“The Family of God”

The Family of God” | June 7, 2020

(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David) Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalms 8

Unto the end. For the oil and wine presses. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went on to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing him, they worshipped him, but certain ones doubted. And Jesus, drawing near, spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

Today is Trinity Sunday. It brings us face to face with a mystery of God which makes us realize really how finite our understanding is. We have stretched our minds to the fullest to understand the Trinity. We have several examples and analogies, but they all fall short of explaining exactly how the Three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. Three in One and One in Three – The One Triune God.

“To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” –A.W. Tozer.

Indeed, we must realize that, with our finite little understanding, we cannot understand all things. That is where faith comes in. Like Augustine said, “The limits of our reason make faith a necessity”. If we presume to know or understand all the mysteries of God, it may be almost arrogant of us as human beings – too presumptuous for our own good. We have to be humble enough to realize and accept that we are too small to understand God and His vastness – the vastness and depth of His Love, His Mind, His Plans, His Ways. We have to let God be God. (Read Romans 9:13ff). We have already read Psalm 8 as one of our Scripture lessons. Verse 4 says, “What is man (human being) that you are mindful of him?”. We are nothing in front of the vastness and beauty of God’s awesome creation.

While we may not have a clear understanding of some doctrines, we must not despair because we can know, and do know, what is sufficient for us to understand His Love, to respond to His Love, to care for His creation which includes us all, and so on.

Some things however, have been clearly revealed and spelled out for us. Like the Great Commission that we’re studying this morning. As we focus on this passage, I want to look at 2 important principles or concepts that emerge from here that are important to understand as we seek to ‘do mission’.

1. Disciple -making presumes love for God and love for people. This is basic. Disciple making is helping people to trust and follow Jesus. Why would we want people to have the benefit of God’s Love if we didn’t care for them and also want them to be saved? If you didn’t love God, why would you want His Kingdom to grow? These are indicative of our love for God and for people that is at the very root of disciple-making.

The imperative command of Jesus is “Make disciples”. How we do it is by going, baptizing (joining the family of God) and teaching (not just academic or intellectual instruction, but taught to the point of responding to God in obedience).

Sometimes, an ‘empire’ or ‘colonial’ mindset that has shaped our environment and us, or continues to influence us, gives us an understanding of doing things by way of an ‘imperial conquest’.

History bears evidence of the failures of such wrong understanding of disciple making. Such efforts can result in people becoming Christians by religion, but not by relationship with Christ. And that would be proselytizing, not disciple-making.

That is why it is important to understand that disciple-making has within it the objective and method of love.

Before the Great Commission, Jesus gave his disciples (us) the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

Love needs to be expressed through helping, caring, sharing, encouraging, protecting, forgiving, sacrificing, trusting and so on.

As we focus on the growth of God’s Kingdom, we could start with these simple acts of love and kindness that prepare the way for disciples to be made.

2. We are called to reach all people. The Great Commission clearly tells us to “Make disciples of all nations” (Italics mine).

We have already clarified what ‘making disciples’ entails. It is chiefly loving people and leading them to respond to God whereby they become part of God’s family (leading to other things in that relationship like discipleship, obedience, and so on).

The word translated ‘nations’ in Matthew 28:19 comes from the word ‘ethnos’ which means “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people”.

Scholars say that, perhaps ‘people groups’ comes closest to describing what ‘nations’ is trying to convey. It means every people group, language group and so on.

The crux of the concept is inclusivity. Sometimes we tend to become exclusive, in -grown, cliquish, and unloving. We forget that we’re not alone, that there are other people around us who have needs too, sometimes greater than our own. And perhaps we shy away because we are afraid or just plain uncomfortable. We need to become intentional about reaching out to others.

There are always going to be differences amongst people – race, color, ethnicity, language and so on. We can keep slicing our society on the basis of differences and find that we have slices that are so thin that they cannot stand by themselves. We have to reach out across our differences – reaching out to share, to help, to love, to make disciples.

Have you heard the Disneyland song It’s a small world (listen to it on YouTube)? It was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The composer of the song, Richard Sherman composed this just after the Cuban missile crisis. It focuses on tolerance, empathy and kindness.

1. It’s a world of laughter A world of tears It’s a world of hopes And a world of fears

There’s so much that we share That it’s time we’re aware It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small, small world

2. T here is just one moon And one golden sun And a smile means Friendship to ev’ryone Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It’s a small world after all.

( Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
It’s a Small World (It’s a Small World) lyrics © Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc, Wonderland Music Co., Inc., Kobalt Music Pub America I Obo Hardmonic Music)

Yes, it’s a small world after all. And I might add, it’s a short life after all!

