Monday, November 26, 2018

Potential vs. Actual

It's important to understand that Bible narratives are just that--written accounts of other's lives. We cannot draw direct commands from their examples, but we can certainly learn principles and see God more clearly.

Jonathon, Saul's son, keeps coming to the forefront in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. Unlike his father, he lives by faith, trusting God with the outcome. One day Jonathon took his armor bearer to scout out the Philistine (enemy) garrison. Traveling between two crags, Jonathon said, "Come and let us cross over tot he garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few." They pushed forward and took out 20 men, creating an uproar and battle that continued and spread.

Watching that same courage and faith work in David's life a short time later (as he killed Goliath), "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David...." (1 Samuel 18:1). One young man would become the father of kings and the line of Christ; the other would serve his capricious father, dying an early death on the battlefield. Both were men of valor, courage, faith, action, and promise.

We, American Christians, especially American Christian parents, often get distracted by "potential." We tend to get caught up in our children's education, opportunities, challenges, stimulation and growth to the detriment of character. We are so compelled to create children in our own image (or the image we always wanted), that we fail to consider God's purpose, direction, and plan. At times our children complained about boredom with the public school system. "Being a mom isn't so different," I would counter, "there's nothing challenging about cleaning toilets and doing laundry." What if it's not about "what I do" or "how much I do" but "how I do it?"

As I read about Jonathon, I could see great potential. Surely he would have made a great king: one who loved others well, willingly risked his life, and pursued God's revealed will despite the cost. If nothing else, he and David would have made an incredible Dream Team for Israel! The two of them, side by side, could have ruled righteously and held one another accountable. But that was not God's plan. Jonathon lived in the shadow of a domineering, violent, angry father, united by a covenant to David who was destined to take the crown. We know little of Jonathon's family, pursuits, dreams, or victories.

What we do know is that Jonathon was humble. Faithful. Loving. Trustworthy. Courageous. Firm. Loyal. Strong. Swift. Generous. Does that not describe our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ? He served (and continues to serve) the least deserving; He gave His life in the line of duty; He loves with His whole being.

I believe that Jonathon is an example to each of us that life is not about the glitz, the glam, the bling, the wow, or pow. His audience was not the watching world, his  tyrannical father, faithful armor bearer, or kindred spirit. His one, only, true audience was His Creator-Father-King, the same One we serve in our most mundane, difficult, painful, unseen, quiet moments. As we give Him the weight, the glory, the honor due His name, He is made much of, and we find great satisfaction, contentment and rest.

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.

How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work. (Psalm 62)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Eternal Thanksgiving

If you've followed my blog entries lately, you know I've been reading and studying through 1-2 Samuel. The chronological account dovetailed with 1 Chronicles this morning as David established himself in Jerusalem and brought the ark to its final resting place.

In his initial excitement he overlooked God's method. Focused on getting the job done and achieving his goal, David and the men put the ark of God on an ox-cart and Uzzah lost his life.

Later, after gathering the sons of Aaron and the Levites, David reflected, "Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance." (1 Chron. 15:13). In other words, no matter how important I am, how many promises God has fulfilled, how blessed I may be, obedience matters. God has not changed. We don't get special privileges because we experience His favor; we experience His favor as a privilege.

With the priests in row, David prepared for the finest celebration:gifts of bread, meat and raisin cakes for each man and woman; sacrifices along the way, burnt offerings and peace offerings in Jerusalem. The time had come for David to realize the anointing he received from Samuel many years ago. God would fulfill His covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After years of living in hiding, assaulted and hunted by King Saul, fighting Philistines and Amalekites, being lied to, betrayed, and manipulated, God brought it all together. David was 37 years old when he began to rule from Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:4-5). That's a LONG way from his anointing as a shepherd boy.

Is it any wonder he danced with all his might? That he rejoiced, celebrated, and praised God? He called Asaph and his relatives to give thanks. And they did (see below). As I read their words in preparation for Thanksgiving, I was humbled at how short-sighted I am; how little I think of God; how much He is due, and how little I know Him. I was reminded of how fickle we are. In a couple of short chapters, David will assault Bathsheba, conspire against Uriah, use Joab, and set himself up against God.

But in this moment, today, like David, may I be found on my knees, humbled by a God who loves me and gave Himself for me that I might experience the blessing, joy, and riches of His grace. By His grace, may I choose to serve, obey, and seek Him--in the good and the difficult, the ease and the struggle, the joy and the grief.

Thanksgiving is a hallmark of eternity that doesn't have to wait. With David, the priests, and people, I can lift my heart and voice, experiencing Heaven and the divine nature as I live in, choose, and express thanks.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments from His mouth,
O seed of Israel His servant,
Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
He also confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
As the portion of your inheritance.”
When they were only a few in number,
Very few, and strangers in it,
And they wandered about from nation to nation,
And from one kingdom to another people,
He permitted no man to oppress them,
And He reproved kings for their sakes, saying,
“Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Then say, “Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise.”
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.

Then all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. (1 Chronicles 16:8-36)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Weight of Suffering

"I am not a pastor, nor the wife of a pastor"--in that way I can relate to Amos, the prophet--but God has given me the opportunity and privilege of listening to and speaking into pain and suffering. So, so many women and children are hurting as a result of other's sin against them. Sin has ravaged minds, hearts, bodies, and souls. Sin that feels so out of control, overwhelming, engulfing, smothering.

And as I considered the few lives that have touched mine recently, I have grieved. We share a burden, a weight, but God carries it. And that is the comfort, the strength, the hope. God is there.

Jesus came to mind. Jesus, walking dusty roads, hearing the voices of the desperate, the needy, the hurting, the hungry; hands reaching, tears falling. Jesus saw. Jesus heard. And, no doubt, Jesus grieved. His world was distorted. His creatures were suffering. His purpose, veiled. His reach, limited. Day after day, year after year, person after person, He saw, He heard, He listened, He loved, He prayed. Being God in the flesh did not give him a bye on suffering. He was fully aware, sensing, knowing. But His knowledge was not limited to the immediate. Even as He left behind the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, the poor widow, the wasting leper, He knew...

Jesus knew His plan would not be thwarted. His people would be redeemed. His creation would be remade. His purpose would be revealed. His might, expressed. His sovereignty, acknowledged.

Suffering would be His instrument; death His servant. Men would rally against Him, beat, mock, and crucify Him. Yet He would die for their souls. Betrayal, isolation and shame would accompany Him. But, being God, they reflected His innocence and others' guilt.

God with us. Emmanuel. He has not left us as orphans but has provided, through faith in His death and resurrection, His Spirit, Word, and people. By His grace and gift, we will live out our God-given purpose of reflecting and glorifying Him,

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body...

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:5-10, 16-18)