Category: 2 Chronicles

Consistent Discipline

We’re in the middle of a sermon series at Central that we’re calling “Family Matters.” Yesterday we focused our attention on Christian parenting: raising our children by the love of God and the cross of Christ. The sermon I wrote wound up being two or three pages longer than the sermon I delivered. So, I’m using this space this week to lay out the entire sermon. There’s more here than what you heard Sunday or what you’ll find listening online. The title of the sermon is “So, You’ve Ruined Your Kids…” This is the Director’s Cut. Bonus Material. The unedited version.

Parenting is hard. It’s very difficult. Stressful. Parenting is the only job in the world that requires no previous experience, provides no training, you can’t quit, and people’s literal lives are at stake. That’s heavy. And nobody really knows how to do this. I used to have three theories about parenting before we had any children; now I’ve got three children and no theories!

The birth of a child causes parents to experience both great joy and abject terror. Nothing seems as innocent, as non-threatening, or was warm-hearted as the idea of children. At the same time, nothing can be scarier than the responsibilities we have as parents. And all parents feel overwhelmed. We’re not as equipped or as confident as we’d like to be. We all believe, in ways big and small, that we’ve ruined our kids. These gifts from God. These precious blessings. That’s what children are: gifts from God.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them!” ~Psalm 127:3-5

OK, but what do we do with them? Because it’s not science. Parenting is much more art than science. A lot of the advice we get, though, whether it’s from the church or from the world amounts to mainly technique. Strategies. Here’s how you install a car seat, here’s how you potty train, here’s how you set boundaries with phones and with dating. All that’s important and needed, but kids are not an operating system where we just need to have the right codes and punch them in. When do you put your foot down and when do you let up? I don’t know! I mess that up almost every time!

One of the best Bible passages for parenting is in 2 Chronicles 20. The people of Judah are facing a massive army from a foreign power, storming in wipe them out. Judah’s in trouble. And Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, stands up in the middle of all the people — including the wives, children, and little ones, it says — and he does not say, “Hey, we can do this!” He prays to God: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven?” Then he goes on in the prayer to say, “Here’s what’s going on, Lord; here’s what looks like is going to happen next…” And then he closes his prayer with this line:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” ~2 Chronicles 20:12

Now, our children are not a marauding army threatening to wipe us out. They could, maybe; they outnumber us and they are fierce. But this passage still says something about parenting. No matter how many books or blogs we read, no matter how many classes we attend or godly examples we follow, no matter how well things seem to be going, every parent reaches a point of powerlessness and despair. Things are awful. I’m messing this up. I don’t know what to do. I’m ruining my kids. Knowing that and turning to the love of God and the cross of Christ — I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you — that’s where we lose our guilt and our anxiety. That’s where we receive his grace and mercy and hope, for us and our children.

I’m going to give you five things that I think are really important. I am not perfect at these five things; in fact, a couple of these things are front and center for me right now because I’m realizing how terrible I am at them. These five things are all biblical and theological, they’re Christ-centered and Kingdom of God-focused. They matter. This won’t be an exhaustive list, this isn’t all of it. But these five things feel really important to me.

Consistent Discipline – I’m not just talking about the punitive stuff or the corrective stuff. You know, you talk about parenting and you say the word “discipline,” and people react. Why did you say “discipline?” Why do you focus on “discipline?” Why is “discipline” the first thing you said? What about love and affection and nurture?

Hey, love and affection and nurture are discipline!

Think about like an athlete training for a competition. She practices every morning evening, she eats all the right foods, she takes instruction well from her coaches — that’s all discipline. She lifts weights, no sodas or Mickey D’s, she runs every day — that’s all discipline. She sleeps when her friends are out partying and her parents cheer her on from the stands — that’s discipline. And those practices shape her and guide her for her athletic future.

Hugging your child is a discipline. Saying “I love you” is a discipline. Reading a bedtime story is a discipline. You might say, “No, those things come naturally to me because I love my child.” That may be true, but you probably don’t feel like doing those things all day long every single day. Sometimes you’re exhausted in the afternoon and you just want to go to bed. But you still sing “Jesus Loves Me” to your child and pray with him in his room. That’s discipline. You’re not just showing affection to your child in that moment, you’re building practices and rhythms that, over a long period of time, come to show your child that she is loved and how to love others.

Maybe it’s really easy for you to say “I love you” to a spouse or a parent at the end of every single conversation. But that’s because you’ve practiced it so many times.

