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.

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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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Hub Sunday – “Sent”

Today is the launch for a new emphasis we will call Hub Sunday. The idea for these times of worship each month will be to celebrate what we are doing as a church relating to fulfilling our mission.

Why Missions’ Hub?

First, let me tell you about the origins of the name. The name comes from a couple of conversations where Roger and I were both present. One of the conversations was a one-on-one conversation while driving and the other was part of a discussion with the deacons. In the latter meeting with the deacons, Roger used the words “missions’ hub” to describe an aspect of our church and the name resonated strongly with me. So, for the last month, I have been considering how to celebrate everything we are doing as a church year-round. Thus, the idea for a regular service to celebrate was born. But beyond being a celebration, Hub Sunday will also be meant to challenge and inspire us.

Today, as we begin our first Hub Sunday, I want to share three ideas with you and then leave us with a couple of considerations. First, I want to share the “Why” of missions. That is, why should we be engaged in servings others? Second, I want to break down a fallacy regarding missions. Third, I want to briefly make a comment about the nature of a worship service. After I have mentioned each of these items, I will provide our challenge for the remaining months of 2018 and beyond.

Why Missions?

The main reason for us to be involved in missions is because Jesus commanded us to make disciples. And as part of that process, He said we are to “go.” Read Matthew 28.19-20. Thus, if Jesus tells us to go, then we are sent, but our sending is with a purpose. When talking about our purpose as Christians, we often mention the idea of being called. And that is true. Jesus called for the disciples to “Follow Me” (Matthew 4.19) and the Greek word from which we get the English “church” is ekklessia which means “called out ones.” So, we are indeed called, but our calling is so that we can be sent.

Consider some of the major characters of the Bible. Abraham was sent out from his homeland. Moses was sent to Pharaoh. The Israelites were sent to the Promised Land. David was sent to the front lines where he would face Goliath. Ezra was sent to Jerusalem to help get the temple rebuilt. Nehemiah was sent to help rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. God sent His Son that whoever believes will have eternal life. The apostles were told they would be sent from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Paul was sent to the Gentiles. Etc. So, the idea of being sent is prominent throughout Scripture.

The idea is not just for great people for none of the people mentioned (except His Son) were considered great until they obeyed their call to be sent. Again, we are sent by Jesus as He commands us to make disciples as we “go.” (Matthew 28.19). And we do not go in order to become great; rather we go in order that His Name will be made great (Matthew 5.16). Of course, some refuse the call to be sent (even if only for a while) like Jonah. However, the book of Jonah shows obedience of God’s sending throughout that short book. Consider that God sent Jonah (who initially disobeyed, but later obeyed), but God also sent a great wind and storm (Jonah 1.4),  a big fish (1.17), a plant (4.6), a worm (4.7), and a scorching wind (4.8). So, again, listening to Jesus requires us to “Go!” because like God sent Him, He sends us.

But being sent is not just about going abroad, it can mean going across the street or across the town. And that will be the next part of the message.

Being Missional

One of the primary reasons behind Hub Sunday is to help correct a misunderstanding of missions. Since late August of 2016, and particularly since late January of this year, you have heard a great deal about Kenya. And in previous years, you have heard about various mission trips to Panama, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, as well as various places within the United States. It is particularly important for a church to hear what God is doing when the church is sending people out to far away locations. The church at Antioch sent Paul (and Barnabas) out (Acts 13.1-3), and Paul regularly returned to Antioch to give reports of his missionary endeavors (e.g. Acts 14.26-28; 18.22-23).

But the emphasis in the Great Commission is not the word “go.” The emphasis is to make disciples. In fact, the verb is “to make” and the terms “go,” “baptize,” and “teach,” are all participles which explain how “to make.” So, the important part is to make disciples and that can be done “as we go.” That is, as we go about our regular business we are to make disciples.

Therefore, the idea is not necessarily about going on a mission trip. Rather, it is living a life that is “on mission” or being “missional” as is often said today. The difference is staggering. Going to and from Kenya costs between $1100-$1500 just for the airfare and costs a great deal of time (airport to airport is nearly 24 hours, for instance). Going across the street costs nothing monetarily, and perhaps five minutes of time at a minimum. But both can have eternal impact if we are mission-minded.

Every interaction we have with another person could be a difference maker in their eternity. That statement is why Matthew 5.16 is the verse for our Vision statement. We do our good works to that others will give God the glory. Being missional is more than merely setting a good example, it is about being a positive influence and leading others into a deeper relationship with God. We do this by being salt and light wherever we are and whatever we are doing – whether it is one-half way around the world or talking to our neighbor in the front yard.