Have we been guilty of writing some people off? Do we presume for some people to not deserve God’s love? We’re given the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We’re called to reach out, not in our own strength and authority but that of our Triune God. As we uphold and honor the mystery of God’s Being, let’s continue to do faithfully what we’re called to do – to go, to preach, to teach, to love, to bless and be blessed.

May God help us to see the opportunities we have in front of us for the growth of His Kingdom. May God strengthen us to reach out and touch the lives of all who come our way.

“Dance Before The Lord”

2 Samuel 6:1-19
1. David again assembled all the best soldiers in Israel, 30,000 men. 2. He and all the people with him left Baalah in Judah to bring God’s ark to Jerusalem. (The ark is called by the name of the LORD of Armies, who is enthroned over the angels. ) 3. David and his men put God’s ark on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s home on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the new cart. 4. They brought it from Abinadab’s home, with Ahio walking ahead of the ark. 5. David and the entire nation of Israel were celebrating in the LORD’s presence with all kinds of instruments made from cypress wood and with lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

6. But when they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, the oxen stumbled. So Uzzah reached out for the ark of God and grabbed it. 7. The LORD became angry with Uzzah, so God killed him there for his lack of respect. He died beside the ark of God. 8. David was angry because the LORD had struck Uzzah so violently. (That place is still called Perez Uzzah The Striking of Uzzah today.) 9. David was afraid of the LORD that day. “How can the ark of the LORD come to my city?” he asked. 10. So David wouldn’t bring the ark of the LORD with him to the City of David. Instead, he rerouted it to the home of Obed Edom, who was from Gath. 11. The ark of the LORD stayed at the home of Obed Edom from Gath for three months, and the LORD blessed Obed Edom and his whole family. 12. King David was told, “The LORD has blessed Obed Edom’s home and everything he owns because of the ark of God.” Then David joyfully went to get the ark of God from Obed Edom’s house and bring it to the City of David. 13. When those who carried the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14. Wearing a linen ephod, David danced in the LORD’s presence with all his might. 15. He and the entire nation of Israel brought the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and the sounding of rams’ horns.

16. When the ark of the LORD came to the City of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked out of a window and saw King David leaping and dancing in the LORD’s presence, so she despised him. 17. The men carrying the ark set it in its place inside the tent David had put up for it. David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings in the LORD’s presence. 18. When David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and the fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of Armies. 19. He also distributed to all the people–to the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women–one loaf of bread, one date cake, and one raisin cake. Then all the people went home.

Message: “Dance Before The Lord”

Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle. It’s so much fun watching toddlers dance. Sure there isn’t any graciousness, but the sure is a lot of enthusiasm. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. The joy just bursts forth from them. Dance isn’t taught; we doit naturally. I’m not talking about a set of structured steps done in a certain pattern, but REAL dance. That movement that is looked to our very emotions. Even Before they cram walk our talk, babies willi move to the music. We are wired for it by our creator. Every human culture, no matter how primitive or advanced, has music and dance.
Our emotions drive our movements. If we see someone sitting all slumped over, head and shoulders down, we recognize three defeated emotions that the other person is feeling. When we see someone jumping and waving their arms or fist pumping, we know that they are literally jumping for joy. Life is a dance, join in. Now, I don’t dance, not the waltz, the Texas two step or the polka. If I did. I’d look like I have two peg legs. But I move to the music. I clap. I tap my feet. I wave my hands like I’m conducting the choir. Music and emotion move me. Big emotions burst forth with explosive movements. Your team has just won in the last few seconds of the game, you know how you’re going to react; explosive movements that captures that exuberance.

.

By all accounts King David was an emotional kind of guy. His heart ruled his head. Sometimes it got him into trouble. When you think of David, what is your first thought? Do you remember his triumph over the giant Goliath? Do you remember David as the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba? Do you remember his failures as a father? Do you remember Him as a humble shepherd? Or, do you remember David as the “Sweet Singer of Israel?”

Do you know how God remembers David? The answer is given to us in Acts 13:22. There, Paul quotes God and tells us that God looks at David as “a man after God’s Own heart!” God remembers David as a man who cared about the things that God cared about; who loved what God loved; hated what God hated; and whose heart beat in time with God’s.

Today’s Hebrew scripture reading clearly shows a mixed bag of emotions that David was going through. King Saul is dead and David has been recognized as the new king. His first order of business is to bring the Ark of the Covenant home.

