Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Church in HD: Aligned with God?

Last week, was a great day for Fairfax Baptist Church. We were able to celebrate the new and fresh look of our sanctuary. It provided a new and fresh feeling among the people too. The day was good. The day was important. And the day was worth celebrating.

But...

If we are honest, not everything about the church looks as nice. Again, we need to celebrate what God has done. I am thankful for last Sunday, but let’s face it, our focus was on what looks good, not on the remaining areas that need improvement. And beyond general maintenance, we have one particular area that is in need.

Our downstairs children’s area recently had some flooding and the carpet has been ripped up. That is an area where we do not want to bring focus. But if we are to be good stewards of this building with which we have been entrusted, we cannot just turn off the lights and shut the doors of certain rooms, we need to look everywhere for areas which need improvement. And wherever we find those areas, we need to evaluate the situation, make plans to improve, execute those plans, and then evaluate the results.

But...

We also need to remember that the church is not a building. When Jesus said, He would build His church, He was not talking about brick and mortar. The materials Jesus has used for these last 2000 years is the hearts and minds and hands of His people. God’s people are the Church. We are a part of that church, and just like we want people to see the best parts of this building, we want others to see the best parts of our lives – individually and as a church collectively as well. The truth is that we all have parts of our lives that we are ok with people seeing and parts of our lives that we would rather keep hidden from others. The same is true of our houses, our church, and our lives.

So...over the next couple of months, we are going to get personal – in a corporate kind of way. We cannot clean up the church (and by church I mean people) without cleaning up ourselves individually, but as we address these issues, we will be looking at them primarily from a corporate perspective – that is, how can we do better as a church. But for us to make significant improvements as a church, we will have to make incremental improvements as individuals. Therefore, the plan is to expose some deficiencies of the modern-day Church (including this church) by comparing what the Bible says about God’s design for His people, and specifically Jesus design for His Church. Specifically, we will be reviewing the first several chapters from the book of Acts to see how the early church functioned and determine how we can best approach the biblical model while living in the 21st Century. Please be aware, the early church was not perfect (e.g. Paul sent letters to churches because they were dealing with problems), but if we cannot learn how the church should function from the written Word of God, then we have no business in allowing the living Word of God to include us in the Church He is building.

To begin our study, let us consider how the six basic questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how – relate to the Church in general.
  • Who? The Church consists of God’s people.
  • What? The Church is exists to make disciples – going, teaching, and baptizing others who will then do the same.
  • When? The Church began at Jesus word, and persists because Jesus said it would.
  • Where? The Church exists anywhere God’s children are gathered.
  • Why? The Church was created as a tool to do the work of ministry and expand God’s kingdom.
  • How? This is the question we must ask and attempt to answer for ourselves over the next several weeks!

Our goal in answering the How question is not to find the perfect answer (because one rarely exists); rather our goal is to use the Bible to explore options on answering the How question as best we can as Fairfax Baptist Church. To do that, we may have to look in some hard to reach places and see things that we might otherwise not see. I honestly have not looked ahead on this, so I am interested to see what God will expose to us as we shed His light on this church. For today, let us consider three areas which must be true for us to be properly aligned with God.

1. To be aligned with God, we must use His building design, not ours.

In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As I mentioned a moment ago, that means a focus on people, not blueprints that include bricks, doorways, and rooms, let alone carpet and  pews.

Consider the passage from Genesis 11.1-9. The story is often simply referred to as The Tower of Babel. We focus on the tower and the eventual dispersion of the people after they begin to speak different languages. The problem was that their purpose in building this mighty tower into the heavens was that they were seeking to make a name for themselves, not for God. But we cannot overlook one important verse. Take a moment to read verse 6. God said the people were united – just as we should be. And because the people were united, God said that they could succeed – nothing will be impossible for them – that is, they will be able to accomplish anything!

Imagine this, the people had a unified vision and thus they were destined to succeed. The only problem was that the vision they had was not the vision that God had. Imagine if their vision had been aligned with God’s vision. Imagine if their work had been aligned with God’s work. Imagine if their lives had been aligned with God’s desires for their lives.

To keep this in perspective, we must ask are we, that is, those who say we are God’s people (i.e. the Church), aligned with what God wants to do? I will not limit God to one particular vision idea, but if we look at our vision statement, it is certainly aligned with God. It must be because our vision statement is not something made up by man, it is straight from the Bible. Our vision statement is firmly based upon Matthew 5.13-16 which speaks of our need to be salt and light and to do our good works to that others might see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven. So, our vision statement as a church is shiny and new and worth showing off to others. But, if we look in the cracks and in the hard to reach places what will we find? Are we aligned with God in our attempts to fulfill that directive from Jesus or are we too busy trying to promote our own agenda (i.e. seeking to make a name for ourselves rather than allowing God to get the glory)? Again, we will seek to better answer that question for this church in the coming weeks, but hopefully that question gives each one of us a reason to pause and answer the question for ourselves.

2. To be aligned with God, we must focus on His work, not ours.

Again, in Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Earlier, in Matthew 4, Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” But after Jesus died, and even briefly after He had returned from the dead, His closest followers were back doing their own business. For instance, we find in John 21 that several disciples followed Peter back out to sea to fish. At daybreak, Jesus was on the shore, but despite having already appeared to them (notice the “again” in verse 1), they do not expect Jesus – and do not even consider the possibility it is Jesus when they see Him OR hear Him (v. 4, v. 7)! Now, before I go on, this passage does not mean that we cannot, or should not, be engaged in work apart from the church. But it does mean that we should consider all of our work as a part of our ministry to God.

The key for us here is that Jesus said He would build His Church, but His people went about their business without considering it was them who would help to build it. But Jesus pulled Peter aside and said, “Feed my sheep” which also meant, “It is time to quit fishing for food from the water and start giving others the food that I have given you.” And that is exactly what they began to do beginning in Acts 2 after receiving the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised in Acts 1.

In Acts 1, Jesus was leaving, but having promised to build His church, He gave the command for the apostles to do the work so it could be built (i.e. Matthew 28, Acts 1.8). But with that command came a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work. In Acts 2, we see the Holy Spirit empowering the apostles, and the work beginning to take shape. The essence of that work will be better defined next week , but a large part of the work the Church is to help people with their spiritual formation, and that is what we find throughout the book of Acts and the letters which were written to the various people and churches in the New Testament.

