Monday, May 20, 2019

"Holy Dirt"

2nd Kings 5:17 NKJV

“So Naaman said, ‘… please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord.’”

An uneasy relationship existed between the nation of Aram and Israel, whose king Jehoram lost his father in a battle with Aram a few years before. The king of Aram heard of the power of Elisha and sent his valued commander Naaman to be healed of leprosy by this great prophet of Israel. The commander received his healing and in gratitude offered to pay Elisha. Elisha refused payment but granted Naaman’s request to bring “two mule-loads of earth” from Israel back to his homeland in Aram.

It was apparently Naaman’s plan to return home and erect an altar on dirt brought from the land of the one and only true God, the Lord God of Israel. Naaman would worship the God of his newly found faith on newly collected holy ground. Naaman may have been superstitious, or perhaps he thought it wise to keep a physical reminder of his new-found devotion to the Lord.

Naaman’s plan is not that unusual. Orthodox Jews prefer to be buried with dirt gathered from the Holy Land. Followers of Mohammed collect stones from Mecca. Some American Christians save water in a vial from the Jordan River where they were baptized. Relics of these kind can carry special meaning for a follower of any faith.

When Moses stood before the God of Israel at the burning bush in the wilderness of Horeb, the Lord commanded him, “...remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3.5). Anywhere God displays Himself is “holy ground.” 

I stand on “holy ground” every day and depend on divine encounters to sustain my faith.  I meet God when Jesus is revealed in my practice of PB & J (regular Prayer, Bible reading, and Journaling). This is the substance of my faith. It is my “holy ground” event. I need a couple “mule-loads” of holy dirt with me at all times to remind me of the God I serve and His purpose in my life. ---

Friday, May 17, 2019

"I Am as You Are"

Wounded Friend by Maxo Vanka2nd Kings 3.6-7 NASU

“And King Jehoram... sent word to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, ‘The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?And he said, ‘I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’”

Jehoram king of Israel received tribute, an ancient form of taxation, from the conquered king and people of Moab. After the death of Jehoram’s father Ahab, Moab rebelled. Jehoram sought the assistance of two other kings, Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom. Together this newly formed three nation alliance agreed to subdue the Moabites. Their alliance was strong and Jehoshaphat made a promise of loyalty to Jehoram:

I will go... I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
2nd Kings 3.7 NASU

Seven days into their journey to pursue Moab the three nation army could not locate water. The king of Israel lost his courage, but his ally Jehoshaphat remained resolute... “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here?” (2nd Kings 3.11). They found Elisha who prophetically confirmed the success of their mission and water miraculously appeared.

Jehoshaphat was one of the few good kings in Judah and proved to be a very good friend to Jehoram. Jehoram solicited Jehoshaphat for help to complete a difficult task. Jehoshaphat agreed. When things went wrong, Jehoram wanted to quit but Jehoshaphat remained strong. He was true to his word even after Jehoram lost confidence.

A true friend is willing to fight for his brother’s cause even when his brother wants to quit. A friend’s role extends beyond the basic terms of his agreement. He enters the deeper realm of the spirit with the other man. A real friend not only agrees to the mission (“I will go”), he also promises to become one with his companion (“I am as you are”). When his friend falters, he is there to prop him up.

I want to have and be a friend like that.
_________________

"Wounded Friend" by Croatian-American artist Maksimilijan Vanka (1889 – 1963), also known as Maxo Vanka.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

"Man-Boy"

1st Kings 21.4 NLT

“So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth's answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!

