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“Then the multitudes who went before and those that followed cried out:  ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” Matthew 21:9

“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Matthew 26:66

Let’s take a moment to ponder Easter week from the disciples perspective.  What a way it started out.  Much of the last year of Jesus’ ministry had been filled with both miracles but also strife.  As Jesus became more well know, He was attacked more and more by the religious establishment.  His fame concerning healing and miracles had reached such a significant level that He found it difficult to stay in the towns and cities due to the crowds.  Now Jesus had decided to go to Jerusalem to observe the passover.  The disciples had trepidation over this.  Some tried to dissuade Jesus believing He might be killed and they along with Him for even trying to enter the city.  Still, all decided to accompany Him, no matter the risk.

Yet, now Jesus was entering the city of cities; Jerusalem.  And far from being ostracized or condemned by the crowds, Jesus was being hailed and praised by the crowds.  The Jewish authorities who wanted Him silenced were no match for the jubilant outpouring from the crowd.  What an unexpected turn of events that must have been for the disciples.  For there was Jesus being praised and glorified by the crowds and because they were His disciples, they strode in triumphant as well.  Later that same week we are told that many, some powerful were coming to the disciples seeking an audience with Jesus.  Every time a detractor or accuser came to question or verbally attack Jesus, he was completely thwarted and turned away by Jesus; much to the marvel of the crowd.  This must have filled the disciples with such confidence and elation.

Then, in a few short days it all turned around.  It started with the feast of the Passover; the last supper.  What would seem to be a solemn but joyful event quickly turns anything but when Jesus declares that one of His closest, one from this beloved group, would betray Jesus.  Then Jesus starts to talk in detail about His departing and coming again.  Jesus leads them out to a garden where He does something they have never seen before; Jesus becomes sorrowful, almost seemingly fearful, though most don’t witness it because they have fallen asleep.

Finally the unthinkable happens; Jesus is arrested.  Jesus is put on trial and in a matter of a few short days the disciples witness the very same people who cheered Jesus as the Son of David, coming in the Name of Lord, jeer Jesus and demand that He be crucified!  They watch as He is led off condemned and some even watch Him die.  They must have wondered to themselves can it get any worse than this?

It seems that in barely the length of a week’s time, the disciples have witnessed and experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.   They have watched the world revere, cheer and seemingly love them.  However, so very quickly, they have watched the world, chastise, belittle and even condemn them.  How is one to react to that?  How would you and I react to that?

If one is not to find oneself being driven crazy by the capriciousness and duality of this world, it would seem that we would have to remember and keep focused, not on the world but on Jesus Christ.  For if we look to the example of Jesus Christ, He did not get swept up in the heady, glory filled days of the beginning of the week.  He completely realized what was coming and how the world can be so fickle as to praise in one moment and condemn the next.  Yet even in His lowest of low moments, when it seemed all had deserted Him in the garden, He knew His Father was there.  Jesus knew the love of His Father and knew that love would see Him through.

So likewise for us, if we find ourselves in a place or circumstance of triumph, we must resists the temptation to be swept up in the adoration and become proud and feeling deserving.  Let us instead humbly give thanks for our good fortune to the One who has blessed us with it, knowing that He, Our Heavenly Father is always faithful where the world is anything but.

Also, should we find ourselves in a place of abject disillusionment and despair with seemingly no place to turn; no hope of survival, let us, like Jesus, remember we are never alone, we are never without hope.  For we serve and have the love of the Creator of the Universe, the All Powerful and All Knowing God Almighty.  We have His solemn promise that He will never forsake us nor abandon us.

No doubt about it, we live in a tumultuous world.  Should we decide to be worldly, we will find ourselves catapulted to relatively fictitious highs and rocked by devastating lows.  In either of those situations love, true love will be hard to come by.  Thus, let us leave the roller coaster of the world behind and instead strive to become one with He who promises a peace and joy surpassing all worldly understanding.  His high is the only one worth shooting for.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world of extremes where we can go from triumphant highs to tragic lows.  Pour out Your Spirit Upon us, Merciful Father, that would not be tempted to be swept up in the prideful adulation or led to self destruction in the tragedy.  May it be that in all circumstances we would be reliant and focused on You and Your Love knowing that is the only true sustainment that we need or should desire.  That Your blessings are the reason for our triumphs and Your mercy will see us through our tragedies.  That in all things and at all times we would strive to bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Then Zerah, the Ethiopian came out against them…….And Asa cried out to the Lord his God: ‘ … us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You and in Your Name, we go against this multitude.'”  2 Chronicles 14:11

“…Baasha the king of Israel came up against Judah……Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasury and sent to King of Syria…saying let there be a treaty between you and me…..And at the time Hanani….said to him: ‘ Because you have relied on the King of Syria and have not relied on Lord your God……has escaped from your hand.'”  2 Chronicles 16: 1,2,3,7

It’s tempting isn’t it.  It’s right there, right within our reach.  What’s that you ask?  Help.  So many, many want to help.  Some are sincere, some only are looking for a quick buck from us.  Whatever the circumstances, someone within the world is telling us, guaranteeing to us, that they have the solution, the power to get us out of whatever jam we find ourselves in.  The world has the perfect formula for our success, just don’t turn to anywhere else.

