The Loyalty of Ittai

Loyalty2 Samuel 15:21 – But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

Meet Ittai

Who was Ittai? He was a foreigner. He was an exile. He had barely even been with David. And so David, right before the going got tough, told Ittai to leave while he could; this wasn’t his fight. David even sent Ittai and his countrymen off with a blessing.

But Ittai’s loyalty ran deep. We don’t know why, and I’m not sure it even matters. Ittai responded to David with these words,

As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

David clearly recognized and appreciated this loyalty and so honored Ittai by permitting Ittai, including his men and their families, to stay on.

This kind of loyalty seems rare today. Whenever I see such displays in a movie or book, they virtually jump off the screen or page at me, demanding to be noticed and honored.

Loyalty to Christ

I wonder how many followers of Christ would follow their Lord wherever he may go and to whatever end. What makes this so difficult is our Lord goes everywhere. He goes into our families, homes, workplaces, thought-lives, churches, TV rooms, cars, grocery-store checkout lines, cultural battles, conversations, and on and on and on. Not only does he go to those places but he claims Lordship over them. And his claim is not an empty one. He has been given authority in those places. Ephesians 1:22 says,

And God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…”

Christ is the King over all things, the Lord over every sphere of life. That’s simply a fact about reality. And yet there is a sense in which, in this present age, he is still seeking to extend his Kingdom into every sphere of life. It’s part of the “already and not yet” nature of his Kingdom. What is so astonishing is that he calls those of us who are his followers to be the very ones who extend his Kingdom. Through us! Truly amazing!

You Will Have to Die

The question is, will we be loyal and faithful to our Lord as Ittai was to King David? Will we follow our Lord to whatever end? We don’t have to guess as to whether or not there will be death. There will be. That’s an up-front promise by our Lord himself.

First and foremost there will be death to self. For there to be fruit a seed must die. For Christ’s followers to bear fruit for our King, we must die – to ourselves, our sin, agendas, self-centeredness, egos, idols, and so forth. Make no mistake about it, this is death and it can be quite painful.

And yet there is also the promise of life – real life, everlasting life, fullness of life. And this promised life is just as guaranteed as our death. For just as we die with Christ so too are we raised with him, to be and become as he now is.

The beauty of all this is found in the truth that our King has already been where he calls us to go. Furthermore, he has promised to travel with us to encourage, strengthen, and guide us along the way, the narrow way. That’s a comforting thought indeed.

Will you be loyal to your Lord and King? Will you follow him to whatever end?


Walking Points

• What’s your favorite example of loyalty from the movies or literature?
• Why is that your favorite example?
• What makes loyalty to Christ so hard in our world?
• What are three ways you can grow in your loyalty to Christ?
• What would such loyalty look like in your everyday life?
• Share your answers to these questions with a friend, and ask him what his answers are. Pray for one another.


Prayer

Ever faithful and loyal God, I praise you that you are steadfast in your commitment to me. You have promised you would never leave me nor forsake me. I ask you to please forgive me that I am not as committed to you. I have forsaken, disobeyed, and even been ashamed of you too many times to count. This realization and admission grieves me, though not nearly as much as it should. But I am grateful for your grace and your forgiveness and for another day to loyally serve you and your Kingdom. I’m clearly not up to it in my own strength, so please fill, direct, and empower me through your Spirit to be your man, your faithful ambassador in every sphere of my life, and to follow you wherever you may lead. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Spiritual Warfare
• Growth in Christlikeness
• Increasing faithfulness in the spiritual disciplines
• My health
• For my ordinary appointments and activities to become divine appointments and activities.
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My Family
• Mercy for those who are poor and hungry
• Justice for those who are oppressed and persecuted
• Love for those who oppress and persecute others
• Peace for those in the midst of war, crime, and violence
• Other needs

Redeem Your Time

timeEphesians 5:15-17 – Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Scripture says we are like vapors which are here today and then, POOF, gone in an instant. Some of us may live to the national average or even past it. Others will not live that long. Whatever the case may be, Scripture reminds us, “man knows not his time.” Therefore, since no one knows when they will be called home, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of every day as though it was our last?

Have you ever been asked what you would do if you only had one week or month left to live? Often, when we’re asked such a question, we offer a sweet, sentimental, or even profound answer that stresses urgency. Yet, few “live out” their answers because they suppress the truth of reality and mistakenly believe they have an infinite supply of time and opportunities before them.

In our Scripture, the Apostle Paul says this is unwise.

Making the Most of Time

Paul instructs us to be careful in how we live. He says we need to be wise, not unwise, and make the most of every opportunity. Many of the great saints of Christian history referred to this as, “redeeming the time.”

Brother, your life is a gift from God. You are called to be a steward of it. In a real sense your life is not your own. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul said followers of Christ must offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. He lived during Israel’s sacrificial system in which the animal “gave up its life” on the altar. If we are called to be living sacrifices, we must daily put ourselves back on the altar before God in dedication to him, because living sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar by the end of each day.

