Tuesday, June 30, 2015 7:24:00 AM
“I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.” 1 Ch 17:8
It was just a regular day for the shepherd lad, really. He was up early and went to the sheepfold to let the sheep out and led them to green grass. That was his favorite time of the day, since he could sing and meditate while the sheep was quietly grazing. O how he enjoyed spending time with the Lord while everything seemed to be so peaceful. Surely the little boy might have dreamt about leaving his sheep behind and going elsewhere to achieve great deeds, yet he would have been content had he remained a shepherd his entire life. There wasn’t anything better than spending time with the Lord in the wild, with no disturbance from the noisy world, and the boy was intending to do that his entire life.
The man’s life would have been a lot simpler had that been the case. He would have been happier even. Yet something unusual took place that day, which entirely changed the shepherd boy’s life. A prophet was visiting his family, intending to anoint one of Jesse’s boys to be the future king of Israel. Samuel was asking for him.
“What was going to happen?” the boy wondered as he was rushing home. Perhaps the judge just wanted to see him and nothing would come of it. The thought of him being anointed by the godly man didn’t cross his mind at all, since he was the youngest among his brothers.
With all his brothers watching, feeling rather jealous, a jar of oil was poured on his head and ran down his face, creating a strange sensation. Deep inside, the young boy seemed to sense his life was going to be quite different than what it had been. Just moments before he was a shepherd of sheep, and now he suddenly became God’s anointed to be the shepherd of God’s people. For a long while he had no idea what to think; he was in a daze and the whole thing was more a dream than anything else. He returned to his sheep a few hours later a different man. He had been preparing himself to be a shepherd his entire life, yet from that moment on he had to consider his new calling and what it might entail. Gone was his carefree spirit and innocent joy, and he was heavy laden with anxiety for his future.
“O let me be a shepherd my entire life, Lord. How wonderful it would be if I merely remained a sweet singer of Israel, singing praise to you all the days of my life!” the boy might have exclaimed when the care of the future became unbearable.
The choice had been made and the anointing had been done, and the boy had no other option but to launch the long journey through the winding road of becoming a king. The journey would be long and treacherous and oftentimes he had no one by his side except the One who called him away from his sheep.
Monday, June 29, 2015 8:42:00 AM
“I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.” 1 Ch 17:7
Why can’t we take credit for all our achievements and give the glory that comes with all our successes to God? How can this be possible?
Well, a cliché is needed here: “Rome wasn’t built in one day.” Unless we continue to work on this, we will not grow spiritually. Being truly spiritual is being truly self-forgetful; and self-forgetfulness is a sign of true humility. How do we forget ourselves? By beating ourselves to a pulp, that’s how.
What did David do at the moment when he was thinking highly of himself? That was the time when he looked at his life in retrospect, the days when he was a lowly shepherd boy; when he was a nobody and no one thought he would become somebody.
He wouldn’t have become a humble person had he thought it was through his own efforts and labor that he achieved what he had achieved. Indeed, anything could have gone wrong on his long journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, from being a shepherd tending his father’s sheep to becoming a king over a great nation. His sling shot could have missed the mark and he could have been slaughtered by the giant as a young lad; or Saul’s spear could have found his chest and he would have vanished as a young man; or a stray arrow from the Philistines could have found its way to the seam of David’s armor and penetrated his heart. Well, none of those things happened before the man reached the throne. Whose credit was it, then, we may question.
Here lies the answer: “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.”
Well, my life is entirely different, you may argue. I am just an ordinary person who has gained no renown. I have labored for the little bit I have managed to accumulate. God’s grace doesn’t seem to be needed, considering how little I have achieved. Good question, isn’t it?
Take a deep breath, my friend. Get up from your chair and stretch a little bit. Go grab a sandwich for lunch and perhaps take a nap afterward. Think about it, apart from God’s grace and his sustaining power, how can all these things be possible?
My heart is still beating up to this moment, and it has been beating for the last sixty-two years. If you consider this natural, then nature has to be personal and divine. My watch will quickly quit ticking if its battery is not replaced soon. People who consider all things natural and take them for granted will never be grateful or thankful; thus they will never become humble.
