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Forgetting and Neglecting

“And the Sons of Israel did not remember Yahweh their God who had saved them from the hand of all of their enemies which surrounded them and they did not show faithfulness to the Sons of Jeruba’al (Gideon) for all of the good things which he did for Israel.”

(Judges 8:34-35)

We have spoken before about the Biblical importance of memory. When the people remember the good works of God they remain faithful. But when the people forget, they fall into sin. And we see this pattern showing up over and over to us in the scriptures and in church history.

But remembering is not just the intellectual recognition that an event took place; remembering also reflects a life that has been influenced by those events that took place in the hopes that we not repeat the same errors that brought us to the condition we were in. Yet, how often we as a church are also near-sighted and forget God’s work amongst us to deliver us from the evil that lurks in our midst.

And, too, how often people forget the faithfulness of those who served them well. Gideon was far from perfect as a leader, but he was God’s chosen tool to deliver the people from their oppressors. In the same vein, pastors and church leaders, too, are not perfect. Yet, if they are faithful to God’s calling, they are deserving of the respect of those they serve — “double-honor” to use Paul’s language in 1 Timothy 5:17-19. Yet, how often have there been times when, for a single misstep, congregations have turned on their pastors like a pack of angry dogs. Such is the way of sin.

Unlike what we have seen with the previous judges, we do not shift immediately into the next cycle of leadership. Instead, we see a cycle within Gideon’s own house, where the sons will vie for position in Israel’s leadership (remember our earlier discussion of Gideon wanting to pass down his role to his sons). And sadly, it will be Abimelech who rises to the forefront…God’s punishment on Gideon’s household for their sin and arguably even God’s punishment on Israel for their forgetting…


“After him, Shamgar, the son of Anath, who slew Philistines — 600 men — with the goad of an ox. He also saved Israel. 

(Judges 3:31)

Shamgar is a judge that we know almost nothing about. He is only mentioned here and in Judges 5:6 (which is a historical note). The historical note from Judges 5 is valuable, as the text implies that Shamgar lived at the same time as Jael, which would mean that Shamgar’s judge-ship overlapped that of Deborah, helping to reconcile the years covered by the book of Judges with the historical chronology.

What I like about Shamgar is that, like Samson, he is remembered for a mighty and miraculous victory over the enemies of God’s people. While Samson slew 1,000 with a jawbone, Shamgar slew 600 with an ox-goad, an 8-foot stick with a pointy end. The end is not like a spear, that would ordinarily pierce the skin, but is sharp enough to prod an ox to move in the direction that the farmer desires. This is the kind of battle that legends are made out of, yet, here we find it taking place in time and space in human history. This, of course, is not to give credit to Shamgar, but to God who empowered Shamgar to win this battle.

In terms of application, the temptation is to say, “See, God did this through Shamgar, he can do it through you if you are faithful.” Maybe, maybe not. That kind of application may be exciting, but often is not realized in people’s lives because God has other plans, makes people think that God is at our beck and call, and simply diminishes the text into a kind of motivational speech.

The proper way to apply a text like this is to point at how little is mentioned about the man. The whole note is tucked away at the end of the account of Ehud and before the account of Deborah. It is almost as if the Biblical writer was saying, “oh, by the way, there was this guy, what’s his name…oh, Shamgar, who also killed Philistines…” God wins the battles, God gets the credit, God’s name is glorified, and God’s victory is the one to remember…not man’s. And thus, as we have our little victories in life, to whom do we give the glory? Whose name do we desire to be remembered? Is it the name of God? Is it our own name? The latter is vanity.

Studying God’s Honor

“The last thing, brothers, is that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is upright, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if there is virtue and if there is praise, think on these things.”

(Philippians 4:8)

Though in English the words praise and praiseworthy come from the same root, Paul employs two different words here in the Greek to emphasize his point. We already spoke above about that which is worthy of praise, as he closes this verse, he is speaking of that which generates admiration or approval within us. When applied to humans, this word is sometimes translated as “fame,” but perhaps honor is a better term. Towards God, it reflects the notion of giving praise and honor to His name (see Philippians 1:11).

All of that which Paul speaks about culminates in this…honoring God. It is this notion that drives our sanctification and our life as believers. Yet how often we choose to set our minds and thoughts on other things during the day, during the weeks, and during the years. How often we set our affections on the things of this world rather than on the one who is most worthy of our honor.

It has long been my position that while most relationships begin in the shared experiences that people have with one another; lasting and mature relationships make a transition. Instead of falling in love with the person through the things that are done together we fall in love with the person because of who they are — their attributes and personalities and things like this. Genuine love and relationship with God is nurtured in the same way. We may begin our relationship with God through a deliverance from sin, through a grace that was given, or through a recognition of our own wicked and fallen state. Yet don’t stop the relationship there, because the relationship you have with God will mature as you grow deeper in your understanding of God’s character as revealed in his Word.