King Ahab never grew up. He offered to pay for Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers” (1st Kings 21.4). Ahab could not have what he wanted so he “went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to at.” His wife, Jezebel catered to the king’s  childish demands and promised to get the vineyard for Ahab. To make Ahab’s wish come true, she had Naboth falsely accused and killed. Ahab was the worst king ever…

“Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do
evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”
1st Kings 21.25 NASU

Ahab should have listened to Mick Jagger instead of Queen Jezebel…

“You can't always get what you want,
  You can't always get what you want,
  You can't always get what you want;
  But if you try sometimes you just might find
  You get what you need.” [1]

The spirit of Ahab is alive and well. This spirit displays itself in the form of a tantrum when a child does not get what he wants. Ahab was a little boy inside the body of a man. He was a man-boy. A man-boy’s fits of poor behavior are better disguised than those of a two-year-old. Adult tantrums are less of a spectacle. They go inward. Like Ahab, a man-boy easily becomes “angry and sullen.” He turns “his face to the wall” and refuses to communicate with those around him. He wants mommy Jezebel to reach inside, find and fix the ‘owie’ so he can have what he wants and have it now.

The boy inside a man’s body doesn’t care about consequences. He just wants what he wants and convinces himself he won’t be happy without it. The difference between a man and a boy is this a man’s ability to delay gratification. A boy cannot do that. and falls apart when he can’t get what he wants. A real man fully understands and graciously accepts that “you can’t always get what you want.” He is learning to become free from the bondage of childish desires. A man of God places his faith in Christ and believes “you get what you need” when you need it.

Lord, deliver me from the spirit of Ahab and my carnal desire to remain a boy inside the body of a man. I will not be a man-boy. Make a real man of me.
_____________________

[1] The Rolling Stones released the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. It was written by lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards and named the “100th greatest song of all time” by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004. It features the London Bach Choir helping to bring the song to its amazing crescendo.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"So-Called Brothers"

1st Kings 20.32-33 NIV 

“Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, ‘Your servant Ben-Hadad says: “Please let me live.”’ 

“The king answered, ‘Is he still alive? He is my brother.’

“The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. ‘Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!’ they said.

Ben-Hadad was no brother. King Ahab should not have called him one nor believed the son of Hadad when he claimed to be one. Ben-Hadad was the drunken pagan leader of Aram who started, but could not finish, a war with Israel. With his tail kicked and firmly wedged between his legs, the defeated leader of Aram crawled to Ahab hoping for mercy. Ahab made a serious error by referring to his enemy as “my brother.” Ben-Hadad’s people capitalized on Ahab’s poor judgment and “were quick to pick up his word.” They presented their fallen king of Aram as “brother Ben-Hadad.”

A sister or brother is a family member. By faith in Christ, I belong to the family of God. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9). That profession enacted by faith alone makes you my brother or sister. If someone pretends to be a “brother,” I am commanded to keep my distance...

“...I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is
an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard,
or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one.”
1st Corinthians5.11 NASU

Don’t trust everyone who calls himself a “brother.” Ben-Hadad was not a brother to Ahab. He was an enemy of Israel who pretended to be part of the family to save his life. Ahab was just stupid enough to believe him. Eight years later Ahab lost his life in a battle against “brother Ben-Hadad.” That’s how the king of Israel was repaid for showing mercy to a so-called “brother.”

Jesus called false brothers “ravenous wolves” in “sheep’s clothing.” Beware of these liars...

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances
are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Dont be impressed with charisma;
look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say.”
Matthew 7.15-16 “The Message”

Be careful who you call a “brother.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"The Prayer of a Salesman"

1st Kings 17.14 NIV

 “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”

I’m a salesman. I wake up every morning unemployed. I must sell more if I hope to get another paycheck and feed my family. Paul warned the early church “If you don’t work, you don’t eat” (2nd Thessalonians 3.10). In my case, if I don’t sell, I don’t eat... and neither do my kids! For some salespeople, this fact creates undue pressure rendering them incapable of the very thing they must exhibit... sales performance.

