Week 47: Not just Leading, Leading within the mission of God

Readings for the week: Psalm 1352 Chronicles 1-17Mark 8-11Psalm 136, Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, you truly are good. This is sometimes so apparent, I marvel at it. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I get to thinking that my immediate circumstances are a sign that you’re not as good as I thought.  Your perspective is much bigger than mine and your goodness is much deeper than I can imagine.  Help me to persevere when I’m lost in the weeds and help me to stay close to you when everything is going great. I can get to thinking life is fine and I don’t need to pray or be disciplined, and then I quickly am reminded how much I need your presence in my life.  Guide me in the questions I’m struggling with and help me to find ways to contribute my gifts and live out my calling. Be with those I know who are going through some tough times. If I can be an expression of your goodness, show me. Pour out your Spirit in my life, in their life, and in our community so that every day we can see and hear you more and more.  Amen.

1. Psalm 135

2. Reading through 2 Chronicles 1-17

Reading through the two books of Chronicles is like traveling over a mountain. The first book of Chronicles is full of ascending, with things getting better and ending with the peak of Israel’s experience in the kingship of David. This might be the pinnacle of the Promise in the Old Testament, the moment in which everything God had said would happen was in place.  The top of the mountain isn’t a single point. It continues to stay in the heights for a while, maybe even ascending a little more as Solomon assumes power. Chronicles, of course, leaves out the messiness of the transition, which we learned about in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings.

Chronicles really is more about the big picture.

In a way, it’s highlighting the key parts, emphasizing the facts, figures, and takeaway lessons.  It’s a very Temple oriented telling of the stories, highlighting the religious elements more than the political, but of course these are never so easily separated.

In this chapters this week, we encounter Solomon in all his splendor, showing his initial faithfulness and how he responded to God in action and service. It’s again all rather idealistic, leaving out the bad parts, seeming more like the “official” history than the other versions. But it’s not untrue, simply highlighting how kings served God or how they didn’t. Solomon had his faults but he left the legacy of devotion and wisdom, one that offered a path for those that came later.  Everything was on the right track, even in the messy world.

His son, Rehoboam had an opportunity to continue on this path, to make the way easier for the people, and be a righteous king.  But temptation abounds for beggars and kings alike.

Rehoboam didn’t listen the wisdom, but rather the ego and pride of his friends.  The older ones had experience and didn’t need to prove themselves. The younger ones wanted to achieve, competing with each other, and taking what they could, maximizing Rehoboam’s immediate power so as to gain from it.

Their attempt at gain backfired (as it often does).  Sin has a way of bringing division, walking away from God leads us into paths of destruction.  The Kingdom split in half, never to be brought back together in the same way, leading to not only geographic divisions but religious ones as well. Those who were politically cut off from worshiping at the Temple made their own holy places and their own gods.

The Kingdom of Judah continued, sometimes with righteous kings and sometimes with kings who rejected God, and introduced more idolatry and more chaos into the land.

We may not be kings, but we do have our own kinds of kingdoms, places we impact and people we influence.  That means our faith is never really private nor our sins just our own. How we behave resonates around us, affecting people in ways we can see and ways we might not even imagine.

What path are you encouraging for those around you? Are you one of the kings who serves the Lord with wisdom and leads the people toward faith, life, and prosperity? Or are there ways you’re mixing worship of God with other goals, maybe even other gods?

Read these chapters and see how even though our lives may not be on the scale or drama of these kings, we’re really caught up in similar kinds of stories and given the same choice about who we will serve.

3. Reading Through Mark 5-7

When dealing with spiritual matters or religious issues it’s common to have a framework to help people navigate all the issues. When we realize the spiritual and religious isn’t just a private concern but actually impacts how we respond to others, how we make decisions in life, how we think about our past and our future and our identity.  The problem comes when the framework is not longer reflecting God’s mission or underlying goals. Like we’ve all experienced, a bureaucracy can stick to the letter of the law while missing the heart of it, and injustice starts building. This raises the sticky problem of their being people who are utterly and completely committed to God actually working against God’s goals.

In the Old Testament readings, the conflict is very clear cut: there are those who serve God and those who reject God. In our New Testament readings, we’re dealing with that trickier issue of almost everyone committed to God in some way, yet there being a big argument about what it is that God wants, what God is doing, and who God is using for his purposes.

In our New Testament readings, we’re faced with a tricky proposition. When there are multiple groups claiming to speak for God and saying what can and can’t be done, who do we listen to?

The fact is that most of us like God to be predictable, and like God to fit without our expectations and assumptions about how God works.

God isn’t limited to either our expectations or our methods, and God is certainly not limited to our boxes of ideas.  God is in charge.

Jesus speaks for God.  Of course people are challenged by this, they are now and they were then. There were, however, reasons why the disciples listened to Jesus. He was shown to have an authority that comes from God.

These chapters have a lot of insight on this. We’re given the perspective of doubters who might even represent our doubts. How does Jesus prove his authority? In light of this authority, then, he shows himself to be worth listening to.  It’s not enough to say yes to Jesus and how he is without also listening to what he teaches. So, what does he say about how we are to live? What are we to value?

What is it that God cares about? What is actually the heart of God’s mission? These are hugely important themes and we see how Jesus responds to these questions.

A couple things stand out to me as I read this. One, hooray for the transfiguration. Jesus shown to be highly honored by God and his authority given a miraculous display as he stands with the greats of Israel. Even more, yet not really the main point, is that Moses is standing with Jesus, and that means that Moses finally was let into the Promised Land!  We remember he wasn’t allowed in because of his disobedience at the end of the journey. Now, here he is, in the land, expressing grace and commune with the fulfillment of all his efforts. Wow!

Second I love the section in chapter 8 that talks about avoiding the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. These are two very different kinds of influences. The leaven of the Pharisees is a conservative kind of tendency, being so rigid and committed to tradition they can’t recognize the work of Jesus. On the other side is Herod, a very capable ruler and leader, but not really interested in God.  There’s dangers on the right and the left, yet sometimes we only focus on the dangers of one side and ignore our own tendencies or those we think are on our side. In doing this, we can think we’re on the side of God but actually be fighting against God’s mission. Discernment and commitment to the narrow path of Jesus is essential. And possible in the power of the Spirit.

4. Psalm 136


5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry.  Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week. Start where you can and then continue on.

I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff! 

Since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.

Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage.

It helps to share as we learn from each other.

Our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering.   Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.

Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.