So, we must break the mindset of thinking that missions as something that happens over there. Missions is about being missional and that process begins in the heart and in the brain. For, as Jesus reminded us, we are to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength” (Mark 12.30-31). The heart and mind set the tone for our soul to be engaged and thus we use our strength to serve God by loving and serving others as well.

Service as Worship

One last important aspect of Hub Sundays, at least future Hub Sundays, is to get more people involved in the worship service. Think about those two words. We come to worship God and part of that is done by some of the common elements we do every week. But the bulk of the time is spent with the focus on three or four people. Certainly, the time of worship should have direction (God is not a God of confusion, i.e. order is important – 1 Cor 14.33), and leaders help provide that direction. And the congregation can actively sing and actively give, but much of what is done is passive (i.e. listening). So, what if on one Sunday each month, the bulk of the congregation got more involved? That is, what if, instead of sitting and listening, the congregation contributed by sharing how they have served and then encourages others to do the same? If this is done, then the time of worship truly becomes a time of serving during worship – or a service of worship, which gives credence to the concept of a worship service.

If we think of the Old Testament priests, their responsibility was to serve at the tabernacle and later the temple. And, one of the distinctives that was rebirthed during the Reformation was that we are all priests – designed to serve God (1 Peter 2.5). Of course, we are to serve outside the walls of this building because the building is not the church, we are! But, we can also serve within the church and can do so by sharing how God is using us to fulfill His purposes in a corporate setting.

Furthermore, our service is truly an act of worship. Just as we may sing as worship, so can we serve as worship (and pray, study, etc.). Colossians 3.17 reminds us of this – whatever we do, in word or action, we do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks (i.e. praising/worshipping) to God as we do. And, again, as we serve in this way, others will rejoice and give glory the Father in heaven (Matthew 5.16). Said succinctly, we serve as an act of worship, and others worship as we serve.

So, let us embrace the possibilities to share how God is using us. We do not do this to brag or receive human praise; rather, we share because God has chosen to use us and in our obedience the world is changed, and He is glorified. If you recall our key verse from earlier this year, Habakkuk 2.14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” That will began to happen as we serve more out there and celebrate that service more in here.

Our JOURNEY

Our strategy is comprised of the acrostic JOURNEY. Each week, I share a letter that fits with the message and provides some clarity for how the message and our church’s purpose intersect. But our JOURNEY begins as individuals. We begin our lives apart from Christ and for those that choose Jesus, we eventually take that fork in the road that leads us to Christ, but we always still have further to go. That distance to travel to be complete in Him (Col. 1.28) is our growth which is captured by the idea of a JOURNEY. More will be said about this connection in our upcoming series on the church, but for now, let me briefly share a couple of areas of service that some people have embraced related to being missional.

Again, Kenya gets a lot of attention and many contribute money to that each month through the piki offering. Other larger donations have been made recently and we are now almost able to repair the well at Lesurwa so they can have fresh water. But remember missions is not just about “over there,” it is about when and wherever.

This summer we have had people serve in VBS. Maybe it was helping serve meals, or maybe it was donating food. That can be a simple donation, or with the right mindset, that can be missional.

We have recently concluded No Hunger Summer. In all honestly, we did not help as many children and families as we had hoped, but 33 different children (and a total of 39 different individuals) consumed 190 meals (not counting VBS week). Our church had a part in that.

Each Tuesday, someone from our church delivers Meals on Wheels to various individuals around Fairfax. Serving in this way is an element of missions.

Each Monday, a group of ladies and a couple of men help convert plastic sacks into bed mats. But to do that, we need sacks. And some may simply drop off the sacks, but with the right mindset dropping off plastic sacks can be missional.

Being missional can also include bringing supplies for the food pantry or the youth group or cooking a meal for someone or making a visit to the hospital or calling someone who was missing from church or Sunday School or sending my abbreviated sermon notes to someone who is homebound. Again, all of these ideas, and more, can just be something we do, or they can be missional. It is about our mindset and our heartset.

What’s Next? The Challenge

Moving forward I want us to consider how we can fulfill two major initiatives. I am certain some may disregard one or both of these ideas, but if we are going to be a large church in a small town, we need to extend our influence (which is the essence of the word “large” in the vision).

So, first, our next Hub Sunday will be scheduled for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. But that week we will only meet here briefly. Instead for everyone who is able, we will honor the name of that weekend by finding some way to labor for the Lord on that Sunday morning. We will call it, Labor for the Son Day.” I realize that not everyone will be able to labor physically, so I invite you to this building to pray for those who are out serving in some way. The prayer is an important part of the service – praying for opportunities to serve, opportunities to proclaim Jesus, and even for the safety of those serving. To accomplish this, we need to have our eyes and ears open to possibilities. As you see a need or hear of someone who needs some assistance, make a note and let me know. We will compile a list and then meet here that morning to “go” and be servants within our community. We will celebrate these and other opportunities during Hub Sunday at the end of September.

