Christianity 201

December 17, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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When we started this series, I emphasized that it was to be about more than just music, because both personal and corporate worship is more than just what we sing. As I thought about this week’s column, I realized that one person who epitomizes this wider view of worship is Rory Norland, whose website is Heart of the Artist.

In On Earth as it is in Heaven (Zondervan) he writes the following; this is an excerpt from an excerpt, click the link below to read everything.

Do What Matters Most: Make Worship a Priority

Top Priority

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). David’s devotion to worship oozes from this verse. More than anything, David wanted to bask in the beauty of God’s presence. He was enamored with God’s glory. The “one thing” David longing is for is intimacy with God and a chance to worship his heavenly Father. As you probably picked up … that first principle we discover about David’s worship involves priorities. David made worship his top priority.

Because worship was such a high priority for David, he bristled whenever God wasn’t given the honor he deserved. What stirred David to take on Goliath was not the threat he posed to Israel but the giant’s blatant disrespect for Jehovah, Israel’s God. David asked angrily, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). God’s glory and reputation were at stake, and David felt compelled to take action. Upon confronting the Terminator from Gath, David shouted, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46). You can always discern your priorities, for better or worse, by what angers you or stirs you, what frustrates you and what excites you. Honoring God was the utmost priority for David.

As king, David’s reign over Israel was marked significantly by the prominent attention he gave to worship. He brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and endeavored to build a temple because he wanted to restore worship as the centerpiece of Jewish life. David was also the first to incorporate music as a regular fixture in Israel’s worship. He appointed singers and instrumentalists (1 Chronicles 15:16 – 24; 16:4 – 7; 25:1 – 8; 2 Chronicles 8:14), formed bands and choirs (2 Chronicles 29:25 – 26), pioneered antiphonal singing where one group sings and another echoes in response (Nehemiah 12:24), and even introduced new instruments into the worship service (1 Chronicles 23:5). On occasion, David even led his people in worship (1 Chronicles 16:8 – 36; 29:10 – 22). Israel never had a king as devoted to worshiping God as David was.

Why Make Worship a Priority?

David made worship a priority because he understood that we are created, commanded, called, compelled, and destined to worship. Because God was his ultimate priority, worship was his primary activity.

Created to Worship

In Isaiah, God refers to his people as those who are “called by my name, whom I created for my glory” and those “I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:7, 21). First Peter 2:9 confirms that you and I were created to worship God: “But you are a chosen [ people], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (emphasis added). If you love to worship, if it feels right to you, it’s because you’re doing what you were created to do.


Other excerpts from the book:

“Why does the Bible keep nagging us to give thanks? It’s because we quickly forget all that God has done for us; we take him for granted. According to Romans 1:21, when we fail to honor God and give him thanks, our hearts become darkened. Indeed, if left unchecked, ingratitude leads to negativity, bitterness, cynicism, and despair.”

“We too need to scour the Bible to learn how God wants to be worshiped. For it doesn’t matter how you and I want to praise God. It’s not ultimately important whether worship makes us feel good or if the music is to our liking. True worship must always be offered on God’s terms, not ours. So we need to learn how God wants to be worshiped.”

[Source]

February 7, 2017

When You Need a New Heart

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Once again we’re reconnecting with author and professional editor Katherine Harms at the blog Living on Tilt. What follows is one of at least two recent pieces she’s written on Psalm 51. It’s really the second one I wanted you to read, but it’s a bit longer than we usually run here, so we’re giving you this one, but hoping you’ll link to the second.

Everybody Needs a Heart Transplant

Psalm 51 is classified as a penitential psalm. The definition of penitence is sorrow for sin or faults. The psalm certainly lives up to that definition, expressing profound sorrow, but it does a great deal more than wallow in recognition of personal wrong-doing.

The header on this psalm links it to David’s adultery with Bathsheba, a sin that was magnified by the murder of her husband. Jesus spoke of the moment David fell into sin. Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 ESV). Jesus said that David’s sin originated in his heart. In fact, Jesus said that the heart is the place where our sins are born: “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:10 ESV). Apparently, the problem with the world is sinful hearts.

When David wrote Psalm 51, he recognized his real problem. He confessed his sin and his need of God’s forgiveness and cleansing, and then he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV). David knew that his heart would continue to be a source of sin if something did not change. His heart needed to be different, and he knew he could not merely decide to be a better man.

