Monday, April 30, 2012


"He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:3 HCSB)

Would you like to be successful in anything you do?

That's pretty much a "no-brainer" isn't it? How many people would say, "My goal in life is to be a complete failure"? The truth is that we want to be successful.

But, what is true success? I like the definition I heard Charles Stanley give, "Success is having all you need, and the ability to enjoy it." That begins with our greatest need being met--salvation, forgiveness of sin and a right relationship with God. Jesus said there is no profit in gaining the whole world and losing our soul. That would be eternal failure! Once that deepest matter is taken care of, then we can trust God in the lesser needs of daily life--and not only endure life, but enjoy it! Charles Stanley's definition parallels Psalm 1 that begins, "How happy is the man..." and promises, "Whatever he does prospers."

The Psalmist paints a portrait of one who is successful--satisfied, serene, secure, smiling. He shares with us the secret of success.


"How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!" (Psalm 1:1 HCSB)

Avoid the place of secular counsel, "How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked..." (v.1a). The tragic mistake that millions make is to find a book written by someone who perhaps has made a fortune or found some fame and buy into the advice given by the wicked. It is possible, of course, that one might attain a lifestyle of the rich and famous by heeding their counsel and implementing their philosophy. Yet, when we peek beyond the fence encircling their vast estate, and dig beneath the glitz and glitter, we uncover empty hearts and bankrupt souls--and this is why so many end up with broken relationships and self-destructive behavior.

Avoid the place of sinful conduct, "How happy is the man who does not...take the path of sinners..." (v.1b). Life is about choices. The destination you reach is determined by the direction you take. One road leads to ruin. It is the easy way, the popular way, well-advertised and appealing to the senses--the way of the world. That is the path to everlasting poverty. The other road leads to redemption. It is hard, lonely, steep and involves self-denial--the way of the Lord. You do not carry designer luggage, but a cross! Yet, that is the path to everlasting prosperity!

Avoid the place of scornful communication, "How happy is the man who does not...join a group of mockers!" (v.1c) Our society is saturated with the scornful. There are many who build themselves up by tearing others down. Famous comedians root a lavish lifestyle in the soil of scorn. God is blasphemed, the Word of God attacked, the church ridiculed and faith mocked. It is relentless--for now. One day, God gets the last laugh--just read the next Psalm. That is not the group you want to join!

There are places the successful avoid and THERE ARE PRINCIPLES THE SUCCESSFUL APPLY.

"Instead, his delight is in the Lord's instruction, and he meditates on it day and night." (Psalm 1:2 HCSB)

This requires the passionate love for God's principles, "his delight is in the Lord's instruction..." (v.2a). Rather than seeking worldly wisdom, there is a pursuit of eternal truth. Trying to satisfy the desire for insight into the way of success by drinking from this world is like trying to quench your thirst by drinking water from the ocean--the more you ingest, the thirstier you become. Oh, but to draw from the well of the Word--now, that is life! I must say that the sweetness of Scripture has aroused such a passion for its precepts that brings me to its satisfying spring again and again. Do you find it so?

There is also the persistent learning of God's principles, "he meditates" (v.2b). Like a sheep chewing the cud, extracting every morsel of nutrition from the grass---that is the Hebrew meaning behind the word for meditation. The demonic spirits promote a form of meditation that empties the mind--and paves the way for the entrance of evil. The Divine Spirit presents the form of meditation that saturates the mind with the light of the Word and drives out the darkness of the world. No matter how much you know of God's Word, there are immeasurable insights yet to be explored.

This must lead to the practical living by God's principles, "day and night." (v.2c). That encompasses all our time on earth--the duty of daily life. We are deceived to think that hearing the Word is the completion of our responsibility. It is the essential commencement of it, that must lead to the doing of the Word. The truth that permeates our thoughts, forms convictions that pervade our actions. Scripture is informational--it is "the Lord's instruction," it is inspirational--leading to meditation, and becomes incarnate--fleshed out in daily life.

