Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership Part 6

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership

Part 6


What is the key to influencing others toward Christ?

Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with difficult questions … when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. I Kings 10:1 

 

The queen of Sheba was a seeker. Seekers are all around but they are not always easy to spot. Sometimes they appear to rebel against God; other seekers seem negative and argumentative, yet others are simply lost and wandering souls. Seekers will often explore all areas of philosophy, religion, mysticism and drugs, searching for the meaning of life. Lost souls will turn over a lot of rocks searching for answers.  

 

In my youth, I was a big fan of the Christian singer Keith Green. Keith was saved after searching far and wide for enlightenment during the hippie era of the 1970s. He wrote the following words in a song from his first album. 

 

Your Love Broke Through 

 

Like a foolish dreamer, trying to build a highway to the sky 

All my hopes 

Would come tumbling down, and I never knew just why 

Until today, when You pulled away the clouds 

That hung like curtains on my eyes 

Well, I’ve been blind 

All these wasted years and I thought I was so wise 

But then You took me by surprise 

 

Like waking up from the longest dream 

How real it seemed 

Until Your love broke through 

I’ve been lost in a fantasy 

That blinded me 

Until Your love broke through 

 

All my life I’ve been searching for that crazy missing part 

And with one touch 

You just rolled away the stone that held my heart 

And now I see that the answer was as easy 

As just asking You in 

And I am so sure 

I could never doubt Your gentle touch again 

It’s like the power of the wind 

 

There is a consciousness of God born into every person. Some defiantly reject their consciousness of God and become hard and calloused, (Romans 1). But others continue to seek. 

 

As Christians, we are blessed when God uses us to point the seeker, by our words and deeds, toward the truth.  

 

When she (the queen of Sheba), came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her. I Kings 10:2-3 

 

The Queen of Sheba was a seeker and God used Solomon to open up the truth to her searching soul. However, we might falsely assume that Solomon’s influence was only in the words he spoke. His words were impactful but there was much more to it than just words. 

 

If we are to be true agents of influence and transformation, pointing others toward Jesus, it’s important to realize that everything we do and say, counts. 

 

Here are three principles from Solomon’s life about influencing others toward God. 

 

First, it was known to all people that Solomon gave God the credit for the blessings of his life. The Bible says, The queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LordSolomon didn’t take his blessings of wisdom, prosperity and power lightly. He gave God the credit. It was known by all that God was the supplier of all blessings toward Solomon and to the nation of Israel. 

 

At the dedication of the temple completed under Solomon’s leadership, Solomon encouraged the people by saying: Let your hearts therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments. I Kings 8:61. 

 

After spending time with Solomon, the queen didn’t praise Solomon for his greatness, she blessed God. The queen said Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel. 

 

Secondly, your influence is enhanced or diminished by the order or chaos of your life. This is a bit of a touchy subject for some people. Yes, some aspects of our lives are beyond our control, I understand that for sure. For example, consider the period of total chaos that God allowed in the life of Job.  

 

But for the most part, the current state of our lives is the culmination of our many decisions and actions, along the way, both big and small. 

 

When it comes to leadership and influence, everything counts. The queen was influenced not just by Solomon’s words, but by the orderliness of his kingdom as well. The queen of Sheba considered her entire experience of sights and sound within the palace of Solomon as an indication of the blessings of God upon Solomon. It caused her heart to melt into humility and surrender to God. 

 

When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. I Kings 10:4. 

 

She had heard of Solomon’s greatness and the blessings of God upon him, but she didn’t believe it. When she witnessed the fulness of God’s blessing upon Solomon, her heart melted. 

 

The queen said: I did not believe the reports (about Solomon and his kingdom) until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told to me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity of the report which I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you … blessed be the Lord your God … I Kings 10:6-9 

 

Solomon summarized it this way: By wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding, it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches, Proverbs 24.3. 

 

Thirdly, Solomon’s personal care, attention and listening heart produced massive influence toward all who interacted with him including the queen of Sheba. 

 

When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her. I Kings 10:2b,3. 

 

Solomon focused his attention upon the queen, listened intently with great empathy and insight, and answered all her questions. It’s one thing to listen with your ears, it’s another to listen with your heart. Solomon asked God for a listening heart of wisdom and understanding. God granted it to Solomon and Solomon used God’s gift to lead a seeker toward God. 

 

Father, may our words and actions point others toward You. Help us get our lives in order that we might be set apart for Your purposes, always prepared for every good work that You have for us to do. May our lives be a witness to the greatness of your kindness and blessings toward us. Amen! 

 


Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership Part 5

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership

Part 5


What is the key to improving my life and the environment around me?

