Whose sling is it?

It is easy for me to reduce the battles of David to his victory over the taunting Philistine giant (see 1 Sam 17).  But throughout his life, David needed to wage war on numerous and varied fronts.

David and his men were on the run from King Saul.  While in the wilderness they defended the shepherds and livestock of Nabal, who instead of expressing appreciation, insulted David by rebuffing his men.  When David was informed, rage washed over him and he set out to kill Nabal and his servants (see 1 Sam 25).  A giant of a different sort was taunting David; his pride called out and urged him to avenge himself.

Now king, David had stayed behind, while his army waged war.  As he walked on his rooftop he saw a beautiful woman bathing.  Right in that moment another battle line was drawn.  This time the “giant” that came forth to mock David and his God was lust (see 2Sa 11).

Later in his kingship, David’s eldest son, Amnon faced his own battle with lust.  He lost, raped his half-sister, Tamar, and then rejected her.  Absolom gave refuge to Tamar, his full sister, constraining his rage until he could avenge her by having Amnon killed (see 2Sa 13).  In this sordid mess, David is confronted by yet another “giant”, testing him to see if he puts God’s righteousness before his family.

There isn’t just one giant to slay in life, the battle lines are numerous and varied.  But the strategy that leads to victory remains the same.  This is what David said to that taunting Philistine:

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a 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. 46This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. (1Sa 17)

Victory is assured for those that enter the battle in dependency on the Lord to deliver the enemy into their hands.  When David fails to heed this strategy the results are disastrous.

We won’t fare much better.  Rage, lust, idolatry or whatever the taunting giant might be needs to be fought not on our own strength, but with the strength that is God given.

How do you wage war in dependency on God?


A “but-load” of problems

Thwangg! The spear vibrated violently in the wall; Saul had hurled it with the intent to pin his adversary.  Where Saul failed, Yahweh did not!  The God of heaven hurled a great wind upon the sea, pinning Jonah to the deck of a Tarshish-bound boat.

What is the deal here?  How did the prophet find himself on the wrong end of a violent easterly?  There is a good chance that you know, even if the details of this particular story are unfamiliar to you.  Read on and see if you haven’t experienced the same thing.

Yahweh had commissioned the Jewish prophet Jonah to go to the chief city of Assyria (Israel’s enemy!) and announce God’s pending judgment against them.  But Jonah wanted nothing to do with God’s plans.  In defiance, he headed in the opposite direction.  Uncannily, circumstances seemed to fall into place.  Jonah just happened into port when a long-range cargo ship was ready to set sail and they just happened to have room for him and he just happened to have the fare!  He paid his passage and boarded, no doubt thinking that he had successfully eluded God’s command.  He was at peace and headed below to catch some shut-eye.

Have you been there?  God has made it clear that you are to head in a certain direction and do such and such, but to you that is the last thing you want to do.  God’s plan doesn’t make sense to you.  So you head off in another direction.  At first things seem to work out and you are at peace.

But God was not done with Jonah!  He could run, but he could not hide from the God of heaven.  He could sleep, but he would not find rest.  God sent the perfect storm to awake this prophet from his foolish slumber.  What at first seemed like smooth sailing to a distant land was transformed into a hurly-burly tempest.  The storm could not be navigated, no matter what the sailors did.  God would not relent, he had hurled the great wind and he would pin his man.  Jonah did his best to duck and dodge, but the lot was cast, and it fell on him.  It was time to begin to fess up that the fix they were in was his fault.  He not only was running from God, he was defying him.

Guys knowing God’s direction for our lives but doing our own thing can lead to a “but-load” of problems.  Not just for ourselves but for those that travel with us.  God wants our willful obedience and he will pursue us relentlessly, sometimes by hurling storms into our lives so that we will come to our senses.

Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Know this: God disciplines us not to harm us but because he is committed to us.  He wants his sons to become men of faith and valour.


The Saul Syndrome

Voices echo in my mind, reverberating in a mixture of noise and meaning.  Seductively they whisper, slithering into my thoughts.  Voices both noble and perverse, play the herald, calling me to obey.

There are times that I rightly discern the voices; I hear the voice of God and I follow.  There are other times that I fail; other voices hold sway.

Saul, the first King of Israel, failed to rightly discern the voices.  God dispatched him on a mission to completely destroy the Amalekites, but he did not do it.  He led the Israelites into battle, and they prevailed, but Saul permitted the people to keep the best of the plunder.

