Suck it up, Buttercup

Feelings are good. They can let us know when things are okay or bad or scary or wonderful. Some would have us believe that we should be ruled entirely by our feelings. We should always feel safe. We should never feel threatened. We always have a right to feel whatever we want to feel and express those feelings however we choose. And how is that working out for us?

Even King David, upon learning of the death of his son Absalom, had a moment when he let his feelings overtake him. He retreated to his safe space. And you know what that earned him? A big, fat lecture from the leader of his military.

The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son, Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab when into the house of the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from you youth till now.”

2 Samuel 19:4-7 (NIV)

Ouch! Who would be brave enough to tell a king to get off his butt, wipe the tears off his face, and congratulate the army that killed his son? From David’s perspective of intense grief, one may say that Joab was overly harsh with his king. What right did he have to say what he did in the manner he said it? Was David not allowed to mourn for his son?

Had David chosen to put his feelings first and wallow in his grief, it would have cost him the kingdom that had just been saved. Instead of closing the door on Joab, David heeded his commander’s advice.

So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

2 Samuel 19:8 (NIV)

We are all entitled to our feelings, but our feelings are not entitled to rule us unless we allow them to. God gave us feelings. He gave us the ability to rejoice and to grieve. He made us to be glad as well as sad. But He also gave us dominion. To be ruled by our feelings is to look solely on our inward selves. To give in to every feeling with the unction to express every little emotion that comes upon us is to become utterly selfish.

Was David selfish in wanting to grieve for his son? No. But in his grief, he stole the joy of victory from his men. They thought they had done well in restoring the kingdom to its rightful ruler. But instead of a pat on the back, all they saw was David’s back as he turned to mourn the death of his enemy.

While we should welcome feelings and emotions, we cannot be entirely ruled by them. Sometimes how we feel must take a back seat to what we must do. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do what is best for the greater good rather than our own good.

Take a page out of David’s book, literally. He learned to channel his feelings and emotions, pouring them out to God in the pages we now know as the Psalms. There, the shepherd boy who became a king, let it all out. He figured out how to handle his emotions while balancing them with the responsibilities of ruling God’s chosen people. He learned humility above all.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

Read: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38 

Losers

I think it would be fair to say that most of us do not relish being losers. We all want to win. At everything. But there are some cases in which losing will gain us far more than winning ever will.

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.

Luke 21:12-19 (NIV)

Anyone who tells you that life as a Christian will be sunshine and roses is a liar. The Bible makes no guarantees that, once we put our faith in Christ, our lives will be stretched out before us like a freshly paved highway on the prairie. It’s more like a narrow path through rock, jungle, desert, and ocean. In just a few statements Jesus told his followers that they will be betrayed by those closest to them, that they will be hated, and that they may even die. But don’t worry, not a hair of your head will perish!

Though we may be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot be losers by him, in the end.

Matthew Henry

To those new to the faith, it may seem that Jesus is asking a lot of us. Maybe too much. He’s asking for our lives. If we don’t fully understand the benefits that are afforded to us as believers, we may well be unwilling to do all that Christ asks of us.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:7-8 (NIV)

For one who has only faith in themself, it is difficult to understand how a follower of Christ could be so willing to give up everything—become a loser—for someone who existed thousands of years ago. But even in the face of complete and utter loss in this life, we have gained far more than they can ever know unless they, too, come to an understanding of the grace by which we stand. We have already won because Jesus has already won. Christ has already defeated the one thing which the world cannot—death. And because we are in Christ, we have already won as well.

Losers in this life we may be, but we have already gained everything in the next.

Read: 2 Samuel 17-18, Luke 21:1-19

If these stones could talk

In rooms that may have seen a lot of action or secrets, one might wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. Since much of what is recorded in the Bible took place outside or in tents, if these walls could talk isn’t really pertinent. But there is something else that was present at pretty much every major biblical event. Stones.

Rocks, not even precious ones, hold great importance in scriptures. Jesus himself is referred to as a stone.

The stone the builders rejects
has become the capstone.

Luke 20:17 (quoting Psalm 118:22) (NIV)

In Joshua 22:10, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar of stone to stand as a witness to future generations that they worship the Lord.

In Joshua 4:7, Joshua commanded that twelve stones be taken from the middle of the Jordan River that Israel had just crossed. Those stones would become a memorial to Israel for all God has done for His people.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:31, took twelves stones to repair the altar of the Lord.

