The Lord Is My Rock

Posted by on November 29, 2009 under Sermons

2 Samuel 21-24

  • Story of Rizpah (21:1-14)
    – The Giant Killers List (21:15-22)
    • David’s Song (22:1-51)
    • David’s Last Words (23:1-7)

    – The List of Mighty Men (23:8-39)

  • Story of Threshing Floor (24:1-24)

Two Stories

  1. David ignores God
  2. David sins
  3. God sends a disaster
  4. David responds – intercedes for Israel
  5. Others players (Rizpah and Araunah)

The Righteousness of Rizpah

  1. Joshua 9:15 – Pact with Gibeonites. Saul broke the pact
  2. David surrenders seven descendents of Saul
  3. Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7) – Saul’s concubine, Abner’s concubine
  4. She has no power, but acts where she can
  5. She shames David into action and admitting the injustice

David’s Songs

  1. The Lord is My Rock
  2. Righteous Rulers vs Evil Men
  3. God’s Covenant and Unfailing Love
  4. David “enters into” the exodus with poetic language – he experiences it again.

The Threshing Floor

  • Two Parts:
    – The Census
    • Counting the people is an assessment of strength
    • Reliance on military power (see Psalm 20)
    • Numbers rather than names
    • Euphemisms of war and politics – doublespeak
    • Where is our trust and confidence?

    – The Altar

    • The destroying angel is stopped at Mount Moriah (Abraham’s mountain)
    • Araunah the Jebusite has a threshing floor there
    • Will become the site of the Temple (1 Chron. 21:15)

Full Circle

  • Hannah praying at Shiloh
  • David praying at the altar
  • Israel is saved through humbling themselves before God
  • Our king is God alone

The Promise of Better Days

Posted by on under Sermons

Read Jeremiah 32:1-17

If you were to line up all the amazing works of the prophets in the Old Testament, what would make it into the top ten? Certainly Elijah would lead the way with his contest against the priests of Baal. He doused his altar with water and yet fire from heaven incinerated it.

How about Elisha summoning the bears to attack the youths that insulted him. That’s not just Old Testament, that’s sort of Old West. Do not mess with Elisha!

Elijah and Elisha would occupy 60 or 70% of the top ten. How many prophets leave the world in a fiery chariot?

Isaiah would get on the board for his quotable sermons: “The virgin will have a child and you shall name him Immanuel.” “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (yeah, John the Baptist was borrowing that). “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Prophets sometimes did things for shock value to make a point – they were embodying their message. Hosea married a prostitute to demonstrate how God was faithful despite the people’s unfaithfulness. It wasn’t a mock wedding – it was the real thing. Now that has to be on the list.

Then there’s Ezekiel and his strange recipes. “Cooking With Dung” – that could have been the title of Ezekiel’s other book. Of course he was trying to show what would happen when Judah was invaded.

Jeremiah buys a field. That doesn’t really seem like top ten stuff. Not even top 25 or top 50. But the purchase of the field may be one of the most significant prophetic acts in Scripture. It preaches even to us today.

The act is foolish on the surface. Who would buy a field that is about to be occupied by another nation? And why would Jeremiah buy a field if his message was that Babylon will take Jerusalem? That message even had him thrown in jail for treason. Is Jeremiah preaching down the value of the land just so he can get it at a bargain?

No, it is because Jeremiah has a vision of the future – God’s future – that is so compelling and real that it invades the present and changes the way he acts and the things that he does.

Jeremiah 33:14-16, The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Jeremiah believes – we might say that he knows – that the days are surely coming when the Lord will keep his promises. The invasion by Babylon, though it is horribly destructive, cannot change that future. God will restore the land. God will raise up a righteous king. The desolate city will be populated again and there will be feasting and celebration and life within its walls once again.

Jeremiah is not buying a field because he wants in on a ground-level opportunity. He buys the field because the future Jerusalem is the Jerusalem he sees now.

There’s a word for that. (I rediscovered it in a sermon by Lee Camp.) Proleptic: The representation of something as existing before its proper or historical time, as in the precolonial United States. The assignment of something, such as an event or name, to a time that precedes it, as in If you tell the cops, you’re a dead man. The future is so certain that we act now as if the future is the present.

This isn’t …

  • Seeing potential – with potential, there’s something there. It just needs time to mature and grow. Jeremiah doesn’t buy the field because he sees the potential. What sense does it make to buy a field that is going to be seized by the invaders?

  • Taking a risk – with a risk, you have a long shot of possibility. You can risk your money buying a lottery ticket. You could win. You probably won’t. That’s why it’s called gambling (Oh, wait, they don’t call the lottery gambling do they?)

  • Showing heart with no hope of success. This isn’t the marathon runner who comes in hours behind the other runners because she won’t give up – even though she lost the opportunity to win. This isn’t the idea that finishing is more important than winning.

It is action based on a trust that God’s promises MUST be fulfilled. God must fulfill these. Promise of land and kingdom. The reality of these promises change the future and the present. It is living and behaving as if the future that MUST happen is now present.

And it might as well be. Because we know some things about the future.

  • We know in those days that Christ MUST return.

  • We know that in those days righteousness will win out. There will be no more sin. No more evil, in those days.

  • We know that in those days no institution or government will stand. Everything will be placed under the rule of Jesus Christ. The properties that we value. The borders that we protect so fiercely, the customs that we cling to – in those days, they will all be leveled and only Christ will remain.

  • We know that in those days the treasures we work so hard for and work so hard to insure and protect will all be worthless. Only the treasures of heaven will have value in those days.

Now, what if we started living like those days, are these days? (What fields would we buy?)

  • Maybe instead of trying to build a church we would just be church. After all, that’s how it will work in those days. Why wait for the church budget or the economy to correct itself as if it were some organic entity apart from us. We had to adjust a line item in the church budget that means we cannot purchase food for Jack and Oscar and the office to give to those who need it. Do you think that eliminates benevolence? Do you think that Jack and Oscar are the only ones who can share food with the poor? Jesus said, “You feed them.” Just share what you have. That’s the economy of “those days.”

  • Let us open our homes and share what we have. And not look to how much is in the budget. Let’s spend our wealth to make friends for the kingdom (Luke 16)

  • We’ve cut the church budget but that doesn’t mean we have to gear up for a year of despair and poor-mouthing. How much does it cost us to sing? How much does it cost us to pray? How much does it cost us to give thanks? How much does it cost us to mentor?

  • How much does it cost us to come around the Lord’s Table – (Aha! Got you now preacher – that is in the budget. Sure, but how did the early church handle it – they shared what they had).

  • Do you know what motivated those disciples in the first generation to devote themselves to the apostles teaching, to pray, breaking bread, and fellowship? Do you know why they gathered in homes and eventually welcomed people who were once their enemies? Do you know why they gave up some of their cultural expectations (that they really thought were religious requirements) to welcome people who had God’s spirit? They did that because they really believed that Christ would return in their lifetime. And they lived like THAT DAY was TODAY.

What if today is the day Christ returns? Why aren’t we living like every day is that day?

Like that sealed document stuck in a clay jar for Jeremiah, we have the promise, the guarantee of better days. It is sinful for us to live like the best days are behind us. It is sinful for us to want to return to the “good old days.” God is bringing a glorious future our way – and if what God is doing is making us anxious, then maybe we’ve invested in the wrong fields?


Posted by on November 22, 2009 under Sermons

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

I’ve been trying to remember when I stopped thinking of Thanksgiving as just a holiday and more as an attitude.

Growing up, “thanksgiving” was the name of a day that we gathered with the extended family for a big meal. Not so impressive when you consider that we all lived within a half mile of each other. I do not recall any prayers being said or any particularly religious talk as we gathered around table. Nothing was too out of the ordinary. We just gathered and ate, played and joked. Sometimes the occasional relative would drop in from some far off state. And when enough of them showed up to bring their musical instruments and play tunes – that was special. When a relative presented my grandfather a bottle of German wine, that was special – very special when he allowed my cousins and me a sip without anyone else knowing. But I cannot recall that I or anyone else was aware of any special ceremony. We certainly didn’t stand on rituals.

We were God-fearing, but we weren’t particularly religious. However, there was a certain spirit required for our gatherings – even if we never used such language to describe it. Looking back, I would say that Grace was required and expected. We had all worked so hard to own property near each other and live together on our farm. It just wouldn’t have been proper to be anything less that gracious. So family tensions and worries were set aside. Discontent and disrespect were not proper – at least not for that one day. Though we may not have expressed our thanks in words and prayers, graciousness and gratitude was expected in everything we did. So whatever we did, in word or deed, he had to do it with the right attitude.

It’s not the details of our thanksgiving gatherings that made an impact on me. I don’t remember what year we had the best ham. I don’t remember the time we had dry turkey. I don’t remember if grandma ever burnt the rolls. I do remember that someone made pineapple sauce because it was a running joke about me liking it so well from that point on. It’s not the details that I remember, but I remember the spirit.

I share this with you so that we may hopefully reflect together on how thanksgiving needs to be more than a day. Thanksgiving need to be a spirit of thankfulness that leads to thanks-living. Thanks-giving should be our natural state. It must become the atmosphere, the climate, the background of everything else we do.

I hope you noticed that Paul encouraged the Colossians to worship and live with gratitude in their hearts to God. He mentions the details: teaching, counseling, singing songs, hymns, spiritual songs to God. But bracketing the details he mentions the spirit and the attitude that MUST accompany these details: “be thankful … with gratitude.” What good does it do to teach and counsel without heavenly wisdom? What good does it do to sing a cappella with grumpy attitudes and self-righteous pitch perfection.

Gratitude rhymes with attitude. Maybe that’s just an accident – but we’ll make a point of it today. Gratitude is the attitude of being thankful. It is the atmosphere that must permeate our Christian walk. If we try to manufacture it, then it certainly can seem artificial. We would rather cultivate it. Plant seeds. Nurture them. Let them grow and reap the harvest and give it to God. In recalling my family gatherings, I am thankful for the gracious spirit, but I think the roots might have gone deeper, the blooms might have lasted longer if we had been a bit more intentional about the basis of being gracious.

God has clever ways of getting us to cultivate gratitude. In Leviticus 22 he describes how we wants the people to bring him a thank offering. After all, when one truly reflects on God you want to let him know that you’re thankful. Mostly we like to keep that between us and God. There’s a special relationship there after all. God says he wants a thank offering – and in Leviticus that means some returning of the good things God provided. Say, a ram or a steer – livestock. But here’s the really clever part. God is only going to accept it if you eat it that same day. Why? Because if you are going to eat a whole animal, you are going to have to call in friends. When you are thankful to God, He wants you to share it. He wants it to form a gracious, thankful gathering. The offering will be consumed, but the gratitude will continue. Our thankfulness toward God becomes something we demonstrate by sharing and giving just as he did. We become more like him.

That’s what we are going to do this morning. We are going to bring thank offering. We’ve worked so hard to be together. We have been through a lot together. Christ has done so much to make us one. Let’s be gracious. Let’s be thankful. Let’s share it.

Cards: These are on the pew next to you. Take a minute and write or draw on them. Talk to each other. Help the young ones. Help the old ones. We are going to collect these and use them for the basis of congregational prayers. We may use them for bulletins, bulletin boards, videos. A harvest of thanksgiving. You don’t have to put your name on these. You can write or draw whatever you want. You are giving this to God, but then it is shared with everyone else (just like the thank offering). What ever you write, write it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Pray …

I am thankful to God because …

I will show my gratitude by …

Now, you may bring your card to the people holding baskets. If you want to pass them all to someone on the outside of the pew, that’s fine. We are going to gather our offerings in a basket.

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

What determines how you live and use life Monday through Saturday? What values determine what you do, what principles determine who you are, what motives govern your decisions? Do you just “follow the routine” and “go through the motions” of the day-the Monday routine, the Thursday routine, the Saturday routine? Do you have to know what day it is to know what you are supposed to do? Or, is your life just a constant blur-a continual running and trying to catch up with what you should do next?

At times we are so trapped by our “right now” schedules, we forget who we are. We have a hat rack for job hats, school hats, extracurricular hats, fun hats, and social hats. We live in the hope of having a hat for the occasion. Our lives can be a reaction to the momentary situation instead of deliberately being “who I am.”

If the situation determines who we are and what we do, likely several things determine our identity and actions-society, expedience, the need at the moment, the opportunity of the moment, the desire of the moment, the “over-powering” influence of the moment, the chance to escape, etc.

If that is your way to seek to survive, what is your Sunday routine? Is Sunday a “situation” that demands that you “blow a kiss” in the direction of religious responsibility so you can say, “We are not complete pagans!”? Is Sunday your attempt to let the sleeping giant (God) sleep, so you can tiptoe around Him and not attract His attention?

There are basic things the giant (God) wants for you, and He is not asleep! He wishes to teach you who you are and how to live so you can experience life’s fullness. Make Sunday a “thank-you” time spent with your spiritual family to count blessings-the end of a week, well spent because you continue to be a “you” that you-and others-respect.

Getting It!

Posted by on November 15, 2009 under Bulletin Articles

The above scriptural quotation contains the words of the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 as he spoke to Cornelius. Before this, Peter had three visions about the visit, a message from the Spirit, and a confirmation that Cornelius was a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the Jews. With all of this verification, Peter did not Get It.

It was not until after Peter arrived at Cornelius’ home, spoke to Cornelius, and saw the group Cornelius had assembled to hear Peter that Peter finally Got It. In verse 36 Peter said, “I most certainly understand …” Here was an Apostle who found it very difficult to Get It because God acted in a manner that was beyond his comprehension (and the comprehension of most other Jewish Christians and Jewish non-Christians). Before this incident he knew that God was interested only in Jews and proselytes (gentile converts to Judaism). Had the suggestion been made prior to this incident that God was interested in a gentile who was not a proselyte, Peter would have said, “No way! God just does not function like that!”

Wonder if it will take until Judgment for many Christians to Get It. Wonder if we, like Peter, fail to grasp something obviously of concern to God because our view of God excludes him doing “something like that.”

The bad news: Getting It quite often is not at all simple! Why? Too often, like Peter, we are conditioned by past views not to “Get It.” Quite often we do not Get It because we never thought about God as we focused on His word.

The good news: The fundamental of Getting It means God loves you-no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, and no matter where you came from. God loves you because you are you! All you need to do to return God’s love is to live in Christ. Get It?

Things Just Keep Changing!

Posted by on November 8, 2009 under Bulletin Articles

I was quite conscientious as a preacher about staying “up-to-date” as I presented classes and sermons. Little is more ignorant than a preacher claiming to know when he does not have a clue.

Around 1990 much was said about available information doubling by 2000. My reaction: “No way! That must be a mistake! I cannot keep up now!” I was drowning in information! All I learned was how little I knew! The more information I grasped, the more my ignorance exploded!

In my youth, a good mule promptly responded to voice commands, a jersey milk cow supplied us with lots of cream, the new inventions of gravity-flowed cold water and kerosene stoves served us, telephones had “party lines,” families had one car, school had research books and slide rules, and teachers lectured as the “authorities.”

I still struggle with computers. My use of a cell phone is laughable. “Texting” is non-existent. Birds twitter. No wonder I surrendered to the world of “change” by the year 2000-remember how the millennium might bring everything to a standstill? (Yes, I filled my bathtubs with water before I went to a New Year’s Eve party!)

Laugh at me if you wish (I frequently laugh at me), but do you have any idea of how much your life will change by 2025?

The one thing that will never change is the Gospel story. God is the origin of life. We messed up everything. God sent Jesus to undo the mess we made. By resurrection, Jesus became our Savior. If we place our trust in what God does for us through Jesus, two things happen: (1) We change the way we live and who we are. (2) God has us covered even though we still make messes-He calls it forgiveness.

Is that a matter of faith? Yes! It always will be! Yet, Jesus is the Christ, and that never changes! No matter what is said or done, Jesus remains the changeless one! A Christ-less Christianity is not possible! Without Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity!

Choosing Life is a Continual Choice

Posted by on November 1, 2009 under Bulletin Articles

Choosing to belong to Christ is a simple but difficult decision. Wanting to belong is simple, but living for Christ on a daily basis is commonly difficult. Choosing baptism is simple if you believe in Christ and turn from your sins. The challenge is to live for him day in and out in all our relationships, in all our situations, and in all our involvements.

If it were just a matter of developing a “going to church” habit, that is simple. Show up, be there, and endure. If that is all that is involved, Christianity would be a simple task. “Do it, and forget it.”

However, Christian commitment is not that simple. The Bible commitment is never described as a “membership” or an “attendance.” It is a lifestyle-involving sacrifice and servitude. It is a choice, and if the circumstances are considered, an inconvenient choice. It is a choice that focuses on who you are as a person, and the person you wish to be.

Christianity (following Christ) demands we decide “who we are.” Frankly, that is a decision most of us would rather not make. We had rather our family, our involvements, our indulgences, our jobs, our associations, or our situations make that choice. In fact, most of us would rather be many persons and merely adapt “who we are” to the circumstance we happen to be in at that moment.

No, we are not talking about being obnoxious as we with a mean spirit confront everyone we encounter. We are talking about “being” and “sharing” because we have the courage to be! In this society (and in many others) it is what we are coupled with what we share that attracts people to our God and our Savior. Being is much more deliberate and demanding than merely saying. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those in opposition if perhaps God may grant them repentance …” 2 Timothy 2:24, 25