1 Kings 2: What is a "Real Man"? Leadership and Masculinity

The Truth About Men:

“God’s purpose and plan for masculinity”


Solomon was called upon by his dying father to “show himself a man”. What does that mean? Is masculinity a cultural value? Can we determine what God wanted men to essentially be like? Solomon discovered what a man WAS and WAS NOT by comparing what God called on him to do with the men in his life.

In 1555, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley walked out of prison for the last time. They both were condemned to be burned at the stake for refusing to recant their personal faith in Jesus Christ. As they approached the stake, Latimer uttered these unforgettable words to his good friend: “Be of good cheer, Ridley. Show yourself a man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace…as I trust shall never be put out.” Where did Hugh Latimer learn such a phrase as “show yourself a man?”

He learned it from the lips of an ancient king named David. David was approaching death and wanted to speak to his son Solomon.  Solomon learned to be what God wanted for a man, when he stood for God’s program and learned the role of a godly man (2:2 “show yourself a man”). When he did, he secured the kingdom God put in his hands.

Key Principle: When a man understands and acts in his God-given role, he secures those placed in his care.

Solomon had to learn what a man was to be a king over men. He had to learn what a godly man was to bring the blessing of God to his family and his kingdom.

What did David mean when he told his son to “show yourself a man?” (1 Kings 2:2). Turn with me to the book of Genesis. God originally gave man what some call the “Four Roles of Manhood “. In the beginning, God created. That is the nature of our God. His creativity is astounding: galaxies and giraffes, atoms and aardvarks, mountains and molecules all show the genius of our creator God.

I read something this week entitled 50 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be a Man.I won’t read all of them but I did put together my own top-10 list:

10 You know stuff about tanks.
9 You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
8 If someone forgets to invite you to something he can still be your friend.
7 You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
6 If another guy shows up at the same party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
5 One wallet, one pair of shoes, one color, all seasons.
4 There is always a game on somewhere.
3 Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with, “So…notice anything different?”
2 If something mechanical doesn’t work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
1 You can do your nails with a pocketknife.

Turn to Genesis 2. We read of God creating something completely different and new: …the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7). God created a man, in His own image and he became a living being. Masculinity is not a culturally defined term. God created men for a purpose. What are these purposes? What are the specific reasons and roles God created the man?

  1. Skip down to verse 15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Gen 2:15). The man was created to “take dominion” as chapter 1 verse 28 reads in the New King James version. Adam was to be the administrator of the Garden. The same is true today. Inside every man of God beats the heart of a leader. They want to explore, and they want others to respect that they can.
  1. “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” (Genesis 2:16-17). The man was not only called to steward the land’s resources but also to steward information. Remember, Eve had not been formed yet. It is as if God were telling Adam, “I’m going to tell you this and I want you to pass it on, to teach it to others.” Inside of every godly man beats the heart of a mentor. Godly men don’t just want to get there, they want to get OTHERS there!
  1. Verse 17 concludes with this ominous warning: “…or when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:17b). Adam was clearly warned of potential danger. It was his role to be alert, to be on guard, to stand watch over himself and his family. Inside every godly man beats the heart of a guardian. This impulse leads men to war in defense of their homes and families.
  1. Verse 18 introduces a new character into this cosmic drama: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18). Adam was given Eve to satisfy his deep longing for companionship. In more general sense, men were created to be in community. Inside every godly man beats the heart of a companion. What fun is it conquering the world if SHE doesn’t notice?

Something went wrong in the Garden though. After Eve ate the apple, God asked this question of Adam: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8). God was not confused about Adam’s geographical location. The question was more of “Where were you?”

• Where was your influence as a leader when Eve and the serpent were chatting under the tree?

• Where was the guardian I created to protect and keep watch over her?

• Where did the mentoring process breakdown?

• Where was the faithful companion when Eve needed you most?

Adam failed, the human race fell, and men have been frustrated every since. The four callings of God into a man’s heart are that of Leader, Guardian, Mentor, and Companion. This is how God defines real manhood. Solomon was to face David’s death by adopting the essence of David’s life – a walk with God living the purposes of God!

Adonijah: The Poor Leader (1 Kings 2:13-25)

  1. Poor leaders leave people guessing whether they are safe to be with or not (2:13-14).
  2. Poor leaders confuse the standard of truth (what the world thinks versus what God says – 2:15).
  3. Poor leaders hide behind others and lead others into wickedness (2:16-21).
  4. Poor leaders force God’s leaders to defend what God has said and done (2:22-25).

Abiathar: The Poor Mentor (1 Kings 2:26-27)

Remember his story: He was at Nob when David came and ate of the bread of the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 21). He fled when Doeg the Edomite came in the name of King Saul and killed all the priestly families (including his!). David took him in (1 Sam. 22). He brought the Ephod when he came (1 Samuel 23). He went on to serve as a priest in David’s administration and did reconnaissance for David when Absalom sat for awhile on David’s throne (2 Samuel 15). When David lay dying, Abiathar foolishly sided with Adonijah.

  1. Bad mentors most often come from bad mentors. Solomon knew that a bad mentor had existed in his family generations ago (1 Kings 2:26-27; The house of Eli, see 1 Samuel 2:30-35).
  2. Bad mentors must be stopped from destroying the future. (2:27) Solomon knew that a bad mentor would keep infecting the priesthood, and dismissed him to his home in Anathoth to work a field. He LOST the WORK OF A LEVITE and was demoted to a land farmer. (Levites had no land).

Joab: The guardian who defended the wrong things! (1 Kings 2:28-35).

When Solomon came to the throne Adonijah was afraid for his life, and fled to the horns of the altar at the tabernacle for shelter. Solomon permitted him to find sanctuary there, and forgave him his offence, and said that if he proved himself a worthy man he should live without further molestation. But very soon he began plotting again, and sought to undermine Solomon now that their venerable father was dead. Solomon determined to wipe clean all of the rebellion.

Joab ran for the altar at the Tent of the Lord. Hadn’t Adonijah done this successfully before? Of course, he had no Biblical right to enter into the holy place, and lay hold on the horns of the altar; but he was desperate! (2:28)

After two premeditated murders and now a failed plot, his sin came home to him. He decided to run to the altar, though his life was not one of a fervent follower of God. There is no reference to any passion for God that we can discern, but there was a record of rebellion and murder. Solomon knew he was illegally at the altar, and ordered him executed. Benaiah tried first to get him to come out of the area (2:29), but Joan decided he would die at the altar (2:30).