In scripture, 2 Chronicles tells the story of a King of Judah.  His name is Asa.  The people of Israel are split into two kingdoms; Israel and Judah.  The Kingdom of Judah was much smaller than Israel; made up of only three of the twelve tribes.  So the kingdom was vulnerable to invaders.  However, Chronicles tells us that Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord.  Thus it was that an Ethiopian invader came up against Judah with thousands of more men and hundreds of more chariots.  Asa, should have been terrified.  The Kingdom of Judah, to have any chance of survival in this case should have reached out to every other kingdom for help.  Asa did not look around for help, he looked up.  Asa prayed to God; and although scripture tells us that he cried out, it was still with confidence.  In his prayer, Asa proclaims, that it is a small thing for God to come out against the Ethiopians and cause Judah to be victorious.  Asa is correct.  God is on their side and they utterly slaughter the Ethiopians and take great treasures because of the victory.

Fast forward a few years and for whatever reason, Israel comes out to do battle against its own country of brothers; Judah.  In 2 Kings we read that Baasha, the King of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.  Yet for some reason, whether it was because these were fellow Jews, people from different tribes of Israel, their kinsfolk, Asa did not call upon the Lord, God.  Instead he reached out to the King of Syria.  Asa pays the king a great sum from both his own personal treasury and the treasury of the people.  It seems at first that Asa’s plans are shrewd because the King of Syria actually attacks some of Israel’s cities forcing Baasha to stop his siege of Judah and return to his own kingdom.  But the Lord sends a prophet to Asa and tells him because Asa has relied on a worldly solution and did not call upon God; that the Asa would be at war with the kingdoms around Judah, including Syria for the rest of his life.

Here’s the lesson for us Dear Sisters and Brothers, as Hanani, the seer is speaking to Asa the King of Judah, he plainly states: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Think of it, right now you or I may be in a predicament that we have no idea how to get out of.  We may be in a place where it seems the whole world is arrayed against us.  Again, at that very time there might be those of world calling out to us with offers of help or we may think back to a time when someone either helped us or someone we know out of a similar jam.  But here’s the thing, we must resist the temptation to call upon them before we call upon the Name of the Lord.  Yes, the Lord, God may bring someone into our lives to help us out.  Yet by calling upon Our Heavenly Father with a loyal heart, we can be confident that He sees exactly where we are and what we need.  The solution that He provides will be perfect and we can be faithfully confident that we are carrying out His Will.

The beauty, the mystery, the wonder of it all is that although God is above all, He is not distant from us.  He is swift to come with His deliverance.  He will stop at nothing to bring about our salvation.  How can we be so sure of that?  Because Our Heavenly Father did not spare even His own Son, Jesus Christ, that we might be eternally saved and brought into a right relationship with Him.  Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has even allowed us to defeat death.  Thus let it be that we know Who to turn to first; where to call.  May it be that we will call upon our Lord, God with a loyal heart and watch Him show Himself strong!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank and praise Your Most Holy Name that You allow us to call upon You in all times.  Forgive us when we are tempted to look for worldly solutions instead of calling upon Your Name.  Be swift when we repent and call upon Your Holy Name to show Yourself to the world on our behalf.  That through a life lived with a loyal heart we would praise and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“In the beginning…….So God created man, in the image of God.  He created him; male and female.  He created them.”  Genesis 1:1, 1:27,28

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”  John 3:16

Authors note: Depending on your circumstances today, you may skip the first part which I write for context.  But whether you skip it or not, please, please read the ending part.

The world.  As Jesus Christ uses that term it is not a singularly physical place.  The ruler of it is not flesh and blood.  The world is the dominion of darkness and its ruler is Satan.  And the world hates you.  The leader of the world despises you.  Satan wants to make your life like his; a living hell.  Why?  You and I are a creation of God’s.  We are made in God’s image.  We were created from and for Love; for eternal life. Satan rejected that love and now hates all who call upon and rely on it.

Sorry to be dark but for understanding we must understand, we must go here.  Satan will use all his considerable power to defeat you and I.  He will use outside fear and threat.  He will bring hate against you and I from every conceivable corner he controls.  Worse yet, he will attack our inner spirit.  He will attempt to have us be selfish, jealous, spiteful, lustful, greedy and hateful.  If he cannot get us to turn from God, he will try to convince us that God has turned from us.  That we are utterly alone.  That all hope is lost.  He will try to convince us the only hope is to turn to the world; chemicals, alcohol, perversions to dull the pain and when that is not enough; when life is so full of total despair and void of hope, that life itself should cease.  (Again please do not stop here).

(Start here if you skipped the first two paragraphs)

God, Our Heavenly Father knows all about the struggle.  God is not ignorant to the plans and schemes of Satan.  Through the Holy Spirit, Paul clearly states the type of battle we’re engaged in, in the book of Ephesians: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness…” (Ephesians 6:12)

So dear sisters and brothers no matter where you are today, but especially if you find yourself in the dark morass of the struggle against the powers of darkness where light seems absent and hope seems lost.  No matter what your thoughts to God, God’s thought and feeling to you is: LOVE!  You are loved!  Personally, deeply, completely You are Loved!  Say it!  Repeat it! You are loved.