In 1 Samuel 17:40, David selected five smooth stones to take with him into battle against Goliath.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the passover, his followers shouted his praises. The Pharisees, as usual, weren’t impressed and wanted Jesus to silence them. He refused.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:40 (NIV)

I don’t think that Jesus meant every inanimate stone laying on the ground would suddenly find its voice. I believe Jesus was referring to every stone set up as a memorial in God’s name, every stone used in the name of the Lord, every stone that stood as a witness to God’s glory and greatness.

And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.

Joshua 24:26-27 (NIV)

If we keep silent in our praise, I believe that God truly can make these memorial stones speak out. They have been made witnesses to miracles and wonders—the very things we should be proclaiming at every opportunity.

We may wish to know what the walls of The Oval Office may have to say if they could talk, but we shouldn’t have to wonder what the stones would say. We should be saying it for them.

Read: 2 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:29-48

Sovereign

SOVEREIGN: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion.

I doubt many of us have anyone in our lives we’d consider to be supreme in power or possessing supreme dominion. And most of us would probably like to keep it that way. But one man, a very long time ago, recognised someone as supreme—sovereign.

What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord.

2 Samuel 7:20 (NIV)

This wasn’t the only time David referred to God as Sovereign Lord, either. Seven times in this passage, David repeats the moniker.

Maybe you’re a believer in the meaning behind numbers in the Bible, maybe you’re not. But no matter how you put it, saying something seven times over the span of eleven verses seems rather significant, and maybe more so because of the importance of the number seven.

Seven, you see, is the number of completion or spiritual perfection. We see it first in Genesis. On the seventh day, God rested because creation was complete. In the account of David, God has just announced to the king though the prophet, Nathan, that David’s kingdom will endure forever. God has made an everlasting covenant, a covenant that will never be broken. That’s some pretty weighty news for a man who was anointed king as a shepherd boy in the field.

David responds by referring to God as Sovereign Lord, acknowledging God’s supreme dominion over him. For many men, news that their lineage would last forever could have gone straight to their heads. But not David.

Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

2 Samuel 7:25b-26 (NIV)

Hundreds of years before Jesus arrived on the earth, God’s covenant with man was made and acknowledged to be complete by the man with whom the covenant was made. David couldn’t have known that his lineage wouldn’t sit on an earthly throne forever. Nor could he have known that God Himself would plant a seed in one of his descendants. A seed that would grow up to be known as the Son of David.

God, though, being sovereign, knew exactly what He was doing when He made such a great promise to David. He set in motion an extravagant plan to save mankind from their sinfulness. Unlike David, God knew that the man with whom He made a covenant would stumble and fall. So would his son who succeeded him on the throne. And so would countless others in the long line of King David.

Yet it wasn’t so much the obedience that God was looking for—He knew the standards He set before men were impossible to keep, but He was looking for willing humility.

For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation.

Psalm 149:4 (NIV)

David’s humility earned him a crown which led to salvation for all. Like David, we can never know the far reaching effects of our willingness to set ourselves aside and acknowledge God as Sovereign Lord, supreme in power. The best that we can do is humble ourselves before the Lord, accept what He has so freely given to us, and continue to chase after his heart like David did.

Read: 2 Samuel 7-9, Luke 19:1-28

Out of the ordinary

 

Do you ever wonder why Jesus performed certain miracles for certain people? I don’t think it was so much that he was selective about whom he did things for, I think he performed miracles for those who went to the trouble of getting his attention.

Once Jesus’ ministry took off, he was in high demand. People followed him everywhere he went. And, let’s face it, if you knew he was going to feed you, you’d probably show up, too. There were always crowds around him. He healed a lot of people. I’m sure the Gospels only list a small portion of what he really did. But the ones that stand out are those who took the extra effort.

In Luke 18, there’s a blind man. He discovers Jesus is nearby.

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Luke 18:38-39 (NIV)

There was no way this man was going to let Jesus go without getting his miracle. And he did. All his hollering got Jesus attention.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

Luke 18:42 (NIV)

This blind man wasn’t the only one to take extra effort in getting Jesus’ attention. Remember those four crazy friends who tore a hole in a roof to lower their paralysed friend down in front of Jesus (Luke 5:19)? What about the sinful woman who came into the Pharisee’s house and dumped a bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:38)? Or the woman with the issue of blood who crawled through a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8:44)? Then there were the ten lepers who stood at a distance yelling at Jesus to heal them (Luke 17:13).

