Lamenting Over The Fallen

How The Mighty Have Fallen! Long before Jim Collins entitled his latest book with this phrase, David said this when King Saul and Prince Jonathan were killed in battle. In fact, he said it not once, but three times in just eight verses.

It is understandable that David would lament the death of his friend Jonathan. They were covenant brothers, they shared the same heartbeat for God and for Israel, and they stood by each other through thick and thin.

But Saul… why would David lament the death of Saul? This is the man who was jealous of David. So jealous that he did everything he could to trip David up. Including trying to kill him. Saul chased David from his home, his family, his wife, even his country.

Why would David lament Saul’s death? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to rejoice over it?

But David still saw Saul as “the Lord’s anointed.” David recognized the good in Saul. He called him…

  • The glory of Israel,
  • A successful warrior,
  • Gracious,
  • Lovable,
  • Strong, and
  • Israel’s provider

When David heard Saul had been killed, he lamented, Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

When I see the mighty, God-anointed leader fall, do I lament?

I may shake my head … I may feel vindicated … I may be disgusted … but I don’t know that I have ever lamented or grieved when one of these mighty brothers has fallen. Or if I have, my lament has been short-circuited by other less appropriate emotions.

Despite their sin, they are still God’s anointed. Who am I to sit in judgment? Who am I to do anything but lament their fall?

Lord, forgive me! Father, help me to see Your anointed in the proper perspective: as Your anointed. Holy Spirit, remind me of the tragedy of even one mighty one who falls. May my response be one of lament, and mercy, and prayer.

Just keepin’ it real, folks. This is me, but I’m trying to get better.

Gettin’ Messy

In any culture where it exists, leprosy makes its victim an outcast. People might feel bad for the afflicted, but they quickly look away. No one invites the leper to dinner, few even go to visit the leper. Shunned, closeted away, quickly forgotten.

In every culture where it exists today, pain and suffering are treated almost like leprosy. We’ll talk about the problem, pray for the victims, form organizations to address the problem, and even give money to address the issue. But few people do more.

We feel safe at a distance.

We feel sanitized if we don’t have to touch the hurting.

We feel we’ve done our part if we throw a few dollars at it.

But not Jesus. He handled the hurting … literally.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus. He said, “Lord, You have the power to make me well, if only You wanted to.” Jesus put His hand on the man and said, “I want to! Now you are well.” At once the man’s leprosy disappeared.

Jesus put His hand on the man. He didn’t just pray. He didn’t give money. He didn’t organize a rally to address the problem of leprosy. He touched a hurting man.

He got messy.

He conveyed love to a hurting man like nothing else could have.

Robert Shuller wisely noted, “Being a Christian is offering yourself to Him. Your mind for Christ to think through;  your heart for Christ to love through; your lips for Christ to speak through; your hands for Christ to touch through.”

What about it? Are you ready to convey the love of Christ by touching — literally — people’s problems? Nothing says “I love you” like the human touch.

One Touch From The Maker (book review)

One of the things I’ve always liked about the Reader’s Digest was the quick, memorable way stories were presented. Pat Kirk’s compilation of stories in One Touch From The Maker does the same thing.

Over 30 stories — many of them told first person — tell about the miracles of God showing up in both ordinary and extraordinary situations. You’ll find stories about broken families and loving families; civilians and military personnel; young and old; urban, suburban, and country; national and international; land and sea; distant past and recent occurrence. In short, there’s enough evidence in these stories to bolster anyone’s faith that God sees our needs and God touches us at the point of our need.

These are not highly-polished, professionally-written stories. They are real people writing about their real experiences. They are stories we can all relate to.

My thanks to Pat Kirk for looking me up on Twitter and sending a review copy my way.

This Little Light Of Mine

Did you ever sing that song as a kid?

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine

Let it shine, all the time

Why did I stop singing that as a “grown up”? Yesterday I was reading in Matthew 5 (thanks to YouVersion’s daily reading plan) where Jesus talked about shining. Many of the translations read, “Let your light shine.” But I really like the Contemporary English Version

Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven.

Make it shine!

That’s really the most accurate translation. Let it shine sounds passive. Almost like, “Well, it’s shining already, so I guess I won’t put it out.” But Make it shine is definitely active tense

… it’s right now

… it’s burning brightly and deliberately and unashamed.

I grew up in a Christian home, so maybe I just assumed that my lamp was lit already and I could just let it shine. Maybe you’ve just assumed your light was shining too.

But today I’m going to be active in making my light shine. I’m going to do good so that others can praise God too.

Join me… make your light shine brightly today.