How do I know?  How can we be so confidently sure?  He, Our Heavenly Father told us. Very plainly, very succinctly, He told us.  God is Love so being Love, He told us that He created us in His image.  Thus we must also have been created in the image of Love.  We are His creation and, again through the Holy Spirit, Paul runs through an entire list, death, life, powers, depth, height shall not separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:37)

How do I know?  Look to the lengths God was willing to go to save us!  To bring us back to him!  God was in heaven.  God was and is perfect.  His existence was one of perfection.  God could feel no hunger, no pain, no weariness.  God left that existence.  God, in the Being of Jesus Christ, came to earth; became a man.  God felt pain, became physically tired and dirty, felt hunger, felt anguish, felt temptation.  God cried…..for us.  And God died…..for you and me.  It is truly correct in John 3:16 to use the term “world” so that it would describe the inclusiveness of Our Heavenly Father’s Plan and the extent of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.  But if we are not careful the personal aspect of that sacrifice can be lost on you and I in a personal sense.  That is why the next sentence uses whosoever.  You and I are whosoever.  Fill in the blank:  For Love’s sake Jesus Christ died for (your name)! Say it out Loud:  God loves me, (your name) so much that He died for me!

Please, Please, know this dear sisters and brothers, no matter what you are facing today.  No matter what the world is saying about there being no hope.  You are not alone.  The Creator of the Universe, His Only Begotten Son, The Holy Spirit of All Truth and Light, are right there with you and I.  Our victory is assured, the battle, nay not just the battle but the war is won.  Paul tells us we have armor, spiritual armor forged by God Himself out of Love, to protect us.  Feel His Love.  Embrace His Love.  Let His Love and Strength Pour over you like a mighty river washing away all despair and dejection.  You and I are His.  He is Love.  And He will never let us go.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, the world is waging war against us.  We humbly declare that we are incapable of waging the battle, let alone winning on our own.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we turn to earthly implements and strategies to fight the powers of darkness.  Send Your Light like a mighty flash of lightning to penetrate the gloomiest darkness to show us Your way.  Let Your voice blast out like the sound of thunder to silence the voices of doom, hatred and hopelessness rising around us.  Thank you Dear Father.  Thank You for Your Love.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Give us Your desire to love; in all circumstances, to love.  In the Name of the One in whose Love we are victorious Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

“And the Lord said to Joshua…You shall march around the city…This you shall do for six days. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times……all the people shall shout with a great shout then the wall of the city will fall flat.”  Joshua 6: 4,5

“And he said to the people…..You shall not shout or make or make any noise with your voice, not shall a word proceed out of your mouth until the day I say to you shout!”  Joshua 6:10

There are two famous sayings by two people who are prized for their wisdom in these modern times.  First, reportedly Albert Einstein said:  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” (I say reportedly because there is quite a bit of discussion about whether or not Einstein actually said this or not).  Second, Thomas Edison is reported to have said: “I have not failed, I have found 1000 ways that don’t work.” (Again some renditions are 5,000 or even 10,000 attempts until he was able to finally invent the light bulb).

So which one is correct?  Which one describes how I am to be?  I do what seems to be the same thing again and again, hoping for success but it doesn’t seem to come; am I not insane to keep trying?  But what if I’m giving up too soon?  Would I be now typing in the dark or at best by candlelight if Edison had stopped at number 500?  For Benjamin Franklin said:  “Energy and persistence conquer all things”

Imagine you’re one of the Israelites.  You have just come from the wilderness.  The older generation, the one that first left Egypt has passed away before coming to the promised land.  Why? They wouldn’t obey God.  But you’ve heard about God.  You’ve also heard about Joshua.  He was Moses right hand man.  So now you’ve come into the promised land; the land dripping with milk and honey, the land that God has sworn to give to you and what stands before you?  A huge obstacle.  A mighty fortress city whose walls are six to eight feet thick and they have several layers of walls.  You can’t settle in the promised land with that fortress blocking your way.

Now back to Joshua.  Moses has died and been buried.  That means Joshua is in charge.  Joshua will have a plan.  Yes Joshua! Let’s hear your plan.  Right! We’re going to storm the city; right?  We’re going to lay siege to the city for months and starve them, right?

March?  March around the city?  March around the city and then sneak attack, right?  March around the city as a diversion while some sneak over the walls, then we attack; right?  Go home? Go Home!!!!  We march around the city and then come back to camp?????

But this is Joshua; so you can imagine the first day; people are probably completely behind him.  “If Joshua says go; WE GO!” shout the Israelites; except they can’t shout or make a sound around the city.  Tromp, tromp, tromp, go all the people.  “Are they looking down on us from the walls?” some think.  “Bet their quaking in their sandals !”, others think.  Then back to camp.  “Well that was different!”, some think to themselves. But this is Joshua; he knows what he’s doing.