There are places the successful avoid, principles the successful apply, and then THERE IS PROSPERITY THE SUCCESSFUL ACHIEVE.

"He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin." (Psalm 1:3-6 HCSB)

True prosperity means we are planted, "He is like a tree planted beside streams of water..." (v.3a). There is stability as the spiritually successful are rooted on the Rock of Ages. There is sustainability as their roots draw from an inexhaustible supply--rivers of grace. We can withstand the inevitable winds of Judgment Day that will test us, "The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous. (Psalm 1:4, 5 HCSB)

True prosperity means we are productive, "He is like a tree...that bears its fruit in season..." (v.3b). If our root is in the Holy Scriptures our fruit will be of the Holy Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB) Now that is a prosperous person! God is looking for fruit--does He find it? "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin". (Psalm 1:6 HCSB)
True prosperity means we are perennial, ""He is like a tree...whose leaf does not wither." (v.3c) Our leaves do not turn brown and turn loose! There is an enduring beauty--the beauty of holiness--for one who is spiritually successful. So many in our world go up like rocket, and hurtle back down just as fast. They have their fleeting, fifteen minutes of fame. The success of the godly abounds because he or she abides in Christ.

True prosperity means we are profitable, "Whatever he does prospers." In personal life before God, in home life before family, in church life before saints, in business life before co-workers, in daily life before sinners--every dimension is enriched by the one who possesses the treasure of truth. This is the secret of success.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


“I will pay attention to the way of integrity.  When will You come to me?  I will live with a heart of integrity in my house.”  (Psalm 101:2 HCSB)

Eight times, in a Psalm comprised of only eight verses, David uses the words, “I will.”  There are additional phrases that express similar commitment. David is firmly resolved to be a man of integrity in each dimension of his life.  Integrity comes from the root word integer.  Integers are whole numbers.  To be a person of integrity means we are a man or woman who is whole—wholly committed, all in, not one way in a certain situation and a different way in another.  There is a consistency about us.  We are people of conviction who practice what we preach and behave according to what we say we believe.

Now, we know that human determination is not enough.  We have yet within even the best of us the pull of sin that drags us down.  What we must have is a heavenly dynamic at work within us—a yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit.  This grace is available.

But, God will not “zap” you and turn you into something akin to an archangel apart from your willingness to trust and obey Him.  We are not robots, programmed to do what God wants.  There is the connection between our resolve and God’s resource that enables us to live in righteousness.

David is resolved to be a man of integrity in his worship.

"I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to You, Lord.” (v.1)

Psalm 101 begins with a heart focused on God in praise.  This should not surprise us, for this is our foremost duty—to love God with the whole heart.  Integrity—wholeness—we are devoted to God with every fiber of our being.  Our hearts are one with His; they beat in tandem.  Worship isn’t just for an hour on Sunday—and that if we don’t have something better to do!  It is a lifestyle—a day to day, even moment to moment, resolve to praise the living God.

David is resolved to be a man of integrity in his family.

“I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? I will live with a heart of integrity in my house.”  (v.2)

Our reputation is what the public thinks we are; our character is what our family knows we are.  What happens behind the closed doors of our house is a more accurate indicator of our integrity than our persona before the world.  It means being faithful to our marriage vows.  Integrity is a wife who submits to her husband’s leadership.  It means a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church.  It means parents who demonstrate faithfulness to the children, and direct them in truth and discipline them in love.

David is resolved to be a man of integrity in his activity.

“I will not set anything worthless before my eyes.  I hate the practice of transgression; it will not cling to me.” (v.3)

The eye is the window of the soul.  Through those portals images enter that take up residence in our thoughts.  A man of integrity has posted a sentry to shut out images that will arouse impurity and envy.  As a child, I learned a song that said, “Be careful little eyes, what you see.”  The lure of lustful images on TV, movies, magazines and so powerfully, on the internet, has destroyed many men.  Social networking and soap operas have drawn away many women.  The slick advertisement is meant to arouse covetousness in us for the material.  We can bow to the altar of Mammon all week and then try to come to God’s altar on Sunday—that’s not integrity!  When we sow a thought, we reap an action.  If we hate the fruit of the sinful deed, we must not sow the seed of sinful thoughts.

