Absalom: Hair to Die For (II Samuel 13-19)

You remember Fabio, don’t you?  He donned the covers of romance novels for years.  You may remember him from the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” commercials.  He is the male model with the long flowing hair.

Turns out there’s an ancient Semitic Fabio.  He name is Absalom.

 Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. 26 He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds,” Samuel 14:26 NLT.

Locks of Love hit their jackpot every year with him.

Women fawned over him.

Men wanted to be him.

And, he didn’t get what he wanted.  Might have been the first time.   You see he wanted revenge and justice.  You see, he had a beautiful sister, Tamar.  In fact, she was so beautiful that her half-brother Amnon went crazy for her.  I think he may have been a little touched to start with.  Well, he forced himself on Tamar, and then he disgraced her by refusing to marry her.  Well, Mr. Male Model Prince Absalom wanted his father King David to handle this situation.  David did nothing.  A good looking young prince was used to getting what he wanted, so he took matters into his own hands and waited his time until he could kill Amnon.  He got what he wanted.

Pride.  It’s something we celebrate nowadays.  There’s all sorts of pride.  We even have pride parades.  It might surprise you to know that the Bible doesn’t speak of pride as good thing.

“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.,” I John 2:16.

Pride is saying that you’re more important than others.  That your will overrides God’s will.  Absalom had that kind of pride.  He took his brother’s life and it wasn’t Absalom’s place to do it.

After Mr. Jewish Fabio killed his brother, he left Jerusalem for a couple of years.  Finally, Joab helped him make his way back to town, and finally into the court of the King.

Then, Absalom set in play a four year plan to take over the kingdom.  The beautiful man started courting all Israel.  He stole their hearts with his appearance and words.  And, he rose against his father.

Through a turn of events that we could only describe as a “God thing,” Absalom spurned good military counsel and took the one that lead to his demise.  In fact, it lead to him being caught in a tree.  Guess what caught him.  Guess what lead to his death.  It was all those beautiful locks of hair.

His pride was his hair.  His pride was his death trap.

I wonder how many times the same can be said of us?

Well, what’s the secret to this?  How do we get out of this death trap?

Well, we accept the Word of God.  It tells us that we are beloved.  You see, the Son of God went to the tree so we don’t have to.

We can all be members of his royal family…but doing so involves humble service.  Like our humble King, we take up our crosses and even die for him, and we rise to glory in his kingdom.

Our baptism is a death.  It’s a burial.  It’s a resurrection.  You want to see the Christian life…look at the waters of baptism.  You submit to it.  You receive it.  And, God blesses you as you humble yourself in his sight.  He lifts you up to new life.

Like David, even when we sin, we turn to him in repentance and in mercy and grace he forgives.  We keep going and serving even through the heartbreak.  We will sing to him and serve him in humility.

And, you know what?

He raises us up.

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Are (I Samuel 7)

The alarm sounded.  I was up at 2:30 AM!  Wow!  My folks even gave me a phone call.  I was ready.  Showered, drove to the church.  Met the Nicaragua mission team at the Central Church of Christ, and off we went.  Got to Birmingham, and it happened.  We boarded the plane.  Seated and ready for takeoff, we hear this announcement, “We’re having some technical difficulties with the fire protection in the luggage compartment.  Let’s go ahead and deplane and we’ll call the mechanic.”  It turns out the mechanic was not found, and we didn’t get to fly to Managua, Nicaragua, that day.  So, we headed back to Tuscaloosa.  Never been to Sunday church in shorts before.

Next day.  The alarm sounds!  I am up at 2:30 AM!  My folks call me (again).  Showered and ready, I meet Bill Rayburn at the Central Church of Christ building and we head to Birmingham.  Turns out it’s the same flight, same time, with American.  And, it turns out that problem had not been fixed, and our flight was cancelled.

Cancelled!

There was more than one honeymoon that was delayed.  One lady was bringing all the preparation for a beautiful wedding in Jamaica.  Another was just headed to her work.  We were missing important mission work.  We were all frustrated.