The prophet Samuel confronts Saul, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” (see 1Sa 15:14 ESV).  Saul tries to convince the prophet (and himself) that the plunder is so that sacrifice to the Lord can be made.  Samuel is not persuaded.  Saul himself chokes on his own explanation.  He finally owns up that he “feared the people and obeyed their voice” (see 1Sa 15:24 ESV).

I think I get what is going on.  Saul knew what the command of the Lord was.  Saul knew that obedience to the Lord is far better than any rite, ritual or sacrifice, yet he did not comply.  There were other voices that reverberated in his mind.  Not the muttering of the crowd, who clamoured to have their fill of the spoils of victory, no the voices that competed with God’s command came from within.  They suggested to the King that if he failed to please the people he would lose their allegiance and with it his regal status.

Saul, who was initially reluctant to become king, now was desperate to remain first among the people’s princes.  “Heeding God’s voice will threatened your royal security,” whispered Fear.  “You alone deserve to be king,” softly murmured Pride.  So the voices echoed and eventually seduced Saul to believe he could both disobey the Lord and worship Him at the same time.

How very much like Saul we are!  We want to be respected, admired and esteemed by the “people”.  We pursue the “cheers” and we fear the “jeers”.  This is a common weakness that men of God need to be mindful of so that it does not derail our discerning of God’s voice in our lives.

How would you suggest we arm ourselves against the Saul Syndrome?


Tips from the Magi on how to worship

Have you ever had this experience: the lyrics of the worship song seems to be speaking of some kind of romantic love between the worshipper and the Lord God.  That doesn’t work for me, in fact it just becomes a barrier.  I believe there has to be plenty of ways for guys to sincerely express their  commitment to Christ without singing sappy lyrics.

The Magi, wise men form the east, who visited the Christ Child provide us with an excellent model of authentic worship of the King of Kings (see Mt 2:1-12).  First off their worship was not devoid of external expression.  When their quest for the Messiah was nearing its conclusion the text reads that they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.  High fives, props, cheers, fist pumping, gee I don’t know what camel-riding astrologers would have done, except that it was natural, it was expressive and it was not constipated by perceived social customs.

When the star leads them to the house where Jesus was and they gazed upon the face of God, enfleshed as a child they were humbled.  The only posture appropriate was one that bends the knee in submission.  These men, mighty as they might have been, accomplished as they no doubt were, recognized that they were in the presence of one far greater than they were or every would be.  They did not resist his sovereignty, but yielded to it, paid homage to it and declared their allegiance to it.  They had come as Magi from the east, they were going to leave as emissaries and ambassadors of the Christ.  This is and would be their worship.  Not romantic sentimentality, but the fidelity freely offered by a prince to his Lord.

Guys we know that their public submission to Jesus’ rule was not a facade, because they backed it up by opening up their treasures to the child who was King.  What they relinquished to Jesus had real currency in their lives.  The gold, incense and myrrh were real treasures to these guys, not imported but brought with them.  These gifts were very much an expression of who these guys were.  Our treasures will look different from those of the Magi, they will reflect of our experiences, our context and our personality.  What is key is that what we offer Jesus will be real treasures, because only in releasing those to Jesus’ control will we know whether are hearts are truly in his service.


Learning from one man’s silence

“How can I be sure of this?” that was the question he asked.  It seems innocent enough to me.  Don’t we want to have some sense of certainty before we act?  I do.

Zechariah, the priest, had just been told that his barren wife Elizabeth was going to bear them a son, a son who would be great in the sight of the Lord (Lk 1:11-17  NIV).  For this simple country priest that was better news than we might realize.  In those days, for a couple to be childless not only invited questions about their standing with God, but it also placed their social security in jeopardy.

Zechariah would love to believe the angel’s announcement, but there was one huge obstacle: it didn’t make any sense!  He was old and his wife was beyond the years of bearing children.  It just seemed too good to be true.  Thus the question, “How can I be sure of this?”  Zechariah wasn’t willing to buy into this “dream-come-true” until he had some assurances.  The old priest wanted another sign and indeed another sign was granted; he wouldn’t be able to talk until the promised son was born!  How does that sit with you?  A bit over the top?

Zechariah was literally dumbfounded by God, a state of limitation which I  believed helped his soul to catch up to what God was doing around him.  I think we can learn from Zechariah’s experience.  If you clicked onto the scripture link above you might have caught that the angel’s announcement was in response to Zechariah’s own prayer.  I am not surprised, given the burden of being childless, that Zechariah was praying about it to God.  We should be doing the same.  The burdens that impact our families might have a totally different cause, but whatever the voids are, as guys we should be standing (or kneeling) in that gap, asking God Almighty to bring his remedy to our situation.