Yummy

It’s noon, He’s hot and thirsty after a lengthy journey and some intense ministry, so Jesus sits down by a well to get a drink. He’s hungry too, so He send His disciples into town to buy some lunch. Along comes a woman from the town, whom Jesus engages in conversation about eternal life. (It’s a really cool story – read the whole thing here.)

While this woman runs back into town to invite others to come hear what Jesus has to say, the disciples return with lunch.

“Here, Jesus,” they say, handing Him some food, “Eat something.”

“No, thanks,” Jesus replies. “I’m not that hungry anymore.”

The disciples start talking among themselves, “What? Where did He get food? Did someone bring Him something to eat?”

Jesus overhears them and makes this fascinating statement

The food that keeps Me going is that I do the will of the One who sent Me, finishing the work He started.

What nourished Jesus was feeling the Father’s approval.

What energized Jesus was seeing other people begin to understand the Father’s love for them.

What motivated Jesus was to take everyone opportunity to tell someone else about God’s love.

Finishing the work that God started is good and good for you. It’s yummy and it’s nourishing!

So I’m asking myself:

  • What nourishes me?
  • What energizes me?
  • What motivates me?
  • What is so fulfilling that I cannot go a day without it?

My prayer — my desire — is that the answer to all of these questions everyday is finishing the work of God in my generation.

What about you?

What Are Rules For?

David is on the run from Saul. He leaves town so quickly that he didn’t have time kiss his wife goodbye. He didn’t even have enough time to grab a weapon, a change of clothes, companions, or food. So he stops by Ahimelech’s house to see if this priest has any food.

Remember the old nursery rhyme —

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

That’s just about what happened here. Ahimelech said, “The only bread I have is the holy showbread.” This consecrated bread was 12 loaves laid out each Sabbath in God’s presence. When this bread was replaced each week, it became food for the priests. Ahimelech recognized he has a moral obligation to save David’s life which superseded the ceremonial rules.

Jesus used this incident as an example when the Pharisees accused Him of breaking the law concerning the Sabbath day. Jesus and His followers had been walking through a wheat field, plucking some pieces of grain on which they could munch. The rule-keeping Pharisees said this amounted to work, and a violation of Sabbath rules.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in keep the rules (or following tradition, or preserving decorum) that we forget the meaning behind the rule. Or, more accurately, we forget God’s design behind the rule.

Every rule God gives is to keep us in a place where we can experience His presence. Rules are not life, but they are boundaries which keep us on the path to life.

Ahimelech kept David alive with showbread. Jesus and His disciples sustained themselves with wheat kernels. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath to bring life and wholeness.

Following rules just to follow rules misses the Point. Following rules to find the heart of God is the point.

Do you get the point?

Your Part In The Battle

The story about David defeating the giant Goliath in battle is familiar to just about everyone. (If it’s not a familiar story to you, you can read it here.) I was struck by how David saw his part in this fight. Look what he said

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.

After the fight was over, and Goliath lay dead at David’s feet, the biblical writer said the same thing

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

If you are a God-follower, then your battles are really God’s battles. David recognized that it was God’s battle, but David also knew that he played a part in this too.

1.  He had to train. David had to know how to use a sling with deadly accuracy.

2.  He had to reject “good” advice. Saul advised David, “Here, wear my armor.” That sounded like good advice, but it didn’t fit for David. He had to be true to what the Spirit of God spoke to his heart, even as he rejected what seemed like good advice.

3.  He had to have faith. David truly believed that God was going to do something big … something no one else could even imagine.

4.  He had to show up. Sometimes God fights battles for His people, and sometimes He fights with His people. David didn’t know what God was going to do in this instance until he showed up on the battlefield.

God wants you to win big battles. And if you’re following God, He will bring the victory. But you still have a very important part to play. Train hard, reject advice that is contrary to what God has told you, have faith, and then show up for the battle. These are the keys to victory.

A Maze Of Grace (book review)

I’m not one for “chick flicks,” and I’m usually not one for “chick books” either. But every once in awhile a movie or a book comes along in these categories that grabs my attention. Trish Ryan’s A Maze Of Grace did just that.

This book is part II of Trish’s memoirs. At first I thought I would be missing out on something by not having read part I, but that wasn’t the case. Right from the opening words where Trish confesses that her husband Steve has just lied to her, I was hooked.