It had been quite the hassle.  Two days of waking up before the crack of dawn.  Two trips to Birmingham.  Hours of haggling with American Airlines agents.  Lines.  Did I mention lines.  I may or may not have lost my cool a time or two the first day.  I definitely got riled up the second.  I mean…why didn’t they fix the plane?

We rebooked through United and finally made our way down there that night.

Whew!  We got to where we wanted to be!  What a relief.  I had recently been told that I needed to work on my patience.   Got in some really good training there.

When we finally made it to the Managua Best Western and began our work with the churches here,  we were ecstatic.   We were where we wanted to be.  We were where we saw God as moving us in his mission.  We were going to minister to hundreds of children and carry out all the work we had done to give them a memorable and effective week of VBS.

Have you ever gotten where you want to be in life?

Somewhere you’ve worked for?  Maybe it was years in college.  Maybe it was years of courting that beautiful girl.  Maybe it was hours or practice.  Maybe it was hard work and dedication and perseverance that finally paid off.

Well, David could relate to that.

Think of all he went through.  He was anointed by Samuel as a young guy.  He was told he would be king.  But, he wasn’t yet.  He faced a giant.  He put up with the madness of a jealous king.  He wandered in the wilderness.  He hid in caves.  He fought in battles.  His family was taken from him (but he rescued them).  He saw the death of his best friend Jonathan.  And, through it all he persevered and kept standing in that line, waiting for God to do what he believe God has promised.  He waited to see the goodness of the Lord.  And, there it was.  He was crowned king.

He had gotten all he wanted.  All he had waited for.

Or, did he?

What did David really want?

Did he want to be in a particular place?  Did he really want the palace more than anything else?

Well, it turns out, not really.  He didn’t want a place for himself so much as he wanted a place for God.

In II Samuel 7, we read that the newly crowned King David wants something from God.  He wants to build him a palace.  He wants to build a temple in which to place the ark of the covenant.  He wants to make God great in the eyes of the people.  He wants a place for Him!

Think about that.  When you get to the place you want to be, is that really the place you want to be?

Yogi Berra wasn’t too far off when he say, “Wherever you are, there you’ll be!”

Here’s the thing.  David didn’t really want a geographic place for himself.  He didn’t really want a status nor a throne.  Do you know where David really wanted to be?

We don’t have to wonder.  He told us in Psalm 27:4,

“One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.”

In the words of the song, David just wanted to be where God is.  He didn’t want a throne if God wasn’t there.  He didn’t want a pasture if God wasn’t there.  And, I can tell you this, David would have been happy to wait in line at the American Airlines counter if he knew God was there.

Now, I have to tell you, sometimes I get caught up in my location and status.  I want to be where I want to be when I want to be there.  How about you?  Do you admire those patient prayer warriors who seem to always be content with their situation?  I do.  I seem to have spiritual ADD.  I forget so many times and get distracted from this primary fact that I want to share with you.

God is here.

He’s here in Managua in the hearts of the servants serving children.  He’s here in the hotel.  He’s even at the airport at the counter.  Why?

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” I Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that at the airport, you are the presence of God there?

Do you not know that at the restaurant, God is with you?

Do you not know that late at night and early in the morning and all through your day, you have something that is so precious and so special that it made a king beg.  What is it?

God’s temple is here.  You are it.

Sometimes we get so frustrated with the world.  Well, that’s ok.  There are frustrating things.  But, we are God’s presence renovating it.  We are God’s hands touching it.  We are God’s feet going to help.  We are God’s mind thinking the thoughts that transform that world.  And, when we realize that, we can know that we have the very thing we’ve wanted all along.  The only thing that will satisfy.

David said that “a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside,” Psalm 84:10.  I can say a day WITH GOD even if it’s haggling with airlines is better than a thousand WITHOUT him.

Why?

“In his presence is fullness of joy”, Psalm 16:11.

Let’s be the temple.  Let’s be the presence of God in the world.

A Time To Dance (I Samuel 6)

“Hello, this is Mr. Pavarotti.”

I didn’t believe him.  I thought it was a prank on that October day in 1996.  So, I said,

“John, this isn’t funny.”  John was a childhood friend and a prankster.