It seems to me that those who want something from the Lord, really want something, will do whatever it takes to get it. And here we sit and pray a little prayer once and assume it’s not God’s will if it doesn’t happen immediately. Have we really done all we can to get Heaven’s attention? Have we, like the blind man, called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” until he has no other choice but to acknowledge our cry?

Those who received the most from Jesus are the ones who couldn’t care less what society thought of them. They were the ones who shoved social and cultural norms aside and said to themselves, if Jesus is able to do this, I’m going to make sure he does.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t see the signs and wonders we want to see because we’re not really asking for them. What have you done lately to capture Jesus’ attention? Have you done anything unusual or out of the ordinary?

Read: 2 Samuel 4-6, Luke 18:18-43

The heart of the matter

Who would you choose as your leader? On the playground as children, we’d pick the big, strong, athletic kids. As teens, perhaps the best-looking guy or girl. As adults, the one that looks like they have it all together.

Saul was that man. He was big and strong. He stood a head taller than everyone else. He was good-looking. He had it all together. He was God’s first choice. But he wasn’t God’s lasting choice.

Three times in 1 Samuel 15, Saul, while speaking to Samuel, refers to God as the Lord your God. Never once did he say, the Lord my God. Even though Saul had been chosen by God, anointed as king over Israel, and had the Spirit of the Lord upon him, Saul had not sought the Lord for himself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance of his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Because Saul refused to seek after Him, the Lord chose to remove His hand and His Spirit from him.

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV)

Israel asked for a king and God gave them what they wanted. But when the king God gave them led them away from Him, it was time to replace that king.

God is not at all concerned with what position we may or may not have. He gives position and He can take it away.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Power and position here on earth are of no consequence to God. Just because Saul had been made king didn’t mean that he would remain king. By not following God’s instructions and for not seeking the Lord for himself, Saul disqualified himself from ruling over Israel. Instead, God led Samuel to seek out the one man who would chase after Him no matter what.

When we choose to honour God not matter what, He will elevated us to a position of His choosing. We won’t all be kings or queens, nor will we necessarily take up positions of great power or authority. But for those who search for the heart of God, He will make a place.

Read: 1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 14:25-35

Just a few

While Saul sat in hiding, his son Jonathan, was out trying to find a way to defeat Israel’s enemy. Without questioning his own motives, the young man place his trust entirely in God. Without care for his own being, Jonathan pushed ahead and trusted that God would lead him to save Israel.

Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by a few.

1 Samuel 14:6b (NIV)

If it is God’s will to accomplish something, all He needs is one willing and obedient person to turn the enemy’s camp into confusion. While Saul sat indecisive, Jonathan followed God’s guidance—which lead Israel to victory.

God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance.

Matthew Henry

The will of God in the hands of just a few is far greater than swords in the hands of many. When our confidence is in God, nothing should be able to stop us from pursuing His will and achieving victory in His name.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Like Jonathan, we can put our confidence in our God who knows the ending from the beginning and everything in between. He has ordered our steps, all we need do is take them as prescribed.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 14:1-24

Teach. Pray.

It is our duty as believers to pray for one another and to pray for the Church. Prayer is good and it is right, but it cannot take the place of teaching.

Near the end of Samuel’s life, he has a heart-to-heart with Israel. He’s been their spiritual Father for many years. He’d made his fair share of mistakes. So had Israel. But at this point in time, Israel was on the road to repentance. What Samuel really wanted to do at times was walk away from them as a parent might wish to walk away from a belligerent child who just can’t seem to learn his lesson. But because the Lord was faithful to Israel, Samuel would be, too.

He encourages the people to set aside all idols and worship God alone. He tells—he teaches—Israel the right way in going about life as God’s chosen people. Prayer is all fine and good, but if someone is never taught the right way to do something, their chances of getting it right are slim. In addition to praying for them, Samuel chose to tell Israel what to do.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

And he prayed that God would help them to do what is right.

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Obedience and faithfulness must first be taught. To neglect teaching it to remain ignorant and immature.

Then we must pray that those lessons we have learned take root and grow and become fruitful. Once we learn what God says and how He says it, our prayers allow us to hear His voice so that He can continue to train us in the way we should go.

