Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"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 11, 2021

"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 10, 2021

"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 07, 2021

"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, René Milot.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

"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. 
______________

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 05, 2021

"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.
____________________

"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/.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

"The (Over) Thinker"

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (1902)2nd Samuel 17.14
The Living Bible

“Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, -‘Hushai's advice is better than Ahithophel's.’ For -the Lord had arranged to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster upon Absalom!”

In my senior year of high school I applied and received acceptance to attend the University of Washington. What would I major in? I was drawn to enroll in the Art School but I could not allow myself that privilege. Limited logic overrode my heart and I concluded, “I need to make money to survive in this world. I don’t want to be a starving artist.” So I earned a degree in a field of science - fisheries and biology. It did not occur to me then that there are plenty of starving scientists. I now regret not making the decision I once feared I would now regret. 

After college I pursued a post-graduate degree in neither art nor science. Four years earlier, I had very much wanted to attend art school at U of W. A degree in art would have qualified me to enter theology school just as well as a degree in science. Instead, I over-thought my decision and suffered through four years of college preparing me for an industry I never pursued. I should have paid attention to my instincts and heart’s desire.

Absalom made the same mistake. He over-thought his decision. Ahithophel gave sound advise. “…arise and pursue David tonight… while he is weary and exhausted” (2nd Samuel 1-2). If Absalom was to usurp the kingdom from his father, he must act fast, gather the troops, and capture David immediately. Instead, he became too logical. “Now call Hushai… and let us hear what he has to say” (2nd Samuel 17.5).

Hushai’s counsel was opposite of Ahithophel’s. He advised Absalom to wait, gather the entire nation, and “personally go into battle” (2nd Samuel 17.11). Unknown to Absalom, Hushai was a spy for David and his counsel gave the rightful king much needed time to prepare his defensive forces. Absalom lost this valuable time. He weighed two decisions and made the wrong one.

Most decisions are easy, if you don’t over-think them. You will never have enough facts, counsel, or evidence. You may create a spread sheet, carefully weigh the pros and cons, and still make a bad decision. You may make a few mistakes, but remember this... the perfectly logical choice is not always the right one.

As a child of God you can trust the leading of the Spirit of God, make a decision, and go with it. Don’t be an overthinker.  

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Romans 8.14 New Living Translation

______________________

"The Thinker" is a bronze and marble sculpture by French artist François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840 – 1917). It was completed in 1902 and now on display at Musée Rodin, Paris.

Monday, May 03, 2021

"The Banished Son"

2nd Samuel 14.13-14 NLT

You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

The story of the wise woman from Tekoa who condemned King David for his refusal to reconcile with his “banished son” pierced David’s heart. He was “convicted” and sent immediately for Absalom to return home.

About twelve years ago I experienced an unhappy encounter with another human, one which I shall never forget. My youngest son and I were bicycling around Beaverton. Robert was only eight years old at that time. On the corner of Allen and Hall a pedestrian engaged my son in conversation as we waited for a green light at the cross walk.

The guy became emphatic on an idea that made little sense. I suspected the man was either high or drunk. He extended his hand and squeezed mine tightly pulling me in close to make another nonsensical point. I listened for a moment, became impatient, and asked him to let go of my hand. This request offended him and he called me some foul names accusing me of “turning something beautiful into bad thing.” I escalated the incident by asking him if he had been drinking. The question infuriated him and he stomped off mumbling obscenities in my direction.

I later asked my son what he thought of the altercation. His eyes filled with tears and he said the man was “just so lost.” I suggested we pray for him. My boy sobbed out the words… “Jesus please help that man. He is so lost. Just so lost.”

I agreed with Robert’s prayer but, like King David, I felt “convicted.” In the moment of this man’s intrusion, it did not occur to me that I could be an agent of reconciliation. I may have missed a divine opportunity. The man needed a little love. He needed Jesus. I could have turned the conversation toward the things of God. Who knows? This guy may have been ready to make a life-changing decision for Christ. Or, maybe he was an angel sent to test the depth of my love for hurting and broken people. I’m sure my attempt to “bring home” a “banished son” would have made a more positive impact on my son than the argument he witnessed.

