Take 42

In filmmaking, there are many different ‘takes” that typically make up a scene. Actors do their best to avoid making mistakes until the scene is complete and to the satisfaction of the director. One of the things I really enjoy about some filmmakers is how they include some of the out-takes at the end of the movie. Often, these raw clips make me laugh more than the movie itself did. The out-takes are what make the actors seem real, they reveal their authentic character which shows us that we all make mistakes.  

1 and 2 Kings remind me of this concept of “takes”. Throughout these two books we have 42 different takes on the role the kings plays in the life of Israel. Each of these Kings set out with a vision as they took on the responsibility of leading the people. The events in the two books of kings happen over approximately 384 years. During this time we read about two characteristics that in part help define the landscape of the vision held by these leaders. Scripture tells us these two things, “He did Evil in the eyes of the Lord” and “He did right in the eyes of the Lord.” Two very closely related statements with incredibly different outcomes which also highlight one of the character traits each of these leaders posses. Out of forty-two “takes” only six of the kings listed started and carried out their role as king with God in the picture. 1 and 2 kings only give us a glimpse into the lives of these men, one has to wonder about the differences in the culture and quality of life between the good kings and the evil kings.  

One of the incredible characteristics of our God is that He is the same today as He was in the time of all these kings. Today, as leaders we serve the same God who looks at all we do, the vision we cast, the lives that we live and holds us to the same standard as these kings. Are we doing right in His eyes or are we doing evil in His eyes. What is at the heart of our vision? Are we keeping God at the centre of all we do? Are we giving God the glory for the work he is doing through the plans (vision) he has inspired in us. I hope and pray that what I am doing as a leader having been called by Him into His service is being seen as right in His eyes. I want this “take” on life and leadership to have an impact in His great Story.  

If You Had One Wish…

wish

If you had only one wish, what would you wish for? I remember pondering with great consideration this question as a kid, here are some of the answers I can recall from years ago (and maybe even extend to today). Do I wish for a thousand more wishes? A million dollars? An unlimited supply of Twizzlers red licorice? A brand-new Corvette? Truth be told, the list was seemingly endless. Since my adolescent childhood days my perspective on what is important in life has changed, but the problem in many respects stays the same, I’m not one hundred percent sure what I would wish for.

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (3:5) Here we have the creator of all life and the entire universe giving Solomon the one wish opportunity. The following text outlines Solomon’s request “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Now, if you have never read the outcome of Solomon’s request you might be wondering what is up with this guy? Why is he asking for discernment when he could be asking for anything else like power, wealth or fame?  Solomon realized what was ahead of him and felt led to honour God’s plan for His chosen people. Because of God’s faithfulness to his father David, Solomon was committed to seeing God’s plan continue through him, he “caught” the vision to lead the people. Solomon was young and inexperienced and admitted that the role he was chosen to be in exceeded his abilities. His request for a discerning heart was granted and God made his name great among the people.

1 Kings goes on to describe the unmeasurable limit to Solomon’s wisdom, the building and dedication of the Temple and all that came through the blessing of God over his life. Solomon reigned over all Israel for forty years before he died, his life and legacy were never forgotten. Solomon’s vision was all about the people, when we take a closer look at his request for discerning heart it was all about justice and peace. Solomon wanted life to be good for the people, he wanted them to live in unity and to love one another. What is our vision today as leaders in the church? Do we have a vision of unity among one another as believers? Are we working diligently and fighting for justice in the communities that surround us? Do we believe that God can lead and direct our lives giving us the ability to discern between right and wrong? If you had that one wish opportunity, what would you wish for?

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Have you ever put the “cart in front of the horse?” This phrase is commonly used when someone breaks the conventional rules of order and does something opposite to what we would consider a proper order. A classic example might look like this: We just past tax time and some of us are waiting for that big refund cheque to come in. Some will likely spend the money before it comes in only to find out that there was some “minor” adjustments made to the numbers and we fall a little short of affording our new found treasure. Well, we have put the “cart before the horse”.

Adonijah was is one of those people who put the cart before the horse in life. Here is what scriptures says: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be King”. So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men ahead of him.” (1 Kings 1:5) Adonijah had a personal vision, one that he convinced a few others to follow and sets himself up as King. Adonijah was confident in his plan, he even went as far as throwing himself a party to celebrate the occasion. As David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah may have had the right to become King one day, he may have even been looking to the best interests of his father and his people. As the narrative continues in 1 Kings we get a hint of the guilt and fear that surrounded Adonijah and his followers. Upon hearing the news of Solomon’s appointment as King “all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.” (1:50) It is my opinion that Adonijah knew what he did was wrong and was seeking sanctuary or safety from the hand of Solomon.

