Welcome to a brand-new year with many new beginnings. Five churches in Lodi (First Baptist, Emanuel Lutheran, Ham Lane Church of Christ, Temple Baptist and Vinewood Community) are involved in a powerful ministry called "The Story," and we invite you to join us in 2013.
If you are considering a new step in life, we encourage you to join in a journey of Christian faith at one of the many great churches in Lodi that profess God, the Father; Jesus, the Son; and the Holy Spirit as Triune God.
This is a time of new beginnings for many people, and also a time of rededicating oneself to something greater than us. Join in "The Story" ministry and be part of a transformation.
What is "The Story" about? If you are new to these guest columns, which started in September, please note that "The Story" is a ministry that allows you to walk through the Bible in chronological order and gain a greater understanding of God's love and who you are in His great plan.
The Bible is a fascinating book that, as Christians, we acknowledge is the Word of God. Whether you have never read the Bible or are a daily Bible reader, "The Story" will allow you a new perspective into God's Word.
I can only imagine that many readers of the Lodi News-Sentinel have also seen movies and television shows. Some of you may recall shows like "Bonanza," "The Brady Bunch," "Friends" or "Law and Order." These shows, just like movies such as "Star Wars" or "The Bourne Identity," have a constant theme. Some of the actors may change, but the theme remains for us to watch and be part of.
And that process is kind of like the Bible. The whole Bible is one story about God's love for you and me, and during the course of the movie called the Bible, we see many stories and themes emerging — some good and some not so good.
Since the five churches partaking in "The Story" took a break over Christmas to focus on the celebration of the birth of Jesus (by the way thanks to the thousands of you who worshipped with us on Christmas Eve), it is important to replay the last article and Chapter 13 from "The Story."
Chapter 13 was about the life of King Solomon. You may recall he was the wisest man on the planet at that time. But Solomon also had an extreme love for the good things in life, and in order to support this and to support his military, the people were heavily taxed. Many felt the burden of being forced into hard labor. Eventually, Solomon died, and the kingdom was passed on to his son, Rehoboam.
And this brings us to Chapter 14 of "The Story," which is also found in your Bible in 1 Kings 12-16. The title of Chapter 14 is "The Kingdom Torn in Two," and it reads like something straight out of a soap opera script.
We might lament our political process and some, if not many, of our politicians, but modern-day Washington, D.C. and Sacramento look like Mayberry compared to the ancient Jerusalem and Shechem rulers, politicians and power brokers that are described in Chapter 14. There are good leaders and some not-so-good leaders.
The list of great biblical kings like unto David is rather slim, and the list of kings that make Solomon's many errors pale in comparison is massive.
If we think, as we read the Bible, that God's main purpose was to build an earthly kingdom, it was a failure. But some of the leaders in the Bible had that as their desire.
As many of us who have read in the Bible recall the previous generation (Chapter 12) had asked for a king to "be like the other nations." God's expression of grief was that that wasn't His goal. His chosen people, the Nation of Israel, were not like other nations, for they were at the root a "church," not a state.
Now a few generations later (Chapter 14), they were in fact like the other nations, more than anyone would ever want to admit. The only thing that kept God from utterly abandoning them is that His love, as some people think, is like something straight out of fairytale soap opera. But God never abandons those who love Him, and we can be assured that He will remain faithful and true to His promises, no matter what crazy or soap opera-type things we do.
"The Story" has the theme of God's love running throughout its pages just like it runs through the pages of the Bible. As people entering into 2013, may we be people who respond to God's love. May we be people who love God and love one another. Join in this journey of love by connecting to one of the five fantastic churches mentioned above and maybe, just maybe, 2013 will be a year of great transformation of our own story.
Chris Townsend is the lead pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Lodi.