Saturday, April 27, 2013

Issachar Intel, Part 2

Of the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.  (1 Chronicles 12:32)

To go to war without strategic intelligence (intel) is just plain stupid! The sons of Issachar were blessed with the tools to accomplish two great skills: 1) to understand the times and 2) to know what Israel should do. Last week we looked at the first one and now we focus on the second.

The phrase, “knowing what Israel ought to do,” is actually not as “crystal ball-ish” as one might think. Yes, it did have a certain appearance of prognostication, but the truth is they simply put two and two together! It’s really not a supernatural, out of this world gift given to a special few. Since they could see the “times” and realize that Saul’s continued disobedience in refusing to listen to the wise counsel of Nathan (just like he did with Samuel), his obsession with trying to kill David (a more godly man, one called a “man after God’s Own heart”), and the abuse of power (along with the wasting of military resources) was a recipe for disaster. They saw the current losses to the Philistines in subsequent battles was only going to continue under the current leadership and policies and “knew what Israel ought to do,” i.e., get back to God-fearing governance and national obedience like they had under Joshua.

The sons of Issachar were also listed as mighty men of valor, a picture of able-bodied men that were a force to be reckoned with. This demonstrated a level of comprehensive, well-rounded development in these guys, spiritual acuity along with physical discipline and preparedness. Now is a good time to quote the passage in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things.” These sons of Issachar understood this principle as they “exercised” godliness even more than they exercised their bodies, yet they were physically an intimidating lot.  They clearly understood authority, or the chain-of-command principle, as it stated that the 200 chiefs had the command over their brethren. This shows such a genuine level of wisdom being able to put themselves under authority. In Matthew 8, Jesus saw the centurion understand this principle and He claimed He had “never seen such faith, not in all of Israel.”
The cry for heroes today that can see current trends and patterns from a biblical worldview and give futuristic advice, warnings, and strategy is at DEFCON 1! We have never had a more drastic abandonment of our children away from the evangelical church than we are currently experiencing. Oh my dear leaders, pray that God will raise up in your ranks some "sons of Issachar" that can give clear, confident, godly counsel to this emotionally-driven church culture.  The time for godly heroes that can demonstrate and express what the church must do is NOW!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Issachar Intel

The current topic is characteristics of Biblical Heroes and how we can emulate those giant-killers. The need for solid, genuine, selfless, Christ-like “Spiritual-Rambos” is unprecedented. Without some heroes of biblical proportion our nation is likely to become a by-word and the church in America will continue to slide into oblivion. I’d like to continue this topic looking at the sons of Issachar and their valuable impact of being mentally conditioned. Check out this passage:
Of the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.  (1 Chronicles 12:32)

 If the description of the Gadites was small, the Issachar boys’ is miniscule! The above verse (and 7:5, “mighty men of valor”) is all that is said about them. Though the information is limited, the skill and contribution they brought to David was immeasurable. What price do military leaders put on good Intel!? This was probably one of the most strategic pieces of the puzzle of David’s flawless crusades. Ask any commander how important good, relevant, timely information is to his decision making process. These sons of Issachar were worth their weight in gold! They were mentally conditioned. What exactly does that look like?

Two statements are key: 1) “understanding of the times,” and 2) “knowing what Israel ought to do.” This blog will focus on the first one. In order to understand the times there must be a frame of reference, a base line of fundamental standards. One cannot truly understand current conditions without having a grasp of historical circumstances and events to overlay across present trends. When a person is mentally conditioned he has an ability to see future successes in the here and now because of the natural cause and effect relationship with obedience and submission to Almighty God that has been proven throughout history.
In the case of Israel, the sons of Issachar had to know the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the subsequent leadership of Moses through the wilderness wanderings, and the successful venture of Joshua’s direction into the Promised Land. The collapse during the time of the Judges leading into the disappointment of the Kingship gave a clear picture to these alert young men that certain actions and attitudes came with drastic consequences! They had the ability to reasonably and logically conclude that disobedience toward God and His principles would lead to negative outcomes for the entire nation. They saw that following Saul was only going to continue the downward spiral of defeat and national despair. David was not only a better option, he was the only wise choice. The sons of Issachar saw future events by understanding the former process of obedience and by refusing to embrace that failed continuance of “doing what was right in their own eyes,” the choice of Saul and the mantra of the time of the Judges.

This is a cry for men to stop coasting in neutral and put it into overdrive! We need, like never before, godly men that have a grasp of what God wants us to do here and now and to make that knowledge vocal. Oh sons of Issachar, come out and be heard! Israel had these mental giants, the times call for them again.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Personal Diversion

I'm breaking off with my Characteristics of Biblical Heroes series to express a thought that still fits our topic. Bear with me as I take a personal diversion.

