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“Give us this day……….” Matthew 6:11

“Who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time……with persecutions….”  Mark 10:30

From the bible I want to consider an aspect of three lives: Ruth, David and Paul.  While we know the end of the story for each of these people, let’s take a moment to step back into their shoes in a time of their struggles.

First, Ruth.  In the bible; Ruth is described as a humble daughter-in-law whose heart was filled with love and service for her mother-in-law.  Ruth’s own husband was killed, but instead of returning home to her own people, she travels back to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi so she won’t be all alone.  Now here’s want I want you to consider.  Ruth may have felt a calling to be a wife and mother; she may have even been praying desperately for that to happen.  Yet she had lost her only husband and being a poor foreigner she could only daily go out to fields and pick up the scraps left over from harvesters who might have missed some grain.  Ruth continued to pray.

Second, David.  At one point early on, David had been anointed to be future king of Israel by the prophet Samuel; this was before Goliath and other triumphs David would eventually have.  Yet for a time David finds himself hiding in a cave; afraid for his very life because Saul the current king of Israel is jealous of David and wants him killed.  One can imagine that in that cave, or during his other days on the run, David is praying for God to come, praying concerning being King of Israel.  Yet here he is, eating stale bread and running like a criminal. Yet he continued to pray.

Finally, Paul.  Paul, called by Jesus Christ himself; when Paul was Saul the persecutor of early believers, to become an apostle of Jesus Christ.  A Christian group, a church if you will, not a huge building but a growing gathering of people had started in Rome.  Paul had been the apostle to the gentiles and desperately desired to go to Rome to preach the gospel and serve and shepherd the new flock.  Yet time after time the Spirit had blocked him; led him to go in a different direction.  Finally being persecuted in Jerusalem by the Jews who want to see Paul dead; Paul is arrested.  Will he never get to see his beloved flock in Rome?  Paul continued to pray.

Here’s the thing and part of it is a blessing and part of it makes it tough.  We know the ends of these stories.  The blessing is that we know that God was with them through their entire journey.  We know how He sustained them in times of distress and lifted them up to times of great blessing.  Ruth married Boaz to become the grandmother of David.  King Saul died in battle and David became the great king.  Paul left prison, made it to Rome and ministered there two years with that beloved church.  Here’s the tough part.  We don’t know the end of our story.  We’re smack dab in the middle of it.

And an example of a person in the middle of their story is an author who felt called to write a book.  He prayed and continues to pray over that book.  He did write it and it was published.  Most who have read it call it powerful.  However, in total those who have read it are few.  That author prays about the book and its success, not for fame and fortune but to be able to continue writing as he feels called.  He prays constantly and earnestly.  But here’s the point; like David, Ruth or Paul in the midst of their journey, he prays and the next day, nothing seems changed.  Nothing new has happened with the book; like Ruth, it is time to go out and glean again, like David still in the cave.  And this author wonders; what am I doing wrong?  Maybe I misinterpreted God’s calling.  Perhaps I should choose a different path.  How do I know?  That author is the same one who is writing this message.

Yet, Dear Sisters and Brothers, in my more lucid and faithful moments if anything comes through loud and clear in the stories of those three it is this; God had them and their situations; “God had this”.  God had every sequence planned, ever step needed, every day laid out about how to bring Ruth, David, Paul and we can have faith as well; you and I to where He has called us to be.  Personally for me, I must say I don’t know what His ultimate Will for my book is; maybe it will become well known after I’ve departed to be with Him.  Here’s the thing; God has this.  And His this; the this He has in store for me today; is all I need.

So we’ve been taught to pray; give us this day………which is what matters.  But it is not easy.  We are imperfect.  We want to feel certain by having specific knowledge about the next day, week, month year.  We can find ourselves confused, worried, filled with fear, wondering what are we doing wrong; why is God leading us this way.  And we sin.  Thinking we know better, we take the steps we want to take, that the world says to take and we turn from God and His plan.  Then comes the most loving miraculous “this” of all.  When we have sinned and are deserving of eternal condemnation; God turns to Jesus Christ seeing the scars of nails in His hands and feet; and Jesus Christ says to His Father:  “I got this!”  Instead of seeing our sin, God sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for our Salvation and we are forgiven.

Dear Sisters and Brothers know, where ever you are today, whatever your circumstances; God is saying to you; I’ve Got This.  Whether it is a valley of darkness or a bright mountain top; God has this.  And rest assured that God’s this is the only this we will ever need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are filled with praise that in every moment You are with us.  Forgive us when we doubt and fear because of what this world attempts to tell us is truth.  Pour out Your Spirit that we may stay strong in You to resist the temptation to leave the perfect path You have for us that leads to an ever blessed life of closeness and praise to You.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“And from the roof he saw a woman bathing and the woman was very beautiful………”  2 Samuel 11:2

“Then David sent messengers, and took her and she came to him and he lay with her……”  2 Samuel 11:4

STOP!  If you do not plan to read this post all the way through then I ask you to not go beyond here.  It is my hope that at the end this message will be uplifting and very positive.  However, if you stop part way through you may come to a completely different and unintended conclusion.