I love the concept of God’s grace. I try to remember grace by using the acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. In other words, God lavishes us with more than we deserve. Trish’s memoir of her walk through grace is a constant reminder to not settle, to not give up or give in. Instead Trish tells how she came right to the point of just accepting, “This is all there is,” and then daring to hope and trust in God’s grace again. Sometimes we read how God showed His grace to Trish and brought her into something bigger and better. And sometimes we’re left without a resolution, still hanging on in faith to God’s grace.

All in all, this is a delightful memoir. I told my wife that I think there are some emotions and insights that she would probably relate to more than I did, but I would still recommend this book to anyone who is still on the journey. Anyone who has ever come to the point where they thought, “This is it: I’ll just have to settle for this,” will be encouraged by reading this memoir to trust God for one more day.

As Trish says in her closing words —

“Not just for me, but any of us. A maze of grace. Amazing Grace. Amen.”

I am a Faith Words book reviewer.

Brave Enough

If God asks me to give $1, I can quickly and easily say, “Yes!”

If God asks me to give $10, I say, “Okay!”

If God asks me to give $100, I say, “Um, well, if You say so.”

If God asks me to give $1000, I say, “I need to pray about this ‘faith promise.’”

If God asks me to give $10,000, I say, “As soon as You bless me, I’ll be able to do this.”

This same principle holds true for anything else:

  • Used clothing? Sure. Brand new stuff? I’m not so sure.
  • Volunteer an hour? Okay! Make a commitment for an hour every week? Let me think about it.
  • Pray for someone? No problem. Add them to my daily prayer list? Whoa!
  • Support missionaries? Yes! Become a missionary? Well….

It’s easy to obey when the stakes are low. But the more “zeroes” that get added to the amount, the stakes seem so much higher. Am I brave enough to obey then?

This is what tripped up Saul, Israel’s first king. He was supposed to devote everything from the defeated Amalekites to God. Devote” means a complete and irrevocable giving to God. For the things where the stakes were low, he obeyed. But when he perceived the stakes being higher, he wasn’t so brave –

Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. (NLT)

He captured Agag, king of Amalek, alive. Everyone else was killed under the terms of the holy ban. Saul and the army made an exception for Agag, and for the choice sheep and cattle. They didn’t include them under the terms of the holy ban. But all the rest, which nobody wanted anyway, they destroyed as decreed by the holy ban. (The Message)

Ironically, because Saul held on to what he thought was valuable, he lost something invaluable: a close relationship with God. His cowardice led to disobedience, which led to ultimate collapse.

I pray that I’m brave enough to obey just as quickly when the stakes are high as I do when the stakes are low.

What about you? Are you brave enough?

How A Leader Should Bring Correction

It’s one of the toughest jobs for those in leadership, but it’s a responsibility that cannot be delegated or ignored. In order for correction to be effective, it must not be too light or too heavy. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced far too many of the ineffective forms of leadership correction.

I read a great example of how to properly correct in the life of Samuel. In 1 Samuel 12, the people had gotten off track, and Samuel lovingly and effectively brought them back into line. Here’s what his example teaches us on how to correct followers:

1.  Shared History (v. 2). Samuel reminded them of what had happened in their history, and even what they had experienced together. “Newbie” leaders need to be cautious about bringing correction that violates an organization’s established culture.

2. Integrity (v. 3). Samuel’s words and lifestyle lined up. That doesn’t mean he never made a mistake, but it does mean that he was willing to acknowledge and repair his mistakes. Nothing is worse than a leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

3. Common Ground (vv. 6-11). A leader needs to get everyone on the same page. Find something somewhere on which everyone can agree, and then move forward from there.

4. Just Say It (vv. 12, 13). Don’t beat around the bush; don’t try to bring correction through a parable; don’t soften the blow. Just say it: “This is where I believe you made a mistake.” Far too many leaders talk too much and leave their followers saying, “Huh?” If you are going to bring correction, make sure your followers know exactly what it is you are correcting.

5. Give The Remedy (vv. 14, 15, 20, 21). Samuel pointed out the error, and he just as clearly told them how to get back on track. The remedy should be as clear and simple as possible.

6. Remove The Fear (vv. 20, 22). Don’t let the corrected follower be afraid of you! Fear will never reestablish trust. Samuel couldn’t have been more clear on this. He literally said to the Israelites, “Do not be afraid.”

7. Demonstrate Servant Leadership (v. 23). At the close of the meeting Samuel said he would do two things: “I will continue to pray for you, and I will continue to teach you.” In telling them this, Samuel was really saying, “Let’s walk through this together.”

If you lead your family, your church, your company, or your team, you are going to have to bring correction at some point. When you need to do this, take some time to review this list and bring correction the way Samuel did… lovingly and effectively.

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