1 Samuel 17:12-51a (Part 1 of 3)
David Kills Goliath

After two days of travel, we are finally in Moline, IL. We were so tired last night after unloading the cars and carrying all the stuff that we had put in the cars that we knew we would need immediately up 2 flights of stairs (I must have done that 35 times at least) that we feel asleep watching TV on the floor after the cable guy left. Then we got up and went to bed about 9:30pm Central Time. It’s been a long two days getting here. So, we were kinda tired. More tired than even we thought we were.

Since our personal belonging moved by the moving company will not be here until Tuesday morning, we are roughing it. Kind of ill prepared I guess you say. We are sleeping on an air mattress and making do with what we could fit in the two cars. We are not fully ready one might think for what is ahead of us in the new journey in our lives. We don’t have our couches, love seats, coffee creamer, our beloved mattress and box brings, more than half of our clothes, kitchen table, all the little things that you don’t notice. But cumulatively, they add up to the creature comforts of home, as generally accepted in modern American culture. However, we must press forward. We are not fully equipped from an outward standpoint. But the battle begins today. Tomorrow may be my first day in the office but today is my first day as a pastor of this church. We may not have all the equipment we need. We may come to the battlefield in what clothes we have available. This will be a new thing today. Not only stepping into a new job but a new church all together. I feel so ill equipped for both of those things. It’s been a decade since I had to learn a new job. It’s been 7 ½ years since I had to learn a new church. It’s been 7 years since I had to use GPS just to find the nearest grocery store. I have never been in a place where a snowstorm for “a quick 1-2 inches” didn’t bring the society to a halt and the local news going all “Snow Central 2018” with crawlers at the bottom of the screen about all the cancellations. Here’s its just a quick one to two inches. No big deal. As I stare out at the snow on tops of the houses in the neighborhood next door to the apartment complex and the 17 degrees Fahrenheit temperature outside, I am a Southern boy in a strange land. I feel inadequately prepared for the weather, for the job, for the changes in my life, for the significantly reduced income. I feel like, at this moment, am I ready for this and well it’s too late now you done gone and done it now. No turning back. You are like the person shoved out on stage to make up for an act that didn’t show up. Well you are out there. Now whatcha gonna do. The spotlight is on. The change has happened. It is no longer conceptual. This is real. This is my life now.

That’s kind of feeling of being ill-prepared for the battle and having fear inside is what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 17:12-51a, this morning for a second time. I am sure that David may have felt those same feelings when he stepped onto the battlefield with Goliath. We known that David won this battle and that he trusted in the Lord, but he would not be human if he felt “oh crap, man I have gone and done it now” when he stepped onto the field with Goliath. Let’s read the passage with that idea of feeling inadequate for the task at hand in mind as we read it now:

12 Now David was the son of a man named Jesse, an Ephrathite from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. Jesse was an old man at that time, and he had eight sons. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons—Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea[a]—had already joined Saul’s army to fight the Philistines. 14 David was the youngest son. David’s three oldest brothers stayed with Saul’s army, 15 but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem.

16 For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army.

17 One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket[b] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. 18 And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing.[c]” 19 David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.

20 So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. 21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.

24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. 25 “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”

26 David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

27 And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”

28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

29 “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” 30 He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. 31 Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.
32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. 44 “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. 51 Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head.

In this passage, we see that David was able to move faster than Goliath because David carried no heavy weapons or armor. David was an expert marksman with a sling, and as he advanced on Goliath, he stayed out of range of Goliath’s huge weapons. What made David effective was more than his ability with a sling, it was his courage and his faith in God. To fight like David, we need David’s kind of fearlessness. David’s confident trust in God had grown strong in his encounters with wild animals while guarding his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-37). When you face towering problems or new situations that seem overwhelming or fear of the unknown is crippling you, recall how God helped David and how He has helped you in the past. Take heart because God will give you strength. Use the skills God has already given you, place your trust in Him completely to carry you through the problem, the hardship, the new situation, the unknown situation and then just move forward in that trust.

David must have had fear but his trust in the Lord was greater than his fear. He moved forward into the moment that he felt unprepared for because he knew that the Lord would protect him. He knew that whatever the outcome, God would be there for him and provide him his eternal reward in heaven if he died, or God would show him how to make the best of the new situation. It is comforting in our fears to remember that God has a purpose in whatever the outcome may be. Even if we die in the process, we get to go to heaven, man! However, if God chooses not to send us to our eternal glory just yet, He will provide for us and that even the defeats have a purpose and plan in our lives. Even if things don’t turn out like we want them to, God has got this. There is a natural tendency to expect disaster when you make a change. But on the other hand, God may just blow this thing up and make the change we made to make something great for the kingdom. Who knows? Through God’s guidance and if we stay in alignment with him, he could use us here to something awesome for the kingdom. Who knows? He does! Regardless of how inadequate we may feel this week and particularly these first two days or so, God’s prepared us. God’s got this and we got press forward onto the battlefield and take on Goliath – Goliath being the great unknown that we enter into now.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 17:1-11
Goliath Challenges the Israelites