We tend to believe that the key to improving our lives is to do; to do something; to take action and push toward a result. It may surprise you that the key is a passive activity. I’ll give you a hint: Are you listening

 

Solomon started out well but didn’t finish well. However, I don’t consider his poor finish as invalidating his early achievements and blessings from God. I believe we can learn a lot from Solomon.  

 

King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. I Kings 10:23 

 

I’m a student of leadership so I can’t help but look at the story of Solomon through the lens of leadership. Specifically, the power of influence; to produce positive energy toward faith in God, growth, production and prosperity. That’s great leadership. 

 

You might say, ‘that doesn’t interest me.’ That’s okay. However, I would ask that you reconsider. You undoubtedly live, work or serve within an environment of people; your family, your social group, your work group, etc. What is the nature of the groups you spend time with? Happy, productive, optimistic, positive? Or unhappy, slothful, pessimistic and negative? Most likely, somewhere in between.  

 

Most people feel they are victims of their environment. They might say, ‘Oh well, that’s just the way my family is.’ Or, ‘I feel helpless at work. I wish my boss would step up and change things.’ Or, ‘I wish they would stop treating me this way.’ 

 

You may not consider yourself a leader or influencer, but that doesn’t change the fact that you do indeed have the capacity to influence those around you and change the environment you live in.  

 

Let’s learn from Solomon.

 

First, he didn’t ask God for riches, power and success. He asked for wisdom. But let’s look a little further into his request. His actual request was give your servant an understanding heart … the essence of the word understanding means to listen. Solomon requested that God grant him a listening heart. God responded by saying, I have given you a wise and discerning heart. The key to wisdom and discernment is a listening heart

 

Have you ever considered the possibility that the essence of wisdom is to listen? This is absolutely one of the most profound realities you could ever learn and apply to your life. To be wise, discerning and influential is to be a listener. Perhaps the key to improving your life and the people and environment around you is to listen. 

 

Begin by listening to God, knowing and understanding His revealed Word. Soak in His Word and allow the principles and truths to penetrate your heart. Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted him a special measure of wisdom that resulted in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is the output of God’s wisdom, distilled through the wise and discerning mind of Solomon, written for us all to read and absorb.

 

As you build up your mind and heart with the wisdom of God’s Word, begin listening more to those around you. May God give us listening hearts as he gave Solomon. God’s Word gives us the knowledge of wisdom. Listening gives us the opportunity to apply wisdom and positively influence others toward life in Him. 

 

A most amazing thing happened to me this morning. I opened my email and found a prayer written for me by my faithful prayer partner, Matt Brinkley. This is a prayer, sent to me yesterday, during a week that I am studying Solomon’s request for a listening heart – wow, what a wonderful act of God’s providence.  

 

Gracious Father. Larry and I thank you for the practical and empowering truth your living word produces in our lives. Today, we invite you to make our communication with others edifying. We are often apt to enter conversations and only half listen, and even worse, go in presumptively and already prejudiced to react.

 

Lord Jesus, Larry and I invite you to bless us with humble strength derived through the intense understanding of the gospel. Give us such peace and confidence in our relationship with you that we might only have the needs of others our focus. May your unconditional forgiveness and patient sanctification be extended through us to others for Christ’s glory.

 

Bless us as we enter all conversations. Make us quick to listen… not just going through the motions of listening or responding with prematurely anticipated answers… but truly listening with focus, interest, clarifying questions, discernment, and care always believing the best about someone.

 

Holy Spirit, before we speak, give us the self-awareness to quickly perceive any sinful motive within us like insecurity, prejudice, jealousy, envy, protectiveness, or competitiveness and a responsive heart to seek your forgiveness. Having these out of the way, guide each word we speak to be full of supernatural wisdom and life-giving hope as we speak the truth in love pointing others to Christ.

 

Give Larry and me extraordinary self-control protecting us from fleshly anger expressed from a heart of disappointment, fearfulness, hopelessness, or defensiveness. Rather, give us hope filled faith and words of life to hold the crown over someone’s head until they themselves find victory through Christ.

 

Father, may our words be filled with grace, mercy, and wisdom as we speak into the lives of others.

 

In Christ! Blessings Larry!

 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1: 19-20. Amen!

 


Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership Part 4

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership

Part 4


Today, God is asking you…

What do you want Me to give you

I understand that this statement may rub some of you the wrong way. It sounds contrary to what we’ve been taught; to be humble and satisfied with what we have. Some would say, we should thank Him and praise Him but we are in no position to ask Him for what we want. 

 

I beg to differ. 

