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The story of King Solomon has always fascinated me. It is an epic saga of intrigue, survival, blessing, and eventual costly and tragic failure.
Solomon was blessed by God and had no equal. In 1 Kings 3 God promised him both wealth and honor.
Solomon was wise and smart. In 1 Kings 4 it says God gave Solomon “wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”
Solomon must have had a giant “S” under his royal robe. This guy was the Superman of rulers in his day.
Apparently, however, his sexual appetite was unequaled as well, and that led to some fatal mistakes—about one thousand of them.
Sadly, by the time we get to 1 Kings 11, everything starts to unravel. We are told there that Solomon “loved many foreign women . . . from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after other gods . . . ‘ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.”
And sure enough, his 700 wives and 300 concubines led him astray.
For the record, I don’t blame the women; I blame the man. Solomon was responsible for his poor choices.
Perhaps the saddest line in his story is found in 1 Kings 11:4, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.”
The end result? He lost the kingdom of his father, David. “So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.” 1 Kings 11:11
Talk about your tragic tales of agony and loss.
Why did Solomon start so well but end so badly? How could you go from being the wisest of the wise to the guy who is sacrificing offerings to false gods?
A Few of Solomon’s Problems
He chose to put his desires above God’s command to avoid ungodly women. It’s true: bad company corrupts good morals (I Corinthians 15:33). When we choose our way over God’s way, it always leads us astray.
His life of sexual self-indulgence, with his many wives and concubines, led to unrestraint in his spiritual life. When we refuse to practice self-control in one area, our lack of discipline often leads to foolishness in others.
He demonstrated how affluence often leads to spiritual laziness. I’m not saying rich people are always spiritually apathetic, but Jesus said it’s tough for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. Why? Because there are too many distractions. I know from personal experience that poverty leads to desperation and desperation leads to prayer! And prayer keeps us focused on the Father.
His pride led to his downfall. Arrogance frequently leads to decadence—especially when we think we know more than anyone else, including God. It’s entirely possible that Solomon started to believe his own press (“I’m great, I’m wise!”). I can’t help but shake my head at the irony. It was Solomon who wrote earlier in his life, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18 (NIV).
In his later years, Solomon had multiple adversaries, and even worse, a heart that was cold and distant from God. His disastrous ending was a far cry from his glorious beginning.
On a regular basis, I pray, “God help me to finish well.” I don’t expect to live without imperfections. I know I will make plenty of mistakes along the way. But I want to stay faithful to the end.
By the way, Solomon’s dad, David, failed at times too.
David relented and repented. Solomon didn’t.
At any point, had Solomon owned his failure and turned back to the Lord, God would have redeemed, restored, and renewed him. It’s what God does best.
That’s why I plan on being an incredibly good repenter to the very end.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
David ~ Psalm 51: 2-3, 10, 12, 17
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I recently returned from an incredible trip to the continent of Africa. People said Africa would change me. I had no idea how true that statement was until I visited Botswana.
As we flew into the airport in the capital city of Gaborone, I fell in love with the land and its people.
Some points of interest regarding Botswana:
Botswana, located just north of South Africa and surrounded by four African nations, is about the size of Texas. It has a relatively small population with just over two million inhabitants. Interestingly, cows in Botswana outnumber people!
Over one-third of the inhabitants are under fifteen years of age.
This small country boasts the world’s largest concentration of African elephants.
HIV is a serious problem (as it is in much of the continent), but Batswana (what the people of Botswana are called) are full of joy and proud of their country.
It has one of the most stable and long-term democratic governments in Africa, and though poverty is still a serious issue, Botswana has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Why did I go to Botswana?
Eastpoint Church is partnering with the Church in this country to train leaders and implement the Purpose Driven (PD) Church principles first taught by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. I and others from our church will serve as mentor-trainer-coaches presenting the PD church model to hundreds of churches during five trips in the next fifteen months.
When I say partnering with “the Church” in this country, I mean the entire Church, nationwide. We will be working with all three of the Christian umbrella organizations in Botswana: the indigenous Church, the Evangelical Church, and the mainline denominational churches.
This opportunity to influence the whole body of Christ in Botswana and potentially the entire nation is mind-blowing. In the history of Botswana, there has never been this much enthusiasm for a common Christ-centered cause or this amount of unity in the Church.
In my last gathering with over 120 leaders in Botswana, I wept as they prayed for one another, for me, and for this new Kingdom venture.
When Jesus prayed for the unity of His Church in John 17, He said that our unity would help a watching world believe that the Father sent the Son. Like never before, the Church of Jesus in Botswana is positioned for incredible impact.
On my last day there, I asked a young woman who worked as a security guard, “Do you go to church anywhere?”
“No, not for a long time.”
I said, “Do you mind me asking why?”
In her somewhat broken English, she essentially said, “The Church has no meaning or value in my life.”
I believe that is about to change as the Church in Botswana becomes healthy, impassioned, and invigorated to move tens of thousands of nominal Christians into whole-hearted discipleship.
The Church in Africa is ready.
Ready to change.
Ready to take the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, city and village.
Ready to address the profound and devastating issues of its people (like poverty and HIV).
And, quite amazingly, ready to work together—across denominational lines—to touch the entire continent and beyond with God’s power and love.
Yes, Africa has already changed me. I pray now that in some small way I might be used by Jesus to support my brothers and sisters in this place of wonder and extraordinary potential.