Today is Tuesday of the last week before a decade at Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) draws to a close. Today is Tuesday before 7 ½ years at LifeSong Church, 6 or more of which we have been in leadership positions at the church, come to a close. Today is Tuesday before Carey Moving & Storage comes to pick up our personal belongings and furniture tomorrow. The thing that we have been anticipating is almost upon us. We will make visits with family on Wednesday evening and Thursday evening and then Friday we shove off for Illinois. Prior to 9 weeks ago, Illinois was not even on our radar. Then, it became a reality, but yet one that was weeks away. Weeks of preparation. Weeks of telling people that we were moving. Here in the last week, a week of saying goodbye that will culminate with telling our families goodbye on Wednesday evening (the Bowlings) and Thursday evening (Elena’s family, the Aizcorbes). Then, it will be time. It is time to step onto the battlefield and be a full-time soldier for the cause of Christ.

We have been building toward this coming weekend for six years. Schooling. Paying off debts. Downsizing our mortgage and home. Getting rid of stuff and clutter in our lives. Learning and leading, making mistakes, learning from them and leading better in our present church and in my secular job. It has all been preparation for the day that we join the battle. But there are giants that Satan puts on the opposite mountain range. Like Goliath, Satan taunts us with his words. Are you really qualified for this? Do you really have what it takes? Sure, you have all this accounting experience but you have it pretty easy the last decade at FAI, are you going to be able to handle working in a church setting full-time? Are you going to be able to survive on 40% of what you are making now? Are you deep enough spiritually to handle this job? Are you really preacher material? You don’t have what it takes. You are shallow. You are not deep enough spiritually. You don’t know all the preacher buzz words. You’re a poser. You are not polished. You are a redneck with a master’s degree. You are going to be a fish out of water in the Midwest. You are not going to be happy there. You are going to fail. Can you handle having to be held to a higher standard now that you will be a full-time minister. You are just not worthy, Mark. You cannot fight this fight. You are going to fail miserably and turn tail and run back to South Carolina empty handed in a few years. These are the things that Satan is standing on the opposite mountain range from me taunting me and assailing my soul. He is saying that there are dozens of men in LifeSong alone that could be better ministers than you. You are just not made of the right fabric for this war. You don’t have what it takes. Satan taunts me.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 17:1-11, this morning. I am the Israelite army and Satan is Goliath. Goliath is taunting the armies of Israel. He is proud because of his many victories over other foes. He is arrogant, prideful, and supremely confident that the Israelites will cower before him because of his size and strength. His presence has in the past and is now instilling fear in his opponents just by his mere words. That idea that Satan will taunt us into turning away from what God has called us to do because of the size we make Satan out to be and how he plays upon our inner fears of failure and defeat and unwillingness to plunge ahead into the unknown, the tough battles. Let’s read through the passage now:

Chapter17
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

In his sermon at http://www.sermoncentral.com, entitled “What To Do When A Giant Stands In Your Way”, Josh Cougle states,

“what stands in way of you getting to where God is calling you? Addictions… jealousy… lack of education… self-esteem… secret sin… your attitude… health… not knowing… anxiety… depression… real difficulties. Maybe so afraid of failing that you’ve stopped trying. Maybe so scared of being defeated that you live in defeat… and every time your giant appears, you retreat in shame, or fear. Maybe you’ve been trying for years…

• Stats – 40 to 60 percent of drug addicts will relapse from their plan of treatment

• 50% of American adults are dieting (lose or maintain) 90% gain back in 1-5 years

• 68% of young men/18% young women view porn at least once per week… whoah… but so often that 2/3 of college age men/ ½ of women think it’s acceptable… we’ve given up on beating it

• 40% of unemployed have given up on looking for jobs

• Each year, 4000 churches close, while only 1000 start

It’s easy to see that there are giants everywhere.”

Satan doesn’t want you to succeed. The more he can keep you in retreat and the more he can keep you in fear, the less effective you will be for what God has anointed you to do. Satan will tell you that you are not worthy and we withdraw. Satan will tell you that your past disqualifies you from doing what God has called you to do. Satan will tell you that people do not want to hear the gospel. And we withdraw. He will tell you that you will fail at what God has called you to do. And we withdraw. Satan wins when he taunts and we forget who our protector and champion is.

Proclaim the name of Jesus right now. For before Him, every knee shall bow. No, none of us are good enough to share do anything for Jesus in our own merits. Yes, all those things that Satan says about us not being worthy and not being qualified and not being good enough are all so damned true. But we forget that Jesus is our champion. He is our Savior that redeemed us. He is the one that makes our mess a message of His redemptive and reclaiming power. When we put our complete faith and trust in the power of Jesus Christ and not in ourselves we can do great things for the kingdom BECAUSE of Jesus’ power and not ours. We have no clue what is going to happen over the next few years in Illinois whether we are there for one year or ten or two years or twenty, we must plunge forward because God has made it abundantly clear that this in our next step. We must trust in the Lord on this one. He has something for us to do there. He will reveal it as time marches on. What He has in store for us will involve triumphs, failures, celebrations, and picking up the pieces after defeat but all of it must be done by going and fighting the battle.