David is resolved to be a man of integrity in his relationships.

“A devious heart will be far from me; I will not be involved with evil.  I will destroy anyone who secretly slanders his neighbor; I cannot tolerate anyone with haughty eyes or an arrogant heart.  My eyes [favor] the faithful of the land so that they may sit down with me.  The one who follows the way of integrity may serve me.  No one who acts deceitfully will live in my palace; no one who tells lies will remain in my presence.” (v.4-7)

It is very difficult to be a man or woman of integrity if you are intimate with those who are not.  Readily, we recognize that we cannot get away from all evil people—for they are everywhere!  That would require heaven and this is not it!  In fact, we must do as Jesus did and be a friend to sinners in view of winning them.  It is hard to find a lost lamb and claim them for Christ if you don’t search for them.  True Biblical separation isn’t isolation.  But, we must be careful about where we seek counsel, whom we make a heart connection with and those we spend much time with.  Such confidants and close friends need to share our heart for God, if we are to have a heart that is shared with them.  That is integrity.

David is resolved to be a man of integrity in his duty.

“Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, eliminating all evildoers from the Lord's city.” (v.8)

These words may seem terribly harsh to us.  They are.  But, we must remember that David had a duty to perform.  He was the King.  His responsibility was to promote righteousness which involved punishing wickedness.  Justice was to be blind.  If someone was guilty, they must pay the penalty.  This was for the welfare of society.  David would never be accused of coddling criminals.  We would have to agree that the crime rate in Israel would have been very low during David’s reign!  Whatever my duty, I will be faithful to discharge it to the best of my ability if I am a person of integrity—whether I am a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a butcher, a baker, a banker, a teacher, a trucker, a tailor—fill in the blank.  Too many leave their Christianity at the church house on Sunday and follow the world’s ways during the week!  That is the opposite of integrity.

In the little country church I first served, we loved to sing this hymn called, “I Am Resolved”:

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.


I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.


I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.


I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.


You don’t hear that sung much any more.  You see even less of it fleshed out day to day. What a challenge this is for us!  Let us be firmly resolved to be men and women of integrity.  God will empower us by His grace, if we will seek His face.  May our heart—all of it--be His!

Friday, April 27, 2012


“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.”  (Psalm 23:1 HCSB)

David knew a lot about being a shepherd.  Those lessons were engraved on him by experience.  He didn’t learn about shepherding from reading a book, but by leading a flock!  The Holy Spirit would inspire him to pen some of the most famous words of Scripture, based on that experience.  He illustrates the nature of God in these word pictures.

In John 10, Jesus identified Himself as the Shepherd of our souls. He spoke of His goodness in laying down His life for the sheep, but He also spoke of His greatness saying, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”  On the cross Jesus gave His life for the sheep, but on the third day, He arose from the tomb. He has ascended and ever lives to make intercession for us.  The Good Shepherd who died for us (Psalm 22; John 10:11) is the Great Shepherd who lives for us (Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20) and will be the Glorious Shepherd who returns for us (Psalm 24; 1 Peter 5:4).  He is the Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)!

David tells us HE IS A POWERFUL SHEPHERD “The Lord is my shepherd” (v.1a). Focus on the first two words—the Lord. Scripture presents Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Lord God Almighty, the One who in eternity spoke, and the worlds came into existence.

Paul underscores this:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 HCSB)

That’s a powerful Shepherd!

But His power was never more vividly demonstrated than when He reached out a lifeless hand and seized life and pulled it back into His corpse! It was this immortal One who took on mortal flesh in order to die on the cross. He was a real man with a real body, but the grave could not hold Him—I say—could not!

Hear Peter’s testimony, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him.  God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24 HCSB)

What immeasurable power was exerted! The earth quaked and strong soldiers fainted; the stone was rolled away and out came Jesus swinging the keys of death and hell! Believe Him when He says, “Because I live, you shall live also.” Through Him, we are more than conquerors. He holds us in His strong hands. No matter how weak a sheep may be—and they are some of the puniest of all creatures—there is an invincible Shepherd who cares for us. 

