Tag Archives: Principle

Carrying Out the Filth

[King Hezekiah] said to them, “Listen to me, Levites! Sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and carry out the filth from the holy place.
2 Chronicles 29: 5 (NRSVCE)

One of my projects this summer has been to get my garage organized. I’ve only gotten so far, however, because there’s some stuff in the garage that has been cluttering up the space and until I get rid of that I can’t move forward. I can’t get things moved around and bring in some organizational pieces that will make the garage a more workable space. So, I’m really excited today that I’ve successfully sold some things and they’re going to be gone today.

Here’s the simple, but profound truth I’ve learn along this Life journey: There are times when you can’t move forward and get where you’re going until you get rid of the stuff that’s in the way.

In today’s chapter we’re introduced to King Hezekiah who takes over the throne from the tragically flawed King Ahaz who we met in yesterday’s post. I have to remember that these stories don’t exist as independent silos or time capsules. They are connected. Hezekiah is inheriting the kingdom of Judah from Ahaz in a state of chaos, defeat, upheaval, and disunity. The place is a shambles.

I also have to remember that Ahaz didn’t follow God and instead basically followed every god available to him. He had no regard for Solomon’s Temple or the God of his ancestors. He not only took the utensils used in worship of God and had them cut up and given to the King of Assyria, but Ahaz also allowed Solomon’s Temple to become a worship center for other gods. It had become a pantheistic free-for-all with regional gods who practiced things like child sacrifice, temple prostitution, and a whole host of nasty stuff.

That is the state of things that King Hezekiah inherits. So the Chronicler is quick to tell us that Hezekiah’s first move is to tell the Levites (the Levite tribe was specifically tasked by God to be the caretakers of the temple) to go into the Temple and “carry out the filth from the holy place.”

Hezekiah gets the principle. Before they could move forward spiritually as a nation, they had to get rid of the crud cluttering up the place that was supposed to be holy and dedicated to God.

For followers of Jesus, this story has another layer of meaning entirely. Jesus was a game changer, and He taught His followers that the Temple, the holy place, was no longer a building in Jerusalem but it was his followers themselves. The night before He was crucified He told His followers that He would send Holy Spirit to “be in you.”

Game changer.

The “holy place” where God’s Holy Spirit descended and hung out would no longer be a small room in one temple in Jerusalem. The “holy place” would become human beings. God’s Message repeatedly tells me that my body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” who is in me and that I am “God’s temple.”

There are times when I, Tom Vander Well, temple of God, cannot move forward spiritually until I clean out the filth from the “holy place” of my very own body and soul.

Ugh.

Today, I declutter my garage so I can move forward with making it a better space.

What “filth” needs to be carried out of my soul so I can move forward spiritually?

Respecting the Stuff of Others

You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
Deuteronomy 19:14 (NRSV)

I was on the road last week making numerous presentations for several client teams that we serve. Over the course of the week I was in and out of six different conference rooms in four different buildings across three geographical locations. There is a small principle that I have followed across the 23 years I’ve been working for many different clients: Always leave the room cleaner than you found it.

This can be difficult when I’m jetting from one room or location to make it to another on time. Nevertheless, before leaving a conference room I try to always straighten the chairs, put things away, pick up and throw away any trash left out, turn off the projector, retract the screen, and turn the lights out upon exit. It is a simple principle to respect the property of our client.

In today’s chapter, amidst all sorts of legal ramblings and rumination about intentional and unintentional homicide, there is stuck this one little command: Don’t move your neighbor’s boundary marker. In other words, respect that which belongs to your neighbor, and don’t take it for yourself.

One of my “life chapters” is Psalm 112 which states that good will come to the person who is generous and lends freely, and I try to be generous with all the stuff with which God has blessed me. When I lend something out I appreciate when it is returned in good shape and has been well cared for. I try to always do the same for the things other lend to me.

Today, I’m reminded of the simple principle of respecting other people’s stuff the way I appreciate my stuff respected.

A Mysterious Tension: Personal Initiative and Divine Timing

david with saul's spearAs surely as the Lord lives,” [David] said, “the Lord himself will strike [Saul], or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed1 Samuel 26:10-11a (NIV)

Last week I shared a sliver of the story of how I began working for the company of which I am now a partner owner. It happened in the summer of 1994. I had been working for a parachurch ministry for a year, and had been raising financial support from friends and family to do so. The agreement I had with my employer had been that I would raise financial support for one year. It had been a good year in many regards and I enjoyed what I was doing, but as the end of that year drew closer my employer remained silent regarding the plan for what was going to happen next.

Months before the end of our one year agreement I began to ask my employer for a plan. I even offered to continue raising support if we could sketch out an agreement to reduce the amount I had to raise over a period of time. The answer I received multiple times was “I’ll put it on the board agenda for next month.” After the board meeting I would hear “We didn’t get to it. We’ll talk about it next month.” Finally, my year ended and I still had no answer from my employer. I felt a responsibility to my financial supporters who had faithfully sent me money that year to support me and the ministry I worked for. Many supporters had asked me about it, but I had nothing to tell them because my employer refused to talk to me about a compensation plan.