Consistent discipline. When you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you go to bed, when you wake up — consistent training (Deuteronomy 6:7). Teaching your child the Bible is discipline. Modeling how to pray is discipline. Singing songs together, daily and weekly chores, drivers ed, worshiping and serving together with your church, showing your teenager how to apply for a job — all of that is discipline. Of course, correcting behaviors that don’t fit with our family or with being followers of Jesus is part of discipline, too. And it needs to be consistent.



Faith and Water

Since the mid-1500s, as a result of the Reformation, an increased focus on individual interpretation and the freedom to split up and start our own churches, Christians are all over the map on baptism. The specific beliefs and practices concerning baptism are diverse. Some Christians immerse in water, some Christians pour the water, and some merely sprinkle. Some Christians only baptize confessing adults and other Christians baptize babies and children. Some are baptized for the forgiveness of sin and others are considered saved first and baptized later. Some of us baptize for more reasons than we can count.

Regardless of method or belief regarding the conversion model, baptism is the common denominator in every Christian tradition throughout the history of God’s Church. It’s the one thing that unifies all disciples of our Lord Jesus. We are brothers and sisters in Christ with all who are baptized into his name.

In Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, he’s proclaiming the total deliverance and restoration of God’s people to a transformed Holy Spirit relationship with God and with one another. The question “What shall we do?” was not primarily focused on a personal decision. Peter was preaching about the whole world being turned upside down. He called those at the feast to more than individual salvation, he called them to the Kingdom rule of God, to a transformed relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And about three-thousand that day took the plunge.

Some Christians, though, obsess about baptism so much they’ve turned away from the essential transforming truths of the sacrament to questions about technicalities and methods. They turn to condemning diatribes against Christians who don’t believe or practice baptism in the same ways they do.

We uphold what we are convinced are the Scriptural and historical beliefs and practices. But we all agree that all Christians are also doing what they sincerely, and in faith, believe is right. The reason we have misunderstandings and differences is not because anybody’s stubborn or willfully rejecting Scripture. Not everybody who believes or practices baptism different than you is living in rebellion against God.

All Christians agree that baptism is a vital part of the Christian faith. The disagreements are about methods and about the specific role baptism plays in the conversion process. Those are hermeneutical issues, not heart issues. It’s about interpretation. The tensions we feel are the result of centuries of tradition and debates over particular Scriptures. We all have to approach these conversations with humility. We have to recognize we, too, are also influenced by our traditions and debates. We’re all open to criticism.

People ask me: How do we treat Christians who don’t share our exact understanding of conversion? They affirm baptism, but they do it differently? Or the believe differently about what happens at baptism? Do we treat them as genuine or as false brothers and sisters?

Well, let me ask you: How should they treat us? Especially if they see our views as legalistic and sectarian?

The question is: How do we all treat each other?

Salvation is not just about forgiveness of sins. That’s not the goal, it’s not the end game. The goal is transformation to the image of God, the end is a holy relationship with God in Christ and with his people. When baptism becomes a legal technical line in the sand, we’ve turned it into something God never intended. We reduce his transforming work into a legal detail, like a person’s eternal destiny hangs or falls on perfectly understanding and obeying this one command exactly right. We exalt the means over the end. We misconstrue the heart of God. We make God into a judge of legal technicalities instead of a God who transforms us through love and grace. God is our Father who lovingly pursues us and is gracious with our mistakes.

We do well to remember it’s always heart over ritual. It’s Hezekiah’s Passover in 2 Chronicles 30. Unclean people are eating the Passover in the temple. They hadn’t been properly consecrated. This was a clear violation of God’s Law. But Hezekiah appealed to the grace and mercy of our loving God:

“‘May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God — the Lord, the God of his fathers — even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.’ And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” ~2 Chronicles 30:18-20

It’s David and his men eating the bread in the tabernacle because they were hungry. It’s Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. The Pharisees call them out: Hey, you’re not doing that right! Technically, this goes against the religious codes. But Jesus points them back to David and his men eating the consecrated bread. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for even needing the example he gave them. If you know what God’s all about, Jesus says, you wouldn’t have even questioned us. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Sacrifice and Sabbath are essential and necessary. They’re not unimportant, they’re not optional. But they’re both subordinate to the big picture principle of mercy and grace. The ritual is not the most important thing. The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. Rituals serve the ends, the goals, for which God designed them. They were not given to deny mercy to the heart that is seeking him.

