Tag Archives: Grace

Wrong Person for the Job

Wrong Person for the Job (CaD 2 Ki 12) Wayfarer

The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves.
2 Kings 12:8 (NIV)

Many years ago I had a colleague at work who falsified data for a major client project. It was an egregious mistake that cost us what might have been a lucrative client relationship. The reason he did this was not criminal, but personal. He didn’t want to do the work. In fact, it was clear to me that his actions were basically a cry for help. He was in the wrong job, a job he couldn’t stand and for which he was ill-suited, with a boss he greatly respected and didn’t want to disappoint pushing him daily like a square peg into a round hole.

After being caught, my colleague was greatly ashamed. He did the work he’d fail to do. I and another colleague were brought in to assist, oversee, and do our best to smooth things over with the client. In the end, we responded the best we could but, understandably, we never worked for the client again.

My boss called me to inform me that he had chosen to forgive our colleague and that he was not going to fire him, but give him another opportunity. It was, perhaps, the most contentious argument I ever had with him. I told him that he was making a mistake. I argued that our colleague didn’t want to do the job. It didn’t fit his strengths or passions and it was killing him inside. Firing him was not only the right thing to do for our business, but it was also the best thing we could do for our colleague who needed to be freed to follow his gifts and passions to a job that was a better fit for him. I felt so strongly about it that I threatened to quit. My boss said that as a follower of Jesus, he had no choice but to extend forgiveness and grace and let our colleague keep his job. I countered that we did need to graciously forgive him, but to keep him in a job that he clearly was not suited for was only going to perpetuate the problem. I quoted the ancient proverb says: “As a dog returns to his vomit, so does a fool to his folly.”

In the end, our argument was moot. Our colleague packed up his things and simply disappeared.

This came to mind this morning as I read about King Joash of Judah. The Temple in Jerusalem needed to be repaired, and King Joash created a plan for raising the money and tasking the priests with making the necessary repairs. They raised the money, but the repairs never happened. When King Joash calls them to account for not carrying out the repairs, it is agreed that the repairs will be outsourced to carpenters, stonemasons, and construction workers. In other words, the priests should never have been tasked with it in the first place. Priests are not construction workers. Their priests. If you want a construction project to succeed put the right people in the right positions.

In the quiet this morning, I thought about our weekly staff meeting yesterday. It went over by twenty minutes because two colleagues were discussing an internal project I have them working on. They are so well-suited for this task. It plays to both their strengths and passions. It was almost as if they couldn’t stop talking about it. I just sat back and enjoyed their conversation and the moment. The sage of Ecclesiastes wrote that it’s a gift of God when a person enjoys his or her job.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an employer and a boss is that I want the right people in the right jobs where their strengths and giftedness can flourish. One individual in the wrong job can negatively impact the entire system.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Paying the Price (or Not)

Paying the Price (or Not) [CaD 2 Sam 24] Wayfarer

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

It was almost cliche. It was the first weekend that my sister and I, as teenagers, had been left alone in the house. My parents headed to Le Mars to spend the weekend with Grandpa Vander Well. I was fourteen. My sister was sixteen. We were given the standard parental instructions not to have anyone over, to keep the house clean while they were gone, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

We invited a few people over. I honestly remember it only being a few people. Nevertheless, word spread that there was a party at the Vander Wells, whose parents were out of town. Somehow, the kids kept coming that night. At one point I remember hiding in the laundry room because of the chaos outside. I’m not sure when I realized that things were out of control. Perhaps it was when members of the football team began daring each other to successfully jump from the roof of our house onto the roof of the detached garage.

This, of course, was the pre-cell phone era. News took longer to travel. The parents got home on Sunday evening. The house was picked up and spotless. We thought we’d gotten away with it. I’m not sure which neighbor ratted us out, but on Monday morning Jody and I were quickly tried in a kitchen tribunal and found guilty as charged. I could have made a defense that it was Jody’s idea and the crowd was mostly older kids who Jody knew. I could have pled the defense that our older siblings, Tim and Terry, never got in trouble for the parties that they had when the rest of us were gone. Forget it. I knew it was useless.

We were grounded for a week. I didn’t argue. I didn’t complain. I didn’t whine. I was guilty and I knew it. I gladly paid the price for my sin.

