Honoring God or Self?

There is a paradox in life that seems to only be learned by experience.  Sometimes, the things we strive for the most are the things that in the end become our undoing.  Things we think are worthwhile or beneficial end up hurting us.  An example:  Many feel that the best gift they can give their family is security.  So they work hard, insuring that their work provides the best in life to their spouse and children.  All the while, what their children needed the most, what would have been the best gift, was mommy or daddy at home, spending time with them.  Harry Chapin’s song, Cats in the Cradle comes to mind.  I am sure you can think of other examples.

In our scripture for this week (I’d recommend using all of 2 Samuel 7:1-16), we find David, fresh off being established as the new King of Israel, in a moment of reflection.  And, like I am sure we’ve also done, he realizes how good he’s got it compared to others.  Except this time, the “other” is God!

Something should be done!  I’ve got to do something about this!  I’ve reacted this way in situations that I find inequitable.  I am sure the reader has an easy time identifying with David here.  What could be wrong about giving God a rightful home, when David finds himself so comfortable in his own?

Only God did not ask David for a home (2 Samuel 7:6-7).  Does David’s assumption looks a lot like ours?  We know what needs to be done on God’s behalf, so let’s get busy doing it.  Except, do we ask God if what we are busy doing really needs to be done?  For whose glory do set out to work?  Who is in control here?

At the end of my email signature, I include a quote from Bono, the lead singer in the band U2.  (I’ve been inspired by U2’s unique way of living out their genuine love of God and have loved their music since I was a young.)  His quote simply says:

Stop asking God to bless what you are doing.  Find out what God is doing.  It’s already blessed.
-Bono

Perhaps David could have used Bono’s advice in his day.  Luckily, he had Nathan.  While we can’t know for certain if David’s motivation was pure or self serving in purposing the construction of a permanent home for God, God quickly lets Nathan know this will not be David’s role.  (For helpful insight into possible tensions of motivation underlying the construction of a temple, read this short article:  http://www.nextsunday.com/formations-02-19-2017-tension-and-resolution/)

If David hoped to glorify God with a new home while also using God’s favor to bolster his kingship, God is quick to turn David’s plans on its head.  Instead of David building God a home, God desires to build David and his family a home and a legacy in which their faithfulness will bring God honor.  If David thought he was doing God a favor, David finds out that God doesn’t need any favors.  God is ready to serve and build up David’s throne for Godly purposes,  not the other way around.

U2’s famous song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, from their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, outlines a man’s quest to find the one thing that will bring him purpose, pleasure and meaning.  The thing is, everything he strives for fails him – even when he reaches out in genuine faith toward Christ and his coming Kingdom.  “What’s that about?” we are left wondering.  Riches, lust, fame, and power are but fleeting attempts at immortality that fail.  But God, too?  Perhaps Bono’s lyrics reveal a subtle truth: until you are really willing to let go of control and all outcomes and really be led by God, even your attempts to live for God will fail.

We, the benefactors of God’s covenant and steadfast love, need to pay attention to the ways we respond to God’s love.  As “works in progress,” there are sometimes subtle differences in the way we seek to honor God in our life.  Are we sometimes tempted to use God’s favor in such a way that brings us glory, instead of God?  If our chief desire is to bring ourselves glory, how will that backfire?

To introduce this concept, have the class try their hand at a few optical illusions.  There are three links below to classic illusions.  What you may see at first blush may not be what is really there.  How can subtle differences in this art illustrate the sometimes mixed motives we bring to seeking our will over God’s?  How can we begin to tell the difference between right motives and self-serving ones?

May God bless you as you wrestle with God’s living word!

Covenants Guide Us Through the In-Between Times

How do you remember your past?  Are there important stories from your past that have played a role in who you are today?  Are there pictures, objects, even artifacts that you display prominently in you home or office that help you remember where you came from, who you are and what is important?  Perhaps as you begin the lesson, you can bring in a picture, an object, or a story from you past to share with the class.  You might decide to encourage the class to share some of their “stories of origin.”  Doing so builds community and trust. It also sets the stage nicely for this Sunday’s lesson!

Covenants (legal and binding promises) aren’t about the past, however.  Making commitments to one another (marriages come to mind as an example) are about the future.  Such a promise, from one person to another, is a forward-looking agreement in which both sides make commitments of action on behalf of the other.

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