I’ve worried about my next sale, especially early in my career. But through the years I’ve become a believer in the miracle of divine multiplication. I’ve always had enough. My family never missed a meal. The kids always had a roof over their heads. There were lean and hard times, but we always managed. When I first moved to Portland in the mid-80’s, I had nothing except my wife, three kids, and a beat up car. I wondered how I would find an income in this community. I was the widow of Zarephath…

“I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar;
and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for
me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
1st Kings 17.12 NASU

There were a few nights when I thought we were consuming our last meal. But there was always more the next day. Even in my darkest hours following a difficult divorce and disastrous custody battle, God provided for my children, their mother, and me. For a short time I was homeless, living in my car, yet God still proved faithful and provided amply.

The journey from then to now was rough but, by God’s grace, and the miracle of divine multiplication, I got here. Today I have a beautiful home, seven great kids, seven amazing grandchildren, a vibrant career, two cars, a couple dogs, and a piano. For over twenty years I had the woman of my dream. My marriage to Adonica was the best thing that ever happened to me. Leukemia took her life nearly four years ago, but my life is enriched today because of her. I am truly a blessed man.

How did I survive? Did I always work hard? Did I tithe on every penny of my small income? Did I give God all the glory all the time? Was I fully faithful with the little I had? Did I do anything to deserve the prosperity I now enjoy? No, no, and no. I tried to implement a few basic principles of financial success, usually without notable results. I cannot give myself credit in any way. Nor can I offer a testimonial-type formula that would make sense to others in financial straits. I find some solace and comfort in the record of Job’s writings...

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 1.21

If it were not for the abundant and providential grace of God, I could be the guy standing at the freeway entrance with an “every little bit helps” sign. I’ve been homeless with nothing to my name. Today I have a home and the gift of a family and friends and steady income. Today it’s easy to say “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

I am a salesman. I woke up unemployed about an hour ago. I trust the same Jesus who multiplied the fish and loaves and fed thousands of hungry followers in the first century A.D. He will feed my family and me today. I choose to approach this day with confident expectation: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6.11). I know the God who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50.10) can give me another sale. I believe in the miracle of divine multiplication.

“The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry.”

“My cup runneth over!”
Psalm 23.5

Monday, May 13, 2019

"Don't Believe Everything You Hear No Matter How Credible the Source"

1st Kings 13.17-19 NLT

“For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, ...’ 

“But the old prophet answered, ‘I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: “Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink.”’


But the old man was lying to him. “So they went back together, and the man of God ate and drank at the prophet's home.”

Did you know that God can speak to you? You must listen and discover His word. Once you’ve heard God’s word do not forsake it. Don’t trust anyone who gives you a message contrary to what you heard, not even someone who claims to hear from God. The prophet from Judah heard from God: “You must not eat or drink anything while you are there” in Bethel of Israel. Another man persuaded the prophet to violate the command of the Lord. How could that happen?
  1. The man was older. The younger man deferred to his elder.

  2. The older man was a prophet. The man asserted, “I am a prophet, too, just as you are.”

  3. The older prophet claimed to hear from an angel. The young prophet decided an angelic revelation trumped his personal beliefs. 
The man from Bethel was older, he was a prophet, and he heard from angels. The younger prophet weighed the apparent facts and made a decision, the wrong one! He had not banked on one important piece of undisclosed information which cost him his life: The older prophet who spoke with angels was a liar!

The young prophet from Judah failed to trust the word of the Lord in his heart. Paul warned us against false reliance and blind faith one thousand years later:

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other
than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Galatians 1.8 NIV

Don’t let anyone talk you out of what Jesus told you is true.

Friday, May 10, 2019

"A Second Visit in Your Old Age"

1st Kings 11.4, 9 NIV


As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” 

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”

From his death bed David publicly proclaimed his son Solomon as the next king when the boy was about eighteen years old. Even as a young man, Solomon was a decisive leader putting to death his father’s defectors and strongly establishing his position of political power. God appeared to Solomon twice during his lifetime, the first time within the first few years of his young reign. In a dream God offered Solomon any wish…

“Ask what you wish Me to give you.”
1st Kings 3.5 NASU

Solomon humbly admitted “I am but a little child” and asked for wisdom in his new role as king of Israel…