3. To be aligned with God, we must be His Church, not ours.

Again, Matthew 16 says Jesus will build HIS church. Thus, point number three should be obvious, but it is much harder to make it true. A few months ago, a particular blog article captured the idea by sharing three common types of church models – all of which are deadly. Ultimately, the problem with each of these types is that the church quit being the church and started acting like a church. Scripture is clear that we must be before we can truly do. When we try to do things with the wrong motive, we often convince ourselves we are better than we are. For instance, if we try to be a Christian, we might think we are one, but if we do not believe, we can act all we want all the way to hell. Let me briefly share the three ideas the author conveyed about these deadly church models.(1)
  • Business Model: Budget and Bylaws are the most important items. The Bible is important, but wherever the Bible interferes with money, finances win.
    • Truth – Being good stewards and having strong church documents is important, but these are not solid foundations on which to build a church.
  • Political Model: Identification is with a political party, not Jesus. If the other party is in power, sermons and lessons talk about persecution. If the favored party is in power, “God is in control.”
    • Truth – Moral and social Issues must be confronted, but not because they are political issues, but because they are biblical issues.
  • Family Reunion Model: Focus is on trying to get back to the “good old days.”  The good old days ended when Adam was booted from the Garden.
    • Truth – Jesus said He would build His Church. If He has not returned, He is still building which means what it was or is still has room for improvement and growth if aligned with Him.

Again, all of these models are unhealthy. The only model that counts is a model based upon the Bible. Jesus will identify with a healthy church because a healthy church identifies with Jesus. Therefore, to align with God, we must focus on being the Church He wants us to be, not just acting like another type of model that pretends to be a church.

I am thankful that Fairfax Baptist Church is a church built on a biblical foundation. But just because we are built on the Bible, does not mean we are perfect. This understanding means we need to seek ways to improve who we are and what we do for the reasons why Jesus gave us whenever and wherever He wants us to. As for the How, we are given many options. The Bible gives us a lot of the what and the why, but is mostly silent on the how. So, as we seek to align ourselves to God’s design, God’s work, and His purpose for His Church, let us explore how we can best do it given the gifts, abilities, and skills He has given to each of us individually and all of us collectively.

CONCLUSION

The goal in this series is to expose whatever needs to be exposed in this church to ensure we are aligned with God. A church can be moving in the right direction, following Jesus, and then with one major issue or a series of small ones that are not dealt with in a timely manner, we can begin to go adrift. Consider a car. We can get our wheels aligned, but after driving through Fairfax for awhile, the alignment begins to shift just a little. It isn’t too bad so we live with it. But eventually it puts more wear on the tires and we either have to get new tires, get the car realigned, or both.

We may not be mechanics who know how to realign the car, but we do have a manual that can help guide us to find any areas where we, as Fairfax Baptist Church, may need to be adjusted. To fix a car, a mechanic needs to do more than look at the outside of the nicely washed car; s/he must get a little dirty or greasy. Church, over these next two months, we may find ourselves in some unpleasant thoughts as we get a little dirty and greasy allowing God to expose any shortcomings we have. But if we want to honor God, if we are truly followers of Jesus, then we will allow Him to work in us individually and collectively to become what He desires for us to be.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for this week is: JJESUS.

PRINCIPLE: Jesus promised to build His Church. We must choose to work or against Him.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):

  • LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in Right Now Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church. We are also going to study this concept on the next 5 Sunday nights in place of our usual E.Q.U.I.P.
  • LIVE: Commit to serve God through God’s Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
  • LEAD: Assist in developing new documentation for this church. Updates will be made to team descriptions and goals, to ministries and positions of service, as well as the policies and procedures that will guide FfxBC into the future.
(1) Three Deadly Church Models – LifeWay Pastors blog on April 2, 2018, now at Facts and Trends, https://factsandtrends.net/2018/04/02/three-deadly-church-models/

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Celebrating “Mission: God Possible”

Each year on New Year’s Eve, an estimated one million people gather to watch “the ball” drop to ring in the new year. In addition, millions more in America, and many more around the world watch on television to celebrate the passing of one year and the arrival of another. It is the start of something new and the excitement is intense.

Now imagine a gathering that is not an annual event, but one that has been planned for years, and in some way anticipated by generation after generation for nearly 500 years (see 1 Kings 6:1). The event does is not shown on television, not posted to social media, and will be forgotten by most over time. However, this singular event, which occurred nearly 3000 years ago still influences religion, politics, and daily life to this very day. The event is the day the ark of the Lord entered the temple.

Today, we celebrate a much lesser significance, but one that has been expected for 18 months, and began as a conversation some six years ago. While the celebration of our sanctuary renovations being complete – platform, carpet, and pews all completed – it is a new day for us and we do share some commonalities with the people of Israel who gathered on that great day so long ago.

A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed 2 Samuel 24. The census of Israel violated the glory of God. The punishment was harsh, but David knew God’s mercy was great and believed God would ultimately spare His people. When the three days of pestilence passed, David honored God by building an alter and making sacrifices on the location where the temple would be built (1 Chron 22:1). It was at this location several years later where God made His glory manifest among the people.

1. The People Were Gathered Together (1 Kings 8:1-2)

A celebration can take place with few or with many people. While the dedication of the temple and the placing of the ark was truly an observance, the people gathered expecting something great to happen. After months and years of preparation, the day arrived with everyone ready to do their part.

A. Solomon made certain that the preparations were complete. (1 Kings 7:51)
B. The leaders were prepared to serve before the people.
C. All the men of Israel waited (their anticipation almost certainly at a peak).

They waited. The expectations had to be running high. Consider the stories that had been passed down for generations of how God had rescued this people from Egypt. Stories of how God parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites into the Promised Land where He gave them such great victories. But now, a new generation waited with expectation to see what God would do on this day!

What are your expectations of God? Is He still worth celebrating? Today is an easy day to celebrate as we look at the changes in this sanctuary and we consider how God has made this possible in such a short period of time with no debt. We have been waiting for this day for a few months, but will we still be waiting for God to do something great next week, next month, next year?

As the people waited, the next part of the story set the stage for God’s glory to be on full display!