 

God spoke to Solomon and said ask what you wish Me to give you. I Kings 3:5  

 

Okay, just because we have a story from the Old Testament about God asking Solomon what he wants doesn’t necessarily mean that God is asking all of us what we want. After all, God told Noah to build an ark but that doesn’t mean we all should build an ark. Right? 

 

That is true. Nevertheless, my premise is that this narrative about Solomon provides us a valuable lesson and carries with it an important principle that we can apply to our lives. Also, we’ll discover that this valuable lesson from Solomon, of making our requests known to God, is supported by direct teachings from other parts of the Bible. 

 

Last time we learned an important principle from Solomon: seek the means to the end rather than just wishing for the end result. Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding in order that he might exercise justice and rule God’s chosen people in peace and prosperity. God peered into Solomon’s heart and was pleased with his intent and motives to ask such a noble request.  

 

For Solomon, the desired result was a blessed and prosperous nation, ruled with justice and peace. He asked God for the one key element that would produce his desired result: wisdom and understanding. God was pleased with his noble request.  

 

It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. I Kings 3:10. 

 

Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. I Kings 4:29-30. 

 

What about you? Should you make your requests known to God? 

 

We have an example from the Old Testament in Solomon that you should indeed make your request known to God. We also have the apostle’s teachings on this subject found in Hebrews and Philippians. 

 

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

 

The Hebrews writer gives us a general call to confidently go before God in our time of need. But Paul is even more specific about God’s desire to hear our direct requests in his letter to the Philippians. 

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7  

 

In the narrative of I Kings 3, God asked Solomon point blank, ask me what you wish me to give you? Also, the apostle Paul teaches us through God’s Word that we are to let our requests be made known to God.  

 

I believe there are two aspects of the concept of ‘making your requests known to God‘. 

 

  1. In its simplest and most beautiful form, our requests, undergirded with gratitude, should flow from our consciousness as we live our daily lives in the awareness of God. The moment you feel, see or hear of a need, look upward and formulate a request to God. You always have access to the God and creator of the universe to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need
  2. Solomon’s example sheds light on another form of making our requests before God. His request wasn’t borne out of his immediate daily needs. His request came as a result of deep reflection upon his major purpose in life. 

 

In addition to bringing your daily needs before God, reflect upon your major purpose in life? What has God called you to do, to be, to become? It doesn’t have to be big and broad from an earthly standpoint or have a world-wide impact. It just needs to be specific and aligned with God’s purposes for you. 

 

The range of life purposes varies significantly, such as: 

  • To raise my children in the love and admonition of the Lord 
  • To rescue orphans in my city or eliminate human trafficking worldwide 
  • To represent Jesus in word indeed in my neighborhood; or in my workplace, etc. 
  • To minister to ex-convicts in my city 
  • To grow a strong and vibrant business and use my business as a ministry to my employees and my community 
  • To lead a worldwide ministry of mentoring and developing Christian business professionals 
  • To make disciples in all nations by growing a ministry of church planting worldwide 

 

We know that God calls all of us to love Him and to love others. But alongside this mutual calling, have you considered your primary calling and purpose in this life? The first and most important step is to prayerfully seek God’s guidance, talk to others Christians who know you well and listen to their input. As your calling becomes clear, begin to pray with very specific requests regarding your life purpose.  

 

Who knows what God may do in your life when you step out and prepare yourself to accomplish God’s calling for you in your life? 

 

As we close, I want to remind you again that the narrative of Solomon provides us a wonderful example. When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon realized that God had called him to a specific purpose; to be the earthly king of God’s chosen people. His next and almost immediate thought was, I’m completely unprepared and unworthy to fulfill this calling. 

 

Solomon said, You have made me king, but I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in

 

Solomon had a big calling without the confidence and capabilities to fulfill the calling. Can you relate? Do you lack confidence and doubt your capabilities to pursue your calling in life? 

 

Follow Solomon’s example. Solomon’s request was for the means to fulfill God’s calling in his life. Specifically, he asked for wisdom and understanding in order to fulfill his calling. 

 

We are often told to ask God for big things. Yes, that may be true, but I prefer to follow Solomon’s example and ask that God would prepare me to do whatever He calls me to do; big or small.  

 

Lord, you might call us to be famous and well known, or you might call us to quietness and obscurity. It’s completely up to You. Either way, Lord, cultivate our minds with wisdom, our hearts with love and our souls to persevere and obey You. It’s not about asking You for the big things in life that we want. It’s about being prepared, mind, heart and soul, to follow You wherever you lead us.

 

As Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:21, may we be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Amen!

 


Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership Part 3

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership

Part 3


Give Me Wisdom Please!