David says, “The Lord is” not “was”. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, each one was, but only the Lord Jesus is!

David tells us HE IS A PERSONAL SHEPHERD “The Lord is my shepherd” (v.1, emphasis added).  David didn’t say He is a shepherd—one among many.  He didn’t say He is the shepherd—an impersonal one.  David didn’t say, “He is a Shepherd to the world” but “He’s mine.”

If He is a Shepherd to no one else, He is to me. He knows me by name; He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. As sheep, we tend to wander.   Foolishly, we may even wander outside His will—but never outside His care. Jesus knows our trials, tears and temptations. There are no potentials or perils we face in life, but that the Shepherd of our souls is right there with us.

We must be able to claim Him as our personal shepherd.  If we cannot say that “The Lord is my shepherd” then we cannot be in His eternal sheepfold in heaven one day.  There must be a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Do you have one?

We also learn HE IS A PROVIDING SHEPHERD  there is nothing I lack.” (v.1b HCSB).


“He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name's sake.”  (v.2-3 HCSB). 

Sheep will not lie down when hungry. Jesus provides green pastures for us, that is, physical and spiritual nourishment.

What refreshment and restoration is found beside quiet waters! There He renews us and gives us the strength we need to follow Him.

He leads us in right paths. The guidance of the Shepherd is stressed here. Thank God for the times we are led through great blessing, but at times the right paths are rough paths. “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29 HCSB)  Life’s pathway may at times be rocky and we wonder why we are permitted to suffer. We may be sure the road leads to glory.   We will be made like Him—and all that we experience in life is to transform sheep into the image of the Shepherd.

The old hymn said it like this:

“In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along;

Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along.

Some thru the waters, some thru the flood,

Some thru the fire, but all through the blood;

Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,

In the night season and all the day long.

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along;

Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,

Some through the fire, but all through the blood;

Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,

In the night season and all the day long.”  (G.A. Young)


Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff--they comfort me.” (v.4 HCSB). 

Jesus died such a death that we will never have to die like that. He trod the winepress of God’s wrath alone, that He might walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that lives and believes in me shall never die.”  The specter of death that haunts humanity has become something that is just a shadow that we need not fear if Jesus walks with us.

Paul says that death has been robbed of its sting. He spoke of falling asleep in Jesus. The Psalmist describes death as a shadow. We need not fret over a shadow. I believe it was Spurgeon who noted that the shadow of a dog cannot bite; a shadow of a gun cannot kill; and the shadow of death cannot destroy.

Death is just a dark valley—even if it is the darkest valley—we must pass through. But don’t miss that—you go “through.”  It is not our final destination!  Death is not the end!

I once heard the story of a little girl travelling with her family down a busy freeway.  As they approached a long tunnel, she became more and more anxious.  She begged, “Daddy, don’t go in that dark hole!  I’m afraid!”  She began to cry, but her father responded, “Honey, we have to—there is no other way.”  Then he told her, “Now, you just close your eyes when we get to that dark tunnel.  When we get to the other side, I’ll reach over and touch you.  Then, open your eyes and you’ll be in the light.”  So, we come to that dark tunnel of death.  When tempted to be afraid, the Shepherd of our souls, just says, “Close your eyes.  When we get to the other side, I’ll touch you.  Then, open your eyes and you’ll be in the light of heaven!”


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.”  (v.5-6 HCSB)

Christ has a banquet table spread and is waiting for the marriage supper. The enemy of our souls, Satan and all his minions, cannot prevent Christ from summoning us to feed at His banquet.  Jesus will anoint us as heirs to the eternal Kingdom.  He will fill our cup and it will overflow with abundance—we will drink and never thirst again.  The hounds of heaven—goodness and faithful love—will pursue us and secure us, like sheep dogs, for eternity. 