What are the greatest commands? Love God and love others. That’s more important than ritual. That’s more important than sacrifice and Sabbath and, yes, even the technicalities of one’s baptism. We have to put things in the proper order — the big picture, Story of God order — or we exalt the details of baptism over the love of God.

We do not draw lines around God’s grace. We do not box in God’s mercy. And we don’t put limits on God’s eternal love and faithfulness.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ with all who have been baptized into his name.



Around the Table: Part 5

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'” ~Exodus 12:24-27

The final dinner Jesus shared with his disciples on the night of his betrayal was a Passover meal. The synoptic gospels all make the explicit claim that this was the Passover. Jesus made preparations and gathered his disciples to “eat the Passover.” Since this last supper has become for the majority of Christians the be-all, end-all paradigm for our own beliefs and practices regarding the Lord’s Supper (for right or wrong), it makes sense to study carefully the Passover context of that last night. I’ve had church leaders on more than one occasion point to the gospel accounts of this last meal to justify their order that we not sing any songs during the Lord’s Supper. After all, the logic goes, the Bible says they sang a song after the meal, not during. Of course, if we’re to follow that logic to its conclusion, we’d be sharing the Lord’s Supper only on Thursdays. Upstairs.

So, yes, let’s look at the Passover context of what was happening around the table on that last night.

As we’ve already noticed in this series, the Jewish Passover meal — all covenant and/or community and/or sacrificial meals for that matter — is a communal celebratory event. As an expression of salvation, it was yet another community meal celebrated following a sacrifice. The Passover, in particular, was a joyous celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt.

“Celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance!” ~Exodus 12:14

“Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” ~Exodus 12:17

“I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples.” ~ Matthew 26:18

The Passover Supper also was a remembrance of that deliverance. By remembrance, we don’t mean a merely intellectual act or emotional recollection. This is a faithful action, a rehearsal, a participation in that deliverance. The Passover liturgies from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish writings from the first century all contain actions and language that help the people around the table to identify with the historic salvation event as if they were present in Egypt and at the Red Sea.

“Celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt.” ~Deuteronomy 16:1

“…so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.” ~Deuteronomy 16:3

“…because you left Egypt in haste.” ~Deuteronomy 16:3

“We cried out to the Lord… the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” ~ Deuteronomy 26:7-8

“Each should celebrate as one who has gone out of Egypt.” ~ Mishna

We also know that as Jesus and his disciples gathered on that last night, their supper together was marked by great joy, praise, and thanksgiving. This was not a dirge or a funeral meal; expressions of joy at this supper were the command of God.

“…with great rejoicing… singing… praise.” ~ 2 Chronicles 30:21-27

“…celebrated with joy… Lord had filled them with joy.” ~ Ezra 6:22

“…your times of rejoicing, your appointed feasts.” ~ Numbers 10:10

The Passover was also established as an anticipation event. Children of God ate the meal together looking forward to that day when they would be eating it in a much better place, in wonderfully better circumstances. They eat and drink with an eye to the future, focused on an upcoming meal that will surpass the one they share today.

“When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.” ~ Exodus 12:25

If we’re really out to imitate every detail of that Last Supper at our communion times together on Sunday mornings — again, for right or wrong — then why don’t we? As good law-keeping Jews, Jesus and his disciples would have been in a festive spirit that night and engaged all the elements of the evening with great joy. The meal was marked by group identity and interaction. It was a present participation in the past events of God’s salvation. They were singing the psalms, specifically Psalms 113-118, before, during, and after the supper.

I would recommend singing songs of salvation, songs of praise for God’s mighty acts, before, during, and after our communion meals together. I would suggest swapping salvation stories around the table. I once was ______, but now I’m ________. Ask each other the questions: from what have we been delivered? From what to what have we passed? Who took our place that day? Do it together in the aisles or along the walls in your worship center. Huddle up around your pews. Allow the children to ask the questions: Why do we do this? And then share the story: because the Lord our God delivered us by the Passover Lamb. And then hug each other and sing another song.



Around the Table: Part 2

We’re seeing right now with the Rangers the exact same thing we saw at this point last season. They’ve smashed into the wall. They can’t hit, they can’t field, they can’t pitch. They’re flat. They’re done. And Oakland’s on a tear. The same thing happened last year at this exact same time. And we’re running out of options for turning things around. You can’t hold a players-only meeting every week. You can only call a special team meeting with the manager a couple of times a year. Now what? I wore my 1996 AL West Championship T-shirt to bed last night, trying to channel some of that magic from the first ever playoff year for the Rangers. We could use some of that Johnny Oates mojo, some of that Pudge Rodriguez intensity, some of that Will Clark leadership. We need something. This is the do-or-die weekend for Texas. If they don’t take at least two out of three from the A’s, beginning tomorrow, we’ll play Taps for the team here on Monday. Yuk.