Ke a leboga (thank you) for taking the time to read a bit about my African adventure.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude
that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9 (NIV)
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Apparently, ’57 was a good year for Elvis, Chevy’s, and my parents.
I know, I know, you can hardly believe it by looking at me, but I’m turning the ripe old age of 60 on March 13th. It’s a little surreal. I don’t feel that old. I don’t look . . . okay . . . maybe I do look that old. Whatever.
I remember (thankfully, since they say memory is the first thing to go) turning thirty. It was just 10,950 days ago. I was depressed. My 20s were over. Middle age was mocking me to my face, or so I thought. But I pulled out of my misery when it hit me, “At least I ain’t sixty!”
What do I tell myself now?
Sixty is sexy? (Nope.)
Sixty is the new fifty? (Not even close. I did fifty, and it was much better.)
For me, there’s no getting around it; sixty is scary.
Let me explain.
I come from a long line of Bubna men who died in their 60s.
My grandfather, my dad, and one of his two brothers (my uncle), all went to be with Jesus long before they hit 70.
So, you’re thinking, “Ahhh, he’s afraid to die.”
No. That’s not it at all. I openly faced the reality of my mortality over five years ago when I had cancer.
Death isn’t the problem. I’m not worried about dying. All men die.
But I am afraid. I worry that I won’t accomplish the things I still desire to do before I go.
I’m concerned I won’t leave a meaningful legacy.
Frankly, I’m just not done yet.
Yeah, I know, I need to trust in the Sovereignty of God (please don’t go all spiritual on me, I’m trying to have a pity party here).
Yes, I know, just live “one day at a time” (wow, that’s original).
But what if my last “one day” is today?
What if I don’t get that novel done? (It’s on my bucket list.)
What if I don’t get to see at least one of my grandkids give me a great-grandchild?
What if I don’t get to experience one more great movement of God in my lifetime?
Pause. A moment of personal reflection is happening . . .
Maybe there’s something that matters more?
What if I just stop worrying about all the “what ifs?” and decide to measure my life, however long or short it is, by one thing: did I love God and others with all my heart?
You see, young, old, or somewhere in between, what always matters most is not what we accomplished in our days, but whether or not we loved.
With a radical love.
A relentless love.
A revolutionary love.
A profound, uncompromising, and deep-seated love for God and His most-prized creation—you!
It seems appropriate to quote one of the Apostle Paul’s more famous passages here.
“If I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” I Cor. 13: 2-3
Bubna Paraphrase Edition: Without love, nothing else matters. Absolutely nothing.
So, with whatever time I have left, I will view each day as a gift and do my best to love as I am loved.
Pity party over.
Wonder how I’m going to feel about turning seventy—just 520 weeks from now?
I’ll be fine.
Especially if I invest the next decade loving God and others even better.
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Sometimes, following an experience in which God showed up in a powerful way, we can find ourselves overwhelmed with negative emotions.
It doesn’t seem to make sense. “Why am I so bummed? Why do I feel so bad after something so good?”
It doesn’t just happen for pastors on Monday. It can happen to anyone after an engaging ministry retreat, a life-changing camp experience, or a cross-cultural mission trip.
Here’s a little-known fact: coming off the “mountain top” of experiencing God is a little bit like coming down from too much caffeine or sugar. When the buzz and thrill are gone, we miss it–badly.
Here’s another fact: it’s normal, and you’ll be okay if you decide to stay the course.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings.
Elijah was a great man of God. He performed miracles, and he boldly faced down 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). God worked in him and through him in a powerful way.
But in 1 Kings 19, in the aftermath of that great experience, we find Elijah afraid and running for his life from Jezebel. He ends up isolated and depressed, and he even prays for God to take his life!
One of the things I love about our God is that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He always pursues us. In fact, God appeared to Elijah and confronted him. “Elijah, what in blazes are you doing?” (Bubna Paraphrase Edition).
Elijah complained to God, but then the Lord essentially said, “Get back to work; I’ve still got a job for you to do!” In other words, “Elijah, stop whining and stay the course.”
In over 38 years of ministry, I’ve taken a lot of people on mission trips around the world. I’ve watched God use simple and humble people (like you and me) to do amazing things. I’ve also seen those same individuals come home and get “lost” in a sea of negative emotions.
I’ve seen couples come home from an exciting and encouraging marriage retreat and crash under the weight of reality the real world.
I’ve seen hundreds of youth return from camps or retreats on fire for Jesus, and they’re pumped—until they’re not. To borrow a phrase from Tamera Alexander, “Too many end up as bored as a spud in the mud!”
Tragically, I’ve even seen many bail on God and His Church because “real life” is too predictable and mundane—or the opposite, too challenging and harsh.
Here’s the antidote . . .
When you’re faced with post-ministry misery, depression, frustration, confusion, and whatever else might be plaguing your soul, get back to work serving God right where you live.
He still has a plan for your life.
It won’t always feel like camp or that incredible mission trip.
The daily grind of the morning after can be tough for pastors.
Day to day isn’t quite as exhilarating or awe-inspiring as that life-changing conference with Beth Moore.
But God shows up in the valleys of life too (remember Psalm 23:4).
Resist the temptation to focus too much on “next year in Guatemala” or “next year at camp” or “next Easter,” while missing what God has for you at this very moment.
No one lives on top of the mountain all the time.
So be present in the here and now. And as Elijah eventually did, listen for God’s gentle whisper, and you’ll be fine.
God’s not done with you. Not now. Not ever.
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