Not Walking with Jesus

Men face many enemies in the quest to raise our children and greatest enemy stares back at us in the mirror every morning. Our own personal sin and selfishness wars against us. We wrestle with the temptation to either pamper our children our neglect them. We waver back and forth between permissiveness and control. Our children ask for more of our time but we struggle to give it to them because our face is buried in our phones.

A man must continue to grow as he grows older, and this only happens by growing as a Christian. We possess no power to change ourselves over the long haul because the sin in us is too deep. We need the forgiveness and restoration which comes through faith in Jesus as well as the transformation he works in those who belong to him. We call this process sanctification and it happens as a man hears from Jesus through his word, depends on him through prayer, and acts on what he learns through obedience. When he fails, he repents and gets up again by the Spirit’s power.

This process of repentance and growth produces lasting change in a man. The man who was irritable grows more gracious, the anxious man becomes more peaceful, and the timid man finds himself more courageous. Therefore, fathers must make the time to read the Bible to hear from God, spend time with him in prayer, and find brothers who know him and can help him as he walks through fatherhood.

Not Loving Your Wife

Not all fathers are married, but many are. If you are married, your relationship with your wife is second only to your walk with Jesus. You must take heed to Paul’s command to, “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” You do not push the pause button on this injunction because children have been born, but instead you double down on it. For the husband, this means you daily look for opportunities to serve your wife and to prioritize making time to spend with her. Rather than allowing the kids to stay up until all hours of the night, you work with your wife to get them into bed so you can spend time together. Instead of walking in the house and plopping in a chair to watch sports, the wise husband comes home ready to engage his wife and help her in any way he can.

For several years the prevailing wisdom was that the health of a marriage depended on a consistent date night. While I still believe making time to do things together without the kids is important, I’ve come to see the daily time as having greater importance than date night. The consistent time together day after day creates a strong bond than many hours together spread out weeks apart.

Before the birth of our first child someone told me, “the best gift you can give your daughter is to love her mother.” Ten years and four children later this statement proved itself to be true. A strong relationship with your wife builds a safe environment in which your children can thrive.

Not Making Time for Your Kids

Everything about our culture makes war on the man who wants to spend time with his children. Long commutes, smart phones, homework, and the outrageous demands of youth sports leagues set up for men to have minimal interaction with his children. Therefore a father must take control of his family’s schedule in order to prioritize quality time with his children.

Many men believe they will “find” the time to spend with their kids only to find it does not happen. Those who want to find time must instead begin to make time for connecting. This begins with Dad being all the way home when he is home. Dr. D.A. Carson wisely counsels us, “Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.” Following this advice will create ample time to spend with our children and reduce much of the frustration our children experience with us. When Dad gets home but still needs to answer emails, our kids don’t understand why we need to keep working when we get home. They become irritated with us because we are working and we get angry with them because they won’t leave us alone. The only answer is to work until you can finish and then come home and be completely at home. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. Work when you’re at work and be home when you’re at home.

Men should also create opportunities for connecting with their children in the ordinary rhythms of life. These opportunities come around the dinner table, in the living room, and in the front yard. Eat dinner together as a family with mobile devices in another room so you can talk and laugh. When you have yard work to do, involve your kids and let them help. It will take longer and won’t be done as well, but that doesn’t really matter. The wise Dad would rather have shrubs trimmed too closely with his children than to have a perfectly manicured yard while the kids sit inside.

Every father must learn the key word, “intentionality.” Growing as a Christian, connecting with your wife, and enjoying children cannot happen by accident. The pace of life in our culture refuses to allow it. Men, I challenge you this week to spend time in prayer with an open notebook. How will you begin to prioritize time for growth, time for your bride, and time for your children?

Related Posts:
Parents Keep a Cool Head
What I Learned about Life from My Father

For Further Reading
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
The Dude’s Guide to Marriage by Darrin Patrick


I never knew what a big shopping day the day after Thanksgiving was until I worked at my local Wal-Mart. That Friday morning crowds of people lined up at 5:30 in the morning to run get good deals on TVs and VCRs. This phenomenon has only grown since those days in the early 1990’s with Black Friday sales growing larger and larger. A few years ago stores started opening at midnight and in competition with each other they began opening earlier and earlier until they have encroached into Thanksgiving Dinner.

This reflects a larger cultural shift where the Christmas holiday seems to have completely swallowed Thanksgiving. Some radio stations begin playing Christmas music the day after Halloween. People seems to count down the days to Christmas and treat Thanksgiving as if it is an afterthought.

Part of this has to do with the nature of these holidays and how we treat them says a lot about where we are as a culture. Unfortunately Christmas has become a primarily commercial holiday filled with frenzied activity. Thanksgiving is the exact opposite kind of holiday. It does not involve presents and the preparations don’t consume us in the way Christmas does. Thanksgiving usually consists of two activities- eating and talking. Christmas moves at a lightning fast pace. Thanksgiving plods.

Thanksgiving emphasizes two things we have forgotten how to do- be grateful for what we already have and connect with the people who are sitting in front of us. I a culture which emphasizes the consistent need for more, we must work to recover what it means to be thankful. The Bible calls us to thankfulness in both overt and subtle ways. We know the Psalms which command us to give thanks, but miss the times we are called to do things “with thanksgiving.” For example, in Philippians 4 Paul encourages us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication “with thanksgiving” to make our requests known to God. Even our prayers which are requests to God should be marked by a spirit of thanksgiving. Perhaps Paul phrases his admonition this way because we our thanksgiving grounds our confidence that God hears what we ask. When we make requests with thanksgiving, we remember how he has answered our prayers in the past and we expectantly look forward to his answers in the future.

Following on the heels of Paul’s call to pray in Philippians 4 is his admonition to learn contentedness in all circumstances. When Paul wrote “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” he was not about to score a touchdown or hit a home run; he sat in a jail cell. From this dungeon he tells us to learn to live contentedly in whatever state we may find ourselves. Our culture hates this kind of contentedness. Contentment does not grow the economy; dissatisfaction does. Contentment and the attendant thankfulness which flows from it fights against the constant desire for more in the way we currently approach Christmas seems to do.

Thanksgiving also pushes towards connection with people in a way which is counter-cultural. We seem to be more connected than ever, but in reality our lives have never been more disconnected. While we may be connected to thousands of people through our mobile devices, we forgot the art of connecting with the flesh and blood people around us. Thanksgiving has no presents to open and no new gadgets to tinker with. We simply have food and our family. What if this year we kept our devices in our pockets during Thanksgiving dinner and only talked to the people around us? What if we told stories, laughed, and listened to each other instead of distractedly nodding at each other until it was time to rush out for Black Friday sales?

We were made for God and for each other. The desire you feel to be connected to other people was put there by God who created more than one person in the beginning. This was not simply a function of biology, but it was also social. Just as the one God has always known the fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit, he made us to know each other and to be known. What if in our age of constant connections we are consistently missing the connections we actually need?