“So give Your servant an understanding heart…
to judge this great people of Yours”.
1st Kings 3.7, 9 NASU

God honored Solomon’s request. During the next twenty years the king completed a massive Temple and Palace building project and became known as the wisest (and wealthiest) man in the known world (1st Kings 10.23). Somewhere around the age of forty God made His second appearance to Solomon offering him a conditional promise…

“…if you will walk before Me… in integrity of 
heart… then I will establish the throne of 
your kingdom over Israel forever.”
1st Kings 9.4-5 NASU

The king did not fulfill his end of the bargain. In direct opposition to God’s command, Solomon intermarried with the pagan nations to form strategic alliances with neighboring countries. Taking on no less than a thousand wives and concubines, he extended his powerful realm at the cost of forsaking the God of his youth. Solomon became shamefully self-absorbed in the last twenty years of his life and failed to leave the glorious legacy God intended.

God’s second appearance to Solomon was as critical as the first. The king completed his building project. He achieved incomprehensible success and was at the political apex of a brilliant career. Now, more than ever, the king would need to refocus on his calling to serve the Lord and make his golden years count for something eternal. Instead Solomon took the easy path and failed to finish well.

It’s common to slip up spiritually in the latter years of life. We’ve built our careers. We’ve raised our kids. We’ve paid off our houses. We’ve finished our Temple and Palace projects and earned our rest. We deserve a few hedonistic pleasures. Right? Wrong!

Like Solomon, God now pays you a second visit. In this visitation , He reminds you that your life is not over. You’ve done a good job so far but there’s so far to go. Your latter years count for something more significant than you imagine. Don’t quit. Jesus expects you to finish well.

______________

King Solomon's life may be roughly divided into three 20-year periods... Solomon's youth, his early reign from approximately eighteen or twenty years old until about the age of forty, and his final twenty years. Some sources state that Solomon lived until about the age of eighty. But according to 1st Kings 11.42 and 2nd Chronicles 9.30, Solomon reigned as king for forty years. If we start from the premise that Bathsheba birthed Solomon when David was in his late forties or early fifties, then Solomon would have been in his late teens or early twenties when he assumed the throne after his father's death at the age of seventy. This calculation puts Solomon's death somewhere around the age of sixty. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

"What a Woman!"

1st Kings 8.18-19 NIV

Femme et enfant au bord de la mer (Woman and Child on the Seashore) by Pablo Picasso, 1921
“But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart.

Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood — he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’”

King David tried to show his great respect and love for the Lord by building a Temple in His honor. God chose David’s son Solomon to build the Temple instead. This was not to discredit David. In fact, he was commended for his desire to please God: “…you did well to have this in your heart.”

Apparently, it was not the finished product that God cared about. He didn’t need a Temple. But David needed to have a Temple project in his heart. He needed to love God enough to want to build the Temple. That was all. In King David’s case, it wasn’t the action but the thought that counted.

Of all the mothers I have ever known or heard of, clearly my wife, Adonica, was the best. She was supremely giving and loving. Every decision she ever made was with the best interest of our children and me in mind. She was intelligent, college educated, and successful in her career. However, when the children were born my wife placed her professional pursuits on hold to be at home with the kids. Adonica suffered from Leukemia and valiantly fought for her life for ten months before finally succumbing to this dreadful disease. The kids and I, and her entire community of faith stood with her in the battle. I highly revered my woman, and I still do. She was everything the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 ever dreamed of being.

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
Proverbs 31.10 KJV

I found “a virtuous woman” and for that reason I (like Solomon) was (and still am) the richest and luckiest man on earth.

