David's story has been so inspiring for my family to follow together. It is such a challenge to see a man of such great faith falter. If you're like me, you've had high moments of faith in the past, and it's easy to assume that those faith filled days can carry you throughout your future. If you've been reading through *most of the Bible in a year with us, you know that it didn't work that well for David. When he set his focus on creating peace, he ended up causing the most disharmony in the midst of his home. It's tragic really...but it is such a clear picture of the truth about the nature of man.
The next twenty points of interest follow that conflict further as men grab at power and take their eyes off of the Lord. As the kingdom divides, it gets pretty ugly. Sin is given full vent, but God never leaves his people to themselves. He sends warnings through prophets, continually calling them to return to their first love. While this portion of the Bible is more difficult to enjoy reading, it's important to take the time to use the mistakes that the Israelites make as a warning for our own faithlessness. Each of us stray from time to time, and it's really a matter of cultivating a fractured focus. It doesn't work...or at least it doesn't come without great consequences for yourself and those around you.
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The Dangers of Cultivating a Fractured Focus
When the kingdom divides, a problem arises for the tribes of the north: where do we worship now? Since Jerusalem was in the territory of Judah, the northern kingdom was left without a place of worship. So, the king did what any power hungry king would do, and created a secondary place of worship. Did this honor God? Nope.
This simple decision led to years of idolatry and divisions that continued to drive the nation of Israel apart. It didn't even matter if the people had enemies outside of the camp...they did a good enough job tearing down God's chosen people on their own.
Isn't that exactly how the enemy works? Families are continually under attack. Churches are falling apart from in-fighting. When we have a dis-unified focus, it's impossible to stick together. Here are some things that divide our focus and make war on our unity as people of the Lord:
1. Fixing Our Eyes on the Fruit and Not the Source
While it's good to desire love, peace, and joy, those are the fruit of the Spirit and not the Spirit himself. We can obtain them only through a relationship with the Lord. They come from well nourished fellowship with our Father. When that relationship is right, we can enjoy the fruit.
Often we try to manufacture the fruit on our own. Just as the kings grabbed at power and prosperity, we can grab at the fruit and hope to gain it while bypassing the relationship. God is the one who grants power and prosperity, but they didn't want the tediousness of cultivating a relationship with him to get what they wanted. They worked to manipulate the circumstances to claim it themselves. That never satisfies.
2. Syncretistic Worldview
Syncretism is the merging of different religious behaviors or schools of thought. When the Israelites opened their doors to idol worship, they were trying to merge a Biblical worldview with the worldview of the surrounding nations. It doesn't work.
In the same way, as modern worshipers, our Biblical worldview is under attack. The world values wealth, health, fitness, beauty, entertainment, and any number of other objects of worship. If we try to merge those ideals in with what the Bible says, we can get caught with a fractured focus again and find ourselves in danger.
3. Your Dollar (Or Your Minute) Is Your Vote
My niece likes to say "Your dollar is your vote" meaning that if you spend your money somewhere, you are condoning the product or service you're investing in. It can be very easy to get carried away in spending patterns that don't line up with your belief systems both in money and in time.
If you've maxed out your family's schedule in such a way that there isn't any time for togetherness, rest, or time in God's Word, you're fracturing your family's focus. The greatest challenge these days is that there are so many wonderful things to do. Seeking out quiet times of resting in the Lord can be very challenging, but if you don't do it, there will be definite consequences.
As you read through the twenty points of interest this month, pay attention to the consequences the Israelites faced as they divided their focus between following the patterns of the world and following the patterns of God's Word. We have a lot to learn from them because we fall so easily into the same traps. Its only with intentional focus on the Lord alone that we can avoid these pitfalls, and that can only be accomplished by God's grace!