Suddenly, I felt a stirring inside me. While I wasn’t unhappy with my job and hadn’t really considered another job change, I realized that I could not trust my employer. There was a principle involved here that I needed to heed as it wasn’t just about my employers integrity, but also about my own. I had asked my supporters for a year commitment and the year was over. I felt dishonest asking them to continue their support. The problem was, I had a family with two small children and no earthly idea what I was going to do. I had no job prospects. I didn’t even have a resume put together.

Nevertheless, I knew in my heart that I had to make a move. One morning just after the one year anniversary passed, I began calling my financial supporters and telling them not to bother sending another check. On the list of supporters was my old employer and mentor.

“What are you going to do?” he asked me on the phone.

“I don’t know,” I answered, then explained my reasoning. I shared that I felt I couldn’t in good conscience ask my supporters to extend their commitment when my current employer wouldn’t even talk to me about extending his. I admitted that I had no plan and no job prospects.

“Are you really going to leave? Have you told your employer?” my friend and mentor asked.

“I haven’t said anything yet, but I really think I’m going to leave,” I answered.

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Make a firm decision by noon and call me back,” he said abruptly. When I called him back an hour later to let him know I had decided to leave he said, “Meet me at 2:00 at Village Inn.”

We met that afternoon and he offered me a job. Within a few hours of deciding to leave, I had another job. Of course, my old mentor made a step of faith in asking me to join his consulting firm, but he also felt the divine timing of events. He did not have enough work to pay me much and had to trust that there would be new projects coming that he couldn’t see. The new opportunity was not a slam dunk or a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. I was leaving a tenuous position to an even more tenuous position, but it was the right timing and I knew it in my soul. As I drove home that day, and I pulled into the driveway I heard Holy Spirit whisper clearly in my soul:

“Take this job and stick with it. You will be blessed.”

I took the job, stuck with it, and have been immensely blessed. That was 20 years ago next summer.

Along life’s road I have found a mysterious tension between taking personal initiative and waiting on divine timing. I even struggle to define it well, yet I can look back and see how certain circumstances and life decisions happened at what I know to be a divinely appointed moment in time. Had I attempted to make something happen by force of personal will it would not have worked out the way it was supposed to happen. Yet, it was important for me to be sensitive to God’s hand moving in my circumstances and listening for Holy Spirit’s whisper in my soul.

Today we read about the second of three opportunities that David had to take the life of the man who was hunting him: King Saul. His men even encouraged David to take personal initiative when the opportunity to do so presented itself. David, however, was sensitive to the tension between personal initiative and divine timing. David understood that Saul, despite his flaws, had been God’s choice to be King and God alone should end Saul’s reign.

Today, I’m grateful for God’s perfect timing which I see in many different experiences along life’s road. I want to continue holding that mysterious tension between personal initiative and divine timing, as elusive and ill defined as it seems.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 25

from dnas2 via Flickr

O Lord, I give my life to you.
Psalm 25:1 (NLT)

I spent the past few mornings on the dock in conversation with my friend, Matthew. As is always the case with Matthew, the conversation meandered like a trail through the woods. We ducked in and out of different subjects and took turns leading. As I look back across the terrain of words that we traversed in our communication, it seems to me that there was a theme that rose out of the constant give and take which was this: the kingdom of God runs opposite of the kingdom of this world and we often miss the most obvious of differences to our detriment.

Perhaps that’s why David’s opening lyric in today’s Psalm jumped off the page at me. It is such a blunt statement of commitment: “I give my life to you.” How often do we approach God about what we expect God to give us?

“Give me safety.”
“Give me health.”
“Give me wealth.”
“Give me a spouse.”
“Give me a child.”
“Give me a job.”

Don’t get me wrong and hear what I am not saying. God makes it clear that He wants us to bring our requests to him. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive.” I believe, however, that David understood an important principle of Kingdom economics. There is a relationship between giving and receiving. The more we give ourselves completely to God, the more capacity we have to receive the fullness of what He has for us. If we are miserly towards God with our heart, soul, spirit, body, and possessions – then we will be so full of ourselves and the stuff of this world as to have little or no capacity to receive anything God has to give us out of the fullness of His Kingdom.

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 27

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
Image by epSos.de via Flickr

“A tenth of the land’s produce, whether grain from the ground or fruit from the trees, is God’s. It is holy to God.” Leviticus 27:30 (MSG)

When I was small, I was taught to give God ten percent of what I made in an offering. I received a box of envelopes from the church just to be a weekly reminder to give a portion of my newspaper route and lawn mowing income back to God. When my daughters were young, I taught them the principle of giving ten percent to God, putting ten percent in savings and learning to budget and live on eighty percent.

It’s funny to think that there are still pieces of our lives, our faith, and our culture that are still rooted in Levitical laws given by Moses 3500 years ago. There is, of course, no magic to giving the ten percent, first-fruits “tithe” of income to God. In fact, Jesus upped the ante on a regular basis, urging followers give everything to God. Offering a portion of our income back to God is spiritually profitable on a number of levels. It reminds us that what we “own” really belongs to God, it provides for the well-being and needs of those less fortunate, and it reduces our propensity to be self-centered and materialistic.

Today, I’m thankful that the principle of giving was taught to me as a kid, and I’m renewing my commitment to, as Psalm 112 says, “be generous and lend freely…to scatter abroad my gifts to the poor.”

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