Category Archives: The Gospel

May 18; Clinging To The Altar

I Kings 1:1-2:12; Psalm 25: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; I Chronicles 29:23-30

Warren Wiersbe said something about this passage that has me thinking today. (With the Word; Oliver-Nelson Books, 1991; page 197). David was old and dying. God had told him Solomon would succeed him as King of Israel.

However, another son, Adonijah, had other ideas. Adonijah gathered support, including some of David’s top men, and made himself king before David died, and before Solomon was anointed in their father’s  place.

As soon as David heard what was happening, he took matters in hand and made Solomon king in a very official, very public way. Then he had King Solomon sit down on his throne in front of the world.

When Adonijah and his cronies heard the news, they panicked and ran for the hills. I’m sure the words “treason” and “death” were ringing loudly in their ears. Adonijah ran, too. But he didn’t run for the hills, he ran to the altar of God, grabbed hold of the horns of the altar, and stayed right there. He wasn’t there to offer a sacrifice for his sin. He wasn’t there to meet God. He was there because he thought the altar was as safe a place as any. Surely Solomon wouldn’t kill him while he clung to the altar of God, would he?

Wiersbe likens this to people who cling to their religion. “Adonijah fled to the altar for safety, not for sanctity.”

Some people feel “safe” if they attend church, write a check, volunteer at the church’s food kitchen or clothing closet, if they take communion, or pray a row of beads, if they’re baptized, or sing in the choir. They cling to the horns of the altar without letting the altar do its work in them, to change them, to deal with the sin in their lives.

I want to ask you a question today. Are you religious? Or do you have a personal relationship with God through the blood of Jesus? I’m asking myself the same thing.

May 15; Building The Church

I Chronicles 23-24, 6:16-30

I’ve shared that my church is in the middle of a building project. We are excited about moving forward, to laying a foundation now that the land is cleared, to see walls go up, and to eventually move to the north end of the island. The drawings of our future home are beautiful. Not ornate. But you’ll definitely be able to identify it as a church, unlike the remodeled garage we worship in today. It’s so exciting.

David was excited about his building project, too. We saw yesterday how he did the prep-work, buying materials and hiring skilled workers. David even went one step further, an unimaginable step, when he made Solomon king in his place. A king just didn’t do that. Death was the only thing that removed a king from a throne, or maybe an enemy victory. Never a willing abdication in favor of a son.

I imagine David was hoping he’d live long enough to at least see the temple built, even if God had told him Solomon was going to be the builder.

But, and here’s what spoke to me today, David wasn’t only concerned about the physical building of the temple. Oh, he wanted it done right, with the best materials. He wanted it to be the most beautiful building in the world. But David was not satisfied with a  beautiful structure. What use would it be if there wasn’t ministry happening there?

So, even before the foundation of the building was laid, he assigned people to be gatekeepers, musicians, officials, judges, bakers, dish washers, as well as priests. David doesn’t seem to be satisfied with the outward appearance, and not with what was to happen inside.

It’s nice to worship in a beautiful building with state-of-the-art technology, comfortable chairs and air-conditioning. But if there isn’t ministry happening in there, what good is it? The size or appearance of our churches are meaningless if God isn’t finding willing workers inside.

There are vital, beautiful churches that meet huddled together in someone’s living room, or in buildings with holes in the roof, and dirt floors. There are amazing churches meeting in store fronts, in tents, or barns where people are gathering together to worship, and grow, and then getting out there and making disciples.

Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on the physical, how our churches look, from the size of a steeple to the look of a stage, from how the landscaping looks to how the worship service looks, we neglect the ministry opportunities and responsibilities.

Let’s take care of our buildings, make sure the bills are paid and the lawn is mowed and the toilets flush. But let’s also remember why we have those buildings in the first place. Are we using them during the week for ministry, or only on Sunday for a couple hours? Are we who meet on Sundays sharing the Gospel when we leave those four walls, or are we only there for an experience?

You know the Church is not a building. It’s important to take care of our meeting places, but the Church is you. It’s me. Building God’s Church doesn’t involve hammers and nails, but men and women who are out there serving, ministering, people who are involved in the lives of other people, and leading them to their Savior.

I pray that we will have the same singular focus on growing the Church as David had in seeing that temple built. Let’s build the Church one redeemed soul at a time.