We will abide in His presence as long as we live—and that will be forever!  How long is forever? Imagine what heaven will be like—no sin, no sickness, and no sorrow—forever gone!  It will be a place of breathtaking beauty!  That is our real home!  It will surpass any mansion on earth by an exponential degree!

Are you a lost lamb?

Jesus came into this world as the Good Shepherd, to seek and to save us—lost sheep that we are.  He was willing to go to any length to save us—including laying down His life for us.  If you have not bowed to Him and received Him as your Lord and Savior, do so now!  Then you can say, “The Lord is MY shepherd!”

Are you part of the flock but have gone astray?

That is the nature of sheep.  We are so stupid.  With the hymn writer we must honestly admit, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”  The Good Shepherd is calling your name.  You recognize His voice.  Run to Him!

Must God use the rod and staff to break you?

If you are His sheep and you continue to stray, He will stop it—whatever it takes.  Discipline is administered in love—but, painful, nonetheless.  He is going to get you into the fold, but wouldn’t it be better to come promptly?

Give thanks to the Shepherd of our souls!  “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.”  Amen? Amen!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


“David again assembled all the choice men in Israel, 30,000.  He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah.  The ark is called by the Name, the name of Yahweh of Hosts who dwells between the cherubim.  They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio,  sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark.  David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.  When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled.  Then the LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:1-7 HCSB)

All of us would like to draw a crowd to church, but not all means glorify God. All of us would like to see a large response to the invitation, but not all means produce genuine conversion. All of us would like to see people use their gifts, but means that exalt the flesh rather than God cannot be justified. In the church, we always want to do what others are doing. We reason that if it’s successful there, it will be here. Ours is a result-oriented society. That is the problem of pragmatism. 

Pragmatism is the belief that the end justifies the means.  It is the idea that if something is practical, then it is proper.  As a result, someone has well said that some churches look more like, “Six Flags Over Jesus” than a church filled with holy people seeking the Holy God.

Now we shouldn’t reject new methods because they are new, but we need to test them and see if they violate Scripture. There are churches that have taken down the cross, that have wrung references to the blood from the hymnbook, that deal with self-esteem instead of sin, that don’t mention judgment, hell and holiness, so as not to offend the crowd. It may smell like sweet success to the world, but it is an offensive stench to the Lord. The end doesn’t justify the means as David learned. Our text today dramatically presents the problem of pragmatism.


“David again assembled all the choice men in Israel, 30,000.  He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah.  The ark is called by the Name, the name of Yahweh of Hosts who dwells between the cherubim.  They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio,  sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark.  David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.  When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled.  Then the LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God.  Then the LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God.   David was angry because of the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place an Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today.  David feared the LORD that day and said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?’ So he was not willing to move the ark of the LORD to the city of David; instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.  The ark of the LORD remained in his house three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and his whole family.”  (2 Samuel 6:1-11 HCSB)

David had a tremendous desire. He wanted to make Jerusalem not only the political capital, but religious center of Israel. So, he determined to bring the ark to the city.

The ark symbolized the presence of God among His people. It was a chest made of acacia wood, covered in gold with a golden crown around its rim—a lid called the mercy seat made of pure gold, with two cherubim their wings outstretched.  Inside the ark, was a pot of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded and the stone tables of the Ten Commandments. Gold rings were fixed to the corners where gold poles could be inserted. The priests were to carry the ark by this method,on their shoulders, and never touch the sacred chest.

David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He had a zeal for God, but in this case, zeal without knowledge. He loads the ark on an oxcart. It was a very pragmatic thing to do.

Where did he get that idea? Not from heavenly precepts, but heathen practices. It’s how the Philistines had transported it (read 1 Samuel 6).

David had previously inquired of the Lord before going to battle against the Philistines (see the prior chapter), but now leans on his own understanding. When we act on our own impulse, rather than Divine instruction, and when we follow the world’s pattern instead of Biblical principles, it leads to spiritual death. It will be “hay, wood and stubble” at the judgment seat.

