Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Luke, Chapter 10 part 1

I cannot believe I nearly quit yesterday. Yesterday was an up and down day. I was encouraged by a great comment and a good entry. I had a good day writing. Then, I had a silly setback. Two basketball games I had been waiting for all day long, one I was covering and the other an important Purdue game, both ended in overtime losses for my teams. I am a person that something like this greatly affects. As much work as I put into my other blog about Purdue I felt like it was all wasted with last night’s loss.

But I find myself drawn back here on the last morning of 2008 in order to write about the word of God. This passage is all about perseverance. We Jesus name 72 additional disciples and he sends them out to preach the word. He is very up front about what they will face. They will not always be welcomed. They will indeed face struggles along the way. Some would eventually even be martyred for their faith like 11 of the original twelve.

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. - -Luke 10”1-4

I would be shirking my responsibility if I backed away from this now. The workers are few, and if I gave up just because I saw little results they would be even fewer. This blog will continue into the New Year. It is not about me, but about the message. Tehse 72 men continued on through much harsher conditions and still brought in a great harvest as Jesus describes.

17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." – Luke 10:17-20

This is a powerful message. The 72 return successful in their mission, yet Jesus works hard to keep them grounded. The last part of this passage politely reminds them to remember not the power, but the result of that power. What I do means nothing. I receive nothing from the Word of God, for it is what does the work here. I rejoice only in the results of that work. The Word of God only lifts me up in the form of encouragement, not in some mystical power I should be amazed at. I pray that in the new year it’s power does the work it needs to in your life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Luke, chapter 9 part 3

This may be the final entry for awhile. I am trying to do some mental soul-searching and find my place in this world. There are some lessons I need to learn, specifically what humility means as it is presented here in chapter 9, before I can find out what I am supposed to do next. Honestly, this has been a very difficult time, but the difficult times never seem to end anyway.
The final part of Luke, chapter 9 presents a funny picture, at least to me, with the following passage.

46An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest." – Luke 9:46-48

One of Jesus’ central arguments is that we must humble ourselves if we are to truly seek His kingdom. He even hits on this at the end of this chapter when he talks about what must be given up in order to follow Him. I have spent a lot of time this morning ruminating on this passage. Lately I feel as if I have been at odds with it. Despite my job struggles, I continue to be blessed with different short term opportunities. Unfortunately, they are opportunities I despise. I know that the core of this hatred is the feeling that I am above these jobs. I feel like I am meant for more with the abilities God has given me. I know He has a greater plan in mind. Unfortunately, not only has this attitude turned me off to these lesser position, it has let things like my writing passion slip. I have seen it in how my words feel disconnected even when I am writing here. In short, I feel like I should be greater, and that is not the attitude to take.

So what do I need to learn? I know things shouldn’t be beneath me, especially when there are people that would die to be in my position. I am blessed, but I feel like I have taken it for granted too often. It is my prayer this morning that I can step back in this week of freedom from work and examine what is on my heart. I need to get my goals in line with God’s goals for me. I certainly don’t know what I am doing anymore, and the world is presenting me with things I definitely don’t want to do.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Luke, Chapter 9 part 2

I hope that everyone out there had a good Christmas. It has been nearly a week since I have written here. In that time, I have felt very disconnected with God. It feels like I should be approaching Him more and more, especially this time of year, but things keep driving me further and further away. It is a frustrating time. I feel like I have all the time in the world, but I am still rushed by imaginary things that I have to accomplish each day. I want to change that by getting back to explicitly seeking God the first thing each morning. I want to give Him and this endeavor my first moments, undivided, each day. Let’s see how it goes.

When we last left Jesus in the book of Luke he was sending out the Twelve at the beginning of chapter 9. In the middle of this chapter we have two very important events. First, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Remember, these guys were living the Bible. They didn’t have it written in advance. Naturally, they would be curious as to who this guy was with all these powers.

18Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"
19They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
20"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "The Christ of God." – Luke 9:18-20

This is an act of faith by Peter. There had been many prophets before Jesus that had similar powers. Therefore, there was plenty of reason for these men to think Jesus was another prophet of Israel. Instead, Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ. He looked past everything to the man and saw the truth. He hadn’t needed more proof at that point. His faith was strong enough (and remember, with Peter, the faith issue sometimes vacillated) to see Jesus for who he was.

29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. – Luke 9:29-31

This was a special moment for Peter, James, and John. They were there to witness Jesus revealed in His full glory. They were given a special privilege that even the nine other disciples weren’t given. It is almost like a reward too. Jesus chose to reveal himself not because they needed a boost in their Faith, but because He wanted them to see Him in His full power and glory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Luke, Chapter 9 part 1

This morning I am trying to refocus my efforts and my thoughts. I have felt very disconnected from God the past few days. I have struggled with branching away and trying to do things on my own. Naturally, this has led to poor results. I have become dissatisfied with many of my efforts as there is little movement career-wise. As usual, my best efforts yield nothing because I am not patient enough to wait on God. That is why I find the beginning of Luke 9 helpful this morning.

We live on faith. We are saved by grace thorough faith. We cannot accomplish anything without God’s blessing. When our reserves of faith are strong it feels like we can do anything. Conversely, when they are low even the most mundane tasks can seem overwhelming. We can quickly become mired in a morass of frustrating pursuits and seemingly fruitless efforts. When Jesus sends out the twelve, however, He instructs them to go with virtually nothing.

3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." – Luke 9:3-5

He did not tell them to go to the ATM and take out a couple thousand dollars. He didn’t tellt hem to call ahead to friends for a place to stay. He sent them out to proclaim the greatest message ever passed along. It is a message that continues to echo through to today. Not only that, He provided for every need along the way. I am doing far less important work. I sit at home with a roof over my head, money in the bank, and a computer as my terminal to the world in which to do my small part, yet I despair that God will provide for my needs.

Jesus does the same in the next passage when he feeds the 5,000 from essentially nothing. I see from these passages encouragement that God can provide for every need. I struggle because it feels like I am going nowhere. In doing so I lose sight for the fact things could be worse. In that, I feel shame. I recently finished reading a book about a gentleman who survived ten years in a North Korean gulag where he had to scrounge for what little food needed to survive. He lives through that and I complain about getting offered a 2 week job that I feel is beneath me? This brings me great shame this morning, and I pray that God will look past my failings and still use me for His kingdom.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luke, Chapter 8 part 2

When I think of misplaced priorities I think of the second part of chapter 8 of Luke. This is where we see one of Jesus’ miracles performed for a crowd that puts more emphasis on the earthly results than on what Jesus actually accomplished. I am referring to the story of the demon-possessed man and how Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of pigs. Jesus performs this great feat, something that no one else can do, yet they are more concerned about what happened to the pigs.

