Don’t Cut Corners In Obedience

engediI don’t usually riff off sermons from my church, but 1 Samuel 24 is too chock full of good detail begging for extraction.

Quick background – David is on the run from a jealous Saul, who catches up in En Gedi. Saul chooses to relieve himself in the very cave David and his men are hiding in.

 

1. David’s men got the prophecy wrong.

Ever played the telephone game? One person whispers a phrase to another, and they to a third, and then a fourth, and down the row until the phrase is hilariously distorted.

This appears to be what happened to the prophecy that David would dethrone Saul. David’s men said this as, unseen, they (eww) watched a vulnerable Saul relieve himself:

…so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. (v. 4)

This is exaggeration. As best I can tell (and correct me if I’m wrong), no prophecy was ever given permitting David to do “whatever he desired” with Saul. The existing prophecies focused on David’s anointing.

It proves the importance of listening to God’s exact guidance. He doesn’t talk just to hear himself.

 

2. The robe scrap wasn’t necessary to prove David’s honor.

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Head Beliefs vs. Heart Beliefs

Brandon J. Adams

brainheartThere are some life skills I’ve picked up that have pretty much made the adult me.

The ability to apologize. You wouldn’t believe how far that takes you with people.

The ability to laugh at oneself. Which, naturally, makes me a one-man comedy.

The ability to say no to purchases I don’t need. No TV/Netflix, used cars…it adds up over the years.

But probably the most valuable life skill is the ability to articulate the hidden lies I’m believing.

I submit that we have two kinds of beliefs: head beliefs and heart beliefs. Head beliefs are the ones we’re aware of, the ones we’ve explicitly processed and given mental consent to, like the existence of gravity, or the depth of God’s love. It’s easier to articulate those beliefs, though we don’t necessarily act according to them.

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Let Us Not Be Lazy. Pray Over the Hurricanes Again.

I don’t have anything terribly original to post today, but our broken world seems content to supply something in my place.

We must pray for the victims of Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut.

Does it seem obvious and re-“duh”-ndant to pray for this again? Perhaps.

But maybe that’s what it takes to keep us on our knees, to spare us our laziness – let’s just call it what it is – the hope that maybe just one visit to the prayer closet will do. I have that suggestion constantly whispering within my flesh, and I grieve at it and pray that God silences it.

Scripture commands that we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), where the Greek for “without ceasing” really means “constantly recurring”. Folks in the Old Testament modeled repeated prayers, like Moses’ 40 days of intercession or Elijah’s seven pray-and-looks. And if nothing else, God simply deserves our time in communion with him. Drive-by prayers will not do here.

We can’t know what God’s up to, and we must accept that sometimes the answer is no. But I still wonder whether we are falling short of the results we could be seeing in this world – “leaving points on the field”, as it were – by not praying as we should.

Even now, according to NWS forecast discussions (I highly recommend these narratives for their educational value, by the way), Florence has weakened a bit and the eye is breaking up. It reminds me of Katrina, which weakened significantly just before it hit New Orleans. Or Lane, which, although destructive, turned aside from Hawaii last month and spared the islands far worse.

Could it be that prayer had something to do with that? There is still going to be suffering. But I’ll take every MPH of reduced wind speed we can get.

Fellow blogger Megan Reedy is teaching in the Phillippines, which are currently the target of a 180 MPH(!) typhoon, Mangkhut. This is stronger than most Atlantic hurricanes and hitting a country with far fewer resources and infrastructure to protect its citizens. Please pray for that country and, if you don’t mind, specifically for the safety of Megan and her students.

If our prayers don’t inconvenience us today, we’re probably not doing it right.

God is Lord over Florence and Mangkhut. Let us pray as if we believe it.

When You Can’t See Behind the Door

doorMy Bible this weekend has been opened to Psalms 127-132 page, and 131 caught my eye, standing out by being shorter than its surrounders:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things
too great or too difficult for me.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a little weaned child with its mother;
I am like a little child.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forever. (Psalm 131:1-3 HCSB)

This is comforting. But other translations seem to bring a closer laser bead on what exactly the Psalmist is turning his eyes from:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty:
neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. (KJV)

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. (ESV)

It seems as if the Psalmist is refusing to let his eyes get above his pay grade. As if there are matters beyond his rightful contemplation, things he just can’t grasp – and as if there is a holiness in refusing to try.

There is.

Only those who trust God, who trust his machinations behind the “curtain” of reality as it were, who trust him to keep turning the gears that we don’t even know exist, can fully quit trying to understand it all, can quit himself and live for today.

We’ve all got gears we’re trying to understand. Whether God will beat the cancer at the last minute. When the verdict will arrive. How on earth that crushing bill is ever going to get paid. When the spouse or child will finally come. Or come back.

I remember hearing a speaker several years ago who shared the story of asking God all these questions, and finally he felt God speak, “Enough. Stop looking over my shoulder and focus on being the man I want you to be.”

Maybe that’s all we need. To take our eyes off God’s business and bring it back down to our own.

A Teasing Sense of Humor and How to Crucify It

crucifyGrowing up and as a young man, I always had to be the guy in the room with the joke.

Always.

Whenever anyone said something, my malformed brain would immediately look for a way to turn it and tease the person a little.

Combined with not being very good at it, this resulted in years without a lot of friends. As I grew older, I got better at it. At the teasing part, that is, unfortunately, not the “just knock it off already” part that people were no doubt wishing I’d master. For many years into my adult life, it would often remain my reflex in a conversation.

And then…I would wonder why I wasn’t getting anywhere socially.

Clueless, I tell you.

Then, for some reason, one day I started asking myself, “What do my role models do to engender such trust with people?”

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35

cordAs occasions for celebration of recovery go, birthdays aren’t bad.

I used to have this subtle feeling that mentioning my birthday was akin to seeking attention. So I wouldn’t mention it. Then I realized that this was really just akin to worrying about what others would think of me.

So today, when a chance to glorify God through a birthday came up, I decided I would take it.

So there it is. I turn 35 on Thursday.

Is this, like, the part where where “no longer a kid” actually starts? Anyone? Bueller? Frye?

Anyway, it is the tendency of advancing increasing age to look forward and worry over the narrowing gap. Diminishing opportunities, declining vigor, regrets over goals not yet achieved, etc. I, in particular, am reminded today that my mission on earth – to lift up the name of Jesus to others – is not indefinite. I have a limited span to get this done. (Yes, I know, I’ve still got plenty of time. Though I did find out this summer that my knees are going to be requiring help from my leg muscles and will no longer hold out on their own.)

But this time I found myself looking to the past.

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When You Sin Seven Times in a Day

Brandon J. Adams

Hotel Summer Pool Infinity Luxury Sea Sky WaterI came across an article of John Piper’s recently in which he listed five besetting sins with which he struggles.

I chuckled bitterly. If only my list were that short.

Not that Piper claimed only five besetting sins, but I don’t even know how he could tier them. Mine certainly don’t lend themselves to such stratification.

They cling. They bite at my heels. They relentlessly pursue, like a dog who will not yield the chase, or the zombie who knows nothing but the taste of living blood.

I am not rolling over, mind you. One could say that I am winning more skirmishes than I used to. But something in my heart refuses such encouragement. Total eradication is the goal. If I content myself with less, I will accomplish less.

And there are days in which I do indeed accomplish much less. Days that seem dominated, marked, headlined by sin.

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