Joab offers two lessons:

1) Joab found no sanctuary even though he laid hold of the horns of the altar of God’s house, because an outward show with no inner change means absolutely nothing to God.

There are man who put their trust in religious observances of different kinds. People do it all the time. Some trust in the horns of the sacraments. Men with no walk with God nor passion to have one, come to some religious sacramental communion table, looking for a blessing. Our county is filled with people who believe that a priest or pastor can dispense God in a wafer to a person who has no intention of truly surrendering to Jesus.

Spurgeon offers this insight: “Do they conceive that grace comes to men by bits of bread and drops of wine? These things are meant to put us in memory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, as far as they do that, and quicken our thoughts of him, they are useful to us; but there is no wizardry or witchcraft linked with these two emblems, so they convey as form of grace. If you do rely upon such things, I can only say that this error is all of a piece: it is a superstition which begins with, “In my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven“; which statement is altogether false; and then it continues the delusion by prostituting an ordinance meant for the living child of God, and giving it to the ungodly, the ignorant, and the superstitious, as though it could make them meet for entering heaven.”

Others think that they are all right because they frequent sermons. Another says, “I attend prayer meetings.” “But I regularly read the Bible,” says one. Some are foolish enough to put their confidence in the special last rights powers of ministers. Yet, sadly, there is no hope in them. I have been a member of a church for many years.” You may be a member of a church fifty years, but you will be damned at last unless you are a heart member of the body of Christ through repentance and acceptance of Jesus’ work atCalvary to pay for sin. A heart faith, a born again experience of one that deliberately and truthfully surrenders their heart to Jesus is what is required. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee and a devoutly religious man. Jesus told him “You must be born again!” Cornelius was a praying centurion that called upon God, and yet Peter came to him and told him he must surrender to Jesus to be saved.

2) Joab reminds us that there is an opportunity for us to come TO THE SPIRITUAL ALTAR, AND LAYING OUR HAND UPON the sacrifice of Jesus, HE WILL SAVE US.

Notice what Joab DID. First, Joab came to the tabernacle, the area where sin was dealt with. Then he decided to come to the altar where sin was paid for with blood. Though he entered on false pretense, YOU have the opportunity to come in truth and take hold on Christ Jesus. Place your hand of faith upon your Lord, and say, “This Jesus is mine. I accept it as the gift of God to me, though I am wholly unworthy.”

Remember, nobody ever perished trusting in Jesus. Spurgeon: “There has not been through all these centuries a single instance of a soul being cast away that came all guilty and hell-deserving, and took Christ to be its salvation. If you perish, you will then be the first that perished with his hand laid upon Christ. His love and power can never fail a sinner’s confidence. Wherefore, may God the Holy Spirit lead you to resolve, “If I must die, I will die here.”

You have heard the gospel long enough; now obey it. You have heard about Christ long enough; now trust in him. You have been invited and entreated, and pleaded with; now yield to his grace. Yield to joy and peace by trusting in him who will give you both of these as soon as you have rested in him. Look! sinner, look! A look out of thyself will save thee. Look away from all thy works, and prayers, and tears, and feelings, and church-goings, and chapel-goings, and sacraments, and ministers. Look alone to Jesus.”

Shimei: The poor companion that lost his workers (2:36-46)


  1. A poor companion can’t keep his word (2:36-38,40-46).
  2. A poor companion has people trying to get away from them (2:39).

Our ability to think and reason is similar to the way a computer functions. The computer hardware with all of its wires and circuitry is like our brain; it is the physical part. However, the computer is useless without the software. Programs must be installed to the memory of the computer in order for it to function. The software, like the mind is not physical; you can add or remove software from your computer and yet you won’t make the computer heavier or lighter.

Many in our society assume that if something is not working right inside, then it is a HARDWARE PROBLEM. Suicidal thoughts, depression, paranoia, anxiousness, fear, every mental or emotional problem – some think it MUST be caused by some chemical imbalance or some other physical problem with your brain. Take the right pill, eat the right foods, rest and exercise, reduce stress and we can cure your brain and the problem will go away. IF the problem is HARDWARE, then these things will often work. But there is more to you than just HARDWARE.

It equally may be a spiritual issue, or a SOFTWARE PROBLEM. All of us have issues that need to change in the programming within our thinking, to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You have developed certain patterns of thought that have given Satan a stronghold in your life; if Satan can control the way you think he can control your life. You don’t need a pill; you need to stop waging war as the world and use weapons with divine power to demolish strongholds by taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

Men: we were made to be Leader, Guardian, Mentor, and Companion. This is how God defines real manhood. Solomon had to learn it. Yet, when a man understands and acts in his god-given role, he secures those placed in his care.

Men just aren’t like women: One night a wife found her husband standing over their newborn baby’s crib. Silently she watched him. As he stood looking down at the sleeping infant, she saw on his face a mixture of emotions: disbelief, doubt, delight, amazement, enchantment, skepticism. He would stand back, shake his head and say, “Amazing,” while smiling from ear to ear. Touched by his unusual display and the deep emotions it aroused, her eyes glistened as she slipped her arms around him. “A penny for your thoughts,” she whispered in his ear. “Isn’t it amazing!” he replied. “When you take the time and really look close, how can anyone make a crib like that for only $45.99!”

The Making of a Leader: The Call of Moses

Leadership seems to be the subject of much of the Biblical narrative surrounding Moses. The beginning of his leadership was shaped by his “call” to the place in history he was to fulfill. If you are interested in the process of becoming a leader, Watch The Call of Moses on You Tube:


For information on ordering this DVD (US) email me, other countries email Kerugma Productions: info@kerugma.co.za

Baptism in the Time of Jesus

One of the issues that seems to divide the church is the form of baptism. The practice stems from the Hebrew understanding from the period between Malachi and Matthew. Because the methods of baptism varied very early, it is important that we understand what the point of the practice was, and how it developed. Jesus commanded His Disciples to go and make disciples, baptising them (Mt. 28:19). For a video discussion of the subject set at the Jordan River, watch “Baptism in the time of Jesus”:


For information on purchasing the DVD (US) email me, other countries email Kerugma Productions: info@kerugma.co.za

Growing up with Jesus in Nazareth

One of the more fun subjects we deal with in the “Life of Jesus” and “Journey Through the Bible” study programs in Israel is that of “How Jesus grew up”. Standing in Nazareth a few months ago, we filmed a DVD that deals with that issue. Was Jesus like us? In most ways, yes. The truth is that Jesus had a serious problem growing up in Nazareth – the competition of the will of His clan with the will of His Heavenly Father. We explore the background and lifestyle of a villager in a three room cave style home of the Second Temple Period (NT Period). To watch a few minutes of this teaching, click the link at head to You Tube:


For purchase information, email me (US) or contact Kerugma in South Africa: info@kerugma.co.za and they will arrange shipping anywhere.