Next week embrace the Thanksgiving holiday and the opportunities it creates. Look above to the source of all your blessings and look around you to the people whom you can know and with whom you can connect.

Related Posts:
Recovering the Family Dinner Table

For Further Reading:
A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
Thanksgiving by David Pao

A Few Good Reads

November 13, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The System I Use for Long Term Scripture Memorization
“I have hidden your words in my heart that I might not sin against you.” The Psalmist’s words from Psalm 119 remind us of the necessity of storing away God’s word in our minds and hearts. While we live in an age avert to rote memorization, it is still the best way to remember God’s word. Chris Brauns shares his system for long term memorization and the person devoting themselves to his recommendations will see tremendous long term benefits. “Systematic long term memorization of Scripture requires only minutes on any given day. I took a break while writing this to review 10 verses. It took me one minute and twenty-two seconds to recite them. It was a minute and twenty-two seconds well spent.”

Can You Be a Sold Out Christian in the Suburbs?
We must be honest and admit many recent Christian books sound like the author believes a person who settles down and lives a faithful Christian life in the suburbs has settled for less than God has called them to. While the suburbs possess many subtle temptations which can pull us away from our devotion to Jesus, many wonderful opportunities exist as well. Owen Strachan, building on his book Risky Gospel, shares his call to Christians in the suburbs. “I want people to leave everything they have and go to closed countries and share the gospel. That’s glorious! But it’s also glorious when you keep going to your church, you keep teaching Sunday School to third graders, you keep building a vocation for yourself by which to honor Christ, you keep sharing the gospel with your FedEx driver, and so on and so forth.”

15 Habits That Will Totally Transform Your Productivity>
This post from Fast Company points to some helpful tips for becoming more productive. Nothing in this post is new or earth-shattering, but they serve as helpful reminders. “No matter how crazy your days get, make sure you carve out and ruthlessly protect just 90 minutes—20% of an eight-hour day—for the most important tasks. “Even if you squander the remaining 80% of the day, you can still make great progress if you have spent 90 minutes on your goals or priorities,” says Charlotte, North Carolina–based productivity coach Kimberly Medlock.”

The Dude’s Guide to Marriage
Every man struggles to know how to love his wife well at times. Even the strongest husbands need help to grow. Darrin Patrick and Amie Patrick just released a great new tool to help husbands grow with his new book The Dude’s Guide to Marriage. “As Darrin and Amie Patrick reveal in this profoundly practical and transformational book, God designed your wife to want to need to be loved. And that design is an invitation for you to love her deeply, intentionally and passionately. Practicing ten powerful actions including listening, pursuing, and serving will transform you into your wife’s lifelong champion and have her nominating you for the Husband Hall of Fame. The Dude’s Guide to Marriage is for guys who want to grow, who want clear steps to improving their marriage. It’s for men who want a marriage that thrives rather than just survives. Grab this guide, and get ready to be a better husband by becoming a better man.” (Also check out Darrin’s book The Dude’s Guide to Manhood.)

Parents, Keep a Cool Head

November 11, 2015 — 1 Comment

“Parenting is hard.” This sentence comes to my mind multiple times a week. We have four children ten and under, so we devote large portions of our day to playing, reading, teaching, correcting, consoling, and managing conflict. While few things in my life bring me as much joy as parenting, it can also be the source of some of my greatest difficulties. (In fact I took a break about 100 words into the post to play in a blanket fort. It was time well spent.)

What caught me the most off guard was how quickly our first child developed a will of her own and started disobeying. She did this by actively telling us she did not want to do what we told her to do and by ignoring what we told her to do. This only increased exponentially with each while. If I’m honest with myself, my children don’t present the greatest challenge to my parenting though; I do. My greatest struggles in parenting do not come from my children’s disobedience, but my responses to them that come from selfishness, impatience, and anger.

I have learned that I have to write a Bible verse over all of my interactions with my children when they are stubborn or disobedient. “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These words from the Apostle James explain why we should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Our anger cannot achieve God’s righteousness. In other words, our sinful anger cannot achieve God’s righteous aims.

This sentence contains an important implication for our parenting. Parents cannot produce godly character or behavior in our children by losing our temper. We cannot frustratingly berate them into loving other people more than themselves. Impatiently scolding them embitters their hearts rather than softening them. Repeated shaming leads begrudging obedience in the short term but no lasting change of heart.

In addition losing your temper in response to your child’s sin focuses their attention on your behavior instead of their own. If they have been startled by a yell or are scared of what you might do, they have forgotten what they have done and become fixed on you. This creates in them an unhealthy fear of us based on placating our anger instead of a genuine change of heart.

When we lose our temper or impatiently vent at our children we tear down by example what we have sought to teach them in our more level-headed moments. Our kids hear our words but watch what we do. We cannot teach them to control themselves when we do not.

Parents, I want to encourage you to spend much time remembering the grace God has shown you. I cannot count the number of times I have said something to my children and immediately thought “God could say the same thing to me.” I grow impatient with them because they have disobeyed in a particular way multiple times over the course of a few months but forget how patient God has been with me in areas where I have been disobeying for years. Recall how often God has forgiven you and extended his mercy, then parent with a spirit marked by this mercy. This does not mean you do not correct misbehavior, but it changes the tone and manner in which you correct it.

Also spend many hours reading and meditating on Proverbs. Calls to have a cool head and a cool spirit occur often in Proverbs. He shows in manifold ways the folly of anger and the exceeding benefits of a calm spirit. Commit these passages to memory and pray like you have never prayed for the Father to burn them into your heart.

Related Posts:
Losing Your Temper With Your Children is Not Discipline
When You Lose Your Temper with Your Kids

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

A Few Good Reads

November 7, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The Power of Conversation: A Lesson from CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien
If you read these posts regularly you know how much I enjoy and benefit from the posts on The Art of Manliness. This post on the conversations between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien may be my favorite thing they have written so far. In an age where we spend little time thinking about friendship and are more connected while being more disconnected than ever, we need to hear this message. “Good conversation does not operate on the principle of efficiency. It needs to be open-ended — without chronological parameters or set agenda. And it doesn’t have to take a completely smooth course. Oftentimes we cut a conversation short because there’s an awkward pause, or a seeming lull, or because people are repeating themselves. Yet such things are perfectly natural; are we to suppose that Lewis, Dyson, and Tolkien talked for eight or so hours, without there being a single lull? Very doubtful! Sometimes silences become important pivot points to a new, fruitful stream of discussion. And good conversation often goes over the same things a few times, going deeper on the second pass, with a fresh realization emerging on the third.”