Day two:  Now we attack, right?  They’re in trouble now, right?  March? Again? Silently?  Are you sure; Joshua?  But hey this is Joshua, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Day three – six:  What?!?!?! March Again!?!?!?!  Did Joshua get hit on the head???? This is crazy!!!!???? Can’t we get Moses back or someone else?  Same thing day after day is nuts!!!!  I can imagine these could have been thoughts that some would have had following Joshua; especially with our society’s demand for instant action.

Day seven:  Let me guess; we get to March!!!!!  Oh and seven times around today; Oh JOY!!!!  But today is not the same and there is another difference besides the number of times they go around the city.  At the end of the seventh time, Joshua will give a signal.  Mighty horns will blast and all the people will shout as loud as they can.  Imagine the dismay inside and outside the city; as the walls came crashing down.

One can imagine that on day three through six some thought that what they were doing was insane.  They could not see how the marching around was making any impact.  In the book of Joshua, chapter 6, there is no indication that Joshua told the entire plan to the people ahead of time.  Might there have been some frustration?  Might there have been a feeling like we’re just wasting time?  I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall (or at least wish I were because then I’d be doing something). And if there was not any grumbling or complaining the reason there was not is they knew they were not executing Joshua’s plan.  They were executing God’s plan.

You and I have been praying.  Maybe we have felt a calling.  Maybe we feel that we have been told that we’re heading for a “promised land” but today seems frustratingly just like yesterday and the day before.  We think we’re going insane because we’re doing the same thing and praying for a different outcome.  The first, days, months, years, maybe even more; we had that sense of persistence.  We say to ourselves:  “Well it may have been 300 days but that just brings us one day closer!”  But we’re tired.  The world wants us to quit.  If we don’t quit, the world calls us crazy.

If it’s our plan alone, our family’s plan, our boss’s plan, any human plan; maybe we need to rethink.  So we pray in the Name of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit will reveal to us whether the calling is God’s or our own.  If it be Our Heavenly Father’s, dear brothers and sisters, be patient, be persistent, know that you and I are not crazy.  We are led.  We are chosen.  We are blessed.  And we are Loved by the Creator of the Universe; the omnipotent and omniscient God.  Through Him, we will destroy all walls the world puts in our path.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we admit we live in a world that wants instant answers, immediate return for our actions.  Yet You have shown us again and again how faithful patience and persistence will lead us along the path that You have chosen for us as well as to the destination You have in store.  Please pour out Your Strength upon us so that we can resist the temptation to turn from Your Plan to go after our own.  Through the Holy Spirit, give us peace in our souls to rely upon You and You only.  That in our persistence and patience, we will live lives of praise to Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  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

“Who am I, O Lord God?  And what is my house, that You have brought me thus far?”  2 Samuel 7:18

“For Your sake and according to Your heart, You have done all these great things……..”  2 Samuel 7:21

Accountability, a word and a concept that is thrown a round quite a bit these days.  Some bemoan that there is no accountability left in our societies today.  That the opposite of accountability, we try to shirk responsibility and blame any and everyone else for our failings and/or poor behavior.  In another sense there is an entitlement aspect to accountability as well.  Should  I accomplish this or successfully complete that; if I obtain some degree of mastery to some subject or have some high degree of talent, then I am entitled to hold you accountable to see that I am properly rewarded.

David was the youngest of his brothers.  In the hierarchical tradition of his day, David stood to inherit the least from his family.  David was a shepherd.  Being a shepherd was among the lowliest of professions in David’s day.  We learn in 1 Samuel that David was not the strongest, most hansom, or wisest of his family.  Looking through human eyes and using human judgement, Samuel was not predisposed to choose David for anything, let alone the next (and greatest earthly) king of Israel.

So one day a man of God shows up named Samuel and picks the most unlikely of the family to anointed as the next king of Israel.  David is told that he is God’s choice.  After that David’s life takes one turn after another.  He slays the giant Goliath, wins battle after battle, avoids being killed by Saul the current king of Israel, becomes king after Saul’s death, has even more victories and triumphantly brings the Ark of God into the capital, Jerusalem to wild cheers and adoring subjects, where he comes to live in a great palace and become very wealthy.  Quite a whirlwind tour for the young man.

Now David might have been tempted to look around and feel very self justified.  He may have felt that his victories were all because of his great cunning.  He may have judged that he was worthy of being king because of his great bravery.  David might have felt that he was entitled to the adoration of the people because of how he had defended the kingdom and the victories he achieved.

We don’t know if the temptation was there, but if it was, David did not yield to it.  For having been made king, received the blessings and bounties of that position and heard the promise of God for a prosperous life; David’s first question is one of awe and humility.  “Who am I Lord?”; David asks.  Why would you shower me with such blessings and abundance?

How rare is that kind of humility today.  More often we hear things like:  Because I live in such and such a place I deserve this; or Because I have the title CEO or President I’m entitled to …., or maybe something like, Because I was drafted number 1 or scored this many points, had this many victories, I’m entitled to this amount of money!  The examples go on and on.  It is not just those whom we consider rich that have that mentality.  No, we find that kind of thinking in all spectrums of society; old and young, male and female, rich and poor, ignorant and highly educated.  I am deserving of.  You owe me!