32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. – Luke 8:32-37

Where these people happy that Jesus cured this man? Were they amazed that he could do what He did? No. They were more concerned that they had lost a herd of pigs. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

One of the things that frustrates me is how my efforts to reach someone with the Word of God can turn up void. I try to reach people, yet nothing happens. Later on, someone else may reach that person, however. That person may be reached years later because of a seed I planted, or it could be for a totally different reason. The most important part is that the person is finally reached. We kind of see that here as the people of Gerasenes turn Jesus away. Though He is asked to leave, Jesus asks the demon-possessed man to stay and proclaim the gospel. This is what the disciples did on a smaller scale. The important thing is that a seed was planted. If they wouldn’t listen to Jesus, maybe they would listen to someone else.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Luke, Chapter 8 part 1

I know I am breaking the book of Luke up more and more, but the way Jesus teaches in this book allows for a deeper focus on some of the smaller passages. Today is one of those cases with the parable of the sower. This has long been one of my favorite parables of Jesus. I feel that is fully illustrates exactly what is possible as far as the effect of his message.

11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. – Luke 8:11-15

First of all, we must see what happens when the sower throws the seed. It lands on the ground, of course. It does not defy the laws of gravity and go floating off into space. That tells me that the Word is given to everyone. Now there are arguments as to how the Word and message of Christ’s offer of salvation reaches everyone, but that is for Christ to decide, not me. The point is that everyone has access to it. It is not reserved for the wealthy, the elite, or the educated. This sower in the parable throwing it around randomly is a great metaphor.

Second, it is more important what we do with the Word once we do it. This has been a struggle for me as I try to find which category I fit into. I am pretty sure I do not fall into the category of those that here it, but it is snatched away. I don’t think I am in the second group either because I do endeavor to mature in the faith. The third category is more interesting. There are many days where I strive to learn and follow the Truth, butt his life beats me down. It feels like as I get older, there are more of these days, especially now. I don’t feel like I am in the fourth group because despite my efforts, I feel more isolated from society every day.

It is my prayer that I am maturing and following the path God wants me to follow by laboring in this place. It is also my prayer that you are doing the same with whatever God calls you to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Luke, Chapter 7 part 2

Why is forgiveness one of the hardest parts of the human construct? Think about those who have wrong you. How easy is it to forgive them? What are the struggles you go through as someone causes you pain, then seeks your forgiveness? It is difficult, isn't it? Forgiveness is a directive that is easy to talk about, but it is much harder to put into practice. I think it is because when we forgive, we have to admit that we were somehow wrong in a way. We were wrong in harboring our anger.

The second half of Luke chapter 7 deals with the concept of forgiveness and how difficult it is. John the Baptist specifically taught a gospel of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. He didn't have the power to forgive sins, but he was a messenger preparing the way for the one who would have that power. He was a powerful influence, and was one who set everything up for Jesus' ministry to be so successful.

29(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) – Luke 7:29-30

This is where we begin to see a divergence between Jesus and the Pharisees. Their fear of change gave way to their jealousy of Jesus. It is funny, but it was the so called outcasts of society: the prostitutes, tax-collectors, and the like, that understood the message, yet the Pharisees did not. This would eventually cost both John and Jesus their lives.

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." – Luke 7:44-47

Ultimately, love is the greatest message that Jesus gave us. We are told by him to love one another. It was His love for mankind that led to His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is the purest example of love, and this passage is a great indication of that. Love is what allows him to forgive sins, but as we see, the Pharisees did not see that. Their view of love was tainted, like so many other views of love these days. I admit that is one of the hardest things in life. Love in its purest form, as illustrated by Jesus' life, is awesome. Unfortunately, humanity has tainted it so much that it has become the root of much bitterness for me. We must value and cherish something so beautiful, but instead, mankind has made a mockery of it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke, chapter 7 part 1

Yesterday was a very powerful writing experience. It was an instance in which I felt the Word of God truly speaking to me. Of course, it does speak every time we read it. It is simply a matter of how well we are listening. As I listen to today's passage, the first 17 verses of Luke chapter 7, we see that it is a message on Jesus' mercy. It is also a strong lesson in faith.

We have two similar stories with different backgrounds. First we have the servant of the Centurion being healed. Here was a man that was well outside the establishment. In fact, as a soldier for Rome, he was most likely despised by the people of Israel. The very idea of Jesus coming to work in the life of one of the oppressors of Israel was ludicrous in this day. Still, what Jesus said in his sermon during chapter 6 struck a chord with this man. He suddenly gained faith and saw the heart of the message: that Jesus was meant for all, not just a select group.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." – Luke 7:6-8

Here was a man of great power, yet he deferred to, what to him, was a crazy preacher from a dusty part of the world. Jesus had such a profound effect on people like this, yet others, such as the religious establishment waiting for his arrival as a Messiah, missed the message. This gentile, someone who wasn't even a Jew, saw and had faith. Sometimes all it takes is just one hearing of the message for it to sink in.

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. – Luke 7:14-15

This also shows Jesus' compassion for a woman he didn't even know. Unlike the Centurion, she had no power or authority. It is likely she was simply a poor widow, as women had very little place in society at the time. Still, Jesus saw as much compassion for her as the man with the command of many. This shows the underlying message that Christ does not care about your station in life. It is meaningless. He cares only about a person's heart and has compassion for all. If it was not for this love, we would be totally lost. It was this love, however, that eventually became His sacrifice for our sins.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 3

Jesus’ words struck a chord with me this morning. It was a shameful chord too. The remaining part of chapter 6 of Luke that we have not gone over reminded me of just how sinful and lost I really am. It is because of that loss that I struggle even more at times such as now. Currently, I am going through a period where I feel directionless. I don’t know where I am going and I question if where I have been has any real meaning. I see little value in what I have accomplished for the last four years of my life because nothing seems to help me move forward.

This relates to the passage on judging others and love for my enemies. I tend to view those who hurt me deeply as now longer worthy of my attention. If the hurt is deep enough, it becomes a silent rage. There is a particular hurt in my life that I continue to wrestle with from time to time. As much as my anger changes nothing, I continue to think that if I just saw this person once and was allowed to unleash my fury it would set things right. I know it would change nothing. The person in question does not care. Still, I am the one hurting. I feel they should hurt for causing me pain.

27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. - -Luke 6:27-29

This is likely one f the hardest teachings of Jesus to apply to everyday life. I know it is for me. It takes an enormous amount of grace to do this, but in it is the root of salvation. It takes an enormous amount of grace for Jesus to forgive us of our sin and allow us to enter into His glory, but he still does it. It is no different than this lesson. In our sin we hate God. It causes us to turn from Him. We mistreat Him when we sin. Still, does He hate us? Does He smite us because he can get revenge? No! A thousand times no! He gives us the ultimate, most pure example of love by offering us forgiveness and salvation through the blood of Christ. Are we worthy of this? We are no more worthy of this than those who hurt us being worthy of our forgiveness. Still, the gift is there. This is love in its most pure, unadulterated form.