What are "Deacons" in the Bible?


Anyone who studies administrative service in the New Testament as it pertains to the local Church will become aware quite quickly that the Scriptures relate much information concerning the character of the individual seeking an office in the church. What seems to be lacking, is the description of what they are to do. Obviously, God must be far more interested in who we are, than what we do as church leaders. If the church is lead by Godly leaders, this certainly is more important than any “job description” for them could be.

The Descriptive Term “Deacon

1. The term deacon is a transliteration of the Greek “diakonos”. The term was used in three common forms in the Christian Scriptures: “diakonos” (a servant);”diakonia” (service); and “diakoneo” (to serve). The use of the word apparently originated in serving food:
a. The wine servants in Jn. 2:5 and 9 at the wedding of Cana, where Jesus turned water to wine.
b. Lk.4:39 where it refers to a “waitress” as in Jn. 12:2; Lk.10:40; Lk. 17:8.
2. The word was also used in a general sense of serving and meeting of practical daily needs”. Roman government workers were seen as servants in this context (Rom. 13:3 and 4).
3. Those Hellenistic Jews who desired to be followers of Jesus (Jn. 12:36) are told that they must be willing to follow Him, as well as serve Him.
4. The term is used in the letters to the Corinthians in a “spiritual” form of service:
a. The support of saints is called service (2 Cor. 8:3-4).
b. The “ministries” of 1 Cor. 12:5 of the Spirit of God through believers are “service”. This same idea is employed in Rev. 2:19; 2 Cor. 4:1, 9:1.

Questions about Official Recognition of the Office in Scripture

1. An officer in the church?
The office of Deacon was established early in church history, by Apostolic authority, to care for temporal needs of the church.
a. They appear to have been the group called out to care for the financial divisions of needs for the
widows in Acts 6, though the term Deacon is not used in the noun form in the passage. (The verb “serve” is used in v.2).
b. We know that they held an office in the church, because they were mentioned in connection to it (Phil. 1:1), and standards concerning their character were specified in the Word (1 Timothy 3).
c. It apparently was understood to be people who were gifted with the intense desire and ability to serve people (Rom. 12:7).

2. What do they do? What is their function?
A deacon, from what we can discern from the passages above, is one who “God has equipped with a serving heart, and practical hands.” He is a man who has the greatest satisfaction in the Lord, serving Him in the temporal needs of the church.
a. In the first century, this idea included serving food to tables of hungry crowds, and dividing to the widows according to their need. It still includes such things.
b. A modern application of the office is to make them the caretakers of the buildings and practical needs (under the direction of the Elders), which God has entrusted to His church, (including the recording of the financial stewardship). They care for the bills as they come in, and keep accurate records of such things as are necessary to be responsible stewards.
c. They accept the direction of the Elders in caring for the flock. In practice, they may be called upon by the Elders to aid individuals by issuing them financial help, or some practical assistance. They must be prepared to call on congregants to aid each other as well.

3. Is it an all male group in the Bible? Are the women mentioned the wives of Deacons?
Women have an office. Though the passage of 1 Timothy 3:11 may be unclear in English, (as it regards this problem) it appears somewhat more clear in the original language.
a. The context of the passage is the selection of officers, and their qualifications (3:1).
b. The term translated in many texts “their wives” is the word “gunaikos”, and means “women”, not “wives”. There are many instances in the Bible where the term is clearly not the wife, and this term is used.
c. The key to seeing these women as “officers” is the term translated “likewise” at the beginning of verse 11. Note it is used in the beginning of verse 8 when the discussion shifts from Elders to Deacons. It appears the discussion shifted again in verse 11 to an office of females who desire to serve.
d. The women are not necessarily the wives of Deacons: The “Deaconess” in verse 11 is not specifically the wife of a Deacon (though this may be the case). She is simply a woman who meets the qualifications of character, with four special qualifications: reverent, not a slanderer, temperate (balanced), and faithful in all things.

4. Who Qualifies to be in an official office of Administrative service (The Deaconate)?
The following qualifications may be drawn from the principles of Paul’s writing to Timothy:

a. Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-16)
1. reverent
2. not double-tongued
3. not given to much wine
4. not greedy
5. holding the faith in pure conscience
6. tested
7. found blameless
8. one wife
9. ruling children and household well

b. Deaconesses (1 Timothy 3:11)
1. reverent
2. not a slanderer
3. temperate
4. faithful in all things

5. What is the difference between the Elders and Deacons?
Functionally, we may illustrate the relationship and the difference by a godly “marriage”. Elders have the responsibility for the vision and direction of the flock, and spend much of their time in the study of the Word to identify the timeless principles that should be governing the congregation. Deacons focus on the practical service of the flock, under the direction of the Elders. Elders listen to the needs and desires
of the Deaconate, and try to act in a way that builds them up. Deacons try to offer faithful service to reflect well on the Council of Elders.

a. Eight Important Priorities of Eldership were sketched out by Paul in Acts 20:28-35, when he was addressing the Ephesian Council of Elders:
1. To keep right (personally) with God and lead others to do so (20:28).
2. To feed the flock (Biblically with truth) and lead (“oversee” in v. 28).
3. To warn, defend and protect the flock from the enemy and his representatives (20:29-31).
4. To study the Word, share it with a gracious and optimistic spirit (20:32).
5. To stay free from self interest (20:33).
6. To work hard at caring for themselves and those around them (20:34).
7. To be models of unselfish giving, especially to those who are weak (20:35).
8. To be public examples of prayerful men (20:36).

b. The Functional Work of the Deaconate is only inferred in Scripture, but the passages help us see they:
1. Are recognized as appointed servants of the flock (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:6).
2. Are people who accept appointment and direction from the Elders (Acts 6:6).
3. Are men and women of industriousness and busy (Rom. 16:2).
4. Are well thought of in the congregation, filled with the Spirit and faith (Acts 6:3-5).
5. Are known as care givers to many (Rom. 16:2).
6. May be gifted speakers and teachers, as in the case of Stephen (Acts 6:5; cp. 7:1ff)
7. Serve practical needs of the flock (“tables” in Acts 6:2).