 

May 15; A Bucket List

2 Samuel 20; I Chronicles 22; Psalms 30 & 140

It’s a popular concept these days to have a “Bucket List.” It sounds fun, fulfilling, to check off all the things you’ve always wanted to do before you die. Skydiving? Check. River Cruise in Europe? Check. Broadway play? Check. Meeting a famous person? Check. Whatever you’ve dreamed about doing, do it before it’s too late.

Having a Bucket List is especially appealing to people who believe this life is all there is. Enjoy it before you turn into nothingness. It also seems to appeal to people who are their own priority. Me first, you know.

David had a different kind of Bucket List. We read that David wanted to build a temple for God. It was a longing, a passion of his to create a place worthy of God’s Presence. But God told him, “No.” Solomon would be the one to built the temple.

So David got busy. He drew up plans, hired workers, purchased materials, mentored Solomon. David’s Bucket List was full of ways to assure that temple would be built, even if his name wasn’t going to be on it. David’s Bucket List was about furthering God’s work.

I don’t read where he took even one trip to Disney. David’s Bucket List was all about God.

So I’m asking myself what it is I want to do before I die? Do I want my final push to be about me? Or do I want a Bucket List that looks like David’s, one that is full of things I can do for God before I meet Him?

I’d like my Bucket List to include the names of people I’ve influenced toward having a relationship with God through Jesus, rather than a lot of things I did for myself. I want my Bucket List to include things that glorify God – not me.

If I have the means to travel Europe on a luxury cruise ship, I have the means to take the Gospel to children in Haiti, or to build a well in Africa in Jesus’ name, or buy Bibles for Chinese Christians, or support a missionary in Romania, or give school supplies to kids in poverty in my home town. If I can put effort into meeting my sports hero or music icon, I can put effort into sharing Jesus with a homeless person, or my neighbor.

Now, please. I am not condemning anyone who goes on a European river cruise. I’d love to do that myself. And I’m not telling anyone how they should be spending their money. I’m just suggesting we take a look at our priorities and find out how God can be honored in our lives while we still are able.

Having a Bucket List might be a good thing. I think what is in our Bucket Lists are between us and God. Whatever we do, let’s do it to the glory of God while we still have time.

 

May 10; One Thing I Ask Of The Lord

Psalms 9, 10, 27, 37; 2 Samuel 15:37, 16:15

I read a few of these psalms a couple of times this morning because I found myself thinking about the state of the world instead of the condition of my heart. I found myself identifying the “wicked” as those who are fighting against the Truth, people who are killing Christians, others who blatantly sin and then condemn those of us who speak against it.

Yes, there are evil people in the world. And yes, God wants His Church to defeat Satan in the worst of them. But I’m reminded God can’t change the world until He changes my heart.

The “wicked” David wrote about were flesh and blood people to him. To me, the “wicked” is Satan, my own inclination to sin, anything that keeps me from having the best relationship with God. David says this is Psalm 37:4:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

He continues to tell us what that looks like; Commit your way to the Lord. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath. In Psalm 9 David tells us to praise the Lord with all our hearts, to be glad, rejoice, and sing praises.

Warning: if you think Psalm 37:4 is the magic formula to getting something you want, think again. This verse is absolutely not saying that if you do this, this, and this you can rub the magic genie lamp and have that windfall show up on your doorstep. I have little patience with people, including preachers, who say if you praise the Lord, raise your hands, shout your praises it will somehow result in you getting a material blessing.

For me, the key is found in Psalm 27:4:

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Notice David doesn’t say, “One thing I ask of the Lord is that my enemies drop dead around my feet.” Or “that I will win the lottery, or beat a physical illness, or that my political party controls the nation.”

David says to God, “The only think I want is just to be with You, to gaze upon Your beauty, to seek You in Truth.”

Is that the one thing I ask of God? Is that the desire of my heart? Is that the thing that is my focus, my goal, my joy – just to have God near me? Why wouldn’t it be? There is love in His Presence. There is strength, comfort, rest, protection, joy, peace. No material blessing, no amount of money can buy what God can – and wants – to give His people who are delighting in Him, to those who are His through the blood of Jesus.

And it is from there that God and I can change the world – one redeemed soul at a time.

May 9; Parenting For Heaven

Psalm 3, 4, 11, 12, 23, 26, 36; 2 Samuel 16:1-14

Recently I read an article about how we need to be raising our children – and especially our daughters – to be “empowered.” It said we should be telling them they are strong, special, perfect, capable, and beautiful every day. On the surface that sounds right. We certainly shouldn’t be telling them they are ugly, worthless, and useless, right?