“They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord.” ~1 Chronicles 29:22

If put on the spot, most of us would not be able to quote anything out of Leviticus. Most of us have never participated in or even seen an animal sacrifice. And a decreasingly fewer number of us have ever slaughtered an animal to eat. Anything having to do with the sacrifices prescribed by God and practiced by his people in the Hebrew Scriptures is mostly ignored by us. That was Old Testament, we like to say. That was the Law of Moses. Those are complicated rules and regulations, outdated and ineffective means of obtaining forgiveness from which New Testament Christians have been freed. We don’t know much about these sacrifices because we don’t study them. Those sacrifices are not important for us today. They’re certainly not binding.

Not so fast.

When Paul is writing to the Corinthians about what is actually happening around the Lord’s Supper, he asks them to first understand what’s happening at the Israelites’ sacrifices.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?” ~1 Corinthians 10:18

Eat the sacrifices??? Most Christians today don’t realize that God’s people always ate the sacrifices. They made a community meal out of the meat. And Paul says this is significant for understanding the function of the Lord’s Supper. Paul doesn’t just talk about the Passover sacrifice and meal as informative, he mentions the entire sacrificial system. Paul reflects on the meaning of eating the sacrifice to help Christians better comprehend what’s happening at Christ’s table.

The fellowship offering was ordered to go alongside all sin offerings and burnt offerings. You can’t find a place in Scripture where God’s people didn’t offer the fellowship sacrifice in the course of observing the others. The word translated “fellowship,” or “peace” in some English versions, is actually shelem, from the shalom root that means “peace.” Shalom means peace, while shelem communicates a relationship of peace, a communion or fellowship between two parties. And fellowship sacrifices were always eaten together by the people.

You find God’s people offering fellowship sacrifices at the ratification of the Mosaic covenant, at the inauguration of the priesthood, and as a part of every major festival, including Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Fellowship offerings and meals were required at the end of a Nazarite vow. Fellowship offerings were the climactic moments at the inaugurations of Israel’s kings, at covenant renewal ceremonies at Shechem and Jerusalem, at the dedication of the temple, and as part of the regular corporate worship of God. You have to read most of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to get it, but sacrifice and fellowship and communion meals were a normal part of life with God and with one another in this community of faith.

The way it worked was that the fat of the animals was left on the fire to burn, while the people ate the meat together as a community. It happened at the same time. God was consuming the fat on the fire, the people were consuming the meat on their plates. God and his people were sharing a meal together, eating at the same time, around the same table. Fellowship, shelem, with God and with one another. These fellowship meals always followed the sacrifice. And they were consistently characterized by two things: the presence of God and great joy.

Exodus 18:12 – Moses, Jethro, and Aaron eat the sacrifice “in the presence of God” to celebrate their salvation from Egypt.

Exodus 24:8-11 – “they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Deuteronomy 12:4-7 – “Eat and rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 12:17-18 – “Eat them before the presence of the Lord… rejoice before the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 14:23 – eat the grain and livestock offerings “in the presence of the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 14:26 – “Eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.”

Deuteronomy 15:20 – regarding the first born animals of the flocks: “eat them in the presence of the Lord.”

1 Chronicles 29:21-22 – the people ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord

Deuteronomy 27:7 – at the covenant renewal in Shechem; the people ate the fellowship offerings “rejoicing in the presence of the Lord.”

2 Chronicles 7:10 – at the building of the temple; people eating the fellowship offerings were “joyful and glad in heart.”

Ezra 6:13-22 – at the re-building of the temple; the people “celebrated with joy” because the Lord had “filled them with joy.”

Nehemiah 8:1-18 – at the re-building of the city walls; “do not mourn or weep… enjoy choice food and sweet drinks… the joy of the Lord… celebrate with great joy.”

Numbers 10:10 – “at your times of rejoicing, your appointed feasts.”

I could fill up your screen with many more references. The point is that the covenant meals were always, without exception, eaten by and with the entire community, always in the presence of God, and always with great joy. The fellowship meal is a joy-filled celebration of the righteous relationship — the peace, the communion — with God that resulted from the sacrifice at the altar. You can’t find a community meal anywhere in the Old Testament in which joy was not the mood and celebration not the command. In fact, in the one place in which Israel was weeping during the meal, God rebuked them and corrected them, commanding them to “celebrate with great joy.”

