Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Humble Appreciation

READ 2 Samuel 3-4

There is a wonderful short verse in these chapters that indicates the blessing of the Lord upon David. God had anointed him to be king and God placed his hand of blessing upon him. The text says, “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people.” Everything? That’s almost too difficult to believe isn’t it?
Probably none of us has ever experienced that, where everything we did was pleasing to everyone around us. I know I haven’t. But in David’s case, though he was a man of war and multiple wives (against God’s command; Deut 17:14-20), still everything he did pleased all the people. There is only one explanation for that: God gave him favor with all the people.
I think there’s a lesson in humility for us. If we have favor with those around us it’s not because of how wonderful we are but because of God’s grace. He could just as easily cause us to fall into disfavor. So there’s another reason to thank God humbly for every good and perfect gift.

Prayer:  Father, you are perfect in all your ways. You are righteous and holy and all that you do is righteous and holy. There is no god besides you. And in your perfection you have chosen to be gracious to us and to grant us favor with people around us. Thank you for this blessing. Thank you that every good and perfect gift comes from you, even the kindness and appreciation of others.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Humble Remembrance

READ: 2 Samuel 1-2

After all the evil that Saul had done; after God had removed his anointing from him (1 Sam 16:14); after all the attempts by Saul to kill David, God’s new anointed king — David still refuses to attack Saul, even with his words after Saul has died. Reading David’s lament (1:19-27) one is impressed by the kind words of David for Saul and Jonathan. We expect them fro Jonathan, but not for Saul.

We have a saying, “Don’t speak ill of the dead.” That’s not what’s happening in this story. David is genuinely remembering the good things Saul did in his life. He is choosing to emphasize those memories among the people, especially the people of Judah (1:18) who had chosen to align themselves with David. These were the people who would be most likely to denigrate Saul.

There is a lesson in kindness here for us. If God has used someone for good in their lives, no matter what they do badly, without excusing those things, we should kindly remember and speak well of them for the good they did. All of us are perhaps tempted at times to look on the “mighty who have fallen” and drag them down a notch or two in the minds of others. But let’s not be the ones to tear down with our words. Let’s be the ones who take the high road like David and speak kindly in the midst of the terrible fall.

Prayer: Father, help us to remember that “there, but for your grace, go I.” Help us to be gracious in our thoughts and words toward the fall of mighty ones whom you have evidently used at times in their lives. Help us not to glory in the fall of another. Help us to humble ourselves before you and know that you are the one who builds up and tears down.

Monday, June 16, 2014

From Head to Toe

Leviticus 7-8
June 16, 2014

Are you familiar with the term “merism?” I wasn’t until reading this passage this morning then doing a bit of research. A merism is the use of the parts and/or extremities of something to indicate the whole. As one might say “both near and far” or “both rich and poor.” One interesting note I found on this subject:

"It may very well be that the Bible, as organized, functions as a merism, beginning in Genesis with Eden lost and ending in Revelation with the 'New Jerusalem' gained, these two referring to the entirety of human history and representing the 'Alpha and Omega' (Rev. 21.6) of God's sovereignty. Revelation 11.17 extends merism to the triadic 'one who is, was, and is coming.' Finally, while it may be to stretch a point, it might be said that the 'Old Testament' and the 'New Testament' form a merism that represent all of God's word and the 'Bible' as totality." (Jeanie C. Crain, Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. Polity Press, 2010)

In our passage today we have a merism in 8:23-24. As God instructs Moses to put the blood of ordination on the right ear lobe, right thumbs and right big toes of Aaron and his sons, we might say, “They were consecrated from head to toe.” In other words, every part of them, all of them, was consecrated to the Lord.

As a kingdom of priests today, we Christians are also consecrated from head to toe. That brings to mind another merism which Jesus used that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That means all of us. Jesus is not indicating just certain individual parts to love God. No, he means with every fiber of our being.

Is that the way you love God? Is that how much of you is totally consecrated to the Lord? An old Christian hymn (not the John Legend version) was sung:

All of me not a part but all of me
All the heart and soul of me
Jesus, I surrender
I believe, Lord, help my unbelief
On the altar now I lay all I am today
As I am I come to Thee without one plea
Only that Thy saving blood was shed for me
All of me through the ages yet to be
I surrender Lord to Thee
I surrender all of me

Prayer:  Father, that song is my prayer today.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Root of Bitterness? It's not what you think

I learned something new this morning. Not new in the sense that I’d never thought about the idea before. No, new in the sense that what I had always believed about a verse in the Bible was wrong and now I believe I see it in a correct light. (I almost said I have a new perspective but I’m afraid of the “terminology nazis.”)

Here’s the verse Hebrews 12:15. I’ll quote it in the KJV because I have a feeling that translation is what prompted the misunderstanding: “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” You’ll notice that the word “you” is in italics. That’s because it’s not in the original but has been added by the translators. Usually this is done to help in understanding and, understood rightly, it would do so here. But I think the problem arose with much impetus from a well-known Bible teacher in the 70’s and 80’s who took this phrase from v. 15 and made it a primary teaching that Christians should not develop a root of bitterness in themselves.

Let me say it clearly. This is what I now see correctly: Hebrews 12:15 is not addressing the issue of bitterness in a person’s heart. But let me be quick to add that the Bible does address this issue. It does warn us not to be bitter (Ephesians 4:31). The teaching is clear. If there is any bitterness in our hearts must be put away. So the idea of Christians resisting bitterness is not what I am resisting from this verse today.

Based on my reading from Deuteronomy 29:18-19 I now see the basis for that verse, the whole verse in Hebrews 12:15. The clear teaching in Deuteronomy is for the people, as a whole, to beware of anyone (or even a whole tribe) who pridefully thinks because he is a part of the covenant people he can live any way he wishes. The equivalent today would be someone saying I’m saved and “once saved always saved” so it doesn’t matter how I live. For OT Israel this person or persons will be dangerous like a horrible infection that can spread throughout the people.

When one reads all of Hebrews 12:15 one sees that’s exactly what it is warning the church against. It is in essence quoting the Deuteronomy passage. Let me quote the whole verse: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” This is a warning to the church to watch out for those who “profess” salvation but show by their lives that they do not really “possess” it for they “fail to obtain the grace of God.” Now they think they can live like the devil and still be assured of “fire insurance.” The writer of Hebrews says as Moses suggested that “by it many become defiled.” In other words, the root of bitterness is not something within an individual Christian. Rather, it is a root in the midst of the whole church, a cancer that might spread to others.

What do we do about it. We lovingly admonish those among us to let their lives demonstrate their having been born again. Let the root of Christ-likeness show forth from the way we live. We must be willing to call one another to holy living.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preachers, Don't Go Vegan!

You’ve seen it haven’t you? It’s become one of my favorite commercials. Two antelopes standing in the dark night with night vision goggles. They easily see the Lion “Carl” approaching and let him know it. One says, “Come on, Carl, you’re better than this.” They mock him unmercifully. Then one delivers the line, “Have you ever thought of going vegan, Carl?”

There it is. When what you’re trying doesn’t work, Carl, go vegan. I fear too many pastors have taken the vegan route. They think that the old meat/solid food route won’t work anymore so they have taken the vegan route and removed the meat of God’s Word from their sermons. Their sermons become little more than sometimes skillful ramblings of the preachers personal opinions: what he thinks we ought to do; what he likes about Jesus; or even what parts of the Bible he likes the most.

Don’t do it, brothers! Don’t go vegan! Preach the meat of the Word of God. Study to show yourself approved. Rightly explain it. Give folks the true Word that will build them up in their faith.