David answers his own question but we get the sense that the wisdom of the answer comes from One far wiser, far Above him.  It is not because David is so great.  It is not because the people of Israel are so deserving.  It is not because of those things that God is compelled to bring blessings to them.  God’s favor is not a repayment for lives perfectly lived.  No, David knows it is the nature of God, it is the Goodness of God, it is God showing to all that He is a God of Love, that God has seen fit lift up those who are lowly.  God has taken pity on the pitiless, shown that He is merciful even to the undeserving.  It is the Heart of God, not the righteousness of man, that compels Him to be generous, loving and to lead His people to greatness.

As we live in the culture of today; the question that David asked is not a popular one.  This is a world that is about claiming the right.  We are owed this and entitled to that.  How dare anyone question the correctness or deservedness of the achievements that I’ve made and the bounty that I have.  The answer that David comes up with is even more unpopular; it is downright scandalous.  You see I don’t deserve it.  My blessings are a gift from God based on His generosity versus a just payment for service well rendered.  Horrors of horrors my service is so lacking that instead of reward; my payment entitles me to one thing and one thing only, if I were truly being held appropriately accountable:  death! (and oh by the way, that is true of all of our service).

If death is the only thing I’m entitled to, what hope is there for me?  None, is the answer, at least from myself.  Enter Jesus Christ.  He was entitled to life.  He was entitled to Love and Adoration.  He was entitled to an eternal existence at the side of God His Father.  Jesus left what He was entitled to.  He left love and perfection to come to hate and error.  Who did He do that for???? Me! (and you).  So truly that brings us back to the beginning question; God, who am I that You would bless me so?  May mine and your eternal answer be: I am yours Oh God.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that often we try to build ourselves up; thinking ourselves worthy by our righteousness to receive the blessings You shower down upon us.  Forgive us these prideful thoughts Most Merciful Father.  For we repent of those evil thoughts and proclaim that we are unworthy for anything but condemnation from You.  Yet we also praise You, that in Your Infinite Wisdom, instead of judgement, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ as our salvation.  May it be that we humbly accept that Salvation, living lives of Praise and Adoration to Your Most Holy Name.  In Jesus Christ Name we pray.  Amen

“Your servant has killed both lion and bear and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them”  1Samuel 17:36

“David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk…And David said….I cannot walk in these.”  1Samuel 17:39

“The David said….You come to me with a sword, with a spear…..But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” 1Samuel 17:45

Much has been written about the battle between David and Goliath.  In fact just last week, I wrote a post about the problem of fixating on the wrong thing.  The Israelite Army fixated on Goliath.  David fixated on God (see Jan. 6 post Beware Upon Who or What You Fixate).  Why continue?  Because we must remember that God’s Holy Word is so much more than just a history lesson.  God’s purpose for His word is that it will live in our hearts today; equipping us to face our battles.  He is as much with us today and He was with David.

So let’s take a look at some other lessons that we can learn:

1.  God has been with you before and you can take strength from this.  Scripture doesn’t tell us how many of Saul’s Army were shepherds by profession or how many had faced a life or death experience with a bear.  But even those who had and lived to tell the tale did not find that experience instructive in the current situation.  David was different.  He knew facing death was facing death; whether being mauled by a lion or run through by a giant.  David had faced death before and by the Grace of God, had defeated those opponents; with his bare hands no less.  He was able to find strength and confidence that the God who had brought him through those circumstances would not forsake him now.  So likewise, the test you and I are facing is probably not completely new.  We have faced new locations, new situations (like jobs or schools), illnesses and the list goes on.  It may not be exactly the same but know that the very fact that you are reading these words now; God brought you through it in the past.  The God who gave His Son for you and I will not forsake us now.

2.  Be open to the help of others but in the end; go with where you feel led.  Saul had given David permission to go and fight Goliath.  Thus David should have the finest equipment that the Israelite Army could provide him.  Note that David did not suddenly say:  No Way!  God is my only Armor.  No, David saw wisdom in listening to and trying the advice of those more experienced around him.  Yet, when David, in good faith, tried the worldly trappings of strength in armor and sword; he found he could not move and would be certainly defeated if he went out like that.  So, only after testing what others thought, he decided to go with what he knew had been successful.  We need to heed his lesson.  When you and I are given advice on how to handle something, we should not just dismiss it out of hand because it is not how we’ve done it in the past.  God’s blessings often come in the guise of wise counseling.  Though we also should not just go and do what someone else says just because they seem wise or in a position of authority.  Trust the Spirit to guide you.  If it does not feel right.  If the advice keeps you from moving in the way that you feel led, then it is correct to go with how you feel led by the Spirit.