We cannot listen to Satan’s taunts from the other mountain top. We must march into the valley and fight the war trusting in Jesus’ name. Calling upon His power and not ours. Glorifying Him and not ourselves. Keeping in mind that we are serving Him and that this adventure will never be about us but rather about Him. There was an old Springsteen song that was titled, “No Retreat, No Surrender” that seems appropriate here. We must not retreat and we must not surrender ground to Satan just because he taunts us. We are marching forward in the power of Jesus’ name and that name makes the demons and Satan tremble before us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Part 2 of 2)
David Serves in Saul’s Court

Have you ever been obsessed with losing someone whether it be a girlfriend when you are just dating or your wife when your marriage is in trouble. There have been mistakes made in a relationship and you wish that they had not happened but they set your relationship down a road to a breakup. I have a very important couple in my and my wife’s spiritual history whose marriage is on the rocks at the moment.

My friend, the husband, has this brilliant mind. He is incredibly intelligent. His knowledge is almost limitless in sports, in history, in theology, you name it, the dude has a trap for a mind. Any tidbit of knowledge that goes in there stays and is stored there. Yet at the same time, he is a very insecure man and as a result has a very controlling nature. It is difficult for him to admit his mistakes even in the best of times. And because he is so intelligent he can usually craft a logical argument to properly defend his position and crush the position of those who hold different opinions from him. For me, I recognized this about him but I still loved him as my friend and mentor (though he is like 12-13 years younger than me). However, I did not have to live with him. I am sure that living with him like his wife did, it was tough at times, living with a brilliant man but who emotionally and mentally made her feel “less than”. The husband has his demons that have controlled his life as well. He suffers from an addiction to pornography as about 30% or more of men today do. It is so easy to feed such an addiction nowadays with access to the internet. This lust of the flesh also has at its root the satisfaction of controlling women in your mind in ways that you cannot in real life. This addiction continue to feed his controlling nature in their marriage. His inability to give up his addiction and his controlling nature beat down his wife over the years to the point that she sought her affections outside their marriage beginning about 7 years ago or so.

She, his wife, and our friend, has gone off the deep end in her own right. Though she was a great spiritual mentor to my wife when we all lived in the same town in California, she has created this fantasy in her mind how her infidelity and her marriage to my friend are compatible. How it is OK. It is certainly in part a reaction to my friend’s addiction and his controlling nature. She is this brilliantly creative artist that had she not married at age 18 and proceeded to have four children and followed her husband to seminary and into the ministry, she would probably be this avantgarde artist in Manhattan living this bohemian lifestyle and we would know her name internationally as this renowned artist and photographer. So, to me, her current path of this fantasy life that she has created in her mind about the morality of what she is doing is part anger, part mid-life crisis, part trying to recapture missed youth, part reaction to what she thinks her life could have been had she not gone down the path of being a pastor’s wife and of motherhood.

To cap it all off, my friend, the husband, has tried to recapture the fleeing bird in his wife and he professes love to her one moment and then when she doesn’t immediately react with falling back in love with him, he goes to the other extreme of almost hating her. You know what I am talking about. In a marriage that is in trouble, in a marriage where there is infidelity, how it can make a person both love and hate their spouse at the same time. While you think if you do certain things, it will make your spouse love you again but because of the damage already done to the relationship, the spouse does not react with the passionate falling back in love with you that they had when they fell in love with you the first time. Then, the cheated one reacts with anger, insecurity, and tries to control the cheater. And, in the end, all it does is drive the cheater further into the arms of the paramour and further away from their spouse.
As I told this friend yesterday, the word that the Holy Spirit had laid on my heart to give him was that “he has got to be willing to let her go to get her back!” They have begun counseling in the last month but there is seven years of damage to this marriage that has to be unraveled. There is seven years of controlling and brow beating. There is seven years of unfaithfulness as a reaction to it. There is seven years of sin on both sides that has almost destroyed their marriage. This couple is so dear to us that is like watch a train wreck in slow motion before your very eyes and there is not anything you can do about it. I pray that God will heal their marriage. They are such an awesome couple when their marriage is clicking. He is brilliant. She is super, super creative. Together, they make an awesome, awesome couple for Christ.