Contemporary culture would have us believe that we can simply decide and then become. “If you can dream it, you can be it,” the culture says. Every person who struggles with diet and exercise can testify that dreams simply are not enough. David looked at himself and saw the way his attitude and behavior had been perverted by the lust in his heart, and he recognized that his heart was the problem. He also recognized that imagining himself as a better man would not fix his heart. He said, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5 ESV) David could see what Jesus saw in the heart—the source of his sinful thoughts, words and deeds. His heart needed to be fixed, and he could not fix it himself.

David turned to the One who could fix what was broken in his heart, and I find that I need to do the same thing. David could not fix himself, and I cannot fix myself, either. David cried out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV), and I cry out the same way. My heart is a mess, just as his was, and I turn to the same source for help.

I share meditation on Scripture with an online group, and that means that when I read a text like this with the group, I benefit from the insights God gives to other people. In the group, many people recognized and rejoiced in the cleansing of the heart. That part of David’s cry was thoroughly celebrated, but one person saw the next level of blessing. She recognized that God did not merely cleanse David’s heart, but he “created” a new heart. We don’t simply get washed down. God does not merely paint over the scars of our sin. We get new hearts. She said, “He ‘created’ a new heart in me.”

That is the real blessing. I am not merely clean. I’m all new. I am like the advertising mantra “new and improved.”

Every time I read Genesis 6, I feel a pain in my stomach when I read, “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). Here, too, I am reminded that the heart is the origin of sin, and it boils out of us like an erupting volcano, ultimately destroying everything beautiful in the world God created. Fortunately, the Bible does not stop there. God’s story continues, and instead of despair, there is hope. David looked at himself and saw his own wickedness and evil, but he saw the hope. David knew God as a God who not only forgives us but makes us new. His experience foreshadows the coming of Jesus to work our salvation through Christ. When David asks for a new heart, he exercises the kind of faith that Abraham had, and Paul said that Abraham’s faith made him righteous, just as ours does. The author of Hebrews repeated that assertion that many people who lived before Christ had faith in God’s promise and God counted it as righteousness for them, too. The same faith worked for David.

There is only one way for us to be made clean, righteous, new, and that way is Christ. David’s prayer calls forth the same cleansing power as I experienced when I professed my faith and was baptized. God’s heart was broken by human sin in the Garden of Eden, at the time of Noah, when David took Bathsheba from her husband, and every time anyone chooses evil rather than good. Fortunately, because of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, every human being can safely and confidently pray with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

continue reading Katherine’s thoughts on Ps. 51 at Is the Book of Psalms Obsolete?

January 15, 2017

Considering Your Strength

by Russell Young

It is often considered prudent and is a common practice by most to consider the measure of their resources before undertaking a project or a ministry.  We live in a day where independence is applauded, abilities are fully considered, references are given and taken, and resources are counted.  Based on the consideration of our assets concerning the particular need a decision is made on whether to proceed or not.

From God’s perspective decision-making based the assessment of our human resources can be insulting.  The Lord does not want to be left out of consideration and when he is, failure is often the result of neglecting him and his resources to meet the particular need. Those “in Christ” are promised good results when trying to honour his purposes in their lives. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” (Rom 8:28 NIV) This promise is offered only to those who are attempting to honour his calling upon their lives, to those who have subjected themselves to the sovereignty of the Spirit and are attempting to live in obedience to him. To be clear, the promises of the Lord’s blessings are not offered to those who have made a confession of faith and of Christ’s lordship and who are living their own lives on their own terms. Unfortunately, many find themselves disappointed and weakened in faith when the “good” does not happen even when God is not being honoured in their hearts and through their practices. Also, the “good” may not always be that which was anticipated.

Near the end of his reign King David decided to consider the strength of his nation by having the number of fighting men counted.  “The king’s command was evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.” (1 Chr 21:6 NIV) We are told that Satan had incited David. (v 1) Had pride filled his heart?  Was he wanting to consider his accomplishments and the military strength of the nation apart from God? His attitude had ignored an important issue.  God had been responsible for his successes and would remain the strength of the nation. The mighty hand of God had been removed from David’s consideration.  In spite of his history and experience with the LORD, even to the point of asking whether or not he should go into battle, David’s command that a count be taken implied the intention of weighing Israel’s strength through the nation of Israel, its people, and apart from God. The prosperity and strength of Israel was being credited to its people and leadership, and not to God.