43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:43-45

The previous passage relates directly to this verse. What good am I if I store up bitterness in my heart? Look what it has gotten me: a seemingly useless existence with no job. As a result, I sit alone during the day and face every temptation I think I have beaten. I sit alone and simply store up more bitterness at the injustices of the world. What good am I to the kingdom then? What good am I if I succumb each day to the bitterness and not let God use me fully for the plan He has in mind? The choice is ultimately up to me. Do I produce good fruit by striving to move forward with the little good stored in my heart (which is the only way to store up more good) or do I continue to produce dark, bitter fruit and feel the world owes me something simply because I have certain talents.

I know one way hasn’t worked, so I pray that I have the strength, to pursue the other way. I pray God can guide me the other way, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 2

I wanted to separate the middle part of Luke 6 because it presents an interesting dichotomy in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus often taught about the treasures of heaven. They are obviously something that we have to wait patiently for. It is not an easy life. As with many things, Jesus showed in this passage that what is easy isn’t necessarily always what is right. This middle passage of Luke chapter 6 is a warning against taking that easy path in this life.

20Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. – Luke 6:20-26

Does this mean we always must be poor, hungry, hated, and sad in this world? Of course not! As usual, Jesus is speaking in a metaphor. He is asking us, as his disciples, to constantly hunger for more. This can be more knowledge, more time in the Word, more time with Him. We must be aware of our sad surroundings and long for the victory He has promised.

That is why we have the woes here too. The woes are presented to show us that if we are satisfied with our present state, we will be sorely disappointed in our eternal state. What we think is satisfying here pales in comparison to the kingdom of God. If we think we are great here we are truly nothing in the sight of God. Jesus is trying to show us how our earthly lives, while not needing to be full of pain and suffering, pale in comparison to what is ahead.

Maybe this is why I have felt so unfulfilled lately. I know that I don’t fit into this world very well. It is probably a large reason why I have struggled to find regular work despite the gifts I have been given. This world seems like nothing more than a dark, forbidding, hopeless place on a lot of days for me. As we are taught here, however, we must remember the ultimate reward. Suffering here will melt away when Jesus’ promise is fulfilled.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 1

This chapter of Luke shows, in my opinion, one of the best examples of how mankind can completely lose touch with reality. It features my favorite bumbling characters, the Pharisees, completely missing the point of one of Jesus' lessons.

1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

 3Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." 5Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." – Luke 6:1-5

On the surface, it is ridiculous that the Pharisees got all uptight about something like this. And it is ridiculous. This was probably the least amount of work you could do. Since Jesus was a threat to their power though, it was a punishable offense. Instead of listening to the message behind His words they looked for any small excuse to accuse Jesus. It doesn't stop there, either. As we continue with the story, Jesus performs another healing miracle. Instead of being in awe and wondering how this man had this power, they felt threatened. He worked on the Sabbath according to them. Performing this miracle had to be a greater crime than their own hypocrisy.

Jesus wasn't changing the rules here. We are still supposed to honor the Sabbath to this day. What he did was change ideas and values. Honoring the Sabbath has no value if we enforce traditions simply for the sake of enforcing them. That is what the Pharisees were trying to do. They were so short sighted that they refused to grow. Our lives are about growth, spiritual or otherwise. Without growth up to the last moment of our lives on this earth there is little point in living. This is why I struggle with stagnation. If I am not growing I see little point in continuing.

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. – Luke 6:12-16

This is a critical moment in Jesus' ministry. He had plenty of disciples, but these 12 ordinary men were specially chosen for a destiny that would change the world. In this moment, they became more than mere followers of Christ. They became representatives of his ministry. Later they would become leaders and teachers of the Word. What makes this even more amazing is that they were ordinary men. They had no special backgrounds or skills. In less than 3 years with Jesus they were trained to start a movement that continues to grow 2,000 years later. They were often rebuked, doubted,a nd even denied Christ, but they still accomplished amazing things in His name. That is simply extraordinary.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Luke, chapter 5

Why would a man like Jesus need help? Why would Jesus need to pray? Why would Jesus tell people to be quiet about His ministry? Those are just some of the questions addressed in Luke, chapter 5 as we see today. This chapter deals with some of the early events in his public ministry, such as the calling of his disciples. In this, it is not so much an admission that Jesus needed help. Instead, we see that He is intrusting mankind with the dissemination of His message. Yes Jesus could have simply changed minds supernaturally, but by placing the responsibility in mankind's hands He allows for us to come to Him of our own free will.

8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.

   Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:8-11

This is an important passage because Simon, later known as Peter, would go on to become the leader of the disciples. Simon is an interesting character. He knew his shortcomings at times, but other times he was reckless in following those shortcomings. His love for the Lord was unmatched, but it too caused him to be reckless. His calling is a metaphor for the work he would accomplish in his life. Peter would eventually go on to lead the disciples in spreading Christ's word throughout the globe. His efforts are still bearing fruit to this day each time the Word of God is testified.

15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:15-16

Why would Jesus need to pray? He was already fully God, but this shows how he was fully man too. Because of this, He also had to rely on strength from the Father instead of His own strength. In the physical limitations of the human body He couldn't possibly hope to cope with the enormity of what He had to do. This shows us how much we need to rely on prayer. This also links in with the final passage on fasting. Fasting allows us to focus our minds and our spirits on that sustaining prayer. Without, our spiritual lives are directionless.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Luke, Chapter 4 part 2

I have a confession this morning. I very nearly walked away from writing this blog here at Veritas. It has not become what I wanted it to become. I didn't feel like I was reaching much of an audience. Also, I felt like I wasn't developing as a writer anymore. I felt like I was rehashing the same message over and over again, especially in the writings on the life of David. I don't know if it was my inner strength leaving me or what, but I simply didn't feel qualified to write on this anymore.

Then I realized I was breaking a cardinal rule I set forth when I created this space: I was making it about myself. I had gone away from the focus on God and what He was doing behind my words and instead drew disappointment that the focus wasn't on how I can advance myself. I see that same lesson today in the second part of Luke chapter 4. In it, Jesus begins his public ministry away from his home town. He starts in Capernaum, which is a town he would use as one of the bases during His short public ministry.

40When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ. – Luke 4:40-41

Why would Jesus refuse to allow people to talk about His miracles? It is simple. The miracles and discussion hat would follow would put the focus on Him instead of His message. These miracles did serve a purpose. They drew attention to His ministry. What we see though throughout this ministry is that Jesus never made them the focus. The focus was always His message of salvation and forgiveness through repentance. It is almost like he used the miracles simply as an attention getter. They would say, "If you liked that, let me tell you what else I have," in a way.

Jesus knew he had more important things to say. These were messages that were conveyed not in words or actions, but in the meaning behind them. Jesus only promoted himself in the ways that it matters (i.e. I am the way, the truth, and the life.). The rest of the time, it was all about his message. That is why I am going to continue writing here. It is about the message and the Truth found in the Word, not about my own goals. I invite you to keep reading with me.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Luke, Chapter 4 part 1

What is temptation to you? There are personal demons that everyone battles. In my life, there are three in particular that continue to plague me daily. It is easy to fall prey to temptation even when we are strong. Our own strength is never enough because we are not Christ. Lately I have fallen prey to some of my temptations, particularly those rooted in frustration and anger, because they are the easy way. I don't necessarily get what I want, but it is the easy way to give in and lash out at those around me because life seems directionless. Essentially, that is what temptation boils down to: What is the easy way?