2. The Ark Was Put in Place (1 Kings 8:3-9)

The ark represented the presence of the Lord. The tent of meeting was its temporary home although it had existed from the time of Moses. Now, with a permanent structure, the presence of God could have a permanent home. What could be more deserving of a celebration? The people could not take their eyes off the process (note the poles being seen from the Holy Place – v. 8).

A. The leaders brought the ark and holy vessels to the temple.
B. The people offered innumerable sacrifices showing how important this day truly was.
C. The ark was placed in the Most Holy Place with everyone as a witness.

Imagine the anticipation as each leader brought another object into the temple. Piece by piece the temple was being filled with items the Lord commanded be present. It must have been like a parade with these leaders carrying pieces of gold one by one past the people who watched with eagerness. Small children up on their father’s shoulders. Infants being held by their mothers. They may not remember being there, but the stories their parents would share of the greatness of God would be remembered for decades and told to the next generation as well.

What about us? Do we get excited enough to tell others what God has done? Many get bored listening to stories from the Bible. “Well, the pastor is preaching about that again today. I have already heard that so no need to pay attention.” Yet, interestingly, the two most attended days of the year usually involved the most well-known of stories among church-goers – the story of Jesus birth at Christmas and of His overcoming death on Resurrection Sunday.

But Isaiah reminds us that God is doing a new thing (Is 43.19). If we do not expect it, He will still do something new, we just will not realize it. But if we are ready, and if we are expectant, we may experience something we have never experienced before. And that is what happened on that glorious day in Jerusalem some 3000 year ago.

3. The Lord Responded! (1 Kings 8:10-11)

The people of Israel did not need an unplanned surprise to gather for this holy day. However, unexpected outcomes often lead to great times of celebration. The people planned for the ark to be put in its proper place, but when would the Lord make His presence known? What happened next is truly awe-inspiring.

A. The cloud filled the temple.
B. The priests were unable to serve.
C. The glory of the Lord was fully present with the people.

If we had not been allowed in this building to celebrate today, would you have been disappointed? We still could have sang songs, had a message, had our dinner following the meal and celebrated all that God has done, it just would not have been while sitting on these new pews. But pews don’t make the worship. And carpet doesn’t make the worship. And an updated platform doesn’t make the worship – the worship is made by God, it is offered by us, and it is made to God. But the pews, carpet, and platform are just a few new reasons that we can worship God on this, and every day.

CONCLUSION

Imagine standing among the people that day and witnessing the glory of God in an almost unimaginable way. These descendants knew of God and how amazing He was, but how many had first-hand knowledge of God’s glory? For all that showed up for the dedication of the temple, that question was no longer relevant.

Do we celebrate the acts of God? Do we have expectations that God will show Himself in a mighty way? Even when gathering together to worship God, do we expect to encounter Him corporately? Personally? God may not need us to celebrate Him, but we should desire to celebrate who He is and what He has done.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: JOURNEY.

I am using the whole word today because this is a new day for Fairfax Baptist Church. In a conversation with Rodney Harrison in March 2011, he charged me to help the people of Fairfax Baptist Church to see the manifest glory of God. 7 ½ years ago, I chose this same passage to preach because it is one of the most extraordinary glimpses of God’s glory that is shared by so many people. God giving the commandments to the people from Mount Sinai is, perhaps, the only other time when we know so many people were gathered and witnessed God in all of His glory.

In both of those settings, God brought about something new for His people. In Exodus 20, He established a new type of relationship with His people. In 1 Kings 8, He established a new type of presence among His people. In both situations, the people responded favorably – at least, initially. But before long, the people would turn to their wicked ways (building a golden calf in Exodus, and dividing the country in 1 Kings), both of which led to a downward spiral away from God.

Fairfax Baptist Church, today is a new day for us. We can mark this day as new because we have a new place to meet even if the general surroundings are the same. Personally, I am excited about what I have seen in this building, and it has renewed me. It is a new start for me because I have had a chance to make significant changes to my office – even if most of you may not see those changes. So, as I said, I preached from 1 Kings 8 over 7 years ago as we began our JOURNEY together. It set a course for the past, but now as we celebrate what God has done among us now, we need to set a course for the future that will not lead us astray and allow us to continue all that God is doing and what He wants to do through Fairfax Baptist Church in the future.

The question is: Who is with me?

NEXT STEP(S): LOVE

Take time this week to love God. Celebrate all that He has done in your life. Literally, count your blessings – name them one by one. Write them down. See how many pages you can fill. I promise if you will take 5 minutes each day to reflect on all that God has done in your past, you will be ready to celebrate all that He is ready to do with your future.

Will you do that? Will you take 5 minutes each day this week to write down all that God has done. Just write. Don’t evaluate. We can evaluate later. If we write now, others will know later – and like we have been able to celebrate with the Israelites across the centuries through the story we have heard today, perhaps others will celebrate with us as we share all that God has done for us on this day, in this place.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Labor for the Son” Day

On Labor Day weekend, Fairfax Baptist Church went into the community to serve during the usual time of worship. We did gather for a few minutes to sing two songs, hear a word of encouragement, and have a commissioning prayer, but otherwise Labor Day Sunday was “Labor for the Son” Day.

Some members helped by cleaning up yards, others by cleaning gutters, and some made visits to homebound or to other members who were not present. In all honesty, we had more people willing to serve than we had opportunity this first time, but it was a start, and something from which we can build in the future.

After reading from Matthew 5.13-16, the following is the brief encouragement shared before praying and going into the community.

Matthew 5.13-16 says that we are to be salt and light. We are salt to the earth and light for the world. As we have heard in the past from our friend Ayo in Nigeria, if we are Christian, wherever we stand we have the opportunity to make that place salty and give light. This salt and light is not for ourselves; rather it is for the benefit of others and ultimately is to serve as a blessing to God.

Today, we go out to be that salt and to be that light and to do good works and to have conversations and to allow people to ask, “Why can't the church do this all the time?” Ultimately, we go out today to fulfill Jesus command to serve, and to share His love, so that others might see our good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Overcoming Mistakes

Have you ever been in a restaurant when a waiter or waitress spilled something on someone? Of course, it is one thing to drop a tray or dishes and we have all heard that noise at some point. But when food or drink is spilled on someone the reactions are for more involved. For instance, you have the person who spilled. How might they react? You have the person who is now covered with food or drink? What is the reaction of that person? Anyone sitting nearby, and eventually most of the restaurant will soon be looking – what is their reaction? What about the manager and the rest of the serving staff?