A Legacy That Endures

A Legacy that Endures


Though the wise writer of Ecclesiastes 7 says “A good name is better than ointment; and the day of one’s death is greater than the day of one’s birth”, it must be said that many Biblical characters seemed to follow God in their lives, but the last portion of their life was marked by “not finishing well”:

– 1 Samuel ends with the stories of an unstable King Saul consulting the witch at Endor to see the ghost of Samuel (1 Samuel 28) followed by the crushing march of the Philistine armies, and the death of Saul and Jonathan at Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).

-Though the story of 1 Kings begins well with Solomon’s rise to power and commitment to building the Temple of God (1 Kings 1-8), his wealth and influence (1 Kings 9 and 10) is followed by the story of his downfall and death (1 Kings 11). Though that is true of most, it is not true of all – but it should act as a warning to us: IT IS DIFFICULT TO FINISH WELL!

I have entitled these two sessions: “A Legacy that Endures” because I believe this is a critical issue for an increasingly disconnected nation. What steps can we take to leave behind the message we have cared for so much during our short time here on earth? I have posed some suggestions form the Word of God in the form of seven questions.


Remember three truth principles found in the Scriptures:

1. Shelf Principle: God often powerfully used people at the point they thought they were “put on the shelf” and “least usable” to Him. Take for example John on the island of Patmos. Follow that with the house arrest of Paul.

2. Dependence Principle: Age and physical ability never caused God to pass over someone that was willing. Perhaps the most overt example is that of Moses, who in Exodus 2:1-10 blew through his first forty years (cp. Acts 7:23) of life as the privileged second in command of Egypt. For his next forty years (recorded in the balance of chapter two, cp. Acts 7:30), he was in absolute charge of a few mangy sheep in the Midianite desert, still posted as an outlaw on Egyptian post office wanted posters. When God called him at age 80 (Acts 7:30), Moses objected on the grounds that he was not credible (Ex. 4:1-3) and physically limited (4:10). God told him it didn’t matter if Moses walked with God in the work!

3. Partnership Principle: Many Biblical characters needed help. Moses’ inadequacies were matched by God sending along Aaron (Exodus 4:14-14) but Moses needed to model and lead. Paul’ heart sunk in Athens while alone (Acts 17), but God sent him a team to restore
him (Acts 18:18).


I think it DOES, especially in the Hebrew tradition of “the blessing” passed from a father to his sons in the Patriarchal and Matriarchal narratives of Genesis 27 (Isaac blesses) and 48 and 49 (Jacob blesses). Let’s look at a couple of principles from the blessing passages: Isaac blesses his children (Gen 27):

1. Remind them that you will be leaving, and there are some things you will need them to do (27:1-2).

2. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in the needs to be comfortable. Let them help! It will help them own the responsibility (27:3-4).

3. Celebrate their abilities with them! (27:4b).

4. Be discerning about their walk, and not naïve. You cannot influence the situation much longer, so be loving and understanding, but wise and discerning (27:12ff).

Jacob blesses his children (Gen 48-49):
1. Tell your children of God’s faithfulness and promises (48:3-4) and show them they are the continuity of the line of blessing (48:5-6, 15-16).

2. Make them get together before you are gone to discuss family issues (49:1).

3. Normally, you should be careful to annunciate both your excitement and love for them before any concern that you issue about them (49:3-4).


One senior man in our congregation said, “When I was younger and raising a family, I didn’t have time to make life about ME. Now I am old and go home to a lonely house, and care for myself. How can I avoid life being about ME?” What a good question. For the answer, let’s carefully consider the example of Joseph in a story in the Bible where he is separated from his loved ones, and could easily become tempted to be self-absorbed. Look for a moment at the thumbnail sketch of his life:

1. He was born to Rachel and Jacob (Gen 30:24) and the favorite son of Jacob (37:3).

2. Because of jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery (37:26) and he ended up in Egypt (37:36).

3. God favored him and he was moved up the head of an influential household in Egypt (39:1ff), where he served until falsely arrested (37:20). In prison, God favored him among the prisoners (37:21ff) and he was eventually exposed as a man who had a gift of dream interpretation.

4. Following a dream interpretation for Pharoah, he was appointed a senior position in government (41:38-41) during a time when Canaan was under a famine.

5. His brothers came to be rescued by him without knowledge that this was the brother they had wronged (42-44). Joseph eventually revealed his identity (45) and his heart! Two Keys:
a. IT’S ABOUT THEM: Joseph focused on others around him in every situation, allowing God to bring situations into his life that would help him engage others on the level of THEIR problems (Baker, Pharaoh, brothers, etc; cp. Phil 2:1ff).
b. IT’S ABOUT GRACE: Joseph looked at the opportunities, not the obstacles, allowing others grace (45:5; 50:19,20). He learned how to bless and not be a hammer of judgment.


The Bible relates that some things are temporal, and others eternal. Some things change, and others remain constant throughout time. For believers, COMMON GROUND is always found in the things that do not change. How do you find that? The Bible warns against looking at the surface and making judgments. Look more carefully! Young people need what you have to teach in three areas (Ecclesiastes 7:1ff):

1. Observed pain (7:2)
2. Experienced pain (7:3-4)
3. Discipline pain (7:5-6)

There are a couple of guidelines for the teaching, however! (Paul is a great example of this in the Pastoral Epistles!)
1. Remember, we earn the right through loving acts to speak into the lives of loved ones.
2. They don’t understand your perspective because they don’t see through your window!
3. You have the credentials (by experience) to speak to outcomes, but you must do so with grace and a positive spirit.