There is cost involved here to be sure. To give ourselves to the Lord in this way will require sacrifice, commitment, and self-discipline. To redeem the time we have been given, to make the most of every opportunity, we must change the way see and think about our daily lives. A change of perspective is required.

An Eternal Perspective Needed

God can be glorified in our most mundane tasks. Whether we are driving to work, mowing the yard, or wrestling with our children, we can do so to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). What matters is the motivation of our heart. Martin Luther is attributed as saying a cobbler who makes excellent shoes on Monday glorifies God as much as the pastor who preaches the Gospel on Sunday. Both require an eternal perspective and motivation that transcends themselves.

Isn’t it a relief to know you can glorify God without necessarily moving to the other side of the world as a missionary or becoming an ordained pastor? You don’t have to be doing something “religious” to redeem your time. The Apostle Paul said whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for God’s glory. What’s more ordinary than eating and drinking? What you are doing is not as important as why and how you are doing it. So, redeem your time.


Walking Points

• What are some ways you unthinkingly waste your days and miss the opportunities God has for you? What are some reasons you do so?
• How can you change the focus and motivation of your daily life from the temporal minutiae to an eternal perspective that seeks God’s glory?
• What are three ordinary things you do daily that can be transformed by wisely making the most of them?
• Share your ideas with someone you can trust to hold you accountable and will pray for you.


Prayer

All-wise Father, you have told me in your Word to number my days so I may have a heart of wisdom. You want me to seek wisdom and live my life in such a way that I may make the most of every opportunity. You know better than I how often I have failed in this pursuit. I don’t wake up each day planning to fail at this, and yet by not better preparing I often fail by default. Please forgive me. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom and give me not only a desire to live each and every day wisely for you, but enable me to do so. Help me to prepare on the front end so I may be ready to make the most of each opportunity you present me. Most of all, let my thoughts, words, and deeds be done for your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Lord, help me to faithfully participate in the life of my congregation and for the sake of my community…
 By my prayers
 By my presence
 By my gifts
 By my service
 By my witness
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• For those who serve in government, at the national, state, and local levels
• For those who serve in law-enforcement
• For those who serve in fire and rescue
• For those who serve in our nation’s military
• Other needs

Godly Men Seek the Right Side of Truth

path4_origJohn 18:36-37 – Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” [37] “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

An Audacious Claim

Truth is a very big deal in the Gospel of John. Jesus, in a good number of verses, begins his teachings with phrases like, “I tell you the truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus claims not only to speak the truth, but to actually be truth itself. In our text above Jesus says he came into the world to testify to the truth. Furthermore, he says, if you are on the side of truth you will listen to him.

It’s an incredibly bold move to say you are truth itself and your purpose for coming into the world is to testify to the truth. In fact, it’s downright arrogant, unless your claim is true. And that’s where the rub is. If it is true that Jesus is the truth, (and that he came to testify to the truth), then it would be prudent to listen to what he has to say. In fact, it would be an imperative.

Just A Good Teacher?

The thrust of our text reminds us, rather loudly, Jesus was not simply an interesting teacher. He claimed to be much more. People who say Jesus was just a good teacher are actually revealing at least two things about themselves.

The first thing is there is a high probability they have never read the gospels for themselves. If they had, they could say they do not believe the things Jesus taught, but it would be intellectually dishonest to say his self-referential claims were not audacious. The “good teacher” response is evidence a person has not likely read what this “good teacher” taught.

The second revelation is they do not want to submit to Jesus’ Lordship nor trust in him as their Savior. Autonomous man still wants to be God. Even postmodern man, with his many “relative truths” – however contradictory they may all be – does not desire the One who claims to be the Truth (capital “T”). The sinful inclination of their hearts suppresses the truth they know (Romans 1:18).

Who Are You Listening To?

The words of verse 37 are powerful: Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

You don’t have to be an expert in logic to understand the implications here. If you don’t listen to Jesus, then you are not on the side of truth. And if Jesus is the truth and his purpose in coming was to bear witness to the truth, then what Jesus says about every sphere of life matters. It matters a lot.

Of course, “listens to me” means much more than simply hearing what Jesus has to say. It implies “responding in obedience” to him as well. Submission is key here. Jesus is not suggesting he would be happy if you went to Starbucks, sat down with your favorite cup of coffee, and merely listened to someone tell you about Jesus. The person, work, and words of Jesus Christ demand a response. For centuries people recognized this and chose to either submit to him or reject him. But today some folk opt for patting him on the head and then moving on, ignoring him. But as the wise philosopher-theologian Geddy Lee, from the rock group Rush, sang, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”

Jesus will not be ignored, at least not with impunity. He will not be placed on the backburner of your life, only to be thought about at funerals and on Christmas mornings. He is the truth. He testifies to the truth. In fact, as Jesus put it in verse 37, he is a King.

Does all of that really describe a person you can blow off if you want to, without consequence?

