#P5: The Solomon Test Applied

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The king said, ‘Get me a sword.’ So the brought a sword before the king. The king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.’  …[Following the reactions of the two women to the king’s edict] ‘Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.’ When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king handed down, they feared the king, for they saw the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.” 1 Kings 3:24-25, 27-28, NASB.

The first act of judgment that is recorded for the wise king Solomon is what is still spoken of today as the “Solomon test.” In the story (which I encourage you to read in full), Solomon is approached by two women, both of whom claim to be the mother of a living child. Obviously one is lying but it is up to the king to decide whom. Solomon order that the child be cut in half (which is an equitable solution but certainly not a fair one) and presents the solution to the two women. One agrees and the other protests and is willing to give the living child to the other to prevent its death. Solomon discerns from this that only a mother would give her child away rather than watch his destruction. He awards the child to the woman who was willing to lose everything.

In many ways, God places us in a similar position. It is consistent with His character. He instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in order to test Abraham’s allegiance to God or to the child God gave him. God relented and provided a substitute sacrifice once Abraham responded to the test. In fact, the test of faithfulness is consistent all throughout the Scriptures.

Here, Solomon threatened to take something of great value away to see how each person would respond…would they act selfishly or sacrificially for the benefit of the something greater.

When God instructs us to forgive others…it is not necessarily easy to comply. We comply because we love God more than we love nursing our grudge. When God instructs us to give a tithe (10%) of our income as an offering to Him through OUR local church family (place of worship), we do so because we love God more than we need to control our resources. When God gives, causes, or allows great loss in our lives, we remain faithful because we do not deserve his benevolence anyway…and we thank Him for our many days of blessing more than the temporary, though difficult, loss.

The next time you face difficulty, loss, or a tough opportunity to demonstrate obedience, remember that God is not mean, bad, or unfaithful. He is God…and what we face is not evidence of His lack of love…but is an opportunity to demonstrate our love in response to who He is.

Pastor’s Reflections…How Christians may lose their edge on the LGBT issue

open-bible 2In the wake of Memorial day Weekend in Pensacola, I have been reflecting on the approach of the church to our city’s celebration of the LGBT lifestyle. By no means am I claiming to have the definitive answer on how the church SHOULD respond to these events in our city, but as I have considered it, I think it is worthy of our conversation. It takes courage to address an issue, considering it in light of the Scriptures until we have come to a place of biblical clarity. To facilitate the discussion, let me state a few assumptions.

  • Biblically speaking, homosexuality is wrong. It is sin. It is no more sin than other sins and it is no less sin than other sins. It is simply sin.
  • The church cannot embrace and/or adopt sin or modify God’s Word as it relates to sin. Whether I like it or don’t like it, lying is a sin, killing is sin, homosexuality is sin, etc.
  • The church is accountable to God for how we represent God’s position toward sin and those who sin.
  • The church is accountable to the culture at large for how we represent God’s position on sin and those who sin. IOW…we cannot say to the culture something that is untrue about God. If God has spoken on an issue, we become a stumbling block to the culture if we do not act truthfully toward them on behalf of God.

With these assumptions in place, I am concerned about the fine line we walk between loving those who sin and celebrating sin itself. As a guy who thinks (unapologetically) like a missionary and who wants all people to accept Christ Jesus as Lord by faith, I am concerned that if we are not careful as the church, we can step over the line from demonstrating love and acceptance toward those who (like us) commit sin…and start to ignore the sin…or worse…we actually celebrate it as normal.

A couple of examples may illuminate the issue:

  • If a gay person comes into the church, it seems appropriate to love him as another person created in the image of God. He should be embraced as a person who is of great value to our King. At the same time, we could not accept him into membership while he still holds an acceptance or affinity with his sin. Until he sees sin the way God sees sin, he cannot come to repentance, thus he cannot be redeemed.
  • If the same gay person came in with his partner to fellowship and sing and “pal around” with church members as they sought to act as a couple…the church may blur the lines to allow unrepentant sinners to persist in the assembly unless we challenge the sin and are seeking a receptivity in the heart fo the gay couple.
  • Finally, if a church sets out to open a hospitality booth at a LGBT parade (or our current Memorial Day festivities at Pensacola Beach) and distribute water bottles, sunscreen, or other items…is it crossing a line and beginning to celebrate the sin itself? If not, why not? Now I understand how this effort might be evangelistic if there is a message of God’s love conveyed (verbally, in writing, etc). My concern is not so much with that as it is with simply being a “presence” in the midst of these activities…as if to communicate love and ACCEPTANCE of the sin and inadvertently communicating that God is “ok” with the sinner’s choice to sin.

While I don’t have all of the answers, I know that there is a message communicated by the church’s actions…so I am curious where you might think the “line” is in our activity. Love to hear your thoughts.

#P5: Establishing Righteousness requires the Removal of Evil

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“…Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon.” 1 Kings 2:46, NASB.