I was running around barefoot, playing in the dirt and wandering up and down the seashore with my childhood friends. My parents were preoccupied with their farm work and I was pretty much raising myself. How did I even survive my childhood in such a primitive surrounding and live to tell the tale? By my own ingenuity and effort? I would have to be insane to assume that was the case.
Friday, June 26, 2015 7:46:00 AM
“I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another.” 1 Ch 17:5
Where my children are, there my heart will be also. I may not be thinking about them consciously; but they are always in my thoughts. If it’s at all possible, I would like to be where they are.
Our Heavenly Father can achieve what we earthly fathers are incapable of doing. Where his thoughts are, there he will be. He is omnipresent, and can be wherever his thoughts reach. On the contrary, though our thoughts may be traveling far and wide around the universe and our imagination may be running wild, we can only be in one place at one time.
My thoughts seemed to be following my son through the long and winding Appalachian Trail when he was hiking alone a few years ago, yet I was physically about a thousand miles away from him, and I was completely helpless if he by chance needed any help. Though my imagination and my thoughts, my dreams even, can almost be omnipresent, yet I am physically confined in one place.
It’s really a good thing, come to think of it, for without the attribute of omnipotence, being omnipresent would become such a burdensome thing. I guess that’s why fortune-telling is strictly forbidden in the Scriptures. Nothing can be more frustrating and horrifying than knowing the danger ahead and yet being unable to do anything to prevent it from happening. Indeed, most of our anxieties and worries are created by the omnipresence of our thoughts and imagination.
The Lord has no such issue, however. “I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another.” He moved from one tent site to another, from each individual tent to another even, and was able to do whatever was needed to be done in every place, every tent, and every person. The Lord is omnipresent and, most importantly, he is also omnipotent.
Not knowing seems to be better than knowing in some cases. Adhering to this ostrich philosophy is a key to some people’s mental wellbeing and peace of mind. Unfortunately I have been one of those irrational people who is quite apprehensive about the unknown, for being a born pessimist, there seems to be danger looming from every corner in the maze of the vast unknown.
My wife has been keeping all her loved ones’ whereabouts through “Life 360,” one of those apps that tracks people’s locations, which might have caused her some unnecessary anxiety. She was once informed by mistake that one of our sons was in the hospital while he was visiting in Austin.
How can life be exciting if all elements of surprise are totally eliminated? How can we still have a sense of wonder when we look at all things if we cease to wonder about how things come into being and how they will transpire? In this case, being omnipresent might not be such a good thing after all. I guess only the omniscient God has the key to resolve such a dilemma. Indeed, to know something ahead of time is to not be surprised by it. This is a comforting thought when we contemplate God’s omnipresence and omniscience; yet it’s horrifying when it is applied to us.
Thursday, June 25, 2015 7:23:00 AM
“I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day.” 1 Ch 17:5
Our church building isn’t grand or beautiful by any means, but it’s at least presentable. We don’t want to give the Lord a bad name by not keeping the church grounds clean and the church lawn mowed. We don’t want people to give it a second take as they drive by our church building. The structure is humble and unassuming, which doesn’t demand people’s attention. The building is a place where we gather to worship the Lord, no more and no less, and its appearance does not reflect the spiritual depth or the lack thereof of all the church people in any way. We keep it presentable, but not necessarily beautiful.
It’s an entirely different story if we are speaking about the real temples of God - the bodies of all believers.
I am afraid the Lord may be feeling rather ill at ease dwelling within my body these days, since I haven’t been that diligent in keeping the interior rooms tidy and clean. In fact, the floor may be covered with dust and littered with trash and, instead of taking out the garbage daily, I seem to continue to dump more filth into the room through the things I see with my eyes and hear with my ears.
“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
We don’t think it really matters since no one can see the filth we have been storing up interiorly over the years. Indeed, we can still look our best by dressing up and fooling people by our slick and polish outward appearances, not realizing that “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." People can always be fooled; but the omniscient God is never fooled. We are merely beasts dressed in human clothes.