I recently read a post that asked, If you could have anything, what would it be? One response that caught my attention was this: I want a 100 Billion dollars in gold. With that amount of money, boy, could I do a lot. First, I’d buy all my friends and family houses of their choice and put in trust sufficient funds to pay their property taxes and insurance for life. I’d put money in trust for each of them that paid them 10 times their current wage a year.  

 

This post reveals the heart of man who thinks in terms of outcomes. His motives are ‘I want this for me and want this for you’.  

 

Mankind in general and our current culture, in particular, are consumed with outcomes. We want our desired outcomes easily, quickly and in the comfort of our own homes. Immediate outcomes are the mindset of the lottery generation.  

 

Another way to think about outcomes is the eternal principle of cause-and-effect. The principle of cause-and-effect threads its way through every aspect of life. Cause-and-effect is the very power source of God’s created order within His universe.  

 

However, we are usually one-sided in our thinking of cause-and-effect. We generally think about our desired effect without pondering and planning around the cause. In other words, we wish for certain outcomes without going through the work it takes to achieve such outcomes. 

 

Let me give you an example. Many people say, whether consciously or subconsciously, ‘I wish I could make a million dollars a year’. Or ‘I wish I had 10 million dollars and could retire’. That is outcome thinking. That is effect thinking. When we wish for things or hope for certain outcomes, we jump to the effect. However, we have it backwards. We should spend 1% of our time determining our ideal outcomes and 99% of time planning and executing the cause(s).  

 

I call this causal thinking and planning. 

 

Let’s go back to the million-dollar-a-year thinking. It takes only a moment to wish for a million dollars a year. It takes only a moment to wish for the desired effect. The real work and the road less traveled is the thinking it takes to plan and determine the causal activities that will produce (through the natural course of things), the desired effect. 

 

The reality is that making a million dollars a year in America legally and ethically has been done many, many times and is being accomplished right now by thousands and thousands of people. 

 

So, instead of wishing for a million dollars a year (the desired effect), begin planning and determining a path of personal development, training, apprenticeship, work ethic, career development, etc., that will eventually lead to your desired effect. 

 

It may sound a bit cliché, but the journey is the real adventure, not the final outcome. 

 

I’m just using the million-dollar-a-year concept as an example. The principle of causal thinking can be applied to any and every circumstance of life. 

 

When Solomon asked for wisdom, did he ask for a cause or an effect

 

When Solomon became king of Israel and Judah at a young age, he had the desired outcome in mind. He wanted to lead his people to greatness and enjoy the blessings of wealth and economic prosperity. He wanted to rule in peace and garner the respect of the nations of the world. He wanted to be a great king. He knew the outcome and effect he desired.

 

When God spoke to Solomon and said, Ask what you wish Me to give you, Solomon didn’t ask for the outcome, he asked for the means to the outcome. He didn’t ask for the effect, he asked for the causal thinking that would produce the desired effect. 

 

Solomon responded to God’s question by saying: 

 

Now O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So, give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? I Kings 3:7-9. 

 

Solomon did not ask for the effect or outcome he desired, (unlike the man who asked for the 100 million in gold). Solomon asked for the cause (wisdom) that would produce his desired effect, (a blessed a prosperous nation). It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. I Kings 3:10 

 

Here are a few observations to consider: 

 

  • God’s created order has built within it the powerful principles of cause-and-effect and sowing and reaping. God’s Word often speaks of it in terms of if-then. God told Solomon, If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days. I Kings 3:14.
  • This story in I Kings 3 infers that God is pleased when we think and act in terms of cause-and-effect, (with an emphasis on causal thinking) rather than always wishing and hoping for certain outcomes. It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
  • The Bible is filled with the principles of cause-and-effect and sowing-and-reaping and if-then. Yes, external factors outside of ourselves influence our current situation in life. But for the most part, our current state in life is the culmination of our personal decisions compounded over the many years of our lives. Solomon established his kingdom in peace and prosperity by ruling well and applying wisdom to his decisions and plans. 
  • God superseded the powerful principle of cause-and-effect in one key area of life; our salvation. Jesus is both the cause and the effect of our salvation. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world and because of His great love, He predestined us to adopt into His family for His own glory, Ephesians 1. We bring nothing to the table in our salvation. Jesus has done it all. Jesus is both the cause and the effect of our salvation. We simply believe and even our belief is a gift from God. 

 

But God … made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7.

 

Live your life here on earth following the wisdom of sowing and reaping and cause-and-effect. But in salvation, realize that Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the cause-and-effect. He is all in all and everything You need to save you from a life of sin and despair. Praise be to God, the author and finisher of our faith. Amen! 

 


Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership Part 2

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership, Part 2


Man-Up My Son!