Read: 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 13:22-35

Is anybody listening?

Have you ever heard God’s voice? I mean really heard His voice, not just an inkling in your spirit? I always imagined God to sound like a big black man. Like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. But I’ve never actually audibly hear God’s voice. Truth be told, most Christians haven’t. And almost as many would probably say that they’ve never really felt an unction in their spirit, either. Why is that? Does God not speak? Or are we not listening?

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, there was a boy who heard a voice. It called his name in the night. The boy got up and ran to his mentor asking what was required of him. The old man told the boy to go back to sleep, no one had called him. Again, the voice called and the boy ran. The old man, once more sent him back to bed. Yet again the voice called the boy’s name and he got up. Finally, the old priest, Eli, realised what was happening. This time, he instructed the boy to respond a certain way when he heard the voice.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

Many imagine the voice of the Lord to be a terrible thing, shaking the earth and splitting stones. But a sound like that would have terrified a child in the night. Instead, Samuel immediately ran to Eli. God’s voice sounded familiar to him.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the voice of God spoke to Elijah. After a powerful wind, an earthquake, and fire, he heard a gentle whisper.

In Isaiah 6, the sound of angels crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” shook the temple, and afterward, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord calling to him.

In Acts 9, Saul was brought to a sudden stop with a blinding light. When the Lord called out to him, Saul knew immediately who spoke.

No two accounts of man hearing the voice of God are the same, but they all have a couple of things in common.

  1. They weren’t afraid. None of these people feared or cowered at God’s voice. His voice was familiar and, in most cases, gentle. Unlike the angels—who always had to tell people not to fear, God’s voice is nothing to cringe at.
  2. They were listening. In some cases, God had to get someone’s attention. In the case of Samuel, it was the fourth time that was a charm. In the case of Saul, He had to blind him to get him to listen. But they listened.

Close your eyes. Listen. How many sounds can you identify as you sit where you are? At the moment, I can hear the fan of a heater and my computer, I hear the fridge in the next room, there’s a car speeding up the hill near my house, and a clock is ticking on the wall above me. I hear the landlord’s footsteps on the hardwood floor overhead and the house creaking as it settles. Most of those sounds I can’t even turn off.

Our ears and our minds are constantly bombarded with noise and then we have the audacity to claim that God isn’t speaking or that, if He wanted to get our attention, He would. Only in very special cases, like Saul (who later became known as Paul), did God arrest someone to give them a certain message. We allow distractions to fill our heads to our own detriment. Most of us can’t stand the silence. Yet that’s where God’s voice usually is.

We need to make time to listen. We need to block out the noise to hear. I am confident in this: God wants to speak to you.

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

John 8:47 (NIV)

Those are Jesus’ words, not mine. If we really, truly belong to God, we’ll make time for Him. We will listen, not for the wind or the quaking, but the whisper.

Is anybody listening?

Read: 1 Samuel 1-3, Luke 12:1-34

True love doesn’t wait

Back when I was a teenager, the True Love Waits movement took youth groups by storm. All over North America, teens were filling churches, halls, and stadiums making a commitment to stay pure (virgins—gasp!) until marriage. I have no issue at all with saving oneself for marriage. I myself have made the commitment—as countercultural and archaic as the idea may be. What I do have a bit of an issue with is the title given to the movement. It would imply that,you must wait in order to truly love someone. Nothing could be further from the truth!

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

Who is the neighbour in this situation? The original text refers to anyone who is nearby, not just those who live within physical proximity. In this case, anyone and everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis can, and should, be considered your neighbour. J.A. Findlay said that the question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom can I show myself a neighbor?”

But before we can love our neighbour, we must first love God.

No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace.

Matthew Henry

It is impossible to truly love anyone without first loving God and allowing our hearts to be changed by Him.

What then does true love look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Jesus followed up is explanation to the expert in the law with the parable of the good Samaritan. In this case, his neighbour was his enemy. But that didn’t stop the Samaritan from showing love. There was nothing in it for him, and that is the foundation of true love. As soon as we make the offer of love expecting something in return, it is no longer true.

True love, the godly kind of love, the love that is patient and kind, does not wait. It should not wait. It should readily spring forth from a heart that is overflowing with love for and from God. The act of loving one another is not something for which we need a specific instruction from the Lord. It is something we’ve already been commanded to do. So don’t wait. Love. Love truly.

Read: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42