But is training our children to be self-aggrandizing how God wants us to train them? Psalm 12 starts out by saying there are no godly people out there. The faithful, David says, have vanished. Everyone lies. Everyone flatters. They say, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Empowerment.

Psalm 36 continues with this thought concerning the “sinfulness of the wicked.” They do not fear God. And then verse 2:

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin.”

Is that how we are teaching our children? Parents and Grandparents, you have got to raise your children to understand their sin problem. And they all have a sin problem. Let’s face it, even your child is not “all that.” There are times even your child disobeys you. Your child has lied to you, kicked the dog or bitten the neighbor kid. And sometimes the tantrums your child throws drives you up a wall. Be honest.

I believe it is at those moments your children need to know who really has the power.

If we don’t teach our children to be sorry for – ashamed of – disobedience, or selfishness, or meanness, we are teaching them they don’t need to detect or hate their own sin. If they don’t fear you, how do you think they are going to realize their need to fear God?

It saddens me when I hear Christian parents say they don’t spank their children, or raise their voices to their children, or show anger toward their children. I want to tell those well-meaning parents to put down the psycho-babble and open their Bibles. Do you think Dr. Spock and the “positive parenting” gurus have a better handle on child-rearing than God?

Ask yourself how your child’s Heavenly Father reacts to disobedience. I’ll tell you right now, when the Jewish people obeyed God, they obeyed because they were afraid not to. Can your children say they obey you for the same reason? They should. Fear is not the opposite of love. Fear is a good thing. Fear is the loving thing. It’s Scriptural.

The Bible tell us God hates sin. Hates it. He considers sinners His enemy. But He died for those enemies, He died for your child. But your child will have to make a decision to repent of sin, to ask for forgiveness, to accept what Jesus died to give him or her while they were yet sinners. How do you expect them to do that if they don’t even recognize sin in themselves? It’s your responsibility as a parent to teach them what that means.

And that means teaching them that their disobedience is sin, that dumping the food on the floor is a sin, that taking a toy another child has is a sin, that slapping you is a sin. That there are consequences for sin. It means teaching them that there is forgiveness for sin when they ask for it, and not before. It also means that they can count on your love, and that your love is why you discipline.

Please raise your children to recognize their need of God. Help them to understand they are vile sinners before a Holy God. Raise your children to want to ask God for forgiveness as soon as they understand they are sinners. Raise your children to go to heaven. The alternative is unthinkable.

 

May 7; First Things First

2 Samuel 5:13-16, 13:1-5:6; I Chronicles 145:3-7, 3:4-9

Amnon committed a sexual sin with his sister Tamar. What he did to her was vile and inexcusable. There should have been severe consequences for his behavior. But we don’t read that David, his father (and Tamar’s), said or did anything to Amnon.

Did David remember his own sexual sin he had committed with Bathsheba? Did the fact that the king had taken many women into his own bed prevent him from taking a stand against the sin Amnon committed?

Years ago I had a friend whose 18 year old daughter moved in with her boyfriend. My friend was not happy about it, but she threw up her hands and said to me, “How can I say anything? I did the same thing when I was 18.”

I wonder if she was giving her daughter permission to commit EVERY sin she herself ever committed, or just that one? I’ve come to believe that having committed sins in our past, then repenting and experiencing God’s forgiveness for those sins, gives us every right to speak up. I’d go so far as to say it gives us the responsibility to speak up. David took the easy, the comfortable way out and kept silent.

It angers me that Amnon was allowed to go on with life as though nothing had happened. Yet Tamar, the victim, ended up living in her brother Absalom’s house, “a desolate woman.” For whatever reason, Amnon’s sin was never addressed by David, and Amnon never repented.

Well it angered Absalom, too. Because two years later, Absalom had his brother Amnon killed. Yet another example of someone committing a sin to pay back a sin. When will we learn? What we see is another sin that is never addressed.

Absalom takes off and hides in Geshur. Good riddance, right? I mean the guy murdered his brother. Nope. Scripture tells us David “mourned for his son every day.” But even mourning his son’s absence didn’t prompt David to confront the sin. I believe that’s why, when the woman from Tekoa came to David, she could easily convince David to take Absalom back.