Samuel told Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  Saul fell prey to pragmatism and lost his crown.

Pilate followed the way of expedience, but Jesus the way of obedience. Which one, in the end, found true success?

When the ox stumbles, and the wagon lurches, the ark wobbles and Uzzah instinctively reaches out to steady the ark.  This was expressly forbidden.  Judgment falls and so does Uzzah. 

David thought God too harsh and became angry. Instead of accepting responsibility, his pride was wounded and he blamed God. “God, if you’re going to treat me like this when I try to do the right thing, then forget it!”

He became afraid of God—not a reverential fear, but a slavish fear. The former fear comes from respecting God as our Father, the latter fear views Him as a cruel master.

David ceases his effort to transport the ark and abandons it in Obed-edom’s house.  David’s loss was Obed-edom’s gain. Here was a pagan, who became a child of God while a child of God acted like a pagan.  

God’s presence is what fills a life and a church with power, joy and blessing.  Pragmatism may pack a place with people, but only the presence of God will pervade a place with power!  So, we have these mega-buildings filled with folks, yet empty of God’s glory.

Don’t miss the point.  There are mega-churches that are faithful to God’s Word and experiencing great grace and expressing God’s glory.  There are also small congregations that are graveyard dead.  There are contemporary churches that are spiritually alive and traditional churches that are like tombs.  Size and style are not necessarily the issue.  The issue is—are we using God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered means—or are we doing God’s work in our way and for our preference rather than His pleasure?  That is pragmatism—and that is a problem.

Thank God, there is a prescription for this deadly disease of pragmatism.  The cure is A METHOD THAT WAS REVIVED.

“It was reported to King David: ‘The LORD has blessed Obed-edom’s family and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God.’ So David went and had the ark of God brought up from Obed-edom’s house to the city of David with rejoicing.” (2 Samuel 6:12 HCSB).

The first time they did the right thing the wrong way and it brought death, but, this time they did it the right way and it produced delight. David studied and submitted himself to Scripture. Repentance is not just remorse over the wrong, but taking right action.

We will all fail, but will we learn to fail forward? Peter did, Judas didn’t—their perception of, and response to, failure made the difference. Were the sins of Peter and Judas that dramatically different?  Not really.  But, their follow-up to the failure was drastically divergent.  Both men were sorry, but Peter was manifestly repentant, while Judas was merely remorseful.  Judas will, consequently, be eternally remorseful, while Peter will be everlastingly rejoicing.  It is best to get it right the first time, but if we don’t, we can get it right the next time.

Obedience and God’s presence are linked. There would be an experience of God’s powerful majesty when David led the people in the proper manner.  Jesus said, “The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me.  And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father.  I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.’ (John 14:21 HCSB)  

Many Bible scholars think that Psalm 24 was composed at this time.

“The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants,  belong to the LORD; for He laid its foundation on the seas  and established it on the rivers.

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?  Who may stand in His holy place?  The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false,  and who has not sworn deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the LORD,  and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.  Selah

Lift up your heads, you gates!  Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in.

Who is this King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, you gates!  Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in.  Who is He, this King of glory? The LORD of Hosts, He is the King of glory.  Selah”

The result of this was A MAN THAT WAS REJOICING.

“When those carrying the ark of the LORD advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.  David was dancing with all his might before the LORD wearing a linen ephod.  He and the whole house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of the ram’s horn.” (2 Samuel 6:13-15 HCSB) 

When God is enthroned in our hearts, there will be ecstasy. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18-19 that the result of the Spirit’s fullness is to speak in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord.

David put aside his royal robes and put on the garment of the priest, an ephod showing his special service to the Lord.  It was the garment of praise that had been exchanged for the garb of mourning (see Isa.61:3). 

God is seeking after worshippers. When we give ourselves wholly to Him in obedience and faith, then there will be great freedom and joy.  We see that here.  This is the result of the right thing done the right way.

But, not everyone will be happy.  This story concludes on a bitter note.  We see A MATE THAT WAS REPROVED.

“As the ark of the LORD was entering the city of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart.