The beginning of Luke, chapter 4, deals strongly with temptation. Before beginning His public ministry, Christ is tempted by Satan directly. It is hard to imagine the Son of God taking the easy way when, if you think about it, everything could be the Easy Way for Him. The easy way was not His mission though. It was not His choice to avoid the suffering and sacrifice He had to face on the Cross. As the Son of God, He didn't have to do it. He wanted to do it though, no matter how difficult it was. The Sacrifice, which was never easy, was necessary in order to provide reconciliation for all mankind to God. Simply put, the Easy Way was not going to cut it.

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

 8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" – Luke 4:5-8

How could Satan give Jesus everything if He already had it? It is easy to see how a normal man would fall prey to this. Being given the entire world is a tempting offer. Jesus, however, knew the truth. The kingdoms of the world not only were already promised to Him eventually, but they weren't even in Satan's power to give. To me, if I were Jesus (and I know I am far from Jesus), this is the easiest temptation to resist of the three. Jesus knew patience was the key. He was going to win regardless, so why take the easy way?

The second part I wanted to discuss today was Jesus' rejection in His hometown. I love this because it speaks to my character. Jesus did not do what was expected of Him. He did not conform to other peoples ideals. I can relate to this, because I hate conforming. I hate going along with society on many things simply because that is what is expected. Some call it being difficult, but I prefer to think of it as unique. That is a strong part of Jesus' nature though. If you look closely at His ministry, he never makes it about Himself or about others. He is constantly at odds with those He comes in contact with. He directed the message and focus on God instead. In this, he specifically and boldly pointed out the truth without regard to what people thought He should do. Some, like those in Nazareth, rejected Him for it. Personally, I love him for it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Luke, Chapter 3 part 1

I have long been fascinated by the life of John the Baptist. He is one of my favorite Biblical figures, right up there with Abraham, David, and Paul. John was an extraordinary man. He saw that he had a special calling and pursued it with ambitious zeal. In that, he also knew his place. He developed a great following in the desert, yet never let this following go to his head. He never sought power. He longed only to pursue his mission and teach the message of repentance. He knew he was here to prepare the way for Christ, not to be Christ.

15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." – Luke 3:15-17

The heart of John's message was one of repentance. We see in these verses that he did not have the power to forgive. He knew that salvation was not his to grant. Instead, he was here to teach the basic path of Jesus' message. Jesus is the one with the power to grant salvation. First though, we must repent of our sins and recognize the need for salvation. This was the essential message that John the Baptist preached. He wanted to show us that we had a need for salvation, not that we can automatically expect it because of who we are.

What fascinates me about John the Baptist is the way he selflessly filled this role, even unto death. He ends this passage by being imprisoned, yet he served with the same gusto that Paul would later serve. I also like how there was no middle ground with him. I am a very black and white person, almost too much so. I do not like middle ground. With me, you're either on one side or another. That is how John was, and that is good because it relates to Christ's message. There is no middle ground when it comes to repentance. You must have it. John taught this, and it is an essential part of what we need when we approach Christ seeking salvation.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Luke, Chapter 2 part 2

Very little is known of Jesus' childhood. The only account of him as a boy comes late in this chapter, where as a 12 year old we find him debating with the teachers in the courts of the temple. I have always wondered what Jesus was like growing up. Here He was, completely in human form, yet He was also fully God at the same time. Did he go through all the stages of growth hat humans go through, or did He instantly know everything even as an infant? This is the only glimpse we get of him as a child, but it shows that even then He was quite exceptional.

46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

 49"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:46-52

First of all, this shows an incredible amount of maturity for a 12 year old. Second, this is one of the few times where the religious leaders of the day were at least partially understanding of His ministry. Most of the time they were plotting to kill Him. I don't fully understand what was going through their heads, but maybe they were simply astounded that this was coming from a 12 year old boy. They gave him leeway because of His youth, but later on when Jesus clearly threatened their power they revoked that leeway.

I also especially love the last part of this chapter. It really paints a picture of Jesus' humility. Jesus clearly was superior to every single human being who ever lived. In that, He never lorded it over people. He never showed human pride, being content to serve rather than seek power. He was obedient to His human parents, and much of His life was spent working as a carpenter in His father's business. Remember, His public ministry was only about 3 years long. The time between this story and his public ministry was six times longer than that. In that time, he humbly lived as a normal human being.

Was Christ trying to fully understand what it was like to live as merely a man in that time? I don't know. It is a mystery because if He is omniscient, then he didn't need to do this. I think this allows us to relate to Christ on a very personal level. Though He didn't have to, He still lived just like one of us. To have a Creator that sacrificed everything to live among us is overwhelming.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Luke, Chapter 2 part 1

Today we deal with the greatest event in the human history. What else can you call the birth of Jesus Christ? His coming was foretold across the centuries and still gives us our sole hope for salvation and eternal life to this day. As mentioned yesterday, His predecessor in John the Baptist had a pretty exceptional birth. Instead of human speculation on his life, Jesus’ birth was announced with divine signs from the heavens.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." – Luke 2:8-12

Why would God choose to announce the birth of mankind’s Savior in this way? Why not go to Rome, or to the temple in Jerusalem? It is very important that these shepherds were among the first that knew of Jesus’ birth. They were among the bottom level of society even though David, Israel’s greatest king, was once one of their number. The message is brought to them first to show that Jesus came for all mankind. Had the religious leaders or political figures of the day been contacted first it could have been construed differently. Instead, this humble birth is announced first to the common people, those He came to save.

We see further that the shepherds, these uneducated men on the fringe of society, instantly grasped what the religious leaders of the day failed to do over the course of Jesus’ ministry. They understood that their Savior had been born even without fully understanding the need for one. This only proves that God speaks directly to the heart, not the mind. We will see over the course of the rest of this book that when the mind gets involved, it can be an impediment to the truth. When we listen with our hearts, however, we hear and feel God’s presence move us.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Luke, Chapter 1, part 2

The second part of this chapter begins with Mary’s song. This is nothing less than a beautiful song of praise. If you take a look at the societal norms of the time, however, you can see how difficult it would be for Mary to have a song of praise. She was pregnant before being married. This was more than enough to have her shunned from society. We see in the other gospels that Joseph considered quietly breaking off the engagement as well. We also know that Mary was possibly as young as 14. The fact that she had this song undoubtedly shows an enormous amount of maturity for her age.

This also exhibits the power of God in the way He overcame what surely had to be an enormous amount of fear because of the above conditions. I can barely overcome my own fears, and they aren’t nearly on the scope of Mary’s here.