A lesson should be learned from David. God is not to be left out of consideration. He is the believer’s strength and wisdom.  It is he who is accomplishing his will in the life of the believer and to leave him out of consideration is simply and abandonment of God and he will not bless when those who identify themselves as his children are determined to take the credit that belongs to him.  He will not give his glory to another.  In David’s case, a plague descended on the nation and many died. The Lord’s significance in the life of the believer is not to be restricted to certain times and for certain situations, he is to be lord at all times and in every situation. Without full and constant submission, his overall will cannot be achieved.

It is easy, and perhaps even expected, for decisions to be made based on the measure of human resources available, but it is not God’s way. The godly will walk with God; not apart from him.  He will be sought for direction and honoured through obedience.  God cannot be measured and his provision cannot be counted.  He is the source of all things good for the believer and will bless those who are obedient.

And God is able to make all things abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8 NIV)

The wrath of God had been laid upon Israel many times because of their neglect to recognize his sovereignty over, and his place in, their lives.  It has been, and remains, a common failure of humankind to trust in themselves.  Today people build their wealth and count the resources that they can muster in order to assure comfort, peace, and security.  Society elevates those who have gathered the most.  But even God said that it was almost impossible for the wealthy to find salvation. In the end, their “counting” will have fallen short and their own resources will have been inadequate.

The Lord does not want to be left out of the believer’s planning, nor should a person presume to know his will without humbly seeking it.  God should be pursued and loved “with all of the heart, soul, and mind.” (Mt 22:37) His people will not find comfort in taking inventory, but will place their strength in their God and his resources.  (Mt 19:23-24; Mk 10:25; Lk 18:25).


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

May 28, 2015

Gifts in Kind

In North America, we usually use the phrase “gifts in kind” to refer to donations people make to charities and non-profits of things other than cash. Someone will donate a valuable sterling silver cutlery set, or an oil painting by a renown artist.

We usually think of such gifts as originating with people who are wealthy — after all, they owned these beautiful pieces in the first place — but it can also be done by people who are too poor to make a monetary gift, but find themselves in possession of something that can be assigned a value and then sold by the organization they wish to support.

Today, I want to consider a situation where the gift was somewhat “in kind” — and I’m borrowing the term here for a different purpose — is being made because it has become impossible to give to the original intended recipient. In other words, person “A” is no longer around to bless, but in their honor, I am giving to person “B.”

2 Samuel 9:1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan…”

As the chapter continues, David pours out his generosity to Mephibosheth. The book Men of the Bible by Ann Spangler and Robert Wogelmuth tells us:

…David lavished Mephibosheth with more than he ever could have dreamed: land, servants, and access to the king’s table. Mephibosheth had not deserved the misfortune that had marked his life. But neither did he earn the good fortune that suddenly befell him. Mephibosheth must have been overwhelmed by it all.

There is more to the story to be sure, but I want to return again to verse one:

1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

I’m wondering if there’s anyone reading this who can think of someone who has passed from this life, and there perhaps a wish that you could have done something, or done more to bless that person?

Before we continue, it’s important to note that David and Jonathan had a covenant relationship. Matthew Henry notes:

It is good sometimes to bethink ourselves whether there be any promises or engagements that we have neglected to make good; better do it late than never. The compendium which Paul gives us of the life of David is this (Acts 13:36), that he served his generation according to the will of God, that is, he was a man that made it his business to do good; witness this instance, where we may observe,

1. That he sought an opportunity to do good.
2. Those he inquired after were the remains of the house of Saul…
3. The kindness he promised to show them he calls the kindness of God

At this point, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook and say, “I did not have a covenant relationship with anyone like that.

But is there someone to whom you could say,

  • Your father was a major influence in my life
  • Your mother helped me through a difficult time
  • Your brother was like a brother to me
  • Your aunt and uncle were very generous to me at a critical time
  • Your sister’s encouragement was always both needed and appreciated

and then, in recognition of that

  • invite them over for dinner or out to a restaurant?
  • give them a gift, perhaps even a Bible or Christian book?
  • make a charitable donation in their name or in memory of their loved one?
  • write out the story of how their relative blessed you and print it out for them as a keepsake?
  • failing all else, just simply tell them how much their family means to you?

Verse seven is our model. In light of the deep relationship between David and Jonathan:

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Is there a Mephibosheth in your life?

 

March 19, 2015

Neglecting Our Duty

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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Once again, we are going to share a devotional from Gordon Rumford. If I were to ‘lose’ any of you to another daily devotional website, this one would be very close to the top of the list, if not #1. Click the link below to read at source.

Neglected Duty?

“Benaiah… also went down into a pit
on a snowy day and killed a lion.”
1 Chronicles 11:22 (NIV)

 

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Today we look at another fine person who was a great soldier in King David’s army. Several of his notable exploits are recorded in Scripture.