I must admit that for the past couple of decades I have found it “fun” to loudly say “job opening” when I hear dishes crash. But as I thought about the message this week, I thought about how insensitive that statement is. I say it for laughs, but the person who dropped the dishes is not laughing, and I would not be laughing if the dishes were dropped on me. More importantly, I have made many mistakes on the job and felt horrible about it. For instance, two days before Susan and I were married I made a mistake worth a couple of hundred dollars as a teller at a bank. Later, while working with a mutual fund company I made a couple of mistakes that literally involved hundreds of millions of dollars. I have made mistakes in school. I have made mistakes as a pastor. I have made mistakes as a husband, a father, a friend, and most importantly as a human and that is why Jesus had to come – not just for me, but for all of us, because we have all made mistakes against God.

We have already seen that David has made his share of mistakes as well. We know of his adultery, ordering a murder, lack of discipline as a father, etc. But today, we look at one of his biggest mistakes – a mistake that costs the lives of 70,000 men. What was the mistake? Specifically, the mistake was taking a census of the nation of Israel. Categorically, the mistake was pride (or arrogance).

But mistakes need not define us. When we make mistakes, we can fall or we can fail. We all fall, but the question is how do we respond? We really have three choices. We can:

  1. Stay down and wallow in our misery.
  2. Get up and keep making the same mistake over and over because we do not learn.
  3. Get up, make adjustments and do things better, until we get it right.


Over time, the first two choices mean we have failed. The last choice means our falling has turned to success. But before we can succeed, we must first learn to address our mistakes. Today, I want to share five steps to address our mistakes. In doing so, I want to share some mistakes I have made as the leader of this church.

1. Be Aware (2 Samuel 24.10a)

The first step should be obvious, but it is not always so. Sometimes we make mistakes because we are ignorant of the situation. Perhaps we do not know traditions or certain customs. Or perhaps we just do not have the information we need to know that a mistake has been made.

In 2 Samuel, David takes a census. I mentioned last year that the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles says that Satan was directly involved in tempting David (1 Chronicles 21.1). Even though David was warned against taking a census (2 Samuel 24.3), he ordered it anyway. However, as soon as the final numbers were known, David’s “heart struck him” (2 Samuel 24.10a). That is, he became aware.

As we will see being aware is not enough. Like David, many people discover their mistakes at some point. Maybe they realize the issues on their own or maybe someone has to tell them. How people realize they have made a mistake is secondary. The primary issue is what do they do with that knowledge. Do they simply ignore or minimize the mistake by making excuses or do they attempt to rectify the issue?

Personally, I have done some good things while pastor of this church. But in recently evaluating my efforts, I have become aware of some specific issues I need to address. One particular area which cannot be undone, but from which I can learn is the handling of our recent renovations. I will expand on this in the next section.

2. Acknowledge (2 Samuel 24.10b)

Once we have been made aware, we have a choice. Do we avoid it or acknowledge it? Apart from David’s actions as a father (which we can only infer), one thing we must credit him for is that he acknowledged the reality of his situation in all areas of his life when he became aware. While this is certainly true when David was confronted by Nathan regarding Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), David acknowledged his place when God said David was not to build the temple (2 Samuel 7), when Absalom usurped his power (2 Samuel 15), and in other places as well.

But to acknowledge our mistakes requires two distinct aspects.

  1. It takes maturity. As I have mentioned many times, most people will say they are sorry. But the sorry is for being caught. Maturity means the sorry is because of sorrow. Jesus didn’t say to be sorry. He said to repent – which means to turn away from something. Those who are only sorry, often return to their actions when they believe no one is watching. But those who are sorrowful will turn away completely. That takes maturity.
  2. It takes courage. Trust is needed because to acknowledge our mistakes should naturally lead to the next step, which is to apologize. To acknowledge the mistake, however, is to let someone else know that we have wronged them in some way. Perhaps the mistake was innocent, but still we must admit the issue. When we do, we make ourselves vulnerable to them – and potentially to retaliation or punishment. Thus, in a very real sense, we must have courage and even trust that the other person will still receive us after we acknowledge our mistake. And after we acknowledge our mistake, we must then apologize.


We saw David acknowledge his sin and we saw the courage he needed. He not only realized he had offended God, but that is actions were foolish – trusting in the number of people instead of placing his trust in God.

Again, I can relate to David. Perhaps you can too. I realize all that I have is from God. I also realize that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12.48). The problem is that I often try to fulfill those requirements myself, which is not what God has asked me to do. But let me acknowledge a specific mistake related to the sanctuary renovation. My goal was to try to get consensus on all matters of this process. I know that issues like carpet and paint have caused church splits and I was determined not to let that happen. But, regardless of how a vote goes, some will not be happy. And the leaders job is not only to motivate, but to inspire people to support the church even if they may not agree with the decision. The problem is that we were following a process and near the end that process was abandoned. People were hurt, not because of a vote, but because of my lack of leadership. I realize that now. I can learn from that for the next issue that arises. Thus, knowing my mistake, the next thing I must do is apologize.

3. Apologize (2 Samuel 24.10b)

Until we acknowledge we have made a mistake, we cannot truly be sorry for it. But, if we own our mistakes, we should apologize for them. David’s apology is not as clearly defined as saying the words, “I am sorry,” but his plea is an earnest appeal for forgiveness, which is the hope behind a true apology. READ v 10. David uses the word, “please,” and describes his action as, “foolish.” In addition, he cries, “O Lord,” which is a deep appeal to gain the attention of the God he loved so much.

Again, it is verses like this that make David’s life such a good study. Once again, we see David not as a perfect man, but as one who sinned – just like you and me. But God called David a man after His own heart because whenever David became aware of his transgressions, He eagerly sought the Lord and His forgiveness.

Ultimately as the pastor of this church, I am accountable to God first, and you second. But, my mistakes affect you and so my apologies must be directed to you as well as God. So, I ask for your forgiveness even as I have asked God to be a better leader having learned from this mistake.