I can never recapture the moment. This story is “like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.” It’s gone. The next time God “devises” a way to bring back His “own banished son,” and offers me a chance to participate, I hope I am more perceptive.

Friday, April 30, 2021

"Don't Give Your Power Away"

2nd Samuel 11.1 NIV 

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army…. But David remained in Jerusalem.


WARNING: The following contains biblical sex and violence. This is an “R-rated” Bible story. Reader beware...

King David should have been leading his troops and fighting battles together with his warriors. Instead he sent Joab, the commander of his army, to do the king’s job. In so doing, David gave away a small portion of his power.

Things got worse. Back home the king slept with the wife of Uriah, one of his most valiant soldiers. To cover up his sin, David eventually gave Joab the order to murder this loyal soldier. In so doing, King David now gave away a major portion of his power.

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab…. In it he wrote, ‘Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.’”
2nd Samuel 11.14-15 NIV

Instead of following the king’s order, Joab got the job done another way. He sent Uriah with a larger group of men to the besieged city wall. It was a suicide mission. Close to the wall Joab’s warriors would be an easy target for the enemy’s arrows. It was a stupid military tactic and Joab anticipated David’s wrath…

“Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would
shoot arrows from the wall?... Why did you get so close to the wall?”
2nd Samuel 11.20-21 NIV

Joab disobeyed a direct order of the king. David was livid but unaware of the subtle shift of royal power from himself to the commander of his army. Joab was able to quiet David’s fury with three simple words: “Uriah… is dead” (2nd Samuel 11.24). When David included Joab in his cover-up, he unwittingly gave up political power to his military chief.

It always happens that way. If you sin, those you recruit to hide your sin will eventually turn against you and use your secret to their own advantage. Joab had David under his political thumb until the king’s death twenty years later. It was an uncomfortable balance of power from which David never fully recovered.

When you sin, it is never okay to panic and collaborate with others in a cover-up. If you hide your sin you give your power away to a force much greater than your own. Your destiny lies in the hands of those who will use your dirty, little secret to advance their own agendas. Don’t give them that kind of power. Instead, be strong in your repentance. Admit your sin to God and every involved party. Trust His word:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1st John 1.9 NKJV

Don’t give your power away. You are as sick as your secrets. Tell the truth. Humbly confess your sin and retain the power of God in your life.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

"So No One Gets Hurt"

2nd Samuel 6.6-7 NLT

“But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord's anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.”


God’s act of violence against Uzzah made David angry. Then afraid. Then unwilling to have anything to do with the Ark of God
.
“David became angry because of 
the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah.”

“So David was afraid of the LORD.” 

“And David was unwilling to move the ark of 
the LORD into the city of David with him.”

2nd Samuel 6.8, 9, 10 NASU

I assume David felt indignant toward the Lord for what appeared to be a divine overreaction. David was transporting the Ark on an ox drawn cart. The road was bumpy. The oxen lost their footing and jostled the cart and its sacred load. Uzzah was just trying to help. He jumped to the rescue and was struck dead for his trouble. David didn’t get it. I don’t get it either.  Why would God kill a man for trying to do a good thing?

The answer to this mystery is found in the parallel account of 1st Chronicles:

“Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests,… and said to them,…
‘Because you did not carry it [the Ark] at the first, the LORD our God made an
outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.’”

1st Chronicles 15.11-13 NASU

There was a prescribed way to transport the Ark. It was to be carried by priests on their shoulders with poles through attached rings. Prior to moving the Ark, David should have consulted the Ark Transport Instruction Manual. Instead he brought thirty thousand men of Israel with him and turned a solemn event into a parade. The Ark nearly fell because David had not followed the rules issued by God for its relocation. The Ark should never have been riding on a shaky cart in the first place. Then it would not have needed to be “steadied” on the bumpy road to Jerusalem.