I mean, she invoked the name of God, so what she said must be true, right? “Send for poor Absolom, Bring him home. Accept him. You’re like an angel of God, David. You’ll do the right thing,”

So David, without asking God what he should do, invites Absalom home. Sounds like the Christian thing to do. I mean, who are we to judge?

What is glaringly missing from this account is any repentance on the part of Amnon or Absalom. Amnon died without asking for forgiveness. And Absalom doesn’t admit guilt, doesn’t ask for forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

Yet we read that eventually, David welcomes Absolom with open arms and kisses anyway. We will read more of this story, and see how embracing an unrepentant sinner will effect David and his entire kingdom.

Folks, welcoming sinners into the Church body is as destructive as David welcoming Absalom into his home. I believe Scripture is clear that repentance HAS to come first. The church that embraces sinners (who in reality are God’s enemies), the church that accepts sin, and refuses to keep the fellowship holy, is doomed for destruction. I know this is contrary to what most of us believe because it sounds so harsh, so unloving. But in reality, it’s the only loving thing to do.

I believe with all my heart that churches aren’t dying because of the hymns they sing on Sunday morning, or the lack of fancy technology, or a foyer with no coffee shop. Churches are dying because of sin in our midst. God will not bless sin. God cannot be present where sin is allowed to exist. Making our churches a comfortable place for sinners to come is counterproductive. That has never been what church was intended to be.

I think the account we see here of David’s life is an example of what happens when sin is allowed to exist without being addressed. I see Scripture telling us we need to keep the Church holy, undefiled, an exclusive organization for believers only. But I also believe Scripture is clear that we who are members of God’s Church need to be out there loving on people who haven’t dealt with their sin, spreading the Gospel, leading people to the Savior, making disciples, THEN inviting them to church.

First things first. And repentance has to be the first thing.

 

 

May 4; Momentary, Light Affliction

Psalm 44, 60, 108, 124; 2 Samuel 8:9-14, 23:18-19; I Chronicles 11:20-21, 18:9-13

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why aren’t all Christians living long and healthy lives in the lap of luxury? Does God abandon His people, even those who love and obey Him? Are there times God goes on vacation, or sleeps, and isn’t aware of what His children are going through? It may seem that way to some.

It seemed that way to David. But we are wrong to judge God according to how we feel. We are to trust Him for who HE IS.

If Jesus had gone to the cross in order to make our lives comfortable, bad things would never happen to Christians. Do you think that was Jesus’ motivating factor for enduring the awful beatings and painful death? When He was hanging there, do you think He thought, “Well, at least Suzie will get that job promotion in 2019, and Johnny will get that house on the ocean, and Ellen won’t get cancer?” Was His goal to make His children healthy, wealthy, successful, and happy?

Of course not!

Then why do we get upset with God when we go through hard times? He never said we wouldn’t. Why do we blame God for a cancer diagnosis, or the loss of a job? If anything, Jesus promised life would be hard for us. Do we think He was talking about everyone BUT us?

David gives us a bit of insight as to why God allows those hard times, unfair treatment, suffering. “Yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22)

Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. And His power can be seen in the lives of His children, even when those children struggle. Maybe especially when His children struggle.

Consider what Paul had to say on the subject. Take a minute and read 2 Corinthians 4. Paul, who suffered more than most of us, considered the beatings, imprisonment, exhaustion, and persecution, “momentary, light affliction…” for the privilege of knowing Christ. Wow.

God doesn’t want us to love Him because He can make us comfortable. God wants us to love Him because HE IS. And God wants to reveal Himself through each of us in a way that will draw people to Him. Is how you are going through those devastating circumstances making people want God in their lives, too?

I’m sure we all know people who are living this truth. I have a friend whose husband was paralyzed years ago in a motorcycle accident. The faith and love of God in this couple is powerful. I have another friend whose husband had a debilitating stroke a year ago. She shines Jesus every day. There is a blogger friend of mine who has lived with ALS for 20 years. He continues to minister to people all over the world in Jesus’ name. Real life people, struggling in this lifetime, and still allowing God to use them for His glory.

Are you struggling? I pray you can embrace the struggle. James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials. Can you do that? Understand that God wants to show off in our circumstances. He wants everyone around you to see His strength and power and love through you. What we are facing is momentary and light if we know Jesus as our Savior. Because we have an eternity with God to look forward to.

And we have the privilege of being His light to a very dark world. Even in our struggles. What are you willing to endure for His sake? What was Jesus willing to endure for yours?