Category: Discipleship

Season After Pentecost (Proper 11[16]) – The Psalms Passage: Daring to follow in David’s foot steps

Before we start I want to point out that this was probably written by King David, or by someone very close to him. So if it seems to laud King David, that may be why. I am not saying this is not a true and authentic representation of David; but if it seems to favor King David that may be why. As the passage proceeds, you will see why it is important to know that it is pro-David.
“I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him; my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him. My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’ I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm. I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure.” (Psalm 89:20 – 29)
The psalmist is outlining David’s tenure as king; I have said (ad nauseam) that King David made mistakes. But we all make mistakes, and quite honestly there should be no rank of mild to severe mistakes/sin. We function and judge ourselves and others that way, but at the end of our lives and/or at the end of all days – sin will be sin. David did feel God’s blessing, and for that David should be proud and take satisfaction in striving as much as a human can to follow God. Actually it is this next section that makes me take notice.
“If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges; . . .” (Verses 30 – 33a)
And that is exactly what happened. One of David’s sons, Absalom by name, ran afoul of David’s God and was punished. Some of David’s great grandchildren and great great also did not walk according to the Lord’s ordinances. And we know the results were that the king of David, Judah and Israel, fell to the surrounding nations. And the glory of David’s throne was tarnished. Did David/the psalmist know this would happen? Is that what prompted these next verses?
“. . but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun. It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.” Selah” (Verses 33b – 37)
From David’s line (at least in human biological records well and accorded as Joseph’s son who was in the line of David. ) Jesus was born. (You know, it becomes clear to me now why the census and the birth of Jesus were so close together – so that the unborn child would be and was accorded to the line of David. Just a small “aha” moment.) And from Jesus the line did and does continue forever. So yes, what the psalmist wrote was true – but maybe not in the way the psalmist thought it would be.
But, that is not even my whole point. We are . . . . spiritual heirs of David. To us falls the task of walking according to the Lord’s ordinances. And if we fall to do so, the Lord says “ I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges . . .” And if we, as David did despite his flaws and missteps, live and strive to follow the Lord as closely as we can, the Lord says “but I will not remove from him [or her] my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness. . .” Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 11[16]) – The Gospel Passage: Daring to work as Jesus did on earth

“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.” (Mark 6:30 – 32)
During his ministry, Jesus always made time to get away, to refresh himself, to pray, and renew his spirit (Spirit?) so that he could be an effective minister (among other things) to the people that came to him. He was teaching is disciples the same thing. Unfortunately it was sometimes very hard to get time away.
It occurs to me, beloved reader, that Jesus needed that time away because his Divine Spirit (now the capital letter!) was housed in a human body. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he no longer used/needed a human body which may be why the aspect of the Triune God named the Holy Spirit could come to earth. I do not mean that the Holy Spirit is just Jesus in a celestial/spectral form. But that the Holy Spirit was a more accessible way and an non-exhaustible way for the Presence of the Lord to be among us. But, back to the story.
“Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Verses 33 – 34)
I am a working-parent, which means when I get done with my 8 hours (or more) of work day I come home to start another five to six hours of working at home. I often wish at the end of the day I could just come home and not do much more for anyone else except maybe my self. But that is not my life right now. I recognize the need to get away and do all the self-care that I listed that Jesus did. But just like Jesus saw with the “great crowd” I see with my family that they need me. And I have compassion for them, and work on their behalf.
I am not, beloved reader, equating myself with what Jesus did the crowd that were sheep without a sheep. My point is when you are in service to someone else, their needs come first. That is often the case with ministers, preachers etc – and actually in my line of work too, working in the social services field. You see a need and you are drawn to fill it.
Now Jesus knew that his disciples needed rest, a time away from the demands of ministry because he knew he needed it too. Rather than pulling back and being with his disciples, he must have decided to exemplar another aspect of ministry (as I mentioned above) and stepped forward to meet the need.
“When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” (Verses 53 – 56)
You know, I am going to go out on a limb here and talk a little bit more about myself and my work. This evening (that is the evening that I wrote this) was a Friday and it had been a long day and an even longer week. Something unexpected came up mid-afternoon, something that needed to be taken care of after the end of my usual work hours. Rather than putting it off on someone else, I volunteered to work extra long to complete the task. And ended up putting in an extra hour of work. I don’t heal people, that is heal as Jesus did. But the work I do does heal in a way, in that the person I work with is at a better place than they were before. I say this not to boast on myself, but to show you that being an authentic Christian and working in the field of ministering to people can cause you to work beyond what is normally expected. Jesus did not hold anything back. He gave all that he had and was, up to and including forfeiting his life. We are called to do the same thing. Just something to think about as you end your work week! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 11[16]) – The Epistle Passage: Daring to question the parameters of early Christianity, (and perhaps modern Christianity)