David was a fighter and a lover. Solomon was a sage; thoughtful and intentional. 

 

David was passionate and charismatic. Solomon was diligent and wise. 

 

David led with passion. Solomon led with wisdom. 

 

David was a leader. Solomon was a leader too. 

 

Ever meet a leader? A leader of leaders? What is the source of their powerful persona? What is the source of their dynamic energy? 

 

Recently I listened to an interview of a man who worked closely with Michael Jordan during his comeback years with the Bulls. He said that the first time he met Jordan, as he walked toward him, even before he shook his hand, he could feel the energy in the air coming from Jordan’s persona. 

 

There is a source of energy and power that leaders in this world tap into in the most unusual way. From Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar to Winston Churchill to Barack Obama and Donald Trump, there is a unique energy that surrounds their being. Their force of power produces massive influences of energy; creating loyal follow-ship with advancing movements and accomplishments. 

 

Often, motivational speakers claim that we all have the energy within us to do whatever we set our minds to do. There is some truth to this statement, but anything that resides within us is ultimately mortal, fleshly and unsustainable. 

 

The great leaders of this world tap into a deeper power within themselves. They cultivate their inner power deeply but they tend to take action without considering the power and sovereignty of God.  

 

But God’s man has more. He has a deeper source of leadership energy that has power beyond this world.  

 

The man of God is different. God’s man does not depend upon a source of power within himself. His source is actually outside of himself. The man of God seeks wisdom from outside his own mortal being. Instead, he lives within the shelter of the Most High and abides in the shadow of the Almighty, (Psalms 91:1). 

 

The man of God who leads with grace and influence lives in a perpetual state of seeking.  

 

Consider Solomon! Solomon was in his early 20’s when he was anointed King of Israel while David was near death. Before David passed, he charged Solomon with the mantle of leadership and called him to walk with God in courage and diligence. David charges Solomon with this: 

 

Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. I Kings 2:2 

 

David is telling Solomon to grow up and be a man. But what does it mean to be a Man? When David tells Solomon to man up, what does he really mean? 

 

David continued with his charge to Solomon and defines what it means when he says:  

 

Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statues, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of

Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn … I Kings 2.3-4 

 

Allow me to break this down: 

  • Solomon was a young king with a massive responsibility. Most young men would melt under the intense pressure and responsibility. If you have never had a position of large-scale responsibilities encompassing thousands of dependent people upon your decision-making ability, you might not realize the internal grinder that turns within the heart and soul of such a leader. 
  • Yes, large-scale leaders usually have nice cars, expensive homes, private jets, etc. But for the many who attain such lofty positions with honor and integrity, they have churned and agonized over massively pressing decisions that affect thousands of people in varying manners and levels of impact. 
  • Large-scale leadership is not for the faint of heart. David tells Solomon it is time to grow up and be a man. David says man up my son
  • What does David mean when he says, man-up? Does he mean be strong, independent, self-reliant; relying on his own good judgement? NO! NOT AT ALL! 
  • David says lead by following. Lead by submitting. Lead by living in a perpetual state of seeking … seeking God, His Word and His wisdom. 

 

God’s man, who is called to large-scale leadership, must lead under the shelter of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty. 

 

God’s man who leads at scale begins his day on his knees. The balance of his day is standing! His movement is forward, whispering and listening to God, taking action with humble confidence in God, the source of his power and wisdom.  

 

As he moves forward throughout the day, he stops to listen to those around him, whether pauper or prince, knowing that God could use any voice to speak further clarity into his heart and mind. He considers the data provided to him, he reads the faces of those in his presence, he scans the scene for enemies inside and out, he listens to trusted advisors, he taps into the principles of wisdom he has studied and memorized from the sacred text —all this while taking action. Often, massive action.

Solomon was such a leader. More next time. 

 

Father, whether we lead or follow in this world, may we first and foremost be followers of You in all areas of our lives. May we live in a perpetual state of seeking Your Word, Your wisdom and Your will. Lead us on the path of righteousness, for Your glory! Amen!

 


Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership

Solomon: Courage, Wisdom and Leadership


Fathers and Sons

The Father: David 

 

David was a fighter and a lover. He felt deeply. His emotions were exposed to all.  

 

When David arose in the morning, the day would certainly bring circumstances that would trigger his emotions; deeply. Whether his volatility was engaged by rage, by lust, by tenderness or by humility, he was always apt to engage deeply. 

 

May God do so to my enemies, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him. I Samuel 25:22. David was enraged by the disrespect of Nabal and stormed off to kill the entire household. 

 

And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might … Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord … 2 Samuel 6:14-23 

 

(David) saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance … you know the rest of the story.  