Now one of the things that I appreciate about the Old Testament Scriptures is (as my professor taught me) that they present the “stories- warts and all.” There are a number of difficult things about the Old Testament that shock our conscience. In short, the OT has some bloody scenes in it. We struggle to reconcile these things MOSTLY because we look at them through our own cultural lens. This makes discerning meaning more difficult. Because of this, sometimes we will attempt to make a historical account into an allegory or “spiritualize” an event that is simply historical. Frankly, this is unnecessary and is destructive to the practice of studying God’s Word.

The first chapters of this book reflect a struggle for power. With David’s death on the horizon, there was a power-vacuum looming and two factions sought to fill it. Adonijah did politics and popular appeal. He fed the people, was good-looking, and touched the bases with all of the key influencers. He exalted himself to the place of king so that he would be the people’s presumptive choice. Then there was Solomon whom David chose to replace himself (but only after a little manipulation by Nathan and Bathsheba). Following David’s death, Solomon was faced with a choice…learn to tolerate the competing faction, or destroy them. He chose the latter and it was the right choice.

That is the historical account. Certainly we should not try to apply the actions of Solomon in our own lives (since killing your opposition is generally frowned upon). However, we can apply the principle. When we are seeking a new start as holy people, there can be no compromise with evil. Imagine making brownies. You mix the batter with all of the good ingredients but add a few pellets of mouse droppings. Just a few. In the mix of all that is made, it is statistically improbable that 99% of the bites of the brownies could contain the droppings…but who is going to tolerate even those odds? Not me! Not you! If we were making brownies we would expect 100% or nothing. Period.

In our lives which are far more important than dessert, we have a tendency to lower that standard. We will present our bodies a living sacrifice to the Lord…yet we tolerate sin/evil as part of that sacrifice. Like offering God a potentially tainted brownie. How could we do that? We would never eat those ourselves! How could we offer such a tainted sacrifice to God.

The recipe for holiness requires that we completely remove evil if we are to be holy. All of it. Give the enemy no quarter and allow no sin to persist. This alone is the recipe for holiness. In obeying this instruction, we find that we will be firmly established as God’s chosen people.

Shalom, CA

#P5: The Source of Courage

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory.” 2 Samuel 23:11-12, NASB.

I love and am greatly challenged but this 23d chapter. In it is the recording of the names and many of the deeds of those who were closest to the king…his most trusted and valiant warriors. To read the stories is to step into a narrative of superheros. The actions of these men demonstrate incredible courage and are rewarded with supernatural victory by God.

Where does courage like that come from? In our world today, we (men) have allowed poets and philosophers to redefine courage. It takes courage they say “to sit down and have a conversation.” “It takes courage to forgive.” “It takes courage to admit you’re wrong.” These things do require character…but courage? No sir. I don’t think so…at least not in the way David speaks of courage here. Courage here involves stepping into the battle while greatly outnumbered and giving everything you have to win while trusting God to do what is pleasing to Him. The story above is of a single warrior who stood in a field of beans. All of God’s people (those with the promises of God made to them too) withdrew in the face of a large troop of the enemy leaving only Shammah to stand firm. The requirement for courage INCREASED as each man abandoned the land. In the end…Shammah stood and defended the bean field.

What strategic significance is a bean field? Limited at best…but the choice to stand firm was not about the strategy…it was about the HONOR of the NAME OF GOD! To retreat…was to trumpet a lack of confidence in God’s ability to bring victory. To retreat was to proclaim confidence in one’s own intellect over that of the Lord’s directive. To retreat was not to be the “bigger man” but to simply be a coward in the face of danger.

Shammah had nothing to count on that day…except the power and presence of God. I imagine he quietly decided (having surveyed the fields around him and the size of the enemy forces) that it was better to die standing for something than to dishonor God by fleeing. Did he believe he could win? I am not certain…but I imagine he had seen God bring victory out of the most overwhelming circumstances imaginable before…and believed that God just might do it again. Frankly though, I am not as certain in his expectations of OUTCOME as I am his understanding of RESPONSIBILITY in the present. Maybe he would die…but that was simply a consequence left up to God. What he knew in the moment was no true believer in the power of God runs when facing the enemy. He stands his ground and trusts God for the outcome that He sees fit.

So, what is the source of courage? Two things- confidence in God’s ability and obedience to the orders at hand. The rest is up to God.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Demonstrated Values…a Memorial Day Reflection

US Flag“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

The verse above removes all doubt of the limitless nature of God’s love toward us. Not just love of Himself, His purpose, His own glory…but of the deeply rooted value He holds toward us. He loves us.

It is one thing to say that you love someone…that you value him or her…but the truest measure of such devotion and value is demonstrated in the price willing to be paid on his or her behalf. I have heard some say along the way, “I love my spouse, but I just cannot continue to honor my vow of marriage.” This love has limits as is demonstrated by the unwillingness to continue in devotion, “til death we do part.” It may be a love that goes up to the point of deep personal angst…but not to death.