“So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” –a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11 – 13)
It is with some small measure of reluctance that I included the word “early” in my title for today. I would like to have included what constitutes, generally speaking, the parameters of Christianity today, and challenge the notion that Christianity today means hard, strong, fast, and exclusive boundaries. But if I am faithful to the opening of Paul’s remarks I must define Christianity as the practice and beliefs of Paul’s time. Maybe, maybe, further in the passage I may feel those restrictions lifted.
The meeting in Jerusalem of the disciples (especially Peter) and Paul resulted in the practice of only allowing circumcised (that is, former Jews) into the faith circle of Christianity was lifted. Other rules and understandings were left in place, but circumcision was no longer required.
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.” (Verses 14 – 16)
Is then the restriction on considering only early Christianity lifted? Most certainly there is hostility between some groups of Christians. And according to Paul there should not be. For it was not just the law of Judaism that was abolished, surely. The intent of the passage is to bring down the dividing walls between faith groups.
“So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” (Verses 17 – 20; emphasis mine)
If Christ is the cornerstone (and he is, beloved reader) that is all that we need to establish authentic Christianity. I have used that term often, authentic, and by it I mean a Christianity and faith belief that has at its core what Jesus Christ taught. Not what was in the Old Testament, and not what has been lifted out of its context in the New Testament. But the care and compassion that Christ modeled and expected of the believers.
“In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (Verses 21 – 22)
The early churches may have dismantled by persecution and dissension. The physical building may have decayed and fallen to rubble. The leaders and saints of the early church may have passed on, and the disciples may have been put to death or died in old age. The churches that rose up in the centuries that followed may have also passed to the way of dust. In fact any church that existed before this time may have changed such that it is no longer recognizable. And churches in the future may look nothing like the churches of the past, or even in our present. But those are NOT what Christianity is founded on. It is founded on the “holy temple in the Lord.” And THAT does not change! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Worst Sinner Award

Jesus taught:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? —Matthew 7:1-3
Jesus instructs us not to judge others because it is not our place as humans to function as if we can know what only God can know about others. Even more, we cannot judge others because we ourselves are sinners who deserve judgment. Actually, the act of judging others subjects us to the same judgment we apply to them.
Instead, we are to consider our own sins to be logs and other people’s sins to be specks! We are finite, sinful human beings, and as such, we have no business setting ourselves up as the moral police of others, acting as though we know the state of people’s hearts and concluding that we are in any way superior to them.
Paul applied this to his life in this way:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience … —1 Tim 3:15-16
It doesn’t matter how minor society or religion may consider your specific sin. It doesn’t matter how major another person’s sin might be in the eyes of the culture or the church in comparison to your own sin. We are to consider ourselves as the worst of sinners. We are to volunteer ourselves for the “worst sinner award.”
If we don’t do this, we’ll remain entrapped by the addiction to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That we are sinners and yet we judge makes us hypocrites, and our judgements are selective and self-serving. Left unchecked, these self-serving judgments will shape our lives and our relationships.
Therefore, when you catch yourself looking down on another person, remind yourself that whatever sin or imperfection you think you see in another person, it is a mere speck of dust compared to the tree trunk of sin and imperfection in your own life.
At the same time remember the truth that you have been completely forgiven and are engulfed in God’s love moment-by-moment. Out of the fullness of God’s forgiving presence with you and the love that God gives you, you are then empowered to extend this same love and forgiveness to whomever you are encountering, talking about, or even just thinking about. Try it and see what changes as a result.
—Adapted from Present Perfect, pages 113-114, and Repenting of Religion, pages 107-108
____________
Art: “Girl at a Table”
by: Oleksandr Murashko
Date: 1910
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Podcast: Why Did Jesus Tell Us Not to Worry About Food When People Are Starving to Death?

