Archive for the 'Character' Category


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?


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?


Hero Quest

Photo Credit - 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?


Two Steps to the Slippery Slope

Photo Credit - was spring.  It was the time of year that kings go to war.  But King David didn’t go.  He remained behind in the comfort of his “palace”.  In so doing he took the first step toward the proverbial slippery slope.

That first step is choosing not to be where you ought to be. David ought to be with his troops fighting the Ammonites.  Instead he chose the leisure of his home.

Then “it happened”, that is how the ESV phrases what took place next (see v. 2).  If David had been where he should have been then he wouldn’t have been walking on his roof top at the end of the day.  And he wouldn’t have been some place from which he spotted a beautiful women bathing.  Welcome to step two: being where you ought not to be.  David arrived at the slippery slope and his look slid into lust, adultery and eventually murder.  He fell hard and his failure had profound implications on his family.

Pretty simple and pretty scary.  Guys when we choose not to be where we ought and then choose to be some place where we ought not to be we are pushing the gate open to the slippery slope.

12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1Co 10:12-13 NIV)


The secret to keeping promises

A scene in the movie Fireproof called for a kiss between husband and wife.  The husband, played by actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) had no qualms, as long as the wife he was to kiss was his real-life wife.  Cameron’s convictions prevailed and Chelsea Noble, his wife of 17 years, stood in for the on-screen wife for the tender moment.  Years earlier, the actor had made a promise to his wife not to kiss any woman but her.  He has demonstrated that he is a man of his word.

Few of us are or will be actors, but all of us I believe desire to be men of our word.  We would like to be known as men whom can be counted on to honour their promises and commitments.  Unfortunately many of us know from experience that our resolve to be promise keepers can flounder and even fail.  Hurry, distractions, pressures, and passions can knock us off course, leaving us with good intentions but bad follow-through.

What can be done?  Do we plunge into the New Year with a guilt-fueled list of resolutions, written in bold to impress or at least to fool?  No.  We have ridden that horse before and it is no more alive this year than last.

Author Ken Drury gives us an idea.  He writes, “About a dozen years ago I discovered a group of busy Christian executives who were weary of breaking promises to God and their families…These men discovered a little known secret of commitment keeping — accountability. It is a most powerful secret to rescue you from the cycle of promises-broken, promises- renewed. ”

Every week I meet with a group of men.  We read a devotional, discuss it and pray for one another.  It is the praying where accountability begins to show up.  If you are asking other guys to support you in prayer about something then there is a good chance one of them is going to ask how things worked out.  This helps me stay real in my prayer requests; I don’t share something that my heart isn’t ready to be committed to.

There are numerous accountability structures.  What have you experienced and what benefit has it been to you?


Mercy you, mercy me

Photo Credit - // very much can denote an attitude of compassion that reaches out to people who are suffering and hurting.  Blind men followed Jesus and cried out for mercy.  He healed them.  A Canaanite woman sought mercy for her demonized daughter and Jesus delivered her.  Likewise a father pleaded for mercy for his troubled son, and Jesus restored him.

Mercy can also carry a narrower meaning akin to forgiving someone.  We see that meaning in the parable Jesus tells about the servant whom was forgiven a large debt by his master, but then refused to forgive the small debt he was owed by another servant.  The master in the parable says these words to the unforgiving servant,

Mt 18:32 …‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

The Message in translating this beatitude does a good job in capturing the scope of this word.  It reads,

Mt 5:7a “You’re blessed when you care…”

The blessing associated with being merciful is that one will receive mercy.  God will bless them by extending to them mercy.  God will bless them by being compassionate to them and granting them forgiveness.

It is not that by showing mercy to others I cause God to show mercy to me.  Rather my showing mercy to others is the occasion that demonstrates that I have received mercy from God.  Or as the Message puts it,

Mt 5:7b “At the moment of being ‘care-ful,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

Recent economic news may have us tightening our belts, but mercy is something we can still afford to give this Christmas.  In fact I don’t think we can afford not to give it.


Full meal deal according to Jesus

The other day my wife and I were in downtown Toronto. We did a fair bit of walking, visiting old haunts from when we used to study and work downtown. By the evening meal we had developed a healthy appetite. The food tasted exceptional. When we were done our hunger had been sated, we were full to satisfaction.

Jesus makes use of that common experience when he says,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Mt 5:6)

The kingdom appetite that Jesus is promoting runs counter to society’s drives of power, prestige, possessions and passion. Jesus is advocating that a disciple hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is, that we would have a desire for right living. This isn’t right living as we or others might define it, but rather right living as God would define it.

We hunger and thirst to be in right relationship with God, to be cleansed of our sins and to be in close fellowship with him.  We hunger and thirst to be in right relationship with others, to conduct ourselves in our dealings with others in a way that pleases God.  Our desire is for God’s will to be done in community, for justice and goodness to prevail.

Back to our dinner in Toronto, the next morning I was hungry again. That is how it goes; being satisfied by a meal only lasts a season.  For now that is also the way it is with our pursuit of righteousness. Our private or communal encounters with a righteous God satisfy for a season.  We need to allow those encounters to encourage us to again and again hunger and thirst for righteousness.

There will come the day, at the end of time, when what remains is righteousness. At that time our satisfaction will be complete and unending.


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


Blog Stats

  • 53,445 hits