The daily cleansing of our houses is badly needed, lest the Devil find suitable dwelling places in them. He will feel perfectly at home in the places which the Lord finds uninhabitable unless we keep them clean by the washing of the blood and the reading of and meditation on God’s words.
How can I expect to fool anyone if what I possess is merely an empty shell with no substance within? We serve the Lord with who we are, not by what we do, yet there is just so much doing within Christian circles that being is easily covered up and ignored. How often are ministers of the gospel exposed for leading a double life?
“I have not dwelt in a house…” said the Lord. Was it because he simply couldn’t find a suitable place to dwell among the Israelites of old? Even though Christ rebuilt his temple in three days, he may still find it difficult to locate a clean and comfortable dwelling place among his people.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 8:09:00 AM
Not the One
“You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.”
1 Ch 17:4
Why wasn’t David, the man after God’s own heart, the one to build the temple? The king’s devotion to God was unquestionable and his passion to serve the Lord was quiet obvious, why was he disqualified to launch this great building project, which would define the king’s legacy?
The reason behind the Lord’s will was given, but it didn’t seem to be that convincing. In most cases, David shed his enemies’ blood out of necessity. He fought the Philistines and other foes of Israel in the name of the Lord, and he seemed to have given the credit for his victories to God. Yet he was discredited because of all his exploits in battles.
The temple which was to the dwelling place of the God of peace should only be constructed by a king of peace. This argument seems reasonable, yet there are still questions. David didn’t appear to have any ill-feeling when God’s will was revealed to him through the prophet Nathan, but deep inside, would he have preferred to take up the great project himself?
What did Solomon do to deserve such a great honor? Just by virtue of him being his father’s son?
“You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.” I wouldn’t have taken this rejection very well had I been in David’s position. He must have believed that he had earned the privilege to construct the house of God, since he had been serving the Lord so faithfully for so many years.
It shouldn’t have mattered, really, who built the holy temple; what really counts was the house of God was built.
My wife and I flew to a Chinese church in Omaha for an interview and a couple of weeks later I received a phone call, telling me that I wasn’t the one chosen to be their minister. It was such a downer since I was so anxious to leave my studies at a university behind and to serve the Lord full time. The rejection did sting a little bit and I became depressed for a few days. Not only was I turned down by men, I was rejected by God as well.
How many times have we been told that we weren’t the ones chosen for a certain job or promotion? Of course most of us have experienced rejections in life one way or another and the failures must have created in us a sense of self-loathing, causing our inferiority complex to grow deeper. Eventually we tend to define ourselves by all the rejections we have received and the failures we have experienced.
The rejection of us performing certain tasks doesn’t mean that we ourselves are rejected as persons. David’s worth as a person wasn’t diminished a bit merely because he failed to secure the position to build God’s house. He was still a man after God’s own heart, even though he was not qualified to build God’s own house. We must know the vital differences between the interior and exterior and determine into which area we are going to put our utmost effort to cultivate.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 7:35:00 AM
The Good and the Best
“Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.”
1 Ch 17:2
This time Nathan was wrong. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, what he desired to do, the prophet thought, must have come from the Lord. David had been collecting timber and other building materials for a long while now, and, since it was a good and commendable project, there was really no reason for him to tell him otherwise, so he responded positively to David, giving the king a go-ahead concerning what he intended to do.
What we consider good may not always turn out to be so after all. Who is going to voice any objection when a congregation decides to launch a building project or start any sort of great spiritual enterprise? Persons who do so may be labeled as unspiritual and lacking in faith. When suggestions for doing some good things are made within the church, voices of opposition are often discouraged or silenced.
Our church’s building committee met monthly for a year or so, yet there was often a slight feeling of uneasiness in my heart when I attended, though I dared not share my apprehension with anyone. I might have sensed it wasn’t such a great idea to launch a building project at the time, since our funds for it were quite insufficient. Surely, being a pastor, I was afraid to be perceived as a man of little faith.
If something is supposedly good, done in the name of the Lord, no one dares to question the validity of it. Thus we see church building projects spring up everywhere and, to no one’s surprise, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer within God’s kingdom in so many ways. Some congregations meet to worship in palaces, and many do it in huts.