Greg talks about worry in Matthew 6:26-27 and talks about the fact that people really die about the things that people worry about.
Send Questions To:
Dan: @thatdankent
Email: askgregboyd@gmail.com
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Art: The Potato Eaters
by: Vincent van Gogh
Original Title: De Aardappeleters
Date: 1885
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Season After Pentecost (Proper 9[14]) – The Old Testament Passage: The Story of his life – King David

“Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.” (II Samuel 5: 1 – 5)
What began in Hebron continued and carried over to David’s time in Jerusalem. What interests me is that he seemed to have moved his kingdom from Hebron to Jerusalem. And I wondered why. So I went searching in the scriptures that the lectionary has chosen to omit. I thought maybe there was political reason or a strategic one. But I was dismayed to read that it was neither really, but a way to show power and aggressiveness. Now scripture says that the power of God was with David and that is why he was able to see the area that would become Jerusalem. How can you agree with scripture?
“David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.” (Verses 9 – 10)
Aggression and conquest seem to be admirable traits for a king of the Old Testament. When the people asked Samuel for a king, they said they wanted a king like the other nations. And they got Saul. But Saul was not quite what they wanted. Samuel had tried to warn them about what kings were like. As it turned out, Saul evolved into the type of king that was not up to God’s standards after all. So David was picked and blessed by God, and he became king. David was much more popular, evidenced by the tribes and elders at Hebron.
David was said to be a man after God’s own heart; but that makes me wonder again, did God want a king drawn to aggression and conquest? Perhaps I am making too much of that. But it sticks in my mind. And it ruminates there. I turn it over in my mind trying to understand it. And finally I realize . . . I have to set it down, and say I do not understand.
This I do know. David as king was mighty in battle and conquest. David as psalmist was mighty in faith (most of the time) and sought out God’s direction. And it is that other part of David, that non-kingly part, I think was a man after God’s heart. So I commend and encourage you, beloved reader, to study David’s story and determine for yourself what parts of David’s life align to your image of the Divine. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 8[13]) – The Psalm Passage: All types of Warriors thank the Lord God

“I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. “
(Psalm 30:1)
Often when I read the psalms I am reminded they that were written by a person who was a warrior and king in his lifetime. The warrior/battler motif is very strong. I am a warrior too, in my own way, but not the same type of warrior that King David was. In the Old Testament passage for this week that I did not use, King David had returned successfully from a battle that King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in. And David mourned for them. But David was successful in battle and returned to be crowned king.
“O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Verse 2)
I am a warrior because of my ill health. I battle daily to complete the tasks and activities that I did when I was healthier. Some days I lose that battle. I have cried for help to God, but I was not healed.
“O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.” (Verse 3)
And I know the days are coming when I will be fighting for my life because of the illnesses I have. But my destiny never has been, nor will it be, the “the Pit”. I do not know what the experience of the psalmist was (if it was not King David) but I know in our modern times we never have to be afraid of “Sheol”, the place where the dead congregate and is said to be a place of evil. That is not our destiny. And even in King David’s time the faithful who had died I do not believe would go to Sheol. For those Israelites/Hebrews/Jews who did not believe anything came after this life, I can imagine that the end of life would be very frightening. And maybe that is why the psalmist here is so joyful.
“Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” (Verses 4 – 6)
There may have been a time when I feared death, but no longer. Do I want to die? “Më genioto”, as Paul said – meaning “By no means”! But when death comes, I shall not fear it. It will not be an enemy but a final release to the Divine. I also strongly believe . . . .
“By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; “ (Verse 7a)
I have to think about that one; several people have called me a “strong person” and I am not sure I want to take on that description and accolade. But . . . if the psalmist sees it as a worthy attribute, than I will acknowledge that comment also.
“. . . you hid your face; I was dismayed.” (Verse 7b)
But this is very true also. When I feel as if the Lord God has abandoned me (which in reality never happens) I feel dismayed too!
“To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” (Verses 8 – 10)
When I started out reading and working through this psalm, I did not think it would speak to me so personally. As I said, death holds no fear for me. And unlike the psalmist, I would not try to persuade the Lord that my individual life is so vital to the Lord being praised. But it is very true . . . .
“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” (Verses 110 – 12)
Perhaps, beloved reader, you have gotten to know me in a slightly different way, or seen a slightly different side of me. The psalmist reveals much about himself in this psalm, and in many of the other psalms he has written. Sometimes a warrior, sometimes a king, and sometimes a humble servant of the Divine.
May you, beloved reader, come to know who you are and what you stance is in life; and may the Divine use you and bless you! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Epistle Passage: The gospel not in vain