They are an example of how sin can grab hold of us, even as Christ followers, and get us so far off track that it is difficult to get back to where God wants us. Sin can blind us so badly that it blocks us from the road that God had intended for us. Although I did not list this couple’s names, please pray for them. They are our spiritual parents. The nurtured us to be ready for what we became when we moved back to South Carolina and to LifeSong. Without these two, I do not know where we would be in our walk with Jesus Christ. These guys are that important in our discipleship path. Please pray for them. And please, if you are a married Christian couple, please use their story as a cautionary tale of the fact that just because we are Christ followers, we are not immune to the siren song of sin that can quickly crash our marriage ship on the rocks as anyone. We are not immune. As married couples who are Christ followers, Satan has us as his main targets.

I thought of my friends who we once lived near in California and who now live in Colorado when I read this passage for the second time today of two readings. I read it with a special eye toward Saul’s depression, spiritual oppression, the absence of the Holy Spirit, or whatever it may be rightly called. In this passage, Saul had become so obsessed with maintaining his throne that he went off the deep end. It drove him crazy, the thought of losing his throne, that which was most dear to him. It made me think of my friends in Colorado and in particular the husband. The harder he tries to press and keep his wife in line, the worse things have become. Let’s read the passage now with that idea in mind:

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit[a] that filled him with depression and fear.

15 Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”

17 “All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.”

18 One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.”

19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” 20 Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.

21 So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.

22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”

23 And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.

In this passage, we see that Saul was tormented. He was depressed. It all was about to begin to drive him insane with maintaining that which is earthly, his throne. The harder he tried to keep it, the less in tune with God he became. The less in tune with God he became, the further away his throne was becoming. The harder you try to keep something precious to you the more you become obsessed with it. The more you become obsessed with something the less you can see God.

That’s the thing that I told my friend yesterday that the Lord laid on my heart. You’ve got to be willing to let her go to get her back. When he becomes less concerned about what she is doing or not doing and more concerned about his own spiritual, mental and emotional health the better off he is going to be. When he can make his estranged wife less of a god and more of a human, the more he will see God. The more he sees God and has peace with who he is and allows the Holy Spirit to make him see his flaws for what they are and work on them, the more attractive he will become to her. The less he makes her a god who has be on this pedestal, the more he can just love her. The less that he has to control her, the more she will be willing to come back toward him. Sure, she has got to get her head out of her ass about what she is really doing in her infidelity and that it cannot be blamed on her estranged husband, the more that she can see her husband as a lifetime commitment. She is living in a fantasy world right now and the affair is the best of the best. She is not seeing the reality of the relationship and that this guy is no more perfect than any man. She thinks that she is helping this person’s self-esteem and that she is getting the validation that she never got from her husband. But its all story time. You get the best of a person in an affair. You don’t get their things that drive your crazy and angry. There is no perfect relationship. We are all flawed human beings.

But that’s what sin does to us. It makes us obsessed with holding on to something other than God. It makes us believe the lies of Satan about what is against the will and nature of God. Saul could have been a great king with his own lineage but he became so obsessed with his own throne that he believed the lies of Satan about sin. For Saul, maintaining the throne was more important than anything. Sin was OK because it was done to maintain the throne. It was more important than his relationship and his obedience to God. Anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God, anything that is not consistent with the nature of God, anything that goes against his “word of truth”, as James called it, is sin. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking sin is OK. I have a couple that is oh so important to me that is living proof of the devastating effects of listening to the lies of Satan. Please pray for my friends.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Part 1 of 2)
David Serves in Saul’s Court

What a difference a year makes? This time last year, we had just found out that I had not gotten the job at the church in Ohio. I saw in my Timehop yesterday where a year ago Elena and I had spent a Friday night discussing what all that meant. Friday nights are our night to hang out at home after busy weekdays and just chill. Last year, at this time, we were just heartbroken that we did not get the job as administrative pastor at that large church in Ohio. We wondered what it all meant? We were depressed because we were “this close” to getting that job. It came down to that last interview after church services on the last Sunday we were there. In that interview, the interview committee apparently felt as though I did not consider the job as it stood to be enough for me and that it was not my “destination job”. They didn’t think that I would be satisfied with the job long-term. That’s why they passed on me and hired someone else. It was a gut punch that it took us a while to recover from. We thought we had it and I think we did all the way up to that Sunday afternoon interview session.

Part of the reason that there was a depression that set in was that I knew with the limited number of interviews I had been having that it could be months and months before I got this close again to a job offer as a full-time vocational pastor. Particularly as it had become clear that I was made by God with a certain skill set such that Executive or Administrative Pastor jobs were what would be my entry point into full-time ministry. Those jobs are usually restricted to large churches of a thousand members or more. So, I just knew that it was going to be a good while before I would get to this point again with a church. Sure, there would be opportunities to apply for executive pastoral positions each month, but I knew it would be awhile before I would get another shot at being this close to a job offer. That was the depressing part – the waiting.