Had the Lord Jesus so desired, he could have gathered the ones who flooded to him at the peak of his popularity and built a great empire on earth, yet he instead continued to work with twelve people who didn’t seem to be amounting to anything from a human point of view. Even his brothers were hinting around that becoming great and famous on earth was something he should have done, but he did just the opposite. What the majority deemed great and good wasn’t good at all in his sight.
Instead of impacting the world, we Christians have been greatly influenced by worldly thinking and secular ideas, and pretty much have accepted the concept of bigger is better and endless expansion is the name of the game. We as a church have adapted the operational principle of the world, and the line between the sacred and the secular has become increasingly vague.
The prophet Nathan would have been fooled had the Lord not revealed to him his will. No, David wasn’t going to be the one to build God’s house, for he had shed too much human blood to build the holy temple.
Shouldn’t we come to the Lord in prayer before we launch any sort of project, either physically or spiritually, within our churches? Perhaps what the Lord desired from David at the time was for the king to devote more time and energy governing the newly formed kingdom or taking care of other more important matters. The good is always the worst enemy of the best, yet we often succumb to the seduction of the good, believing that all will be well as long as we do what appears to be good, yet neglecting to seek diligently for the best.
What Martha was so busy doing was indeed a good thing, yet her sister Mary had chosen to do the best. I believe this simple statement made by Christ unveiled the one single principle that should govern all spiritual services we render to the Lord.
Monday, June 22, 2015 8:18:00 AM
House of Cedar
“Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” 1 Ch 17:1
Before our church moved into its current location, we rented an office building in which to conduct our worship service. The old building used to be a hospital and it looked rather unattractive. The large room we used as a sanctuary was fine, even though the configuration was a little odd, but the basement where our children met for Sunday school was so dark and damp that some mothers were reluctant to send their children down there. We worshipped there for a year or so until the owner decided to put the building on the market. It was nonetheless the building we called our church home for a short while.
There was a standing building committee at our church without a doubt, and we met regularly to discuss a new church building project. We even went so far as to hire an architect to draw up a blueprint for our new church construction, yet deep inside I knew the building fund we had been collecting simply wasn’t enough, and taking a loan didn’t seem to be a good option. Indeed there were one or two people at our church with great financial resources, but I don’t think they were ready to foot the bill to build God’s house.
The Lord ended up miraculously providing for us a “second hand” building and we finally had a place of our own, but as I survey the building and the furnishings within, I see a collection of old furniture, outdated television sets, and obsolete copy machines. Even the church pews were donated to us by another Baptist church. I will have to clarify a bit lest I sound like I am complaining about anything. The Lord’s grace was indeed sufficient and he has provided for all we have ever needed as a church, yet I oftentimes wonder whether perhaps the Lord deserves to receive from us much better things than merely our second-hand furniture and other rejects from our own homes. Instead of giving him our last fruit, we should offer to him the first produced from our labor.
“Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” I suppose King David might have felt the same way as we often do. Surely the Lord deserves our best, not our second best of all things.
Whatever we offer to the Lord is primarily to our benefit, not to his. The Almighty needs nothing from us; yet we rely on him for all things, and making an offering to him is just an acknowledgment of this important truth. There would have been something awfully wrong with David had he not felt that way when he surveyed the luxuries he was enjoying at the time. He should have indeed lived under a tent and the ark of the covenant been placed in a house of cedar.
Friday, June 19, 2015 7:50:00 AM
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
1 Ch 16:34
God’s love for us endures forever, for he is love, and not to love is against his divine nature. Our love doesn’t last because we do not love intrinsically; therefore to love is a learning process. God’s love isn’t governed by his feelings; it’s ruled by his will. Feelings are fleeting and change constantly but will is constant and more controllable. When the feeling to love is in short supply, we can still summon the will to love to bridge the gap and to make love last.
“I will love you even if the ocean becomes dry and rocks turn to ashes (海枯石爛.)” This is probably the most common vow lovers make to one another in my country, yet it’s abundantly clear their love for their beloved is as fragile as a droplet in the ocean or ashes in the wind. We do have one of the highest divorce rates in the entire world. We all know the ocean will never dry up and rocks will remain firm for ages to come, but the love we vow to keep will be broken.
