Monthly Archives: August 2017

Samuel 10-12; The Loss Of A Child

I was talking to my pastor a while back and shared my confusion concerning the age of accountability. Scripture doesn’t really give a specific number, nor does it tell us exactly what happens to babies when they die.

But if Jesus is the only way to the Father, if His Name is the only means of salvation, what about aborted babies, or infants and toddlers who die before understanding the need of Him? My pastor pointed me to 2 Samuel.

David’s newborn son was sick. And while the baby struggled to live, David fasted, prayed, and wept believing God could heal him. But after the baby died, David seemed to have peace. He got up, went to church, then ate a meal. Strange behavior for someone whose child just died.

David’s sorrow had been for his sick baby boy, a father’s desire to watch that baby grow up, healthy. His struggle was for the suffering infant, and his own grief. But once the baby died, David had the assurance the boy was in the presence of God:

I will go to him, but he will not return to me. (12:23)

It seems David believed in heaven, and was confident that his son was safely there right that minute. And David believed one day, he would go to the place his son was. David would see his son again. Knowing this, David was able to go to his wife, and comfort her.

I don’t know if you have ever miscarried a baby, or buried your infant or toddler. I can’t imagine the pain that brings. But I can encourage you to rest assured that child is in the Presence of Someone who loves them even more than you do.

And, dear one, if you know Jesus as your Savior, you will see your child again. Not in this life, as hard as that is to accept. But in eternity, standing together before God’s throne, loving and being loved by the One who does all things well.

Father, I want to pray for any who read this post who are carrying the weight of grief over a lost child. Is there a greater loss? I pray that each one will know the assurance that their little loved one is alive, and well, and home with You. God, ease the burden of empty arms. I pray for faith to trust You, even in the loss of a child.

Advertisements

2 Samuel 7-9; God’s Heart

Did you watch the total eclipse of the sun this past Monday? If you live outside the USA you might have missed the hype. It was magical.

Even though I live about 90 miles from the route of the actual total eclipse, we still had our eyes fixed on the sky to catch a glimpse of the moon traveling in front of the sun. It’s something you don’t see every day. I had the weather channel on most of the day as they followed the progression across the country. And I was impressed at what an emotional experience this unusual phenomenon was for so many people.

Today, I am sitting by the window overlooking a beautiful lake in the mountains of northern Italy. We are here for the wedding of a friend, and enjoying scenery I never imagined I would ever see. My first time in Europe, and I am in awe.

As I read 2 Samuel this morning where David got the news that he would not be building the temple for the Lord, I was touched when I heard the king thank God for telling him. It certainly was not the news David had hoped for, but he thanked God anyway.

As usual, when I read Scripture, I ask God to reveal Himself. I don’t want to ever read it as merely a book of history. And God is always faithful to point out something, to teach me something every time. This is what got my attention today:

For the sake of Your Word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. (7:21)

Now, I know David is speaking about the kindness God showed him by letting him know someone else was going to build the temple. And I try to be careful not to take verses out of context. But there are so many verses in the Bible that share the same truth.

The heavens declare the glory of God… (Psalm 19:1)

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

Why does God reveal Himself? David tells us it’s for the sake of His Word, and according to His own heart. In other words, it’s because God WANTS us to know Him.

I can look at the skies and see an intelligent Creator. I can see the world from this mountaintop vantage point and see artistry in creation, and know it stems from an intentional Creator. I can watch the dew sparkle on a spider’s web, or hear the chatter of a squirrel and recognize an imaginitve Creator.

When I look at nature, or when I study science, or when I stop to consider my own body, I know that there is purpose and reason behind it all. But then, when I read His Word, I get to know His heart and understand what my inward being has always known.

God, Creator, loves me. He wants me to know Him, to love Him. He has done all this greatness to let me know who He is. He wants me to know His heart.

I love His heart.

2 Samuel 4-6; What Does Worship Look Like?

Some have said 6:12ff is a blueprint for worship; that David, dancing and praising God with abandon, offering sacrifices, freeing himself from his robe, is the picture of true worship. It certainly is a happy picture of worship, a joyful occasion celebrating God’s Presence. Are we missing something if our church services are not like that?

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I am not a fan of what is referred to as contemporary worship styles. And I am adamantly against church services with an agenda to entertain church-goers. But I am not discounting this picture of worship here in 2 Samuel.

First, David has reason to rejoice. The Presence of God represented by the ark, is coming home! I don’t know about you, but God’s Presence in my life makes me want to rejoice, too. When I confess sin and experience the rekindled relationship with God that had been broken because of sin, I want to sing His praises.

Hallelujah!

However, what we witness here in 2 Samuel is not a church service. It did not occur in the temple. Although it is a glorious picture of what worship can be, I do not believe it is a blueprint for what worship should be. There are many examples in Scripture where worship is expressed by falling flat on your face, laid out on the ground in humble submission and awe before our Holy God. I see examples of church services where Jesus taught with no mention of dancing or even of smiling.

When I hear a “worship leader” reprimand a congregation for not smiling or looking joyful as we sing, or for not bringing the same enthusiasm to worship as we bring to a football game,  I immediately know that person is looking horizontally, at people, and not focused on his own worship of God. Personally, I don’t want anyone leading me to look at people. Period.

