What do You Think About All Day Long?


One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate on His temple. 

~Psalm 27:4
If the city’s most proficient cardiac surgeon performed a surgical incision on your heart, what would he observe? What are the contents of your inner man? What is the vision your heart is constantly imagining? What is the goal that your heart is pursuing? What is the beauty that your heart is desiring?

It is a core anthropological principle that a man’s heart yearns for the beautiful. That you who read, be you a male or female, yearn for the beautiful is then no secret. And it is an equally inescapable reality that you as a human being yearn for a beauty that you have yet to see. Ecclesiastes exposes you in biblical wisdom: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing” says verse 1:9; “What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires,” states verse 5:9. You yearn, yet you are not satisfied. Yes, that is you who are reading this. Day in, day out, you’re dreaming and imagining – thinking about something, and thinking about it constantly. 

But the question is: What is it that you think about all day long? Or, better asked, Who is it that you think about all day long? Who or what is that one thing you desire, that one thing you’re after that occupies even your soul’s tightest crevices? The inquiry can’t be ignored, because the yearning of your heart is the resulting current of the object of your worship. It’s why Psalm 27:4 is a psalm. It’s a key gem in the believer’s expression of the worship of the one true God. This particular verse puts a microphone to the God worshipper’s heart and transcribes the words on the pages of Scripture. So don’t just read the words below. Listen to them:

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate on His temple.”

Are you, as is this psalmist, a simple man defined by a singular passion? Is the prospect at gazing at His beauty your all-consuming ambition? Does the desire to dwell in His eternal presence to behold His un-surpassing glory stir your soul to live the way you do? The integrity and quality of your worship is proven by such. The worshipper of God yearns not just for God’s provision or protection, but for God Himself. He desires God’s beauty more than His blessings. God is the singular focus of his heart’s compass. In other words, the true worshipper of God thinks about God all day long. 

If the Lord Jesus Christ then returned at this very moment and surgically expose the contents of your heart, what is it that He would find? I’ll tell you what He will find. He will find what He has already been observing: that which you have been thinking about all day long. 

The Wisdom in Studying Animals

Sheep pictureSometimes, wisdom for the afflicted saints is to go to the zoo.

How’s that for some reformed biblical counsel.

And I’m not joking, just in case you’re wondering. Sometimes, the best counsel for those struggling to endure some severe trials really is to take some time to learn about animals.

You won’t find from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ recommended resources list, I guarantee. But I assure you that my thesis above is consistent with biblical wisdom, because I discovered it from a wisdom book of the Bible. Specifically, I unearthed it from the book of Job. Specifically, from Job 38:9-39:30.

Job, lest you didn’t notice, is world history’s only saint for whose afflictions the Holy Spirit dedicated an entire book of Scripture. Yes, all forty-two chapters of it. The persecution Job experience was the result of a conversation of cosmic proportions, as God Himself nominated Job as the candidate whose conduct would disprove Satan’s blasphemous claim that even the most righteous and God-fearing of men would curse God under the pressure of severe suffering. For over thirty chapters, Job wrestles – dialoguing with his friends, vindicating himself, and interrogating God. He fluctuates between trusting God and attempting to prosecute God. Finally, in the thirty-eighth chapter, out of the whirlwind of foolish counsel from well-meaning but ignorant friends, God speaks. Finally, an answer from heaven. Finally, an explanation for the chaos. Finally, the prospect of an insight into the angelic realm and the hidden counsel of the Almighty.

But God doesn’t tell Job about the cosmic conversation. God never revealed to Job how his suffering would spit in the face of Satan’s claim and demonstrate before all of the heavenly hosts that genuine worship of God can persevere through the most grieving of circumstances. He never explained to Job that his life would serve as an example of faith to encourage the church amidst her later persecution (James 5:11-14).

Instead, in the lengthiest interrogation ever recorded from the Almighty to finite man, God says…

“Can you hunt prey for the lion…” (38:39-40)

“Who prepares for the raven its nourishment…(39:41)

“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?” (39:1a)

“Do you observe the calving of the deer…” (39:1b-4)

“Who sent out the wild donkey free…” (39:5-8)

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you…” (39:9-12)

“The ostriches’ wings flap joyously…” (39:13-18)

“Do you give the horse his might…” (39:19-25)

“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars…” (39:26)

“Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up…” (39:27-30)

Lion. Raven. Mountain Goat. Deer. Donkey. Ox. Ostrich. Horse. Hawk. Eagle – not exactly the ten-point outline that your average ACBC counselor would use to help a man who had lost his possessions, children, and health, and whose wife just told him to curse God and die. But yes, in one of the greatest divine bequeathing of wisdom from Creator to creation, God tells Job to consider the animals.

