#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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#P5: Our Offensive Response

Pastor's Five, P5 logo1Then it was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.”

2The victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.”

3So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle.

4The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

5Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines,

6by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.

7“Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”

2 Samuel 19:1–7 (NASB95)

Following David’s sin, we find the consequences still persisting. Absalom, his son, has usurped the king and has established himself on the throne. David was in exile and his troops sought to return their king to his rightful place. So, they took Absalom out.

David’s response upon hearing the news of the efforts of his army…to weep for his son the rebel.

Now, the parent side of me understands and is perhaps a bit empathetic. The Christ-follower side of me (which isn’t a different side but has a more prophetic voice) understand the rebuke of Joab and the error of David. David wept for the rebel and failed to honor the courageous. He felt unworthy of the throne (and not in a positive humility way). He felt as if he had lost something of value (his son) when in reality he was forsaking something of value (his calling).

At times we do the same thing. God calls us to stand up for Him and we choose to blunt the sharp edge of God’s Word. We do so, not by denying the veracity of the Scripture outright, but in affirming evil. We even convince ourselves that we are somehow humble in doing so. We claim that we are exhibiting the gentleness of Christ when we soften our response to sinful rebellion. This is not COMPASSION but SEDITION. In our failure to rebuke, we (by default) affirm rebellion.

I have often thought of the response of Aaron in Leviticus 10:1-4 as perplexing. (Again thinking as a father). However, I am increasingly convinced that his response of failing to mourn his sons’ deaths is the only right response. Had he done so, he would have dishonored the name/holiness of God.

David should have seen Absalom’s rebellion as what it was…rebellion against Holy God. Period. He knew that one should not rise up against God’s anointed king and yet he tolerated it from his own son.

Joab was right. David was foolish. God was ultimately glorified and sin, once again, demonstrates its wicked power in our lives; a power that can only be defeated by God and victory experienced only as we abandon ourselves to trust God’s way.

Shalom, CA

#P5: The “Long Game” of Faithfulness

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” Psalm 37:3-5, NASB.

As I was reading this morning, I was reminded again that faithfulness to God is not momentary or fleeting, but is by definition a decision, backed by a decision, backed by a decision over extended periods of time. The Psalmist (David) reminds us here that we are to “CULTIVATE” faithfulness and to DO GOOD. The doing of good is the action behind the decision of faithfulness. Faithfulness is not the byproduct but is the decision itself. We choose faithfulness. We choose to honor the commitment we make to God. We choose to see the world through the lens of our decision for faithfulness. We choose/decide to do it over and over again.

The word cultivate brings to mind the process of farming. While I am not a farmer I have spent a few days working in a garden. Working a garden requires preparing the soil, planting a seed, caring for the seed (Water, etc) weeding the garden, caring for the plant, guarding against predator rabbits :), etc. IOW…no farmer just throws seed, or plants it and leaves it alone. To do so is to leave the produce in the hands of “chance.” In like manner, we are not called to leave our faithfulness to chance. We cultivate it. We decide. We immerse ourselves in the Word. We guard the seed with accountability. We weed the garden, removing other things that diminish precious resources and nutrients.

In our spiritual lives, we must choose to cultivate faithfulness…or we are by default cultivating unfaithfulness. What we cultivate becomes our delight. When my parents would plant corn or cucumbers or melons in the garden, they would go out often to check the progress. They looked forward to the harvest. They sought the product of their labor. The did not plant corn to simply have corn plants…they wanted a have an ear of corn to eat. The bigger, more perfect the ear, the greater their delight.

In the same way, when we guard and cultivate faithfulness, we come to delight in the product of our labors.

Cultivate faithfulness. Dwell in the Land. Delight in the Lord. Your product will come and it will be amazing.

Shalom, CA

#P5: God’s Grace in Exposing our Sin

Pastor's Five, P5 logoFollowing the multiplied sins related to Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to the king (David) who seemed to have succeeded in covering up his sin and eliminating the loose ends that could trip him up later. David seems to be in the clear, at least on the surface, then God sends the prophet who tells David a story about a man who has everything and takes the sole possession of a poor neighbor. David’s response:

“The David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.’ Nathan then said to David, ‘You are the man!’…” 2 Samuel 12:5-7a, NASB.

