What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Repentance and Lordship

Last week I talked about the difference between Saul and David. Both men had similar personalities including ruthlessness, lying, and other immoral traits. The difference between them was a matter of the heart. Saul refused to see God as preeminent while David recognized his own shortcomings and repented of them. Today, I’m going to do some more meditating on repentance.
In another Bible study I do with a different friend, we read an article by Robert Boyd Munger entitled My Heart – Christ’s Home. Basically this article is an allegory or a metaphor where each room in the house is given over to Jesus. Each room represents a different aspect of our personalities, hobbies, or concerns of our hearts. As we walk with Jesus through our hearts, we see where some of the things we value are not things we want Jesus to see or be exposed to. One room at a time is examined and changed by the influence of Christ in our lives. Not only is the room changed but our attitudes about our thoughts and behaviors change leading us to repent and turn things over to Jesus.
In the final section of the allegory, there’s a locked but stinky and small cupboard. Just when we think we’ve turned over everything to God, the smell from this room becomes unbearable and Jesus says if something’s not done about it, He’ll be forced to move to the porch or away altogether. In the allegory, the smells emanates from the stuff we want to take to our graves with us, often things dealing with some long past event or feeling or thought. Some strongly held belief, which we just don’t want to let go of. Yet Jesus stands outside this closet and asks us to get rid of the smell.
It’s not enough to ask for Jesus to forgive us for our sins. Yes, He will forgive us, but the quality of our relationship with Him will be hindered. In the allegory, the homeowner realizes that if he truly wants a great relationship with Jesus everything about his house needs Jesus to touch it – even those things we wish to keep hidden. Some of those things may require more strength than we possess to deal with. The closet holding our most stinky stuff torments us, yet we are unable to power our own way into making the necessary changes (even as we repent). So the homeowner realizes that the power to change is totally reliant on Jesus. However, Jesus tells the homeowner that He doesn’t have the authority to do whatever He wants with the house since He’s not the one who owns it.
So the homeowner decides he wants to give Jesus the house and gets the title and signs it all over to Jesus. Now everything part of the house is under Jesus’ control. I have given Jesus various rooms in my heart to sort through over the last 40 years, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I was willing to give Him everything – including the stinky cupboard. The thing I was holding onto of which I just couldn’t let go was the idea that if things got too depressing and hopeless, I could kill myself. Holding onto that belief hindered my relationship with Jesus. When I finally decided suicide was not an option and I was giving every aspect of my life over to God, my outlook on life and my relationship with Jesus became better. My relationship with God is more intimate because there’s not the underlying stink of thinking I was in control of my own life and death. I have given my heart to God fully. Repentance of the individual characteristics of the various rooms was good enough to maintain a static relationship with Jesus; however, I now experience a dynamic and peaceful relationship with Jesus knowing He’s in total control of my life.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Honorable and Dishonorable

We like to think about David as this great man of God who is constantly seeking God’s will and doing exactly what God wanted him to do. We focus on the part where God says that David is a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). What we forget is that David was a man like any other man. This means he was also sinful (Jesus being the only man who never sinned).
We tell the story of David and Goliath and how great David’s faith was (laying aside that he was seeking something for himself in the process). We tell the story of David conquering his tens of thousands (assuming it was all credited to God’s power). We tell the story of David choosing not to kill Saul because he was God’s anointed (but fail to realize that it was for his own protection he didn’t violate God’s laws).
In 1 Samuel 27, David does act honorably in some ways, but he also acts dishonorably in others. He is a man like every other man. Not all we do is good and not all we do is bad. David was honorable in that he took care of his family. In verse 3 we find David caring for his family and the families of his followers: “And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, each with his household, even David with his two wives . . .” He did not leave them defenseless in Judah with Saul on the prowl. Also, David moved his people away from the capital city of the Philistines to Ziklag where there was a greater propensity for the worship of the God of Israel (Ziklag had once been a part of the land God designated as Judah but the Israelites failed to conquer it). It was close to the boundaries of Judah and there were many Israelites living and worshiping there.
However, David was also ruthless and deceptive. He carried out raids on areas belonging to the Philistines yet told Achish (the Philistine king) that his raids were in the Negrev of Judah. David accumulated much wealth and prosperity through conducting these raids. David knew that Achish would approve of raids on Judah’s territories and highly disapproves of raids on his own people. Also, David didn’t just take the belongings of the towns he raided. He ruthlessly “would attack the land, leaving alive neither men nor women, but taking the sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and clothing” (verse 9). The reason he did this is clearly stated in verse 11:
The reason David spared neither men nor women to be brought to Gath is that he thought, ‘We don’t want them telling on us, saying, “David did so-and-so.”’
The key to this article is to highlight the fact that David was really not a better man than Saul (or us). However, there is a difference. It’s not David’s thorough goodness that separates him from Saul and others who are not approved by God; it’s his repentance before God. We also can be people approved by God by our repentance. That’s how we become honorable.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Another Chance to Trust God