The second challenge will wait until the end of September before we seek to engage. This town has two entities that keep this town afloat from an economic perspective – the hospital and the school. We can seek how to serve the hospital at a later point, but while our church is very active in VBS and is the host of God Squad each year, if we want to make a difference in the lives of the families in this community, we need to be engaged with the school. Two of the last three years, the president of the school board has been a member of our church. The current superintendent is a professing Christian. Can God make a partnership out of this? Absolutely. But the question is, if we are sent in this direction, will we go? We will have the opportunity to make that decision at the end of September.  But, in some way, we must respond to our being sent.

If we truly Exalt the Savior, we will go.
If we truly seek to Equip the Saint, we will go.
If we truly desire to Evangelize the Sinner, we will go.

So, the question isn’t if we are sent. The question isn’t if we should go? The question is when are where is God calling us to go? And within the us, how do you fit into that call?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Playing Games (Part 2)

One of the more reviled figures in American history was a hero before he became a goat. As a captain during the Revolutionary war, this man twice disobeyed critical orders from his superiors, but in the latter situation, he helped the cause of the rebels by leading others in a critical battle at Saratoga in New York. Despite a severely injured left leg, this captain helped turn back the British who would eventually surrender to the American army there and end their attempt to separate the northern colonies from the southern colonies. If the British had been successful in that fall of 1777, the revolution likely would have been weakened considerably – perhaps allowing the Brits to triumph over the Continental Army.

Because of this captain’s valor, Congress restored his full confession and he was soon promoted to Major General, becoming one of General Washington’s must trusted officers. Because of this truth, Washington appointed this man as the commander of West Point – a strategically placed fort near New York City. What Washington did not know was that his trusted officer was having secret conversations with the British providing them critical details about the movements and supplies of the Continental Army. Then, less than two months after being given command of West Point, he made a deal with the British to allow them to capture the fort and take control of it. Fortunately, the spy carrying the message was captured and the letter was found allowing the fort to be secured. Upon learning that the message had been intercepted, this general escaped to officially join with the British army and given commission as a Brigadier General. He would serve the Brits well winning multiple victories including destroying a town near the place of his birth in Connecticut. About a year after joining the Brits, he left for London, where he would live (except for a few years) for the rest of his life.

This man, successful throughout his military career on both sides is not known for the battles he won. Nor is he known for being a very successful businessman – which he was before the war and to some extent after it as well. No, this man is known for one act and by one word. The act – betrayal. The word – traitor. The name – Benedict Arnold.

Benedict Arnold learned to be a master player of games. Many have debated why Arnold chose to betray his country and several theories have been offered. But it likely had to do with the company he kept – which was a group of British sympathizers which included his wife Peggy. Whatever the cause, despite his leadership efforts during military times, his game playing not only deprived him of being considered one of the heroes of the American Revolution, but also has vilified him so that he is considered one of the worst individuals to have lived in this nation of ours.

Benedict Arnold’s story is not unique, however. Certainly, the details are unique to him, but betraying family, friends, and countries is nothing new. Last week we reviewed two plots which ultimately could be considered a betrayal of family. This week, we will see that the games Absalom played were just the beginning of a greater plot which lead to the betrayal of his father, and thus, in effect, a betrayal of the country as well.

Last week’s message focused on three plots found in 2 Samuel 13 and 14. The plots (or games that were played) were attempts at selfish gain. Amnon and Absalom’s games had a severe consequence for another person. Joab’s ploy was seemingly helpful to Absalom, but it certainly did not hurt his cause with the king (or with Absalom). However, Absalom was deeply involved in the game now and, as such, had to continue to “play games” to ensure the outcome would be beneficial to him. However, deceit and game-playing are eventually exposed and often lead to unpleasant consequences which, for Absalom, included death.

Having returned to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:23-24; 28), Absalom gains an audience with the king (2 Samuel 24:33) and begins to conspire against David to make himself the king. David is temporarily removed from the throne as Absalom wins the hearts of the people, but eventually he would die while leading Israel’s army against those faithful to David.

