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Posts Tagged ‘David’


Ripe Arkansas Black apples.

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Compare and contrast, we all do this don’t we? And, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we do it a lot.

 It doesn’t matter if we’re believers or not, we look around at other people’s lives, then look at our own and automatically what do we do? We compare and contrast ours to theirs, and theirs to ours, to see what the differences are and who seems to be doing better in our eyes.

 Whether we’re actually born with a little gene with compare and contrast on it, or we’re taught it, it sort of reminds me of the game that some of us played while we were planted in front of the television watching Sesame Street.

The game was played on the television screen when someone held an apple in one hand and another apple in the other hand. You saw the two apples were exactly the same, then a deep, booming voice off camera would say, “same”. Another shot would show one hand holding an apple and the other holding an orange ( or some other fruit) and the booming voice would say “different”. It showed very clearly that some things were the same and other things were different.

 Of course, when we’re children we need to know what is the same, and what is different because we need to know how to differentiate between things. But, as we get older, seeing the differences between things becomes seeing the differences between ourselves, then making value judgments and decisions about another person or ourselves based on those differences.

 Think about it, very rarely do we automatically see the similarities we have with another person. Usually we see the differences first, then the similarities, if we even get that far.

 Unfortunately, we do this in all arenas of life, with our jobs, our houses, our spouses, our children, and our relationships with the LORD. We look at someone and assume that they are so much more spiritual than we are, so much closer to the LORD than we are, or so much less so depending on our perception of them, which drives division between us instead of unity.

 Or, worse yet, we look at what we perceive as blessings ( usually defined as wealth and achievement in the Western World) coming one person’s way and wonder why someone else doesn’t recieve the same blessings from the LORD, then take it one step further and use that as the plumb line to determine how close each of us is to the LORD.

 Think about that. Very often we use physical wealth and success to determine the strength of someone’s spiritual connection with the LORD.

 When I see others do this, and yes, do it myself, I am reminded of Job, who had every physical blessing only to have it all taken away from him. His friends assumed it was because there was something very wrong in his relationship with the LORD that caused it, when in actual fact it was the complete opposite. It was his righteousness and his reverence of the LORD that allowed it.

 The experience reaffirmed to Job, and to us in looking at his story, that no matter what we have, or don’t have, the most important thing is having reverence for, and rightness with the LORD, because He doesn’t view things the way we do.

 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

 1 Samuel 16:7

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There are certain people in scripture that really appeal to me and King David is one of them. Not because he became king, but because he believed the LORD would do what He said He would do no matter what. David believed the LORD even when he was living in caves and it looked like there was no way ever that he would become king.

He is referred to as a man after God’s own heart, and despite all that he did, the wrong decisions, the breaking of Torah law, the self-reliance, he always came back to the LORD, and quickly too. Not only that, but he shared everything with the LORD, he praised Him in his sorrow, his fear, his joy and his love.

He shared everything with the LORD, it just bears repeating doesn’t it?

In Psalm 56 David states that the LORD collects every tear we cry, that He collects them in a bottle and cherishes them because they are ours, and I dare say because they represent all of our life’s emotions.

Just recently I was thinking about this very thing, tears in a bottle, and that David was talking about the sorrows of life. All of us have shed more than our fair share, Christ Himself said there is trouble in this world, but not to fear because He has overcome the world.  If Christ Himself says you’re going to have trouble, you’d better believe it, and you’d better believe that it will come with tears.

Yet tears don’t always come with pain do they? Although that’s the most common thing we think of when we think about tears, they also come with great joy, with laughter and with love. They express the full spectrum of our emotions from the unbearably painful to the unbearably lovely.

And, I’m sure that the LORD catches those joyful tears too. Not just the ones we shed in our pain, but also the ones we shed when we are overwhelmed by love and the beauty of life. He is there with us in them all, experiencing every emotion with us, catching every tear that slides down our cheeks because they are precious to Him, and that’s because we are precious to Him.

“Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears;….”

2 Kings 20:5a

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Hearts

Image by eirikso via Flickr

Love, it’s a funny thing. It can mean many different things to many different people. We’re given ideas about love from a multitude of different places that tell us how we express love, receive love and allow love to come into our lives.

Then we’re told how we can express love better, as if most of us don’t already know that we’re not so good at that already. Not many of us will go as far as to say we’re good at this thing called love. In my estimation those that do, either are not facing reality or have bumps along the way of their love pathways that they are guarding as closely as Fort Knox.

The funny thing is that even though we know we’re not very good at it, as is evidenced by so many books, shows and other help’s that are out there, we don’t really take the necessary steps to actually learn from the One – namely Christ – who knows all about love and how it works.

Why?

In our world of ‘me first’, the love that Christ introduces us to just doesn’t seem very personally fulfilling.

Again why?

Because sacrifice of our own self just doesn’t do anything for any of us on a personal level. And, it’s been that way since the beginning of man. Although we would all like to think that we’ve come from some sort of Golden Age when things were better back when and our culture has become something other than what it was with our “me first” mentality, the reality is that mankind has always been about “me first”. It just looks a little different in this day and age.