Your Daughter and the Reality of Teenage Sex
If you have daughters I’m sure the title of this post made you cringe. This post at AllPro Dad covers seven major factors at play in teenage sexuality and how dads can shepherd their daughters through these issues. “She is blissfully unaware of what you know well. You know how teenage boys think and feel. You know the emotional entanglement that dating brings particularly when things get physical. A young girl’s heart is like a spider web; the more intimate they get, the more of his hand is on it. Teenagers don’t have the life experience to know the deep impact of their actions. When he moves on, he pulls his hand off the web leaving it in tatters. Sadly, she may even think of herself as ruined.”

Stop Blaming Suburbia for Killing off Friendships
In the last “A Few Good Reads” post I shared this article from Vox on how our housing choices affect friendships. Writing at Mother Jones Kevin Drum disagrees. He makes some interesting counterpoints to the Vox post. “Or take my current suburban neighborhood. It’s pretty typical. Everyone is friendly, and we know our near neighbors. Some close friendships have developed, but that’s about it. Across the street there’s a nearly identical neighborhood, but this one is far more close-knit, throwing Halloween parties and July 4th bashes and just generally socializing in a way that mine doesn’t. Why?”

Why Study Hebrew (or Greek)?
David Murray’s son asked him why a person should study Hebrew. He responds with the benefits of knowing the original languages along with helpful links to resources. “That to me is the single biggest reason for studying the Bible in the original languages. It slows you down and forces you think about every single word and their relation to each other in a way that English cannot do. Understanding English is just too instantaneous, too automatic, too routine.”

40 Thoughts for My 40th Birthday
Jared Wilson’s writing on the Gospel, the Christian life, and the church has been helpful to me. He’s also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, especially when the Patriots are playing. Jared shares forty thoughts on turning forty. There are some great insights here on marriage, parenting, ministry, and writing. “There is always a new battle to face. I do not struggle with lust as badly as I did when I was a younger man—praise God!—but this gluttony thing wins more days than I do.”

Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman’s analysis of the effect of TV on politics, morality, and public discourse has more relevance than ever. We need to hear this books three decade old message. “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

(We are currently in a series on the life of David at Chelsea Village. As I’ve written before I attempt to write a full manuscript of my sermon before preaching. Throughout this series I’ll be posting some of the sermons I think will be helpful. If you would rather listen to the sermon, you can find it here.)

This past week I had been reading 1776 by David McCullough which tells the story of the events surrounding the American Revolution in 1776; focusing specifically on the siege of Boston and battle of New York. It was interesting to hear the attitude of those first Americans towards the English monarchy and then read our current news to see a Bush and a Clinton running for President. Whether we want to admit it or not, America has always had royal families, whether it be in politics, business, or entertainment. We idolize these families to the point we even become obsessed with their children. How often is one of the top news stories during the day about the child of a celebrity doing something wrong?

We scrutinize the children of celebrities and politicians because we want to see what they will do with the advantage they have been handed. We see them as being people of privilege and having a responsibility to live up to the family name. In a related way, those who follow Jesus should ask ourselves what we do in light of the grace we have been shown. Since we have experienced the overwhelming grace of God through Jesus, what are we going to do with the privilege God gave to us.

Last week we looked at the promises God made to David. He promised him he would make his name great. He promised he would have offspring who would reign forever. David hears this life and history altering promise and begins to pray. In this prayer we see three ways we should respond to God’s grace.

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”
2 Samuel 7:18-29

Develop a High View of God

David continually refers to God as “O Lord God.” When he does this he refers back to an important time in Israel’s history and in doing so tells us something about God. In Exodus 3 we have the famous encounter of Moses at the burning bush. Here the Lord speaks to Moses from a bush that is on fire but not consumed. The Lord tells Moses that he is going to go to the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go. Moses naturally shakes in his shoes and starts trying to find a way out of this assignment. He appeals to his poor speech and at one point asks in whose name he should tell them he has come. Every nation in the Ancient Near East had deities and a person would come in the name of the whatever god governed their nation. What the Lord tells us about himself here sets him apart from any tribal deity and ultimately any competitor who might stand in his way.

David recognizes who he is a debtor to God’s grace because he sees who God is. In fact his prayer is littered with references to God. The thing he says which sticks out the most in this passage is “There is none like you and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” He sees these promises and what is unfolding and he sees the incomparability of God. In other words he sees the majesty of God in his character and remembers there is no one like him. He has no equal and he has no rivals. There is none like him in character. There is none holy, loving, patient, kind, faithful, merciful, and just at the same time as he is. There is none as wise, powerful, and faithful to his promises as him.

The Bible usually jumps from the incomparability of God to the danger of idolatry. What do you serve, love, and look to that is a substitute for the one true God? In fact we need to recognize all of the little idolatries that can sneak into our lives. Take sports for example. In our culture could we possibly say sports has become a little god who competes with our allegiance to the one true God. My friend David Prince had a great article on The Gospel Coalition about this recently. He offers some questions we should ask ourselves about sports and our commitment to it. Do you enjoy sports as a good gift of God even when your team loses? In other words, do the people around you need to clear out of the room when your team is doing poorly? Or can your team lose and you go back to real life? Does your team losing steal your joy? Second question, do you sever your participation in sports or cheering for your favorite team from your Christian faith? In other words, do you still follow Jesus when you participate or cheer for sports or do you live as if you do not know him when the ball is kicked off? Last question, does your involvement in sports inspire faithfulness in your vocation and endeavors? Do you remain faithful to your work or does sports distract you from your vocation? Are you listening to Finebaum and reading about recruiting when you should be working? Does sports inspire you to follow Jesus or draw you away from him? Does a game ending late on Saturday night mean you aren’t worshipping with God’s people on Sunday morning. Do you talk so much smack that you want to avoid other Christians when your team loses or they want to avoid you when theirs does? We need to think through these things because sports is a good thing, but we can make it into a thing it was never meant to be.

Some of the deepest reflections on God in the Bible come from David’s own mouth and pen. Even before he was king he drank deeply from the great truths of who God is. Then these great truths led him to communion with God. When you get a chance read Psalm 63. Look at how he speaks of his longing to meet with God. Look at what he says he thinks about on the “night watches.” The truths of what we believe about God were real to him. They weren’t simply propositions to be checked off on a box and say, “yes I believe that.” Instead these truths lead to communion with God and to worship. I want to encourage you to do something in the times when you read the Bible. Take one or two verses from what you are reading that strike you particularly and begin to meditate on them. What does it teach you about God? What does it teach you about yourself? Is there a command to obey? Is there a prayer to be prayed? Is there something for which you should be thankful? Is there a promise to remember? Is there a sin of which you should repent? Is there a sin you need the strength to avoid? Is there a challenge to face? Read and think through these things slowly. Then take a phrase a repeat it several times emphasizing each word.