A Plot to Be Restored (2 Samuel 14:28-33)

Absalom knew that Joab had intervened to get him back to Jerusalem, but after two more years had passed, Absalom still had not come before the king. After trying to get Joab to respond, Absalom forces the issue and eventually is welcomed by David.
  • Motive: To gain access to the king (2 Samuel 14:28, 32)
  • Accomplice: Absalom’s servants (30); Joab (eventually, 33)
  • Game: Absalom had Joab’s field set on fire to force Joab to interact with him (29-31)
  • Result: Joab listens to Absalom and eventually has him summoned to the king (32-33)
  • Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, he got the audience he wanted; Loser – Joab, his field was burned

A Plot to Be Received (2 Samuel 15:1-6)

Having been received by the king, Absalom needed the people of Israel to rally behind him. Absalom established himself among the people by pretending to be a caring leader (judge) who would do right by anyone in Israel that had a dispute.
  • Motive: Absalom needed the support of the people of Israel (v. 6)
  • Accomplice: Absalom’s servants (v. 1)
  • Game: Absalom pretended to be a commander of many (v. 1); he portrayed himself as one who cared more than the king (v. 3); he showed immense respect to those who approached him (v. 5)
  • Result: “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (v. 6)
  • Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, the people of Israel were in his hands; Loser – David, implicitly, because the people loved Absalom

A Plot to Be King (2 Samuel 15:7-14)

Absalom now has the people behind him, but to take the throne from David directly while in Jerusalem would likely fail. Thus, he devises a plan to announce himself as king in Hebron and then return to Jerusalem further strengthened with the support of the people.
  • Motive: To become king (v. 10)
  • Accomplice: Absalom’s servants/messenger, innocent guests (10-11)
  • Game: Absalom asked David if he could go to worship God, but used the request as a tactic to make himself king (7-12)
  • Result: The people of Israel are duped into following someone they thought would be a worthy leader
  • Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, he positioned himself to be king and had David’s counselor (Ahithophel) at his side; Loser – David and his servants, when David heard the message, they fled (13-14)

A Plot to Be Buried (2 Samuel 18:9-18)

Absalom gained all he desired. But in the end, his gain was short-lived. Absalom’s death was necessary to restore David as God’s chosen king. All the plotting in the world could not keep him from being buried in a plot with a monument over it.

CONCLUSION

Most everyone likes to play some sort of game – whether it is sports, board games, video games, or something else. However, we must all be on guard against playing games – that is, not to plot against others. Major General Arnold liked to play games, and although it did not cost him his life, it has left a horrible legacy that is etched into American lore. Similarly, Absalom was masterful in his game-playing ability. He used his skills to take the place of the king in his time rather than waiting for David to die. (This assumes Chileab, 2 Sam 3:3, had already died, which is certainly possible because his name is not mentioned elsewhere.) But Absalom’s games cost over 20,000 people their lives (2 Sam. 18:7) – all so he could get his way.

However, as one who simply plays the game, rather than makes it, Absalom is subject to the same rules of life as everyone else. Thus, God restored David as the rightful king showing He was in control. And, just as importantly for us, God is still in control today. For as Galatians 6.7 reminds us: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is:  RREVERE.

Like last week, our choice comes down to whether or not we wish to play games to gain an apparent advantage or whether we will trust God for what He has for us. I don’t often mention our Mission anymore, and I should. This idea is about Exalt the Savior. We can exalt ourselves and play games because we think we are more important than we are, or we can Exalt the Savior who gave Himself up for us despite the fact that we are nothing compared to Him. Thus, we should REVERE our God.

NEXT STEP(S): LOVE

Again, we have overlap here from last week. Playing games is done in order to manipulate a situation to our advantage. Oftentimes that manipulation comes at the expense of other people. Thus, playing games is really the opposite of love. If we truly exhibit the Great Commandment to love God and love others, then we will seek to be honest and truthful in our dealings with them and trust that God will provide what we need.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Playing Games (Part 1)

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session07.pdf

Susan and I are in the process of purging several items from our home. In the process we have found some personal momentos from our past and have taken the time to read many of the letters we wrote to one another when we were dating – especially when we lived in different towns while attending college. One of the most repetitious statements I made was my goal to make her happy. Well, I believe I have done that well in most every area of our life together except one – I do not like to play games, and she does.

The reason I do not like to play games is that as an only child, I played games by myself all the time. Although we lived in the city, my grandparents lived next door to us from the time I was 4 until I was 13, so I often stayed home alone while both of my parents were at work. Thus, I would play various bored games for hours and hours every day. For instance, I would play Monopoly with all of the pieces and I was the “player” for every piece – day after day after day. So, playing Monopoly is not something I enjoy. And many other games are the same for me. But Susan does like to play games.

So, when we were dating, we would occasionally play games, and that included going to play miniature golf. Well, when it comes to sports, I used to be hyper-competitive, and one round I was winning by several strokes with only a couple of holes to play. But for some reason, I could no longer sink a putt. In fact, on the last hole, I kept missing very short putts until she realized what I was doing. Now, I was not going to lose, but I thought it would be smart not to win either. Well, I was wrong, and she was rightfully upset. Of course, I apologized and she forgave me and we a happily married (except for the lack of games!).