Job’s response after all of that and more? “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:1-6). Needless to say, God knew what He was doing, and Job got the point.

So what was God’s point? Why consider the animals as a Christian during trying times? First, it gives you further insight into God’s glorious and unmatched creative power. But more poignantly, it parks you to the realization that there is so much that is happening in the universe that has absolutely nothing to do with you.

It’s an atomic bomb to the world of the myopic. The cheetah’s ability to sprint at 60 mph, the orca’s ability to learn new hunting tactics, the eagle’s ability to soar for 4000 miles without stopping for food, the mongoose’s ability to outmaneuver and kill a cobra, are all works of the Almighty that exist in their magnificence apart from anything that has to do with you or me. As a Christian, that you matter does not equate to being the center. Those who are suffering would be wise to humbly remember that there is still much in this world that God is doing that has little or no relevance to their problems. And that isn’t to diminish their pains, but simply to de-centralize them. Studying animals, their behavior, and their amazing abilities from a biblical perspectives ultimately serves to remind you and me that we are single leaves in a massive forest – that all things exist for the glory of the God who is remains absolutely sovereign over all of the universe’s affairs as its sole Creator and Sustainer.

How’s that for some reformed biblical counsel.

A Letter to Recent High School Graduates


To each and every student I had the privilege of serving as a youth pastor, high school teacher, tutor, or physical trainer

I remember the evening of my high school graduation with photographic clarity. From the blue button-down dress shirt I wore to the ceremony to the blue skater shoes I wore to the grad party; from singing that duet with my sister (cheesy, I know, but we made several moms cry) to receiving my diploma while my SAT scores were announced to the audience (I know, seriously!); from the picture I took with my 6’7-tall friend before the ceremony to the flurry of ones I took with family, friends, and teachers afterwards; from the book I received from my uncle to our family’s celebratory dinner at Asia Buffett…I remember almost all of it. Even the congratulatory phone call I received from my younger cousin who couldn’t be there is etched in my memory (mainly because I remember thinking, “Whoa, his voice finally cracked!”).

I remember exhibiting a dual sentiment of relief and excitement. Relief, that high school was over. Excitement, that college was ahead. I was forward-thinking, rather idealistically focused on the horizon: I would go to college, work hard, get good grades, earn a biology degree, and jump right into my career field of choice – research zoology – with no close-t0-no viscosity. While doing so, I would engage in sports (possibly join the tennis team), become part of a life-long social circle, go to parties, learn to surf and play the guitar, have beach days and bonfires, and find a cute girlfriend. Living for the glory of God wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. To be honest, it wasn’t in the attic of my mind, either. I was consumed with my ambitions and dreams, and no one would get in my way. At least, that’s what I thought.  

I was 19 then. I’m 32 now. As a type, my two kids are watching “Sprout” on the other end of the living room, while my wonderful wife of almost seven years is fixing up a spaghetti dinner in the kitchen adjacent. We’re currently on a one-week vacation about two hours away from Silicon Valley, where we currently reside. My high school diploma sits on display in my mom’s home office…right next to my college diploma. For the record, not everything has changed since my high school graduation. I somehow maintained the same basic physique, and still sport the classic sunglasses/flip-flops combo (though I did get rid of the earring and backwards baseball cap). I still own the cross-court forehand that I did back when I played on my high school tennis team. If anything, I’m a better athlete now than I was then, especially after picking up distance running during my last year of college. So no, the stage of the being a gray-haired sage hasn’t arrived just yet.  