“No, this is Mr. Pavarotti.  I called many times.  You are a busy guy.”

Once I figured out exactly what was going on (after quizzing him hard), I just started screaming, “Thank you.”

I literally ran down the street to my friend’s house on that Wednesday night, and nearly broke down their door, and walked in and breathlessly exclaimed, “I just got a call from Luciano Pavarotti!”

I had written many letters to Luciano Pavarotti, because he was my hero when it came to singing.  He had received my letters, and decided to reach out.

When your hero calls, you get excited.  I ran.  I think I may have danced a little.  I shouted.

When was the last time you shouted for joy?

What about when your team won their last big game?  Maybe it was when you got that job.  Or, when she say, “yes.”

Now, what if the most important person in the world to you, said, “Yes”?

  • Maybe it’s your spouse.  Maybe you just long to hear them say, “Yes – I’m with you.”
  • Maybe it’s your child.  You just want to know they their answer to you is, “Yes – I love you, and I’m with you.”
  • Maybe it’s your customers.  Maybe what you long for more than anything is to hear them say, “Yes, I’m with you all the way.”

If the right one says “Yes,” then you will feel it.  Your foot will feel like tapping.  Your legs will feel like moving.  Your mouth will feel like shouting.  You just might dance.

When David Danced

When King David was crowned king, we don’t read about him dancing a jig.  When he defeated a giant, there is no record of cutting a rug .  When he escaped Saul, there is no note about skipping nor leaping.  But, when God said, “Yes,” David danced with all his might.

You see, the ark of the covenant represented the presence of God.  When you had the ark, you had God with you.  David had made some mistakes and he was questioning whether he’d be able to bring the ark to his city.  He wanted God’s presence more than anything. He wanted God himself.  And, when he thought he couldn’t have the ark with him, it broke his heart.  But, when he found out that he could bring the ark to his town, he literally threw off his kingly robes and danced like a little child.

Have you seen these videos of children’s reactions when their fathers come home from a long military deployment?  Well, that was David.  The ark had been away from him for so long.  He wanted to bring it home.  And, when he was convinced that he could, he just went wild.  He leaped and danced and sang and praised.  He had childlike ecstasy.

Do You Hear the Music?

David danced because he could hear the music.

Do you?

There is a symphony of grace that you need to experience.  It will sweep you away with it’s cadence.  You’ll feel the magic of its drama and the power of its melody.  You’ll dance to the orchestra of God’s grace.

And, where does it start?

Like David, you have to hear a simple word.  You have to experience the reality that God wants to be where you are.  Just think about it.  That’s why Jesus came.  He came to tell us, “Yes!”

I Corinthians 1:20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”

  • If you’re doubting if God really wants to touch your life, then look at the hands that touched a leper.  The answer is “Yes!” (Matthew 8:3).
  • If you’re wondering if God would come to your house, the house of a sinner, then ask Matthew, the tax collector.  The answer is , “Yes!” (Mark 2:13-17).
  • If you’re concerned that God will be with you in your trials, then look at Jesus on the stormy sea, and hear him say, “Peace, be still.”  The answer is “Yes!”
  • If you’re wondering if Jesus would clean out the grime and filth in your life, then see him watching the disciples feet, John 13.
  • When you look at the old rugged cross, we see the answer to the question, “Does God really love me enough to die for me?”  The answer is “Yes.”
  • The empty tomb proclaims the answer to the question, “Can God conquer death in order to be with me?”  The answer is “Yes!”

He would go to any lengths to be with you.  He can conquer any foe to be with you.

The answer in Christ is always. “Yes!”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

Now, I think I’ll go listen to some praise songs.   And, I hope no one notices, but I’ll probably be dancing in my seat.

A Time To Mourn (II Samuel 1-4)

John Wayne didn’t cry.  My father didn’t cry.  My grandfathers didn’t cry.  Neither did I.

But, then I got to know about how real men and women can cry.   I’m talking about war heroes who come home from Iraq and shed tears over the death of children.  I’m talking about people who mourn the loss of their loved ones.