Credit - http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2221/2419176528_d6acef468c.jpgHowever, I am surprised that when God answers Zechariah’s prayer Zechariah does not seem to be any where near ready to believe it.  It is easy for me to think that I would have performed much better…but wait a minute, there are things that I am praying for that I just don’t think God is going to deal with.  It is almost like my praying has furrowed my thinking.  I now live in the mental rut that believes the issue will always be with me.  Do you have any of those kind of burdens, where are you resigned to the fact that it just won’t be resolved, even though you have prayed and prayed.  We need to learn that our limitations, even our slowness to believe, does not limit God.

Christmas, among many things, needs to remind us that God does the miraculous, when we are ready for it and even when we are not.


Hero Quest

Photo Credit - http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3617/3353085502_865451bd60.jpgWe pushed out through the classroom door; freedom, fun, and adventure beckoned us to hurry, less we squander any portion of our fifteen minute parole. When the trees had shed their leaves, the air blew crisp, but the school yard was still free from snow, the boys of Prince Charles Public School gambled their recess away. We paced off the necessary distance, then one at a time, flicked with force and finesse our treasured hockey cards towards the red brick wall of the school. The rules were simple, the card closes to the wall took all the rest. We cheered, jeered and argued after every round, particularly if one of your heroes had been captured by another boy’s better toss.

What now in retrospect seems like a rite of passage, is alien to my son. No one at his public school tosses hockey cards at the wall during recess. That childhood game of chance has disappeared, but not the hero-worship upon which the contest was built. That persists in the world of man, both young and old. Both sports and media traffic the idealized male, who is always bigger, braver, bolder, and brighter than us, the normal street-level man or kid. We buy this psychological dope, hoping that by participating in the hero’s super-sized life, we might possess what we lack in our own.

Truly this is a quick fix. Virtual heroes manufactured by media do not sustain us when we are confronted with real-life stress, conflict and failure. And men who have been air-brushed into heroes, sorely disappoint their followers when scandal collapses their inflated persona revealing the imperfections that once had been masked. True and persisting strength cannot be found by looking to a false hero.

Where then do we look as men struggling to be real, to be strong, to be brave? Where do you look?


Sabbath Subterfuge

A sip of coffee, a glance out the window, another sip of coffee.  I am not fooling myself, these actions are distractions, inconsequential sideshows intended to postpone the main event.  “Sabbath rest” is the headliner of today’s post, but I fear that when the curtain rises on that topic, my on-stage performance will belie my off-stage beliefs.

Right within the worry I just voiced is my problem when it  comes to sabbath.  Resting rightly has become work, another task to be completed well.  It reminds me of what would typically happen if I was home sick from school.  Following lunch, I would be dispatched to my room to rest.  Usually I did not.  I would pass the time begrudgingly, staring at my clock, waiting impatiently for the required minutes to tick by.  At the appointed hour, I would emerge from my room, rubbing my eyes, yawning and the like, hoping my dramatic efforts would persuade my mother that I had indeed rested.  It was a performance.

Decades later I still engage in that charade only now it is before my Father in Heaven.  I disengage from activities that characterize my vocation and I purposely do things that will renew me and those that I love.  I have suggested and would do still that those choices are headed in the right direction.  The problem lies deeper, it lies within my attitudes.

God’s work week, depicted in the Genesis creation account, concluded with God resting from all he had been doing (Ge 2:1-3 ESV).  God then blessed that day and set it apart from the others because it was the day upon which he rested.  The Creator of time, modeled a rhythm of life for us: six days we labour, one day we rest.  That sabbath day is unique; it is a gift for us, it is a blessing, it is holy.

Where my attitude falls short is that I fail to appreciate sabbath as a God-given blessing.  I fail to accept that the work-rest rhythm as a necessary limit to my creatureliness.  I do not submit to the Lord of time, but slyly engage in subterfuge by advancing my case with God by working hard at resting rightly.

Sabbath rest should be a blessing I enter into, a renewal I enjoy, a rest by which I am restored, it is not something I do for myself or for God.  I doubt I fooled my mother with my play-acting, for sure I am not fooling God with my self-promoting stretching and eye-rubbing.

The journey continues.


This blog is a place to wrestle with loving, leading and labouring according to the Jesus Way.


Blog Stats

  • 53,445 hits