David, a brief recap to this point.  Youngest son of Jesse, he is said to possess a heart that belongs to God.  Time and time again David calls on God and praises God.  David, defeats Goliath, survives King Saul’s murder attempts, wins victory after victory, brings the Ark of God into the city of Jerusalem dancing widely in the streets.  David has many wives and is adored by the people.  A man that seems truly after God and what God wants.  Seemingly he can do no wrong.

David, it was spring.  David got up one warm night when others were normally resting.  He was on his splendid roof of a palace that he has earlier declared comes from a blessing from God.  David saw a woman; Bathsheba.  She is bathing.  It was not that she was being immodest but that from David’s vantage point he could see many things.  We are told that she is very beautiful.  David wants her.  David is so smitten with her that he does not wait.  He immediately inquires and finds out two things; who she is and that she is married.  David, King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, a man who has received so many blessings from God; this same David, does not care.  He can’t even wait until the next day.  David immediately sends for her and then sleeps with her.  His sin produces a son which will cause David to eventually have Bathsheba’s husband killed to try and cover up his crime.  There can be no doubt.  David is Evil.

“Hold on just a second Doug!”: the world exclaims (and perhaps you).  It’s not his fault.  It is a result of the stress of battle.  It was the bullying of the Philistines.  It was really Bathsheba’s fault; she lured him into it!  Some others are reacting smugly.  Darn right David is evil.  No good kings, you can’t trust anyone one in power.  Some are saying: “If I had been David, I would not have done that!”  So two worldly responses; one, that evil doesn’t really exist.  The other response, yes there’s evil but it is always the other guy who does it, I’m certainly not evil.

God sighs.  For the bible is very clear; evil does exist.  And the bible is equally clear, we all succumb to it.  We all think and do evilly (remember please don’t stop at this point).  The world blasts back: “Not true! Not true!”  Let’s take a look.  In so many parts of the world; that a person is a woman means it is acceptable to perform horrible mutilations on her body.  To stop people from having basic freedoms it is acceptable to slaughter hundreds of thousands.  “Not in my country!” You say.  All over the world, children are killing children, senseless acts of violence are perpetrated over sporting events. Neighbor prays upon neighbor.  “Not me, I’ve never done that!” is the last vestige of our argument.  Jesus asks: “In your mind, have you ever been angry?, have you ever wanted someone or something that wasn’t yours?, have you ever passed by someone in need of help and completely disregarded them?, never once?” Well…….maybe.  Sadly, we are all fallen.  As in David, even the seeming best of us are capable of terrible things.

Wow Doug, way to go, really uplifting.  But wait here it comes.  If nothing else please, I implore you, let these next two statements sink in.  Our Heavenly Father knows me.  Our Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.  Say those two statements out loud and take a moment or so then to be silent and let them soak in.  My Heavenly Father knows me.  My Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.

You mean even in my evil state, with my fallen nature; My Heavenly Father loves me? Yes! A hundred thousand times yes!  How do we know?  How can you say that?  Look at the bible.  It’s not just David; Abraham lied, Peter denied, John pridefully argued about being great, Moses stumbled.  On and on, each person committed some evil.

What was God’s response?  “I have a plan.” He said.  “I will make you my people and give you laws about how you should treat one another to live in harmony.”  His plan was not a failure in that He knew and He spoke through His prophets that we as humans would not be able to follow them.  So what is Our Heavenly Father to do?  After a while people would turn throw up their hands, turn their backs and frustratingly exclaim: “I’m done with them!”

Our Heavenly Father instead said: “I love them so much, they are so important to me, that I will do for them what they can not do for themselves.  I will lay down something so precious, that it will once and for all remove the evil that they will do from my sight.”  So a star rose in the east and a virgin gave birth.  Our Heavenly Father calls out to us proclaiming:  “Out of love for you; yes you: (insert your name here) My Son Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,  God, Perfect, came down to die for you.  So that I will see your sin no more, your evil will no longer separate us.”  And if that is not joyously reaffirming enough He adds: “What do I want in return?  Simply that you believe.  That you believe that I love you and that I sent my son Jesus Christ to die for You and having been resurrected, He is now here with me.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end it is no downer.  The world is evil and yes without Christ we would be left to the world and its evil.  Yet Christ proclaims that we while we may be in the world we are not of the world!  We are new in him.  We are loved and in our best attempts we will try to live in that love but we will fail.  We will do evil.  We are imperfect.  But be of great cheer, He who is perfect has taken our punishment for us freely and out of love.  We have a sure promise of redemption and eternal relationship through the flesh and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We shall go forth in Joy, Peace and Confidence loudly proclaiming we are not better in and of ourselves, but we are saved in the Name of Jesus Christ!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, hear this simple prayer.  Give us the strength to carry forward the message of Your Love, Your Redemption, Your Salvation, Your eternal victory over evil, to all people.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“David said: ‘Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has…….if I leave one male of all who belong to him by the morning light.”  1 Samuel 25:21,22