 

Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 2 Samuel 11:1-12:15 

 

Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart throbs, my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. Psalms 38:9-10  

 

My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. Psalms 55:4-5 

 

  • David would be the type to throw his golf club. 
  • David would be the type to curse out another driver who cut him off. 
  • David would be the type to march on the front line of a protest with the biggest sign and the loudest chant.  
  • David was the type to over-indulge in wine and laugh and sing until dawn.  

 

David was a fierce fighter and passionate lover all wrapped up in one mysterious enigma. 

 

His emotions seemed to rule his behavior. In most cases, we consider such behavior as ‘unspiritual’ and certainly ‘undisciplined’. At least I personally tend to judge so. My stoic and steady personality scratches my head when I read about the volatility of David. If you were a fly on the wall in my home office, you might hear me whisper, ‘God, you want me to be more like David? Out of all the men in the Bible, You call him out as a special man whose heart is fully Yours? I don’t get it Lord’ 

 

Above and beyond all the emotions and volatility, David was a lover of God and he was much loved by his God. 

 

The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him

as ruler over His people … I Samuel 13:14 

 

I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after His own heart, who will do all my will. Acts

13:22 

 

As I have scratched my head over the years about the volatility of David and the seeming incongruence of his actions and his heart for God, I have come to a conclusion. David’s special-ness before God as a man after his own heart, isn’t because David was sinless and always did the ‘right’ thing. David’s defining characteristic before God was his heart; especially his heart of repentance.

 

David didn’t harbor his sin; he didn’t make excuses; he didn’t justify his mistakes. He owned them. He owned them with deep remorse, humility and repentance. His heart, his tender heart, was the part about him that God loved so much.  

 

The Son: Solomon 

 

Solomon shared His father’s love for God. But not completely.

 

Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statues of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. I Kings 3:3 

 

Solomon was different in many ways. More on Solomon next time. 

 

Father, search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Reveal to me any offensive impulse within me and lead me in your everlasting way. Amen!

 


Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 6

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 6


Mercy AND Grace

Has someone ever asked your forgiveness and you just didn’t feel like forgiving them? Awkward! 

 

Can you think of a time when you ran into someone in a public place that you hadn’t seen in a long time? Sometimes you embrace them and other times, because of the nature of your past relationship, you want to avoid them. 

 

Philemon woke up one morning expecting another typical day. However, the events of the day were anything but ordinary. Onesimus, the man who stole from him and betrayed him was sitting in front of him. What should he do? 

 

For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 

 

If then you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me. But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well), Philemon 15-19. 

 

Mercy: To withhold punishment that is deserved! 

 

Grace: To give gifts that aren’t deserved! 

 

Onesimus is sitting before Philemon asking for forgiveness. What would he do? 

 

Perhaps Philemon’s mind went back to a parable that Jesus taught. We know it as the parable of the Prodigal son. Once the prodigal had squandered a sizable portion of his father’s wealth, he realized that he was destitute and starving. He goes back to his father hoping for simple forgiveness and the chance to work off some of his massive debt as a hired hand. The son realized that this act of forgiveness by the father would exhibit a tremendous effort of mercy toward the foolish and rebellious son.  

 

As the prodigal approached his father’s home, from a distance the father saw him and ran to him. He smothered his son and kissed him repeatedly. The son tried to give the speech he had rehearsed but was only able to get out, I have sinned and am not worthy to be your son. 

 

Before the son could spit out his proposal of being a hired hand, the father shouted to his servants, quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  

 

This is the nature of God’s forgiveness

 

With simple repentance, God forgives the past, forgives in the present, forgives what is coming. He forgives with reckless abandon. But he didn’t just stop at mercy and forgiveness. He added a huge amount of grace. He not only forgives but restores and rewards as well.  

 

Mercy: To withhold punishment that is deserved! 

 

Grace: To give gifts that aren’t deserved! 

 

What the father did really makes no sense. I’m sure that the father’s neighbors, friends, his servants and everyone else thought he was crazy. The other son only said what the others were thinking. But to the second son, it was personal. Why should his brother get all this attention when he deserves to be kicked out for good? It wasn’t fair. The second son believed people should receive what they deserve. Justice should be rendered. The level of sin and betrayal should always be paid back accordingly. 

 

Not only was the second son bewildered at his father’s action but he was very bitter as well. Why should his father forgive his good-for-nothing brother? 

 

We all appreciate being forgiven but we don’t always like it when others are forgiven and able to skirt their just due. But the nature of God is to forgive, restore and reward. So, it makes sense for Paul to close out this letter to Philemon by saying, having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say, verse 21.  