And, I’m talking about one of the baddest men who ever lived.   A man who defeated the Philistine hordes.  As a young man he killed a bear and a lion.  To top it all off, he killed a giant.  Then, to add to that, he led one of the greatest armies in the world and stood up to a king.  I’m talking about David.

After King Saul tried to kill him, David prevailed.   Then, Saul was killed in battle.

What did David do when the man who sought his life was killed?

Some might party.  Others might quietly gloat.  Some might have a parade through the streets.

Not David. Here’s what the Bible says he did:

 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

Later, Saul’s son Ishbosheth fought David over the throne.   Two things happened.

  • Abner, the greatest opposing general, was killed.
  • Ishbosheth, the opposing King,  was murdered at home on his bed.

Now, this sounds like great news for David!  The opposing presumptive king is dead.  His big, bad general was no more a threat!

What did David do?  Did he dance?  Did he sing?  Did he play a  happy tune on the lyre?  Nope.  Not at all.

Quite the opposite.

He mourned.  He wept.

The baddest king of Israel cried when he heard of his enemies’ deaths.

Now, if David cried over the death of his enemies, how much more should we mourn the loss of our fellow Americans?

As Solomon said, there is a time to mourn.  This is it.  Let’s mourn the passing of our fellow image bearers (Genesis 1:26).  Then, let’s honor the image of God in all our brothers and sisters.  Let’s honor the image of God in our policemen and women.  Let’s honor the image of our Father in the black, white, Latino, Asian, old, young, rich, and poor.

Why did David mourn?  He saw someone made in the image of God being taken.

Now, what was it they said about David?  “He was a man after God’s own heart.”

If David mourned, then I wonder if God did, too.

I wonder if he does now.

He Strengthened Himself in the Lord (I Samuel 30)

David had it bad.  Months of avoiding the king’s deadly grip.  Then, his wives are taken.  His possessions are captured.  What was he to do?  His men rose up to stone him.  What did he do?

“He strengthened himself in the Lord.”

I imagine he’d done that before.

When the bear came, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When the lion came, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When Goliath, the mighty giant, came calling, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When King Saul sought his life, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

Now, with his people gone, his stuff taken, and his men ready to mutiny, it’s no surprise what he does.

He strengthened himself in the Lord.

Not only does he strengthen himself in the Lord, but he asks the Lord a question.  He asks, “Shall I pursue them?”

God answers, “Pursue them, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.”

David had been on a long march.  He had just come in from battle.  He’s been crying so hard he couldn’t go.  Now, God says to go.  He says to face the challenge.

What does David do?  He goes.

He doesn’t just go a little.  He goes a lot.

When 200 of his mean are to tired too go on, he goes.

He goes until he finds what God promised him, even if it takes a miracle.  Even if it takes a divine act.  David goes knowing the God who promises will surely make good on his promises.

So, when you’re past going, and when you feel like giving up, pull out a Psalm, and sing a song.  And, like David, we can rise and take what God has given.  

He’s promised, but you have to go.

And what will he do?  Where will he be?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:4-5

Surely, he will guide.  He will provide.  No need to fear.

Just go.

Jumping into the Unknown: I Samuel 24

Michael Holmes had made over 7.000 jumps.  This was a day like no other in New Zealand.  A day he’d never forget.  This time…he jumped…and his parachute didn’t open.

Randy Harris tells a story about black water rafting.  Black water rafting is very much like white water rafting…except that it’s in a cave.  So, they trekked and they traveled through the wild lands of New Zealand.  They huffed and they hiked through a cave filled with glowworms, until they reached their starting point.  A cliff.

As Randy peered over the edge, he saw the river below.  It was dark.  He says it was somewhere between 20 and 10,000 feet down.   As he looked over the precipice, the guide said, “1….2….3…jump!” Randy’s legs didn’t move.  He just stood there.  The guide asked him if he didn’t understand his New Zealand accent.  So, they went again…and before the count of three..Randy jumped.   And, he landed in the river below.  All safe and sound.