I was struck by David’s response to Arauna, who offered to give David everything he needed to atone for his mistake. David understood the spiritual principle that the price has to be paid for your mistake. David had blown it and he deserved to pay the price of the sacrifice. I had blown it and knew I had to do a week in the 3107 Madison penitentiary as the price for my infraction.

I think almost all of us know when we blow it, whether we wish to admit it or not. I think almost all of us understand that we deserve to pay the price for our mistakes. What is difficult is to accept that Jesus paid the price for me. That’s what the cross was all about. When I arrive at the metaphorical threshing floor seeking to make some sacrifice to atone for what I’ve done, Jesus says “I’ve already paid the price. I’ve already made the sacrifice, once and for all. The only thing you have to do is accept it.

For me, the spiritual economics of this cut against the grain of everything I’ve experienced and have been taught. I want to pay the price for my sin. I need to pay the price for my sin. I can’t believe that my guilty conscience can be absolved in any other way than for me to personally pay the price and feel the pain. So, I self-flagellate. I become Robert Di Nero, the repentant slave trader in The Mission (watch the movie clip below), dragging a heavy sack of armor up a rocky cliff as penance to confront the people he’d been enslaving because I simply cannot believe that forgiveness can be found by any other means than personally paying a heavy price.

How ironic that, for some, the obstacle to believing in Jesus is simply accepting and allowing Him to have paid the price for us.

Today, I’m thinking about the things I do out of guilt for what I’ve done, rather than gratitude for what Jesus did for me when He paid the price and made the sacrifice I deserved to make. And, I’m uttering a prayer of thanksgiving.

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son (CaD 2 Sam 18) Wayfarer

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

A few years ago I ran into some old friends of the family whom I had not seen since I was a teenager. When the gentleman looked at me he exclaimed, “My goodness, there’s no mistaking who you are. You look just like your old man!” As I get older, the more comments I get about looking like my father.

“Chip off the ol’ block,” they say of children who become like their parents. As Wendy and I spent time with our young grandchildren this week, we couldn’t help but have the requisite conversations regarding who each of them resembles in the family.

It is interesting the ways we are similar and dissimilar from our parents. This morning I found it interesting to think about, not the similarities, but the contrast between David and his rebellious, patricidal son Absalom:

  • As a young man, David was the anointed king but refused to take the life of Saul or take the throne by force. He waited and suffered for years to let God’s plan unfold. Absalom schemed and plotted to take the throne and kingdom away from his father in a coup d’etat.
  • David was a warrior with blood on his hands, but he also stayed opportunities to kill his enemies, and he even ordered his generals to afford Absalom both respect and gentleness. Absalom, on the other hand, was more indiscriminate. He killed his own brother out of revenge and arguably would not have afforded his old man the same courtesy his father sought to afford him.
  • David made his share of mistakes, but he also acknowledged his failures when confronted with them. While not perfect, David’s self-awareness led to humility and he was constantly aware that even the king was subject to a higher authority. Throughout the story, Absalom’s actions appear to have been motivated by anger, pride, and hatred. His actions were a pursuit of vengeance and ultimately, the pursuit of personal gain.

I was struck this morning as I pictured David mourning for the son who had caused him and his kingdom so much injury. I imagined what Absalom would have done had he been successful at stealing the throne and confronting his father. I can’t picture Absalom being as gracious and forgiving.

As a parent I am fully aware of the ways our adult daughters have inherited my DNA, and how they have each been affected by my words and actions both positively and negatively. I believe David was aware of this, as well. David understood that the seed of Absalom’s rebellion took root in the wake of David’s own moral and relational failures. It did not absolve Absalom of his poor choices, but it afforded David the ability, much like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, to be gracious in his attitude toward his son.

This morning in the quiet I find myself thinking about motivations, character, family, and choices. We don’t get to choose our family. We must all play the hand that we’re dealt. As I’ve progressed in my own life journey I’ve discovered that there is a fine line between acknowledging and understanding the ways our parents and family system affected us and using that knowledge as an excuse for our own poor choices. I think David and Absalom, father and son, are great examples of living on opposite sides of that line.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Disloyalty and Criticism

The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?”

Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’”

Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.”
2 Samuel 16:3-4 (NIV)

I recently mentioned in a chapter-a-day post a gentleman whom I met who had served under five different U.S. presidents while working for the Department of Commerce. His favorite, he told me, was Harry Truman who always made a requested decision in a timely way and was always on top of the many details necessary to carry out the office well. His least favorite, he added, was Dwight Eisenhower whom he observed was on the golf course more than he was in the oval office and who seemed to avoid the politics and details the job required. His observations came to mind again this morning as I read the chapter.