Then let your meditation on the Bible build a bridge into your prayer time. Take these questions you’ve asked in your head and begin praying through them. Thank God for who he is and what he has done. Confess sin and receive pardon. Remember the promises of God and ask for grace to remember them when times are hard. Ask for the strength to face your challenges and obstacles in a way that glorifies him. We need this kind of communion with God. Our souls were made for it. When I think about how my soul was made for God I cannot help but think about “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

I struggled with what to cover and not cover this morning. There is so much here that my struggle was knowing what to talk about but knowing what to leave out, but what we always must major on when we come to a passage like this is who God is. Then particularly we want to see who God is toward us in Christ. There is such a tendency in our day to jump into passages of Scripture and see me, but when I do that I miss the main God. I cannot discover who I am apart from knowing him and I if I get myself and miss him I have missed out greatly!

Develop a Humble View of Ourselves

David hears the promise from Nathan and is overwhelmed. Interestingly enough David sits down to pray and the prayer is one word longer than God’s promises to him. David’s prayer begins with humility. He wonders who he is and who is family is that God would visit him in such a way.

This was brought out in an interesting way in God’s promise to David. The first few verses of the chapter refer to David as “the king.” Then when the Lord began to speak it was “my servant David.” David may have been the king, but even then he was the servant of the real King. David recognizes this in himself when he call’s himself the Lord’s servant.

This description becomes important in the way the rest of the Old Testament talks about the future Messiah. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries read only the kingly passages about the Messiah. It’s almost as if they missed the servant passages. In Isaiah he talks about the servant of the Lord culminating in a description of his death. The servant, who Isaiah says will bring justice to the nations, will give himself as a sacrifice for the people. “We all like sheep have gone astray. We have turned- every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The prophet Ezekiel spoke and wrote while Judah was in exile in Babylon. In chapter 34 he rebuked the leaders of the people, whom God referred to as “the shepherds of my people.” They fleeced the flock instead of looking out for the weak. They did not care for the sick or the dying. They ignored the flock and fattened themselves. God deposed them from leadership and said he would install his shepherd, “my servant David.” Then he says “my servant David” will be prince over his people. This is the same kind of phrasing he has used here about David, but he also looks forward to a future David. How can we look forward to a future David when past David has been dead over 300 years? Everything God says about future David will be true in Jesus. He will be the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, and the servant who will lay down his life for God’s sheep. Jesus will be the King, yet he will display absolute humility as he comes to earth in the form of a servant and lays down his life for us.

If we see the humble King David and the even more humble King Jesus, how can we not also respond in humility to the promises God has made? Unfortunately everything in our culture points us away from humility. We get constantly pointed towards viewing ourselves as the center of the universe. We hear to look out for number one and to do whatever pleases us no matter what happens. We hear the greatest thing we can do is express whatever is in our hearts at any given moment. Has this led us to be a happier society? Do we treat each other with more respect? Are we healthier financially because of this approach? Has this produced more responsible and caring leaders? Of course it has not. Instead we must turn to genuine humility. We recognize we have nothing, are nothing, and can do nothing apart from the grace of God in Christ. Everything we are and may be is because of God and his great grace. Since we are debtors to grace alone, shouldn’t this change the way we treat other people? If I’m the center of the universe other people are completely expendable. Since I know I am a debtor to mercy alone I know I treat other people with the grace and mercy I have received.

One of the places where I think we need to demonstrate more humility is in listening to people. I was talking to one of my friends this week who is a writer and editor and we were discussing the propensity of people to fill up on news from talking head television shows and talk radio. He said the strongest emotions are fear and loathing. If I am afraid of you and don’t like you, I am going to want to tune in to something that is going to beat you up and tell me all of the bad stuff about you. What this winds up doing is making us suspicious of the people I don’t like. So we wind up with Republicans and Democrats not liking each other and assuming the worst of each other. We end up with people on different sides of gender debates only knowing what they know about the other side from third parties. “Red-blooded” Americans become suspicious of immigrants because we are sure they are destroying our way of life. Can I make a suggestion? Turn off your TV, radio, and disconnect from the internet. Talking to actual flesh and blood people to find out why they think what they think about things. You may find you still disagree, but now you have had the humility to listen instead of merely assuming things about people. It’s just a practical way to love your neighbor.

Develop a Healthy View of the Church

He does hit one other note here we should see. David also says “and who is like your people Israel?” He speaks of how Israel was redeemed because of his promise by their exodus from Egypt and his driving out the other nations so they might dwell in their land. Now God has redeemed them to be a people for himself. David says God made a name for himself by doing great and awesome things for his people to redeem them as a people for himself. Notice he redeemed them from Egypt. Then he established them as his people forever. He of course refers here to the Exodus, where he redeems the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through his mighty works. There of course were the plagues culminating in the Passover and killing of the firstborn of every home in Egypt. Then his people crossed the Red Sea in an amazing display of God’s power and glory. He provided for them as they wandered in the wilderness by giving them water from a rock and raining bread from heaven. They were to dwell in the land as his people.

The New Testament takes the language about Israel and applies it to the church, but it does so because it first applies the language about Israel to Christ. When Jesus was a boy his family fled into Egypt and returned when Herod died. The Gospel writer says this fulfilled the Scripture which says, “out of Egypt I called my son.” About whom was this originally written? Israel, and now what was written about Israel was applied to Jesus who is the true chosen Son of God. Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years and Jesus spent forty days in the desert tempted by Satan. Israel built a temple where the glory of God would dwell and Jesus was the new temple in whom God’s glory dwelt in bodily form. So first and ultimately the people of God Israel points to Jesus.

The people Israel also point to the church as the people of God. Listen to the language Peter applies to the church in 1 Peter 2. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Much of the language about Israel in the Old Testament comes from their being chosen by God out of the people of the world. Did you know that same kind of language is used about the church? We could look at many other passages, but just listen to this one. “You are a chosen race.” We are a people whom God chose to bring to Christ before the foundation of the world. He chose us out of this world to belong to him and be his people. This choice manifests itself in our having faith in Christ, but it began with God. We are now a royal priesthood. Israel had priests who represented the people before God. Now because of the death of Jesus every Christian has immediate access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can do this because in Christ we are the children of God. He has adopted us as his own and we have the full rights and privileges springing from what it means to be called “son.”

When he says we once weren’t a people but now we are and we had not received mercy but now we have received mercy, this harkens back to the words of God in Hosea 2. At God’s command Hosea marries a prostitute and they have three children. The son is named after the slaughter in the valley of Jezreel. The daughters were named “Lo ruhamah” and “Lo ammi.” Their names mean “no mercy” or “not loved” and “not my people.” There names were symbols for what the Lord says about his people. He tells Hosea that once it could have been said of them “they are not my people” and “they have not received mercy,” now they are God’s people and they have received mercy. In the same way those who trust in Christ experience the full mercy of God. We also become the people of God. We once wandered in the wilderness of isolation from God and estrangement from what it means to be known and loved, but in Christ we come near to God and experience what it means to belong to him.