At this point, a little history regarding the Ark is in order. The Ark of the Covenant was built at the command of the Lord. The word Ark means “chest or box.” The Ark was a box of wood that measured 45” long and 27” wide by 27” high. This box was overlaid in pure gold. It was topped by a golden grate called the Mercy Seat. On either side of the Mercy Seat, were two golden cherubim. Inside the Ark were a golden pot of manna; Aaron’s rod that budded and the two tablets of the Law that were given to Moses at Mount Sinai. It was here that God promised to meet with His people. It was here that the blood of the atonement was place on the Day of Atonement. It was here that the shechinah glory of God rested as the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness.

This Ark was vital to worship in Israel. It was symbolic of God’s presence among His people. It was often carried into battle in front of the soldiers. It was central to their lives; their worship and their relationship with God. But, the Ark had not been kept in the central position that it deserved; and, as a result, neither had God.

You see, way back in the days of Eli, some 75 years earlier, the Ark had been taken by the Philistines. However, God punished the Philistines the whole time the Ark was in their possession. Their solution was to place the Ark on a new cart and allow the cattle that pulled the cart to take the box back to Israel. So, after 75 years, David is about to take Israel and lead them to go after God.

David’s desire is clear and simple. He wants the Ark returned to its place as the centerpiece of worship and devotion in Israel. He wants God placed back in the center of the national consciousness. David was seeking to unify a formerly divided nation with God as their true King once again. David desired God’s presence, God’s blessing and God’s guidance.

David was motivated by no ulterior motives. He was not after glory or power; David merely wanted to see God restored to His proper place as the Sovereign God of the nation of Israel. He strongly desired that God would be glorified among the people of Israel.

David knew that neither he nor Israel would amount to anything without the presence and power of God. David knew they did not possess the power or the ability to fend for themselves. They needed God. They needed His presence and His power. Therefore, David set out to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem to restore it to a place of prominence in the eyes of the nation.

That sounds pretty good, right? Certainly, David has good intentions; however, he is letting his emotions drive him without thinking it through and doing the proper preparation. Some 30,000 chosen men of Israel accompany David to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.

He is going as if going to war. There is no need to TAKE the ark from the Philistines. Indeed, the Philistines are the ones who instigate its return to Israel. David took warriors but what he needed was priests. God had given very clear instructions about how and by whom the ark was to be moved, and it wasn’t by ox cart or warriors. The ark was designed with rings on the legs. Wooden poles covered in gold were placed through the rings. The ark of God was to then be carried on the shoulders of selected priests by the use of the poles. The ark itself was to never be touched. It was a physical representation of the presence of God and therefore completely holy. Since the holy nature of God is fatal to sin, men must NEVER touch the ark.

So here we have David and all the house of Israel dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. A great big parade. Everything is sunshine and lollipops!

But then, opps! When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, the cart hit a bump and the ark shook so Uz-zah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, and God struck him there because he touched the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God.

Apparently good intentions are not enough.

David’s motives in bringing the Ark to Jerusalem were proper; but his methods were faulty. Instead of being successful; David’s methods for transporting the Ark resulted in the death of a man named Uz-zah. This angered David, and created fear within David’s heart toward the Lord.

Let’s take a moment to examine David’s disappointment a little more closely and seek to determine what caused his plan to fall apart.

The Bible says that they “set the Ark of God upon a new cart…” David’s first problem was rooted in the fact that he either forgot or ignored the clear command of God as to how the Ark was to be transported. The Ark was to be lifted by means of two golden staves which were to be passed through golden rings fashioned on the corners of the Ark. The Ark was then to be lifted up and carried upon the shoulders of a family of Levites known as the Kohathites. David made good plans and good preparations, but he neglected to do it God’s way. He paid a high price for this decision.

Another flaw that mars David’s decision is the fact that he did not seek God BEFORE he made it. Up to this moment, David has always gone to the Lord for guidance and direction. Time and time again, David asks the Lord for help. Here, he does not seek the Lord, but he just assumes that God will bless him because he is doing a good thing.

Another problem David has is his methods were the same methods that had been used by the Philistines. When the Philistines had the Ark and wanted to return it to Israel, they had placed it on a new cart.

David did the same for the first two miles of their journey, then the oxen shook the cart and threatened to dump the Ark off the cart. At this point, Uz-zah reached out his hand in an effort to steady the Ark and prevent it from falling. This seems like a logical thing to do, but apparently God did not agree. He killed Uz-zah on the spot! You see, the Ark was not only supposed to be carried only on the shoulders of the Kohathites; it was never to be touched by human hands. The penalty for touching the Ark was death, as Uz-zah and David quickly found out.