Recall why God allows pain in my life:

1. Sometimes it is because of my sin (Gal. 6:7) “sow-reap”.
2. Sometimes it is allowed to keep me humble (2 Cor. 12:7) “thorn”.
3. Sometimes it is because I live in a fallen world.
4. Sometimes it is to test us.
Don’t complain: it tells God you don’t trust His judgment.
Don’t blame: it tells others you don’t believe God is on the throne.
Don’t isolate yourself: it tells others you don’t love them. (Naomi)


-THEY are not their bodies (2 Cor. 5:1ff), but eternally living beings we can love in life, remember in death, and celebrate in eternity!

-Naomi and Ruth chapter 1: The Pain of Covenant love.


Though many of the sins of David’s life caught up with him by the end of his life, yet he ended with his final words showing his life as both fulfilled and the great promise of God was left intact in his life. His final words are recorded in the waning chapters of 2 Samuel, and fittingly, many of them are the words of one of last composed songs. His last song (2 Samuel 22:1-51) was a celebration of WHO God is (22:1-3) and WHAT He has done in continual attention and deliverance of David (22:4-28), finished with what God MEANT to David throughout his life (22:29-51). Following that are the FINAL WORDS of the great King of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1-7). Note especially verse five: “Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” He ended with the credentials that allowed him – having earned the right, through pain and powerful experiences – to praise God and to express absolute confidence in the future that God has ordered, as well as frankly acknowledge that not everything in his family was what God was going to make it… and in that, he ended well. He did not evaluate his life on what HE had done, for better or worse, but on HOW WELL HE KNEW the God he loved and served. That is the place to end well. Our confidence cannot be in the flesh, but in a God who is ever-faithful! Remember the saying: “Be GIVING while you’re LIVING so you’re KNOWING where it’s GOING!”

Dealing with People in Pain

People In Pain: Things You Should Know About God and Trouble

 Probably the hardest life experience for any religious belief system to address is the existence of “natural injustice” – the problem of pain in the life of one that seems innocent. The Bible grapples with this issue through literally dozens of life example stories. To understand the “why” of suffering, we must look broader than the simple explanations of each troublesome set of circumstances and investigate the larger issues of the nature of our God and the way He uses circumstances in our lives. The great truths of God’s purposes are woven together in the patterns of Who God is in the Scripture. The questions are not easy, but the answers are nevertheless very clear.

Because you are not a formula, this is not a formula approach. You are a person, dear to the heart of God. These are a collection of insights based on Biblical stories about pain and trouble that I believe help to sharpen our focus on why God allows suffering and how He wants us to respond to pain.


  1. God may cause or allow trouble and calamity in my life to lead me to repent of sin in my life. (2 Peter 1).
  2. God may use pain in my life to help me see Him in a new way, and learn to depend on Him more (Ex. 15).
  3. God may use trouble in my life to sensitize me to the needs of others around me (Mk. 6-7).
  4. God may allow me to face trouble because I live in a fallen world, and am surrounded by the consequences of the sinful behavior of others.
  5. God may use trouble as a press to test me. He may “squeeze me” so that I can see clearly who I am (and who I am not!) Dt. 5-7.
  6. God may use painful circumstances to help me adjust my appetites, desires and expectations (Ps. 90).
  7. God may remove some things from our lives to rearrange our priorities (Ruth).
  8. Some pain is a consequence of the wrath (consistency) of God. The sow reap principle, and other like principles fall into this category. (Eutychus and gravity).

There are responses that ALWAYS honor God when we are experiencing pain and trouble:

  1. Understanding that God has not lost interest nor power is the strength of my life (Habakkuk).
  2. Learning the greatest lesson: “God is GOOD!” is often the point of our experiences.
  3. Developing a sensitive heart for people and constantly being called back to searching out God’s heart is part of the Divine program.
  4. The companion of pain and trouble is a constant teacher and reminder of our need of our Father in Heaven.

There are three kinds of painful situations, each require different kinds of reactions:

  1. Situations in my direct control, that God desires me to learn from, confront and deal with in a Biblical pattern.
  2. Situations that are indirectly or partly in my control, where God wants me to surrender the part I cannot control, but face the part that is my responsibility.
  3. Situations where I cannot control any part of the trouble, God wants me to surrender to Him (acknowledge the obvious, that I rely on His work alone for an outcome that He will be pleased with.

We have two choices in our response to trouble:

  1. Turn and demand my rights, harden my heart and look for my internal sense of “fairness” to be satisfied. In this scenario, I expect life to bring honor and comfort and glory to ME.
  2. Count my life a privilege that is not deserved, soften my heart and try to discern God’s desire in my responses. In this scenario, I look for what can bring glory and honor to HIM!

1 Kings 8: The Fulfilled Life "The Secret Passion of the Intimate"

I sat next to them at a banquet. They smiled often but said little, even to each other. I tried, without being noticed, to observe the two of them together. They had the reputation of being the happiest senior couple ever! They glanced to each other, smiled, and even giggled a bit. They shared whole messages with their eyes. What a joy! I wondered about their secret. I wondered how people together for fifty or sixty years could have such a relationship. What was their secret? Last week we looked at what God said he wanted from Solomon, and noted that the obedience was just a means to a greater end – an intimate and personal relationship with him. How does someone get that? There is a secret that the text quietly passes to those who will look carefully for the “how” of the relationship.

Key Principle: When you have a vibrant private side to your walk, God will open public blessing!

The Public Side of His Life (7:51-8:21)

1. Followed through on the work God entrusted to Him (7:51a)
2. Put the treasures into God’s work in respect to His father’s wishes (7:51b).
3. Assembled the team together to complete to serve the Lord (8:1-4, 6-9)
4. Extravagant in giving (8:5)
5. Saw God’s blessing on the work (8:10-11).
6. Proclaimed God’s faithfulness (8:12-21).

The Private Side of His Life (8:22-53)

1. Unashamed: he stood before the Lord (8:22). In Matthew 10:33-34 Jesus said that the disciple that denied Him was no disciple at all, and could expect Jesus to deny the relationship later.

2. Personal in approach: Lord God of Israel, There is no God like you in Heaven or earth (8:23). Jesus began His prayer, Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be your name. Hallowed is from the word agios, or holy, which means UNLIKE ANY OTHER. Acknowledging the way God is distinct from men and all other living beings is important to Him. We must understand He is not ordinary, He is precious and alone as the God of the Universe. The angels before His throne cry out endlessly of His distinctiveness. If it is important to Him, it must be important to us. Do not say “Oh my God!” meaninglessly. Do not use His titles in explitives. He is unlike any other, and above every other. He is supreme.