As a history buff I’ve heard it said that military generals, with the exception of George Washington, make poor presidents. Politics is messier than the military. People don’t have to obey your every command. You can’t just give orders, you have to persuade and cajole those who disagree with you. U.S. Grant, who had the dogged determination to order his armies forward no matter the defeat, was the right man for the job in bringing the American Civil War to an end. He has been, however, generally regarded as one of the worst U.S. presidents in history.

As I read the story of David, I find it fascinating that this theme of difficulty moving from military command to political power appears to be apt, even in antiquity. David was a great military leader, but his leadership as a monarch reveals tragic flaws that echo the reflections of Eisenhower by my acquaintance. Absalom stole people’s hearts because he would take the time to listen to their cases and grievances while David avoided the responsibility and kept people waiting. Despite his genuine desire for God’s blessing on his people, David appears to have been more interested in personal pursuits than in national problems.

In today’s chapter, David is on the run for the second time in his life. This time, he’s fleeing his own son. David’s scandals have decimated his approval rating. He has few loyal followers left. As his monarchy collapses around him, people’s true feelings come to light and we see two examples of it in today’s text. I found the contrast between David’s response in the two confrontations found in today’s chapter interesting.

Mephibosheth, the handicapped son of Saul, had personally been shown favor by David. Now that David appears to have let the throne slip through his fingers, Mephibosheth repays David’s grace with disloyalty rather than gratitude. There is a power vacuum and Mephibosheth is going to try and make a play to grab power for himself. David responds by rescinding his former kindness and giving Saul’s holdings back to Saul’s servant, Ziba.

Shimei the Benjaminite lets out his frustrations with David in an annoying one-man protest in which he screams his disdain for David and hurls stones at the king. Unlike Mephibosheth’s disloyalty, which was a personal dishonoring of David’s kindness, Shimei’s verbal and stone assault comes from pent-up frustration with David’s leadership, scandals, and the resulting fallout. Perhaps David recognized the truth in Shimei’s criticism. David turns the other cheek and won’t even let his loyal guard force Shimei to be quiet.

Today I’m thinking and pondering the criticism and confrontations we all face. There is a difference between Mephibosheth’s selfish power grab and Shimei’s frontal assault. There’s a difference in David’s response. Nevertheless, Jesus never made such distinctions in his command to forgive others. His parables and Sermon on the Mount instruct me to forgive both hurtful verbal criticism and a very personal slap across the face. For the record, He experienced both.

In the quiet this morning, I’m taking a little inventory this morning of those who’ve been critical of me, and those who’ve caused me injury. I’m thinking about my own life, leadership and the blind spots that have given others good reason to be critical. I’m considering my own responses and searching my own heart to ask if I’ve truly forgiven them.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

Today’s featured image created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“If You Can’t Do the Time…”

Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:6 (NIV)

Much like David, I made a mess of life and my first marriage when I was a young man. Those sins and mistakes are among the long laundry list of sins I have committed that God has graciously forgiven. There are still friends, however, who’ve never spoken to me since. Some I’ve reached out to, but they never reciprocated or returned my calls.

Being forgiven does not erase the fact that we must face the natural consequences of our actions. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent conspiracy to commit murder, David showed great remorse and sought God’s forgiveness. The events, however, sewed seeds of scandal, anger, and resentment both inside David’s family and in the public among King David’s subjects. Part of Nathan’s prophetic word to David was that the sword would never depart David’s house as the consequences of David’s blind spots would bear bitter fruit.

David’s children knew their father’s weaknesses both as a father and as a king. David’s son Absalom witnessed first-hand King David’s turning a blind eye to the favored, eldest son Amnon’s rape of Absalom’s sister. The seeds of anger, bitterness, and vengeance have taken root in Absalom’s heart. In today’s chapter, Absalom masterfully exploits his father’s scandal and weakened poll numbers in a brilliantly planned and executed coup d’etat. David is forced to make hasty preparation to escape the city with his closest followers and arrange for spies to gather inside information regarding his renegade son and the rebel plot. David’s very own son had stolen his kingdom and was now reaching out to steal his crown.