I had already graduated from seminary at the North Greenville University graduate school in May 2014. I thought that as soon as I graduated God would open that door to whatever full-time ministry opportunity He had in store for me. Over the past years since 2011, when I felt the call to full-time ministry, Elena and I had been preparing ourselves for the change. We had been paying off debts, living more simply, such that we could be more generous now and be able to handle the financial change that comes with going into full-time ministry. We were ready, we thought. We had grown so much in our respective walks with Jesus. We had been serving in so many different ways at church not because we were trying to earn something but rather because we just loved the Lord and loved our church. We served because it was thanksgiving to the Lord. We served because it was the least we could for the Lord that changed each of our lives so radically. We served because we wanted to help our church get the message of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ out to our community. We served so that our church could have financial systems that enabled the church to know exactly how the church was performing at any given moment. But here it was a Friday night in Feburary last year, in 2017. Six years later. We were frustrated and we were hurt. Wondering why God had denied us. Wondering why it was taking so long.

That’s when God surprises you with answers to your crying out to Him. For the last year, God has been beating it into my head, heart, and soul to “plow the field in front of you and leave what’s beyond the field to Him.” Our timing is not His timing. Just like in the show, How I Met Your Mother, when Stella (who had broken Ted’s heart months earlier) and Ted had that classic scene from the show that I will never forget because of the lines that Stella uttered. Although the show was crass in a lot of ways, it did have some profound words of wisdom often. This scene was the best of them all. Stella tells Ted to hang on to his hope for his soulmate and that she did believe in soulmates. She told him to hang on because his soulmate was “somewhere out there and she was getting here as fast she can.” She said it was all being worked out and that they would meet at the right time for both of Ted and whomever this woman was going to be.

Ah man. That blew me away. You gotta keep believing in your dreams basically. Hold on to them. God will work them out in His due time. Sometimes we just have to keep plowing the field in front of us. Keep being faithful and leaving the rest up to the Lord. Trusting like a child that the Lord will work it all out. Trusting Him with what that will look like rather than what we mold in our mind that it’s going to look like. Just trust that God will put us where He wants us and how He wants it. That revelation of plowing the field and that right thing getting here as fast as it can sustained me and lifted me out of the funk that I was in this time last year. And this time around, I felt absolutely no pressure and no worry when this job interview process began at Calvary Church in Moline, IL. I really had grown since last year. This year I was not so concerned about saying the right things in the interview because I had come to learn that if this was God’s will for us to have this job, He would make it happen. Regardless, we were going to be faithful to the Lord and plow the field in front of us until God made it clear that He had something new for us – that it was getting here as fast as it could.

That idea of being faithful and trusting the Lord is what I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 16:14-23 this morning for the first of two readings of it and the blogs that will come from it. That idea of trusting that God will bring us what we need as fast as He can in his due timing. We must trust that He knows best when we are ready for that next thing. In the meantime, keep plowing, keep being faithful. The reason the Holy Spirit made me think of that idea was thinking about how David, knowing that he was to be king, served the current king with great faithfulness and dutifulness. He trusted the Lord with the details that were going to come about to make Him king. Let’s read the passage now with that idea in mind:

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit[a] that filled him with depression and fear.

15 Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”

17 “All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.”

18 One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.”

19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” 20 Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.

21 So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.

22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”

23 And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.

In this passage, we see that when Saul asked David to be in his service, he obviously didn’t know that David has been secretly anointed king (see 1 Samuel 16:2). Saul’s invitation presented an excellent opportunity for the young man and future king to gain firsthand knowledge about leading a nation. Sometimes, our plans – even the ones we think God has approved – have be put on hold. Like David, we can use this waiting time profitably. We can choose to learn and grow in our present circumstances, whatever they may be.

Here David just serves. He gives his best all the time no matter the circumstance. He trusts the Lord with the rest. He plows the field in front of Him with excellence. That’s the thing. We gotta trust the Lord that He is bringing what is best for our future in His due timing. He is working out the details even when we can’t see it. He is working out the details as fast as He can. He is working out the details in a way that when we get there, we have been grown by Him to be ready for it. He is the Sovereign God of the Universe. We must trust Him with childlike faith and be faithful to Him even when we cannot see the end game as He does. It is like the guy who gets up at 4:00 in the morning to exercise without fail even when the pounds are slow to come off. You keep plugging away and being faithful to the process and it will come. The weight will come off. Keep plowing.

As we stand here on our last Sunday at the church we love, the church we grew up into young adults, spiritually speaking, we are like Ted from How I Met Your Mother, at the train station that night where he meets the girl with the yellow umbrella – his soulmate, the future wife, the future mother of his children. Ted held on to his dream of that perfect girl, that perfect soulmate. She did indeed get there as fast as she could. He never gave up on his dream of meeting that girl that was perfect for him. He was faithful to that ideal and he was rewarded with being able to later tell his children of how he met their mother.