We don’t often think of God as gracious as He is exposing our sin. Take Chuck Colson for example. One of the hatchet men for Nixon during Watergate who was exposed. He came to faith in Christ and admitted his wrongdoing. God used him powerfully as the founder of Prison Fellowship. Neither his salvation (arguably) nor the fruits of his ministry would have occurred without the exposure of his sin.

Sin breaks our fellowship with God. Unrepentant sinners live disfellowshipped…having no active relationship with Him except as a rebellious child toward a judging parent. This break in fellowship persists until we have confessed our sin and responded to God in repentance. This does not occur until the sin is first EXPOSED!

Nathan calls David out. Notice that David’s response to the fable about the “ewe lamb” is a response of anger. It has been my experience that we get the most angry about other peoples’ sins that mirror our own. I have a few guys who accuse me of being a “controlling dictator” at times. I imagine every leader has borne that weighty criticism from time to time and don’t argue that I am immune from the allure of power…but the reason that this “control” issue is so prevalent with these brothers…is that they are controlling guys. They are used to being in charge and think they know best…so when they are not driving, they are critical of the driver. They are angered because the sins of others illuminate the sins in their own makeup. [Consequently, I know a lot of preachers who preach the hardest and the loudest against the sins that have the deepest roots in their own hearts.]

Nathan’s exposure of David’s sin is not comfortable…for Nathan or David, but it is necessary to start the process of reconciliation (v.13).

It is important to note that while David confessed his sin (see also Psalm 51 which is written because of this incident), the consequences of the sin are not removed. Ultimately, David will not die because of His sin. One died in His place (that is Jesus). However, the consequences and fallout from the sin persist. [This is a shocker for those with a Sunday School faith in the modern church]. Yet, the consequences are bearable because God traverses the road back to restoration with us. While we have consequences, following repentance, we also have fellowship. That changes everything.

A wise reader will meditate on the fact that God may be at work exposing sin and sinful tendencies in his own life. What is God saying? Rather than hating the exposure…yield to it and allow the flood of God’s redemptive and restorative love wash over you. There is a path back but it only begins as you acknowledge the sin that God is exposing.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: When kings don’t go to war

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel…but David stayed at Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1, NASB.

Those who know me know that I am fond of the statement that I live everyday one “stupid act” away from ruining my ministry and destroying those closest to me. In this way, I am no different than every other man or woman I know…except perhaps in the scope of influence that goes with my position.

David’s great sin…with Bathsheba…is no different than many others. He committed adultery. Horrible sin but not outside the realm of possibilities for a man of his stature in the era he lived. I say that, not to excuse David but to remind us that his mistake was simply that…a mistake…or was it? Could it be that the sin of adultery was simply the natural consequence a series of decisions that left him in a vulnerable place?

Observe:

  • David was not where he was supposed to be. Kings went out with their armies. David sent out his army while staying behind.
  • David was overconfident. This led to his actions of staying behind. He had great success in battle. His army was powerful. He simply let the generals handle it.
  • There was no accountability. The more power or influence a man has, the more accountability he needs in his life. All of David’s strong men were gone. No one but a few domestic servants around and they were not going to challenge him.
  • David perceived that no one was watching. Alone times are the worst times of temptation. When we think that there is no consequence, we do dumb things.
  • David’s actions contributed to the sins of others. Bathsheba sinned against God and her husband at the behest of the king. Joab sent a man to die in battle at the instruction of the king.
  • David thought he could cover up his sin. After all, he had the “midas touch” in so many areas. Problem is, God does not let his “children” cover their sins for long. Every sin is uncovered. The saved man uncovers it (confesses it unto Salvation). The lost man has it uncovered at the judgment and then he pays the penalty for it.

Now, in reality, we will never avoid all sin. We should make it our aim in Christ to do so but we will never achieve perfection on our own in the flesh. At the same time, we are FOOLISH to CHOOSE to leave ourselves vulnerable to overwhelming temptation. David entered into this sin with his eyes open. NO WAY! He did not know when he slept with Bathsheba that it would lead to such death and destruction! Probably not, but he knew it was unwise and he knew it was sin and he knew it dishonored God. The consequences of the sin…simply followed after the willful choice. This is what happens when kings don’t go to war.

Shalom, CA