4. Act (2 Samuel 24.14, 17)

Apologies are important, but they are not enough. As the old maxim goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” The important aspect in this fourth step is to fix the problem. We must be aware before we can acknowledge. Once we acknowledge, then we should apologize. But this step is where our apology gets real. Do we try to make it right? That is, do we try to fix the problem. On the surface, the problem David needed to fix was to stop his people from getting killed. Verse 15 says that 70,000 men had died. As the commander of the army, David could usually fix this kind of problem by ordering the Israelite army to war. But this killing was not from anything natural. It was God’s word. Notice verse 16 says is was an angel doing the work. Thus, the problem was not what it seemed to be on the surface. The problem was David’s pride.

Thus, the action that David needed to take was becoming humble. In this case, the action was to speak to the Lord with true humility. David spoke of God’s mercy before the killing began (v. 14) and pleaded for his mercy to end the killing (v. 17). In this case, David’s actions were his words, but it was the humility with which he spoke that spared Israel from further decimation.

Frankly, I have had a difficult time determining what I can do at this moment related to the renovations. Again, the apology is important, but what act can I do at present to make it right? Once I understand what I should do, I must do it. Remember, when Jesus was talking about the wise and foolish builders, he said the one who acts on what they have heard (or know) is the one who is wise! I choose that option.

5. Apply Additional Generosity (2 Samuel 24.24)

Apologies and actions are the start, and often times they are enough to make amends. But going above and beyond indicates a level of sincerity that is otherwise lacking in most situations. Perhaps, we will do this to keep others from hostility, but truly being overly generous is an opportunity to show our appreciation to a person or to God for the opportunity we had in the first place. And, by showing additional generosity, we may have another opportunity in the future. As Danny Meyer states,

“We can’t undo what was done, but what is the next chapter when the story is told?”
– Danny Meyer

David could not bring back the lives of the 70,000 men. David could not ease the pain of those whose husbands and fathers had died. But David could worship God for being merciful. But a hugely important part of this story is that the place where David went to offer praise and sacrifice was owned by a man named Araunah, and this man was willing to give the king the land for free. But David applied additional generosity by paying for it (v. 24). And remarkably we learn from 2 Chronicles 22.1 that this exact place was where the temple would later be built.

Again, not knowing what to do, it is hard to go above and beyond. But what I know is that my lack of firm leadership caused problems and that needs not happen for whatever may be next. I also realize that I need to do a better job at empowering others and you will hear more about that in the coming weeks as we begin our next series – “The Church in HD.” Whatever the case may be, the next chapter awaits and I want it to be a good one for me, for us, for this church. So, I will continue to explore what I can and must do. And then, I will seek to do it – even if I must return to the five “A”s – aware, acknowledge, apologize, act, apply – once again.

CONCLUSION

The five “A”s are not mine. They originated from a leading restauranteur named Danny Meyer, whom I quoted earlier. He has seen many mistakes in the restaurants he owns. He has watched many items be spilled including on people. But his restaurants are known for their impeccable service and when they make mistakes, they seek to remedy the issue by applying these steps rather than make excuses.

What about you? When you make a mistake are you one to make excuses or do you seek to learn from it, grow from it, and overcome it.

Ultimately, we can only overcome our mistakes through the grace of Jesus. The magnificence of God and His love is shown very clearly through the five “A”s I shared today. God was (is) aware of our sin even when we are not. He does ask us to acknowledge our sin before Him. He commands us to repent which is one aspect of apologizing. But, and here is the beauty of God’s majesty, He knew we could do nothing on our own to fix the problem, so God acted on our behalf by sending Jesus to die for us. And while that is certainly generous, not only did Jesus die for us, but the applying of additional generosity includes the promise of an abundant life forever with Jesus if we simply repent and believe.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: RREVERE.

How can we not revere God if we truly understand what He has done? Of course, sometimes we make mistakes because we are simply not capable of perfection. But sometimes we make mistakes because we think far too highly of ourselves. That was David’s issue in ordering the census. As David realized, and we must too, the only Person we should lift up and exalt is Jesus. It is in Jesus that we find our strength. It is in Jesus that we are made whole. So, let us lift Him up. Let us exalt Him as King. And yield ourselves to what He wants us to do. That is true reverence. And that is what Jesus desires from us.

NEXT STEP(S)LEAD

I mentioned earlier that to acknowledge our mistakes takes maturity and courage. Those two characteristics are true of a good leader as well. The challenge in our culture today is that too many people are not willing to acknowledge their mistakes. It is far easier to make excuses. And, if we do not acknowledge them to ourselves, we will never acknowledge them publicly, and therefore never apologize, to others. As Christians, we must set the example. As Christians, we must be the leaders in acknowledging our mistakes, and our faults. After all, if we truly believe that Jesus died for our sins, and if we truly believe that God forgives us when we confess our sins, then we would be foolish not to confess them! So, fellow Christians, let us lead out in not only being aware, but in acknowledging, in apologizing, in acting to better the situation, and in applying additional generosity in every situation we can because God has already done all of those things for us!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Loyalty & Leadership

What is loyalty? How is it properly defined? Loyalties to people, organizations, teams, etc., differ among people, so a complete understanding of loyalty cannot be defined by the objects of a person’s commitment. Rather loyalty must be understood by our commitment to something. In other words, loyalty is essentially faithfulness.

Faithfulness is unwavering even if it is imperfect. We can be full of faith towards someone or something even when we fall short of living up to, or being let down by, whomever or whatever we have pledged our faith. For in the end our loyalty, our faithfulness, is tested by whether, or not, we stay true to what we claim to believe.

Today’s message is from a short pericope about David and Israel being at war. David is now much older which causes him to tire more easily. His closest servants came to his aid in battle because they were loyal to their king. But their loyalty to their king is, in part, because he was loyal to his followers.

A Good Leader Is Loyal to His/Her Followers (2 Sam. 21:15-16)

Before David became king, he was a mighty warrior. The people once sang that Saul killed his thousands while David killed tens of thousands (1 Sam. 17:7). Now, as king, David followed the tradition of leading the army into battle. (Remember, the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah happened because he did not go to battle, 2 Sam 11:1).
  • David went to battle with his troops. (v. 15)
  • David grew weary, but his presence was noticed by the troops. (v. 16)

The key in these verses is to notice two words beginning with the letter “w” – “with” and “weary.”
  1. David was with his troops. He was among those engaged in the battle. Otherwise why would he grow weary? So, unlike the incident when David stayed behind and chose Bathsheba over battle, we now have a leader who is not only giving the orders, but is involved in the process of execution.
  2. Of course, David was no longer a young man, and he tired more quickly (became weary) than when he was a younger warrior. But the Philistines had been a constant challenge to the Israelites. (Remember, the first time we encounter David on a battlefield was against Goliath who was the Philistine champion.) So, David went and he fought until he became weary. 