David, on the run again just as he was as a young man fleeing from Saul, does what he always does. He cries out to God in song. It was during this episode that David, fleeing from his own son and the rebels seeking to usurp his kingdom that David wrote the lyrics to Psalm 3, a desperate plea for God to protect and deliver David and bless God’s people.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded of many mistakes I’ve made along the journey and their residual effect on relationships, circumstances, and perceptions. Jesus advised people to “count the cost” before agreeing to follow Him. The same advice might also be given when tempted to sin. There is a cost to wrong-doing and we are all wise to give consideration to the tragic consequences that quote arise in the wake of our poor choices. As the saying goes, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

Today’s featured image was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Grace for the Lame

Grace for the Lame (CaD 2 Sam 9) Wayfarer

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
2 Samuel 9:3 (NIV)

In the small community where we live is a local non-profit organization that serves adults who are physically and mentally challenged. Many of these adults live on their own or in local group homes. They have a tremendous amount of autonomy, work locally, and learn to live as independently as possible. If you spend any amount of time in our town you will eventually meet and interact with a number of them. I have always found it a unique aspect of our community that we collectively embrace and assist them. Just a few weeks ago one of our special neighbors approached Wendy uptown and asked for a ride. Of course, she drove him to the store even though it was out of her way and didn’t fit her schedule.

Back in 2008-2009, our daughter Taylor was serving a mission in Morocco. She and a teammate connected with a local center that served handicapped children and they spent time serving at the center and loving the children. Through her eyes and stories, we learned how different the experience can be for those with disabilities in other cultures. Families are often ashamed of their disabled children and the culture makes an effort to hide them away from public view. Little assistance is provided for the centers that serve the disabled or those who are caretakers. I’m sure Taylor and her team were an amazing blessing to the children and the administrators of the center where they volunteered.

I thought about these contrasting experiences when reading about David’s kindness to Jonathan’s lame son, Mephibosheth. I am quite certain that a lame man in David’s day was far more likely to experience the shaming derision of the community as Taylor experienced in Morocco than the community embrace that our town attempts to give to the adults from the local center. Mephibosheth’s personal shame and self-condemnation are apparent from the moment he opens his mouth: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

David’s grace to the lame son of his late friend reminded me this morning of the grace that Jesus has afforded me. I am spiritually lame in so many ways. I am undeserving of the King’s favor, and yet I am invited daily to His table to enjoy provision, relationship, healing, encouragement, strength, and most of all forgiveness.

Today, I am thinking about the grace David showed Mephibosheth, the grace Jesus has shown me, and how I can pay it forward in a tangible way with those in my spheres of influence.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Prepped for Success

King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued…. 2 Samuel 8:11 (NIV)

Yesterday I was in my client’s office and he was sharing with me a little bit about his background. He took me through a brief overview of his professional journey and resume. At the end of it, he had connected the dots to reveal how his entire career had uniquely prepared him for his current role in his company and industry. Laughing, he told me “I guess I learned a thing or two along the way.”

I thought about that conversation this morning as I read today’s chapter. David was on a roll. Bent on expanding and establishing his kingdom, his energies were focused on conquest. Connecting the dots, I recognize how all those painful years on the run from Saul now benefitted him greatly. Those difficult years prepared him uniquely to be a successful leader. He had been forced to live in foreign territories and had gathered around himself an international military team. He knew how to lead a diverse group of men. His understanding of neighboring nations, their politics, their militaries, and all of the geopolitical nuances of the region allowed him to be shrewd in his decisions as a general and a king. Like my client, David had learned a thing or two along the way.

I have to believe that all of those years depending on God for daily strength, courage, provision, and perseverance also prepared David with humility. He knew what it was like to be an outlaw living life in a cave. Now that he was king and the military victories were stacking up David had not lost sight of the fact that it was God who made those victories possible. The trophies of his victories he dedicated to God, refusing to take the glory for himself.

Today I am reminded to place credit where credit is due in my own life and victories. Like my client, like David, I can connect the dots in my journey and see how God has led me to this place. I’ve learned a thing or two as well, and have been prepared for my calling.