They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent David had set up for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings in the LORD’s presence.  When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Yahweh of Hosts.  Then he distributed a loaf of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake to each one in the entire Israelite community, both men and women. Then all the people left, each to his own home.

When David returned home to bless his household, Saul’s daughter Michal came out to meet him. ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today!’ she said. ‘He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself.’

David replied to Michal, ‘I was dancing before the LORD who chose me over your father and his whole family to appoint me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel. I will celebrate before the LORD,  and I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself.   I will be honored by the slave girls you spoke about.’ And Saul’s daughter Michal had no child to the day of her death.” (2 Samuel 6:16-23 HCSB)

Someone will always try to steal your joy and bring you into bondage. Wet blankets try to smother you by branding you a fanatic. The praise of God and pursuit of holiness is scorned as extremism by the pragmatic and carnally minded.  Those who go deep with God are often judged as jumping off the deep end.  Well—they wanted to lock Jesus away in a lunatic asylum and labeled Paul as insane.  So, the passionate praising man or woman is still viewed today.

God delighted in David.  On the other hand, Michal was disciplined. She would be forever fruitless.  One needs to be careful about attacking God’s servants.  Take caution before you judge another concerning their devotion.  Leave that with God.  Let us busy ourselves with Him—seeking Him and serving Him.  That is enough to occupy us now, and will be the business of eternity.

But, above all learn this lesson today: let us honor Him by doing His work in His way.  Let us ever avoid the pitfall of pragmatism.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron's beard onto his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord has appointed the blessing--life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1-3 HCSB)

If you knew that you would die tomorrow, what would be on your mind? 

What would you pray about? 

It might vary from person to person—but, one thing I can guarantee—it wouldn’t be something trivial.  You wouldn’t be thinking about what’s for lunch, or the score of the ballgame, or what’s on TV tonight, or the stock market report. 

We do know what Jesus was thinking and praying about. When Jesus stood in the shadow of Calvary, just hours before He would be nailed to a cross—He prayed these words:

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You.  Holy Father,
protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one….

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.  May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.

I am in them and You are in Me.  May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.”  (John 17:11, 20-23 HCSB, emphasis added)

If this was on the heart of Jesus at a time like that, then it must be a priority and passion for us. 

This is the theme of Christ’s ancestor, David, in Psalm 133.  Much of his early life was filled with strife—difficulty with his brothers, the hatred of Saul, and even civil war with kin killing one another.  The reign of David would be successful only as the nation was brought together.  The sweet singer of Israel knew the importance of harmony in music, and this song underscores that we also need harmony in our relationships—different voices but the same song.

It is a song acknowledging GOD’S DESIRE FOR UNITY.  “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” 

The psalm launches abruptly with an exclamation expressing passion.  This calls attention to something important!  It is meant to express the desire of God for unity. It speaks of, “how good and pleasant it is.”  “How” much indicates the immeasurable value of such unity. 

Consider then that unity is A BLESSED CONDITION.  “How good” it is!  

Unity is good for it is the expression of the One who alone is utter goodness—God Himself.  Within the One Triune God, there are three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is infinite love, perfect unity, and utter harmony in this relationship.  When we are in unity as God’s people we manifest the glory of God to the world. 

Jesus said that this would be the one identifying mark of the true disciple, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."” (John 13:35 HCSB)

Unity is good for it has the power to make Satan tremble and convince sinners of the reality of our message. Recall the words Jesus prayed in His High Priestly intercession, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” (John 17:21 HCSB).  God blesses His people when our hearts are united!

Unity is a blessed condition and A BEAUTIFUL CLIMATE. “How…pleasant” it is! 

Can you imagine the perfect climate where Adam and Eve were placed?  It was paradise! 

We often are in awe of creation as we gaze on its splendor—yet, this is a creation diminished by the curse of sin! 

What has sin done?  The first consequence was to disrupt the relationship with man and his Maker.  Then, it brought division in the relationship of fellow humans.  Yet, Jesus came to reconcile us to God and to one another.  He was accursed that He might reverse the curse. 