True leadership is a balancing act. A good leader is faithful to those who follow, but sometimes that means making a decision and letting others do the work. In fact, the main purpose of a leader is to make decisions. Decisions on what should be done, when it should be done, who should do it, etc. Sometimes that includes doing it with others, and sometimes that means releasing others to do the work themselves. As we will see in the remaining verses of this passage, this is just what David did. But such an approach is only possible when the leader and the followers trust one another.

A Good Leader Has the Loyalty of His/Her Followers (2 Sam. 21:17)

As David aged, he may have been a detriment on the battlefield because others had to watch out for him. A king on the battlefield was a prime target because if the opposing army could kill the king, it often demoralized the troops. But David’s leadership was still valued and thus, one (or many) kept an eye on David to protect him against the enemy.
  • David’s men watched out for him when the enemy was on the attack (v. 17a)
  • David’s men valued his leadership and wanted to keep him from endangering himself in the future. (v. 17b)

This is a great verse for us to review. It shows how much the army respected David. Not only did one of the mightiest of David’s mighty men come to David’s rescue, but the army valued him as the “lamp of Israel.” That is, he was the one who provided their hope as leader. Now, before we say that their allegiance was misplaced in favoring David over God, we must consider the words of Jesus as well. Certainly, some likely idolized David, but two statements of Jesus can provide clarity for us.
  • “I am the light of the world.” – Jesus (John 8.12)
  • “You are the light of the world.” – Jesus (Matthew 5.14)

I believe these two statements from Jesus capture the essence of what David’s men saw in him. He was their light because He had the light within Him. Just as we can light the world if Jesus shines in and through us, God shined through David and the people knew it.

Matthew 5.14 is another reason that I often say that all Christians are leaders. Our light is to shine in a way that allows other people to know Jesus. If we are to make disciples (Matthew 28.19), then people must follow our lead – thus we are leaders. But for those in positions of leadership, it is even more critical for us to reflect the light of Jesus in the decisions we make and how we lead others. Again, David’s men recognized the light emanating from David and were willing to do anything to protect him from the enemy.

Let me be personal for a minute. I don’t share a great deal personally, but as your leader, I need protection too. Earlier this Spring, I mentioned that several deacons were dealing with various issues and asked you to pray for them. Likewise, I need you to pray for me. The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour. Those words are meant for everyone, but they come just a few verses after Peter has encouraged the leaders of the church to be faithful in their duties. So, as your leader, I pray I have your loyalty (especially in your prayers), not because of me, but because I seek to let the light of Jesus shine in and through me.

A Good Leader Trusts His/Her Followers When Loyalty Exists Mutually (v. 18-22)

Israel’s army faced further battles and now, at their discretion, they would do so without their king on the battlefield. Nevertheless, despite their leader not being physically present, they realized his importance in their success. Similarly, David trusted his army to win the battles, yet remain true to his leadership. The Bible records David’s name alongside that of those who fought because the victory was to be shared by all.
  • David’s men continued to fight against the Philistines although they had sworn he would not go to battle with them any longer. (v. 18, 19, and 20 all state a new war begins)
  • David’s men continually defeated the Philistines, but David received credit as well because he was their leader.

Leaders often receive much of the credit, and most, if not all, of the blame. Consider a football team. Announcers often speak of the leadership of the quarterback and give stats on  how many come from behind victories he has. But without an offensive line or running backs or receivers, the quarterback can do little. And what about a pitcher in baseball. We measure pitchers by the number of wins. Twenty wins in a season is a benchmark as is 300 wins for a career. But last I checked, no pitcher has ever won a game without the rest of the team. And many times a pitcher wins when he pitches lousy but the rest of the team has a great game or the pitcher pitches great (maybe one mistake), but the rest of the team couldn’t score so the pitcher does not win. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Because in a team sport, every player is important.

The same is true in the church. Paul equates the church to a body which means that every single one of us is responsible for any success or failure we have as a church. And yes, the church needs a head, but ultimately that head is Jesus (Colossians 1.18, Ephesians 5.23). But just like some members of the body are more prominent (hands and face), the same is true within the church body. But as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth every part of the body needs all other parts to function naturally and healthily (1 Corinthians 12).

So, David needed his men. And the men needed David. Both sides trusted one another and thus great things were accomplished for Israel. Likewise, I need you. And you need me. And, if we trust one another to accomplish what God has for this church, then great things can happen for His kingdom.

CONCLUSION
Loyalty to tradition, to fellow man (whether friends, servants, or “co-workers”), and country, are a part of this short passage. The loyalty shown here is exemplary, but that is not always the case (consider the apostle Peter, for instance, who pledged loyalty at any cost but denied Jesus three times). But true loyalty, or faithfulness, will show itself in the end. The question we must each consider is when the end comes to what, to whom (or Whom) will we remain faithful? More importantly, knowing that our Leader will always be faithful to us, when our life ends, will we be found faithful to Jesus?

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: UUNITE.

Loyalty is best possible when trust is involved. Yes, people have a blind sense of loyalty in some circumstances. People will be loyal to the worst of teams in sports, to a particular political party, and often to family even when all the facts suggest that doing so might be foolish. But, if people trust one another then two-way loyalty is possible. And that loyalty is simply a reflection of a higher principle – unity. Unity is between people, whereas loyalty can be to anything. Furthermore, unity is commanded in Scripture (see, for example, Psalm 133.1, John 17.23, 1 Corinthians 1.10, Ephesians 4.3, 13, Colossians 3.13-14.) Thus, we must unite in our love for Jesus, our love towards one another and our purpose in serving Him.

NEXT STEP(S): LOVE

To be united requires love. To be loyal has an element of love. And, of course, the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. So, let us be learn to be loyal to one another and loyal to our God by loving better.

This week, we do that by seeking opportunities to serve those in our community on our upcoming Labor for the Lord Sunday. Keep your eyes and ears open so we can be prepared to go with the light of Jesus into Fairfax on September 2. Write down any ideas on how we can serve. Next week we will begin to compile those ideas and make preparations so that others in Fairfax can see what the Church is truly meant to be.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Counted Among the Great (Fairfax Fair)

This week’s post is more abbreviated than usual because it was Pastor Andy’s message during the Fairfax Fair.