Unfortunately, I was never able to find a gift good enough for my wife. If I bought her a present, she normally returned it explaining, “We need the cash. Don’t spend that much on me.” She wouldn’t take flowers… they gave her allergies and cards are “a waste of money.” At Christmas, Adonica bought her own presents and gave them to me to wrap. She was not fond of surprises and would almost never accompany me on a date without the kids. She preferred to stay at home and eat a dinner she prepared for us. She would not sit still for a video unless it was “G” rated and entertained our children. Her idea of a perfect evening was dinner at home, table talk, board games, and to early bed. I could never seem to give her anything. The kids and I were all she ever really wanted. Adonica paid the bills, mowed the lawn, raked the leaves, got the groceries, prepared our food, and changed the kitty litter box. She not only cleaned the house, but selected the land, found the contractor, designed the floor plan, negotiated the deal, and bought the house. My dear wife truly was the original “virtuous woman.”  

It was always in my heart to give my dear wife tokens of my love and appreciation. I would have spent all our money on her, if she let me. I assume she secretly thought, “…you did well to have this in your heart.” That my heart wanted to honor her was good enough. She knew I loved her. Apparently in Adonica’s mind, it was always “the thought that counts,” and that was good enough. 

Sunday would have been her special day. Happy Mother's Day, honey! I shall always love you.

___________________

"Femme et enfant au bord de la mer" (Woman and Child on the Seashore) oil on canvas 1921 by Pablo Picasso on display at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

"Quarry Life"

1st Kings 6.1, 7 NASU

“…in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel,… he began to build the house of the LORD.” 

The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built.”

Several years ago I previewed a piece of property for sale near a rock quarry. The location presented an obvious obstacle to any potential buyer of the home. The noise of blasting rocks, the dust of dirt access roads, the constant coming and going of dump trucks. The future owner should think hard before relocating near a quarry site.

Quarries are noisy places. Rock is blasted, broken, and crushed for use as finished materials in the construction of buildings and roads. Sand, gravel, and dimension stone come from quarries. A quarry is a desolate place where the hard work of preparing stone is completed.

Solomon spent seven years overseeing the construction of “the house of the Lord” in Jerusalem about a thousand years before Christ. The Temple of Solomon “was built of stone prepared at the quarry.” No shaping or grinding or cutting of stone took place at the building site. This preparation work was done with iron tools at the quarry. If a stone did not fit, back to the quarry it went. It was noisy at the quarry but very quiet at the Temple during every phase of its construction.

My life is a quarry. It’s noisy there. Sometimes I am broken and crushed and grinded. The shaping process is painful, but always with a redemptive purpose. Jesus is shaping me into a stone designed to fit perfectly in the house He is building.

“…you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house…”
1st Peter 2.5 NASU

Someday I will be finished and fully prepared to take my place of honor in the “house of the Lord.” I will no longer be required to bear the “hammer nor axe nor any iron tool” of hard change. I will be presented to God “complete in Christ” (Colossians 1.28). Until then I can and will endure the dust, the noise, and the temporary and redemptive suffering of my quarry life on earth.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

"Jesus, Super-Size My Heart!"

1st Kings 4.29 NKJV [1]

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.”


“Heart” appears (in various forms) 860 times in the Old Testament and can refer to the internal organ that pumps blood throughout the body. However that meaning is rare.

“…in its abstract meanings, “heart” became the richest biblical term for the totality of man's inner or immaterial nature. In biblical literature it is the most frequently used term for man's immaterial personality and functions as well as the most inclusive term for them since, in the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the “heart.” Very few usages of ‎[“heart”] ‎refer to concrete, physical meanings.” [2]

Apparently Solomon’s “heart” was the totality of his inner nature. It described “virtually every immaterial function” of the man whom we have come to know as the wisest of all men (1st Kings 4.31). Solomon’s emotions, intellect, will, conscience, character, and personality; his 'who-I-am-ness,' were all wrapped up in this concept called “heart.”

Everybody has an inner person, but Solomon was unique. His inner person was really, really BIG. God gave him “largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.”

What is the size of my heart? I assume it’s smaller than Solomon’s, and bigger than some. How do I increase my personal and spiritual capacity? What must I do to become BIG-hearted, to live LARGE? I suspect I tend to live small and limit my own capacity in ways I am not even aware of. 