(David says to Goliath) “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  1 Samuel 17:46

Big words from a little shepherd boy! God uniquely designed us men with a strong desire to achieve. It is in our DNA to do more, to do greater, and to accomplish something far more spectacular. Over time we experience setbacks, disappointments, failures, and shattered plans and dreams that can stifle this natural propensity for success. Right before David said this bold declaration to a 9 foot, 6 inch giant, his big brother condescendingly questioned why he was even there (v. 28). David looked past the insult and saw the true prize – to take away this reproach from Israel (and the king’s bounty wasn’t bad, either!).

I realized about three years ago that my body had become a bit lethargic, slothful, and soft. I had not really pressed myself to do anything athletic throughout my entire 40’s and it had taken its toll physically. My son-in-law, a former PT (physical trainer) for the Air Force, “provoked” me to do something about it. He recommended a workout video that he had been using and I agreed that I would do it. For the first three weeks I really did think I was going to die. No, I mean it! I could not think of one nice thing to say about my son-in-law. I couldn’t walk right, sit right, nor could I get up naturally from a prone position! I felt sick to my stomach every time I worked out. There were times when I really felt I was near certain death if I didn’t stop, and I actually would have welcomed it! I regretted having asked him to help me. I thought of every excuse to quit, to not thoroughly dread another workout, to stop the madness!
Gutting it out did eventually pay off.  I remember starting to count my push-ups. When I first began I was proud to get to 27. Months later I was doing 50, then 70, then 100. Though improvement was ever so gradual, noticing that I was getting fit was quite an adrenaline rush, a male source of personal accomplishment and progress. It also helped that my wife took notice and expressed her approval. It was taking all of 35 – 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week of gruelingly painful exercise to reach these goals, though the 45 minutes seemed much longer! I had an experiential revelation during this era of “self-flagellation;” men were made for challenges and we are at our best when we have and pursue goals that are against-all-odds, a “David vs. Goliath” scenario. The discipline in my physical life has bled into my spiritual disciplines making everything else have greater perspective and clarity.

My diversion this week is to encourage all men to see that they have been specifically programmed to be more than the sum of their parts. We have mind-numbing lostness in our current culture and in all of our neighborhoods. This Goliath is real. It is big, smelly, and wants you to just shut up and go away. Go find the stones that fit your sling and take his head off! We were made for such a time as this.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big, Bad Benjaminites! Part 2

The passage of Scripture that we are studying in this continued look at “Characteristics of Biblical Heroes” is 1 Chronicles 12:1-2 (it is in the previous blog in italics). The Benjaminites were unusual in that they possessed the ability to fight and fire weapons with both hands. We looked at this importance of this characteristic in the last blog, but there is still much we can learn from these big, bad boys. We each are equipped with skills, abilities, talents, and natural tendencies that are unique and specialized and we have these qualities through the combined “blessings” of giftedness, aptitude, experience, and upbringing. That is what makes each one of us so different. The “Weapons of our Warfare,” is still the Sword of the Spirit, the infallible, inerrant, living words of Holy Writ. How we utilize, wield, and display our own personal technique of “Sword play” is as unique as each one of us, allowing those individual “blessings” to create our own style of methodology in Weaponry. What we must do is learn the Sword and then allow that knowledge to permeate our own talents, thinking, and skillset. Such a person is indeed formidable!

Studying these Benjaminites also reveals that they were the first group to respond to David’s leadership. This quality of immediate response to a calling or need is attractive and shows initiative and commitment. Chronicles also describes them as blood kin to the present king, “Saul’s brethren,” making the current affairs of state quite personal being directly related to the sitting leadership. They confronted the reality of Saul’s lack of obedience, irrational use of military resources, and poor decision making skills. Notice how they looked past the “blood is thicker than water” tendency and saw that David would provide the type of godly direction Israel needed. Application? Heroes do not give family or acquaintances a pass just because they are personally close. Equally as important they take the initiative in creating the environment for change. These two attributes together illustrate a critical attitude in the heart of a hero.
The take away this week is the fact that we could all do a better job increasing our skill in using the Weapons of our Warfare, the Scriptures. We you consider that Jesus used this very weapon when tempted by the devil (Matt. 4, Mark 1, Luke 4), who are we to think that we could somehow do a better job with some other tool?! There is not a better exercise program we can engage in than to the one that extends our reach, builds our strength, and widens our target by the acquisition of God's Holy Word in our hearts and minds. In essence, Biblical strength training and conditioning IS the breakfast of Spiritual Champions!