Thus, spend time focusing on a character trait of God. He is love, he is Truth, he is a God of justice and grace. God is creative and powerful and while loving toward his own, he pours out his wrath upon the wicked. Think on these things. Study how God reveals these character traits of his in the Scriptures. Pursue him through his character. And note too, Paul’s language…think on these things. God has given us minds to understand; he expects us to use our minds to understand his character as he reveals it. Such an understanding will draw us closer to him but such an understanding will also draw us away from the things of the world that distract and pull us away from godliness.

That Which is Worthy of Praise

“The last thing, brothers, is that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is upright, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if there is virtue and if there is praise, think on these things.”

(Philippians 4:8)

Whatever is worthy of praise…it is upon this that we should set our minds. Indeed, there are many things in this world of which are worthy of our honor and praise (though not worship). The beauty found within a sunset or the majesty of a bright, starry night; the eagle as it soars through the heights yet plummets to the ground with precision to grasp its prey; the complexity of the human body or the art with which one uses that body for dance, making music, or athletics are all examples of things that are genuinely worthy of praise. We give honor to a chef for an exquisite meal, we give honor to a painter for a lovely painting, and we give honor to an author who has written a book that has influenced the way we live. Again, all these things are worthy of praise…even to the extent that it would be dishonorable and disrespectful to deny such praise where that praise due.

Yet, while humans are indeed worthy of praise, it is God who excels the praiseworthiness of humans on an infinite level. We may revel in art or music but God is the one who gives art and music and who defines that which is lovely within art and music. He is the chiefest of all who are praiseworthy. Yet, how often it is that we are quicker to set our minds on the praiseworthy things of humanity and fail to give the infinitely more praiseworthy God his due. How often we will rearrange our entire schedule to attend a sporting event or a community engagement yet we fail to arrange our schedules around the worship of the Living God? If it is dishonorable and disrespectful to neglect giving honor where honor is due when it comes to humans, is it not infinitely more dishonorable and disrespectful to not give praise and honor where praise and honor are due for God? If we want to set our minds on that which is praiseworthy, we must begin by setting our minds on God and his praiseworthiness lest our perception of the praiseworthy things in the world become overinflated.


“Therefore, receive him in the Lord with all joy and to such as these show honor, for he came close to death because of the work of Christ, exposing his life to danger in order to fulfill what was lacking in your ministry to me.”

(Philippians 2:29-30)

The question that presents itself to our curiosity is what does Paul mean when he speaks of, “what was lacking”? Is he seeking to rebuke the people for something that they missed? Is he suggesting that somehow Epaphroditus has done something that the people of Philippi have been unable or unwilling to do? No, I don’t think that would be consistent with everything else that we find Paul speaking about when it comes to his affections for the people of the church in Philippi. Instead, I think that of which Paul speaks is a ministry of presence. Truly, Paul yearns for fellowship with the people in the church in Philippi, but it would be nearly impossible for the entire church to pick up and leave to go visit Paul…but not impossible for one man to do…and that one man is Epaphroditus.

There is a power to the notion of a ministry of presence, being able to spend time face to face with another person and not just communicating by letters from a distance. A childhood friend of mine is currently spending time in prison. We write, but those occasions where I can travel to see him are particularly valuable. As a pastor, too, I have found that often my presence alongside a family who is grieving the loss of someone means a great deal. It has nothing to do with me nor does it have to do with anything that I might say or actively do. Yet, to know that someone is just there, with you, during a difficult time, means a great deal. And for Paul who is in prison as he writes this letter, Epaphroditus provided this kind of ministry.

And thus honor should be shown. The Greek word that Paul uses here is e¡ntimoß (entimos), and it is a word that refers to something that is precious or valuable in one’s sight — distinguished and set apart. And Paul is not attributing this word only to Epaphroditus. Note that he says, “and such as these…” So to all, who give of themselves sacrificially, who suffer (even to the point of death) to minister to God’s people, to those who practice the ministry of presence to fulfill that which the broader church is unable to fully do…treat them as the precious gift to the church (and community) that they are. Treat them with honor. Yet, how often the servants of God are taken for granted and not seen as a honored gift from God.

Loved ones, strive to be like Epaphroditus in your service to others. They may not be in prison nor may they be at great distances from yourself. You may also not need to risk your life for them. Yet, strive to bless others with your ministry, even if all you do is just be present with them during their time of trial. And those who serve in your midst, who give of themselves to care for others, seek to recognize them as a good gift from God and worthy of your honor.