Christ held nothing back. There was no reserved love or withheld devotion. He gave ALL.

I was reflecting on this today in light of the observance of Memorial Day in the US. In like manner, today we observe commitment of men and women who gave their lives in defense of this nation. Not some geographical land mass…but in support of the ideals of the nation. I have said often that the commitment made by veterans, living and dead, is no different. Our oath is the same. We promised to defend the nation (our ideals and way of life) against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. We promised without reservation to follow the orders of our commanders, our leadership and to give every last measure of strength to fulfilling our assigned objective.

Again, it is one thing to say that and another thing to see it demonstrated. Each veteran who puts on a uniform demonstrates a willingness to fight, but those who have fallen in battle demonstrate that they were willing to die rather than fail their commitment.

Today, we honor our war-dead. We honor them because there is no doubt about the level of their commitment or the limitless nature of their love for our nation. Jesus said, “No greater love has any man than this, but to lay down His life for His friends.” No greater love.

So today…celebrate! Have a barbecue and don’t feel at all guilty. Your right to do so in a free country was purchased for you with blood of a friend. He or she died to demonstrate the value of our nation’s ideals. While you are celebrating…remember. You, your life, your FREEDOM meant (demonstrably) so much to those who’ve died that they gave their last full measure of devotion to secure it for you. Finally, value your freedom as precious and worthwhile, It is a wonderful possession and a sacred trust. Your freedom has been entrusted to you.

As Christ died for you, removing all doubt of His love for you…so the American Soldier who died on the field of battle for you demonstrates His love for the ideals of a nation that he or she entrusted to you.

God bless those who’ve given so much and may we all walk worthy of such demonstrated love.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Who is God besides the Lord?

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“For who is God besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress; and he sets the blameless in His way. He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your help makes me great.” 2 Samuel 22:32-36, NASB.

Sometimes people will say things like, “I need God to give me some spiritual help.” Usually what is meant is that the person desires something supernatural by way of wisdom, direction, or special intervention. It is the acknowledgment of the equivalent of sending up the “Bat Beacon.” Help us Batman!!

David though in this song of praise and acknowledgment of who God is and how God has been his strength throughout his life…expands far beyond the 9-1-1 responses of God. He honors God for strength in everyday tasks.

Now, I know that the war imagery is difficult to swallow for the followers of “hippie-Jesus.” For those who believe that God is all about peace and love and granola…this passage rocks your world…so you’re forced to try to redefine it as allegory or to deny the veracity of the Scriptures. As for me, I will let the Bible speak for itself and simply seek to apply it as if it were absolutely true and speaking a truthful statement from the ultimate Author…who is the Holy Spirit.

Kings, in this day, grew their holdings and their economy by taking land and resources. They took. Their goal was to become powerful and big and resourceful. This is not bad. After all, (in context) we are talking about the conquest of the land that God delivered title-deed to Abraham but was not brought under full control.Furthermore, if it was simply a new order from God, it would be no less authoritative or righteous in its action…even if that seemed unpalatable to some modern readers who impose their values on the culture.

So…kings conquered stuff. They defended against attacks and they attacked. David, who was a mighty and courageous warrior attributed his success…not to his own doing….but to God’s gracious enablement. God made his feet strong and sure. God guarded him with His shield of Salvation. God was his defense (Strong fortress). God trained his hands for battle and strengthened his arms so that he could do things beyond human explanation.

This statement of David’s successes is not boastful or arrogant. David exhibits great humility in speaking fo the conquest he has enjoyed BECAUSE of God’s work in his life. In one sentence, David humbly boasted of God’s power and grace.

You and I would do well to learn a few things from this. It is God that gives us firm ground to stand on, who makes our footing sure…who trains us for the tasks of the day and brings us success while guarding us until we fulfill His plan and purpose. May we rest in that today and tomorrow and every day that the Lord gives us to be used as instruments of His power and grace.

Shalom, CA

Let your kids choose not to go to church today and they won’t choose to go when they are adults

chrisaiken:

Great article by my partner and Associate Pastor Jonathan Hill. Well written explanation on why parents should really consider the messagew of making church attendance optional for their children…

Originally posted on The Hill House:

My dad was a pastor, so I got an inside perspective on church growing up. I did everything from help fold the bulletins to taking up the offering. Occasionally through my preteen and teen years there were those moments where for whatever reason… I did not want to go to church.

Now here is where it gets a little touchy because I had friends whose parents gave them the choice about attending church. (ironically they still HAD to do a lot of things like wear a shirt to the dinner table, do their homework, their chores, and visit with great-grandma).  I thought for sure that the only reason I HAD to attend church was because my dad “worked” there.I mean there must be a reason that my friends parents were lax on the whole church deal but strict on stuff like Algebra.

Then my dad got fired… ahem, I…

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