---

It takes everyone to make a community. But some people are more visible, and some are more well-known. The theme of the Fairfax Fair this year is that we all have a superhero inside us. I realize the premise of that statement, but the fact is that not everyone will be known as a superhero, but we all have a role to play. Today, I want to compare the life of David and Jesus to show that it isn’t only the well-known that make a difference. Indeed, all of us can if we simply are faithful to what God asks us to do.

Christianity is filled with a long history of great names. Certain apostles such as John, Peter, and Paul are considered among the greatest people in the Bible. Others such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon, and Graham could be included on a list of great Christians. But what about Mary in the Bible? Which one you ask? That is exactly the point – a few Mary’s deserve consideration (Jesus’ mother, of Magdala, Martha’s sister). The Bible is filled with many “minor” characters whose contribution makes God’s story what it is. Their names may not seem as significant to us, and others are even unknown to us, but that does not mean that they were not faithful to God.

David’s song in 2 Samuel 22 is truly his testimony about God. However, another important part of his testimony includes all of those who accompanied David throughout his life – as family, friends, servants, and warriors. Chapter 23 provides an important look at those who supported David throughout much of his life.

The Three (2 Sam. 23:8-17)

Most everyone has a person or group of people they deeply trust. David had thirty-seven mighty men (v. 39), but three were extra special (most did not “attain to the three”, see verse 19). Although very little is known of these three men, their efforts brought about great victories with the help of the Lord. Jesus also had three who were privileged beyond the others.
  1. David had three who stood above the rest. (8, 9-10, 11-12, together – 13-17) 
  2. Jesus had three who saw more than the rest. (e.g. Mark 5:37 – the healing of the deceased girl, Matthew 17:1 – the transfiguration, etc.)

The Next Tier (2 Sam 23:18-23)

For David, a couple of other warriors were worthy of having a story told about them, but the rest of his mighty men are simply listed as a name (with their father and/or place of origin). Likewise, Jesus had a group of other close followers whom were named, but otherwise little is known about them. In both cases, however, these names represent close followers of their leader – men who were willing to die to serve their leader. Interestingly, a contrast exists between David’s men and Jesus’ followers.
  1. David’s list of selected men includes one he betrayed (Uriah, v. 39).
  2. Jesus’ list of selected men includes one who betrayed Him (Judas, Luke 6:16)

The Rest

In the stories of David and Jesus, a few people are named for their parts in the story. However, countless others are not. We may not know the exact role these individuals had, but we can be certain they contributed in small and in great ways to David and Jesus, respectively.

A king has others who serve the kingdom.
  1. David had counselors (e.g. Nathan), and friends (e.g. Hushai) to guide him
  2. Jesus sent 72 ahead of Him into towns where He would go (Luke 10:1)

A king has others to provide encouragement in the midst of challenges.
  1. David had priests (e.g. Ahimelech) and worship leaders (e.g. Asaph) who served the Lord through sacrifices and song.
  2. Jesus was comforted by Mary (John 12:1-8) and angels (in the wilderness and Gethsemane)

A king has subjects who serve without any recognition.
  1. Israel had thousands of people for David to lead. Certainly, not all of them appreciated David, but most did serve him because He served the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:6-9)
  2. Jesus sent the 72, but later appeared to over 500 men (1 Cor. 15:6), most all of whom are nameless.

CONCLUSION

Both David and Jesus impacted many people throughout their lives. Both also were positively impacted by many whether the help came from those in their inner circles, their close friends, or others who were nameless to most, but important to them. The truth is that whether our story is known by others or not, God knows it, and will use us for His glory, if we are committed to Him.

The choice often comes down to whether we would rather be known by man or by God. God may make a name for us if we are focused on bringing Him glory. But when our focus is on our own glory, we fail God, and ultimately fail ourselves. Therefore, we must each answer the question: Do you want to be known by men or by God?

So, whether or not a superhero is inside of all of us, we can all be great if we are faithful to our true leader – Jesus. That greatness may find us in a prominent place in the community or simply loved deeply by our families. But whatever greatness we may achieve, our success must always be measured by our faithfulness to God.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Choosing A Response

Imagine you have just lost your job because you have been betrayed by someone you trusted. As you leave your place of employment you are confronted by one of the employees who reported to you. He is a swindler who seeks to manipulate you one last time (although you do not know you are being manipulated). What do you do? Then, as you make your way to the parking lot, a disgruntled customer starts cussing you out and throwing things at you. How do you respond?

Meanwhile, having lost your job, you find yourself in need – not just for yourself, but for those who are with you as well. Someone you may not know well has respected you from afar. This person offers to provide your meals for an extended time. You later discover this man is wealthy and can afford the gesture, but a simple “Thank you” seems insufficient. How do you respond?

Some time later, the one who betrayed you has died. You agree to take your job back despite the fact you cared about this person a great deal. Immediately, you are confronted with an opportunity to get even with the customer who berated you. Then, you find out you were manipulated and have the authority to make matters right. How do you respond?

These scenarios are not random ideas, they are directly from the story of David. In reviewing this story, and examining the response of David in each situation, we can learn more about David, about ourselves, and most importantly about God. Ultimtely, what we will discover is that our response does not have to come from our circumstances. Our response to circumstances should come from who we are.

After Absalom’s death, David rightfully resumes his role as king. While he was deposed, David certainly encountered various individuals who greeted him in a variety of ways. The Bible records an unfavorable encounter with Shemei as well as a favorable one with Barzillai. Another interaction David expected was from Mephibosheth, but he had not joined the king when he left Jerusalem. With David back on the throne, each of these men has a new encounter with David. It is David’s encounters with these individuals that will be our focus today.

David Responds with Justice

All who were loyal to David left Jerusalem with him except for two distinct people – Hushai, who would act as a spy for David (2 Sam. 15:32-37) and Mephibosheth, whom David had earlier shown extreme kindness (2 Sam 9). Although David was deceived about the reason Mephibosheth remained, his solution to not strip Ziba of everything is consistent with a king not revoking a decree.
  • David was deceived by Ziba who said Mephibosheth remained to become king. (2 Sam. 16:1-4)
  • David’s Initial Response: Give Ziba what belonged to Mephibosheth. (v. 4)
  • David’s Final Response: Continue to show kindness to Mephibosheth. After returning as king, David approaches Mephibosheth, and hearing the truth, David restores land to him. (2 Samuel 19:24-30) Although Mephibosheth may be well-cared for due to David’s return, his response (v. 30) is one of true appreciation for the king.

