David & Bathsheba

Category : David, choice

David was a great and mighty ruler.  He had always passionately and actively followed God.  Even when it cost him a great deal (he had to hide in a cave for a long time because he refused to kill the man who was trying to kill him).  That desire to follow God, and the fact that David was a man of action is what led David to the throne of Israel.

He ruled justly for a long time.  That is, until one day, when he decided to give up his kingly duties (going off to war with his soldiers) and instead stay behind in the comfort of the palace.

It’s during that time when David met Bathsheba. Or more accurately watched her bathing on the roof, had an affair with her, got her pregnant, and then killed her husband to hide the whole thing. (It was a busy couple of days.)

David risked everything including his relationship with God, because he was being passive and not pursuing his kingly duties. If he had been active, if he had followed his responsibilities, none of this would have happened.

While David did many things and accomplished a lot, he nearly blew it.  Because in one instance, he chose to sit back and remain passive, rather than actively follow God.

This is part three in a five part series on the dangers of passivity in the kingdom.  It was also featured as part of “The Daily” a short devotional geared toward helping people develop regular habits of reading the Bible.  If you would like to subscribe to The Daily, you can do so here. Photo provided by flickr user whalt.

failing God

Category : David, God, failure, faith, fear, sin

 

If you ask an athlete about a game, they will almost always tell you about the shot they missed, the tackle they could have had, the putt they should have sunk.  Of course you don’t need to be an athlete to think this way.  When you go into work what do you think of?  The things you should have finished?  The account you should have landed?  I bet very few of us focus on the positives.  Even fewer live wide awake.

We live in a culture that emphasizes failure.  I don’t know if this has always been the case or if this is some recent development.  But whatever the case, we live in a world obsessed with failure.  

It’s true in our professional lives.  It’s true in our personal lives.  And this attitude is true in our relationship with God.  We focus on our short comings:  How we could have been more generous.  How we shouldn’t have yelled at our kids.  How we knew what we were doing was wrong, yet we didn’t stop.  We focus on all of the mistakes we make.   

But is this how we are supposed to live?   

Most of us have fallen for the performance plan view of God.  We think God is carefully taking note of our failures.  That he’s just waiting around the corner to whack us with them.  “If Santa makes a list, what does God do?” we wonder.  Instead of experiencing God’s grace, we find ourselves overwhelmed with guilt.

Yet that’s not the God of the Bible.  While God is never thrilled we’re sinning, it’s not our sin that destroys our relationship with him.  It’s something else… 

There once was a father and son who believed in God.  The father was a murderer, adulterer, he was even negligent of his family.  The son on the other hand never killed anyone, never had an affair, and always seemed to have his family in mind.

Yet God turned away from the son and not the father.  Why?

Because no matter how many horrible things David did, he always maintained his relationship with God.  He never rejected that relationship.  Solomon on the other hand, despite all his wisdom, began to worship other Gods. 

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech [a] the detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.”               (1 Kings 11: 4-6)

David’s failure didn’t drive God away.  No matter how many mistakes he made, God always remained with David.  Solomon, on the other hand, despite all his wisdom found God as an enemy.  It wasn’t his failures that caused it – it was his choice to believe in other gods that ended things. 

So why do we still believe our behavior is what matters to God?   Why do we focus all our energy on our failures, and spend so little time focusing on re-building our relationship with God?

David did many horrible things.  Yet he was described as, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13: 22).  Despite his actions, despite his failure, he built a lasting relationship with God.  Isn’t that the model that we should work towards?  Shouldn’t we stop focusing on failures and spend all that energy of doubt, fear, anger, worry towards re-energizing our relationship with God?

We need to live out a life of faith, not live a life in fear of failure. 

1 little sin…

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Category : David, bible, faith, sin

  

It’s amazing how one little sin can destroy our entire lives.  We think that our behavior doesn’t really matter.  Or maybe we justify it by saying it only hurts us.  But that’s just not the case.  One little sin can can destroy everything. 

David had one little sin.  He gave into sexual temptation and had an affair.  That lead to the death of the woman’s husband, the death of their son, the rape of his daughter, the murder of another son, the coup by his oldest son, David’s fleeing into the desert, the death of his oldest son, and even the removal of his most trusted and successful general.

All because of one choice.

The next time you think one sin doesn’t matter, think again.

king of the hill

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Category : David, bible, choice, different, faith

 

I am very much an individualist. 