Why have I shared this story about playing a game? Because besides playing games for fun and recreation, some people “play games” attempting to deceive others – like I was doing during mini-golf. For many, playing a game is about entertainment or having fun. But for most winning is important. The drive to win will cause some to bend or break the rules. This is true when families play board games or when athletes take their position. For those who look to cheat the system, they are doing more than playing a game, they are playing games. “Playing games” occurs in various aspects of our lives as well. The use of deceit, manipulation, etc., are all about gaining an advantage over someone else, and the Bible has many examples of those who are cunning, including David and his family. For instance, David’s kindness in 2 Samuel 9 turned to cunning in chapter 11, and when his initial plan did not work, he had Uriah killed. In this week’s message, we see David’s sons Amnon (2 Sam 13) and Absalom (chapter 13), as well as his nephew Joab (chapter 14) use deception for selfish motives as well. Next week, we will see how this series of plots (game-playing) ultimately caused more loss than gain for the various players.

As we have seen thus far in 2 Samuel, David is a faithful and compassionate man. The book begins with David mourning the death of the king even though he stood to gain the title. Later, David shows kindness to the king’s grandson. But, as we saw last week, King David’s motives were not always so pure. David’s children may have known of the early example their father set, but they, along with their cousin Joab, certainly learned the craft of manipulation and deceit along the way. They learned to “play games” and “plot” to get what they desired. This week, I will share three different plots outlined in 2 Samuel 13 and 14, and try to determine the winners and losers in each.

A Plot of Lust (2 Samuel 13:1-19)

Amnon professed to love his half-sister Tamar. His love for her had become unhealthy, even to the point of lust. Amnon sought counsel and a plan was devised for him to be alone with Tamar where he violated her. As is the usual case with lust, Amnon now despised what he desired, and had her removed from his presence.

  • Motive: Tormented by Love (2 Samuel 13:1-2)
  • Accomplice: The Crafty Friend – also Cousin (3-5)
  • Game: Amnon would pretend to be ill, so Tamar would care for him (6-12)
  • Result: Amnon violated Tamar, hated her for it, and cast her from his sight (13-19)
  • Winners/Losers*: No winners, all were losers as Amnon got what he wanted, but couldn’t enjoy it.

*The Winner and Loser is only attributed to the immediate and near-term consequences, not the long-term implications.


A Plot of Anger (2 Samuel 13:20-29)

Absalom (Tamar’s brother) discovers that Tamar has been violated and seeks to protect her. When David learns of the situation, he was angry, but did not resolve the matter. Absalom may have waited for David to respond, but after two full years, Absalom has had ample time to devise a plan to kill Amnon.

  • Motive: Hatred, Revenge (2 Samuel 13:20-22)
  • Accomplice: Servants of Absalom, under his orders (28-29)
  • Game: Press David into allowing Amnon and the other sons to come to him (23-27)
  • Result: Amnon is murdered; Absalom flees for his safety
  • Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, in part – he avenged his sister, but must flee for his safety; Loser: Amnon


A Plot for Power (2 Samuel 14:1-24)

Joab knew the king loved Absalom and wanted to help him. Rather than going to the king himself, Joab used a woman to confront the king for him. A favorable response would further endear Joab to the king. Absalom would also appreciate Joab because he would be closer to being restored as David’s son. If the king responded negatively, Joab’s ploy, presumably, would not have exposed him. Therefore, Joab has much to gain, and virtually no chance at losing.

  • Motive: Get Absalom back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:1-24)
  • Accomplice: A woman from Tekoa (2-3)
  • Game: Remain in favor with David (v.22) and gain favor with Absalom
  • Result: Absalom returns to Jerusalem, but is not to appear before David
  • Winners/Losers: Winners – Absalom, back in Jerusalem; Joab, favor with the king; Losers – None


CONCLUSION

Each of these plots is about showing or gaining power. Each person was selfish in their motive, but the ultimate goal was to display one’s perceived authority and/or secure it for the future. Amnon’s plot was to force Tamar to be with him so his desires could be fulfilled. Absalom’s plot was to kill Amnon which, incidentally, would also move him closer to the throne (Amnon was the firstborn of David). Joab wanted to secure his position of authority when the time came for a new king.

In each case, a temporary win was achieved, but only Joab did not face consequence. Likewise, when we “play games” with others we may be victorious in the moment, but at what cost? Just as I “gained victory” by not winning the mini-golf match with Susan, I still had to apologize because she was frustrated when she realized what I was doing.