When we act hastily without consulting the Lord, people get hurt. When they do, like King David, we may become angry and blame others including God. Our indignation turns to fear. We’re afraid to risk another serious consequence for what we thought was a trivial oversight or minor error. For a time, we may even refuse to serve God altogether.

Instead, we should figure out what and how God wants things done. When we do things His way, innocent people don’t get hurt.
___________________

Vincent Van Gogh's "The Ox-Cart" was donated to the Portland Art Museum by Fred and Frances Sohn in 2007. The famous Dutch artist painted this piece early in his career (1884) after having worked with oil paints for only three years. The painting is very dark and I brightened it a little for placement on this blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Patron Saint of All Hurt Children"

2nd Samuel 4.4 NASU

“Now Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled.

And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth” [1]

Verse 1:

Once there was a certain nurse who had a little boy;
She cared for him as if he was her own.
She helped him learn to read and write, and taught him how to love.
They played and sang and laughed and had some fun.

Chorus:

Mephibosheth, can you ever forgive me?
Mephibosheth, patron saint of all hurt children,
I’m so sad I caused you all this pain;
Please come and heal the broken heart in me.

Verse 2:

Then she heard some awful news, it took her by surprise;
She grabbed the child and tried to run outside.
In all her haste she missed a step, and fell and dropped the boy;
Mephibosheth was crippled then for life.

Verse 3:

Jesus make me understand that little pairs of eyes
Are always there to watch my every step.
Deliver me from fear and haste, and all that would destroy
The precious life you placed within my kids.

Verse 4:

Stumbling blocks, they’re bound to come; that’s just what Jesus said.
But woe to him who hurts a little one.
Please help me be a better dad, and keep my children safe
From handicaps caused by this foolish man.

Chorus #2:

Jesus, can you ever forgive me?
Jesus, You watch over all hurt children.
I’m so sad I caused You all this pain.
Please come and help me be a better dad.
Please come and heal this broken heart in me.
Please come and help me be a better dad.
_________________________________

[1] I was inspired to write this song in September 1983 after reading about Mephibosheth's accident in 2nd Samuel 4.4. The message of this song is still very personal to me. At the time I had two children and one on the way. They are now 39, 37, and 35 years old. God blessed me with four more children since then. I am very proud of all seven of my kids (and seven grandchildren). They have grown up to become wonderful human beings in spite of the many mistakes I made raising them. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Be the Hero They Need"

1st Samuel 30.6 Amplified Bible

“David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Mob from Islamic clipart www.al-islam.org

David and his band of six hundred men were making raids on nomadic tribes of the Negev. Upon returning home, they found the town empty. No wives, sons, or daughters. Their temporary residence in Ziklag was invaded by Amalekites who kidnapped every woman and child when their husbands and fathers were away fighting battles with David. They were not home to protect their families. 

In grief these men “lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep” (1st Samuel 30 4). They turned their rage and bitterness toward their leader. These men believed would never see their wives and children again, and they blamed David. He would have to pay for this tragedy. The soldiers “spoke of stoning him” to death.

I have never experienced this level of chaos and horror. I have felt lost, ashamed, frightened, and alone. I have known failure and moments serious defeat and had my fair share of detractors. I even occasionally wondered if the world would have been a better place had I never been born. But I cannot claim to have faced my own execution by a mob of six hundred angry men blaming me for the loss of their loved ones. This was a seriously bad moment for David.

A lesser man would have given up, admitted defeat, and surrendered his life. Instead David headed to the only place he knew to go. He fell on his face before the Lord.

“...David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

God inspired David to chase down and defeat the Amalekites. He went from villain to hero because he was able to ‘strengthen himself in the Lord.’

David’s response to tough times gives me hope. I too can ‘strengthen myself in the Lord’ and be the hero my family and loved ones deserve.

 __________________________

The sketch at the top of this post is called "Mob" from an Islamic clip art site at http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/kids/Clipart/drawings/drawings.html.

Monday, April 26, 2021

"The Stripped Down Version of You"

1st Samuel 26.19 NASU

“...for they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of the Lord...”


