

So, there's a principle and a pattern established: Make wisdom your priority and seeking understanding your goal. Prosperity follows wisdom.

In today's chapter, we see that pattern repeated in both a macro level and a micro level. Look how the chapter is contsructed on the whole. We see that Solomon's wisdom attracts the Queen of Sheba, who comes seeking Solomon's wisdom and understanding. Impressed, she plies him with gifts and the rest of the chapter describes Solomon's riches. Solomon had wisdom, which led to his success.

Then in verses 23-25 (above) the principle is summarized at a micro level. People came to Solomon for wisdom, and his wisdom led to his incredible propserity.

Now, consider Solomon's own words in the book of Proverbs where he writes:

You're blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom,
   when you make friends with Madame Insight.
She's worth far more than money in the bank;
   her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
   nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
   with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
   her life wonderfully complete.
She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
   Hold her tight—and be blessed!
Proverbs 3:13-18 (MSG)

If I seek wisdom, it may very well lead to prosperity and then I am doubly blessed. If I seek prosperity and have no wisdom, I actually profit nothing in God's eyes. That's the way Kingdom economics works.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and kh-67