It is the same as Jesus taught:

Principle #1 We are instructed to approach Him with tenderness: Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Our Father” since we are adopted into that royal family.

Principle #2 We are instructed to approach Him with reverence: “In heaven” Jesus reminds us here that we are not approaching an earthly father that is limited in his capabilities or his presence.

Principle #3 We are instructed to approach Him with respect: “Hallowed be Your name” – our Father is free from all impurities. He is totally separated from all evil. It was John MacArthur who pointed out “Praying this prayer places some demands on ourselves… it is a risky prayer:

I cannot say “our” if I’m living only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I don’t try to act like His child.
I cannot say “Who art in Heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed be Thy Name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “Thy Kingdom come” if I’m not doing my part to hasten that day.
I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His word.
I cannot say “in earth as it is in Heaven” if I’m unwilling to serve Him here and now.
I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” if I’m not relying on Him to provide.
I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against someone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I haven’t put on the whole armor of God.
I cannot say “Thine is the Kingdom” If I am not loyal to the King as His faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what people may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.
I cannot say “forever” if my life is bounded completely by the things of time.”

3. Relational in approach: Keeping your covenant by showing hesed to your faithful ones (8:23). Solomon knows that God’s mercy is beyond anything that can be understood in normal human experience. His trustworthiness is unimpeachable. He gives and gives and gives the undeserving and even often the unappreciative. He blesses the unloving and cares for those that don’t even care for themselves well. He is the ultimate caregiver to His people. He recalls even the specific nature of caring for promises he made to David in the time of Solomon (8:24).

4. Intercessory in approach: Solomon knows the relationship exists, and he is not afraid to call on God to ASK OPENLY on behalf of the needs of those around him, particularly those in his care.

A) Asked God to continue to keep His promises (8:25-26) regarding the throne and succession. He recalls the Word God spoke about obedience as a prerequisite for blessing. Having obeyed, he calls on God to fulfill His Word!

B) Recognized how vast God is (8:27), yet asked God to stay very personal (8:28 30). He does not presume to house God in aTemple. He acknowledges God’s awesome greatness, but asks that God continue to show Himself as a personal God, watching over Jerusalem’s Temple night and day.

C) Asked God to stand over the nation and reveal injustice (8:31-32). Solomon knew that men in the kingdom would sin and cheat each other. He wisely called on God to pick out the righteous and uphold them. “Russian reformer and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in an address to Harvard University: “We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession-our spiritual life.”

D) Asked God to reconcile the confessing sinners (8:33-34). Solomon knew that his people would hide their sin as Aachen did under Joshua, and defeat would come as a result. He asked that God would regard the people’s repentance and turn His face back to them.

E) Forgive the repentant nation when they recognize the penalty (8:35-36). He knew that God would have to send hardship on the people to get their attention when they were not listening, but asked that God would turn His face back when they cried out to Him.

F) Hear the downtrodden and plague ridden (8:37-40). When war didn’t capture the attention of the people, perhaps an illness would. Solomon wanted God to open his ears to the hearts of those whotruly repented before Him. He held God to no obligation to help those who did not repent!

G) Hear the stranger that comes to you by the testimony of the nation (8:41-43). He anticipated others that were not of his nation coming to God, and thoughtfully asked to be a nation of testimony, with a promise of God to offer.

H) Hear when the nation goes to war (8:44-45). He asks God to regard the people when they are on the field of battle if they turn their face to the Temple to pray for help.

I) Hear when the nation disobeys and is taken captive, and return them home again
(8:46-52). The longest part of the prayer anticipates another eventual captivity of the people as God promised in the end of Genesis they would be in Egypt. Solomon asked God to look down the road and yet forgive for sin not yet committed. This was not to escape responsibility, but to root the people’s enduring relationship with the land and the Temple.

5. Promise oriented (Rested in the Word – 8:53). Solomon ended on the note of God’s pattern of separating His people, and His enduring promise to care for them. He ended with the phrase he began with, “O Lord God”. The only thing that makes prayer powerful is the God that hears it! “Roger Simms, hitch hiking his way home, would never forget the date–May 7. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sign to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?” “Sure am,” Roger responded. “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there. My name is Hanover.” After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fifty-ish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, “Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger’s astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.” Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. “You knew my husband?” Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me when that was?” “It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day?” Roger hesitated. Should he mention giving his witness? Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge. “Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.” Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “And,” said Roger, “Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?” “He’s dead,” she wept, struggling with words. “He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see–I thought God had not kept His promise.” Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, “I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!” [J. Kirk Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, pp. 39-41. www.christianglobe.com/illustrations/prayer]

Don’t Give Up God is Working Out the Answer!

1 Kings 10: The Danger Zone

The Fulfilled Life: “The Danger Zone”

The man was clearly blind, with a cane in hand and a dog in tow. I got more and more nervous the closer he came to the edge of the cliff. He walked up to it as though he could see. Did he know how dangerous the place was? I almost couldn’t watch…but I had to see if he would stop before he got to the end of the earth and toppled downward. I was afraid and nervous as he walked up quickly, seemingly un-phased by the danger… Do you know people who are living on the edge? What does the Word teach us this life looks like? What are the danger signs we should read? Are there any safeguards we can erect to protect us from living beyond the wise place?

Key Principle: There are symptoms that we must recognize to keep ourselves from plunging downward.

Solomon had a great beginning, but that is just not enough! On a project around the house, a class in school, a job in church or in paying off some bills…. I mean we are out of that starting gate like hungry grey hounds chasing a rabbit…..But time passes and the diet ends, the exercise stops, we fail the class, the job doesn’t get done and the bills are still there. You see, though there is nothing wrong with a good start — it just isn’t enough — is it? Solomon had a great start — a good father, good advice, a good request, he performed as good project, he had a good prayer life and he wrote 3 good books….. But in the end we find the Lord becoming angry with Solomon and tearing the Kingdom from Him, Why? BECAUSE he no longer walked in the ways of the Lord…. “THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM AS EXAMPLES AND WERE WRITTEN DOWN AS WARNINGS FOR US, ON WHOM THE FULFILLMENT OF THE AGES HAS COME.” (I CORINTHIANS 10:11). (Steve Malone, Southeast Christian Church, Orlando, FL)

Symptom One: Basking in Breathtaking Extravagance (The Wow Principle – 9:26-28; 10:4-5, 11-14). Breathtaking extravagance is the process of getting where no one around you has ever been (9:26-28), having what no one around you has ever had (10:4-5), building what no one around you has ever built (10:11-14) to the point that it “takes the breath away” from others (10:5b).