We are not told why David made the decision he did, but he made the decision quickly and confidently. Because he was king, and because Ziba had deceived him, no one would have thought twice if David had taken everything from Ziba. While we are not told why David responded as he did, the question is how would you respond to Mephibosheth? To the story about Ziba? Having been restored to his rightful place, David wanted to move on to what was important. He put the past behind him and now it was time to see what God was ready to do next – another example of being a man after God’s own heart.

David Responds with Mercy

As David travelled further from Jerusalem, he was met by a man named Shimei, a member of King Saul’s household. Shimei’s hostility towards a warrior like David is foolish, but David’s response shows he considered the bigger picture of what was happening.
  • Shimei cursed and threw rocks at David and others because David was unworthy to be king. (2 Sam. 16.5-8)
  • David’s Initial Response: David considered that many were against him and that may mean the Lord was allowing the events to transpire. (2 Sam. 16.9-14)
  • David’s Final Response: David made an oath that Shimei would not die. Ultimately, David realized that his place as king was secure and his restoration was cause for celebration, not punishment. (2 Sam 19:16-23)

In this instance, the issue was more than mental (deception). This person actually physically assaulted David. Certainly David is much older now as he has grown children capable of being king. But, this is still David of whom was sang, “David killed his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18.7). Even if some think this is an exaggeration, David is the commander of the army and one would be pretty stupid to attack him. But Shimei did attack and even though he has pleaded with David, notice that the army was waiting for the order to strike (2 Sam 19.21). Yet, when it came time for payback, David relented – and did so with a promise. David may have been a warrior, but his heart sought God and thus he showed mercy.

David Responds with Thanksgiving

As the king, David would have had many who were faithful to him in Israel. Certainly, some of these people would be willing to help David with any of his needs. One of the men who helped as David fled from Jerusalem was named Barzillai, whom David later seeks to reward by bringing him back to Jerusalem.
  • Barzillai provided food and a place of rest for David and all who travelled with him. (2 Sam. 17:27-29)
  • David’s Initial Response: Rest his troops for battle to defeat Absalom’s army (2 Sam 18:1-6)
  • David’s Final Response: In appreciation for the hospitality received, David extended an offer of hospitality for Barzillai to come to Jerusalem to live. Barzillai declined due to his age, but sent a servant to be with David instead. (2 Sam. 19.31-40)

Many times leaders will forget their place and expect people to provide for them and be dutiful without question. But David was not such a leader. Of course, as the king, he expected loyalty from his troops which could be easily manipulated as we saw in the story of Uriah. But when David was right with God, he was thankful for what he had. We saw that in verse 22 when he pardoned Shimei, and here he does it with Barzillai. Yes, Barzillai declined David’s offer, but it is David’s response that deserves to be highlighted here.

CONCLUSION

David’s initial response to each of these men was not rash. Even giving the property to Ziba was quite reasonable due to the details he was provided and the duress he was facing. However, David’s final response to each of these men was made due to the humility of a king. It must not be overlooked that each of the final responses was made in the midst of grieving the loss of his son (sorrow), not to mention preparing to re-establish himself as king (joy).

The truth is that we cannot control the circumstances around us, but we do have the ability to control our responses. The question is: Will you be defined by a response or will you define your response?

Remember the scenario with which I began. You have just lost your job having been betrayed by someone you trusted (for David, his son). You are manipulated as you are trying to leave (for David, by Ziba), and as you finally begin to get away you are physically harassed (for David, by Shimei). How do you respond? Maybe you can handle the job part. Then maybe you are able to put aside the manipulation. But eventually most will say, “Enough is enough!” and begin to lash out. Not David. Why? Because He trusted God. Why? Because He was a man after God’s own heart. David was not a perfect man, but he was a man who continually turned back to God.

And that is what we need to do. When we succeed, we need to express thanksgiving to God. When we fail, we need to repent and turn back to God. Life is full of choices and many of those choices are a response to what someone else has done/will do for us.

What is interesting is that both Mephibosheth (v30) and Barzillai (v 34-37) reject the offer made by the king. The problem is that too many people do that today. See, our King has made us an offer – the offer of life. Maybe we are like Barzillai and offer excuses as to why we cannot except the offer – we are too old, we are too young, we have too much to do, we have done such bad things, etc. But that is letting the situation define us rather than accepting what Jesus is offering. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. So, if he is offering, the offer is good in spite of yourself. We need to be more like Mephibosheth, who turns down the offer of stuff, because He is simply thankful to be with the king.

So, how do you respond to the offer of THE King – King Jesus? The offer of salvation. The offer of abundant life. The offer to be blessed as you are poor in spirit, as you mourn, as you hunger and seek righteousness, etc. The offer to have God’s kingdom come, to experience love and joy everlasting, etc., etc., etc.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: RREVERE.

Choosing the right response becomes easier as we follow Jesus more closely. The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart which means He revered God because He sought to be more like Him. Again, like us, David was not perfect, not even close. But to REVERE God does not mean that we are perfect, but that we desire to worship Him for who He is – and He is perfect!

NEXT STEP(S): LEARN

I will repeat the primary question once more and explain it. “Will you be defined by a response or will you define your response?”

When we react, we are defined by our response. For instance, we can all remember a time when someone did something to someone else and beforehand said, “Watch this.” The watching was not just for what was to be done, but was also because the reaction of the person was known before the act happened. Why? Because the response defined the person – that is, the person reacts the same way every time.

But if we are proactive (instead of reactive), we have defined the response. We will not be perfect at this in every occasion, but David must have already considered the possibility of being ridiculed by someone or his reaction would likely to have been to have Shimei killed after the first rock was thrown.

So, take time to think how God would respond. Then seek to do the same. That is why this week’s step is LEARN. We must first begin to understand how we typically respond. Then we seek to know how God responds. And then we make whatever changes are necessary. So, LEARN your response. LEARN God’s response. Then LEARN how to better emulate God.