But I’m no longer in my youth. Those crucial, formative years have passed. My time as a UC San Diego college student was over in a mere three years. The freshman year roommate I was paired with by the Revelle dorm administration – he’s got a wife and two kids of his own, and he and I are still good friends. In fact, there are a handful of folks who I met during my first two years of college with whom I remain in touch. But as for my main social circles during those years – frankly, I’m not a part of anymore. In fact, I haven’t had any contact with ninety-five percent of those old friends in years, aside from the occasional birthday greeting (thank you, Facebook!). I’m presently integrated into new relational network, which is how life works sometimes. As for my career? I do indeed work in Silicon Valley, but not at a university or research institute like many of my old friends and teachers expected. I work at a local church – Grace Bible Fellowship, to be exact. Yes, I’m in pastoral ministry, and have been so for the last decade. It’s as satisfying as it is strenuous; I’m currently pursuing a doctorate for further training. A bit of a far cry from research zoology, I’d say.

What I’m saying is: you don’t know what the days of your youth will be like. And they’ll be over before you know it.  

Those eleven years between the year of my high school graduation and my 30th birthday were as fleeting as they were formative. And I say this with no regrets, for life as I know it is good – better than I ever thought it would be. Without question, I’ve made my share of mistakes. I could talk for hours and hours about all of the stupid things that I did, all of the unwise decisions I made, and all of the character flaws characteristic of me during those years. But regrets? None. I’d be full of them, had God Himself not intervened. But He took a hold of my heart before that first day of college and never let go – He saved me, I repented of my sinful walk, and devoted my life to my Savior, including all the days of my young manhood. I can with integrity that I gave the years of my youth to Him and to Him alone. Thus, the present life to which my youth catapulted me – and all that it consists of – is the life that the Creator Himself constructed. I thank Him everyday for it.

I hope the same for will be true for you. I’ve had the unique and undeserved privilege of investing my labor in many of your lives – as a youth pastor, high school teacher, tutor, physical trainer, or all of the above. I’ve watched some of you become the sharpest of scholars – scoring 5’s on your AP’s and rightly receiving scholarships from big-name universities. I’ve watched others of you become exceptional athletes – now recruited by colleges because of how fast you run, how well you tackle, and how squarely you hit a baseball. I’ve watched yet others of you become exemplary individuals – mature beyond your years and true servants to those around you. I’m proud of what you’ve all accomplished, and excited about where you seem to be headed. At the same time, there’s a sense of sobriety that I have, knowing that where you’ll be ten years from now has already been appointed, and you aren’t in control of how it will all turn out (though you are responsible for your own choices). So it’s my desire to entrust you with a charge from the wisdom of the Bible – an two-fold exhortation from Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8, preached from a sage to the youth of his day.  

First, rejoice in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Believe it or not, your enjoyment of life is up to you. Whether you smile or stomp over your college major, your future job (or jobs), the food you’ll eat, the car you’ll drive, the clothes you’ll wear, the roommates you’ll live with, and the social circle you’ll be a part of, is a choice that God has given you. Work with all your might, but don’t give into the pressure of achievement. Aim high, but don’t give into the philosophy of entitlement. Most of all, remember that complaining life is wholly unproductive. The truth is, the Creator didn’t make a mistake with you, your existence, or your circumstances. So laugh a lot, smile a lot, stretch out your arms when you wake up in the morning. There’s no better time to do so. Rejoice, young man, in the days of your youth.  

Second, remember your Creator in your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Life life to the fullest, but do so in full acknowledgement and respect of the One who gave it to you and can also take it away from you. As much as you may have achieved, forget not that you’re still creation. What becomes of you is, well, not ultimately up to you. There is indeed a sovereign one above the sun who orchestrates everything that happens under the sun. The lie of the world is that dedicating your youth to the Lord will come at the price of true enjoyment of it. Remember that there’s going to come a time when your body won’t be as strong, your mind won’t be as sharp or as flexible. Living vigorously for the Lord won’t be as easy as it used to be. So while you’re strong, sharp, and flexible, live entirely for the Creator – the God to whom you will answer for all that you’ve done, and who will bring every act of yours into judgment. Practical atheism is utter foolishness, for it seeks to ignore a truth embedded into every human soul. God is there – watching you, guiding you, evaluating you wherever you go and whatever you do. And He calls you into a true, genuine, living relationship with Him through Jesus Christ – who lived the perfect life that you couldn’t live, died the horrific death that you should have died, and offers eternal life that you don’t deserve to everyone who believes in Him. Give your life not to the indulgence of creation, but to an intimate relationship with the Creator. Only then will you truly live your life without regrets.