I honestly don’t care what you look like when you worship. If my head is lifted toward heaven and tears of joy are falling from my eyes, I’m not going to judge you if your head is bowed and tears of conviction are falling from yours. If you raise your hands in worship, don’t judge me if I stare at the hymnal in my hand and let the words of the song break my heart in worship.

I don’t know what worshiping God looks like for you because I can’t see your heart. That’s where true worship occurs. Let’s not be bullied into looking like someone thinks your worship should look like. It’s not a performance. It’s not a contest.

Let your worship of God focus only on Him. Your expression of that will follow in a personal, God-directed and God-honoring way. You may end up singing at the top of your voice with hands raised and heart soaring. Or you may bow your head in humility as you worship your Holy Father in the quietness of your heart.

The only worship leader I’m interested in following is God Himself. The only worship  I want to offer Him is that which comes from my heart, no matter what that looks like to anyone else.

 

II Samuel 2-3; A Fool Died Today

There was a bitter history between Joab and Abner. After all, Abner had killed Joab’s little brother.  Now Abner was in Hebron, a city of refuge, and Joab couldn’t touch him.

So Joab goes to Abner and whispers in his ear, “Step into the gateway where we can talk privately. I have something to tell you.”

Now picture this: The man guilty of murder leans into his victim’s Avenger of Blood (the only person with a right to kill him in retaliation) to hear him whisper, “Step outside the safety of these walls just for a second.”

AND HE DOES!

I’m sure you know what happens. Abner dies.

David mourned Abner’s death. But he also recognized it as a needless death. Listen to what the King says at the funeral:

Should Abner have died as the lawless die? Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before wicked men. (3:33)

In other words, No one made you go outside these walls, Abner. You made a ridiculous choice. A fool died today.

Friend, if you have confessed your sin and asked God to forgive you, you are safe from the evil Satan would love to pierce you with. But hear the warning:

Satan will no doubt come to you and whisper in your ear, “Come with me. Just for a second.” He’ll put temptation out there, and you’ll find yourself thinking, “What can it hurt?”

Understand that when you step away from God, Satan has the advantage. And sometimes all he needs is a second. Don’t be a fool. Don’t think Satan can’t get to you. Guard your heart and mind. Cling to the Savior. Do not step away because Satan is like a lion, prowling around, waiting to devour you.

When I finally meet Jesus face to face, I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I certainly don’t want to hear the words, “A fool died today.”

2 Samuel 1; Saul’s Sin Killed Him

Remember in 1 Samuel God had instructed Saul to go to war with the Amalekites, and wipe them out. 15:2-3 says:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

But Saul only almost obeyed. He defeated the Amalekites, “But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good.”

Saul didn’t wipe them out exactly the way God had instructed him. And God was not happy.

The end of I Samuel and II Samuel 1 seem to contradict each other. Who really killed Saul? I’ve been of the opinion that the man we read about in II Samuel tried to cash in on Saul’s death, that he found the king already dead, took his crown and arm band, and ran to David to be rewarded for taking care of David’s enemy. But I might be wrong.

The story we read in II Samuel might not contradict I Samuel after all. Consider this: Saul, being mortally wounded, falls on his sword to commit suicide. His armor bearer sees him do that, watches his king fall, then commits suicide himself. However, Saul is only mostly dead at that point.

The young man in II Samuel comes up to Saul and hears the king whisper, “Kill me,” and he does. Saul was a dead man walking. He most likely would not have survived his wounds. The young man just accelerated the inevitable. Saul, at the end of I Samuel was dead for all intent and purposes. As you turn the page, you see him finished off.

That’s what I’ve come to believe after studying what others have said about the subject. It’s an opinion that doesn’t really matter in light of eternity, and I recognize it as an opinion. But J. Vernon McGee opened my eyes to a spiritual truth we can learn from this that does matter in light of eternity.

Remember Saul’s sin way back in chapter 15? he didn’t completely destroy the Amalekites like God told him to. Now, years later, it’s an Amalekite who ends up destroying him.

Could Saul have actually survived his wounds? We’ll never know because the young Amalekite killed him.

In Sunday School this past Sunday we were studying Psalm 32, written after David received forgiveness for some pretty awful sins. His sin with Bathsheba was bad enough, but David’s efforts at covering up that sin resulted in more sin, and more guilt until he felt crushed to the bones. You can hear David’s relief at being freed from that guilt here in this psalm.

I shared something I found written by John Dunn. And I was reminded of it as I read this chapter in I Samuel this morning. Dunn calls sin a serpent. He says when we cover up a sin, we’re just keeping it warm so that it may sting more fiercely, infect us with more venom.

When we don’t deal with sin, when we don’t eradicate it, turn from it 100%, we are only protecting it. And it will bite us in the end.

Let’s not be nursing sin. Let’s not ignore it, or cover it up. When God reveals sin in us, let’s fall to our knees and repent immediately.

Otherwise, that sin could be the very thing that ends up destroying us.