Though my victories are relatively small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, there is no doubt that I have been richly blessed. God has been good to me and I never want to lose sight of that fact, nor take credit for what has been graciously and undeservedly given.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Justice Then and Now

Justice Then and Now (CaD Jos 20) Wayfarer

Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.
Joshua 20:1-3 (NIV)

Some of our most epic stories have ridiculously high body counts. I’ve had the joy of seeing many of Shakespeare’s plays produced on stage. His tragedies, in particular (e.g. Hamlet, Macbeth) end with seemingly everyone in the play dead. The same with the feuding Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet. The same is true in more modern epics like the Godfather trilogy in which warring families endlessly kill one another. Game of Thrones also found creative and nasty ways to rack up the body counts. Even the climactic final chapters of Harry Potter contained the death of some of my most beloved characters.

Throughout history, our epic stories are reflections of our humanity, complete with its deepest flaws and tragic ends. Ever since Abel’s blood cried out, murder, death, and vengeance have been a part of human tragedies.

In today’s chapter, God reminds Joshua of a rudimentary system of justice outlined in the law of Moses. Knowing that tragic deaths could often result in violent, systemic, and generational blood feuds between families, clans, and tribes, Cities of Refuge were designated. If a tragic death occurred unintentionally yet a person was accused of murder, the accused could flee to one of these cities of refuge. The town protected the accused from acts of vengeance until a trial could be held by the tribal assembly and a verdict rendered. It was rudimentary, but it provided a time-out so that hot tempers could cool off and vengeance could be stalled in order for justice to be carried out.

As a student of history, I have often read about the historical implications that the Law of Moses had on humanity. It’s the recognized seminal code of law on which our own system of justice is built. No human system of justice is perfect, just as no human system of government is perfect. But in the story of the Hebrews, I see God prescribing a huge step forward toward a more just society.

So what does this have to do with me here in my 21st-century life journey? First of all, I’m grateful to have very little need for a justice system thus far on my life journey. I am blessed to have lived what amounts to a relatively peaceful life. I take that for granted sometimes, and so I whisper a prayer of gratitude in the quiet this morning.

I also recognize as I meditate on the chapter that justice is more pervasive in the human experience than the weighty matters of manslaughter and capital murder. Justice is a part of every human relationship and interaction. As a follower of Jesus, I can’t ignore that He calls me to be just, generous, loving, and merciful in every relationship. Jesus taught that In God’s kingdom:

  • Cursing another person is as serious as murder.
  • Lust is as serious as adultery.
  • I shouldn’t worship God if I’ve got an interpersonal human conflict that needs to be resolved.
  • I am to forgive, as I have been forgiven, and then keep forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving, as and when necessary.
  • When cursed by others, I am to return blessings.
  • When asked for a favor, I am to go above and beyond what was asked.
  • As far as I am able, I am to live at peace with every person in my circles of community and influence.

And this is not an exhaustive list. It’s just a top-of-mind list that came to me in the quiet.

And so I enter another day in the journey, endeavoring to be a person of love, mercy, generosity, and justice in a world that has always desperately needed it at every level.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Different Way

A Different Way (CaD Jos 6) Wayfarer

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
Joshua 6:25 (NIV)

Over the last year, I found myself subscribing to several accounts on social media that regularly publish posts and memes about what it was like growing up in the 70s and 80s. It’s brought back a lot of memories:

As much as these bring back fond memories, they also remind me of just how much life has significantly changed in just one generation. Just as I could never fully fathom what my grandparents’ lives were like living through two World Wars and the Great Depression, my grandchildren will never fully fathom life without access to more information in their hands than was available to me on the entire planet.

As technology, data, processing speed, and computer memory continue to advance at an ever increasing pace, I’ve observed what appears to be an increasing lack of empathy and/or appreciation for the past. What I witness is that Cancel Culture isn’t just about socially ostracizing people who don’t toe an ideological line, but I also see people dismissing the past as being as outdated and worthless as that second-generation iPod gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

Today’s chapter introduces us to the brutal life that was daily human existence 3500 years ago and in the early chapters of the Great Story. The Hebrew conquest of Canaan is layered with meaning that contains implications and themes that foreshadow the larger themes of grace, judgment, and redemption that are present in the larger story. Yet, it is easy to dismiss for modern readers who are used to simply canceling anything that doesn’t comfortably fit in my 21st century, politically correct worldview.