Congratulations to you all on your graduation!

He Will Always Be Worshipped

Reflections from the book of 2 Chronicles

“For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”

~2 Chronicles 7:16

Time and time again, sin threatens to eradicate the presence of pure worship from God’s people.  Time and time again, God preserves worship.

This is the story of God’s people, whom He created and set apart to worship Him.  Man fell into rebellion, and he wiped mankind from the face of the earth (remember the great flood?), but preserved a remnant of worshippers in Noah and his family.  In the face of demoralization of mankind, God preserved worship.

After the flood, man scattered over the face of the earth.  People groups were formed, and nations developed.  These nations instituted religions – pagan religions, in which false gods were worshipped while the true God wasn’t.  Except for one nation – the nation of Israel.  God grew, delivered, and consecrated Israel to himself.  In the midst of a pagan planet, God preserved worship.

Israel would develop into a wealthy nation, and one of its kings would build a temple for God – the center of worship in which God’s glory would dwell.  Time and time again, sinful people would desecrate His house.  Yet, time and time again, His house would be reformed by a righteous king.  It looked as if formal, public, and corporate worship of the true God had been eradicated when Babylon conquered Judah and burned down the temple.  But just seventy years after Judah’s captivity, Persia took over.  And God stirred the heart of the Persian king to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and – lo and behold – rebuild the temple where they could worship God again.  In the midst of the destruction of His house and captivity of His people, God preserved worship.  This story of the house of God – its construction, reformation, and ultimate preservation – is the story of 2 Chronicles. 

It’s an important story – never to be ignored by the believer and non-believer alike – because it screams to all of humanity that God is serious about being worshipped by His people – individually and corporately, privately as well as formally.  It is worship that He seeks from His people – worship marked by purity and integrity.  Whenever the integrity of such worship amongst His people is compromised and attacked, God steps in.  he implements discipline, executes judgment, raises up reformers, and restores His rightful place amongst His people.  This was true during the history of Judah as a faithful priest recounts in 2 Chronicles.  Over five hundred years after its rebuilding, the temple would be once again cleansed and reformed – by Jesus Christ Himself, who Himself would become the fulfillment of the temple and the center of all worship for God’s people.  The reformation of worship continued to hold true in church history. 

Today, the integrity of corporate worship continues to be attacked, defiled, and compromised.  Not much has changed from 2 Chronicles.  Idolatry and worldliness continue to invade and infect the lives of God’s people.  Yet, time and time again, God raises up leaders and pastors who confront such idolatry, restore worship to its intended form, and exalt God in His proper place.  Time and time again, God makes it clear that – regardless of what is going on in the world and in the church – He will see to it that He is always worshipped at some place in the globe. 

Such is the hope for every believer who truly has a heart for the Lord, His glory, and His exaltation.  Should you be the man who earnestly prays, “Hallowed by Thy Name!,” take hope.  From man’s perspective, pure Christian worship seems to be under constant threat from both the outside and inside.  The world is increasingly hostile to God, to His character, and to the truthful preaching of His Word…and the church seems to be caving in and compromising.  Pure worship of God as He intends seems to be under the gun, and it’s easy to wonder whether such purity will dissipate with the passing of generations.  But the truth is that the sovereign God cares too much about His exaltation to let it dissipate.  In the midst of a culture that seems to prioritize integration over integrity, God will be worshipped.  For every defilement, there will always be a reform.  For every false teacher that misleads, He will bring about a leader who shepherds His people.  For as long as the sun continues to rise and set, God will always be worshipped.  And even after the sun is no longer in existence, He will still be worshipped.  His name can never be forgotten, and can never be eradicated.  His people may be persecuted, but He will always be exalted and praised by His people.  The orchestra that sings true praise to Him will never cease playing, from one generation to the next.

May the worship of God never cease from His people, and may it never cease from the heart of he who reads this.   

Persistent to Save

Reflections from the book of 1 Chronicles

“He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.”