We ended up having to hand over the dream of going into ministry to God. Trusting Him with getting the right church to match to who we are as a pastoral couple as fast as He could. It was not in our timing but His. In the meantime, we had to learn to keep plowing. Keep being faithful to God no matter what and just trusting that He has a plan and that He was working it out as fast as he could. Today, we spend our last Sunday at LifeSong and there will be tears and there will be hugs and there will be hearts filled with joy and sorrow at the same time. Oh God, how we will miss LifeSong Church.

Next Sunday, we will begin to find out about that church that God was getting to us as fast as He could. We will trust Him with that too now that she is here, Calvary Church of Moline, IL. We will trust that all the stuff that we went through to get here was worth the wait, worth our faithfulness, worth our plowing the field in front of us. Because it was all part of God’s plan for us. We trust that. We’ve learned that. We will live that.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Part 2 of 2)
God Selects David as King

Doing the stuff nobody sees. The behind the scenes stuff. The stuff nobody gets obvious credit for. The stuff that nobody cares about until it doesn’t get done. All the little details that get taken care of that nobody notices. That kind of thing is what I have been noticing recently as I wrap up almost a decade of being controller for Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI). Have you ever been in one of those positions where your job has morphed into much more than it was when you originally took over the job. That’s the thing that has been blowing my mind as I prepare to leave is all the stuff I actually do for the company. When you are trying to document all your duties in a job that never really had a good job description it can be a bit daunting when you analyze what you do over a course of a week, a month, a quarter, a year. All the little details. And a lot of the things that I do really go unnoticed. The rest of the management team just lives in the comfort of knowing nothing administrative or financial “blows up.” I have quietly done my job over the years and done it well, I think. I am proud of the body of work that I will leave behind next week on my final day at FAI.

One of the things that I have noticed is that I have toiled in relative anonymity because my boss really has no clue what I do. He has never demanded to know the details of my job. He has given me the freedom to do it as I see fit. That’s the thing that I have learned from my career – be excellent even when nobody’s looking or even if nobody cares. When I was an internal auditor for several companies over the first half of my career, I would be sent out on audit assignments away from my boss and it was up to me to do the job right while I was out on the job away from my boss and the office. I had general direction but it was up to me to document my work and particularly my audit findings in such a way that there was no dispute. I always has audit reviews at the end of the audits by my boss so there was that control. But it was then that I learned to basically document the crap out of everything I did so there was no questions or no need to re-do. In these years as the controller at FAI, it’s been even more self-directed. Since my two presidents that I have reported to are completely clueless when it comes to the financial end of the business, they have really just trusted that I will do my job. Never really checking behind me. No real over the shoulder checking into the details. It’s been like only if something breaks has there been something said kind of approach to work.

In that atmosphere, you just have to have a sense or a desire to be excellent on your own. You have to want to be your best no matter if anybody is looking or not. When I look back at these ten years at FAI, I can say I strove for excellence in myself and in my people no matter if it was just us that knew that we did it right. Working at excellence when nobody’s looking is often difficult for people to do. It could have been easy to take shortcuts or do things half-ass. But my driving force was always with this day that is coming upon me in mind. Can somebody come in and look at the body of work we have created over the last decade and understand completely what’s in our balance sheet and income statement and what happened financially in our company over the last decade. I can walk away next week saying yes to that question. The amount of detail, the explanatory notes, the consistency, the framework of how we do things, the systems put in place to make things consistent and easy to understand, it’s all there. Not because somebody made me, but because I want to be excellent at whatever I do. I never wanted someone to have come in and clean up my mess like I had to when I took over this job. Whomever replaces me can just come in and get up to speed quickly and then just improve upon the groundwork I have laid. That should be our legacy in whatever we do.
That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, for the second of two readings and blogs that will result. The reason I thought in this vein was the fact that David was not even brought to Samuel. He was left behind. He was at home toiling away at the family business – doing what needed to be done. He was being faithful even when nobody was looking. He was being excellent when nobody was looking. That got me to thinking about how I have had to be in my job at FAI. With that idea of being faithful and being excellent when nobody’s around or nobody’s looking, let us read this passage one more time before we move on to the next passage:

Chapter 16
1 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

2 But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

4 So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

5 “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” 9 Next Jesse summoned Shimea,[a] but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

In this passage, we see David probably did not mind that his dad and his brothers were going to town. He was just being faithful to what his dad had assigned to him. He was not angry that he was left behind. There is no mention of that. He was just doing what needed to be done. There must have been a great amount of trust built up between his dad and David. Jesse must’ve just known that David was going to be excellent in his absence. He would make sure that the chores would be done, the animals would be taken care of, the animals would be protected, and so on. David was given the responsibility to do what needed to be done and his dad left knowing that it would be done.

How often do we as Christ followers do things for show? How often do we blow off responsibilities to our church because it is a mundane task and nobody notices? How often do we give our responsibilities at church the half-ass approach when we would never do that in our regular jobs? How often do we just not show up for something at church without even a word to anyone just because, well, I was tired or I had to take the kids to ball, or it was raining or whatever … and we would never treat our regular jobs in that way. How often do we do things at church because we can be seen doing it?