As for the three men in this week’s message, the Bible does not give any indication that they ever repented. Their motives and actions were selfish. David also played games at times (e.g. with Uriah), but when he did, he repented before God. Let us realize when we are playing games, perhaps even deceiving ourselves, so that we will respond as David did – by repenting and turning (back) to Jesus.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: RREVERE.

I had to stop and think about which letter fit best this week. Playing games creates disunity and tears down as opposed to nurturing others. But ultimately, our game playing is deceit which is an offense against God (i.e. Do not lie) and thus, I think REVERE is best. When we revere Jesus, we do not need to lie. When we revere Jesus, we do not want to lie. When we revere Jesus, we do not need to play games in order to get what we want because we are trusting that Jesus will provide for us. So, we can scheme and play games or we can trust in Jesus. The choice seems simple, but many still choose to play games.

NEXT STEP(S): LOVE

If we love someone, we will not play games that will harm them. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2, we are to have the mind of Christ, which includes thinking with humility – that is, to consider others more significant than we do ourselves. That is the type of love that does not envy and is not rude. And when we love like that, we are not only loving others, we are loving God in the process.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – A Faithful Servant

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session06.pdf

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Success. The word conjures up many thoughts. We can debate what the nature of success is or how one achieves success or even the benefits of being successful. But for the Christian, the question must be, “How does God define success?” This question may also generate a good deal of debate based upon how well or how much someone does something. But the simplest answer to the question can be found in one word – faithfulness. The word faithful can be broken down to mean “full of faith.” We are faithful when we live in faith and live by faith. But that is more difficult to do than we might think. We can be faithful to our family, our jobs, our friends, and certainly to God. In fact, our passage this week (2 Samuel 11) talks a great deal about faithfulness – toward man and toward God. But to truly be faithful, we must consider that our service and love for God is expressed by our service and love toward others (Mark 12:30-31; 1 John 4:20-21).

2 Samuel 11 involves three warriors – David, Joab, and Uriah. Although each of these men had different responsibilities (David as king, Joab as commander, Uriah as soldier), each generally served his leader faithfully. However, the great lesson for us today is that like David, our faithfulness will be severely tested at times. The question is how will we respond? Hopefully, like David, we will find ourselves turning back to God through repentance – for truly that is the only way we can be found faithful in the end.

But before we get to David, let us begin by reviewing how Uriah and Joab were faithful.

Uriah: Faithful in Duty

Everything we know about Uriah shows him to be faithful to his duty. Offered the chance to be with his wife, he did not leave because of a sense of duty. The Bible paints a very positive picture of Uriah; we do not know any of his faults. (We do know he did get drunk, but only because the king made him – v. 13.) We also know that Uriah was more than just an ordinary soldier – he was one of David’s trusted warriors. 2 Samuel 23.39 shows that Uriah was one of David’s mighty men. So, Uriah was faithful to his king and to his duty. And that faithfulness is what ultimately got him killed. Consider four ways that Uriah was faithful.
  • Uriah slept at the king’s door instead of his bed. (2 Sam. 11:9-11)
  • Uriah slept with the king’s servants, but not in his own bed (2 Sam. 11:12-13)
  • Uriah delivered a letter (his death sentence) to his commander (2 Sam. 11.14-15)
  • Uriah fought on the frontlines as commanded (2 Sam. 11.16-17)

Uriah was faithful in his duty. And that duty included being faithful to his commander.

Joab: Faithful in Command

Joab was a faithful commander of the Israelite army, but he was not always faithful to David (he killed Abner out of revenge for having killed his brother (see 2 Samuel 3.26-30). Joab was a nephew of David (1 Chronicles 2:16) and he was also another of the mighty men of David (2 Sam. 23.18-19).
  • Joab was faithful to send Uriah home. (2 Sam. 11:6)
  • Joab was faithful to send Uriah to die. (2 Sam. 11:16-21)
  • Joab was faithful in command, but to his own end (He tried to gain favor with Absalom to maintain his power after David was no longer king. See 2 Samuel 14.)

Joab, like Uriah, was faithful in most ways to their human leader. but with David we have a more complete story.