~1 Chronicles 17:12

Humans have a tendency to want to prove themselves worthy of what they’ve been given. It’s easy to confuse the command to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel with feeling worthy of the salvation that’s been graced to you. It’s easy for a believer to mistakenly place his hope and security in his own faithfulness, thinking that God’s faithfulness to him hinges on the degree of his faithfulness to God. I remember clearly struggling with this at different points of my walk with the Lord, but particularly when I first went into the pastorate and became a parent. I’d often find myself paralyzed from believing that God’s practical blessings toward me were dependent on my level of holiness. It reached the point where I would continually find myself in a state of panic (not just grief) when I’d fall into sin, struggling against thoughts that God may withhold His blessings from me until I found a way to prove myself worthy.

To my pleasant surprise, God’s blessings continued – and have continued – to increase in their abundance. I admit that I’m still caught by surprise at times, at the seriousness that God has in blessing me beyond what I could even ask or think. This is largely because the rate at which His blessings flow upon my life, family, and ministry is vastly greater than the rate at which I perceive myself to be growing in holiness. And so the realization dawned that God’s blessing me is indeed dependent on something else – something outside my ability to prove myself faithful and worthy. His commitment to bless me stems from His decision to save me. And His decision to save me was conditioned not upon my own faithfulness, but on a covenant promise that He made close to three thousand years ago to which He swore Himself.

This was the same message God intended to communicate to His people, Israel, after they had returned to Jerusalem from that painful fall and Babylonian exile – an exile that resulted as a punishment from God to His people for their disobedience. How insecure, then, Israel must have felt with regards to any kind of future hope and salvation. And so the Holy Spirit inspired scribes to author Chronicles – to create a record that traced the genealogy of the post-exilic people, a record that showed that David’s lineage had been preserved and that the hope of the Messiah coming was indeed alive. And he inspired those same scribes to reveal why the Messianic lineage had been preserved – namely, because God promised David unconditionally that He would through what we know today as the Davidic covenant.

The perseverance of the Davidic lineage through both the exile and return from the exile displays the unwavering and unchanging faithfulness of God to fulfill His promise to save His people. He promised to bring forth the eternal King from David’s line, because of His desire to redeem His elect. Israel’s sin couldn’t stop this. Babylon’s siege couldn’t prevent this. To the Jews in exile wading in hopelessness, Chronicles sent this message loud and clear: “Your sinfulness and your circumstances won’t turn God from His faithfulness to bring forth the Savior of the world and of you.”

The lesson from 1 Chronicles is clear. God was unflappable about His plan to save you and me. We stand redeemed today and secure in His blessings not because we proved ourselves worthy, but because the Lord purposes and promises. The genealogical history of Israel came about as no arbitrary act, but as the orchestrated work of God Himself to bring forth Jesus Christ. That you and I are saved came about not because we begged God when He was planning to destroy us. Our salvation came about because God had planned it long before we even existed, and there’s a nation’s record to prove it. Security in our salvation and the blessings that come with it ultimately rest on His faithfulness, and not on ours. We have salvation because He was persistent to save.

Consider this, the next time you’re tempted to prove yourself worthy.

Intoxication of Idolatry

Reflections from the book of 2 Kings

They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”

~2 Kings 17:12

So what exactly is the greatest threat to the welfare of God’s people? 

Is it religious persecution?  Is it financial poverty?  Is it the danger from natural disasters?  Is it the presence of terrorists?  Is it Satan?  What exactly is it that God’s people are told guard themselves against?  What exactly is it that has overhauled God’s people in the past that has led to tragic consequences? 

There’s no question that all of the above are things from which God’s people are to keep watch against.  But the greatest threat to the welfare of God’s people, paradoxically, is something that comes from none other than God Himself.  The greatest threat to the welfare of God’s anger.  It is an anger that leads to a judgment – a judgment that cannot be resisted or escaped.  And it is an anger that is provoked when God’s people engage in idolatry. 

It’s no wonder that John’s final charge in his first epistle is, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  Without a doubt, John was familiar with the Old Testament.  Without a doubt, John was aware of Israel’s history.  And without a doubt, John knew the kind of idolatry that God’s people had engaged in, which led to their moral decline as kingdoms and their eventual fall – all recorded in 2 Kings. 