Most of us think and act as though our lives are defined by the things that surround us. In casual conversation, especially with new acquaintances, we tend to describe what we do, where we live, what and who we know. We are looking for commonality but, also hope to impress others, leaving them with a high opinion of ourselves. Our jobs, education, social status, income levels, and house values are all descriptors of material status. We communicate this with an expectation that others will, in turn, recognize our personal status.

What if we were stripped of all these attachments? Without a job, no education or income, zero social standing and homeless, would we still have value? Is our value intrinsic? Or, is it based on outward success indicators?

David lost it all. He was pursued as an enemy of the nation he loved. King Saul was intent on killing this innocent man. David cried out for justice:

“They have driven me out today so that 
I…have no attachment 
with the inheritance of the Lord.”

Imagine the loss of all things. No family, no home, no income, no friends, no status. Would you truly believe in your own value? Would you believe yourself to be lovable by God and others? Jesus loves even the stripped down version of you. He lived and preached that “life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” (Luke 12.15 “The Message”).

I have more than my fair share of emotional and physical attachments. I hope they never get stripped away. But if they did, would I believe I still had value?

Friday, April 23, 2021

"Decision-Making 101"

1st Samuel 23.1-5 “The Message”
 
“It was reported to David that the Philistines were raiding Keilah and looting the grain. David went in prayer to God: ‘Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?’ God said, ‘Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ 

But David's men said, ‘We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?’
 
So David went back to God in prayer. God said, ‘Get going. Head for Keilah. I'm placing the Philistines in your hands.’ David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines. He scattered their cattle, beat them decisively, and saved the people of Keilah.”

Problem: The Philistines were raiding Keilah.
Plan: David went to prayer. God answered. “Go… save Keilah”.
Opposition: David’s troops did not want to go. They were afraid.
Confirmation: David did not argue with his men. Nor did he cave into their fears. “David went back to God in prayer” and God told him the same thing as before… “Head for Keilah.”
Results: David and his men beat the Philistines and “saved the people of Keilah.”

The problem with problems is they always require me to make decisions. That’s a problem! I don’t like to make decisions. Decision-making scares me. My decisions will positively or adversely affect my future and my loved ones. That’s where Jesus comes in. It would be wise for me to seek His guidance in every important decision I must make.

When I sense the the Lord’s direction, I can expect opposition. It is best neither to argue nor acquiesce. If someone who matters questions my decision, I should go back to prayer and await confirmation of the original message. If I hear the same thing in my soul again, then I must find the courage and gather the faith to be a leader.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

"Zebras... Stay Alert!"

1st Samuel 22.23 NKJV

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”

I’m fascinated by the animal kingdom. I fulfilled a boyhood dream by earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Fisheries with a minor in biology. I worked in a pet store cleaning bird cages, commercial fished in Southeast Alaska, and found employment with a distributor of animal specimens for college dissection classes. I grew up collecting snakes, turtles, spiders, crayfish, bugs, butterflies, salamanders, lizards, hamsters, rabbits, gerbils, tropical fish, dogs, and cats. I even had a pet goat and a skunk! My poor mother.

I still love to learn about the animal kingdom and watch spellbound when TV wildlife shows graphically depict a predator stalking and capturing its prey. I am amazed by female lions who stealthily surround a band of grazing zebras before springing into action.

The results are predictable. The victim is always the one that strayed too far from the herd.

David offered protection to Abiathar after the brutal slaying of his father Ahimelech.

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life
seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”

Jesus offers you and me the same protection. Oddly, zebras appear to possess only a vague notion of their vulnerability. The prey seem genuinely surprised when a lion leaps from the grass. If I were a zebra living in lion country, I’d stay near the middle of the crowd at all times.

According to the New Testament writer, Peter, I am a zebra living in lion country. 

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil,
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
1st Peter 5:8 NASU

There’s only one way to keep from being 'picked off' by the enemy of my soul. Remain near Jesus and His people. If I’m close to the edge, I’m an easy target. I must be aware of my own vulnerability and stay far away fro the outer limits of barely permissible, unwise, or isolated activities. 

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life 
seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”