There are some absolutes that can not be broken even by those who ‘mean well’. Looking across a canyon and seeing someone needing help doesn’t mean you can step off of your cliff and walk directly to the other person. The law of gravity will kill you if you step off into thin air. The law of holiness will do the same. It isn’t vengeance. It is simply one of those absolutes.

If these verses teach us anything, they teach us that God is very interested in the details. We may think that God does not care about the little things in life; but He does! When God gives a command, He expects it to be followed to the letter. A heart that is follows God does what God says to do, and it stops doing what God says not to do.

God is intensely interested in the little things of life; even the things that we may not think matter at all.

Does God’s reaction seem harsh to you? After all, Uz-zah was merely trying to do a good thing. But, that is the price for disobedience and for violating the holiness of God. God honors obedience and He will judge disobedience!

Some other truths that we should take note of here are the following:

· God’s blessings come only through obedience and those who defy His Word and His will are going pay a terribly high price. The best thing a child of God can do is align themselves with the Word of God and walk in humble obedience.

· Failing to seek God’s will is just as dangerous as ignoring what He has already told you to do. His children should always pray before they make a move.

· Trying to carry out God’s business using the methods of the world is a recipe for disaster. We have no business trying to carry the church on the new carts of the world’s wisdom. It is to be carried on the shoulders and in the hearts of the people of God!

· Like Uz-zah, we are often guilty of reaching out with our hands instead of reaching up with our hearts. We are guilty of trying to do spiritual work in the power of the flesh. We attempt to do the work of God with our hands and never really get under the burden. That will never work and God will not bless it!

A while back I was asked to give a short sermon to a women’s group. I picked a passage of scripture and a topic that would go with the theme of the meeting. I started to write. It sounded pretty good to me. But … oh no … but … this little niggling thought kept working it’s way into my mind. It had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make in the sermon. It wasn’t just a tangent to the sermon, it was a totally different direction and not even based on the perfectly good scripture section I had chosen. After a couple of attempts to ignore it, I shut up and listened. God had a different message for that woman’s group than I did. I went with His message.

So, Uz-zah died because of David’s disregard for God’s instructions and David was angry. God’s reality had just rained on David’s parade. All that joy and enthusiasm disappeared like a popped soap bubble. David took it personal. How could God do this to him? He was trying to do the right thing … right? Amen?

Now this is where it gets personal. Have you ever been angry with God because something didn’t go your way? A friend of mine who volunteered at the VA Hospital told of how shocked he was to hear a man standing in one of the wards, scream and cursing God. The way my friend, Lester, relayed the story, this person was in a rage and directing it at God. Lester couldn’t believe his ears and was surprised that God didn’t strike this man down where he stood.

My take was a little different. I saw this man’s tirade as a prayer. He was being totally honest with God, maybe for the first time in his life. Did you think that every prayer had to be sugar coated with “blessed is your name”, “we give you praise and glory.”? Nope! Many times, we believe that we have to be perfect and kind, specificity in our communication with the Lord. What you can see here is that this man, like David, is openly reveling himself to the Lord. Read the psalms. A good share of them are, “What’s the deal here, God? I’ve been good and all its gotten me is hardship and pain!”

So, when you are upset, angry, downright pissed at how God has been treating you … tell him. Then … Then … Shut up and listen. God will answer you. He seldom answers in the expected way … that is one of the ways you can be sure it was an answer from God.

Good intentions are not enough. It’s important to remember who is in charge and who makes the rules.

David, after quite of few months of keeping the ark where it was, finally got back on track. He aligned his will with God’s instead of expecting God to realign with David’s will. The result was that the ark of God returned to it’s rightful place in the lives of the people of Israel. Once more David and the people could dance before the Lord with all of their might.

We do not have an Ark like Israel did; but we still need the presence of God just as much as they did. We need God with us and we need His power and His manifest presence in our lives and our worship.

We need hearts like that which David possessed. We need a heart that beats for God, His power and His presence. We need to learn the lesson that we can do nothing without God, John. We must have His presence and His power if we are going to serve Him; worship Him and carry out His will in our lives.

Are we honest with the Lord…am I honest with him? Am I bold enough to say that I’m angry at the Lord and then work through it to a point of dancing with ALL MY MIGHT?!

May God grant us hearts that are hungry for God; that will not be satisfied until He comes by in power and glory and transforms us into all we can be for Him. That was David’s desire; may it be ours as well.

I think God smiles when he sees us wiggle, wiggle, wiggle with the joy of the Lord. Come, Holy Spirit, Amen.

Also visit my other blogs.

Continue reading ““Dance Before The Lord””