As the people of God we need to understand who we are. We need to know the redemption we have in Christ and the privilege of being God’s people because it thoroughly changes what we live for. Notice Peter says we are all these things because we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. In our life together and in our lives individually, we exist to proclaim through the words we speak and the deeds we do the glorious excellencies of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were made by him and we have experienced his redemption, and now together we we paint for the world the glorious picture of God’s glory and redemption.

I keep saying “together” because we get tempted to think about the Christian life with an individual bent, but most of the language about the Christian life in the Bible is communal. Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for each other. In Colossians Paul says we are God’s chosen ones and so we should live towards our brothers and sisters with kindness, mercy, love, and forgiveness. This assumes we live life together, and yet how many of us have so completely arranged our lives around other priorities that we cannot faithfully live out who Jesus has called us to be? Can I make the radical suggestion that Jesus’ priorities for our lives should be our priorities for our lives? What does this then look like? It means we get strategic in the way we look at our lives. We don’t get our kids involved in sports only for the potential scholarship down the road. If our kids are going to play sports, it’s because we can best glorify God as a family by involvement in this and we see the strategic missional possibilities. This means we link up with the other brothers and sisters whose kids are part of the team and look at how we can be a blessing to the other families in Jesus’ name. It means we think differently about our kids and sports so that we are not constantly striving for my kid to get put first. Instead it looks like me treating other people with humility and grace, demonstrating the work of Jesus in my heart even when it comes to my kids. It means we view our homes not only as a place where we rest, but as a place where we invite in our friends and neighbors for the sake of the Gospel. This means I look for opportunities to have people over and to strategically find ways to get to know and love my neighbors. And it means we lock arms with other believers to see how we can do this together. This means when I approach my hobbies, I take opportunities to look at how I involve other Christians and people who don’t know Jesus.

I was thinking this week about my conversion. When I tell the story of becoming a believer in Jesus, it’s the story of people through their Christian lives showing and telling me the Gospel. It started with my mother who faithfully prayed for me and made sure I was gathering with God’s people to hear his word. It’s my friend Wyatt telling me about the Gospel as we pushed shopping carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot and showing me in his interaction with his friends that a group of guys could laugh and have fun without getting plastered. It was my classmate Robye telling me she was praying for me and living a godly life, living a life that was separate from her unbelieving friends and treating people with grace and kindness. There was a guy named Tim who talked to me about Jesus and offered to come and read the Bible with me in the mornings. And he was part of a group of guys I got to know my freshman year of college I was around some. They talked about their faith in a natural way. Their conversations demonstrated they knew and loved God and that they cared about people and wanted them to know Jesus. There was Jason who demonstrated in his life what I was missing, the reality of knowing God. And he did so in a way not that was condescending, but a “I want what that guy has” kind of way. In Christ we get to be part of the story of people being called from darkness and into the marvelous light of God’s grace. This happens best not just in my individual life, but in our life together of following Jesus.

Today, if you have not trusted in Christ, realize you can become part of this everlasting people of God. You can go from estrangement to being brought near. You can go from darkness to light and from shame into the wonderful experience of forgiveness. This happens not through being better, but by trusting in the perfect one. Jesus gave his life for you and by faith he will bring you back to God.

Christians, realize what it means to be the children of God. We belong to him. We have access to him and get to know him. Let us let every reality in our lives be shaped by the wonderful blessing of knowing him.

Related Posts:
David and the Covenant
David Becomes King

For Further Reading:
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

Recently many have noted the decline in overall church attendance. Fewer people attend church on an average Sunday, but recently observers started noting one of the underlying causes behind this phenomenon. Many Christians attend their church’s worship gathering less frequently than they did before. Because of other commitments or a lack of desire to be with God’s people, the average church goer attends less than they did ten years ago. Even churches adding new people regularly may see a decline in average attendance because of declining attendance patterns.

Pastors face a strategic decision about this hew phenomenon. We can berate people for their “lack of commitment” or we can intentionally and compellingly preach the Gospel so their affections are awakened when they worship with God’s people. Our current choices are preaching for behavior modification or preaching for genuine change brought about by the work of the Spirit through the Gospel.

Since the Bible calls us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, we must think strategically about how we preach in this climate. If the average church attender is only hearing twenty-six to thirty-nine sermons a year, how can pastors make the most of each opportunity so our people are being changed by God’s word?

Recommit to Expositional Preaching

The tendency in our low commitment, attention deficit culture is to craft messages to entertain our hearers. Spend time perusing church websites and you will find no lack of “creative” sermon ideas. These sermons inevitably major on minor points, are heavy on “how to,” and short on biblical exposition. Hearers walk away having had a great experience, but the weight of God’s word has not rested upon them. Instead our churches must double down on expositional preaching. By expositional preaching I simply mean preaching that focuses on a passage of Scripture and drives home the point of that biblical passage. The preacher will explain the passage, illustrate the passage, show how the passage points to Jesus, and apply the passage to the heart and lives of his hearers. This kind of preaching does not begin with what people want to hear or with what we think will build a crowd, but rather it allows God’s word to set the agenda.

Expositional preaching can range from a verse by verse walk through Romans to covering a section from Psalms. They can be an overview of biblical books or diving into the life of a biblical character; but whatever the form may be, the substance must consist of God’s word having the primary word. The pastor must have people open their Bibles, then read a passage of Scripture to them, both explaining it and applying it to their hearts.

We must be honest, people who do not attend church regularly most likely don’t read their Bibles regularly either. This means they are not hearing from God on a regular basis, but instead are having their minds shaped by the prevailing winds of our culture. Should they then come to worship with God’s people and hear messages that are only tangentially tied to a passage of Scripture or should they take in a hearty meal from God’s word?

Work on Your Introductions

You are more likely than ever to be dealing with people who have not been thinking about God or the Bible during the week. To begin your sermon by telling everyone to turn to a verse and quickly recap what you talked about last week only leaves people thinking they won’t understand this week since they weren’t here last week. To help those who are present to engage with the sermon we must set the table for them so they have a context in which to understand the message.. Endless possibilities exist how you can introduce your sermon, but a great place to start is by finding something your people likely have been thinking about during the week and then turn their attention to the Bible which will speak authoritatively to their concerns. This helps them to see how God’s word speaks into their life’s questions and reminds them this is where they should be turning in the first place.

Also our introduction needs to set the context for the passage of Scripture we will be preaching. Pastors typically preach to a congregation where fifty percent of the people present were not there the week before. You cannot simply dive in to the passage and assume the people listening have any understanding about the section of Scripture you are preaching. It does not take long to explain who wrote the book, to whom he wrote, and the general theme of the book. This creates a mental framework for understanding the basic message of the passage.

Make the Gospel Crystal Clear

The people sitting before a pastor on Sunday morning are probably not hearing the good news of the Gospel on a daily basis. They receive a daily dose of hearing they should cast off all restraints or they are hearing a hundred ways they need to try harder. The two times a month they come to worship with God’s people they must hear the good news of the Gospel. They don’t need more self-help talks about how to get along better in the world. They’re beaten down, weary, and weak. They need the Gospel more than they could ever imagine, so we must proclaim it to them in all its fullness.

