Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Face Time

12 Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices.

13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart...

19 “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods,

20 then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations.

21 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’

22 “And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’”

(from 2 Chronicles 7:12-16, 19-22 NLT)

Once upon a time ago, I was a military wife. And I remember hearing the enlisted guys talk about "face time". The term referred to the amount of time they worked with or directly under an officer who would have the ability to help them get promoted. Most of the time, you wanted face time. The enlisted members who received the most face time (for positive reasons and not for correction) had a great advantage for getting nominated for service awards and medals. Especially in the upper levels of the enlisted force, this face time which equalled being known paired with awards and medals can make or break a promotion.

Here in 2 Chronicles, God speaks to King Solomon after the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem. This has been Solomon's pet project, an inheritance from his father David who could not build it because of his military background. Solomon has spared no cost on parts, materials, and labors. I guarantee you that Solomon did not accept a single "lowest bid" to have this temple built. This temple was to be grand. It was to be legendary. It was to state for all the future generations on earth how much David and Solomon loved and served their God.

"I have chosen." God assures Solomon that this is a pleasing thing he's done. God's spirit must have laid upon Solomon and David as they chose the plan and location for this temple. God has chosen both men to be king in their due time, and He has chosen Solomon to be the architect of His Temple.

In the upper enlisted ranks, there is a selection process. Packages are put together, and there are sometimes interviewing boards to select nominees for promotion. Again, face time leads to being chosen.

"I might shut up the heavens, or send plagues among you." Wow! I'm not sure how Solomon responded to this declaration from the Lord. I can only imagine how I would respond. And well, I would have been indignant. I would have wanted to point out this temple yet again and ask why the Lord might send disaster to my door. I mean, this was one of Solomon's greatest accomplishment which the Lord had just blessed, how could He turn in the same breath and say He might send calamity?

But then I think about character, especially how we develop character. I've heard it said more than once that character is defined by how you responding when everything is stripped away from you. And at the root, our real character is evident when nothing and no one is around. While tragedy and crisis work to develop our character, how you respond or act when no one is looking really defines your character.

And I wonder if Solomon understood that God was not attempting to be mean or cold-hearted, but would seek true believers but putting their character to the test through famine and pestilence. Perhaps in his magnificent wisdom he could see that the Father knew what He was going to do. Or maybe, unlike me, he was patient and waited to hear everything that the Father had to say before responding.

I would bet that when there are selection boards in the military, one of the things that they look at is a soldier's ability to stay strong, rational, and effective in the light of crisis. And, if they have done this while under the direct supervision of a high ranking officer, I'm sure that the "face time" is immense.

We need to seek God's face more. It is too easy for us to seek the admiration and glory bestowed by men. Who doesn't like to get a Kudos or an "Atta Boy" every now and then? And our society is based upon achievement which only further propagates our desire to be the best and strive for excellence in the sight of men. And yet, it seems to be almost impossible to seek fame and adoration by the masses and still have a heart that seeks God's face first and foremost.

I believe that so many of my problems today arise from my desire to seek the face of the world and ignoring God and His will for my life. I put hours into training for career skills. I worked long hours, pushed aside my family in the attempt to pay bills so that we met the "status quo", and longed for promotion. And yet, I believe had I sought God's face first, I would have made my bills without the struggle to be the best employee by going above and beyond. In fact, I believe that I likely hurt my chances for promotion because I tried so hard. I was taken for granted by my employer. And who wouldn't take someone who works hard and for little pay take that for granted?

But if I had instead sought God's face, face time with the King, I believe things may have been different. My desires would have been different. My relationship with my children would have been different.

And the amazing part of it all is this: When I realized my error, and I turned away and began to seek the face of God, grace was there to wash away my past mistakes. God forgot about my misplaced priorities. He restored me--to my children, to the community, to the church, and to a loving marriage. All I had to do is seek His face.

Father, I am amazed at how easy it is to please you sometimes, and yet how ignorantly I choose to do things that are anything but pleasing. Please forgive me for the error of my ways. I come to you now seeking your face and the glory that only you can give me. And I pray that the beauty of your face will be reflected upon mine as I strive to know you more and more and serve your people. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Check back for Part Two: Knee Time

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