“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:1 – 2)
I did a double-take in reading the first part of verse one – “not accept the grace of God”! However the “in vain” ending put a whole new meaning to the verse. And I think this admonition is just appropriate now as then. If I can understand and paraphrase the mind of Paul . . . do not halfheartedly follow God or only follow God when it is easy and convenient. If you are going to commit yourself to the Divine, do so with authenticity and devotion.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
Paul then goes on to give example after example, and incident after incident of how the road and ministry has been rough for him, but he has stayed the course. The key to reading this without losing one’s patience with Paul or feeling like he is bragging is to understand that “commend” does not mean self-congratulations but have acted in a way that is consistent with devotion to a cause. Now if one is judiciously slow, as I am, in commending Paul’s actions and intent, verses three to ten are read carefully and proof is sought in other writings to see if Paul is genuine. Paul was very outspoken and did not “test the waters” before he spoke up. I suspect at times it was as much his style of presentation of the gospel as it was the content of him message that got him into trouble.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Have you known people like Paul, beloved reader? People who speak truth but bluntly and outright? Who dive into a situation without fully exploring what might be involved? Paul at times reminds me of a missionary who strides forth with the gospel and does not first investigate the best way to explain the gospel. Legions of missionaries have done that in the past, and the results were very mixed. There is a time and place for Paul’s type of ministry. But, enough said; and I digress.
Paul makes a good point – do not hear the message of salvation and then not take it to heart and action. While Paul may be “commending” himself a little bit much, he did live out the gospel as it was given to him. And did not hesitate to act on it, at the risk of his own life. May hold to that example. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Old Testament Passage: David Succeeds

This week’s two options for the Old Testament passage are stories part one and part two of David killing Goliath and the honor that was given David afterwards. Part one – I Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 – details David’s preparation and killing of Goliath. Part two – I Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 – tells of David becoming part of Saul’s court and his champion on the battlefield, and Saul’s increasing jealousy. I am not sure which passage to highlight. The two Old Testament passages have differing psalm passages, so that might also influence my final decision. I prefer the psalm passage that is connected to David’s battle and victory over Goliath. But of the two Old Testament passages, it is the Old Testament passage of David’s becoming part of Saul’s court that I like better. BUT I cannot mix the two. That is, my respect for the pairing done in the Revised Common Lectionary will not allow me to re-match the two passages I like. But perhaps there is something I can do to resolve this dilemma. I can present to you the portions of the two passages that resonate with me. I encourage you to read both passages and consider what parts resonate with you.
We know the story of David and Goliath well. It has become a matter for conquering something that at first inspection is larger and mighty than we are.
“And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (I Samuel 17:4-11)
While Saul and all the warriors of Israel who heard this were disheartened and afraid, David felt differently and spoke up.
“David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. . . . this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them [the wild beasts that David killed defending his father’s sheep], since he has defied the armies of the living God.” (Verse 32, 36b)
Have there been insurmountable things in your life, beloved reader? Have you been maligned and insulted, but have been to cowed and afraid to defend yourself? Now it is interesting that Jesus would tell us to “turn the other cheek”. But David’s hackles were raised and he was determined to fit. But, he fought in his own way.
“Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. . . . . But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. ” (Verses 38 – 40, 45 – 47)
David did not come armed and ready with mail and armor. He came to face down Goliath clothed only in the might of the Lord. [And if I do say so, a lot of luck! It is said that the Divine, the Godself, might have guided the stone to the precise spot. Or, David knew a thing or two about what helmets do and do not protect.]
David was brought into Saul’s court and won favor there. We have to assume that David spent years in Saul’s court learning how to battle in more conventional ways, and becoming more accustomed to mail and armor. We read in the second Old Testament passage,
“David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. . . . So Saul removed him from his presence [because of Saul’s jealousy] , and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him. ” (Chapter 18, verse 5, 13 – 14)
I have to admire Saul for seeing that David could succeed where he, Saul, had failed to gain victory through the Lord. The Lord may have “departed” from Saul, but Saul still knew the aura that indicated the Lord was on one’s side and guiding one’s life. And I think that is the major lesson I would want to take from this passage. At this time in David’s life he depended greatly on the Lord, and sought the Lord’s will at every turn. He was, as it is often said, a man after the Lord’s own heart. May we face the giants in our lives with as much courage depending not on the might of the world but the might of the Lord. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Old Testament Passage: Being true to the call of the Lord

“Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:34 – 35)
Saul had fallen from grace and favor under the Lord and under Samuel. The Lord had known Saul’s heart – we presume – and therefore knew that Saul would not be a king after the Lord’s heart. But it did not make the Lord love Saul any less. Just as the Lord did not love the Israelites any less because the elder of Israel wanted a king. I am not sure though how the writer knew that the Lord was sorry the Divine had made Saul king of Israel. It is sort of in contrary juxtaposition to the first verse of chapter 16.
“The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (chapter 16, verse 1)
Maybe, and this is just a thought, maybe time needed to pass until David was ready for kingship. If we believe that the Lord answers prayer but on a timeline that the Divine only knows, maybe there needed to be a space of time for David to arrive at the age where his ascent to kingship would start. Or maybe the Israelites needed to see a poor king so they would know a good king.
“Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” (Verses 2 – 3)
Or, maybe Samuel needed to be nurtured along to know what a good king looked like. There are so many possibilities, that I could speculate for some time.
“Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Now we come to the pivotal event. Now we approach the beginning of what will be the odyssey and legacy that is the line from the kings of Israel & Judah to the Christ. Now we see that the outer appearance need not indicate the inner life.
“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” (Verses 6 – 11)
Would that I could have been there to hear the “small talk” as Samuel, Jesse, and the other elders waited until David arrived. I do not know how fair away they were from where the sheep were kept. But even more than a few minutes would have been awkward. For surely it had become apparent what the purpose of this visit was. Samuel fearful that Saul would find out what was going on. Jesse wondering and then suspecting what was going on. And the elders of Bethlehem wondering what Samuel wanted of them. Yes, it would have been tense times.
“He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.” (Verses 12 – 13)
There are two things that stand out to me in this passage of scripture. The first is that the Lord had told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king . . .” Now I looked back over several previous chapters of I Samuel, and at first Saul seemed unlikely a king. He looked good, but was shy and unsure of himself. Over time he became more sure of himself and his abilities, until he became proud, too proud, and took it upon himself to determine the best course of action instead of seeking direction from the Lord or listening to Samuel’s advice. The people of Israel came to like Saul because he was everything they wanted from a king. But, and this is the puzzling part, the Lord pointed out Saul to Samuel. I would have thought that would be an instance of the Divine providing the Godself with a king. Does that mean that David was different from Saul?
The second is that the writer of I Samuel said, “. . . the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David . . . “ Does that mean that Saul did not have the Spirit of the Lord? And is that how the Divine provided the Godself with a king?
I ask myself these things because while none of us are kings (or queens), we are called and chosen by the Lord. And we can go terribly astray, as Saul did, and find ourselves outside of God’s grace and blessing as Saul did when he was stripped of his appointment as king. Or we can make mistakes and missteps, as David did, and yet still be a person after the Lord’s heart. Who will you be like, beloved reader? Saul or David? Shalom.

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Feeding Our Hungry Hearts

Jesus came into a world that was full of hungry hearts (see previous post) to introduce us to the only thing that can feed those hungers. Jesus came to rescue us from the futile feeding frenzy of trying to feed ourselves on idols.
Throughout the Bible, we read story after story of people trying to find life outside of God. This is what the story of Adam and Eve is all about. Under the influence of the serpent, Eve embraced a deceptive, untrustworthy picture of God that caused her to stop trusting that God is the only source that can feed her heart. As a result, Eve was led believe that she could acquire life on her own.
This same story repeats itself today. Instead of relying on God to meet our needs, we try to meet them on our own. We all eat of the forbidden tree, just as Eve did.
The Bible calls this idolatry. Most modern westerners think that idolatry is about people worshiping a statue of some kind. But an idol is anything we treat as a god that we use to satisfy the hunger in our soul that only our Creator can satisfy. Such idols come in both religious and nonreligious forms.
Religious idolaters attempt to fill their hunger through religious activities they do or religious doctrines they believe, both of which they think will please their gods. Even when Christians try to get life from the rightness of their behaviors and beliefs instead of from God himself, they are guilty of idolatry.
Nonreligious idols come in the forms of sex, wealth, power—these seem to be the most prevalent. Others make idols of their nation, race, talents, looks, or fame. In fact, just about everything in the world is a potential idol, for just about anything can be used as a means of trying to fill our hunger.
Even if you manage to get what you are seeking through a specific idol, you know it’s just a matter of time before you lose it. There’s a multitude of competitors for the wealth, power, and fame you’ve acquired, and at some point they might gain an advantage over you. Even if you stay on top, you know it won’t last forever because age is never kind to idols.
What’s more, if your idols work, you know they do not completely satiate the hunger even while you enjoy them. The idols might distract us from the inner emptiness, but it never goes away.
The Bible calls this idolatry life in “the flesh.” It is full of anxiety, hopelessness, envy, strife, anger, and bitterness. The idolatrous world of “the flesh” is a competitive feeding frenzy of desperately hungry people trying to scarf up a morsel of fleeting worth from a limited number of idolatrous sources. Idolatry is at the root of most of the misery in the world.
Trace your own despair, anxiety, or bitterness back far enough, and more likely than not, you’ll discover there’s something other than God that you are clinging to as something to feed your hunger.
—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 39-42
The post Feeding Our Hungry Hearts appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

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