If we go back to Genesis and look at Abraham, a friend of God, letting his nephew choose his portion of land first, which turned out to be the best, most fertile land, some of us naturally think Abraham got the short end of the stick because he gave up his right to choose first and get the best land. Why would he do such a thing? Precisely because he was a friend of God.

David’s another one. He’s called a man after God’s own heart. Impetuous, emotional, seeming to break all of God’s law at one time or another. But, he didn’t take the kingship from Saul when he could have. David sacrificed his own life for years, living in caves with criminals, because one thing he wouldn’t do was take what the Lord hadn’t allowed him to have yet. So he showed love for Saul by waiting and in the process he sacrificed a portion of his life because he was a man after God’s own heart.

There are others in scripture and in the world around us who do the very same thing, but many times we don’t see them because what they do is so foreign to us. And this is pretty much because what God has done is so foreign to us too. We have hard time getting on-board with a God who says love is sacrifice, because we don’t see what’s in it for us.

We like a kind, gentle and loving God as long as that love is based on how we define love which generally has it’s foundation in “what does it do for me?” instead of His kind of love that says, “So what about me? What can I do for someone else?” Bottom line, is that His kind of love is a little hard for us to focus on because it’s so foreign to us. Until He allows us to focus on it it just looks fuzzy and unreal.

And with love, like pretty much everything else with the Lord, is not about how we define it, but about how He defines it and not only defines it but does it. Because He doesn’t just tell us what to do and expect us to do it, He shows us what to do then just asks us to follow Him on the path He’s already cleared for us.

“On this account the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment of my Father.”

John 10:17-18

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Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to t...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s funny because the last couple of days I keep reading, and rereading, the Book of Ruth. Even though you’d think that Esther would be the book of the week.

I have always loved the Book of Ruth. One of the first school reports I ever wrote when I was young was about the Book of Ruth. There was just something that resonated with me about a young woman who loved Naomi, her mother-in-law, so much that she would sacrifice the life she could have had by going back to her own family for the great unknown of following Naomi into the future.

Yet, there’s so much more to the story than that of Ruth, who gave up everything she could have because of her great love for Naomi, and, in the process, ended up with it all given back to her in spades. I mean, really, she ended up marrying one of the wealthiest guys around, who was taking care of her before she even realized it. And, by marrying Boaz she secured a life for both herself and her mother-in-law. Not only that, but she was King David’s great-grandmother and, as such, in the lineage of Jesus as well.

This week, as I read and reread the story, it occurred to me that the Book of Ruth isn’t actually about Ruth at all. It’s about the Lord’s faithfulness to Naomi. Now this thought may have crossed my mind before, but I don’t remember it, and it certainly didn’t have the impact on me that it did this week.

The book starts with Naomi, it ends with Naomi, and in between is the Lord’s provision for Naomi in the form of Ruth and Boaz. When you look a little more closely at the story, it becomes apparent that sometimes our lives are woven in such a way as to be a deep and abiding blessing for someone else.

In other words, the Lord may, and usually does, form our lives to fulfill His promise of care and provision for someone else, not necessarily ourselves. Just like He did with Ruth’s life which was formed in such a way as to provide for Naomi.

This doesn’t always sit well with any of us, we want our lives to be about us, not anyone else or the Lord’s provision to them. Yet, in scripture that’s all you really see, how the Lord uses His own people to take care of others, from Abraham who took care of Lot, to Joseph who took care of his family, to Moses who took care of the people of Israel, to Rahab who took care of the spies, the list goes on and on, showing how God uses the lives of His people to fulfill His promises of love, care and provision to others.

This idea really shouldn’t come as such a surprise to us, even though it does. Because after all, didn’t Jesus do the same?

“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Praise the LORD who has not left you without a family redeemer today.'”

Ruth 4:14

 

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Do you ever feel like everything’s just gone sideways? One minute you’re happily heading in a direction that God seems to have led you in going right down the middle of the road, when the next thing you know, you’re listing to the right or the left wondering what’s going on?

Our natural tendency is to fix things, right them, because if we’re listing to one side or another then something must surely be wrong, shouldn’t it? It’s not like our direction has changed, but because of the tilt or sidestep that takes us in another track on the same path, our perspective changes making everything look weird.

This perspective change can be subtle, or all-encompassing, but you will know when it happens to you, followed by the inevitability of your trying to take over and make things right.

Every once in a while God either causes the siutation or allows it, either way the end result is the same, a deep core level change that throws us off-balance. It not only throws us off-balance but it confuses us, and although we are on the same path as before, we start to question God, ourselves and whether we’re actually doing what we’re supposed to be doing at all.

Because if things are a little off doesn’t that mean something’s wrong? Even if God has assured us that everything’s okay and He has things well in hand? And not only that, but to continue to rely on His promises and what He has for us even if things look like they’re out of sync, out of timing and well, off kilter.

I’m reminded of King Saul who has a really bad reputation because of how he ended up and his single-minded obsession with killing David. But, before all that he was a pretty decent king, one who fought his battles hard, looked like he was following God and was blessed by God.

