As I stink at football, I don’t have many temptations to be an armchair quarterback. But sometimes, with self-assurance, I read the Bible and say, “I’d never do that.” When you think about it, the scriptures are full of examples of people doing dumb things and making horrible choices. Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge or simple rebellion. Others stumble because of weak faith in the face of tremendous pressure to reject God’s plan.
The other day I was thinking about Jeroboam, the first king of divided Israel after God split it away from Judah, which Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, ruled. The inner cause of the kingdom’s breakup was the sin of Solomon in his later days of rule. So as God elevated Jeroboam to lead the northern kingdom of Israel, He made it clear that He would build an enduring dynasty for Jeroboam if he trusted and followed God.
Sounds excellent and straightforward. The problem arose when the king feared potential political ruin and attempted to fix things with his fleshly wisdom and strategy instead of trusting God.
The chronicler tells us that Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam, king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.” After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:26-28). Rehoboam knew the promise of God, but when the pressure was on, he thought he could do a better job.
I want to think I would have acted differently than Jeroboam, that I would have trusted God and remained faithful. But I’m not so sure. The truth is that while I am often clear on God’s promises and the reality of His kingdom and will, my flesh sometimes panics under worldly pressure. Therefore, I must remind myself and listen to the reminding of others of what is true about God and his promises. If Jesus is preeminent above everything and his eternal kingdom, though not completely fulfilled yet, is expanding today, then I ought to be able to trust him and live differently than the world around me.
Instead of “thinking to myself” about ways to control and fix life, I will live in hopeful trust and obedience. Trust and faith affect how I deal with money, work, and relationships. Faith and trust will govern my emotions when doubt closes in on my soul like a San Francisco fog. By conviction and obedience, I will stand steadfast with hope, knowing that God is in control even if I can’t see it.
We can learn from Jeroboam, and I hope we will. We can encourage each other in our walk. We must encourage each other in the fight. We can get back up, repent, press into His grace, and then go forward when we doubt and fall.
Yes, if Jesus is preeminent and his promises are true, if this is so, then we can, and we must live differently. We must live as though this is all so. Though this may force us to make decisions that seem odd to the world around us, the life of trust will pay off, and God always keeps his word, even if not on our timetable.
So be encouraged, my friend; God is trustworthy. It is so!
I’m back. Recently I finished a Summer Social Media Sabbatical and am returning to the blog. So how was the break, Steve? Well, I’m glad you asked. The first few weeks were hard. However, the disconnect soon became a healthy flow of life. Now, as I’m back in the regular rhythms, I’m finding that my distractions, especially seasons of getting hot and bothered by politics, have simmered down quite a bit. It’s freeing. I can focus more easily.
I know some are called to the political arena. In the Bible, we see this of Joseph in Genesis and of Daniel, the prophet. But I don’t believe I’m either equipped or called personally to politics. More importantly, this unplugged season reminded me of what I know internally; the Kingdom of God rules above the realms of humanity, and there will indeed be a day of reckoning.
The Kingdom of God? It’s something quite mysterious and profound. Indeed, it’s more than casual Christianity. Clearly, it is beyond a religion of mere sin management. It is infinitely more. Jesus used this terminology as a central building block in his teaching. Yes, he came deliberately to give his life as a ransom for many. However, his preeminent proclamation is a wholly transformed reality.
In his first public teaching, Jesus declared with authority: “The time has come the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent and Believe the Good News.” (Mark 1:15). The original grammar of that statement is in the perfect tense, implying something that has happened and is continuing to happen. The title, Kingdom of God, is used some 75 times in the New Testament with the highest concentration being in Luke, who wrote to Gentiles. The secondary term, the Kingdom of Heaven, is only used 34 times in the New Testament, with 31 of those occasions being in Matthew, who wrote to Hebrews, showing them that Jesus was the prophesized Messiah.
Is there more than a history lesson here? There is more than you can imagine. Yes, this mysterious Kingdom that Jesus spoke of is a present reality and a future hope. The Kingdom is not one of flesh and blood or the politics of Jerusalem. It is a current reality wherever his children work his will out today. In Luke 17:21, Jesus described it as being within you. There is also the reality of the future, fulfilled Kingdom of his second coming.