The Right Side of Jesus

It’s popular today to talk about being on the right side of history. Jesus wants us to be on the right side of truth. And to be on the right side of truth is to be on the right side of Jesus. Therefore, let me encourage you to pick up your Bible today and begin listening to Jesus. Start with the Gospel of John. Then move to Matthew, Mark and Luke… then read John again. After that, you should start listening to Jesus as he speaks through his appointed apostles and prophets. God’s ordinary and significant means by which he has ordained his Son to be encountered and heard is through his Word – the Bible. So pick it up and side with him today.


Walking Points

• Reading and studying the Bible on your own is profitable. However, when you talk about it with others who are also reading Scripture, it can be a real blessing. Ask a couple of friends if they’ll start reading the Gospel of John with you so your group can discuss it together.
• Move through John’s Gospel one chapter at a time, recording in a journal the significant teachings of Jesus. Ask yourself why each teaching you highlighted stands out to you. What implication would that teaching have in your life if you started believing it was true and obeying it? What are the implications for not believing and obeying it?
• Give special attention to the claims Jesus makes about himself and the implications those claims have on your life.
• Lastly, what miraculous works in John’s Gospel capture your attention? Why? What do they tell you about Jesus?


Prayer

God of truth, I give you praise that you have not left me to grope in the dark, seeking your path on my own. I am grateful that you have provided me with the Way and Truth, indeed, Life itself. And so forgive me Father when I seek to go my own way or when your truth scares me. I confess that I have sometimes been so fearful of obeying the truth you have so clearly given me that I have chosen to ignore it at best and rebel against it at worst. Both are sin and I ask you to please forgive me. Instead, gracious Lord, fill me with your Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and enable me to not only want to follow your truth, wherever it leads me, but to also be able to do so. I pray my faithfulness to your truth will lead others to give you praise in heaven and make a difference for the sake of your Kingdom here and now. In the name of the one who was and is the Truth, I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Lord, help me to faithfully participate in the life of my congregation and for the sake of my community…
 By my prayers
 By my presence
 By my gifts
 By my service
 By my witness
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• For those who serve in government, at the national, state, and local levels
• For those who serve in law-enforcement
• For those who serve in fire and rescue
• For those who serve in our nation’s military
• Other needs

 

Every Sphere of a Godly Man’s Life

menMatthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Compartmentalized Living Won’t Do

I remember when I first started using the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” It began as I started studying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It just made sense that if Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, then he is Lord of everything. And if he is the Lord of all there is, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:46,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (NRSV)

This notion is in marked contrast to the way many people think and live, including myself in the early days of my faith. I, like plenty of other folks, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that’s where I was.

Personal, Not Private

Instead, the Christian faith should be understood as a comprehensive view of life. The secular world around us, however, still prefers the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with personal prayers and worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private. Sure, you can practice it at home, or even with other Christians on Sunday mornings, but don’t you dare bring it into the public square. Jesus, however, doesn’t give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. To paraphrase the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “there is not a square inch in all the universe about which the Lord Jesus Christ does not declare his own.”

As a United Methodist, I have rejoiced that John Wesley took just such a view of the Christian faith. He called it Scriptural Holiness and said it was his purpose in life to spread such Scriptural Holiness over the land. For Wesley, holiness was inward but also outward. It was personal and it was social. There was no picking and choosing. Faith must permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life – prayer, personal devotions, worship, marriage, parenting, work, economics, politics, education, the arts, personal morality, relationships, civic duty, and serving the community, just to name a few spheres of life.

This Includes Your Life

I encourage you to prayerfully ask yourself what it would mean for you to understand there is not even the smallest corner of your life about which Jesus Christ, as Lord, is unconcerned. How would acknowledging and submitting to that truth change your life? How would it bless your relationship with your family and friends? What consequences would it have for you in your workplace? Can you imagine the possibilities? Brothers, Christ is calling you to follow him in every sphere of your lives. Do you hear his voice? Will you follow him?


Walking Points

·         ​Look again at those questions in the last paragraph. They are not rhetorical. They are questions Christ requires we ask ourselves, as well as answer. More than that, we must live out those answers before a world in desperate need of godly men.
·         Write down as many “spheres” of your life as you can think of. Which of those spheres are you submitting to the Lord? Which ones are you keeping from him? Why?
·         How would submitting to Christ’s lordship in those spheres of life change the way you are living your life in those areas? Be as specific as possible.
·         Write your answers to each of those questions down in a journal or on an index card. Then pray over them, asking God to lead you to greater faithfulness. Meet with some accountability partners and discuss the questions and your answers and then pray about how each of you can help one another in this pursuit.


Prayer

Lord of heaven and earth, remind me this day that there is not a square inch in all the universe about which you are unconcerned. While I rejoice that I have seen changes in my life through the gracious work of your Spirit, please show me those areas I am attempting to keep from you. Convict me of my sin and rebellion in those areas and turn my hard heart to flesh and joyful obedience. Please let my life faithfully bear witness to you as I serve as your ambassador to other men who are struggling with handing you the reigns in their lives. Together, may we extend your glorious Kingdom into every sphere of life here on earth, as it already is in heaven. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

·         Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
·         Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
·         Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
·         Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

·         My family
·         My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
·         For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
·         For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
·         Other needs