David was once in a cave, too.  He was hiding there with 600 fighting men, when King Saul entered.  That’s important because Saul put a shoot to kill order on David.  Kill him!  Here was the man who had tried to kill David on multiple occasions in the palace.  Here was the man who had killed the priests who had helped David  Yes, the spear throwing madman had entered the room…and David had his chance.   He crouched forward in the darkness, and he extended his blade.   He cut…the corner of Saul’s garment.  It was a cut to the king’s pride, but not to his throat.  In a display of restraint, David was making a statement, but he realized later that even this was wrong.  He couldn’t disrespect the king, whom he called God’s chosen, God’s anointed.

His heart burned within him, and he realized what he had to do.  He had to jump out of this cave.   He had to go over the cliff and into the hands of a militant mob.  He had to hand himself over to the king.  So, he did.  He walked out of that cave.  I don’t know if his hands trembled or his knees buckled, but I do know this….he jumped.  You see, he didn’t know what awaited him.  He didn’t know how Saul would react.  There were 3,000 armed men out there, and David was backed into a corner.

He jumped out into the open.  He jumped with legs of trusting faith.  He believed that the same God who helped him kill a giant would protect him from the armies of the king.  And, he knew that when he jumped,  that God would be with him.  So, David jumped out of that cave, and he lived.  Saul didn’t kill him.  He even asked David for forgiveness.  The mad monarch became the penitent pleader.  The hand that once threw a spear extended the olive branch.  David’s parachute opened, so to speak.

But, you know what, even if David had jumped and his parachute didn’t open, I believe God would have still been with David.  If the threads of Saul’s penitence had worn thin, and the parachute of mercy had fallen through,  God would still have been with David, and I believe he would have protected him.  Now, could you imagine that…jumping and your parachute not opening…and still surviving.  You might call that an act of God.  Some might say it was a miracle.

Do you remember Michael Holmes?  On that fateful day in New Zealand, he was the one who jumped 14,000 feet.  That’s nearly a 5K.   That’s 2.65 miles.  That’s a long way!  After his parachute didn’t open, he freaked out.  And, then something amazing happened. He rolled into a four-point horizontal roll, and the energy of the crash was dissipated.  He crash landed, but he survived.

So, while I’m not about to go jump out of a perfectly good plane, I will tell you what I’ve learned.  You sometimes need to jump into the arms of grace.  Jump with the legs of faith.

It may be a job.

It may be a relationship.

It may be a ministry.

I don’t know what it is for you, but it’s time to jump.  Make that leap of faith because that’s where God will show up and show out in your life.  The impossible might just happen.  Even if that parachute doesn’t open…God will be with you.

That’s God’s promise.  That’s God’s answer.  That’s how we face the giants in our lives.  That’s how we face the armies of the accuser.  We jump knowing that the greatest power is right there with us all along.  And, he makes people walk away even when the parachute doesn’t open.

How to Win at Sports and Life…White Men Can Jump

I’m going to tell you how to make your week better.  If you read this post, and follow the simple suggestion, you will be more productive at work, home, and play.  You will be more focused, more relaxed, and just better at what you do.  Want to know how?

It start with sports.  What is it they say about white men and basketball?  White men can’t jump.

So, if you take a group of white men and tell them you’re going to give them a test that measures their innate athletics ability, what do you think the results would be?

Now, what if you took a group of white men and told them you’re going to give them a test that measure their sports strategic thinking.  How do you think that might affect the results?

Which group do you think did better?

You guessed it.  It was the one that was told they were measuring their sports strategic thinking.  Why?

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

Here’s something you should tell yourself today:

 I have worth. God loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me, John 3:16.

I have hope.  God is working all things out together for good for them that love him, Romans 8:28.

I have security.  No one can pluck me out of his hand, John 10.

I am more than a conqueror through him that loved me, Romans 8:37.

So, tell yourself a positive, uplifiting, empowering story of worth, hope, and security this week.   And, you can be more than a conqueror.

Just ask this kid.

 

 

Mercy Not Sacrifice: I Samuel 21

The giant slayer was now the spear evader.  The one who slew tens of thousands is now the one who is being pursued.  And, he’s being hunted not by some giant.  Not by some Philistine.  He is being hunted by the King of Israel.  Saul.  The sweet musician of Israel is now running for his life.