This is truly a deceptive generation, and the lie that we tell quite often is the three magic words, “I love you,” for we know full well that this declaration of love will take us farther than anything else. It will bring our natural appetite to fruition and fulfill our carnal desire. It’s just one of those things that we often say to advance our ambition or to possess and to dominate. When these three words are uttered from a sincere heart fully committed to love, they are something greatly to be treasured; if not, they are evil beyond measure. It’s such a shame that we seem to have turned the most precious to the most pernicious in so many ways.
One must be delusional or self-deceiving to believe that human love will last forever, for earthly love will always end with the end of time. The only way to make human love last eternally is to connect it to the source of love. God’s love endures forever, so does our love for our beloved if we are truly connected to him.
To love will become increasing difficult if our love for God waxes cold. To love the Unseen is the basis of love for the seen. The seen will always challenge us with all its fickleness and test us with its unpredictability, but the Unseen will always be constant and unmoved. Love that has no anchor simply cannot stand.
When I perform wedding ceremony, I always do it with fear and trembling, for I know how difficult it will be for the couple to keep their marriage vows to each other unless they are determined to follow Christ their entire lives. It is from him they draw their strength to love their spouses through joy and sorrow and in sickness and in death.
Thursday, June 18, 2015 7:24:00 AM
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
1 Ch 16:34
We are all wrapped up in and preoccupied by all things visible in life, which keep us from seeing the invisible things. If the invisible are eternal and the visible are temporal, as Paul stated in Second Corinthians, what concerns us the most in our daily lives should not be bothering us at all, for all things will come to pass and only the eternal hidden in the temporal will remain. We will have trouble seeing the goodness of God and giving thanks to him if we only focus our attention on the fleeting things that occur to us every day.
We can see eternal meaning in some temporal things, yet the opposite of this may still be true. In fact, we may see more vanity in things that happen than anything else. Natural disasters occur often and man-made atrocities take place on a daily basis, and it becomes awfully difficult for us to see any positive or eternal meaning behind all of them. We seem to have become numb and quit trying to figure out the significance of all of these events or attempting to make apologies for them. It’s just not all that easy to attribute eternal meaning to seemingly meaningless things that appear to take place so randomly in the world.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” This should be an act of faith for the most part. It predominately stems from the will and we do so whether we feel like doing it or not. If we start to question the goodness of God, giving thanks to him becomes almost impossible. How can we praise the one who seeks to do harmful things to us and whose sole intention isn’t for our good at all?
The hurt and pain may be so intense that it sucks all our energy away and to survive becomes our number one priority. How can we utter praises to God with our dying breath? How can we show appreciation to the one who is about to take our lives away and toss us into the abyss of the unknown?
Is “curse God and die” a viable alternative?
The goodness that only lasts in time isn’t true goodness at all, and it’s in fact evil beyond measure if it only serves to keep us from seeking eternal goodness. The goodness of God stretches from this world to the next; therefore it’s eternally valid and forever good. The goodness that starts in time and ends in time is mere illusion that evaporates over time.
So when good things from a human point of view take place, we thank the Lord for them; when seemingly bad things happens to us, we give thanks as well, for both of them occur to accomplish a single purpose, which is for our good. How can a good and loving father in heaven do anything harmful to his children? Indeed, something that befalls us may seem to be harmful, yet it merely happens to bring forth God’s eternal goodness to his people.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 6:19:00 AM
“Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD…”
1 Ch 16:33
The trees sing only when wind blows
And dance when they are told
And do things they do not know
To ascribe praises to the Lord.
So much like trees in the Forrest
All infants seem to grow, unknowingly
And make sounds and stretch their toes
To reveal the greatness of the God of hosts.
So our knowledge increases when we grow old
And quite forget the voice we used to know
We only dance to our own beat and thought
In praise of the mundane things down below.
May the wind from heaven continue to roll
Causing us to sing intentionally to the Master of our soul.