Problem 1. We miss the opportunity to bless the Lord in our extravagance! “I think the message in this story is “Take the BLESSING of God seriously.” Too often we brush everything off. We take it for granted that we live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. We take it for granted that we have cars to drive and food on the table and a large TV in the living room… we need to respond to God’s blessing the same way the Queen does… We need to say in the words of Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” And we need to say in the words of 1 Chronicles 29:12 “Wealth and honor come from YOU! YOU are the ruler of all things! Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name!” (Pastor Marc Axelrod, Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, Wisconsin)

Problem 2. We forget the lessons that WANT brings to us! The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “It is not good for all your wishes to be fulfilled. Through sickness you recognize the value of health, through evil the value of good, through hunger satisfaction, through exertion the value of rest.”

Symptom Two: Allowing an Unwarranted Reputation (Big Buzz Principle- 10:1,6-7). Allowing an unwarranted reputation is settling for people telling us we deserve what we have. It is believing our own press (10:1,6-7). Solomon was well known in antiquity, and many stories survive of his wisdom: “…the Queen of Sheba that she sent two wreaths of roses to Solomon, one real and the other artificial. To test his reputed wisdom she defied him to detect the genuine from the artificial. Solomon at once directed that some bees be brought into the room. Immediately they flew to the real flowers and ignored the counterfeit.” (Pulpit Helps) Maybe it was true, but it was not deserved. Solomon got what he got because of God’s goodness. He readily admitted later that he was not living the wise way he should have been in Ecclesiastes! There are six Hebrew Wisdom books are divided between three Didactic (teaching) writings and three Devotional (reflective) collections:

Three Didactic
-Proverbs (Mishlai – tapestry of illustrations). Key Thought: The Use of wisdom in life. Key Subject: Fruits of righteousness and unrighteousness.

-Ecclesiastes (Koheleth – from kahal “assemble”; the announcer; Greek: EK is “out of” and KLESIS – “a calling”). Key Thought: Futility of experience and rationalism without revelation. Key Subject: The Way to truth.

-Job: (Job). Key Thought: The place of trials in life. Key Subject: Crucible of testing.

Three Devotional

-Psalms (Tehillim – the range of praises). Key Thought: The place and method of worship. Key Subject: How worship works to draw me into God’s presence.

-Song of Solomon (Shir HaShirim – song of songs). Key Thought: The place of affection and love in life. Key Subject: How God views affection and yearning of heart.

-Lamentations (E-khah- “alas”). Key Thought: Destruction is not the end. Key Subject: the crucible of judgment.

Eight Empty Marks (Vanities) of Life:
1. Human Wisdom – 2:15,16
2. Human Labor – 2:19,21
3. Human envy and rivalry – 4:4
4. Human avarice – 4:8; 5:10
5. Human fame – 4:16
6. Human coveting – 6:9
7. Human frivolity – 7:3,4
8. Human awards – 8:10,14
Solomon showed he tried many things throughout his life that were not wise!

Symptom Three: Trafficking Unlived Advice (Talk the Talk Principle – 10:2-3). Sometimes we give the right advice, but we don’t live the right way at the same time! Trafficking in unlived truth is dangerous, but not uncommon among believers (10:2-3) -Charles Swindoll in his book on Grace puts it this way, “You want to mess up the minds of your children? Here’s how – guaranteed! Rear them in a legalistic, tight context of external religion, where performance is more important than reality. Fake your faith. Sneak around and pretend your spirituality. Train your children to do the same. Embrace a long list of do’s and don’ts publicly but hypocritically practice them privately . . . yet never own up to the fact that its hypocrisy. Act one way but live another. And you can count on it – emotional and spiritual damage will occur.” Charles Swindoll. The Grace Awakening. Dallas: Word Pub., 1990) p.97 -One of the subjects I taught was physical science for learning disabled kids. It was hard to get them motivated to do much at all. One day I showed the class a video about protecting the environment. It explored all the ways that humanity was destroying the earth and the steps we needed to take to save our planet. By the end of the video, half the class was unconscious and the other half well on their way to sleepy land. It irked me so I flipped on the lights and launched into a five-minute tirade about how they should care about this subject and do something about it. At the end of my mini sermon one kid named Sam, who never passed a test the whole year, raised his hand. This was odd. Usually nothing roused Sam from his sleep in class. When called on he asked, “Mr. Smith, do you recycle?” Stammering and trying in vain to save face I had to admit that I did not. With one stupid question Sam nailed my hypocrisy. I’ve often wondered if God didn’t work through that sleepy teenager to teach me a lesson. (Sermon central)

Symptom Four: Reveling in Flattery of Allies (The Golden Tongue Principle – 10:8-10). Your men, your servants, your God… On the surface it all sounded good. Was it true? Reveling in praise for things that belong to you Master to give as He desires is not good (10:8-10).
“Flattery is all right—as long as you don’t inhale.” –Adlai Stevenson Flattery is from the teeth out. Sincere appreciation is from the heart out.- Dale Carnegie Psalm 112:9 says that God has scattered his many blessings all over the world. Instead of looking at another person’s success and saying, “That stinks,” we should say, “Lord, I am thankful that I’m not the only person in the world who has been blessed. I am thankful that you cause the sun to rise upon the evil and the good. I am thankful that you have given us everything we need for life and godliness. I am thankful that we serve a God that didn’t just create the world and walk way. But that we serve a God who is involved with blessing us every day of our lives.” And after we get over the shock of discovering that God has the right to bless people as much as He wants, we should say, “Lord, thank you for what you have done for me personally. Thank you for the privilege of being alive in the United States of America. Thank you for my house and my family and my ministry on this earth. Now I wish I could tell you that Solomon was just as thankful to God as the Queen was. I wish I could tell you that he learned to be grateful for his blessings without getting selfish. (Pastor Marc Axelrod, Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, Wisconsin) Jesus said that the queen was wise to comprehend God’s goodness for what she saw: “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42)