Beyond the reality of God’s will being executed by his people in the here and now, the Kingdom also demonstrates the truth that God is still moving in His sovereign providence above the affairs of humanity. Even this morning, in my regular Bible reading, I noted that “the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice” of the enemies of King David, and thus they failed to overthrow God’s plan. There is a mysterious ebb and flow of our free will and God’s providential path toward the fulfillment of everything. Daniel observes that God “deposes kings and raises up others” while Jesus confronted Pilate, who thought he had charge over him, that he “would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
There is hope because God is still on the throne today. Yes, on the one hand, I live as a responsible citizen, as Romans 13 teaches me. But, on the other, I know my higher allegiance is above, and it is from there that my ultimate redemption comes. This dual existence calls me to stand for Jesus regardless of what earthly and temporal authorities do. It also comforts me to know God will have the final say when the curtain of eternity falls upon all.
I am not the first in history to wrestle with this reality and often think of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was hung at Flossenbuerg concentration camp just a month before the conclusion of World War II in Europe. Scripture does teach us that we are to obey the laws of the land unless they specifically contradict God’s will. However, I am rarely forced to disobey God in the West and in America. While governance has and may oppose Christ, I am not prohibited from preaching Christ.
The answer is to remember what I say I believe. The call, above worldly citizenship, is living out the Kingdom of God in the here and now. While it’s easy to type this today, I know there will be occasions when I am tempted to lose focus. I may need the help and prayers of friends. I may need your help. But I know this Kingdom is true. That’s why I named this blog kingdomology back in 2009, and I hope this will be a challenge and encouragement to you as well.
Is this an area where you wrestle?
I’m not sure when or why we started calling him Sir Rob. I mean he’s not British and as far as I know the Queen has not knighted him. But Sir Rob just kind of feels like a knight. He’s ex-military and a tough guy but yet carries an air of nobility and wisdom with him that makes you feel like you’re talking with someone in the English Parliament. Except of course when he’s making jokes and swimming in dry humor. Which I suppose is a lot of the time. But still, Sir Rob just fits.
I also don’t recall when I first heard him pose the question. I’ve heard it a lot though. Another one of my friends gets down on himself and begins a degradation process. You know; the “I’m an idiot” type talk. I’ve done that. Maybe you have. But right after my friend told himself how bad he was Sir Rob followed up with the question of; “really, who said that?” In other words, who said he was an idiot, failure, or other? (more…)
A HUGE thanks goes out to the anonymous folks at C4 who gave us a cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. I told Ronda, our admin, that I was probably more relaxed after a few days into the sail than I’ve been in 10 years or so. It was a good time to decompress and just celebrate our marriage commitment and also God’s creation. For those who live in the Houston area; the ocean water really does turn blue once you get a few miles out from Galveston. It was incredible to see and experience the colors of the sea, sky, greenery and animals of Cozumel and Progreso.
But beyond that, it was amazing to see the international makeup of the crew on the ship that carried us on our anniversary adventure. I had heard of cruises like this before. The complement of the crew was comprised of people from all over the world. Western and Eastern European nations. Russia and Slavic nations. People from the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Countries from Asia, South America, and other were all represented. (more…)
We’re just a few days away from Superbowl XLVII and I’ll probably watch the match even though neither my favorite team nor quarter back is in the game. If nothing else, I’m sure there’ll be at least one good million dollar commercial in the mix. But in thinking about these and other great teams, I’m reminded of another great leadership pointer we can learn from this spectacular sport. The lesson being that it’s really not all about the quarterback. Both Flacco and Kaepernick are great players, but the thing about them and other leaders on the gridiron is that the QB rarely makes the touchdown. Rather, they hand off or pass the ball to someone else. It’s that person who takes the ball across the line and puts the points up on the board. The truth about authentic Christianity and the true CHURCH is that we are all involved in a team effort. In the CHURCH, leaders are not to “do the work of ministry” but to equip the Saints for “doing the work of ministry.” The immediate context of Ephesians 4 refers to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, but the principal is the same in every leadership situation. So whatever your leadership responsibility is, make sure your hand offs and passes are right. Get the ball into the hands of others so that the team can advance the ball. Let them carry the ball across the line and put the points up. Let them celebrate the victories and simply be excited that they and the team won the day.
So, who are you pulling for in this game? More importantly, who are you equipping in your life to carry the ball across the line?