 

Will Philemon be like Jesus and forgive, restore and even reward Onesimus?  

 

Lord, you have given us a gift; the capacity to forgive. It’s a gift in that it allows us to be free of revenge, resentment and bitterness; emotions that cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Help us to embrace this gift you’ve given and be free to forgive. Amen!

 


Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 5

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 5


Stories of Providence

We usually don’t realize we are living in a moment of divine providence … until we look back. 

 

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel. Verses 8-13 

 

We usually don’t realize we are living in a moment of divine providence … until we look back. 

 

In 1962, when I was about three years old, my family lived in Spokane, Washington. One evening, in God’s providence, a fiery Baptist preacher knocked on our door. In 1962, in the age of the fuller-brush man and door-to-door salesmen, it wasn’t unusual for such a thing to happen. My parents welcomed him into our living room, even though they were completely unchurched with no spiritual background whatsoever.  

 

The Pastor shared the gospel with them and they both received Christ that evening. From that day forward, my parents were all in. We attended every service; Sunday school, morning and evening Sunday services, plus Wednesday night service as well. Also, we never missed a potluck or special gathering that took place within the church. I often thank God for the bold and fiery Baptist preacher who knocked on our door and by God’s grace, changed our lives forever. 

 

Providence or Happenstance?  

 

This is a story of God’s providence. In simple terms, God’s providence is the holy, wise and powerful acts of God to orchestrate all details and circumstances to bring about His purposes. The puritan, Thomas Watson, defines it this way: Providence is God’s ordering of all issues and events of things, after the counsel of His will, to His own glory. His glory is the ultimate end of all his actings, and the center where all the lines of providence meet. 

 

Philemon and his family were saved by the providence of God and it seems they were the kind to go all in as well. As best as I can patch together the events, here’s the story: while Paul was in the city of Ephesus, (about 100 miles from the home of Philemon, Colosse), Epaphras was visiting Ephesus and was saved through the preaching of Paul. Epaphras thrived and developed under the teaching ministry of Paul. After some time, Epaphras then returned to Colosse, which was probably his home.  

 

Once Epaphras returned to his hometown, Colosse, he began preaching the gospel and ultimately started the church there. See Colossians 1:7,8. Philemon, his wife Apphia and son Archippus most likely became Christians through Epaphras’ ministry. It appears the church later began to meet in Philemon’s house and Philemon rose to be one of its leaders. 

 

In the midst of God’s providence, Philemon was saved through the ministry of Paul even though they most likely never met face-to-face. The bond between Paul and Philemon, it seems, was built upon the common bond they both had with Epaphras, who communicated back to Paul about the faithfulness of Philemon and the other members of the church. See Colossians 1:4,8,9. 

 

Through all of this, Philemon had a slave, named Onesimus. Slaves were a huge population in the Roman Empire and a lynchpin of society and the economic system of Rome. I’ve written in previous posts about slavery and my understanding of the apostle’s view of slavery.  

 

Nevertheless, even though slaves in Rome could buy and sell goods, get married and usually had room and board in good conditions, it was still a system where people were considered the property of another person. Such was the case of Onesimus and he wanted his freedom. It seems Onesimus didn’t understand or appreciate Philemon’s newfound faith in Christ. 

 

The slave, Onesimus, apparently stole some money and/or property from Philemon and ran away. He headed to Rome to hide on the streets among the masses. Somehow, in God’s providence, Onesimus encountered Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome. (Perhaps, Philemon was praying for the soul of Onesimus). This is a “small world” encounter from an earthly perspective but a clear act of providence from heaven’s perspective. 

 

Perhaps Onesimus found a job serving food or housekeeping for prisoners under house arrest and came into Paul’s proximity daily. As was Paul’s custom, he engaged with Onesimus and shared Christ with him. Onesimus became a Christian and the spiritual father-son bond between the two began to grow and develop. They became close as Paul discipled and taught him God’s Word and Onesimus began to serve Paul and become useful and refreshing to him in his imprisonment.  

 

Transformed 

 

In the conversations between Paul and Onesimus, I wonder when the awareness of their mutual knowledge of Philemon happened?  

When the faith of Onesimus had grown strong, Paul advised him to go back to Philemon, submit to him as his slave and make things right. This was an ominous decision for Onesimus. Legally, masters had the right to inflict serious consequences for runaway slaves. He was not only a run-away but also a thief. Most likely, since Onesimus lived in Philemon’s home, there was probably a certain closeness and personal trust that had been broken, and it left a huge hole of betrayal in Philemon’s heart.  

 

Onesimus, by the grace of God and under the discipleship of Paul, was a completely transformed man. He was now ready to do the right thing and make amends. 