He was famous for the work he did that others were there to witness. However, there is no record of people seeing the deed we read of in our verse. Apparently this was done in private.

The lion referred to was trapped in a pit. How it arrived is anyone’s guess. It was on a snowy day that Benaiah went down into the pit and slew the lion.

Perhaps Benaiah thought that if the lion could be trapped in the pit then other people passing by the pit might slip into the hole as well. This could be the reason he descended into the jaws of death in order to prevent a possible disaster for some family.

Why did the man not reason that if the lion was trapped in the pit it would soon die of starvation and no one would come to harm? Why did he not reason that he might be killed himself and therefore should not descend into the pit? Could he not know that the snow in the pit might cause him to lose his footing and the lion might then win the fight?

There seemed many reasons for him to just leave the man-eating beast where it was and let it die of starvation. But from what we know of the man’s history, he was an intelligent and resourceful person. So if he decided he had to risk his own life to take the life of the lion it was an important task. There is no record of anyone with him so he could have passed by the danger and let things go. No one would have known anything different.

So we see that Benaiah did his duty regardless of no one knowing the difference. This is being faithful to your calling. It is one thing to behave the proper way when the eyes of the world are on you. It is something else to do what is right when no one would know.

Perhaps you have neglected a duty when no one was there to see you. You may have been the opposite of Benaiah. Many times people have confessed to me sins they did in secret and no one knew until the person told me.

Marital infidelity, cheating on an employer, reading pornography or a multitude of other things that can so easily come into our lives to cause us to neglect our duty to be holy and faithful in our actions in secret as well as in the public eye.

You might wonder how you could be a Christian and do what you did in secret. Behind closed doors the eleven apostles pledged to go with Jesus to the death if necessary (Matthew 26:35). Yet they forsook their beloved Master and fled. If such close followers of Jesus could run off in the darkness of Gethsemane (Mark 14:50), how about us? Are we any better?

If we are honest with ourselves, we all have done things in secret that would disgrace us if others knew. Jesus’ love for His people is not dependent on how faithful we are to our Christian duties. We may not have a faithful track record like Benaiah. Yet, we are still held close by Jesus. Go to Him today and confess whatever it is that you did in darkness. He will receive you, forgive the sin, and strengthen you against that temptation in the future.

October 20, 2014

God Isn’t Always Looking for Ability

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:19 pm
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But 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.        1 Peter 2:9

Years ago I remember hearing the idea that “God isn’t looking for your ability, just your availability.” You can be a very competent person, but if your talents and gifts aren’t fully surrendered — or even casually offered — you won’t get picked for the team on God’s next mission.

After leaving university, I remember wanting to work in a particular facet of a particular industry. I sought information on the training needed and was told that the dominant employer didn’t actually take graduates of that program. Simply put, it was easier for them to take willing people off the streets and train them than to take people who thought they know how to do everything and have to retrain them in the company’s methodology. The gifts and knowledge that would have resulted from the training would have actually gotten in the way.

Our pastor spoke on this yesterday; how our culture tends to default to able-ism. I didn’t take exhaustive notes because I intended to ask him after for his sermon notes, only to discover he was working from a rough outline. (He’s always better off-script anyway; not to mention one-on-one with people in his office or over coffee.)

The notes he sent me follow. What does it mean to be a chosen people?

What did that mean?

God would work through everyday people

  • not through the most powerful
  • not through the religious hierarchy
  • or the ecclesiastically ordained
  • not through an elite group of somebodies
  • but through everybody

And this truth bears out over and over again in the pages of scripture as God chooses the most unlikely people to do his work.

John Goldingay: “God’s instinct is to resist social conventions by resisting eldest-ism, able-ism, racism and sexism.”

God works in the ordinary and God works through the ordinary.

The idea that God would not choose the eldest in the family repeats over and over again in scripture, and in a couple of real-life situations today, I’ve seen the same thing play out in everything from Christian organizations to families.

In the sermon, he noted that God chooses to work through

  • the second oldest*
  • the foreigner
  • the woman
  • the weak

*In our sermon text, I Samuel 16, God doesn’t just choose the next oldest, but he chooses the youngest. It was pointed out that to have the prophet — no, wait; that should be capitalized — to have The Prophet visit your home was a rare and high honor, but nobody even bothered to go get David at that point. Furthermore, in verse 11, he isn’t even mentioned by name, just by “the youngest” which is a polite translation of a derogatory term.  Eugene Peterson renders this verse:

“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

All other translations listed online use youngest, except for the Wycliffe Bible:

Yet there is another little child, and he pastureth sheep.