The rest of the chapter deals with the birth of John the Baptist. As we have discussed before, John was a special type of prophet. He was sent to prepare the way for Christ. His mission was one of change, preparing the people for when Christ would bring about even more dramatic change. Zechariah celebrates this with his won song of praise, but let’s take a look at John’s birth.

62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him. Luke 1:62-66

This is very interesting. John the Baptist was a man that openly admitted he wasn’t as good as Christ, yet his birth is met with great fanfare and wonder by the people around him. As we will see tomorrow, Christ came into the world under even more extraordinary circumstances (the virgin birth), yet His birth was met with very little fanfare. If not for God speaking to the shepherds and the Magi through His angels, it would have met with even less fanfare.

So what can we take from this? It is important to praise God even when things look bleak. It is also important to know that we each have roles. John was someone whom people discussed what he would be in wonder. There were great expectations on him, and he lived up to them. I believe we each have great expectations regardless of what others think. We each have a mission, a purpose for why we are here. It is up to us to seek God first and follow that path.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Luke, Chapter 1

My writings on the life of David didn't go as well as I expected, so I have decided to jump back to the gospels for a moment. Since we are now officially in the Christmas season it is the perfect time to do so. I have already written on the gospels of Matthew and Mark, so today I wanted to get into Luke’s gospel. I think this is my favorite of the four gospels because it feels like Luke is merely writing a letter to a friend. It takes a tone much like Paul’s letters later on in the New Testament.

The first chapter is a long one, but it sets up the background for the birth of Jesus. We get a much better picture of John the Baptist before his birth. He would play a major role in preparing the way for Christ’s own ministry.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." – Luke 1:11-17

This is very similar to the birth of Isaac as we saw in the life of Abraham. When God Himself gets involved dramatically in human affairs like this is definitely something that we should pay attention to. John the Baptist was the one who would prepare the way for Christ. To this point there have been many people who have prophesied the need for a Savior, but it was up to John to actually prepare the people of the day to receive him.

Christ Himself was going to bring about dramatic change. He challenged the very ideals of Israelite society. It is almost as if God knew that his type of change would be too radical to be completely understood, so he sent John as an intermediary.

41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" – Luke 1:41-45

This second part is important because it shows that Elizabeth understood her place. She knew she was having her own special child, but that child was merely a servant for the one that Mary would have. Even before His birth Jesus was already making changes in the hearts and minds of people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

1 Samuel 30

When I began writing about the life of David, I wanted to try and understand some of the more subtle aspects of his character. His background was pretty unremarkable. He was the youngest son of a shepherd. In Israelite society, the youngest son of many often received very little and toiled in obscurity. David’s faith was rewarded throughout his life as he eventually became the greatest king Israel ever had. David’s life is a message to all of us. His story is in the Bible to show us what can happen if we place our faith in God and put His plans first in our lives. David was far from perfect, but his life is still a great example. That is especially true here in 1 Samuel 30.

If I am attacked, my first thought is to strike back. Often this leads to irrational behavior. I was actually in a situation such as this last night when I thought I saw someone who had seriously wronged me. Despite the fact that I was in a very public setting (a rock concert), my first instinct was to charge after this person and exact my revenge. Fortunately, a cooler head prevailed. First of all, I wasn’t even sure this random person was the person in question. Second, it wasn’t the right place to do what I had in mind. Third, if I struck my own blind revenge I don’t think there would be very much to gain, but there would be much to lose.

David faces a similar situation in 1 Samuel 30. The town where he had been staying was attacked by an enemy and both of his wives, plus the wives and children of many of his men, were taken away. Davis was furious. He surely wanted to chase immediately after his enemies and take back what was rightfully his. Instead, he sought God first.

3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David's two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?"
"Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." – 1 Samuel 30:3-8

The ultimate answer here was still the same. David wanted to go after the Amelikites, and God told him he would have success in going after them. The message, however, comes in David seeking God’s will first. Despite the personal anguish David was certainly feeling, he took the time to properly approach God and seek what he was supposed to do. This shows an incredible amount of humility. David was able to overcome his personal feelings and admit that he was ultimately powerless to do what he wanted. This is what we must do when we face adversity. It, like many things, is a lesson I continue to struggle with daily.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

1 Samuel 29

In 1 Samuel 29, David faces a difficult choice. Since Saul had virtually banned him from Israel, David had to live with the Philistines. They had long been Israel’s enemy, but Achish had always treated David with respect. At this time, the Philistines were preparing to face the Israelites in a battle that would ultimately lead to Saul’s death and David’s ascension to the throne. David was going to the battle in support of Achish, but it had to be difficult going against his own people.

Naturally, the Philistines were afraid that David would turn on them in battle. Though he had been loyal to Achish, it was a calculated fear at this point. Achish understood why David wanted to fight, but the Philistine leaders wanted to send David and his men home despite the fact he had long been loyal to them.

8 "But what have I done?" asked David. "What have you found against your servant from the day I came to you until now? Why can't I go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?"

9 Achish answered, "I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God; nevertheless, the Philistine commanders have said, 'He must not go up with us into battle.' 10 Now get up early, along with your master's servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light." – 1 Samuel 29:8-10

This once again shows David’s character. He still had much to gain by Saul’s death, but he still removed himself from the fight. He once again put his faith in God to allow whatever outcome God wanted without his influence. Great leaders know when it is time for even them to serve. What made David a great leader was this characteristic that he exhibited time and again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1 Samuel 28

In 1 Samuel 28, we see the perspective shift back to King Saul for a moment. For David to take the throne, Saul first had to be deposed. This chapter represents the prophecy of his own downfall. Though Saul had once found God’s favor, he turned away from him. As a result, God would, in time, turn things over to David. We see Saul’s own hypocrisy here, as he consults a spiritual medium even though he had already banished them from the land.

16 Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines." – 1 Samuel 28:16-19

This speaks to our responsibility to God when we are given much. Nothing in this life comes for free. We are all given gifts, but they are given so God can use said gifts to accomplish the most through us. Each person’s gifts are different as well. In Saul, God gave him gifts of leadership and power, yet Saul did not use them the way God wanted him to use them. As a result, God was going to replace Saul with David because David was a steward of His gifts. We must remember this as we seek to apply the gifts we are given.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 27

I apologize for the break in publishing, but a brief trip to Florida was much needed in order to rest and recharge my batteries. It already feels like I never went, and I have been back for only 36 hours. Such is life, however. Today I wanted to return to the life of David where we left off in chapter 27 of 1 Samuel.

When I began writing about David’s life I wasn’t quite sure where it would take me at first. The Jewish faith views the Old Testament as both a sacred historical text and as a manual of Jewish traditions. In the Christian faith we tend to view it more as strictly as a historical record. We believe that Christ Himself rewrote most of the traditions when he established the new covenant. In that view, the Old Testament serves to show why a new covenant was needed between God and man. Still, the tendency to view it simply as a book of stories instead of something hat God is trying to tell us.