This must be especially true in imperative sections of Scripture. As you preach on parenting, honesty, evangelism, being a good neighbor, or sexual purity the people listening to you will begin to feel guilt as they sense they have disobeyed the Lord in these areas. Help them understand muscling up the resolve to work harder at obedience accomplishes nothing. Point to Jesus, who never disobeyed in the ways we have disobeyed and then died on the cross bearing the penalty for our disobedience before rising triumphantly from the dead. Remind them his death covers the guilt and penalty of their sins and his perfect life allows them to stand before God fully righteous in his sight. Then show them how the resurrected Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower them to obey and currently stands ready to help them in their moments of weakness because he was tempted in all the ways we are.

Aim for the Heart

If pastors are honest, our tendency when we see a disturbing trend is to hammer on it. We think we can change people by simply appealing to their wills. Let’s show them all of the reasons why attending church less is bad for them. Tell them stories to make them feel guilty and help them see the idolatry behind their lack of attendance. This type of approach might change people for a season, but it will not alter the love of their hearts and produce lasting change.

Pastors must preach to the heart. Jesus said the mouth speaks out of the heart and Solomon instructed his son to guard his heart because the springs of life flow from it. This reminds us that all behavior springs from desire and so we need to preach in such a way that the motivations of the heart are changed. So we must hold out to people the beauty of the Gospel and the desirability of being changed into the image of Jesus. Our motivational pep talks and scoldings will make little headway, but real transformation from one degree of glory to another takes place when people see the beauty of Christ and long for it. When we sin in all of its horror and Christ in his glory, our people will increasingly long for Christ and jettison the things of this world.

Related Posts:
If I Were to Preach at a Pastors’ Conference
Guilt-Driven Preaching Needs to Die

For Further Reading:
Preaching by Tim Keller
Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell

A Few Good Reads

November 2, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

What I Came to Respect Most About Tim Keller (Even More Than His Preaching)
Scott Sauls’ post does not necessarily focus on Tim Keller, but on our culture’s propensity to shame people. He offers several examples of cultural shaming and reminds us how the Gospel takes away our shame. Then he does talk about how Keller responded to people and events with grace instead of shame. What he says has many implications for our various relationships. “Because Jesus shields us like this, we should of all people be zealous to restore reputations versus destroying reputations, to protect a good name versus calling someone a name, to shut down gossip versus feeding gossip, to restore broken relationships versus begrudging broken people.”

The Transformation of David Brooks
New York Times oped writer David Brooks has been taking an interesting journey over the last half decade. He journeyed away from merely writing about politics and ventured into writing on moral philosophy. In a culture where people seem allergic to concrete discussions about morality, Brooks finds himself at odds with many people in his field. This post from the Columbia Journalism Review examines Brooks’ transformation and in it he shares some amazing thoughts on moral philosophy and moral discourse in our society. “When he began using his column several years ago to philosophize about personal morality, he says, ‘I felt like I was wandering off the map into weird territory.’ Where to, exactly, remains mystifying. Brooks thinks a tradition of journalists fluent, or at least conversant, in moral concepts dissipated in recent decades. Theologians were walled off within their denominations, and public discourse about values grew dysfunctional. A life of ‘meaning’ by today’s standard, he wrote in his Times column to begin 2015, ‘is flabby and vacuous, the product of a culture that has grown inarticulate about inner life.’”

How our housing choices make adult friendship more difficult
Writing for Vox, David Wright questions how the way we select housing might be affecting our friendships as adults. In particular, he argues friendships are built through “repeated spontaneous contact.” Spontaneous contact with others is nearly impossible when we get in the car in our garages, drive to work by ourselves, drive home by ourselves, pull into the garage, and then sit in the house watching television. “Those of you who are married with kids: When was the last time you ran into a friend or “dropped by” a friend’s house without planning it? When was the last time you had a spontaneous encounter with anyone who was not a clerk or a barista, someone serving you?”

The Art of Neighboring
For those who want to work on being good neighbors to those living around them, you will benefit from this book by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. In it they share how you should think about being a good neighbor and how you can be a good neighbor. ““By becoming good neighbors, we become who we’re supposed to be. As a result, our communities become the places that God intended them to be.”

Like many pastors my age, if you were to ask who influenced me I would be tempted to list the men whose books I read and whose sermon tapes I listened to in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Steven Lawson, D.A. Carson, Mark Dever, and Tim Keller are great gifts to the church and I benefitted greatly from their writing and teaching, but these men have never been my flesh and blood pastor. It often feels like I know them because of how often I have listened to them, but I’ve never had the opportunity to observe their lives up close or seen the fruit of their family life. There have been men though whose lives I have seen up close. These men faithfully listened to me, taught me, and invested in me. These men have been my pastors throughout the years and there is no time better than Pastor Appreciation Month to honor them and share what I learned from them.

Ed Lacy was never technically my pastor, but on March 27, 1997 he faithfully preached the Gospel and the Holy Spirit awakened my heart to my need for the Gospel and I came to know Christ. Afterwards, he didn’t treat me like a number to report the supporters of his ministry, but sought out opportunities to teach me how to faithfully follow Jesus. His single-minded devotion to Jesus and desire to see people come to know Christ has often challenged me out of my spiritual lethargy and reminded me that life is not a game. This devotion has often manifested itself in going to difficult places to preach the truth about Jesus and train pastors in the truths of the biblical Gospel. Even the mention of his name encourages me to read my Bible, spend time in prayer, and get about the business of speaking the Gospel every opportunity I get.

Almost twenty years have passed since I Johnny Kendrick was my pastor at Tompkins Baptist Church, but I often think of things he taught this wet behind the ears youth pastor who thought he knew a lot. He let me tag along with him on hospital visits and personal visits in homes, taking time afterwards to talk with me about what I could learn from these visits. Every time I heard him preach, he passionately called people to Jesus; reminding me to always have an evangelistic edge and passion in my preaching. He patiently endured my interruptions in his office to ask him questions while he was working, and taught me through his example that people are never a distraction from the work of the ministry. From his example I began to see what it looks like to have the heart of a shepherd.

During my Seminary years Charles Moore was my Pastor at North Oldham Baptist Church in Goshen, Kentucky. When I picture Pastor Charles I see a huge smile. He always had a kind greeting and an encouraging word. In personal conversations he always listened intently and was genuinely wanted to know and help you. There was never a time when he was my Pastor that I did not feel like he was for me and wanted to do everything he could to help me. He truly modeled for me what it meant to be a shepherd. His kindness and humility were even more remarkable considering his unenviable job of being the pastor to know-it-all seminary students. Never once did I see him bristle at criticism and grow impatient with our endless opinions. I consistently praise God for the three and a half years I had with him because I learned many things from him I am still benefiting from today.