The Spanish RVR1960 is interesting, rendering the verse:

Queda aún el menor

which while it could also translate as “youngest,” also  translates (as you might expect) as “the minor.”

And yet, this is the one Samuel realizes that God has chosen. David had his flaws and his failings but he is called ‘one after God’s own heart;’ and thus we remember him favorably. But we were reminded at the outset of yesterday’s message that David was also very ordinary: There are no miracles associated with his story as one finds with Elijah or Joshua.

There may not be any miracles in your story, either; but God chooses to work through people just like me and you.


Thanks to Rev. Jeff Knott for today’s inspiration and notes!


We’ve used this song here four years ago, but it really fits. Danniebelle Hall singing Ordinary People: (Audio window showing; click center of the black bar to play.)

February 20, 2013

What is the Source of Temptation?

I once heard a comedian say, “I have no problem with temptation. I just give in.”  I laughed, but it also resonated with me.

This week our youngest son was asked to speak to his youth group on an assigned topic, the story of David taking the census. At first it seems somewhat straightforward — David did something that was wrong and there were consequences — but as you did deeper the passage becomes more complex.

II Samuel 24 (NLT)

David Takes a Census

Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.

So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”

But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?”

But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and the commanders of the army went out to count the people of Israel. First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer, then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim-hodshi and to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon. Then they came to the fortress of Tyre, and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah as far as Beersheba.

Having gone through the entire land for nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 capable warriors in Israel who could handle a sword, and 500,000 in Judah.

Judgment for David’s Sin

10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.”

11 The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message: 12 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”

13 So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”

14 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

15 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. 16 But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

(the story continues further into the chapter)

There is so much about this passage that Bible commentators agree we don’t know. Why was God angry with Israel? What it pride that caused David to want the numbers. Did the punishment fit the transgression? (Quickly now, how many Facebook friends do you have?)

But one of the most difficult aspects of this passage is the source of David’s desire to count his men, especially when you consider the parallel passage in I Chronicles 21.  Because there the  first verse there reads:

Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.

So was it Satan or the Lord who caused David to do the thing David later called ‘sin’ and ‘foolish’?  What is the source of temptation?

NLT -Genesis 2:15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

I think the point is that today, each of us has “trees” in our “garden” that are the source of spiritual testing. Adam and Eve “walked with God in the cool of the evening,” so they were intimate friends; but God was clearly God, so the temptation to ignore his warning not to eat the fruit — especially when offered the opportunity that “your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil”(3:5 NLT)  — was easily rationalized away.

Sometimes these “trees” are simply there, but I believe sometimes God says, ‘It’s exam time. So what about that, or those, or him, or her?  Aren’t you just a little bit interested?’  Sometimes the answers are obvious, but sometimes the details are more complicated. A thing that is generally a good thing — there are many times a census takes place in scripture, including the time at the birth of Jesus where Joseph and Mary are both registered and taxed — can at other times be a bad thing if it’s being done from the motivation of pride.

A good thing done at the wrong time is a bad thing.

I Corinthians 10:13 tells us,

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (NLT)

So what do we do with James 1:13?

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

I think the key to this story is that God didn’t cause David’s pride or disobedience, but rather that God exposed the pride that was already resident within him. This is probably key to understanding why the first verse of the two accounts appear to disagree.  And it surfaces in the very next verses in James:

14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

A parallel study would involve the trials that are sent to Job. Satan — at God’s suggestion — is allowed to wreak havoc on Job’s life, but within limits. Satan is the agency of calamity, but only as God permitted that unique test to happen.

Job 1:8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

Job 2:3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

 

We have to recognize that the source of temptation isn’t nearly as important as our response to it.

~PW

 

 

 

 

December 26, 2012

Dealing with Difficult People

For some people, the holiday season means getting together with family, friends and acquaintances in close quarters. This should be a pleasant time, but often there are often tensions that seem to arise only at certain times of year. For others, this season provides relief from workplace situations, followed by the dread of having to return to the office, store or factory. So this is very timely.

This was a submitted piece. I am grateful to Kim for responding to our request; she had never written this type of article before and I hope this won’t be her last.

David & Joab – Difficult People in Our Lives

by Kim Rogerson 

Romans 12:19-21

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

After David fled from King Saul,, men came to David and he became their leader (1 Sam. 22:2). David and his men performed daring exploits while in exile that earned David the title “warrior” and his men “mighty men” (1 Kings 5:3; 2 Sam. 23:8). There were “the Three” and “the Thirty” (2 Sam. 23:8 & 24).