Yet, it was in one of those listing times that we get a glimpse into where his heart truly lay and his ability to really trust God when it looked like everything was sideways and God wasn’t anywhere nearby taking care of anything.

In those days it was very important to make an offering to God before battle, and according to the Law only priests could do that. It didn’t matter one wit  if you were king and needed to go into battle. God had spoken and you were expected to follow what He said.

In 1 Samuel 13 Saul was set to lead his troops into a battle against the Philistines. The Israelites were in a bad spot a ‘sticky wicket’, as my Nann used to say. The Philistine’s numbers were huge compared to the Israelites and Saul needed to have the ritual  offering performed so he could rally the troops and start the battle. Yet, the High Priest Samuel who told Saul he would be at Gilgal to perform the offering at a certain time didn’t show up when he said he would.

Saul was desperate, his troops were deserting him and the Philistines were waiting. It looked like everything was going sideways, unraveling so he decided that the things that God had said just didn’t apply in the situation. He performed the offering himself.

We are told it was just as he finished that Samuel walked up. Think about that for a moment, just as Saul was finishing up the ritual the only person who was supposed to perform it showed up, which means God was providing, Samuel was on his way, but Saul couldn’t see it. With just a little more patience on Saul’s part, a little more trust in God and not what his own perspective on the situation was, would have averted what ended up being one of the worst decisions of his life.

It turned out to be the pivotal moment in his life. His whole kingdom rode on that decision, literally. Samuel laid it out on the line for Saul when he saw what Saul had been “forced” to do according to Saul himself.

“Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure.'” 1 Samuel 13:13-14a

If he had just trusted God to provide, if he had just been a little more patient, God would have given him the kingdom. As it was, by getting ahead of God and doing what he knew was wrong in the sight of God, even though his reasons looked valid, he literally lost the kingdom.

Saul panicked, he was afraid and he gave into that fear forgetting who the God of Israel truly was.

Saul’s decision reveals something far deeper than someone who took matters into his own hands. It shows that he was much more concerned with the rituals of his faith than a heart faith in the God who had given him everything, put him on the right path and although everything looked like it was going sideways was going to take care of it in His own way and timing, not Saul’s.

Ultimately Saul was replaced, by David, a man who made possibly far worse worldly mistakes than Saul ever did – sending the husband of a woman that he got pregnant to the front lines to ensure his death and cover up his own culpability doesn’t rank very highly in the ‘you’re doing things right’ category – yet it was David who was called a man after God’s own heart.

Why? Because when things went sideways David went to God. Generally he didn’t take matters into his own hands, he asked God what he was supposed to do, then waited on God for an answer. Sometimes he did what we all do, he panicked, got anxious, didn’t ask God about anything and just charged ahead. But when he realized what he had done, he didn’t make excuses for his behavior, or list out all the reasons why he was justified to do what he did, he went right back to God and made things right.

David knew God well enough, had spent enough time with Him that he knew the God he served, and because of that he knew that God would come through even if everything looked crazy.

We all make these kinds of decisions, don’t we? We think we know how God is.  We know we’re supposed to trust Him. We know that He’s taking care of things on a large-scale far past what we can see.  But when things go a little sideways, if we’re knocked to one side of the path or the other and it makes our perspective different, we get a little crazy.

Our actions speak louder in those times than at any other time in our lives. Do we run ahead of God, taking matters into our own hands even when we’re not convinced we should do so, and in some cases are flat-out know we’re not supposed to, because it looks like God isn’t going to deliver? Or, do we rest in the knowledge of who God is?

When life goes sideways, does it reveal that you are a Saul or a David?

“Do not fear, for I am with you: Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

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At this time I’m casually looking at a calendar I bought at the Galleria Borghese in Rome last Summer. It is a very small thing, maybe 2 inches by 2 inches. Every month – the month and days written in Italian, go figure:) – features a small picture of a sculpture by one of the greats, Bernini.

The January – yes, I know it’s May, but bear with me – picture is one of David as he is in the action of slinging the pebble, or rock, that brought down Goliath. The thing that really strikes me is the moment in the piece. The muscles tensing before the throw underneath the smooth white marble skin. The stance of his body that is twisted, tensing, winding up for the throw because he only had one chance to get it right.

This was before David became king, when he was the youngest son of a family whose business was agriculture. A time when most of his days and nights had been spent in the field with his sheep, mastering the slingshot, singing to God. Little did he know that mastering the slingshot was going to bring down the most feared enemy of the Israelites, little did he know that he literally would have only one shot to bring down the giant. A bulls-eye of a space to hit, just a small space in Goliaths armor that bookies on the sidelines were probably giving a billion and one chance to hit its mark.

But hit he did, right out of the park, which just goes to show you that sometimes the mundane everyday life we all seem to live may be preparing us for that opportunity that God wants us to have, that one in a billion chance that God is preparing us to accomplish.

After all, in God’s world, where we live and breath and have our being, one in a billion happens all the time.

“LORD, You are my portion and my cup of blessing, You hold my future.”

Psalm 16:5

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