All of my favorite games, movies and history stories involve the lone hero fighting the forces of evil (Chuck Norris I’m looking at you).  To be honest I hate the idea that I need community to live a healthy, productive life.  I don’t want to have to submit my life to other people – I want to be king of the hill. 

But if I want to live out a life of faith, I need to look at everything the Bible says about my life, not just the things I’m interested in hearing.  That’s why I find the Bible’s comments on authority so challenging.  It directly confronts the way I want to live my life.

Yet should I be surprised?  Look at what happens in the world around us.

Since 2000 we’ve been told by one political party that our current president is an idiot.  Comedians re-tell that same joke as if no one has ever heard it.  Companies publish calendars and cards illustrating “Bushisms.”  In response, we’re told that the other political party hates their country.  And hopes that things will be miserable for millions of Americans just to improve their election chances.  

Of course it’s not just politics where this happens.  It’s at home too.  A 12 year old boy was suspended from school for wearing a mohawk to support the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  His response was essentially: “I’d rather be suspended than cut my hair.”  His parents supported his decision. 

Now maybe Bush isn’t the smartest President we’ve ever had.  And maybe one party really does believe in redistribution of wealth.  And maybe the school over reacted with a boy’s enthusiasm for his favorite team.

But is this mocking authority how we’re called to live? 

We  seem to “stick it to the Man” because we can.  And so we cheer for the defiance of a 12 year old.  And laugh at the Bush is stupid jokes.  And nod knowingly that one party wants to take from the rich and give to the poor. 

I don’t pretend to understand everything about how the Bible portrays authority.  Maybe I don’t even know most of it.  But how can we hope to learn what it means to be obedient, when as a society we intentionally mock those in authority?

Right now we find ourselves in a global economic crisis.  And we’re told that we need to trust our leaders.  But why should we when we’ve been told for 8 years that the president is an idiot?  When we mock authority, how can we suddenly turn that attitude off when suddenly we need to trust authority?

The answer is, we can’t. 

There’s a moment when Saul is standing alone in a cave “using the facilities” so to speak.  David, the man who Saul is trying to kill, is hiding in the cave. Saul had been searching for them for a long time.  It would be so easy for David to end his life on the run by killing Saul. At least that’s what David’s men think.  

But David believes Saul was chosen by God, and therefore has all of God’s authority.  So instead of killing him, David cuts off a piece of his robe.  Saul leaves without knowing how close to death he was.  As Saul walks back to his soldiers, his protection, David appears, saying, “I could have killed you, but I didn’t because God chose you to be king.”

David knew that if he started ignoring God’s authority because it was convenient, he’d be walking down a dangerous path.  He respected Saul’s authority so much that he’d rather live a life on the run, then counter what God might be doing through Saul.  He knew he couldn’t turn his obedience on and off.  That’s a very different place to be than how we seem to be living.

Like I said, the Bible’s view of authority is difficult for me to grasp.  Especially as someone who prides himself on individualism.  I do know that with the election in a few days, this is something we all need to wrestle with.  No matter who wins the presidency, serious problems face this country and the world.  And I don’t want to reject authority simply because I don’t like it.  I’m committed to God, no matter where that leads me.

I want God to be my king of the hill.

 

walking on water

Category : David, God, choice, different, taking action, trust

 

In the last post, I spoke about David’s belief that God would be with him when he faced Goliath.  He didn’t need any more evidence. He didn’t have to wait for “just one more reassurance.”  He just took past experiences and applied them to his life.

Yet so often we don’t act with that same assurance.  Sometimes we want to wait for absolutes before we act.  We play it safe and ask, “God, should I do this, or should I do that?”  Waiting until God gives us some kind of definitive answer. 

Now on the one hand, this is a very valid and legitimate question to ask.  It can be a very bad idea to act without knowing God is there to support you.  But in many cases God has already told us to act, he doesn’t need to repeat himself.  For instance, Jesus already told us to love our enemies.  We don’t need to pray about whether we should love them, we just need to do it.

No matter what decisions we make, or what actions we decide to take, we must always move with God.  As bold as David was, he never would have survived without God’s help.  In fact, that’s the whole point of the story.  David was much smaller than many of the Israelite soldiers.  He was the youngest child (which Israelites viewed as ‘inferior’).  If David had come up to you or I, we would have laughed at him, and said, “sure whatever kid.”  He didn’t fit the mold of manly man, let alone hero.