David and JoabInterestingly enough, one of “the Thirty” is Asahel, son of Zeruiah, who is David’s sister (1 Chron. 2:17 & 11:26). Asahel is a commander in David’s army who is in charge in the fourth month (1 Chron. 27:7). He is also a marathon runner who chases Abner, the commander of Israel’s army, until Abner kills him (2 Sam. 2:18-23).

Another of the “mighty men” is Asahel’s brother, Abishai, who is said to be “chief of the Three” (2 Sam. 23:18). Abishai saves David’s life from a Philistine who is a descendant of Rapha – apparently a giant! – after having sworn to kill David. During battle David becomes exhausted, so Abishai kills the giant (2 Sam. 21:15-17). Another time Abishai kills 300 men with his spear (1 Chron. 11:20).

Joab, brother to Asahel and Abishai, is NOT named among the “mighty men”. He becomes a commander in David’s army when he leads the attack on the Jebusites to take Jerusalem (1 Chron. 11:6). However, Joab causes problems for David politically.

After King Saul dies, David is made King over Judah in Hebron. A civil war ensues between the House of Saul and the House of David. After seven years of war, Abner, commander of Israel’s army, decides to support David instead of Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth. Abner promotes David’s cause to the elders of Israel and finds them willing to make David king (2 Sam. 3:17-18). Abner is on his way to make final preparations for David’s coronation when Joab sends a message to bring him back to Hebron, without David’s knowledge. Joab lures Abner into a doorway and kills him because of his grudge against Abner for killing his brother, Asahel. This does not look good to the elders of Israel. David proves he has had nothing to do with Abner’s death and makes Joab join the mourners for Abner (2 Sam. 3:31). David does not punish Joab by putting him to death, but is vocal that Joab will be repaid for his evil deeds (2 Sam. 3:39).

What do I get from this? There are times when difficult people will cause problems. Like Joab, they react without thinking of the consequences. Their own feelings prevent them from seeing the “big picture” and they will take matters into their own hands. They will not listen to wisdom or rebukes because they know better, instead opposing and actively undermining what should be supported whole-heartedly. What do we do? We can learn from David who shows forbearance.

 Difficult people can impact our lives for good. They have a major part in making us lean on God’s wisdom instead of our own. Sometimes all we can do is commend them to God and ask for forbearance, leaving their evil deeds for God to repay – and He will (Rom. 12:19).

November 9, 2012

“You Go First” “No, You Go First”

Ever stood at a doorway with someone who insists you enter first, while you are insisting that they go first? Today’s story is more like two people insisting on paying the tab at a restaurant.

II Samuel 24 (NLT) : 18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

David wants to buy the land where he will erect an altar to atone for his disobedience in doing something God had told him not to do. (The reason God didn’t want him to take a census at that time is the subject for another study, suffice it to say he was disobedient.)  But Araunah is making an overly generous generous gesture to simply give the king the land. But then it really won’t be as much of a sacrifice on David’s part will it? Talk about substitutionary atonement. (No, not really; though we could go in that direction, too; but like other analogies, it doesn’t fit perfectly.)

So David voices the well known statement, “for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” (v. 24b, NASB)

I thought about that today as I prepared today’s reading. In selecting material for this devotional, I peruse many websites before finding things I’m comfortable using here. You may notice lately I’ve been writing more of the devotionals myself. It’s not that I’m entering a phase of super-spirituality — definitely not! — or that I feel what I have to say is somehow superior to the writings of other bloggers.

Rather, I find a lot of what passes for devotional writing online is simply too short. I don’t think God is impressed by the length of our writing or the volume of our words, but if I were relying on some of these websites/blogs for my daily start or my end-of-day meditation, I would be on and off the page probably in under 60 seconds.

There is no sacrifice there, at least where time is concerned. I truly hope that people use those sites as supplements do other reading and studying they are doing.

All of which reminded me of David’s line. Araunah’s generosity is making the process too easy. Yes, it’s true, David would still have to obtain and prepare the burnt offerings and peace offerings (v. 25), but he felt something would be wrong; that his sacrifice would be a little less sacrificial. And yes, while I knew the line that was part of today’s thoughts, I found myself taking the time to study the passage.

Today’s question: Do we sometimes use shortcuts in spiritual disciplines?

Related post: Re-read “Giving Your Best to God” from last Saturday.