Guercino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Guercino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Where does he run?

Well, he makes  a pit stop with the priest at Nob.  He enters the holy area with his men.  The priest is stunned.  Why is David here?  Isn’t this odd?  Why would the biggest military leader in all of the land show up unannounced, and why isn’t the army with him?  You can understand the priest’s misgivings.  You can hear the quiver in his voice when he asks David what’s going on.

Now, what happens next is what really gets to me.  He eats the consecrated bread.  The priest lets him do it.  In fact, the priest even gives him a sword, which turns out to be Goliath’s.  How’s that for a parting present!

Aert de Gelder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aert de Gelder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Back to the showbread or the Bread of the Presence.  Now, that might not sound like a big deal to you…but to someone who grew up with a “never break the rules” mentality…then this really hits me hard…because after all, wasn’t David a man after God’s own heart?

Leviticus 24:9 says that the show bread is specifically for Aaron and his sons, i.e., the priests from the tribe of Levi.  And, David is not of the tribe of Levi.

So, was it right for David and his men to eat this holy bread?

Well, my initial response is a strong, kicking and screaming…

No! No! No!  Of course not!

Now, what if someone wrote a commentary on this and said that, in fact, it was alright for David to do this.  What if their argument was this:

It’s about the big picture here, and not about the ritual.

What if their argument was something like:

God is all about mercy and not about ritual and ceremony.

How would you react?

Well, some might call that person a false teacher.  Some might call them a liberal.  Some might even call them a heretic.  But, here’s the thing.  Would you like to know the author of this commentary?

Are you ready for it?

It’s Jesus.

God’s Son.  The Son of Man.  The Messiah.  King of kings and Lord of lords.  And, as someone has pointed out, he really has an advantage in Bible interpretation.

So, what does he say?  Well, listen to the words of Matthew 12:3-7:

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

I’m partial to Jesus’ argument.

It wreaks of grace.  It smells like the Lamb of God.

It looks like the God who stoops.  It looks like Servant who would wash the disciples grimy feet and then suffer on a cruel cross.

It sounds a lot like the one whose voice calms the storms and stills the tempest and one day will raise our bodies to life.

Yes, this sounds a lot like Jesus.

And, Jesus’ words convict me.   The one whose side was pierced pierces my heart with his words of grace, with his Sword of Spirit.

And, ironically, it’s these words that cut me deep:

And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Those words cut to my very heart whenever someone brings up that question, so do you think y’all are the only ones going to heaven.

Those words ring in my ears whenever I think of all the people with whom I’ve argued about ritual and forgot about mercy.

Those words sear in my mind whenever I’m starting to condemn other sincere Christ seekers who might not have all the same understandings as I do.

The Point

Now, back to David.  Why was David approved of God in that he did what he did?  Well, he was on God’s mission.  He was serving God’s purpose.  He was God’s anointed.  The showbread was there to serve God’s purpose, not the other way around.

That’s the same thing Jesus was saying when he said it was alright for him and his disciples to pluck grains of wheat on the Sabbath in order to eat.  That were doing God’s work.  He was God’s anointed.

The question isn’t really how do we, like David, get to do something that we normally wouldn’t be permitted to do.  That misses the point.

The real point I want to get to is how do we, like David, and like Jesus, how do we really get on purpose for God?  How do we really get into his work, his mission, and his passion, so much so that God is literally helping us along the way with his creation.  How do we do that?

Well, we simply follow Christ.  We take our cross.  We get involved in the real work of his kingdom building in this world.  That’s a lot harder than simply getting the right ritual.  That’s about becoming God’s person.  Becoming the body of Christ.  We take on a heart like his and we act like him.  Our hands become his hands.  Our feet become his feet.  And, should we do so, and one day we find ourselves needing some provisions in order to do his work, then God will provide..

 

Questions:

  1.  How do we sometimes value the wrong things?
  2.  Do we ever miss the forest for the trees?
  3. When you first read this, did you side with the idea that David was wrong?
  4. How does Jesus interpretation of this event resonate with you?
  5. How can we value mercy over ritual?
  6. How can we become Jesus’ hands and feet?