For six months before we planted Chelsea Village, I had the privilege of serving with Ron Sumners at Meadow Brook Baptist Church. Without his leadership and the kindness of so many at Meadow Brook our church would not exist. Even though this is true, he never once acted as if we owed him something for this. He cheered us on with a characteristic humility I would commend to every Christian. In addition, Ron taught me one of the most important leadership lessons I have ever learned. He worked to establish some basic guidelines for our church plant, core doctrinal commitments and missions cooperation, then gave us the freedom to be who we needed to be. I would ask him for advice and he would give it followed by the words “but now you do what you think you should do.” From him I saw how to give someone with whom I am serving guidance and direction for their ministry without micromanaging them. This gives people the freedom and joy to serve without feeling like they are on an island.

Grove Hill Baptist Church called David Curtis as pastor around the time I began my Freshman year of college. At this stage of life I had no interest in Jesus, his church, or the new pastor, but God dropped him in my life at one of my darkest moments. My first memory of him is sitting in our living room after my Father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He prayed with and showed great kindness to our family, even going to Houston for my Dad’s surgery. Because of his kindness to us I started listening when he was preaching and what I heard has shaped me in more ways than I will understand. He faithfully plugged away at preaching the Bible each and every week. When God called me into the ministry, I started seeking him out to ask questions about the Bible, theology, and ministry. He patiently answered many questions, consistently pointing back to the Scriptures as our source of authority and life for the church. I interned with him for two summers and got a close up look at what it took to preach the Bible week in and week out while faithfully shepherding a congregation. I saw him leave with the sunrise to visit hospitals in Mobile and study until well after the sun went down. His faithful friendship to me since those years has been a constant source of joy and challenged me to know God’s word and proclaim it faithfully because it is the only power to change the lives of men and women.

My father-in-law Mark McCullough has never officially been my Pastor, but he has shepherded me through many ups and downs over the fourteen years I have known him. He has shown me in hundreds of little ways how to be a godly man, husband, father, and pastor. He has been willing to answer many off the wall, difficult, and awkward questions. More than anything though I have learned from him what faithful tenderness looks like. By this I mean he has shown me how a man has a tender heart towards the Lord and towards the people around him. This hasn’t been contrived or rehearsed, but flows from who he genuinely is towards the Lord. In addition he has modeled genuine wisdom for me. Once I asked him a question and an awkward silence followed as he looked out of the window. I was close to asking the question again and he began to answer. While he was talking I was trying to figure out why he paused so long before he started talking and then it hit me. He was thinking before he spoke! Very few of us do this in our culture and his example of thinking before speaking and his unwillingness to speak ill of others calls me away from my hotheadedness and propensity to put my mouth in gear before my brain can catch up. Finally he has shown me how to be a shepherd through his heart for the people First Baptist Church of Frisco City. He labors faithfully to teach God’s word for them each week while also having a faithful pastoral presence. This has shown me again the importance of both the ministry of the word and my ministry among people.

If you are a pastor I hope you saw one of the major traits these godly men had in common. The first thing I remember about them is their humility, patience, and willingness to listen. Rather than cutting me off, writing me off, or acting like I had no clue what I was talking about they patiently bore with me and encouraged me. They gave well-worded correction when necessary, but their overwhelming posture towards a brash young guy was one of kindness. If you have young men among you, don’t delight in tearing them down or act as if they are an annoyance. Give them opportunities to lead and fail. Pick them up and help them on their way when they do. Patiently listen and patiently teach as well. Above all, continue to walk with Jesus in humility. They will be paying attention and by God’s grace they will learn.

Although I did not mention it with each man, they all were men who were saturated in the Bible. Like Charles Spurgeon said about John Bunyan, if you pricked them they would bleed Bible. I saw this in their lives not just as they prepared to preach, but as they saw they would only live by the bread which comes from the mouth of God. They were men who read, memorized, meditated, and frequently quoted the Bible in conversation. Their examples consistently point me back to this fountain of God’s revelation. Pastor, be a Bible man. The world wants us to be men who are known for our catalytic leadership and promotional ability, but we primarily must still be men of the one great book.

Related Posts:
Another Big Mistake Young Preachers Make

For Further Reading:
The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Whitmer
The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper

David and the Covenant

October 25, 2015 — 2 Comments

(We are currently in a series on the life of David at Chelsea Village. As I’ve written before I attempt to write a full manuscript of my sermon before preaching. Throughout this series I’ll be posting some of the sermons I think will be helpful. If you would rather listen to the sermon, you can find it here.)

I once read a quote from Charles Spurgeon on the benefits on knowing God and have not been able to shake it ever since. (The quote originally appears in the first volume of The New Park Street Pulpit and you can find it in J.I. Packer’s Knowing God.

“It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel

“Great God, how infinite art thou,
What worthless worms are we!”

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.”

One thing I wrestle with and have been hearing about for a long time is the need for sermons to be “practical.” We want to be able to take notes and write something down I can put into place tomorrow morning. The problem with this approach is sometimes I simply need to know something and spend days, months, weeks, and years letting it shape how I view reality. This is especially true when we come to what we call “the attributes of God.” We need to know who God is and understand how he works both in our lives and in the world in general. We were made to know God, and you cannot know him without knowing who he is.

So today we want to see who God is as it is revealed in his promises to us. And then when we see who he is we see how we are called to respond to him. We are going to see this today from 2 Samuel 7. This passage is the pinnacle in our study in the life of David. Everything in the entire Bible has led up to this point and you cannot really get the rest of the Bible without getting to this. Someone has estimated that at least forty other biblical passages explicitly reference this passage.

One thing we need to remember as we approach 2 Samuel is the story leading up to this point. The Bible is not a collection of randomly scattered events and thoughts. The Biblical writers record a story, which begins in the garden of Eden and ends in the city of God. You will need to know a couple of major plots lines for this passage of Scripture to land with its full force. The first one can be found in Genesis 11:27-12:3. After the Tower of Babel incident, the writer of Genesis introduces us to an old man named Abram. Abram has no children but God promises to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. In particular he promises Abram land, offspring, and a blessing. By the end of Genesis Abraham’s grandson Jacob has twelve sons. In Genesis 49 the family which now numbers around 70 people is in Egypt and Jacob blesses his sons before he died. He said about his son Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Jacob’s son Judah would never have the scepter out of his hands. Then in the book of Exodus Jacob’s family is over one million people and the Lord leads them out of Egypt through the hand of Moses. Joshua leads the people into the land of promise and conquers the land, but they never live completely at rest from their enemies. David, from the tribe of Judah became king a few chapters ago. And now we hear a word from the Lord concerning David. Through it we get not only a glimpse of David’s future, but a picture of the future of David’s family line and the future of the whole world. Through this all as well, the main character in this entire drama tells us about himself.

“Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”
2 Samuel 7:1-17

We reach David at an important time not just in his own life, but in the life of Israel. God gave David rest from his surrounding enemies. If you read Joshua, Judges, and 1 Samuel you know Israel did not experience rest from their enemies. Something different has happened to them now that David is king. Things have calmed down enough that David is able to build his palace. They constructed the palace with cedar which is expensive and sturdy. David looks around and see that he is living in a house of cedar but the ark of the covenant is sitting in a tent. This troubles him so he determines to build a house for the ark of the Lord and Nathan the prophet tells him to do whatever is in his heart.

Nathan heard the word of the Lord that night and it contained a message for David. The Lord’s presence as symbolized in the ark has not dwelt in a house the entire time they were wandering in the wilderness or coming into the land. His presence was with his people and moved wherever they did. He never asked for them to build a house for the ark, and never questioned why they did not do it.

David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God told him he would not do it. Instead God rehearsed what he had done for David already. He took him out of the pasture and made him the king over the people. He went with David wherever he would go and cut off his enemies. Now the Lord said he would make a great name for David and he would make a house for David. The turn of events here is astonishing. David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord says he will build a house for David.

He does not speak here of a house made of stone or wood, but of a dynasty. The people would be planted and disturbed no more. They would live in a place with peace. The Lord swore David’s house would continue after his death. The day would come where David would like down with his fathers, but his offspring after him would have his kingdom established by the Lord. Now this one would build a house for the Lord, and the Lord would establish his throne forever.

Did you notice how often the Lord says “I will” in this passage? There is something we see here we cannot ignore. Christianity does not begin with what we do for God. Whether driven by guilt or duty, we believe there are things we should do for God and this will settle things between us and him. Christianity does not start with your good works for God though. The starting point for Christianity is what God has done for us. Because of our sin, we could not do what we should do for God anyway. Even if we could do all we should do for God, we would not want to, so Christ came and did what we could not do. He obeyed God perfectly from beginning to end. Then he died in our place for our sins. And he has risen from the dead conquering our greatest enemy and now we know that every person who entrusts themselves to God stands before him cleansed, forgiven, justified, restored, redeemed, and adopted. If you have been considering Christianity I hope this reality will land upon you today. Your only hope is Jesus who lived, died, and now lives for you.

Then after trusting in Christ we rise empowered to follow him. We do this through a continual pattern of repentance, faith, and obedience. We repent of sin, believe the truth of the Gospel, and leave empowered to obey. What we see rising over the years is both our level of obedience and desire to obey. We have to get the order right though. We do not obey to get God to accept us. God accepts us because of our faith in him and then we obey because we have already been accepted.

This is what we often call the Davidic Covenant. Some of the things you would expect from a covenant are missing here, at the same time you have the promise of what God is going to do and it sounds similar to other explicit biblical covenants. It’s important to remember that a covenant is a promise. Usually they are two-sided with each party making promises and stipulations for keeping the covenant. God does not tell David one single thing to do here. He simply states what is going to happen.

There are a couple of things he promises here. The first is that offspring will come from David’s body and he sill establish his kingdom forever. Now you cannot help but read some of what the Lord says here to David and not think about what he to Abram in Genesis 12. “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God promised to make Abram into a great nation in whom the nations of the earth will be blessed. Then remember Jacob blessed Judah and said the scepter would not depart from his family. Now here is David, from the tribe of Judah, and the Lord promises to make his name great and to make him an everlasting kingdom. The promises God made hundreds of years before get more clarity as we see how they will be fulfilled specifically in the line of David.

The line which gets the most attention in this passage is “I will be to him a father and he shall be to me a son.” This passage does something interesting because the next thing you see is a reference to what will happen when the son gets out of line. You know the most explicit reference is likely to David’s son Solomon. He will build the temple in the book of 1 Kings, and we will definitely see him sin and experience the discipline of the Lord. At the same time the New Testament writers apply this first to Christ and then to the entirety of the New Testament Church.

First we need to see this as a reference to the work of Christ. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews quotes this verse to show Jesus is superior to the angels. People in this first generation after Jesus ascended into heaven were tempted to abandon Jesus for angel worship and the writer wants to show that promises were made to Jesus that were never made to the angels. (In fact offers have been made to you that have not been made to the angels. The angels have never known the privilege of being redeemed. Our redemption is something into which angels long to look, so never denigrate your redemption by saying a person became an angel when they died. Heaven does not gain an angel when someone dies. It gains a redeemed human being purchased by the blood of Christ.) While God’s words to Nathan first apply to Solomon they ultimately apply to Jesus who is the Son of God and whose Kingdom will never perish. The father will establish the throne of the Son forever and we even see this in Hebrews 1 when Jesus sat down after making purification for our sins.

We need to see here that Jesus is the King. All of human history points to the reign of this great King. This is why Jesus could even say the Kingdom of God was at hand in his ministry. Because of his death and resurrection, we currently live under his reign. He rules and reigns in the hearts of his people. We belong to King Jesus and live our lives under his authority and dominion. He is the kind of King you want to live for though. I probably reference this every few months but I love in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when the children are asking Mr. Beaver about Aslan. They ask him if Aslan is safe. He responds, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” This is what we could say about Jesus as well. He is the ruling and reigning King. He is the one who will one day judge the earth. He will tread out the winepress of his wrath. He sustains the world by the word of his power. And yet he is good. This is why we can and should trust him. He is the powerful king and he is good.

Think about how suspect we are about people who stay in power too long. If there was one thing I could change about our system of government I would impose term limits on Congress. When they stay in the Washington bubble too many years they forget what it is like to live as an ordinary citizen and it feels like they only care about us when election time comes around. Jesus is exactly the opposite though. He has reigned for thousands of years and yet he still sympathizes with us. He has all of the power in the world, and yet he is thoroughly and completely good. He knows us and he sympathizes with us in our weakness. “You can trust a sovereign God who bleeds for you.”

Paul applies this phrase to the church in 2 Corinthians 6:18. David’s dynasty encompasses a world wide family that lives under the rule and reign of Jesus. Paul quotes this to remind us that we are to come out from the world around us and be separate. Because we are the people of God who live our lives under the reign of God’s forever king, we do not live like the rest of the world. In particular we value things in a different way from the way the world does. Most particularly Christians will have a different view of money, sex, and power than the the rest of our culture. We will view money as a tool and not as a god. We will use sex in the way God intended it and we view power as a means to serve and not as a means to be served.

At the heart of this passage though is a promise. God says his reign will be instituted through the family of David and this will be realized through Jesus. He will come from the tribe of Judah and from the lineage of David. He will be a king, but will come to kingship differently than David did. David took lives to become the king. Jesus became king by laying down his life and taking it up again. We find life as it is really meant to be lived through faith alone in this great king.

Related Posts:
David and Saul
David Becomes King

For Further Reading:
Knowing God  by J.I. Packer
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer