The Lonely Moment

The devil has many tools, but one of his favorites is to confuse the issue.  He likes to make our choice to sin or not to sin as complicated as it can possibly be.  He’ll try to get us thinking about other people, what they’ll think of us, the possible negative consequences if we do the right thing, and so on.

In reality, though, none of those things have any bearing on a moral decision.  Even if disaster follows on the heels of doing the right thing (which it usually doesn’t), the right thing was still the right thing to do.  The more we think about the devil’s distractors, which don’t matter, the less we will concentrate on God’s will, which does. Continue reading

Praying for Wisdom

 

The story of Solomon is ultimately a tragic one, but we shouldn’t get so caught up in the end that we forget the beginning.  The Bible details the reigns of dozens of kings, but the beginning of Solomon’s story is unique.  He offers sacrifices at the great high place at Gibeon (even though the ark is outside Jerusalem, the tabernacle and the rest of its furnishings are at Gibeon), and in response, God appears to him in a vision and says, “Ask me for anything.”

Unprompted, driven entirely by his own humility and his sense of inadequacy for the task before him, Solomon asks for wisdom.  His answer pleases God so much that He blesses him with all the other attributes of a great king too. Continue reading

Spiritual Bureaucracy

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been reading my way through the archives of a blog called Farnam Street.  Among other interests, the blog maintainer is a big fan of Warren Buffett (Buffett’s home and office are both located on Farnam St. in Omaha).  In a recent post, he noted that even though Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, has over 300,000 employees, its central office is so small that it doesn’t even have an HR department.

Why?  Because Buffett’s management style is so minimalist as to be nonexistent.  Rather than trying to dictate policy and procedure for every Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, Buffett hires competent managers and tells them, “You do you.”  His success is based not on micromanaging, but on trust.

This pattern, though extremely successful, is rejected by nearly every other large company.  Most CEO’s prefer to manage through bureaucracy, not trust.  As the Farnam Street blogger observes, “It’s a seductive illusion to think that we can create a system where people can’t mess up.”

Oh, wow, is that ever true!  Nor is its application limited only to the business world.  In fact, I think a lot of well-meaning Christians have embarked on the spiritual equivalent of bureaucracy-building.  Continue reading

Handling a Troublemaker

The Bible is full of epithets that capture the character of a man.  David is “a man after God’s own heart”.  Abraham is “the friend of God”.  Moses is “the servant of God”.  Equally telling (though not as flattering) is the description of Sheba the Bichrite, who is presented in 2 Samuel 20:1 as, “a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri.”  Continue reading

Rebellion Against God’s Anointed

Sometimes, studying the Bible is like cleaning out your kid’s bedroom.  The deeper you dig, the more you find.  In my case, I recently had this experience with Psalm 2.  A couple of weeks ago, the psalm appeared in my daily Bible reading (I follow another plan in addition to the schedule we’re on here), and as I was reading it, I said to myself, “Hey!  There’s a hymn in there!”

After I’d paraphrased the psalm, two things struck me about it.  The first is the great relevance of Psalm 2 to the New Testament.  Only a few other psalms are quoted more frequently than Psalm 2, and most of those are much longer.

Second, though, Psalm 2 has a great deal of relevance to us.  It’s about a time when the authority of God is under attack by powerful people, and guess what?  We live in a time when the authority of God is under attack by powerful people.  In such a time, we need to be reminded about what the outcome of those attacks will always be.  This evening, then, let’s look at Psalm 2. Continue reading

The Power of Example

In many ways, it’s hard to write about David without also writing about his sin with Bathsheba.  The story of the sin itself is significant, but its consequences shape the rest of David’s life.  Indeed, in 2 Samuel 12, Nathan prophesies that the same sort of things will happen to David that David did to Uriah.  He will be betrayed by those close to him, and his wives will be taken by another man. Continue reading

How to Judge

If there is any verse in the Bible that our society knows, it’s Matthew 7:1.  Even people who have never cracked open a Bible in their lives are able to quote from the King James Version, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”  I’m not sure that they know what a ye is, but they do know that it means that you don’t get to tell them they’re sinning.  Or so they think.

This same spirit can appear even among Christians.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, especially online, that we aren’t supposed to judge someone else’s motives, as though there were some blanket prohibition in Scripture against the practice.  If such a verse exists anywhere outside of the book of Second Opinions, I’ve never been able to find it.

In fact, rather than being commanded not to judge, we are commanded to judge.  Of course, as with many other commandments, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this.  However, with study and practice, our discernment will increase.  Let’s look this evening, then, at how to judge. Continue reading

Defeating Passing Pleasure

As a rule, whenever I get a request for a sermon from somebody, I do my best to honor it, and that’s true even when the requester is my six-year-old son.  A few weeks back, Marky told me that he would like me to preach a sermon on defeating passing pleasure.  I find this particularly interesting because a couple of years ago, Zoë requested a sermon on essentially the same topic.  It makes me wonder if there’s some point in human development when a child becomes conscious that they ought to try not to do bad things.

Even though the question may occur to us very early on, though, none of us ever succeed in answering it completely.  My temptations are mostly different than they were when I was 20, but I still continue to fight temptation.  The devil is constantly after every one of us, seeking to drag us down into the world.  Unless we prepare ourselves to resist him, he will surely defeat us.  Let’s give our attention to the question, then of what we can do to defeat passing pleasure. Continue reading

Why Do the Nations Rage? (from Psalm 2)

Why do the nations rage
And peoples plot in vain?
For kings conspire against the Lord
To overthrow His reign.
Against both God and Christ,
They set themselves and say,
“Now let us burst Their bonds apart
“And cast Their cords away!”

But God in heaven laughs
And speaks in fury still,
“On Zion I have set My King,
“Upon My holy hill.”
I make His judgment known;
To Me He has decreed,
“Today I have begotten You;
“You are My Son indeed.”

So then, O kings, be wise;
Be warned, O lords of earth;
Obey the Lord with holy fear,
And tremble in your mirth.
Do homage to the Son,
Or perish in the path;
How blest are all who trust in Him
But rightly fear His wrath!