3.  Submit to, rest upon, be confident in the Lord of Hosts from which your strength comes.  David’s retort to Goliath pretty much sums up all battles of world vs. God.  David checked off the things of the world which Goliath had; sword, spear and javelin.  Those things along with Goliath’s strength should have easily been enough to defeat David.  However, David did respond with tales of his own strength, cunning wisdom or superiority of his skill with his weapons.  David knew this, there was only one way he was going to be victorious and because of that One way; he could not be defeated.  “I come in the name of the Lord of hosts”.  Goliath never stood a chance.  Please note, this had nothing to do with glory for David or even patriotism for the land of Israel.  He was not a future king, he was a humble servant of the Lord of Hosts and as such was incapable of being defeated.  Why are you and I in the battle in the first place?  Do we want the new position for our own prestige or wealth?  Do we want to defeat our tormentor so that we can gloat or boast on our own strength?  Who will the world see glorified by our victory?  In this case, as in most, humility first brings victory second.  Did not Jesus do the same in the garden?  Not my will but thine be done.  Jesus Christ now victoriously sits at the Right Hand of the Father.  You and I need to humble ourselves before Almighty God.  We must go forward in His name and not our own.  Yet rest assured; as in David, our victory will assured, blessings will flow down, God will be with you and I.

Take a few moments to read 1 Samuel Chapter 17.  I am sure there are takeaways that God will give to you that are profound and necessary for you which may be greatly different than these.  Remember God, the Great I Am is as interested in your what is today; that is ,what you need to be victorious, as He was in David’s what was.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we are so thankful and blessed that You decided to give us lessons on Your Nature and how we can be Victorious in the words of Your Scripture.  Help us Dear Father to be faithful in our turning to scripture often.  Pour out Your Spirit of discernment that we will learn the lesson You are presenting along with the ability to incorporate it into our lives.  That we would be a people focused on only those victories that come from You and serve to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…for such is the kingdom of God.  Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Mark 10:15

“….but when I became a man; I put away childish things”  1 Corinthians 13:11

As we come to that time of year where we celebrate the birth of the Child, it seems fitting to perhaps reflect on what is said and thought about being like a child.

Ah childhood, a period of time in popular culture (sadly not a universal actual happening) that is wistfully looked upon as a time of innocence and blissful joy.  A time where possibilities seem endless and the spirit soars at each new encounter.

Yet then again, rarely do you hear an adult called a brat and to the extent that the terms is used on an adult it congers up pictures of tantrum throwing little kids.  Bullies and bullying was a term, until more recently, relegated to the time frame of childhood and adolescence.  I have heard the phrase: “Gullible as a newborn….”  Sticking one’s tongue out, holding their breath until they turn blue are all characteristics that we tend to associate with the not so wonderful side of childhood.

And as wonderful as we might think the time period of being a child might be; isn’t as adults, with out insight and wisdom, drive and ambition, depth and breadth of our experience; aren’t we the people who really get things done?  So what are we to make of Jesus Christ’s admonition?  Especially when placed alongside Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian’s to put away childish things.

One story that seems to illustrate this to me came from my own experience with my own children.  Driving in the car when they were very young, the sun is shining in their eyes and being restrained in car seats, they could not move to block it.  So the request came very matter-of-factly and with ever confidence that it could be done:  “Please turn off the sun, it is in my eyes!”  (This was the beginning of a long downward slide in my children’s realization of the multitude of things I couldn’t do)  The amazing thing to me at the time, and still today, was how reasonable the request seemed to them.  This was a very natural thing that a loving father could do.  Please, Please don’t get caught up in the absurdity of request in terms of its fulfillment.  Think more in terms of faith and trust involved, the steadfast belief in their father.  Of course I could not fulfill their wish to turn off the sun.  However, what I did do was to pull over and pull down the shade (safety designed for cars) to block the sun from them.  Here again is a key distinction concerning the sufficiency of my response.  I did not turn off the sun, which was the original request, yet they were perfectly content that the sun was still shining but no longer into their eyes. (If only all requests were so easy).

There is another aspect to a child’s perspective that is different from adults.  They can (if taught) more easily learn a respect and even awe for authority.  Think about it, they know or can be easily shown that they are not in control.  They can be physically picked up and relocated whether it was within their will or not.  They are unable (talking young toddlers here) to fend for themselves, to get their own food, provide their own shelter.  There is an innate belief and trust in a child that the adults in their lives are doing what is best for them simply because of the power that the adults have.  It is this inability to fend for themselves as well as their trusting nature that sadly gets manipulated into their abuse at times by evil adults in their world.  So here’s the thing; my children learned that I have limitations.  There were and are many things that I just could not do.  Not only that, some of the things I did, using what I thought was my best judgement, turned out not to be good.  I am imperfect!

Jesus says though we need to receive the kingdom of God as a child, and in fact that if we don’t we won’t enter it.  Children trust.  Adults say trust, but verify.  Children believe until proven wrong.  Adults say prove it to me and then I’ll believe.  If you say come or go to your little child they will often do so; an adult will first ask; what is in it for me.  When faced with a tough situation; a child will ask for and accept help.  An adult will say, and so often we applaud; let me get through this on my own.