David: Faithful in the End

The depiction of David until this story is of a young man who is faithful to both man and God. He is a mighty warrior and has become a mighty king. But, like all of us, he is not perfect. The story of David and Bathsheba provides a great example of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, and the promise of verse 13. David did not have those verses to consult, but he did know the mercies of God for those who fail and repent. Thankfully, this same story provides us with a model of repentance as well. We may fall in the middle, but we can still be faithful in the end.
  • David’s lack of fidelity led to a plan of deceit. (2 Sam 11:1-6)
  • David’s lack of integrity led to additional sin. (2 Sam. 11:12-13, 15)
  • David’s dedication to God led him to repent. (2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51)

This last point is so crucial for us. Many people start strong, but are they faithful to the end? David started strong and fell hard in the middle, but because he repented he serves as a model for us today. We can learn a great deal from David’s story. It is being faithful at the end that counts. Jesus told a parable about seed that fell on four types of soil (Matthew 13). Three of the seeds began to show some life, but only one truly took root. That is only one type of soil was “faithful” and because of that it bore much fruit. It is not enough to start well, it is finishing well that matters.

CONCLUSION

In recent months, we have seen many high-profile leaders fall for various reasons. The governor of Missouri resigned, as did the President of the SBC Executive Committee, some professors at SBC seminaries, and other leaders have been forced to leave office due to a variety of issues related to sin. The truth is that being in a position of leadership makes any sin magnified and spreads through the public more quickly. And the public, including Christians, are often not as willing to forgive as God is. Of course, only God knows the sincerity of the heart when someone repents. But let us not be deceived into thinking these high-profile leaders are the only ones capable, or culpable, of sin. You and I sin daily, but thankfully, our sin is not broadcast on television or the internet. Likewise, the people in our story today were guilty of sin, but only David’s sin was fully revealed.

The Bible does not reveal any of Uriah’s faults, but Paul wrote that each of us sins, so Uriah had them. The Bible does share a few of Joab’s faults, but it does not have any record of him repenting. We definitely know some of David’s faults, but more importantly, we know that despite his failures, he desired God, who called David “a man after my heart.” David’s life should be an encouragement to us because, although he failed in many ways, he was found to be faithful in the end.

We have seen each of these three individuals as faithful through a certain perspective. While, people may disagree on what makes a person or church faithful, Hebrews 11:6 says we cannot please God without faith. Thus, as I mentioned at the beginning, our success is somewhat tied to our faithfulness to God. That is, if acting on faith pleases God, we must consider being faithful important in God’s definition of success. Each of us, despite our flaws and our sins, can be found faithful in the end when we seek forgiveness from the One in whom we place our trust. We can be certain of this truth because Jesus has always been faithful – from beginning to end.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

A part of being faithful is to follow the expectations of others. Uriah did this. Joab did this. And, ultimately, David did this. We must do the same, but ultimately our being faithful is to follow the expectations of Jesus. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20), Jesus said that making disciples includes not only teaching others about what He said, but to “observe” everything He commanded. The promise then, for those who do, is to hear the phrase we should all desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21). As I often comment though, to hear well done, means we had to do.

Being faithful requires us doing something. Last week, that doing included being kind (not just nice) to others. This week, we must consider that our faithfulness begins when we realize how unclean we are. Like David, in his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51), we must confess our sins and ask God to cleanse us and make us new. When we do, we are then equipped to begin observing everything else He has for us to do. And, as we observe, we will find ourselves moving closer to hearing that we have done well and been a faithful servant.

NEXT STEP(S): LIVE

Many people find the demands of Jesus too difficult. And, let’s face it, it is impossible to live up to the standards He demands. But that is why He came to die. He died so that we might live. He doesn’t want us to just be alive physically, He wants us to live our lives with purpose. It is not for us to look at what He demands and just give up; rather, we are to strive towards obedience (see Paul in Philippians 3.12-14), knowing that He has made the path possible for us. This week, choose to live faithfully. Begin by confessing whatever needs to be confessed, and then choose to live according to the standards placed before you (by yourself, your spouse, your boss, by God, whomever). This idea may sound easy, but actually living faithfully in all those roles may make this next week the hardest week of the year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – More Than Nice

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session05.pdf

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When I was a young boy, each time we would be going to someone’s house for dinner, I received what came to be known as the “Andy Lecture.” The “Andy Lecture” was very simple, but my parents were very serious about it. The lecture was this: “Eat whatever is put on your plate.” This was an important statement because I did not (and still do not) like most vegetables. By the time I reached about 10 years of age, my parents quit giving me the Andy Lecture. Instead, they simply said those two words – “Andy Lecture” – and I knew what they meant.

The truth is most children receive some sort of instruction from their parents when going to visit others. I would suppose that one of the main phrases many parents have told their child(ren) is to “be nice.” The phrase is meant to encourage (or warn) a child that a certain type of behavior is expected in a certain setting. The idea of being nice is effectively meant as a way of saying “get along with others.” The definition of the word suggests that we are agreeable or pleasant. As such, the idea of being nice is passive and can be faked for a period of time.