War and conquest were the dominant way of life. City-States and regions were continually embroiled in surviving those armies, nations, and fledgling empires bent on growing their power. But what happened at Jericho is actually different in many regards. God makes it clear that it is He who is passing judgment on the people of Jericho, it is God who is out front making victory miraculously possible, and it is God who was gracious with Rahab and her family, who by faith, believed that the God was the one true God. The Hebrew people were not allowed to take spoil from the battle. Archaeological evidence at Jericho found entire jars full of grain that had been left which makes little sense in a world in which famine regularly wiped out entire people groups. There’s something different taking place. For forty years God has been doing something different with these Hebrew tribes than the world has ever seen.

And, if I can’t fully fathom what life was like for my grandparents in the Great Depression, then I certainly can’t fully fathom what life was like for those Hebrew tribes at Jericho. Personally, I don’t take that as a license to ignore and judge either the Hebrews or God, but rather as an invitation to be gracious in my ignorance while also wrapping my head and heart around the larger Story being told that I might continue to gain wisdom in my own journey and where this Great Story is leading.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t shake the fact that it is God who is driving the action, God who is leading the charge, God who is just beginning to reveal Himself to humanity by telling His people “I’m going to show you a different way of doing things.” Which is the same thing that Jesus did when He revealed that Messiah was not about earthly power and kingdoms, but about a suffering servant compelled by love to sacrificially lay down His life for others.

Which reminds me that on this day, even with my phone in my hand which has more computing power than the Apollo mission had sending men to the moon, and access to an infinite number of distractions of any kind I could possibly want, I believe that Jesus is still trying to get my attention, to hold my focus long enough to get through to me: “Tom, I’m trying to show you a different way of doing things. A different way than you see all the kingdoms and power structures of this world doing with them amidst all the technology and knowledge they have. Follow me.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Bad Blood

Bad Blood (CaD Ob 1) Wayfarer

Jacob will be a fire
    and Joseph a flame;
Esau will be stubble,
    and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
There will be no survivors
    from Esau.”
The Lord has spoken.

Obadiah 1:18 (NIV)

Some of the more fascinating discoveries in the excavation of my family history have been the bad blood that exists between individuals and family units. In some cases, entire family groups have had little or no relationship with one another for generations and have no idea that the distance is rooted in bad blood from generations before.

I found bad blood in both my paternal and maternal families. I discovered bad blood rising from a host of reasons including, but not limited to, unwanted pregnancies, marriages, re-marriages, inheritance, family business, addiction, and deception. Most commonly, bad blood occurred between siblings, but bad blood between parents and children was also present.

Today’s chapter is the prophecy of Obadiah who wrote a short prophetic poem against the nation of Edom at the time Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire were marching on Jerusalem around 600 B.C. The Edomites, who had considered joining the local defense against the Babylonian Empire, ended up siding with Babylon.

The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the elder twin brother of Jacob. If you were on our chapter-a-day journey through Genesis last year, you might recall the bad blood between them. Bad blood arose between brothers because of the favoritism demonstrated by both parents. Dad favored Esau. Mom favored Jacob. This led to Jacob’s deceptive stealing of Esau’s blessing and inheritance then fleeing into exile for years. All of this took place around 2000 B.C.

I did the math this morning. The bad blood Obadiah is writing about in today’s chapter between the people of Israel and the people of Edom began with a conflict between brothers 1400 years before Obadiah picked up his papyrus and stylus.

In the quiet this morning, I circle back to thinking about family. I know that a lot of people could give a rat’s rear-end about the past. I get it. I have always had a bent toward the past and a love of history. It was fascinating to learn that this is part of being an Enneagram Type Four. I have personally found it worthwhile in a couple of different respects.

First, I have gotten to correspond with and to know members of my family I would otherwise have never known. Their stories have added new layers of understanding of the family systems from which I spring. It helps me understand myself, my parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents and their stories in a greater context, along with a ton more grace. There’s so much in life we don’t control, including the family systems that produced us.

Second, is the old adage that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I have tried very hard along my life journey to avoid the traps that lead to the kind of bad blood which can affect individuals and family groups. I can’t help but recall Paul’s words to Jesus’ followers in Rome:  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Along my journey, I’ve discovered that living at peace requires me to care more about what matters than what doesn’t. That has meant valuing people over politics (or religion, or morality codes, etc.), choosing relationships over being right, and letting go of things of temporal value to perpetuate love that is priceless. This sometimes (often?) requires letting go of the past and choosing forgiveness so that future generations don’t systemically perpetuate bad blood they personally had nothing to do with simply because that bad blood was never dealt with and permanently infected the family system.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.