On the surface, that is what chapter 27 and much of the rest of 1 Samuel looks like. There is no huge, “I am the way, the truth, and the light” type of revelation here. Instead, we see more insight into the life of David and the type of man he was before becoming king of Israel. This chapter shows his patience. He was waiting for God to deal with Saul, rather than dealing with Saul himself. For 16 months he had to live with the Phillistines and in that time he continued to seek God first. Though this chapter is short, it still teaches us this overlying message that God sometimes has us mark time in a place where we don’t want to be in order to accomplish His goals.

Monday, November 10, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 26

If given the chance to exact revenge or spare the life of someone who had caused you copious amounts of undue grief, what would you do? Would you allow God to exact His vengeance, or would you take matters into your own hands for personal satisfaction? That is what David faced again here in chapter 26 of 1 Samuel. Saul had continued to comer after him, but David had another chance to take his life without Saul even knowing he was there. I do not know if I would have the strength or conviction to stay my hand as David did, but he did so because he knew ultimately that vengeance was the Lord and the Lord’s alone.

8 Abishai said to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice."

9 But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let's go." – 1 Samuel 26:8-11

David knew that it was not his place to judge Saul. Saul had been placed in his role by God and God alone. Though David could have killed him and taken the throne with very little controversy, he did not. Saul’s judgment would come at God’s hand. David knew he himself would be judged by God for his actions as well. This was a test to prove his worth in god’s eyes, and David passed it.

We often face tests like this on our own. We are not always presented with a chance to gain revenge on our enemies, but we face similar tests when God presents us with the easy way or the right way. The easy way may accomplish something, but it is not always right. Sure, you can cheat on a test and get away with it, but I don’t want the surgeon that cheated his way through medical school to good grades. That same person probably didn’t earn anything they needed to learn, and that’s the last person I want cutting on me. David had a shortcut to his ultimate destination right there in front of him, but in taking it he wouldn’t have been properly prepared to be the king of Israel.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 25

Chapter 25 of 1st Samuel is a lesson in listening. We have another story of David and basically what he was doing before he became king of Israel. He is now in command of about 600 men, but he is still a kind commander. In this story he confronts a man that is less than pleasant to his men even though David’s men provided protection for his shepherds. This seems like a pretty innocuous story at first. David was wrong, so he sought vengeance on Nabal. The listening comes from Nabal’s wife.

While Nabal had a hard heart, his wife did not. Abigal spoke from her heart and showed gratitude. She knew that her gruff husband had spoken out of turn, so she approached David herself. This was an incredible feat simply because women of the day had very few rights. She was essentially overstepping her bounds, especially in speaking with another male. This paid off for both parties though. It ended up saving most of the men in Nabal’s household, and She ended up gaining David’s trust so much she became his wife.

32 David said to Abigail, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak." – 1 Samuel 25:32-34

This is another insight into David’s character. He easily could have continued with his desire to exact revenge on Nabal, but he did not. Instead, he listened. God had another plan in mind other than vengeance. If David had enacted his plan, he would have missed out on a wife and on gaining everything her husband hand. Because he listened, God blessed David. This is a lesson we can all take to heart.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapters 23 and 24

I delayed publishing by a day to put these two chapters together. I did this mostly because chapter 23 is just a continuation of David’s flight from Saul, but chapter 24 is the climax of this pursuit. In chapter 24, we have a beautiful example of David’s nearly unparalleled character. It is unclear how long Saul pursued David all over the map of Israel. Saul threatened David’s life, forced him from his home, and generally disrupted his entire life. David had every reason to take vengeance if he had the chance, but as wee see in chapter 24, he did not.

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, 'David is bent on harming you'? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.' 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, 'From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you. – 1 Samuel 24:8-13

This is another area of Scripture that speaks to my heart. Vengeance is not ours to take. Still, it is very hard to avoid the urge if it does come up. By human terms, David had every right to get even with Saul then and there. It is not what God wanted, however. He knew that true vengeance would be meted out between God and Saul. David not only did this for his own reasons, but he placed God’s desires ahead of his own. David could have done it solely to regain favor and seek the throne as king of Israel. Instead, he humbled himself before God and allowed the Lord to decide what would happen in this case.

This is why he mentions the Lord’s anointed. He knew that Saul, despite all the evil he had done in turning away from God, was still chosen by that same God to lead Israel. This is another lesson to me as far as learning to put God’s desires ahead of my own. God wanted Saul to lead Israel, even if it was for a little while longer. David didn’t know why, but he accepted it. God wants me to suffer in this job for at least a little while longer. I don’t know why, but I must accept it. As much as I want vengeance against those that have wronged me, and as much as I want out of this prison of a job, I have to go the opposite way, at least for now. I also must trust that God will take care of both.

In my humanity, it is tough to accept this. If I were given the opportunity to hurt someone who has hurt me, I am not sure if I would have the faith to turn it down. With this job, it is clearly what God wants for me at the moment because of the way He answered prayer directly, but I still feel trapped and like it is a complete and utter waste of every second I spend here. It is my prayer today that I will see what God’s will is in both of these situations, and that I will have the faith and strength to accept this will.

Monday, November 3, 2008

1 Samuel 22

The term “Guilty by Association” take center stage in today’s passage on the life of David. David is still on the run from King Saul. As a result, he finds refuge, but those who assisted him early in his flight are punished for helping him. Why would God allow something like this? In this chapter we clearly see that David is in the right while Saul is in the wrong. Saul, driven by jealousy instead of the will of God, wanted to punish David because he knew David would take power from him. It is a classic case of the ways of this world against the ways of God.

3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, "Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?" 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. – 1 Samuel 22:3-4

While most of this chapter is dry, I wanted to focus on this small section because it shows the patience David had. In the midst of everything, he knew that he still had to wait on God. He was trying to protect not just himself, but his family as well. Still, he knew he needed to wait on God. It wasn’t even about what he needed to do for God or anyone else. It was about what God needed to do for him.

I find this very hard to do, especially now. I feel like God is doing nothing for me because nothing ever changes. Things only seem to get more stressful and farther from God each and every day. Today is a prime example. I want nothing more than to retreat into my shell and just be with God, but I’m not even allowed to do that. I don’t want to speak unless spoken to by anyone here at work, yet that is an impossible request because of the nature of my job. I long for silence, but there is chaos and useless noise going on all around. David found peace and knew to wait for God even in the most chaotic situation of his life. I long to find a way to do the same.

Friday, October 31, 2008

1 Samuel 21

There isn’t much to take from this chapter today. Essentially it tells us that David went from one place to another as he fled from the wraith of Saul. We see him regain Goliath’s sword, then he goes on to Gath and acts as a madman in order to hide out further. What can we gain from this? It certainly doesn’t seem as if there is some deep lesson to be learned here.