The ultimate fulfillment of this reconciliation will be heaven—that place of breath-taking beauty.  But until then, God is at work carving out a bit of heaven from the wilderness of this world—and that is what people should find when they enter the doors of the church building! 

If your desire is not that of God’s, then you need to repent—turn from your self-centeredness to God and seek unity!  Pray for hearts united!

David sings of God’s desire for unity, but also of GOD’S DESIGN FOR UNITY, “when brothers live together in harmony!”  (v.1b HCSB) 

So, what is unity, anyway? 

Maybe, it will be easier to understand, if we first see what it is not. 

It is not COMPROMISE.  There is a false unity that says that it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you behave—just love one another.  It has one great virtue: tolerance.  In the same chapter where Jesus prayed for unity, He also prayed that we would be sanctified by the truth of God’s Word and kept pure from a sinful world—so obviously unity isn’t at the sacrifice of conviction. 

Neither is it CLONING. Unity isn’t uniformity.  Some churches try to impose rules and make everyone conform to a certain way of looking and conduct—never questioning anything, but just jumping in line and saluting.  But the church isn’t an organization—it’s an organism—we’re different parts!  There is room for debate and discussion, so long as we do so in love. Paul shows us what biblical unity is all about when he exhorts,

“Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us]. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope at your calling--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6 HCSB)

David tells us that unity is about A FAMILY for we are “brothers.” We all have the same Father.  We are all in the family by virtue of our second, spiritual birth.  A family should be marked by love, support, kindness, forgiveness and respect.  Within a family, there is room for young and old.  How can we become divided among colors, classes, gender and generations? Surely this is wicked!

David also points to unity as A FOCUS on how we “live” This is a word of abiding—of constancy.  It is not for a moment—but our persistent focus.  Look again at Paul’s emphasis we just read, “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit.  You have to work at unity!

David relates that unity is about A FELLOWSHIP “together.”

The first Christians were marked by their fellowship. 

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.  Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common.  They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.  Every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:42-47 HCSB, emphasis added)

They were together in the Apostle’s doctrine—they shared fundamental beliefs.  They were together in worship—it was a corporate expression.  Today we have worship wars!  We divide ourselves over styles of music.  What a contradiction to our claims and the character of Christ! They were together in purpose—the Great Commission.  They were together in prayer.  They were together in sharing their possessions.  The results were exactly what Jesus promised—sinners believed in Him and were converted!

David doesn’t stop with God’s desire for unity and His design for unity, but also unpacks GOD’S DESCRIPTION OF UNITY in verses two and three.

He tells us that unity is LIKE ANOINTING OIL: FRAGRANT.  It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron's beard onto his robes. (v.2). 

A fragrant oil was made of myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus and cassia blended together in olive oil.  We read that when Aaron was installed as High Priest, he was anointed with it, as the oil generously flowed down his beard and dripped onto his robes.  The delightful fragrance was pervasive!

Unity is like that—you can smell its sweetness.  Frankly, some churches stink.  When the decay and dissolution of a dead body comes, there is an awful odor.  Sadly, this is the aroma of some churches.  Are people attracted or repulsed by us?

Then unity is also LIKE MORNING DEW: FRUITFUL.  It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord has appointed the blessing--life forevermore.” (v.3).

In that arid climate, there were only a couple of brief rainy seasons in spring and fall.  Gardens would burn up in summer, had it not been for the ample dew. 

Don’t forget that dew comes in stillness not storms.  Where there is the thunder of conflict there will be no dew.  Where there is the quiet of peace the dew appears.  It distills when atmospheric conditions are right. Thus, a fruitful church requires 3 things: love for the Lord, for each other, and for the lost.  These are the conditions God intends for His church.

Would you unite your heart with the heart of God and have a passion for unity?  Would you unite your heart with the heart of Christ and offer a prayer for unity?  Would you unite your heart with the Spirit and join God’s people in unity?

If we do—God will give us irresistible impact in the world!