“Now when Abigail saw David….and said: ‘ ..please let your maidservant speak in your ears and hear the words of your maidservant….” 1 Samuel 25:24

Avenge and/or revenge, two words very similar actions.  You or I feel that something has been done against us, maybe an insult, or a theft, maybe even an actual physical injury.  We have a choice, we can forgive the slight/injury or we can exact a “pound of flesh” in payment and restitution for the affront we have suffered.

David faced that situation.  He and his men were on the run.  They took refuge in the wilderness of Paran.  Now you might think that a fugitive trying to stay undetected plus fend for his band of hundreds would be too preoccupied to care about, let alone, help anyone else.  Maybe for most, but this was David we’re talking about.  In part of the wilderness there was a large flock of sheep and several shepherds.  Now shepherding could be a very dangerous business; there were the possible attacks by predators, plus thieves were ever present waiting for the right time to strike, stealing the sheep and perhaps killing those that tended them.  Maybe it was because David himself was a shepherd that he took pity on them.  Scripture tells us that he and his men were like a wall around the sheep and shepherds.  Again, one might think that David would have been well within his rights to ask for a sheep or two from the shepherds as payment for his protection.  And again scripture is clear, David asked nothing in return for this service.

The sheep have returned home safe and sound.  David is in need so he sends some of his men to the owner of the sheep, a very rich man named Nabal, asking for anything Nabal could spare.  Based on what we’re told in the bible, if we were going to describe Nabal today, we’d call him a world class jerk.  He not only told David’s men no, but he treated them rudely and insulted David.

David felt wronged.  To David, this was not just an insult, it was downright evil.  And, this evil needed to be dealt with.  Every male associated with Nabal, family, servants, slaves would be put to the sword; would die.  This is another great case of the bible “telling it like it was”.  For the bible does not try to justify what David was doing nor try to spin his actions as somehow righteous.  Had David spilled the blood he was planning to out of his own anger, it would have been an evil act.

Enter Abigail, the wife of Nabal.  She was not there when David’s men originally came so she didn’t witness the insult.  She calls her husband a scoundrel so it appears clear that she has no overarching love for the man.  Yet she is desperate to save her family from the calamity that she knows David can inflict upon them.  She brings a large offering of food and drink.  She humbles herself before David and begs for mercy.

David listens.  David listens not reluctantly but wholeheartedly.  In fact David praises God for sending Abigail to intervene and stop him from spilling blood.  He relents and turns home.

Wimp! Coward! Certainly not a man’s man.  There is much in today’s society that would not approve of David’s response or even perhaps Abigail’s groveling.  Today’s society would agree with and probably egg David on.  Go Get em David!  You’ve got a right to be mad!  Don’t take that lying down!  Kick their a**!  Society would ask Abigail:  “Who are you to interfere?”. Besides, you didn’t insult David, why should you be trying to stop him?  Get out of the way.

Our self images seem very fragile.  How else can we explain how just a certain word or look from one person to another can be taken for the vilest of insults?  How can it be that smallest of disagreements constantly seem to end up with someone needing a funeral.  Sticks and stones may brake my bones but I’ll shoot you if you call me a name.

Ah! some would retort; But Nabel got away with it!  In fact the very night Abigail gets back from saving his life, Nabel is having a drunken party.  We might question David’s judgement, but there is no questioning God’s.  Were Caleb’s acts evil?  God judged so.  For scripture tells us that within 10 days, the Lord struck Nabal and he was dead.

So hear’s another thing history teaches us about human nature; violence begets violence.  Nabal probably had some other distant relatives somewhere.  Had David slaughtered Nabal along with all the males associated with him, someone would have thought David wrong.  Someone would have felt compelled to take revenge on David.  Think of how many of today’s bloody wars, conflicts and feuds are based on incidents that have happened, sometimes centuries, in the past.

Nabal lies dead.  He dies from natural causes (some would also use the term “Act of God”).  Who are Nabal’s relatives going to go after?  How do you take your vengeance out on God?  Even to contemplate that sounds pretty risky to me.