Israel (the northern kingdom) was filled with kings who walked in the sins of Jeroboam, and blatantly led their nation to idolatry.  Judah (the southern kingdom), may have had more righteous kings, but all but two of them failed to remove the places in which idolatry was practiced – leaving room for the kingdom to later engage in it again.  Time and time again, God was provoked.  Eventually, God would withhold His judgment no longer.  Israel would fall to Assyria; Judah, to Babylon.  And no, it wasn’t because their conquering nations were so powerful (God would later indict those nations for arrogance and judge them because of it).  They fell because God gave them over to those nations.  He gave them over because they angered Him.  They angered Him because they replaced worshipping Him with worshipping idols. 

Implication: If Israel had successfully guarded herself against idolatry, she would have not been conquered.  God, in fact, promised that in the Mosaic covenant way back when.  Instead, she worried more about her financial prosperity and national alliances than worshipping God purely from the heart.  She compromised the purity of her worship to gain other things.  The result was nothing short of calamitous.    

Again, it’s all recorded in 2 Kings.  And such a book was written so that we, God’s people today, might learn from Israel’s mistakes and do otherwise.  2 Kings was written, so that we may know the consequences of idolatry and instead offer up pure, unadulterated worship to God.  Idolatry, after all, constantly lurks around the corner.  From these, we must constantly be on guard.  Israel failed and fell.  As Christians today, sealed and indwell and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to fail and don’t have to fall.

Yet, many Christians today fail and fall because they neglected the call to guard against idolatry.  Perhaps it’s because idolatry today takes on different forms.  No, we don’t often run into cultic poles, Baal statues, and molten images of calves.  And so we think that we’ve secured ourselves from idolatrous influences.  And yet, we’re enslaved to television.  We’re enslaved to technology and upgrades.  We’re enslaved to food.  We’re enslaved to money.  We’re enslaved to material wealth.  We’re enslaved to prestige.  We’re enslaved to academic success.  We’re enslaved to power and prestige.  We’re enslaved to family honor.  We’re enslaved to career development.  We’re enslaved to sexual satisfaction.  Take a closer look, my friend.  Take a look, at how so many so-called “Christians” have compromised total obedience to God’s Word for an alternate gain.  So many Americans are enslaved to someone or something other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  We’ve been lured into idolatry without even knowing it.  That’s scary.  Scary, because it’s a subtly snatching.  Scary, because of the way it provokes God to anger. 

Nothing provokes God’s anger – that holy wrath that is impossible to withstand or escape – the way idolatry does when practiced by His people.  Poor grades don’t provoke God.  Having a low income doesn’t provoke Him.  But living for and being controlled by someone or something other than Him surely provokes Him .  Idolatry provokes God to anger so greatly, because those Christians who practice such are engaging in the very thing from which they were saved in the first place (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  Christ didn’t come to eradicate poverty.  Nor did He come to find scholar athletes or to secure anyone a college education or a career.  Christ came to save God’s elect with His own blood and transform them into worshippers of God who worship Him in spirit and truth.  To purify such a people for His own possession cost the Son of God His life, and that He paid.  And, lest I forget to mention, He has no intention of sharing with anyone.  The worship that He deserves, He will not share with another. 

Let not the man of God dare engage in the worship of other gods.  Let not those who follow Christ do so with anything less than a whole heart.  Let not the one who calls Himself a worshipper of God provoke Him to anger, and place himself in the presence of the greatest threat to his welfare.

Not All There

Reflections on the book of 1 Kings

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been

~1 Kings 11:4

I was once told, “It’s ok to be religious (speaking about Christianity), as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your desire to succeed and make money.”

I’ve yet to forget it, because it remains one of the most rotten slices of the pie of worldly counsel that I’ve ever been served. 

I was thirteen years old at the time I heard that.  I hated what I heard, but I’ve also seen it lived out around me over the past two decades.  Modern-day Western Christianity is a brand of faith that can be distinctly marked by unwholesome devotion.  I’ve come to find that, for the most part, our faith isn’t all that admired by fellow believers in different countries.  We’ve become experts on compartmentalization.  We’re experts on being Sunday-morning Christians – giving our dues to Christ on the Lord’s Day and treating the rest of the week as it it didn’t belong to the Lord.  To live wholly for the Lord – to seek His Word and will in every facet of life – almost seems unbalanced and freakish to the typical American Christian.  That’s why terms like “hard-core Christian,” “Jesus freak” (aside from the 60s movement), and “hyper fundamentalist” have arisen.  In our community, Christians have been designated to two different levels.  There are the normal ones and the crazy ones. 