Sometimes we have to lower ourselves before we can be given the glory of God. This is what David had to do. It is somewhat similar to Moses, who had to flee his people for awhile and live in the wilderness. This is merely David doing what he had to do in order to survive. He knew God had a higher purpose for him, but now was not the time for that purpose. This is how I feel in my life as I sit in a job that continues to have little value to me. I do it because God needs me here at the moment, but I know there is more in store.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1 Samuel 19

I am not quite sure what to say about the second part of this chapter, but the first part of it is a little more clear. As we begin this chapter, the king of Israel is trying to kill David. David was an innocent man. It makes no sense for Saul to try and kill him because David had brought Saul great glory in battle. Saul was susceptible to the ways of man, however. He was jealous of David for getting even more glory. Evil had corrupted Saul because he turned away from God, but David hadn’t at this point.

The whole world had to feel like it was against David at this point. He had done nothing but glorify God, but he was being hunted down by his father-in-law. What do we do when the world is against us like this? David had given so much and remained faithful. Yet even in his blessing of a wife and influence he was still being repressed and beaten down by the ways of the world. It is a familiar feeling. I live it every day when I come in to the prison that is the job I have little choice but to work.

18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 1 Samuel 19:18-21

Even when Saul was doing evil, we see that God used it for good. Saul was trying to kill David, yet the very men that he sent to dot he job were used to further God’s word through prophesy. We see that even Saul himself would be used in this way when he personally tried to go and kill David. When we are in God’s favor and the world is against us we have to remember this passage. God will never falter. This is a lesson hat I must apply daily, and have done a poor job of it so far.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1 Samuel 18

When the unknown ascend to greatness, it often leads to jealousy from those in power. That is what we see today as David continues his rise in Israelite society. Saul had been on the throne for some time by mandate of the people. The people of Israel longed for an earthly king, and Saul was chosen for this role. He was chosen mostly because he looked like he would be a good King, yet his heart was not fully committed to the Lord. As a result, Israel began to turn away from God.

As Saul lost his stature, David gained it. Not only that, but in his jealousy, Saul set the worst example possible. Meanwhile, David maintained a humble posture. He knew that his strength came from God alone. Saul looked for ways to continually have David killed, while David looked only to serve God. David developed a very close friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan as well. This friendship was a blessing and a curse. It strengthened David, but it brought more attention from Saul upon him.

20 Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 "I will give her to him," he thought, "so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." So Saul said to David, "Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law."

22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: "Speak to David privately and say, 'Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.' "

23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, "Do you think it is a small matter to become the king's son-in-law? I'm only a poor man and little known." – 1 Samuel 18:20-23

David had many things going for him at this point. He had the love of the people and of the king’s daughter. He was good friends with the king’s son, and was the rising star in Israelite society. Even in this, he maintains his humble nature before the Lord. He could have been given the king’s daughter, but instead doubled what he felt he had to do in order to earn her. We know later that David will falter before God. He will not always maintain this attitude, but that is because he is human.

David also uses this opportunity to turn Saul’s plot against him. Saul wanted to use his daughter as a way to have David killed in battle. He felt this was the easiest way to get David out of his way. Instead, David had God’s favor and conquered those Saul set against him. Naturally, this made Saul fearful. This is just further proof that God takes care of those he finds favorable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Samuel 17

Today’s passage is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. The story of David and Goliath is known by almost everyone. Even non-Christians are familiar with the underdog story. It is a story that shows the faith of David even as a very young man as well as how the power of God can accomplish anything. David was facing overwhelming odds, yet his faith never waivered. At a time when even the king of Israel was afraid and faced a hopeless situation, God used the faith of a boy to topple a champion.

It looked impossible too. Goliath was a giant of a man. He was experienced in fighting for more years than David had been alive. That gave him a deadly combination of size, strength, and experience. David, however, had the advantage by knowing he had God on his side. As we read the story in 1 Samuel 17, we see how David was mocked, yet he never let go of his faith. Even as he prepared to fight, those around him couldn’t get around their human weaknesses. They tried to prepare him in conventional ways, yet David knew he would triumph regardless of how much he prepared, simply because he had God on his side.

What I love about this story is that David saw a problem and did something about it. Here we have the entire Israelite army standing around and doing nothing. They were presented with a challenge and did not nothing. They didn’t accept or deny it. They simply waited and hoped it would go away on its own. David saw the adversity facing Israel and did something about it. That is what I am struggling with so much lately. I see the adversity of working a job I despise, yet I don’t know what I can do about it. God plainly wants me here, and if I walk away it only makes matters worse. I want to do something that will take me away from here, but all my other efforts are met with silence at best. I feel like I am facing my own Goliath in the form of a four-year stretch of little professional growth.

34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." – 1 Samuel 17:34-37

Can you feel the conviction in David’s words here? This was not a man who felt he was facing impossible odds. This was not a man that even showed fear. He knew he was going to win because he had God on his side. This was as confident as saying, “I’m going to go get a drink of water from that creek over there.” I lack this conviction, this sheer instinct at knowing that victory is a mere formality right now. I even face less dramatic odds than David faced. Still, he knew it was over, and in his favor, before the battle even started.

45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. – 1 Samuel 17:45-46

Again, we see so much conviction in his words. On human terms, if Goliath were to be defeated, many thought it would be an epic struggle to take him down. Instead, the battle was over almost before it began. Only one blow was struck, and that was by David. That was enough, with the power of God behind it, to triumph over evil. David was not even cocky in his conquest as so many might have been. He continued to humble himself, giving credit for this glorious victory to God. These words are words that give us the strength and courage to face our own Goliaths.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

1 Samuel 16

I once again wanted to step back into the Old Testament to talk about one of the old school heroes of the Bible. This time, we are talking about the life of King David. With him, we see both the greatest that humanity has to offer, and the lowest that we as a race can go. David was one of God’s greatest servants, yet he still fell short of the glory of God numerous times. He is one of the greatest authors of the Old Testament, but I wanted to look at his life as chronicled by the prophet Samuel. This is all new to me, so please bear with me as I haven’t read these accounts in years.

1 Samuel 16 is where we run into David first. At this time he is still a boy, one of the eight sons of Jesse. At this time, God had rejected Saul as Israel’s first king because he did not dedicate himself to the Lord. Samuel was directed to visit Jesse because God Himself would select the next king of Israel personally. This wasn’t even something that would be fulfilled that day. As we will see, it would take years before David officially became king. It was on this day, however, that his destiny was laid out for him.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." – 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Essentially, God told Samuel not to judge a book by its cover. Like most of the Bible, this is also a preview of the life of Jesus. David was the unheralded eighth son. Because Middle Eastern society gave such importance to the first born, little was expected of him. Ironically, God often went against this tradition often. Isaac was not Abraham’s first born, but he was chosen. The same with Jacob and Joseph. David is no different in that God knew his heart and saw past the physical characteristics that mankind tends to focus on.