 

Paul wrote this personal letter to Philemon and had it delivered by Tychicus, along with the epistle to the Colossians. Onesimus traveled along with Tychicus to deliver the letters. Philemon was no doubt thrilled to see his spiritual brother Tychicus, excited to read the letters from Paul but utterly shocked to see Onesimus. Like all challenging and difficult situations, Philemon had the opportunity to face this unexpected scenario and respond with either grace and kindness or respond with defiance. Would Philemon respond in submission to God and forgive or would he cling to bitterness and exercise his rights? 

 

Let’s get personal 

 

We all know what Philemon should do. But then again, this is a story about someone else. We are discussing it as a third-party reader of the story. It’s easy for us to see what others should do. The real question is how are we going to respond today to others who have wronged us? What are we going to do about the unforgiveness and revenge that we have in our hearts today over past offenses, big and small? Forgiving is hard, especially when the offense is very personal. To forgive is not natural. But just like Philemon, Christ now indwells us and one of the many blessings He gives us is a new capacity to forgive. To forgive as He has forgiven us.  

 

God, deal with our hearts today. You forgave us so much. Help us be like you and forgive as well. Amen. 

 


Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 4

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 4


Let’s find the good!

Where do we find the capacity to forgive? 

 

This is an intense but brief personal letter from Paul while in prison in Rome. Philemon is a dear friend who was led to Christ under Paul’s ministry many years earlier. Paul is going to ask, not command, Philemon to forgive and restore Onesimus, who had previously worked closely with him and who had betrayed him.

 

It seems Philemon became a Christian while Onesimus was his slave. When Christ entered Philemon’s heart, everything changed. Philemon saw the world and all of life in a new way. Among many changes, Philemon’s view of all his relationships changed. Philemon had a new and strange love and affection for all the people in his life. One of those individuals was his slave, Onesimus. He previously viewed him as only a tool and asset for his business. After all, he was a slave. But now, he sees him in a different light. The Light of Jesus has changed Philemon and the way he views Onesimus. 

 

As Philemon grows in his knowledge and love for Christ, he begins to pray for Onesimus and even share the gospel of Christ with him. Onesimus witnesses the changes in his owner and the new and different way that he was being treated.  He considers it strange. Onesimus is baffled by this change and rather than embrace it, he rebelled against Philemon (and against Christ) and ran. He not only escaped but he also stole from Philemon. 

 

The betrayal of someone that you have prayed for is a deep pain.  

 

The memory and pain of Onesimus’ escape has faded some as the letter from Paul arrives. Philemon, along with the church in his home, listens as the letter from Paul is read. Paul starts out with a personal greeting; 

 

I thank God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love…, verses 4-7.  

 

Philemon is a growing disciple of Christ. He is the real deal. Paul loves him and he loves Paul. There is a father/son bond and a comrade in arms union between these two followers of Christ based on their common love for Jesus and for Christians in Colossae. 

 

In this greeting, Paul reminds, encourages and confirms in Philemon that he is indeed a fully transformed man, for Christ’s sake. The apex of Paul’s encouragement is in this phrase: I pray…your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Chris’s sake. Every good thing in you! As a Christian, we now have much good within us. Not absolute good, which only comes in heaven. But good, nevertheless.  

 

Contrast this to our former state before Christ outlined in Romans 3:10-12, There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Such was Philemon, and such were we…before the miraculous, transforming grace and salvation of Jesus in our lives.  

 

There is now good within you Philemon. We are not thoroughly good for we carry a body of flesh. But Paul said I pray that you would be aware and have the knowledge of the good that is in you for Christ’s sake. This is not the message that there is good in all mankind. The Romans 3 passage above clearly states otherwise. Only in salvation, when Jesus imparts to us grace upon grace and gift upon gift that He changes us from the inside, is there good within us.  

 

There is power, love, grace and forgiveness within us now and we should know it, realize it and understand it. And when we do, we begin to live in Christ’s power and humility and become effective in ministering to others, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!  

 

Betrayal and forgiveness 

 

As a salesperson at heart and a student of the art of persuasion, I can see that Paul is setting him up for a big request. Paul is going to make a request that tests him to the limit. That is to FORGIVE a person who betrayed him. Paul is going to ask him to tap into one of the good things now that is within him: to forgive as Christ has forgiven. May God teach us to do the same.  

 

Lord, You have given Your Spirit to live inside of us and therefore, the power of Your love, grace and forgiveness is also inside of us. May we live out our new nature, the nature of Christ, and show forth Your work within us, so that You will be honored and praised for the good works that we do. What a joy to have you dwell richly within our hearts.

Amen!