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

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 9

Achille's heel. sThe remnants from the original inhabitants of the land (Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—all non-Israelites), survivors of the holy wars, were rounded up by Solomon for his gangs of slave labor, a policy still in effect. 1 Kings 9:20 (MSG)

Every leader, no matter how great, has flaws and faults. A chink in the armor. An Achille's heel. A tragic flaw. We're all human. We can't help it.

Solomon is heralded through the ages as a great and wise king. He is praised for his massive building projects. A temple, palaces, and fortifications. Nevertheless, reading between the lines of today's chapter, we see two cracks in Solomon's character. One of those cracks would grow to divide the kingdom he built.

Think about it. Great building projects take time, materials and labor.

As for time, the land was at peace. Time was on Solomon's side.

As for materials, it appears that Solomon expected and took materials from neighbors and did not offer much in return. Wise King Solomon did not show the expected gratitude to King Hiram for all the gifts of building materials Hiram gave in cedar and gold. Solomon gave the King twenty towns in Galilee, but you see Hiram's response. He wasn't pleased.

As for labor, Solomon enslaved the non-Israelites of the land. He worked them hard and provided little for them. We will see as we continue our journey through the story that Solomon built up the kingdom on the backs of slave labor, and then left an explosive, political mess for his son to clean up.

I'm reminded today of my person areas of leadership. I'm a husband. I'm a father. I'm an employer. I'm a community member. I have both strengths and weaknesses in my leadership. As much as I may wish to do so, I can't ignore my weaknesses.

How can I build on the strengths while shoring up the cracks in my character?

Updating the Home Office

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Speaking of IKEA… the furniture we purchased was for the home office. When Wendy and I moved into the house here over four years ago we hobbled the home office together with door slabs and bricks. While functional, the office became a dumping ground for clutter and it was time for an upgrade.

So, we made a quick turn-around trip to the frozen tundra in sub-zero temperatures last weekend. We spent much of Saturday night and a good part of Sunday assembling and arranging. Since I spend most of my working hours in this room at this desk, it feels good to have a nice workspace!

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 8

Simple instructions. May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors. 1 Kings 8:58 (MSG)

My wife and I recently bought some furniture from IKEA. Shopping there is an experience. You walk through the expansive showroom to find the furniture pieces you want and write down the numbers for each piece on a list. You wind your way down to the warehouse where you go through an find all of the pieces to the pieces you chose. We ended up with four things we bought which translated into about 12-15 boxes of pieces we had to fit in our car.

When we returned home to assemble the pieces, I was surprised to find that the instructions had  no words. There wasn't a section with written instructions in five different languages. Instead, there were numbered drawings that illustrated how to assemble the furniture. Simple. I like that.

Being a person not given to detailed instructions, I like when directions are given simply and clearly. Perhaps that's why I so appreciated the simple life directive in today's chapter. In one small verse I have a roadmap for the journey:

  • Be centered on God
  • Be devoted to God
  • Follow the life path God has cleared
  • Watch for signposts
  • Walk at the pace and rhythm God has laid down

I can handle that.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jonk

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 7

Toms bass It took Solomon another thirteen years to finish building his own palace complex. 1 Kings 7:1 (MSG)

We live in such an instant society. We want gratification immediately. Our computers are never fast enough, and we complain when a page takes a few extra seconds. We pay extra to have our purchases delivered over night so we don't have to wait a few more days. We have microwaves to make prepared dishes so we don't have to take the time to actually cook something from scratch.

Perhaps that's why the beginning of today's chapter jumped off the page at me. It took seven years for Solomon's army of laborers to complete the temple and another thirteen years to build his own palace complex. That's a long time. In today's standards of construction, it was an eternity.

The truth is that some things do take time. My brother, the luthier, says that it takes in the neighborhood of 200 man hours to craft a guitar by hand, not counting the additional time that the guitar must sit at different places in the process. You don't take shortcuts. There are no microwave ovens for the process. It takes what it takes.

The same is true for maturity. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus there is no "add water and stir." There is no Star Trek transporter to beam us instantly to a spot on the horizon. God is not making us into a microwaveable pot roast, he's crafting us into a finely tuned instrument. We must each press on and walk our own journey. It takes what it takes.

So, I'm lacing up my walking shoes. Today is another leg in the journey. There's a long way to go.