Which is exactly why God chose him to act.  No one could confuse God’s action as something David did on his own.  Casting Crowns sums up David’s attitude saying, “I’ll go, but I cannot go alone.”  This was David’s life philosophy.  He was aware that it wasn’t his own abilities that would take down Goliath (or the bear, or the lion) but it was God.  He went, but he didn’t go alone.

In Me

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

With God’s backing, we can accomplish anything.  As David found out even giants are no match for God.  Or as Peter discovered, even walking on water is possible when we live out a life of faith.  What can God do with our lives, if we choose not to walk alone?

life’s biggest lesson?

Category : David, Saul, faith, fear, taking action

  

“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: 37)

This was David’s response when Saul asked him why he thought he could beat Goliath, a man that every other Israelite feared.  Sometimes all we need is to apply the things that God has already taught us.  David didn’t need more proof that God would help him – he already had two examples.  And for David, that was enough.

active praise

Category : David, God, bible, choice, faith

Some days it’s just hard to be excited about God.  We wake up and it’s raining outside, or we’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, or we’re facing a major tragedy.  Or worse yet, our fantasy football team just got crushed for yet another week.  In fact there are far too many days that I find it difficult to be excited by God.  Intellectually I want to worship him, but emotionally I just can’t seem to drag myself out of my rut.  I feel tired and I think I lack the energy I need to take another step. 

This is usually where I want to give up, or at least take some time off.  Sometimes I say, “God won’t really notice.”  Or, “I deserve this, I’ve been faithful!”  Of course neither of these are actually true.  And if I am really honest about it, the challenges in my life are often totally insignificant in the overall scheme of things.  There are billions of people who have it far worse than I do.  One of these people happened to be David, King of Israel  You know, of David and Goliath fame. 

David had this knack of always finding himself in trouble.  His life was characterized by people wanting to kill him!  I have yet to face a single death threat, so I think he probably had a few more things to worry about than I do.  And yet what do I find David doing in the midst of yet another assassination attempt?  Praising God.

That’s right, he was actively praising God despite his circumstances.  I’m really struck by the words he uses in Psalm 71 to describe his actions.  He doesn’t say, “I’m thinking about worshiping you” or “sometimes I will praise you.”  He says, “I will praise you more and more” (v. 14), “I will proclaim your mighty acts” (v. 16), “I declare your marvelous deeds” (v. 17), “my lips will shout for joy” (v23).

Proclaim.  Declare.  Shout.  Those are all active words.  David may have been suffering.  He may have been heartbroken by more people wanting him dead.  (You know that has to mess with your self esteem after a while…)  But through it all, and to his core, he actively praised God. 

God is worthy of our praise no matter what’s going on in our lives.  We shouldn’t hold back from telling people how awesome he is no matter what we feel like. 

  

God – You are so awesome that sometimes I forget just what you’ve done for me.  I know my heart is often fickle and I’m easily distracted, but you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I am so grateful for you!

losing sight of God

Category : David, God, choice, radical

   

Have you ever had one of those days where you find yourself irritated at everything?  For me that day was yesterday.  It was as if the world was conspiring to test my patience.  Everything “seemed” to be going wrong, and yet, nothing bad actually happened.  Sure my plane was delayed (both of them).  Sure I missed lunch.  Sure I had to walk to the furthest part of the airport for the rental car.  But I lived.  Nothing broke.  Everything worked out in the end.

And yet, I was furious.  I was embarrassingly angry with people for no particular reason.  Why?

Maybe I was cranky.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was hungry.  But I don’t think those are the “real” problem.  The real issue is both deeper and simpler – I lost sight of God.

The Bible says God is a “jealous” God.  That’s kind of a weird thing to say about an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-existing God!  Why should God be jealous?  I mean, what could he want from us?  But I think that question misses the point.  God isn’t jealous because he wants something we have – he’s jealous because he knows that bad things happen when we shift our focus away from him. 

Our lives are designed to operate with God as the center point.  When that shifts, our lives, attitudes, and behaviors shift.  This is one of the challenging truths about Christianity.  It is a religion that requires us to make a conscious decision to believe in God.  It is not something that is passed on, it is something that must actively choose.  And in some ways it must always be actively “chosen.” 

Once we commit to God he asks us to walk a very radical path.  A path that goes against what we consider our “nature.”  And my nature tells me it’s okay to get angry over stupid things.  It takes, literally, an act of God to make me rebel against that notion. 