The One Name that is Above All other Names

“Therefore God exalted him and honored him with the name that is above all names,”

(Philippians 2:9)

As we have noted above…Jesus laid down his rightful heavenly glory and veiled it in flesh in the incarnation; in the resurrection, he took that glory back up, this time no longer veiled by the flesh, but instead glorified in the flesh as well, and took his seat at the right hand of God the Father almighty. And he is given the name that is most highly exalted above all over names — He is the firstborn from the dead, he is the Divine Son, he is the captain of our faith, and numerous others. He is Christ the Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved. And he deserves all praise and adoration!

It amazes me, in light of these clear teachings in the Bible, how many people reject this truth and seek to co-opt Jesus’ glory and offer it to another, suggesting that there are many ways to the Father that can be found in different cultures and in different religions. Such is a lie, it comes from the depths of hell, and it ought smell like smoke to us. Yet some relish the smoke. Sadly, many will die in the smoke.

Friends, it is right to give honor where honor is due…and Paul is leading us into that. But if honor is due to any man for his accomplishments, it is infinitely more so due to Christ for his accomplishment. Men may build towers, write novels, and create works of art, but Jesus showed us grace and Truth. Men may climb mountains and dive into the depths of the ocean, but Jesus bore the weight of our sins. Men may defeat armies and conquer nations, but Jesus conquered death. Honor is due to his name. Will you give it above all others? Will you give it not only inside of but outside of the church building? Will you share the knowledge of the glory of Christ with the world around you…they are dying to hear it (in an all-too literal sense).

Live for Christ and Him Alone!

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(Philippians 1:21)

“In the event of my death, celebrate.” You know, as a pastor, I spend a lot of time with people who are sick and dying and very rarely do I come across a person who is genuinely excited about their impending death…especially when the person dying is younger, at least in a relative sense. We have become accustomed to speak about heavenly things with anticipation but when we face the reality of heavenly things, it seems that we cling to earthly things with vigor…just the opposite of our Lord who did not heaven as something to be clung to but abased himself and became man. While we affirm intellectually that heaven is a far better place for us than earth, our hearts don’t often embrace that intellectual reality.

I believe that our problem with genuinely embracing the second half of this statement stems from our problem with embracing the first half of the statement, for until you become so focused that everything you do in this life is for Christ and to His honor, then the thought of ending those labors here, where we do things imperfectly, and beginning them in glory, where we will do things perfectly, just does not resonate with us. Yet, for Paul, this mindset — that all I do is for Christ — is the only way to live…or die.

As people, particularly in the western world, we have become jaded, self-centered, prideful, narcissistic, greedy, sensualistic, and focused on personal gain. Life, we are often taught, is about what I can achieve, accumulate, and experience. Those things that do not meet our personal “needs” are cast to the side as unnecessary and irrelevant. Striving for virtue has been replaced with striving for vainglory and “Self” has become the Baal and the Ashtoreth of our generation. And, as a result, the culture is collapsing all around our ears.

The solution: Christ and Christ alone! Living for Christ in all things puts the things of this world in their eternal perspective and shows them to be the pale and fleeting things that they really are. Living for Christ and seeing His glory in all things is also the corrective to our view on death. For the believer, indeed, our death is gain, for it is being ushered into the presence of our risen Lord. Yet, we also long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For that we must embrace a life that is lived not for self and selfish things, but for Christ and for Christ alone. Then again, for whom better can we live?

Heir of all things: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 6)

“Whom he established as heir of all things…”


Loved ones, not only is Christ the means by which God has spoken, but the writer of Hebrews further asserts that Christ is the heir, the beneficiary, of all things.  Everything that is, that was, and ever will be is made and given to Christ—Creation is bowed before him and is laid at his feet for His glory and honor!  Not only is all of scripture designed to point to Christ, but all of the created order is also designed to point directly to our risen Lord!  What a wonderful statement of truth!

Yet, this raises an important point that must be addressed.  If we take this statement seriously, and we ought, then not only must our theology and reading of the Bible be Christological, but , so too must our reading of all life!  In other words, our science, must be Christological; our history must be Christological; our sociology must be Christological; our philosophy, our psychology, our mathematics, our literature, our grammar, our engineering, our biology—all these disciplines are given to Christ for his glory and honor, thus all these disciplines, to be rightly pursued, must be pursued in such a way as that they give Christ glory and honor!  Oh, what a wonderful testimony and reminder that Christ is the center and focal point of all things in creation, yet oh, how far short we often fall from this great and lofty end!  Beloved, shall we aim for the glory of Christ?  Shall we aim to see Christ honored in every academic subject and in every endeavor known to man?  Indeed, if we believe this passage to be true, we must, for all things have been handed over to Christ as the great heir, and to fail to do so, is to fail to honor him as the ruler and heir that he is.  Ask yourselves, dear friends, what it is that you are doing to deliberately point every area of your life to the glory of Christ.