Symptom Five: Glory in Power Consolidation (The Build Up Principle – 10:15-17, 26). Power appears in symbolic ways. When we ready for a war that is not there, we often do so to our own peril. It was not for preparedness that Solomon stockpiled weapons, it was for vanity (10:15-17,26). We get easily caught up in our own visions of glory! Peter Marshall had this proper attitude in prayer: “O God, when I am wrong, make me easy to change, and when I am right, make me easy to live with!” (Tan #2954 epigram) During an operation, an experienced surgeon asked a young intern, “Who is the most important person in this operating room?” The intern (who was taken back by the question) groped for an appropriate answer. He didn’t believe (for a moment) that this mentor was asking (or fishing) for personal compliments, so trying to sound gracious, he replied (giving credit to the other people’s contribution to the team), “I suppose that it would be these nurses who assist you in such an efficient manner.” The surgeon shook his head and said, “No, the most important individual in this room is (not the doctor, the nurses, or the team, but) the patient. (Remember that.)” (Daily Bread 9/29/93)

Symptom Six: Lap up Status Symbols (The “Bling” Principle – 10:18-25). We can get caught up in the status symbols, but we are really masking emptiness (10:18-25). In a 1995 Forbes magazine released an interesting survey of the chances of a person having an extramarital affair with the income level he or she is making. The higher the income bracket you are in, the higher the infidelity level you will face. If a person makes $10,000-20,000, the chances of a person’s heart changing is 33%. If the person makes $20,000-30,000, the percentage is 45%. If the income is $30,000-40,000, 55%. If income is $40,000-50,000, 66%. If $60,000 and above, 70%. (Forbes FYI 1995) People tend to forget where the small pleasures of life and the simple things in life once they make it. Solomon made it big. He was a celebrity, a hit, a showstopper. Traders or spice merchants (1 Ki 10:15), governors of the land (1 Ki 10:15), apes and peacocks (1 Ki 10:22) made its debut in Scriptures and made their way into Israel for the first time. The king lived a life of influence, affluence and opulence. Solomon made a great throne of ivory for himself (1 Ki 10:18), and twelve lions were on the six steps leading to the throne. All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the palace were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver (1 Kings 10:20-21). (Victor Yap, Riverside CMA, California).

A Jewish story tells of Alexander the Great’s presence before the gates of paradise on his journey home after he had conquered the whole world. Seeing that the gates would not open for him, he asked for a token to prove that he was there. All he got was a human eye. Reaching home, he called all his wise men together. “O King,” replied the wise men, “place the eye in the scales and weigh it.” “What for?” asked Alexander. “I can tell you before hand that it weighs but little.” “Do it just the same!” the wise men urged. “In the other half of the scales place a gold piece. Then we will find out which is heavier.” Alexander did as they asked. To his surprise he found that the eye was heavier than the gold piece. He threw into the scales another gold coin – still the eye was heavier. He then threw a whole handful of coins and ordered that all his gold and silver and jewels be thrown in. Still the eye outweighed the treasure. “Even were you to take all your chariots and horses and palaces and place them in the scales, the eye will be heavier.” said the wise men. “How do you explain this?” asked the king. “How is such a thing possible?” “Learn a lesson from all this, O king,” said the wise men. “Know that the human eye is never satisfied with what it sees. No matter how much treasure you will show it, it will want more and still more.” “Your explanation doesn’t satisfy me. Give me proof,” insisted Alexander. “Very well,” agreed the wise men. “Have all your gold and treasure removed from the scales. Then place a pinch of dust in their place and observe what happens.” Barely had Alexander placed a little dust in the scales when they tipped to the other end, for the dust proved heavier than the eye. “Now I understand the meaning of your words and of what was in your minds!” cried Alexander. “So long as man is alive, his eye is never sated, but no sooner does he die when he is as dust! Then his eye loses its impulse and becomes powerless. It can no longer desire.” (Victor Yap, Riverside CMA, California) What can we do to guard against the slide into sin in spite of appearances? We need to be aware and observant that there are symptoms that we must recognize to keep ourselves from plunging downward.

Every year in Alaska, a 1000-mile dogsled race, a run for prize money and prestige, commemorates an original “race” run to save lives. Back in January of 1926, six-year-old Richard Stanley showed symptoms of diphtheria, signaling the possibility of an outbreak in the small town of Nome. When the boy passed away a day later, Dr. Curtis Welch began immunizing children and adults with an experimental but effective anti-diphtheria serum. But it wasn’t long before Dr. Welch’s supply ran out, and the nearest serum was in Nenana, Alaska–1000 miles of frozen wilderness away. Amazingly, a group of trappers and prospectors volunteered to cover the distance with their dog teams Operating in relays from trading post to trapping station and beyond, one sled started out from Nome while another, carrying the serum, started from Nenana. Oblivious to frostbite, fatigue, and exhaustion, the teamsters mushed relentlessly until, after 144 hours in minus 50-degree winds, the serum was delivered to Nome. As a result, only one other life was lost to the potential epidemic. Their sacrifice had given an entire town the gift of life.The people were saved by the sacrifice of others, but equally by the ability of one man to see the symptoms and interpret them in the lives of his villagers before they were lost!

Four ways to avoid a "second best" life

  1. Keep things in God’s Order: If you put the needs of your spouse, job or child above a hungry desire for time with the Lord, you are living a “second best” life.

  2. Stick to a plan: It doesn’t matter if the issue is whether to open email before reading a chapter of your book to your child or taking a call instead of cutting the lawn, we have to take control of our own schedules. If we don’t plan the day and work the plan, we are sure to live a “second best” life, filled with regret of the things unfinished. When I don’t control my day, others do – and that is frustrating!

  3. Learn the joy of something new: We get as stale as moldy bread when we just sit. Even if “sitting” looks like a busy life with a lot of work, same old equals drained old. Look at all the flavors and choose a new one. Pick from the other panel of the menu. Learn something new. It’ll keep you from a “second best” life.

  4. Learn the fundamentals of your life: We don’t have to do everything well, but we do need to be competent with the core skills of our lives. If I focus on doing what I do well, I remove any doubt in the minds of those around me that I am serious about what I am doing. I excel because I am deliberate about what I am doing. I avoid a “second best” life.