What are then to make of Paul’s admonition about putting away childish things?  The Corinthians had taken the Word preached by Paul but then wanted to do things there own way.  They wanted to pout when they were corrected.  It is childish to want everything our way.  If my children had screamed and cried because the sun was still on, though not shining in their eyes; that would have been childish.  If I can’t have my way, I won’t play any more is a childish way to think and must be put away.  The only way to answer my prayer is the way I want it.  And if you won’t do that God; I’ll take my soul home and you can’t have it!  Childish

How can it be safe for us to approach God with the faith, trust, acceptance and awe of a child?  It only works because unlike us, God is perfect.  His love is perfect.  His plan is perfect.  As the Creator of all there is nothing, Nothing beyond his capability.  Did He use that capability to condemn us for our sins against Him?  Are we who believe in Him and Jesus Christ judged to eternal punishment?  He could have.  Maybe as a parent we would have.  No, instead God sent His  Only Son to take our place; to take our punishment.  That is the Love the Father has for us.  I know how desperately I want and need to be his child.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father forgive me when I am a childish adult.  Forgive when I only want my way, when I desire proof before I will trust You, when I tell you thanks but no thanks to the help You most generously wish to provide.  Grant that I might have the proper spirit of a child; trusting in You completely, joyfully basking in the warmth of Your Loving Arms, being wholeheartedly grateful for all that You have, are and will do for me.  Give me the spirit to share my blessings freely with all I encounter.  So, that as children can so sweetly do not worrying about quality or whose listening, we will raise our voices in praise to You.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor, if there is dew on the fleece only and it is dry on the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand”  Judges 6:37

“And it was so.” Judges 6:38

…Do not be angry with me but let me speak just once more:  Let me test I pray……” Judges 6:39

You have to love the way we use the English language (unless you are a very young person or a person from another country trying to learn it).  We use idioms which are words or phrases in which the meaning is not crystal clear by its use.  I grew up with words like:  groovy, bad (meaning good) and phrases like “far out”.  And we continue to come up with them constantly.  Most of the latest ones I have no clue about.  I recently told a story that I thought was good (or cool in my vernacular) and the person responded that it was “sick.”  I apologized, much to the listener’s confusion (he was trying to tell me it was a good story).  So why start out like this?  Because a word we are using now to convey a sense of disbelief, a sense that no person would actually do or say something, that their actions are beyond defense; is the word really.  It is used in the form of a one word question.  Really? (normally accompanied by a facial expression of disapproval and body language of frustration).  Really?  Tell me you did not just say that I am overweight.  Really?  Tell me you didn’t go out and buy a big new TV when I just sent you out for bread!

So why might we have a sense of disbelief at Gideon in his story in the book of Judges.  Well first an angel of the Lord, physically appeared to him, not in a dream, but actually sitting under a terebinth tree.  He told Gideon to do something and that “the Lord was with him.”  Gideon even then asks for a sign which to which the angel obliges.  Gideon destroys the altar of Baal, the people want to kill him but Gideon is saved.  One might think that is proof enough.  This time the “Spirit of the Lord” comes to Gideon and tells Gideon that he is going to deliver Israel from their oppressors.  Now Gideon is not a soldier by trade and he is a little “ify” on  being the leader to save Israel.  In Gideon’s mind this was astronomically larger than just tearing down an alter.  So he asks for another sign which would be miraculous enough to convince him that the Lord was indeed with him.  Gideon would lay down a wool fleece and overnight dew would come.  It would cover the whole floor, except for the fleece which would stay bone dry.  The Lord fulfills Gideon’s test.  So here is where the “really” comes into play.  The Lord has passed two tests.  He has delivered Gideon once already.  Gideon has previously acknowledged that the Lord is He who saved Israel and led them out of Egypt.  But Gideon requests another test!!!  Gideon knows he’s on thin ice because he starts the request with “do not be angry.”  The test is for the next day, the ground to be bone dry but the fleece only will be drenched with dew.  The next day, Gideon squeezes a bowl full of water out of the fleece while everything else is parched and dry.

To me it’s not necessarily Really Gideon; but Really God?  We humans would have probably handled it quite differently.  We would not have been against the first test when we showed up under the tree.  But once we proved ourselves, we probably would have been annoyed and somewhat perturbed when we showed up again and Gideon wanted to test us.  But, after granting the second test and now Gideon doesn’t trust us enough to follow us and asks for another test, most of us would have kicked him out of our presence and started looking for someone else.

Praise be to Our Heavenly Father who has infinite patience and mercy.  Here’s the thing for us.  Our spiritual enemy would tell us we are never to doubt God.  That we are totally worthless to God if we even think of trying to test Him.  The enemy tries to convince us that God is so judgemental that only the perfect should try to connect with Him in any way.  For the rest of us, we need to turn away and flee from His presence and trust only ourselves.  Am I trying to say what Gideon did was correct?  No.  I know that Jesus in His temptation said that “we are not to put God to a test.”  Though I also know that God knows, we are not Jesus Christ.  God knows that our faith is not perfect.  We will come into His presence trembling.  Not just trembling because the awesomeness of God, but because we are uncertain that God can and will do what we ask or fulfill our needs.  And I will freely and humbly admit that I have longed for a dry fleece or the sun to actually turn back one hour in the sky.  I have prayed the bargain prayer:  “God if you will do this, I will believe and do that…”  I will tell you the response most often is not the bargain I was trying to make, but the response is also not one of judgement or anger.  We have the bible for the very reason to show us, not only God’s capabilities, but God’s wonderful love.  Jesus Christ embodies the all-encompassing capability in His Life, His Death and His Resurrection.  No test we can devise could ever prove more than that.  This story plus those of Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and so many others show how far God is willing to go for us; when we come to Him, even with our doubts.  Really God, You’d Love even me, just as I am?  Really?  Yes comes His reply.  Really!