We see that this begins David’s ascension to the throne. Though still just a boy, he was anointed by Samuel and went to serve King Saul as an armor-bearer. This is important because though he would become a great king, he began his role in a posture of humility and servitude. This is what God asks of us today. We must be humble before him, accepting the small first before we can be trusted with the great.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 5

It has taken me a few days to get back here, but today we will finally get to the end of 1 Peter. This chapter still deals with the topic of submission, one that is a hot button issues as we discussed in the last chapter. Some would call Paul’s view in the rest of this chapter as a chauvanistic 1st century attitude at a time when women had few if any rights. Today’s look in chapter 5 shows that this is not the case. It shows that men in a marital relationship have a much harder road of being submissive than women. As usual, God has a plan that was true then and is still true today in a much larger, more progressive world.

5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble." 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:5-7

Women only have to be submissive to men according to Paul. That is an earthly authority. Men here are asked to be submissive not just before their elders, but to God Himself. If we want to be exalted in this life we must seek a humble existence, putting God’s needs before our own. This is easy to preach, but from my experience, it is extremely hard to do in practice. This does not mean we cannot have our own desires and ambitions. We simply must make sure they are in line with what God wants in our lives. It is when we have this balance that we truly begin to thrive.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 4

What does it mean to live for God? In our human capacity, I don’t know if it is possible to live fully for God. According to the standards we have seen not only in this chapter, but throughout the Bible, we cannot possibly do everything we need in order to live fully for God. That takes perfection. We cannot attain perfection even after we have received Christ. This is where the sheer grace of God shows its beauty. Despite the fact that we are asked to be perfect, yet cannot be, we are saved by that grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a message I have repeated here dozens of times, but it never loses its beauty.

1Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5

It is my sincere hope that there is a reason for this suffering. Many people go through periods where they experience some or all of what is mentioned in verse 3. I have been there. You eventually reach a point where all the joy that you are supposed to derive from those activities becomes hollow and unfulfilling. It’s not even suffering, but merely an emptiness that comes from pursuing nothing. If we stay there, we invite God’s judgment upon us. That is why we trust in Christ.

By trusting in Christ we avoid that judgment. We give our lives over to Him and he can accomplish amazing things in our imperfections. Even as I struggle daily with issues of depression and feelings of being worthless I see that Christ has accomplished much good in my life. The greatest thing I have ever experienced is not some basketball triumph of academic pursuit, but the fact that my wife is a believer in Christ because God used me to reach her. He placed me in her life. Because of that, another soul is saved for the kingdom.

19So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. – 1 Peter 4:19

This is our most important act in life. Lately I have been thinking of what my mission in life is. I feel like Christ has a specific plan for our lives. In that plan, there are specific missions we must accomplish before the next stage of the plan. Since getting turned down for the job offer I would have preferred last week, it has become clear to me that I am needed at this place I am working at this time in my life for a specific purpose. I don’t want to be here, but god clearly wants me here. To me, it is suffering. In it, I am trying to commit myself to God’s will so I can accomplish my mission here, whatever it may be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1 Peter, Chapter 3

Today’s passage in 1 Peter is controversial even today. The first part of today’s chapter deals with Husbands and wives, specifically how wives should submit to their husbands. In today’s modern era of equality, the idea of a husband submitting to a man’s authority simply based on gender is demeaning. If you read today’s passage closely, however, you’ll see that the submission asked for is different from mere authority. Also, husbands have their own role of submission to perform.

4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
7Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:4-7

Women are not asked here to submit to the authority of men, but to the authority of God. Men are asked to support and respect their wives with the authority they are given. To me, this means that the marriage is a partnership where the man doesn’t necessarily make every decision. Instead, he consults his partner on decisions and they work through things together. Though the man may make a decision, he does so with the input of his wife. The weaker partner here probably only refers to physical strength. I like to think it does simply because my wife is far from the weaker partner in our marriage.

The second part of today’s chapter deals with suffering for doing what is good. This is something that is an unfortunate part of humanity. Our entire faith is based on someone suffering and dying for all of us even though that person never did anything wrong. It is the ultimate example of our faith, and the apostle Paul elaborates on it here in this letter.

14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:14-17

Sometimes we have to suffer, as verse 17 says, in order to God’s will. No one knew this better than the apostles. Of the 12 of them, every one except for John died a martyr’s death before reaching old age. It is not as if they lived easy lives until meeting this calling either. Paul himself was imprisoned many times. He escaped death in numerous cities before finally meeting his end in Rome. He understood his mission though. He preached the gospel to his last breath. We have most of the New Testament thanks to him, and his ministry has lead to literally billions of people believing in Christ. In all of this, he deflected all the glory to Christ.

That is a life well lived in suffering.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1 Peter 2

Yesterday was a rough day. I think we are offered somewhat of an explanation as to why we have these days in 1 Peter 2, as we see today. The simple thing is that we are not part of this world. Once we commit ourselves to Christ, we no longer belong to the ways of this world. From that point forward, everything feels out of place. We can often feel lost and confused in a world that runs very differently from how we run our own lives. It is no wonder that the blues, and even depression, can set in.

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:9-12

Verse 11 sums things up best here. This is a war against our souls in which we can feel like we are winning or losing at any moment. The world does not agree with us. It doesn’t take a long look at the media to see that many Christians are painted as right-wing nutjobs afraid of change. Christianity almost carries a negative connotation in some circles because it offers beliefs that greatly differ from others. It is in how we live our lives, as an example unto Christ painted here, that makes a difference.

Monday, October 13, 2008

1 Peter 1

I am in need of encouragement today. The decision I spoke of last week was made, and it was not made in my favor. Though it was not the choice I would have made, I have to submit to God’s will in this instance. Today is merely the aftermath. It is a very down morning as I find myself staring at another dead end, at least from my perception. I turned 29 yesterday as well. Professionally and in some ways personally, there is little reason now to think this year will be any better than the last three or four.

I find myself questioning a lot of things this morning. I question why I am currently where I am in life, with a ton of bitterness still clouding my heart so much that it invades my sleep. I feel alone in a crowded room, but I want to be alone if that makes sense. I attended a football game yesterday with 67,000 people, but I felt alone the entire time. I question openly what purpose I am serving on this earth when I feel like I am being stuffed on a shelf for later. This avenue is one of the few areas where I feel useful.

17Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:17-21

I didn’t come into the morning expecting to write about 1 Peter. I knew there was encouragement to be found in the apostle Paul, but I wasn’t sure what type I needed today. In doing what I do each for a job, I have a hard time seeing how this work can be judge as anything but useless. I sit here and feel like I am built for so much more, but instead when I pursue it I continuously get told no. Even in this direct decision given to God He made it clear that this is what I am supposed to do. Somehow, I pray He can find glory in it.

And there is glory in that. Verse 21 promises us this. If we believe in our salvation through Christ’s blood, then God finds glory in all we do. Those who know me understand that I am a person of wild, exaggerated examples. I take this promise to the extreme in that case. Imagine God finding glory in everything you do. This includes eating, sleeping, breathing, going to the bathroom, driving your car to work, everything! This is what gives us purpose on days like today. We may not see the glory, but it is there.