Monday, January 29, 2018

Small on a Mission

Small on a Mission
January 29, 2018
1  Samuel 15:17  ". . .Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel. . . ?"

Before Israel ever had a king, there was a boy who grew into the young man named Saul. Saul never sought out to be the first king over Israel, and was completely unsuspecting of the opportunity. He was not from the biggest or most influential tribe and his family wasn't significant. He had not made a name for himself in life, nor did he come from a particularly wealthy position. In the days leading  up to his encounter with the prophet Samuel, who anointed him king over Israel, Saul was on an errand for his father, looking for three lost donkeys. Not ironic, Saul was chasing the foolish and stubborn animals on an errand that normally a hired hand would accomplish. He was on a small mission. It was a humble task not fitting for someone about to be king. But he bumped into Samuel on the journey, and Samuel anointed him king. Saul was insecure about the idea of being a king, arguing with Samuel that Saul's stature and position in life was too small for kingly duties. Nonetheless, the Lord had a mission for him, a mission to become king and lead the nation of Israel. Small was now on a real mission.

Saul became king and started out doing very well. Over the years however, he developed a pattern of trying to lead on his own accord, as he saw fit. He tried to do things his way, despite clear instructions from the Lord on how to accomplish specific tasks. The man who once considered himself small and insignificant was now too big for his throne, thinking he could actually lead on his own authority. This wore thin on the Lord's patience, as well as the prophet Samuel's. The pattern however, did not improve despite corrective attempts from the Lord. Saul was no longer small in his own eyes. During a major battle on behalf of the Lord, Saul was given specific instructions. Saul did not follow the instructions fully, though the shortcomings did not seem significant to him. He was told to destroy all the people and their possessions, but he kept the best of the possessions intending to sacrifice them to the Lord. When questioned about it, Saul suggest it was a good idea, but he didn't get it. It wasn't about a good idea, it was about his obedience to the Lord. 

Samuel chastised Saul, reminding him that Saul was once small in his own eyes and that the Lord had a mission for him. Saul was falling short of that mission, short of leading as the Lord asked of him because he was now too big for himself. Saul had become arrogant and insolent. He viewed himself more important than the mission. Small was no longer on a mission. Small was no longer small.

You may think you are small, possibly insignificant, but even if that's the case, the Lord can still use you in mighty ways. In fact, the Lord appreciates a significant degree of humility, requiring you to depend upon Him. This ensures you're more apt to follow His instructions, doing things His way. The Lord had to rebuke Saul, even rejecting him as king, because he was no longer small in his own eyes. The Lord took Saul's mission away from him and gave it to someone else. Whether you can admit it, the Lord has a mission for your life and you may be on it right now, however small you think of yourself. That mission is critical, but only as critical as it depends on your ability to lean on the Lord, doing things His way. A sure fire way to get the Lord to reject you is to become too big in your own eyes. Small should stay small and on a mission.   

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Sam 1 Sam 9:1-21, 1 Sam 13:5-14, 1 Sam 15, Pr 16:25-26, 1 Tim 4:12 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Her Too

Her Too
January 22, 2017
James 1:14  ". . .but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."

Sexual misconduct is alarming when it comes to the surface, and certainly makes the headlines when it is brought to light. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who have gotten away with it for far too long, harming many innocent lives. The majority of the time this sexual misconduct is woven from a similar story across the spectrum. It stems from a male in a position of power or authority, abusing that position after deciding to act out on his lust for an unsuspecting and innocent female. While there are other forms of sexual misconduct, this particularly themed story is what has been coming to light recently. But just because it is coming to light recently does not mean it is a new phenomenon. It has been happening for thousands of years, likely since the day of Adam and Eve.

One particular story is very familiar to Jews and Christians, and can be used as a teaching platform in our churches. It is the story of David and Bathsheba. We review the story and consider it a consensual affair between the two, but was it fully consensual? Where were the willing players in the story and how did it really play out. To recap the story from how it is usually taught, David saw a woman bathing on her roof and had her brought to him. Then they had an affair and she became pregnant. Not wanting to get caught in the affair and scandal, David had the woman's husband killed and then David was able to marry the newly widowed. When we read the story, most assume Bathsheba was a complete willing participant in the story. And while the Lord will judge her for her own sin in the situation, consider the fact that she may not have felt she had a choice in any of the matters that played out.