Fellowship meals in the Old Testament were never intended to be moments of solemn silence or private introspection. Communion meals were not in any way individualistic. They were interactive, participatory meals in which the entire community actively engaged with one another and with God. The meals were joyful and grateful celebrations of the blessings of God. This is the understanding and the practice of Jesus himself, his disciples, and all the New Testament writers. Not just them, but their grandfathers and great-great-great-great grandfathers before them.

Paul says if you understand this, you can better understand the Lord’s Supper. As an expression of peace and communion between God and his people. As a communal act shared among the people of God. As a salvation celebration characterized by great joy and thanksgiving. Do our Lord’s Supper practices and experiences today reflect this understanding?

Someone in our class last night asked, “Why don’t we do the Lord’s Supper this way? Why do we look at the floor and get so quiet during the Lord’s Supper?”

Good question.



The Presence of God and the Joy of His People

I don’t believe you can find a single communal meal in the Hebrew Scriptures that is eaten in sadness. When God’s people eat together, two things are true, without exception: 1) they eat in the presence of God and 2) they eat with great joy.

Sacrificial meals and covenant meals were a regular part of daily life for God’s people. At the ratification of the Mosaic covenant, to inaugurate the priesthood, at the conclusion of vows, at the renewal of commitments, at the inauguration of kings, when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Jerusalem, to celebrate the end of plagues, to give thanks to God, at the dedication of the temple. The list could go on for pages.

Eat and rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God (Deut. 12:4-7), eat in the presence of the Lord…rejoice before the Lord (Deut. 17-18), eat the offerings in the presence of the Lord (Deut. 14:23), eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice (Deut. 14:26), eat in the presence of the Lord (Deut. 15:20).

At the table, God’s people were “joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done” (2 Chron. 7:10). They celebrated “with joy…because the Lord had filled them with joy” (Ezra 6:22). Nehemiah told them “Do not mourn or weep…enjoy choice food and sweet drinks…celebrate with great joy” (Neh. 8:10-12).

Sacrifices cleansed the people. The blood spilled on the altar was sprinkled on the stones, on the ground, on the people themselves, to clean them, to sanctify them, to take away their sins. Sacrifices were intended to make a place or a people holy so God could dwell there. God’s eternal covenant with his people is that he will live with them and they will be his people and he will be their God. Sacrifice made that dwelling possible. Without sacrifice, there could be no righteous relationship with God. Following the sacrifice, intimacy with God is not only possible, it’s realized and experienced.

And it’s always celebrated at the meal. At the table.

Peace. Fellowship. Communion. Koinonia with God and with one another because of the sacrifice. Now, that’s something worth celebrating with great joy. Right?


Why do our Lord’s Supper observances on Sunday mornings tend to be quiet, solemn ceremonies marked by individual introspection and feelings of sadness and guilt? Why aren’t our communal meals with our God and one another characterized by interactive expressions of uncontained celebration and overflowing joy?

Have you tried singing upbeat, uptempo songs of praise and thanksgiving as you gather around the table? Instead of burying your nose in your Bible, have you ever tried sharing that special passage with the person seated next to you? A neighborly “clink” of your cups with the people on your pew and a shared “Thank you, Lord!” can express that much-needed communal joy in a simple, yet powerful, way. Try something. Try anything. I just urge you to stop “doing” the Lord’s Supper by yourself in that room full of Christian brothers and sisters and stop being so sad about it.

The Lord’s meal is shared on Sunday, not Friday! He’s not on the cross anymore, praise God! The tomb is empty, hallelujah! The Lord Jesus Christ has paid for your sins and mine! We stand today — right now and forever more! — in a righteous relationship with the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth! He has removed our sins. He doesn’t remember them or hold them against us! It’s as if we’ve been perfect from day one! Because of what Christ already did at the cross and what the Holy Spirit already did at the garden tomb, we belong to God! It is finished! We are his people and he is our God!

Seriously. How in the world are we able to eat the bread and drink the cup without breaking out into huge grins?


I’ve updated the “Around the Table” page with tonight’s lesson outline and handouts. As you’ve already gathered, the focus tonight is on the presence of God and the joy of his people at the meal. Click on the green “Around the Table” tab in the upper right hand corner of this page to access these class materials and to find the assignment for next week’s session.