Finally, David did not turn away by his own counsel.  He did not take a “cooling off” period and come to a more rational conclusion. No, he first had to allow Abigail to even meet with him.  After that, he had to truly listen to her and let her words soak in.  Once David did that, his choice, the right choice became clear.  Brothers and Sisters, God will thwart evil.  The bible shows us how God is not slow nor is His response weak when He feels justified in acting.  And Jesus is very clear that God wants to be the One to act.  His judgement is perfect, thus irrefutable.  There can be no meaningful backlash against Him.  Let us be slow to anger.  And should we find ourselves still becoming so, let us be open and listen to the voices of the peacemakers.  That our lives would show the true strength of our belief in God

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we ask that You would pour out Your Spirit of patience and mercy upon us that we would be slow to anger, slow to take matters into our own hands.  Send to us voices of peace when we devise plans to lash out in violence and anger.  In Your Perfect Judgement be swift in bringing judgement against evil.  That all would find awe in and loudly praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them.”  1 Samuel 22:2

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given me out of the world. They were yours and You gave them to Me….”  John 17:6

There are many similarities between David and Jesus.  Of course from a human lineage standpoint, Jesus came from the line of David and his city Bethlehem.  David was described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) as well as a man of God by so many prophets of the bible.  However, David was a man, a human, a creation and not the creator and as such, as are we all, he was a sinner.

Yet the similarity that I want to discuss concerns those who were drawn to them, whom both Jesus and David thought fitting to be in company with and to lead.  For while David became a beloved king of the great nation of Israel, leading legions of great men.  He did not start out that way.  No first there was just a very few trusted young men that accompanied him.  Once he found a relatively safe place to shelter, the cave of Adullam, people started to come to him.  These were not the cream of Jewish society who came to him.  Hardly, for people who became indebted to others were looked down upon and lived a horrid existence.  We’re not told why the others were in distress nor discontented but it was a common belief during that time (and unfortunately still carried out today) that those who were in distress deserved it because they had done something wrong.  They deserved the ill treatment they were receiving.  David could have sent them away.  He could have been afraid of what hanging around these people would do to his reputation and his future standing.  He could have done what the rest of society did; shun them.  Or maybe, David could have used them for his own selfish purposes against Saul, and then discarded them when they were of no further use.  David did none of those things.  David took pity on them.  He brought them together under his protection and served them as their captain, their leader.

Jesus started out alone.  Yet Jesus as God come down from heaven knowing all men, could have had his pick of the wisest, most educated, strongest of society.  Had he desired to use it in that way, none could have resisted His will.  But who did he choose?  And really, choose is the wrong word for Jesus proclaims that His disciples were given to Him, by name, by none other than His Heavenly Father Himself.  Fisherman; uneducated, unsophisticated.  A tax collector; filthy scum.  The others we’re not sure what they did as a vocation but none were known outside their small circle of followers at least at the beginning.  It is hard to believe that the world of that time and/or even today would have chosen any one of the them to be a close confidant, trusted keeper of the word or future anointed leaders of Christ’s church.

Here’s the thing, the world might not have, we might not have;  but God did.  The same way God brought those people to David, God gave to Jesus eleven trusted disciples.  Neither man had to keep them; but they were open to the possibilities that God had in mind with and through them.

So today, we are told to look for those who have many letters behind their name.  We’re told to look for those who have a proven track record by being sports team captains and class presidents.  If I have many to choose from let me choose only the best.  In my time in the corporate world, I have seen it become a common practice to use a person’s credit history as defining measurement of their employ-ability.  Have a mark against you; see you later.

Understand this; I am not anti education; I have a degree.  I have a few letters behind my professional name based on designations I have received.  But does that mean those are the only people I want to associate with?  When I am given a chance to choose people to work with, who am I willing to include on my team?  Who has God almighty told me, through His Son Jesus Christ are the truly blessed ones:  the meek, the poor, those who mourn.  I can’t say that seems to describe many that the world would call A-listers.

I believe God wants us to understand how much more alike we are than different.  Over and over again, through His Word, He shows us just how much He is able to do with those whom the world overlooks.  And if we are open to it, when we decide not to overlook any; how much God will do with and through us as well.  May it be that we have a humble heart and welcoming spirit.  Being truly thankful and praising God for all those, no matter their worldly stature, who He has deemed appropriate to bring together.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that in Your Eyes we are all equal; all fallen.  We are so thankful that You do not see fit to leave us to our own fallen natures; fighting desperately to get ahead in a worldly way.  Help us to live with the openness and love that David showed at the cave and Jesus showed throughout His entire life.  Leaving the judgement of worthiness totally to You and being accepting of all those whom You bring into our lives.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

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