Bathsheba lived in a time when women did not have any rights, other than being considered slightly better than a slave. A woman couldn't be educated, a woman couldn't own property or have her own career, and a woman almost always had to live under a man's influence or domain. If a woman was wronged, it was up to her father, brothers, or husband to vindicate her. From her perspective, Bathsheba was alone in this story, however, as her husband was off to war when the king sent several men to retrieve her for him. These men were quite possibly armed guards on behalf of the king. They told her that the king wished to see her, but it is doubtful the guards told her the king saw her naked and wished to sleep with her. The intent was most probably masked. It is more probable than not that she felt intimated at being called to the king alone yet slightly curious at the same time. But had she refused, without reason, then what kind of message would that communicate, refusing the king? Would that have brought shame to her family and husband when he came home from war? In that day, if she refused and the king wanted her dead, then she'd be dead. My guess is she was a little apprehensive about meeting him. Upon meeting king David, I highly doubt she threw herself naked upon him and begged for the affair. I suspect he attempted to seduce her, trying to charm her. She may have felt conflicted, torn between right and wrong and honor for her husband, as well as enticed by the potential of David's power and authority, yet maybe not feeling she could turn the king down. She may have feared for her life if she had refused his advances alone in that room. Bathsheba did not set about looking for this situation, it was brought about by the abuse of David's power after he submitted to his lust. While we will never know what went on in her head, do you really think David was going to take no for an answer?

The point of the story is not if Bathsheba turned him down or not, consenting or otherwise. The point of the story is that David had power and authority, and used that influence over Bathsheba to get what he wanted. It wasn't a fair opportunity for Bathsheba, even if she went along with it, even if she convinced herself she wanted it also. Bathsheba was  not called out by the Lord or Samuel for being in the wrong during the situation, even though she was a participant in the affair. She may not have been a willing participant at first, and it certainly wasn't her idea. Even if she wanted to turn David down, there was no scenario that would have ended well for her. She, too, was a victim of sexual misconduct, abuse even. This is a story to show our boys and men, teaching them about how to treat woman as sisters like Paul instructs, not abusing power over them. When men treat women like sex objects, like David did, the potential is there for a scandalous headline. It wasn't fair to put Bathsheba in that situation, and David was not about to take no for an answer. David let himself get dragged away by his lust.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Sam 11, 1 Timothy 5:2

Sunday, January 14, 2018

King Wanted

King Wanted
January 15, 2018
1 Samuel 8:19  ". . . we want a king over us."

Jesus is the ultimate king, although not in the traditional sense. You and I can understand this today, but the Jews in the Old Testament were foretold of someone who would be their king. This king was, and is, as they were told, going to rule over them, keeping peace while restoring order and defeating all their enemies. They were thrilled with this, as they had many enemies. Rewind the clock a bit, before they had a king, when the Lord led them out of the desert being freed from slavery. The Lord was their king back then, leading the nation who was without a homeland. But this wasn't good enough for some reason; they begged for a leader, a physical king who would rule over them.

Before the first king, Saul, was instilled, they had requested this leadership. The Lord warned them any human king would fail them, full of sin and subject to ruling in error. But they wanted one, nonetheless, so they could have someone, something, to submit to, a hierarchy of leadership for their lives. In this manner, they wouldn't have to try, someone else would just tell them what to do and take care of their problems, acting like a savior. The Lord instilled a king, per their request and the kings failed them over the years. Then came Jesus who was going to set it all straight. He was revealed as the final king, the king of all kings. He entered the city triumphal, and the Jews thought they were finally going to come out on top. Then this king was executed. No worries, he came back to life. As he appeared after the resurrection the disciples asked if it was time, if He was going to stay, time for Jesus to take the throne. Jesus knew what they meant, wanting Him to lead them on earth. They were still begging for a king.

Jesus said it was better that He not stay on earth with them. Wait, what? Jesus said it was better for them if He wasn't their physical king on earth? They didn't get it. They didn't get it thousands of years earlier and you and I still don't get it today. They wanted someone who would be king over their lives, but Jesus wanted to be king of their hearts. They wanted to keep their hearts to themselves, just let the leader lead in the physical. Jesus understood this. He said, before he went back to Heaven, that it was better He leave their physical presence, so they would be able to have the Holy Spirit, who would teach them how to surrender their hearts and truly live the way the Lord intended. Jesus wanted them to live empowered, but they still wanted to live overpowered by a leader.

We are the same way today, wanting someone to lead our general direction, but retaining the rights to our hearts, reserving our identity and pride as if it is of real worth. We don't get it. It is better that we have the Holy Spirit in our lives right now, then Jesus in the flesh, in our presence. No one would imagine this as better. If surveyed, my guess is the majority of Christians think it would be better if Jesus were here right now in the flesh, but Jesus would disagree. He left us in good hands, with the Holy Spirit, but it takes submission of our hearts. We want a king, but not the way the Lord designed it. He wants to be the king of our hearts; while we want to be king of our own hearts. Unfortunately it cannot work both ways. The human condition has not changed since before the Israelites. If He is going to be our king, it has to be in our hearts.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Sam 8:5-22, John 14 & 16, Acts 1:3-6 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Creating a Legacy

Creating a Legacy
January 8, 2018
1 Chronicles 29:18 "And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided."

A legacy is not just how people remember you, but what you left behind and how it still changes people's lives after you are long gone. Recall some famous people in history and how you remember them. Many of them are just famous for something they did, but the actions of some are still affecting your life today. Think of Thomas Edison, the famous inventor. His inventions are still impacting your life right at this very moment (the light bulb and the telephone). Or think of Abraham Lincoln; his actions kept the United States from splitting, and as a result freed so many people, abolishing slavery. Some of us don't readily think of King David still affecting our lives today, though we know he was critical in the lineage of Jesus. He did something though, that was worth of an amazing legacy.