In 1 Samuel 26, we find Saul again pursuing David. And, again, David has the opportunity to kill Saul. And, again, David does not kill Saul. In verses 9-11, David gives two reasons for not striking Saul dead. David gives his companion, Avishai his cousin,  these reasons (based on notes from Matthew Henry’s commentary).
First, in verse 9, “. . . David said to Avishai, ‘Don’t destroy him! Nobody can raise his hand against ADONAI’s anointed without becoming guilty!’” (Complete Jewish Bible, CJB). Reason number one for not killing Saul is it would be a sinful affront to God’s ordinance. This issue of breaking God’s ordinances is taken up again in the New Testament. Romans 13:2 says, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (NASB). Since the ordinance is to not harm God’s anointed king, David recognizes that it’s not his place to harm Saul in any way. He wanted to be obedient to the commands of God.
In verse 10, “David then added, ‘As ADONAI lives, ADONAI will strike him down, or the day will come for him to die, or he will go down to battle and be swept away.’” (CJB).  The second reason David gives Avishai for not killing Saul is it would be sinful anticipation of God’s providence. David wanted to leave it up to God to determine the time and situation of Saul’s death. Assuming he had the right to decide that, and doing things his own way, would be sinful.
Pondering this, I realized that sometimes I make decisions that are better left up to God. I try to push my agenda and expect my desired outcomes regardless of what Jesus might want or have planned. I’ve seen it in my life and in the lives of others. We push our agenda and it doesn’t work out “right.” Things don’t go as planned. Usually, that results in anger and resentments. Sometimes that leads to further consequences and greater problems to be solved. This especially happens when I fail to take the chaos in my thoughts and situations to God in prayer – before I take some misguided action.
God has called us to be people of prayer. I’m making a new commitment in that area this year hoping for greater peace, direction, and a deepening relationship with God. As our Pastor, Mark Wilson, said Sunday, it’s the basis for a spiritual awakening for individuals and for the church. I want to be further awakened. Prayer and consulting God, before I act, is part of the solution.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Wise Woman

Returning to the study of 1 Samuel. We’ve been following the exploits of David as he flees from Saul. Saul wants David’s life. God is working in the wilderness to prevent that from happening. Picking up in 1 Samuel 25, we get a break from David’s ongoing struggles with Saul. It’s an interesting side story that shows us some of David’s characteristics (not necessarily positive) and the character of a woman who talks David out of doing something that could diminish David’s future reign.
So, David and his men (some commentators project 600 men by this time), are moving from one place in the desert to another keeping on the run from Saul. While they are out there, David’s friend and mentor Samuel dies. Samuel, who Saul probably still consulted from time to time, was a buffer of sorts between Saul’s irrational obsession to kill David and David who is not seeking to harm Saul in any way. As a result, David moves his men even further out into the wilderness. Lacking for provisions, David sends a few of his men to a very rich man near Carmel to ask for some provisions. This man’s name was Nabal (which means “fool” which will be shown to exemplify his character). The man refuses in a very rude and insulting way and David’s men return with the message.
David became incensed and told his men to ready themselves to go and slaughter every man in Nabal’s household. Here’s where we get to the wise woman. Nabal’s wife heard about the incident from one of the young men. Her name is Abigail (meaning “joy of her father). Abigail tells her men to assemble a large amount of food and animals without Nabal knowing about it. Abigail tells the men to take it to David and she would be following them shortly. Again, she did all this without tell Nabal (who was busy partying with the sheep shearers who were shearing his sheep).
Abigail, according to her word, got on a donkey and went out to meet David. She found him and his heavily armed men coming down towards her. She “hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. Then she proceeds to ask David to let her speak, reminds David that he has not taken revenge into his own hands before, asks David to accept the gifts she has brought, reminds David that he is destined to fight the battles of the Lord (not merely avenge himself), and reminds David that God will arrange for him to be ruler over all of Israel.
David recognizes Abigail’s wisdom and withholds his might from harming Nabal. God did avenge this affront to David within a matter of days. Nabal dies after what looks like could have been a severe stroke. Then David marries Abigail.
Were it not for the wise actions of Abigail, it is possible that David would have carried out his plan and murdered all the men in Nabal’s camp. How would the people of Israel have viewed David if he had done so? Would David remain a king after God’s own heart or would he have forfeited God’s blessing on him? We don’t know how things would’ve turned out, but things would have been different.