When Jesus places His order at the drive-up window of my life, I hope He decides to SUPER-SIZE me. I want to be a bigger man on the inside. I want Solomon’s “largeness of heart.”

____________________

[1] 1st Kings 4.29 in our English Bibles is 1st Kings 5.9 in the Hebrew scriptures.Chapter 5 in the Hebrew text begins with verse 21 of chapter 4 in the English Old Testament. 

[2] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, copyright © 1980 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.

Monday, May 06, 2019

"The Spirit of Joab and the Spirit of Jesus"

1st Kings 2.5-6 “The Message”

“And don't forget what Joab son of Zeruiah did to the two commanders of Israel's army, to Abner son of Ner and to Amasa son of Jether. He murdered them in cold blood, acting in peacetime as if he were at war, and has been stained with that blood ever since. Do what you think best with him, but by no means let him get off scot-free — make him pay.”


Joab was a man of bloodshed. He killed unnecessarily, but he had his reasons. 
  • Joab murdered Abner to avenge the death of his brother Asahel, whom Abner killed in self-defense during a time of war (2nd Samuel 3.30). 

  • Joab ended Amasa’s life because Amasa was a political rival whom David intended on replacing Joab as commander of the army (2nd Samuel 19.13). 

Joab was a man of violence, intent on exerting military control and gaining political power. He caused David great stress. The king admitted Joab was “too difficult for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil” (2nd Samuel 3.39).

The Bible says “there is a time for every event under heaven”…

“A time to kill and a time to heal… A time for war and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3.1, 3, 8 NASU

There are undoubtedly times when we must fight. When under direct attack it may be necessary to engage in conflict to protect life. A soldier who kills in the line of fire while fighting for the freedom of the country he loves deserves a hero’s welcome home. A man who uses force to defend his family from an unwelcome intruder intending harm is doing the right thing.

“There is a time for war” and “there is a time to kill.” But there is also “a time to heal” and “a time for peace.” A wise person knows the difference. “Blessed are the peacemakers” Jesus claimed, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5.9). It appears that Jesus leaned toward peace, not war. He would prefer to heal than to kill.

I know men who want to fight. They have too much testosterone. Aggression is in their DNA. They thrive on conflict. This was the sort of fellow Joab was. You might say he was the opposite of Jesus. Joab was judged for “acting in peacetime as if he were at war.” Although I have the spirit of Jesus living within me, I am sometimes tempted by the spirit of Joab. 

May I learn to overcome the hostility which sometime lies just beneath the surface of my demeanor. When I am the object of someone’s aggression, may I have the grace to disarm my opponent with the love of Christ and, if possible, convert “a time for war” into “a time for peace.”

Friday, May 03, 2019

"The Big Fall"

2nd Samuel 24.2-4 NIV

“So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, ‘Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.’

“But Joab replied to the king, ‘May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?

The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.”

The project David proposed was a colossal waste of time and energy. It was government over-spending at its worst. It took Joab and his commanders nine months and twenty days to complete the census only to discover what they already knew… David had a lot of soldiers. 1.3 million to be exact. His top men advised against allocating resources on a military census. “Why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?” But the king “overruled Joab and the army commanders.”

David’s decision was motivated by pride. He already knew he was powerful, but David wanted to know exactly how powerful. His self-absorbed behavior spun out of control and eventually cost the death of 70,000 troops. The king would have been better off listening to his trusted advisers. Instead he insisted on his way and became aware of its folly after the damage was done:

“Now David’s heart troubled him after he numbered the people.
So David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done.’”
2nd Samuel 24.10 NASU

God has placed good people in my life to advise me. I must listen to them. Even when I think I hear from the Lord about a particular course of action, it’s always best to run it by trusted advisers… my family, work associates, close friends, and fellow believers. The Bible teaches:

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 11.14 NKJV

Counselors keep me safe from the foolish decisions I’m prone to make.