 

I Samuel 28-31; Dividing the Spoils

David and 600 of his men went and attacked the Amalekites who had raided their homes, and taken their families and property. 200 weary soldiers stayed back and guarded the supplies, even though their own families had been captured as well.

David successfully defeated the enemy and rescued the women, children, livestock, and even took plunder from the Amalekites. The 200 men who didn’t fight in the battle were reunited with their families, along with the 600 who did fight.

Now, the 600 men who had gone to war thought they should be able to divide the spoils among themselves. After all, they’d put their lives on the line, they did the dirty work. It seemed right that they should be rewarded more than the men who’d stayed behind.

David didn’t agree. In essence he said, “God gave us all the victory. He’s the one who protected us and handed over our enemies to us. Everyone will share the blessings equally.”

You might be a pastor who puts himself out there every week after hours of study and prayer. Or you might be a song leader, a musician, an elder whose face everyone recognizes.

Or not.

Maybe you’ve never taught Sunday School, or sung in the choir. Maybe you’ve never actually prayed the sinners prayer with anyone, or gone on a missions trip.

Should God give a bit more blessing to one group than another?

If your ministry is public and demanding, do you think you deserve a bit more blessing than those who sit in the pews every Sunday and seemingly ride your coattails? Beware of that attitude.

God would have us know that it isn’t about the ministry. It’s about obedience. Some are called to be obedient to preach and teach, while others are called to encourage others and show hospitality. Some people’s gifts are more easily seen, but they certainly are not more important than the ones whose gifts are used behind the scenes.

I don’t know what spiritual gifts you have. I don’t know what talents you possess. But I know God is calling you to do something to further His kingdom, to fight or support the fight against the enemy.

Let’s remember we are all a part of the same army. As Christians, we are equally blessed because we have all received Jesus the exact same way. Jesus didn’t die more painfully for some than He did for others. He died once and for all.

And He wants to lavish all of His children with blessings beyond what we ask or think.

Be faithful to use what you have been given, and don’t compare yourself with anyone else. If you have confessed your sins, you deserve what Jesus died to give you.

Himself.

 

 

I Samuel 24-27; The Answer

I’ve been dealing with (or maybe ignoring would be a better word for it) a bit of depression lately. There are several things going on at the moment, but one is the fact that I’ve gained some weight the past couple of years. I hate the way I feel, and how my clothes fit. I hate it when people take pictures of me because I’m sure the camera adds ten pounds.

And to make matters worse, I’m an emotional eater. Feeling good? Have a pizza. Angry? There’s that bag of chips. Sad? Get out the ice cream.

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get. It’s discouraging.

Reading these chapters today makes me wonder if David wasn’t a bit discouraged, too. He’d done nothing to deserve Saul’s unfair treatment. David was forced to leave his home and live in caves so Saul wouldn’t find him. More than once, David proved his faithfulness to Saul, and each time David heard Saul promise, “I’ll never hunt you down to kill you ever again.” But Saul never keep his word, and David kept running.

If you read the psalms David wrote during this time I think you’ll agree the man was dealing with a bit of depression.  At least he was discouraged and frustrated.

Here’s what spoke to me today: We don’t always make the best decisions when we are living in that state of mind.

In chapter 27 we find that David, still on the run from Saul, finds shelter in the middle of enemy territory. He went to hide out with the Philistines (yes, Goliath’s gang). What follows is a series of really bad choices made by the future king of Israel.

I wish David would have remembered what he’d said in 26:24:

…may the Lord value my life, and deliver me from all trouble.

Here’s the thing. Depression is a result of “I”. For instance, look at the sentence I wrote earlier:

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get.

Mine is not a chemical imbalance. It’s an I imbalance.

I read some of the psalms David may have written during this time in his life. I noticed they all had something in common. Along with heart-felt expressions of sadness, frustration, discouragement, they also included verses like these:

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17)

The Lord is my light and my salvation… (Psalm 27:1)

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8b)

I’m tired of all the well-meaning self-help books and advice, people who tell me I should “take care” of my self, or look within my self for answers. I’m the one who is hurting. Obviously what I’m doing isn’t working. When I feel like this, I should be the last person I go to for answers.

The answer to my depression is not a look within myself, but a dying to self. It’s not about focusing on me, but on focusing on my Lord. It’s not about doing what I think is best for me, but doing what God is asking me to do. It’s not about getting in touch with my feelings, but getting in touch with my Savior, not about spending time with “me,” but spending time with my Lord.

So, paraphrasing David’s words in I Samuel 26:24, let me say I know God values my life. He died to give that life to me. I am the apple of His eye, His precious lamb. And I am confident He will deliver me from all my troubles, even those I bring on my self by focusing on my self.

I have every reason to rejoice today when I look at Jesus. Everything else seems to dim in comparison.

Loving Father, thank you for Your Word to me today. Forgive me when I take my focus off of You, and place it on myself. Help me to bring it all to You and leave it at Your feet. Help me to trust You, to serve You, to love You, to praise You today. My life is Yours. If I have joy today, may it be Your joy. If I have worth today, may it be because I am clothed in Your righteousness, loved by You, and trusting in You alone.