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we lack the perfect faith that we should have in You.  We do repent of trying to put You to the test to prove You are with us.  We thank and praise You, most Merciful and Patient God, that you have given us Your Word to show how faithfully You have dealt with Your Children and the promise to always do so.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, Wonderful Father, that we might come closer to the true faith and relationship so perfectly shown by Your Son Jesus Christ.  That our lives would show to the world, lives of praise and adoration.  In Jesus Christ’s Name we pray.  Amen

“And he said to the people, ‘Proceed and march around the city……”You shall not shout or make any noise with your mouth……..until I say to you shout.”  Joshua 6, 9-10

Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”    Luke 18:17

So just imagine the scene.  You have just crossed over the Jordan River.  You have now come up against your first obstacle, a formidable walled city named Jericho.  Based on archeological digs, the defenses were made up of a retaining wall, about 12-15 high, then an earthen berm and then a much larger stone wall an additional 20 – 26 feet high and approximately 6 feet thick.  Joshua tells you, with God’s help you are going to take this city.  Okay, I start thinking, I’m going to need ladders and ropes, I don’t have archers and am not going to be able to throw a spear that far.  Tunnels, that’s the ticket!  We’ll tunnel under and come up in the midst of the city and take them by surprise.  Or maybe make a hollow wooden horse and they’ll pull us in….nah, nobody would fall for that.

What do you say Joshua, let’s tunnel!  Excuse me?  March around the city….once each day……saying nothing……..then on the seventh day, march around seven times, the priests will blow their horns and we’re to shout like crazy!?!?  Then we’ll just march in and take the city.  Hmmmm.  I tell you what Joshua, I think I’ll just watch this one.  You go ahead with your plan and on the eigth day I’ll start my tunneling.

I was in the US Air Force for a few years.  During that time I was part of an airborne command post and part of our job was to plan.  We’d think about resource allocation and force projection, cumulative effect and massing of forces.  I have been a part of planning for small day-long skirmishes as well as weeks to months long major battles.  Yet during all my experience, never would I have come up with a plan like this one.  And had I been there, one of Joshua’s fighting leaders, I really wonder what my reaction would have been to these orders.  I believe the more experience and expertise in military matters I had, the more likely I would be to try to change or veto the plan.

But you know who would not have questioned it?  You know who would have said:  “Give me my place in line and on that seventh day; hear me shout!”?  A child; and probably the younger the better as long as they were old enough to understand the words.  I know for me and with my children, there was a time, if I had told them to go push against the house and move it over a few feet, they would have gone and started pushing.  Why?  Because they trusted me (I know you’re saying those poor children).  They trusted their father, and if the father said do it, then two things were certain.  One, it could be done.  Secondly, they better be the ones to do it.

Here I think is another crucial lesson to this incident.  God had shown that he did not need humans to destroy a city.  God was very much capable of doing it on His own.  So why bring His people into it?  I think it shows to His people, what they are capable of when they listen to Him.  If the plan had called for a conventional  siege or God said: “you come up with the plan”, then when it succeeded, we could take the credit for it.  But because the plan was so unusual and called for the focal point of the process to be the sacred ark and the priests, it showed that the plan was not of an earthly origin.  And the victory, which did happen, just as God said it would, could only be attributed to the most High God.  His people learned that nothing was impossible, even to bringing down walls with sound, if you will truly, completely follow God.  So they may sure seem foolish to the world.  Build an ark when there is not a cloud in the sky?  Face a giant with just a sling and a stone?  Boldly walk into a lion’s den?  Send Your Only Son to a place where You know and in fact it is Your Plan for Him to be killed?  Strange plans indeed, but look at me Dear Father, here I go, I’m marching.

There is no stopping God.  There is no stopping God’s people when they completely trust, follow and love Him.  The enemy, earthly and spiritual, will try to convince us that God’s plan is just too far fetched.  The enemy will try to tell us to rely on our own plan, our own wisdom.  God says:  look down, go find a child.  Watch the child go forth with determination on whatever task  they are given.  God tells us to go and do likewise.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that You and Your Plans are perfect and can not fail.  Yet we also confess that we too often doubt Your Plan.  We too often want to either modify your plan or disregard it altogether and substitute our own.  Forgive us Dear Father when we fail to follow you.  Grant us Dear Father the total faith like a child, trusting in Your Holy Guidance in our lives.  That in following You, no wall or obstacle will stand before us, no enemy will defeat us, no victory will elude us.  That in all things we will seek to live to the Glory of Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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