There is no doubt in my mind that Adonijah put the cart before the horse in this account.He did what any visionary leader would do, he gathered people around him that would support his vision, only his vision was self-serving and had a very narrow focus. Leading and casting vision in the church today cannot be self-serving or narrowly focused. Our vision has to be Gospel-Centered, focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Our job as visionary leaders is to live out the command of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s not put our own plans before that of God’s plan, there is great wisdom in seeking God’s leading and guiding as we plan and cast a vision that ultimately leads people to Him.  

Wisdom, Experience & Humility

In Over his Head“What have I gotten myself into? “Have you ever asked yourself this question? It is one of those moments in life when you know you are into something, and it is way over your head. You feel like you have lost control and you are considering a long run into the hills. I took on a project once that sent me into this particular state of frenzy. I remember the sluggish sinking feeling that seemed to consume all my energy and to be honest I can’t remember how I made it through. I know I did because there was a finished product to show for my efforts.

I believe Solomon had a similar experience. Listen to his confession before the Lord, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.” (1Kings 3:7-8) It is said that Solomon was around the age of twenty when he became king and had already established a certain stature of wisdom according to his father (2:6,9). We might consider the words “a little child” an expression of inexperience, trepidation or even humility. As a young man Solomon had the privilege of growing up with the example of His father David as king, he was married to Pharaoh’s daughter, he had a son but he knew that this next stage would take him in over his head.

I have to wonder what Solomon’s dream would have been like when the Lord appeared to him for the first time? There was a question, a conversation, an exchange of epic proportions and then, he woke up realizing it had been a dream. The narrative that continues through the next number of chapters in 1 Kings proves that the Solomon’s dream was in fact a new reality for him. He lived on to make decisions that made an impact throughout history, decisions that allow us to gain wisdom into our own leadership. Solomon’s request, his heart’s desire for wisdom to discern between right and wrong and lead the nation in obedience to God’s will should inspire us all. Eventually this story of wisdom and inspiration take us to a place where the forces of darkness take a hold of Solomon’s life, an unfortunate scene we see all too often in today’s world. These lessons  both positive and hard are recorded for us so that we might learn and live a life pleasing to our God, so that we might lead with integrity and love. 

Red Light, Green Light

Signal LightHave you ever considered the amount of time that passes between a green light and a red light as you are driving? Depending on the speed zone you’re in, it can vary from 3 to 5 seconds. Given that amount of time our brain has to make a quick decision, release the accelerator to slow down or as the old saying goes: “put the pedal to the metal”. At times some of us ignore the yellow warning light all together, our focus is on the red or the green, the stop or go that controls our momentum.

The first chapter of 1 Kings introduces us to a man named Adonijah, one of the sons of King David and third in line to the royal throne. (Let’s consider him the “pedal to the medal” green light type of guy). Then we meet Nathan and Bathsheba (our more cautious red light, action stopping counterparts). What we have here is a collision of ideas, thoughts and emotions about who is going to become King. Adonijah recognizes his father’s failing health and jumps the gun and appoints himself king, “I will be King” he says, completely ignoring the “yellow light” that prompts us to think about our actions. Was he ready to be king? Was he qualified? Did he have the blessing of the current king? Did he seek direction from the Lord? On the flip-side we have Bathsheba making her plea to King David to make good on his promise to have Solomon be his successor, an appeal that ultimately puts a stop to Adonijah’s plan. Bathsheba’s actions seem self-serving at first glance and they may well have been as she feared for her life and the life of her son Solomon. I do believe that our sovereign Lord used each of these events to shape the direction of leadership for His people.

When I reflect on God’s call in my life to be a leader in the church I must admit I spent a lot of time between the red and green lights. Unlike Adonijah, I took a considerable amount of time to listen for God’s direction in my life. Although I may have had some “green light” drivers encouraging (nudging) me from behind, I needed to be sure that the decisions I was making were not self-serving.  We may not know the plans that God has for each of our lives but as we trust in Him and seek His direction He will reveal them to us. Our job and a good sound principle of Christ centred leadership is taking the time between the green and the red lights to listen for God’s direction.