On the other hand, the notion of being kind is a matter of character. Kindness requires being considerate and even benevolent toward others. In other words, to be kind requires action – and that action is for the benefit of others. Therefore, people may be able to fake kindness for a while, but eventually, their true nature will be exposed.

In our passage today, 2 Samuel 9, David extended kindness to Mephibosheth because of his relationship to Jonathan but also because David was kind. Anyone can be nice, at least for a time, but kindness runs deeper; it is a part of our core. As Paul shared in two different letters, kindness is a part of love (1 Corinthians) and is evident as fruit of God’s Spirit within us (Galatians).

David exhibited kindness to Mephibosheth because of his affection for Jonathan. No one asked or demanded that David be nice; rather, David was kind because that was his nature. David’s desire to be kind is evident throughout the passage and shows him to truly be a man after God’s own heart.

David Shows Kindness

For Jonathan’s sake (2 Sam 9:1) – David asks others remembering his covenant to Jonathan.
  1. David asks the question of those who provide him counsel (“they” in v. 2)
  2. Ziba provides information for David to show his kindness (vv.3-4)

For the sake of your father – David talking to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9.7)
  1. David tells Mephibosheth why he desires to be kind to him. (v. 7)
  2. Mephibosheth was extended the honor of eating at the king’s table (vv. 7, 13)

Culturally, to be a guest at another’s table was a high honor, But Mephibosheth was not just a guest, he was considered as a son (v.11).

Ziba and his family become servants of Mephibosheth (vv. 9-12)
Mephibosheth lived like a prince while the work was done for him. Ziba, his family, and servants were certainly not left for want.

David Shows the Kindness of God (2 Samuel 9:3)

David’s kindness was a reflection of God’s love. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

David did not owe Mephibosheth anything, but honored him with a place at the table nonetheless.
Mephibosheth could do little for David, but David respected him nonetheless by returning His land.

We Can Show Kindness Because of God’s Spirit.

True kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)

True kindness cannot be faked, because it is a part of who we are.

CONCLUSION:

Being nice and being kind are not the same idea. How nice we are is based upon the perception of others whereas the nature of our kindness is ultimately evaluated by God. My parents gave me the “Andy Lecture” because they wanted me to be nice – it was about the perception of others on me and on them. But kindness is far deeper. Consider Jesus, for instance. Many in Jesus’ day would not likely have considered him nice (calling people vipers – Matthew 23:33; or turning over tables in the temple – Matthew 21:12 – would not be considered nice), but his benevolent nature was evident in everything He did.

David showed extraordinary kindness to the son of a deceased friend for the sake of that friend. David intentionally acted out of the goodness of his heart to share what he had with another. Truly, David’s action in this passage ties everything together we have learned in the last four weeks. David’s love for Jonathan motivated him to seek continued reconciliation with the house of Saul long after Jonathan’s death. His desire to show kindness allows an otherwise unknown and forgotten individual to experience the generosity of a king.

The link to God is, thus, right before us. We can easily see David as one who seeks the heart of God through these actions. Consider that God, likewise, was motivated by love to reconcile us, a group of relatively unknown and unimportant individuals, and showed us extraordinary kindness by the giving of His Son. We have been shown this kindness, in part, so that we might share what we have with others as well. If you and I want to be known as a man or woman after God’s heart, we need to be more than nice to others; we need to show them kindness.

JOURNEY:

The JOURNEY letter for today is: NNURTURE.

To nurture someone or something requires kindness. It requires intention. Thus, it requires action. We have heard it said that someone was nurtured back to health. Or we have seen the differences in development between a young child who was nurtured and another who was neglected. The same is true with our faith. We grow in our faith and understanding if we are intentional to act – to read, to pray, to serve. A faith that is neglected shrivels up and dies. To paraphrase James 2, “Let me show you my faith by what I do.” In other words, let me prove my faith by my service to God and others. Let me prove myself by being kind. When we nurture others we are being kind. We are showing love. We are allowing one part of the Spirit’s fruit to be manifest in our lives. To nurture others is to be kind, which is a part of the true nature of love.

NEXT STEP(S): So how can you be more nurturing this week?

LOVE. If we are going to seek to have a heart like God, we must reflect on the love He has for us. Today, that begins with remembering His sacrifice as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. But as we do, we must remember that His kindness to us required serving in the most extreme manner. His death for us was not about being nice; it was an act of immeasurable kindness. Therefore, for us to show kindness to others, we must be willing to serve as well. Over the past month, we have discussed our need to be motivated by love, to allow that love to move us toward reconciliation, and to be available to God no matter how insignificant we may feel. Now, all of that aligns with the need to express kindness to others so that God might be known through our acts of serving others.