Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Last Words of David: Encouragement

David said to Solomon, ‘Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.’ (1 Chron. 28:20)  

This echoes back to a previous massive transition in the Old Testament. When Moses, another great leader in their history, hands over to Joshua, the word that comes to Joshua in Josh. 1:9 is almost identical – there are deliberate echoes. And the instruction comes – ‘Do the work!’ It’s not ‘put your feet up and wait for it to happen’ – no, get stuck in and do it! You have a part to play and don’t fear and don’t be discouraged. Why? Because the Lord your God is with you.

The Lord God is with you!’ Ponder on that fact! Amazing! This does not mean that we won’t go through challenging times – there are seasons in life that ebb and flow. Sometimes it seems like everything is going great – sometimes it’s really tough. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we won’t face challenge or circumstances which perplex us. We are like everyone else – but the big difference is that we face these things with the Lord God. We have to hold on to that – easy enough when all is going well – but we have to remember that it is true in whatever season of life we are going through now.

And even if you are thinking – ‘Well, that’s all very well. I don’t know what my dream, my ‘that’, is. I’m not very good at planning either...’ The key thing is for you to know that the Lord God is with you, whatever. Keep following God, keep faithful in prayer and He may put into your heart and mind the seed of a dream. There is still time!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Last Words of David: Plans

If you read on from 1 Chronicles 28 into 2 Chronicles you realise there is a wealth of detail about the design and fitting of the new Temple and what it should be like. It had all been thought out carefully. If you are going to fulfil the dream that God has for you, then you are going to need a plan – and you will need to know how to implement it. I know leaders who are far more gifted than I am – I listen to them and they inspire me. They are great vision-casters, but if they tell me the same thing in a year’s time and there is still no indication that they have a plan to put that vision into being, then those who hear them will conclude that they are just blowing so much hot air. They have a dream but there is no ability to follow through.

Jim Collins, in his recent book Great by Choice – I would say this is a ‘must-read’ if you lead an organisation of any kind - when looking at leaders of most successful charities churches or businesses, says they had the ability to do two things at the same time. They could zoom out and keep a big picture and retain a strategic overview of what was really happening in their business (or family, or church) and then could be in a meeting where they are looking at the detail of what is going on and connect it to what is happening in the big picture. This will need repeated review. So here’s some good advice – make a plan, regularly review how it is being implemented, adjust accordingly and then take the next step.

Let me give an illustration from our marriage – across the summer, Deb and I read a book on marriage. (This has become a regular thing for us as part of investing in our marriage, that every year we read a helpful book and discuss it together. After 243 years we are still learning!) We read the book and at the end of it there were four or five pages with about 40 or 50 questions to answer so we took time over the summer to work through them. We looked at our use of time, our use of technology, when we pray together. We looked at each of our boys, how we handle money (monthly, annually, five year and twenty-five year plan), our love life, our in-laws (our parents are now in their mid-70s and we want to ensure that we care for and connect with them), we talked about holidays, our work places, careers, our house – detailed stuff! And details are important, in fact I spend most of my time at King’s, not in exciting vision-casting moments preaching to the people of God, but in detail meetings, one after the other, in order to work out how best to move the church forward - and I do the same detailed thinking at home. It is possible to get into a super-spiritual way of thinking – ‘relax, God will do it!’ – He will, but actually He requires us to engage, take responsibility and make a plan.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Last Words of David: Devotion

In 1 Chronicles 28:8 David charges the people to serve God devotedly and then in verse 9 tells Solomon to ‘serve him with wholehearted devotion and a willing mind’. God is all-loving and is also all-seeing. He sees the motives in people’s hearts and he searches them – when God does so it’s a penetrating thing and David knows this from his own experience. He sinned with Bathsheba, and then the prophet Nathan, directed by God, came to him and confronted him with what he had done. David tells Solomon to guard the way he lives, because he knows God sees it all! Now we know that Solomon began well – he built the temple - but later on he loses that undivided heart for God and begins to be influenced by his foreign wives to follow idols. He loses the plot! One of the greatest sadnesses in life is to have a dream, to be gifted for it and chosen by God – and then shipwreck your life by not remaining devoted to God.

You may recall the story in the media about David Petraeus, the leading military leader of the US – a strategic leader in the super-power of our era. He was the man sent in to sort out the situation in Iraq and he did well with that. He retired and became the head of the CIA, he had been married for over 30 years with a career that for a military man is a dream – and in a moment he blew it by having an affair with the woman who wrote his biography. You can be faithful for decades, friends. You can run the race well and still tragically blow it. This can happen to us if we don’t keep devoted to God, the vision he has given and His purposes. So, I urge us all - keep Jesus central, keep praying, keep reading the Word, keep in fellowship with those who will help you to stay on track and protect your spiritual life.

I would say that generally the areas in which people tend to blow up can be described in these words - pleasure, measure or treasure.

  • Pleasure – this is normally to do with sex and if you are married, it’s about staying within that covenant relationship. If you are single then it’s about staying pure.
  • Measure – this is to do with success. If you are a leader and God has called you and you build anything, you will have a degree of success. But success has its own dangers because if you become successful you can start to believe that the normal laws of life don’t apply to you. We can see this with public figures out in the world but it can also happen to pastors - they can become so successful that they lose contact with those who will ask them the difficult questions. 
  • Treasure – this is money. Putting it in plain and simple terms, what you do with your money is critically important to your spiritual health. If you continue to be generous then you show you aren't putting your trust in money – you are ultimately putting your trust in God. Included in this would be never giving or taking back-handers, being accurate with your expenses, paying to Caesar what is Caesar’s with your tax, handling money - your own and that of others - with integrity.

These three areas have the potential to derail the purposes of God for us. Be aware. Be on your guard! I don’t want that for you and I don’t want that for me. Stay devoted to God!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Last Words of David: Chosen

In 1 Chronicles 28:4-6 the words ‘chose’ or ‘chosen’ appear four times. David reminds Solomon and the people that he was chosen by God. He knew what it was to be chosen – his tribe was chosen, his family was chosen – the background to this was that when Samuel came, at the Lord’s instruction, to find the one to anoint as King, David was not with the rest of his brothers – he was out in the fields looking after the family sheep, he had to be called in! He was the chosen leader. In this context it is important for Solomon to know that he is also chosen by God to rule - and for the people to know that too.

There is a close link between the sovereign choice of God in an individual’s life and the fulfilment of the dream. I might have had a dream to be a professional footballer! Most young, sport-loving men would entertain such thoughts but that isn't what God chose me to do. There has to be a connection between the individual dream and joining up with God’s choice. Looking at others and thinking ‘I’d like to be like them’ is not what God has chosen for you. Being chosen is very powerful. Christians know we are chosen by God in Christ. We are chosen by the Father and at the end of our lives that is what will count – ultimately it ensures our place in heaven!

John Maxwell comes at this in a slightly different way – he says that we learn that people buy into the leader and his character before they buy into the vision. You cannot disconnect the dream, the vision, from the person who has the vision. This will apply in every area of life including that of parenting: you can set up a whole list of rules for your kids but if you don’t have a meaningful relationship with them you are unlikely to be successful. You have a dream for them but they have to connect with you and you with them. Even if you are boring, old and a fuddy-duddy! (Even using that word confirms to them that I am a fuddy-duddy!) I mean – what do WE parents know? In the end leadership in any area of life is built on trust and ultimately on the sovereignty of God - that’s what is packed into our understanding of the word ‘chosen’.