King David set about to build a temple, a place to worship the Lord in a permanent building. The Lord wouldn't allow it though, saying he could only plan for it, not build it in his lifetime. So David created a plan and provided for the temple, to be built after he was gone. David drew up the plans, assembled the resources, and taught his successor how to finish it. It was an elaborate plan that could only be executed after he was gone, something not able to be accomplished while he was alive. Then after  he had provided for it, making all the arrangements, he prayed for his son. He prayed for strength and dedication for his son to complete the task. He prayed for wisdom and favor for his son to finish the task. It seems so simple, yet the heart of David was so amazing in the preparations of his legacy. Some think of David's legacy as defeating the giant, or a mistake with someone not his wife. But one of his biggest legacies was in created the first house of worship. That house of worship became the design and model for hundreds of years after that, the design and model that was where Jesus worshiped and ministered. That same model was used by the early church, incorporating what they knew when setting up the first Christian churches. 

It was just a building, technically, but a central house of worship for the community of believers. It was a house of prayer and a meeting place with the Lord. While a building is not required to meet with the Lord, it is often a pivotal place for encounters with our God. You've had many encounters with the Lord, I'm sure, with a significant amount of them in a building used for worship. Again, its just a building, but it is part of David's legacy, affecting our lives today. And the point is not that he set up a building, but that he put in place a work to be done after he was gone. 

In considering your own life, are people going to remember you when you are gone? In considering your own life, are you going to have a lasting impact for years to come, after you are gone? In considering your own life, are you setting up a work to be accomplished, making preparations for it to commence after you? Are you preparing those who would follow in your footsteps, carrying on the torch of your marathon, mentoring them, praying for them? David's actions proved his life was not about him, but the one whom he served. You have this same opportunity, is your life about yourself or are you putting something big in motion, so big that it must carry on after you, a real legacy?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Sam 7, 1 Chron 28

Monday, January 1, 2018

Grace or Gift

Grace or Gift
January 1, 2018
Ephesians 4:7 "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."

In many translations of the Bible, Ephesians 4:7 talks about the gift of grace being given, doled out by Jesus as He deems fit. This is completely true, but not very complete in clarity, as you and I understand the word for grace. For most, grace is a concept similar to mercy or forgiveness, a special consideration of patience and leniency and tolerance. That is certainly what grace means, for sure, but not in this context of Jesus handing out grace. In the Bible grace is a loaded term, similar to the way we might use the word "warmth". Warmth can mean many things, like a hug, or a feeling, or a fire, or an uprising in the soul. Depending on how the author writes the word "warmth" the meaning changes. This is the same with grace. The word grace can be a blanket word for gift or favor, but specifically what kind of gift? Is it the gift of forgiveness or long-suffering in the face of a trial or something completely different?

When the Bible said that Jesus hands out grace it was referring to specific gifts, gifts of skills and abilities owned with permanence by the recipient. If you read the verses following the discussion on the generous grace, the discussion centers around some people being pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, etc. The word for grace is the word Charis, and in this context it means gifts of ability, given with favor from the Lord.  It means the Lord has endowed His people with specific abilities. To add further color to the ability endowed, the Bible uses the word, "doma," which has an emphasis on the quality or nature of the gift rather than the gift in and of itself. This can be further described as the specificity of the gift, the thoughtful paring and purpose of the endowed ability with the recipient. Its discussion is purposeful in the skills and abilities handed out, not a random walk, but with planning and design and extreme intent. The skills and abilities given were, and are, with intent to be used, for a place and time, for the benefit of the Lord. Without re-writing Scripture, you could paraphrase the verse similar to this: the Lord has etched you with a generous portion of unique skills and abilities to be used according to His design for your life, ultimately leading to His glory.

The Lord made you perfectly, and for reason, with a purpose in life to fulfill as unique as the pairing of your skills and abilities with your personality, for the benefit of His kingdom. This does not necessarily mean you are the next John the Baptist, so take that pressure off your shoulders. But it does mean you have the responsibility of execution, putting your gift to word on behalf of Him, whatever that looks like and whatever shape it takes. You have to be the best you that you can be, however confused you might be in examining your mix of personal qualities. Your mix, similar to your fingerprint, will only make sense to the Father, and it can only be matched with you. You are you for a reason and the Lord made you this way. Now you get to figure out what you need to do with it, only limiting yourself to His imagination. 

Take some time to discover and evaluate your skills, but only long enough to realize how you are or are not made. Then get to work. Get to work doing whatever it is before you, doing it unto the Lord and He will direct your life. You don't have to figure out the next twenty years of using your gifts, just the next twenty minutes. Then in twenty more minutes you'll only need to figure out the next twenty minutes again. Do not burden yourself with the long term plan. Just as He is generous with your skills and abilities, He is generous with opportunity to put them into practice. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 139:16, Ecc 9:10, Is 30:21, Eph 4, Col 3:23-24