Jesus, grant me the humility to listen carefully to my trusted advisers before I insist on taking a big fall and bringing them down with me.
__________________

"Humpty Dumpty" by renowned children's illustrator, RenĂ© Milot.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

"You Can Move God!"

2nd Samuel 21.14c NASU

“…God was moved by prayer for the land.”

You have great power to change the course of American history. It is the power of prayer and it requires nothing elaborate or fancy. Just a heartfelt request to God on behalf of the country you love. Your prayers are significant. They count.

Have you ever complained about the political condition of our nation? Pray about it. Your prayers matter. The Bible says, “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4.2). It’s that simple. If you want a better “land of the free,” ask God. He is able to give you one.

Prayer does not preclude participation in the system. You must still vote, express your opinions, and endeavor to support causes that made our country great. Without Him, you can’t. Without you, He won’t. Personal prayer and social action is an effective combination. 

Become an activist, but  don’t forget to pray. Jesus promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7.7). God is waiting. All you have to do is ask! Dispense with the perfect grammar and flowery language. You can’t impress Jesus and He cares little about your form and style. He’s looking at your heart and motivation.

Do you have faith that He can do it? It doesn’t take much. “…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17.20).

Today, Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 is the 67th annual observance of National Day of Prayer.  Why not honor this and every day by praying for the land you love? Three thousand years ago in Israel “God was moved by prayer for the land.” He is still so moved. 
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On April 17th, 1952, National Day of Prayer was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Harry Truman. Congress latter designated the observance to be held on the first Thursday in May each year. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

"A Beautiful Man"

Pot Belly by Ellis Nadler2nd Samuel 18.9 NASU

“For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going.”

Absalom was a beautiful man. There was no one in all Israel “as handsome as Absalom… from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him” (2nd Samuel 14.25). He was a hunk of muscles, good looks, and flowing hair. Oh, that hair! Absalom’s hair was so thick he had to cut it once a year just to keep his head from drooping.

Absalom knew he was ‘all that.’ He had an inflated self-view. His pride led him to the false notion that he would make a better king than his father. “Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel” (2nd Samuel 15.6) and he eventually conspired to overthrow David and usurp the throne.

He almost got away with it. Absalom should have cut his hair before going into battle. Helplessly dangling by his mane caught in a branches of a giant oak tree made him an easy target. The precariousness of the moment may have given Absalom pause to consider how he might have done things differently. I’m sure he would have gladly traded his beauty for his freedom. Can you imagine his terror as David’s army commander cocked his arm to thrust a spear through Absalom’s proud heart? Well, that was the end of Absalom.

How many times I’ve looked in a mirror, aghast at my own defects. Some parts are too skinny; others too fat. The shape is all wrong. There are lumps, bumps, sags, wrinkles, and blemishes of every kind. My hair is thin, my butt is small, and my belly is broad. I wish I were handsome with no defect at all. I can’t afford plastic surgery, hair transplants, face lifts, Botox, or liposuction. I am what I am. I might as well accept that I will never (again, if I ever was) be a beautiful man like Absalom. But that’s not all bad. I’m pretty sure I will never be (literally) caught hanging by what’s left of my thinning hair in the branches of a giant oak.

Perhaps my physical defects are Gods gift to keep me from becoming proud. The Lord knows how prone I am to that particular sin and how little reason I have for it. Nevertheless, I’m in good company. Even Paul admitted to the need for a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble:

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head,
I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.”
2nd Corinthians 12.7 “The Message”

The Apostle Paul had reason to be proud. I certainly don’t. The Bible says a man should not “think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12.3). The obvious limitations of my declining physical appearance keep me in touch with my own broken humanness. Maybe what I see in the mirror is God’s sense of humor in action. I hope it works. I never want to dangle helplessly “between heaven and earth” because of my pride.
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"Pot Belly" is a pen and ink wash is used here by permission of London artist Ellis Nadler. Subscribe to his blog at http://ellisnadler.blogspot.com/2009/03/pot-belly.html and view his web site at http://www.nadler.co.uk/.