Granted, there’s a difference between being wholly devoted to Christ and simply being weird in an extreme way.  Weirdness is usually accompanied by the expression of legalism and judgmental arrogance.  So before expounding in this entry, there are a few mists to be cleared.  No, there is nothing wrong with your six-year old dressing up as Micky Mouse on October 31 and asking people for candy.  No, I do not believe that home-schooling is the holiest form of education (and neither are we against it).  No, there is nothing wrong with going to a school dance and bringing a date.  No, your pod-cast list doesn’t have to be exclusively from Christian music.  No, there is nothing wrong with being a millionaire.  No, there is no biblical prohibition about watching TV on school days.  And no, there is nothing wrong with reading the NLT translation of the Bible!

But there is something wrong with a life that claims devotion to God in some areas but not in others. 

This unwholesome heart – the heart that was not all there – was Solomon’s problem.  Read 1 Kings.  It starts off well, but ends tragically.  The son of King David loved the Lord, but not wholly as his father did (1 Kings 3:3).  Over time, it led to his engagement in polygamy and idolatry (1 Kings 11).  Sure, he may have loved the Lord, and through him great things for the nation of Israel were accomplished.  But when it came to the realm of women in particular, Solomon wanted to pursue romantic and sexual relationships on his terms – not on God’s terms.  The consequences were nothing short of devastating.  Israel, the united nation of twelve tribes, was divided into two kingdoms – Israel and Judah – that would remain in a state of civil war with one another.  Eventually, due the lack of united power would cause both nations to be overcome.  Consequences these were…of the divided heart of a king.

Lest I be misunderstood, God does not expect every christian to be simultaneously at the same level of spiritual maturity and wisdom.  But does God expect every Christian to be wholly devoted to Him with an undivided?  Absolutely.  A compartmentalized heart is not the kind of heart that He desires from those whom He has redeemed for Himself and for His kingdom work.

By the way, Solomon’s divided heart remained a legacy.  It was a tragic legacy, but a legacy it was.  It was passed down from one king to another who walked after him.  Again, read 1 Kings.  How many times you see the author point out that so and so king “did evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the ways of his father.”  This was the story of the divided kingdom.  The legacy of the divided, compartmentalized heart that Solomon passed down.  Thankfully, he was a believer.  And thankfully, he repented and lived long enough to warn the rest of us about it in Ecclesiastes.  It must be noted that it is indeed possible for a truly regenerate man to be divided in his love for God, his love for himself, and his love for the world.  Again, western Christianity.

But what exactly does it look like for a man to have a wholesome, undivided heart for the Lord?  What exactly does it look like for a man to have a heart that is “all there”?  A man with a divided heart is a man who seeks to obey the Lord in certain areas of life but not in others.  The man with an undivided heart, conversely, is someone who seeks to obey God in everything – yes everything – that he does.  He seeks the Lord’s honor in his private life.  He aims for obedience to God in his marriage and fatherhood.  He ambitions to please God in his pursuit of a career and in the manner in which he conducts himself in his career.  He is mindful of God’s character as he engages in physical activities.  He is intent on furthering God’s kingdom in his educational pursuits.  From the way he spends his money to the way he dresses to the way he maps out his daily schedule, he does everything for God.  He is a man given over to the singular pursuit of God’s glory in every facet of life, every nook and cranny, every minute movement and magnanimous decision.  He is a man who is consumed with the will of God and reverent of the character of God in every step of his journey from this life to the next.

Such a man is the way he is – not because he desires to be weird, but because he understands who owns him.  He is a man who is embraces the reality that he has not only been saved, but bought.  Christ’s blood not only rescued him, but purchased him.  With the sacrifice of His own life, He gained ours for Himself.  This we must acknowledge.  This we must respect.  This we must embrace. 

Such a man, well, Solomon failed to be.  As did the majority of the kings of Israel who walked after him.  And 1 Kings was written for our instruction, such that we may not fall into the same transgression.  1 Kings was written, to remind us to be wholly devoted to the Lord, to love Him with all of our hearts and souls. 

1 Kings was written, to remind us that for the Lord we need to be all there.  So that, unlike what I was told as a child, we may instead say “I will try to be successful and make money, as long as I’m convinced that it’s what the Lord desires for me to do.”