By the Numbers: I Samuel 18-19

The numbers don’t lie, but people do.

The numbers don’t lie, but you may be looking at the wrong numbers.

You may not be looking at all the numbers.

And, when God is in the numbers, then everything changes, because you just can’t compare a number with the infinite.

That’s why a young guy named Samuel could replace the established priestly line of Eli.

It’s why an outnumbered Israel could defeat a highly numbered Amorite army.

It’s why a young boy with a sling shot could slay a giant.

Why?  Because little is much if God is in it.

So, if you’re feeling small, and you’re just at the start of something, don’t fear.  You could be like teenage David.  You may still be tending sheep.  You may still be like Hannah, and you’re into middle age without a child, and you want to know why.  God can birth in you a new thing.  You may be at the start of a new project, and you may feel like David with a sling shot in your hand, facing a giant, but you know what?  If God is on your side, you can slay that giant.  You can go out and come in in the sight of all Israel.  You can triumph if God is on your side.

The question is, are you on his?

If so, you may have some troubles.  David did.  He had a man trying to kill him.  Not just any man.  The king.  The man who celebrated his victory was now seeking his life.  The man who rewarded David for killing with a sling shot…is now trying to kill David with a spear.

Read I Samuel 18 and 19, and you’ll at least 3 times that King Saul tried to kill David by pinning him against the wall…while he was paying music!  I mean can, you imagine.  You’ve risked your life, and now you’re the king’s personal musician.  You’re playing your heart out.  The tones of the strings coming together in a beautiful minor chord, and the rhythm is swelling, and you look up…and there’s the king with a spear….pointed at you.  You jump out of the way just in time, and the spear goes deep into the wall.  The king just tried to kill you!

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was in that situation, I might start counting my numbers.  I might see that the military was behind me.  I might see that Saul’s son Jonathan and his daughter Michal were on my side.  I might start doing my calculations, and arrive at a number: 1.  That’s the number of stones I’d have to put in my pouch and sling them into Saul’s head.  He wouldn’t even see it coming.  I’d take him down just like I took Goliath.  I mean, by the numbers, he isn’t even as big, and I’m stronger than ever.

But..that’s not what David did.  He didn’t count the numbers like that.  He didn’t paint by the numbers, he painted his life with the brush strokes of faith.   This was a faith that said, I will follow God if it means kill a giant or protecting a crazy, murderous, out of control king.

He said, I’ll go where you send me even if it means into target practice for the mad king!  But, as you know, that’s not what happened.  Saul may have thought David was in his cross-hairs, but he was really in the bulls-eye of God’s favor and grace.  He was stepping out in faith, and that’s where God blesses.  That’s where God provides, and that’s where the numbers just don’t add up.

So, if your math is ever called into question, remember something.  There’s one equation you can always be sure of.

God >

God is greater!

Got Faith?

 I was seated alone on a row toward the front.  In walked a man I had seen before, but didn’t really know.  He said his name was Doug Prater.  We sang Farther Along.  I just sat there and listened to his clear and steady tenor.
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong
When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year
Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand it all, by and by.
Shane Prater was young.  We prayed, and we thought he would survive, but he didn’t.  As cancer ravaged his body, his faith remained.  So did his father’s.
Who was the man who sat by me?  He is Shane’s father.  As he sat there alone singing Farther Alone, I almost got emotional.
To hear him singing that song…it meant something.
I happened to know a little about this man’s history…and to see him quietly and calmly sing those words…it was powerful.
The sermon’s question was, “Got Faith?”
Mr. Prater’s song was  a resounding, “Yes!”
That’s the faith that that is the victory, that’s the faith that overcomes the world.  That’s the faith that says, Lord I know you’re working out your purposes, and I’m glad to be a part of it, even when when it hurts.  It’s the faith that say,s I know that after my body has decayed, that I will see God, and one day he will resurrect our vile bodies and make them like his glorious body.  It’s the faith that keeps us going, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.