That’s why the minute I lose focus on God, I end up doing things I regret. 

Of course this is something we all do.  It’s called sin.  No matter how intentional we live our lives we will mess up.  But that’s okay, because God forgives us (it comes as part of the package of believing in him).  The trick is to pick yourself back up and say, “okay God, I screwed up, but I’m still committed to you.”  We have to actively make that decision to once again align our lives with God. 

That’s what David did in the Old Testament, and God did some pretty cool things through him. 

So yes, I lose focus on God all too easily.  And it gets me in trouble.  But I am confident that God is always waiting for me to realize my mistakes and turn back to him for help.  And you know what?  Every time I’ve turned back to him, he’s always there waiting for me.  And I’m sure he is for you.  Even when your plane is running late.

worship

Category : David, God, bible, different, worship

   

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.  (2 Samuel 6: 14-16)

 

When I try and figure out how God wants me to act, I often look at people whose lives are clearly touched by him.  What is it that sets them apart?  What is it that they do differently than the rest of us?  A lot of times I turn to the Bible to find examples of behavior I should try to emulate.  As you can tell by reading the last few posts, David is a great example of this.

So when I think about worshiping God, what does that look like?  I think David’s behavior in 2 Samuel gives us some clues.  Worship involves giving everything we have to God, and not holding back.  For David that meant wearing a linen ephod (think mostly naked!) and dancing “with all his might.”  David was so devoted to God that he didn’t care what he looked like.  He didn’t care what people thought of him.  All he cared about was showing God just how much he loved him.

Now sometimes when we worship this way, when we give everything we have, we find people resentful of this.  David’s own wife, Michal, despised David’s behavior.  She was upset he was acting in an undignified way, and stripping down in front of other people.

“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”  (2 Samuel 6: 20-21)

I think David makes an important distinction here.  Michal is upset because all she sees are the people around David.  To her worship is about impressing the people around us.  But David rejects this and says his worship is “before the LORD.” 

It is easy to become caught up in how others perceive us.  It’s easy to want to conform to how other people worship (or don’t worship).  But we always need to remember worship isn’t for others, it is a way for us to move closer to God.  And any obstacle in the way we worship will only create distance between ourselves and God. 

using the broken

Category : David, God, Jesus, Paul, bible, hope

   

Have you ever noticed that the history of Christianity is a history of people who have no business doing great things but end up changing the world?  Even a casual read of the Bible makes this a striking theme.  Jesus himself came from a humble background.  I don’t know about you, but if I were God I’d want to pick an important city and a powerful family.  I mean, doesn’t that make more sense?  Not, of course, if God’s message was one of service, compassion, and love.

God has this way of using people we don’t expect.  Virtually every important story in the Bible has a woman who plays a key role.  Moses never would have survived without a woman’s protection.  Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Women were the first ones to discover Jesus rose from the dead.  The role those women played would have been shocking for that culture.

That’s what God does though.  He takes what we consider weak or worthless, and turns it into something amazing and wonderful. A great example of this occurs with Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his brothers.  Talk about family rivalry!  And yet God turns that situation around by putting Joseph into a position to not only save his family from a famine, but to save all of Israel!

That’s all well and good.  Because those were all worthy people…aren’t they?  Moses was a great leader.  Mary was good enough to be chosen to give birth to God.  Joseph didn’t do anything that deserved getting sold into slavery.  But sometimes we think, “look at what I’ve done!  I don’t deserve any of that!” 

But it doesn’t matter.  No matter what we’ve done, God can still use us if we let him.  Take Paul for instance, here was a guy who went out and actively hunted down Christians.  And yet when he met God, God radically transformed his life.  Paul suddenly became one of the greatest evangelists Christianity has ever known.

He did the same for David, forgiving him for his adultery and murder.  However God didn’t simply forgive David, he went on to establish one of the greatest kingdoms in Israel’s history.  And it was David’s family line that ultimately lead to the birth of Jesus.  God used both Paul and David in amazing ways, despite their flaws.

So what does all of this mean? 

What it means to me is that God is really amazing!  It shows that he has compassion and mercy.  It proves that we have hope, because no matter what we’ve done, God not only loves us but wants to use us to change the world.  There is not a person alive who can’t shape the world if they let God work through them. 

When you think about that, how can you feel anything but hope and excitement?