And in our Christian walk, how often do we act one way privately and another way publicly? How often do we say we can read the Bible later? How often do we take shortcuts around God’s commands? How often do we not pray (because, well, nobody’s checking up on us)? How often do we give our leftovers to God both financially, physically, and spiritually? How often do we just not try hard when it comes to being more like Jesus? How often do we just see showing up at church as enough for our walk with Jesus? What if you just showed up at work and did nothing? How long would you be employed? Why do we treat God in this way?

We need to be excellent in our relationship with God even when nobody’s looking? We need to love God with all our heart and soul all the time even when nobody’s looking? We need to be about excellence in our relationship with Him! We need to strive to love Him more and more. We need to be excellent. We need to want to serve Him even when what we do does not hit Facebook or the church newsletter or e-news. We need to love Him so much that we seek to be excellent for Him in everything we do for Him. There’s an old song that says dance like nobody’s watching. We should love God like nobody’s watching because we just love Him and give Him our best even when nobody’s watching.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Part 1 of 2)
God Selects David as King

Why God called me to the ministry I do not know. It is the mystery of the ages to me. Growing up in parsonages as a kid as my dad moved around with the United Methodist Church (South Carolina Conference) around the state, I knew what the ministry was like. It is not a strange, unknown profession to me. I grew up in it.

My dad was a Methodist minister forever, something like 53 or 54 years. My brother has been a Methodist minister for I believe 35 years now, if I am not mistaken. My uncle Doug was a Methodist minister for like 50 years when he retired. My brother married a Methodist preacher’s daughter. His father-in-law, like my dad and uncle, had been a minister in the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church for 50 plus years when he retired. Both my uncle Doug and my brother’s father-in-law have passed away in the past few years after years of service to the church. My dad is still plugging away – just very much slower than he used to. He is now on the cusp of being 79 years old. My brother will be 57 years old this coming Sunday. All are lifetimers in the ministry. Then there’s me. The black sheep. The accountant. The one who did not go into the family business.

My current senior pastor, Jeff Hickman, when I told him that I had felt the call to go into full-time ministry about 6 or 7 years ago, said that if you can do anything else beside going in the ministry, do it. It is not the job that parishioners think it is. It is not about being that guy in the spotlight. It is about a lot of long hours. It is about unreasonable expectations. It is about caring for people too deeply. It is about seeing the ugly side of people. It is about having to confront people about things that are inconsistent with biblical truth. It is about the burden of wanting to disciple people who often think that they have already arrived at spiritual maturity as if it a destination and not a journey. It is about loving people so much it hurts. It is about being vulnerable and transparent about your flaws and often not getting the same from your flock. It is about giving all you have when all you have is completely wore out and drained. It is, he said, the toughest job that you could ever have (though people think preacher’s have it easier than anybody else). He said if you love of the Lord is greater than all that, if you love seeking out the lost outside these doors and showing them the way to the cross, if you love helping people grow from spiritual babies to maturing Christ followers, then by all means pursue it. Those three reasons can be the only reasons to go into the ministry. If you are looking for an easy job, this ain’t it. If you want to be in the spotlight, there are better ways to gain celebrity. In this job, it’s got to be about loving the Lord so much you can’t do anything else and be comfortable at it.

Why me? I am not some spiritual giant. I am not some dude who accepted Christ as his Savior as a toddler, or a tweener, or even a teenager. I did not accept Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old. Why me? By outward standards, I am unworthy. I have not served on a church staff other than LifeSong. And I have only done that for six years and much of it as an unpaid, part time staffer. I have a background where divorce it part of it. I have a background where there was so much self-seeking. I lived a life trying to please people to the point I lost my sense of what was right and what was wrong. I lived a life full of stupid mistakes. I lived a life of making whomever was the woman in my life, my god. I lived a life living and dying by others’ approval and not God’s. I lived a life between marriages of trying to party my brains out and chase as much skirt as I could. There is so much that I am ashamed of in my past, even after my salvation at age 39. There were sin strongholds over this walk with Jesus that the Holy Spirit has had to convict me hard with a two-by-four to the head with some of them before I would let them go.

I don’t see myself as a spiritual giant. Even my prayers seem like rambling disjointed run-on sentences to me. When I get finished publicly prayer, I say to myself…Lord, I hope that got all that and that it made sense to them cause it seemed like a bunch of random thoughts stuck together to me. I don’t speak “preacher-speak”. You know those preachers and even other Christians who always seem to have these deep, spiritual comments at times and you go, “Wow, that was good!” I don’t do that kind of thing well. By all appearances, I am not the classic preacher type. Appearances. Appearances. By appearances, I should be disqualified. I am not preacher material. I am like the homely girl that wonders why the most popular guy in school is asking her to the prom. That’s what I feel like when it comes to thinking about why God called me into the ministry.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, for the first of two readings and blogs that will result. The thought that by all appearances I really should not be going into the ministry but God does not care about appearances, He cares about the heart and if the heart is right our mess can become our message:

Chapter 16
1 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

2 But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

4 So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

5 “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” 9 Next Jesse summoned Shimea,[a] but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

In this passage, we are reminded that Saul was tall and handsome. He was an impressive looking man. Samuel may have been trying to find someone who looked like Saul to be Israel’s next king, but God warned him against judging by appearances alone. When people judge using only outward appearance as their criteria, they may overlook quality individuals who lack the particular physical qualities society currently admires. Appearance does not reveal what people are really like on the inside or what their true value is.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, God judges all of us by our faith and character, not appearances. Because God can see what we are like on the inside of our souls, only He can accurately judge people. Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance. Should we not do the same to maintain our inward appearance – our character, our morality, our faith. While everyone can see your face, only God knows what you know about you. He knows your true motives. He knows what you are really thinking. He knows the things that you hide from others. He know what you do when no one is looking. He knows the real you not just the façade, the outward appearance that you present to the world.

Do you think that you can’t come to Jesus Christ because you have screwed up too badly or that you have been beaten down by who your family is or what your history is or what your family’s history is? Do you think you are too far gone for Jesus to save you, anoint you as His own? Do think your past life has scarred you too much and that you are too ugly in your soul for Jesus to reclaim?

Let me tell you, if he can reclaim this preacher’s kid at age 39 and work and work and work on him through the Holy Spirit, then Jesus can truly do miracles. The fact that He called me to ministry is a miracle in and of itself when you think how I see myself as so unworthy of it. If He can take a wretch like me and make me desire to want to give Him the glory for what He has done in my life and do it in the ministry, then He can truly reclaim anyone.

What you have done is not too ugly. What you have done is not too scandalous. What you have done is not too shameful…for the power of Jesus’ redemption of your life to make it wondrous and useful to His kingdom. Your ugliness will become beautiful in His redemption. Your mess will become your message.

 

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 15:32-35 (Part 3 of 3)
Samuel Executes King Agag

I remember when I was kid that when you got a whipping for bad behavior, my dad would use the cliché line, “this is going to hurt me worse than it’s going to hurt you!” I would never say it out loud, because that would have made the whipping worse, but I would think, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me! I am the one getting a whipping!” Dad was not abusive with his whippings (so all you millennials out there get your hand off the DSS hotline), but he would make it sting for sure. I had a healthy fear of my dad with his steely blue eyes. He was the ultimate authority in our house and I did not want to get on the wrong side of him. Even the threat of a whipping was an effective behavior modification tool.

My dad was one who was not a standoffish dads. He would play ball with us. He would wrestle in the floor with us (while mom would get on him for being too rough – you know moms!) We would laugh and cut up with dad. He would play tricks on us and us him. He was a fun dad. But we know that he was dad and we were the kids. His authoritative voice was a show stopper. He had boundaries that we could not cross with our behavior and we knew what they were. He was consistent in his discipline. There were grade levels of punishment. Restrictions were the most common form of punishment for the minor offenses. But there were offenses that when we were younger that drew out the belt, “The Black Spirit of Power” as he called it. I even used that title for the belt when I became a parent.

But that old saying that dad would use when he would give us a whipping used to just stick in my craw. How could him giving me a whipping hurt him more than it hurt meeting. I mean, dude, I was the one getting the strap to the rear-end. Like I said, he didn’t maliciously whip us but you sure did know it that you had been whipped. The rear end was stinging for a little while after one of those whippings. Dad probably only whipped us a dozen times or less when we were under age 12 (after that it was just restrictions when you would have rather had a whipping than lose freedoms). So, the whippings were for egregious violations of Daddy law. How could that stinging in my tail area be worse for him than me? I was the one being whipped! That’s just whacked out parent psychobabble I thought! Geez! Nothing was being applied to his rear end at light speed. I was the one with the back porch being painted red.

How could that being hurting him more than it hurt me? I did not understand it and thought dad was just out and out lying to me just to get through a bad situation – my serious misbehavior and him having to do something about it. Boy, did I not understand being the parent at all. When I became a parent in April 1985 and again in September 1990, all that changed. When you hold your oldest child the first time and even when you hold your youngest for the first time five years later. Something just happens to you. You know a love that you never knew existed before. And, as a dad, when you hold your little girls in your arm you feel this overwhelming daddy-daughter love and this overwhelming sense of responsibility to this little girl.

I know that it must have been hard for dad to whip us even as boy children, but oh my God, when you, as dad, have to spank your daughter. It is the absolute toughest thing in the world to do. Because let’s face it, little boys are just NOT as a adorable as little girls. My girls were just the most adorable girls on the planet to me. Cute faces. Cut child expressions. The mulitiple aaaaa’s in Daddy when they say, “Daaaaady!” When they think that their dad is the most handsome, most powerful, most smart, most every thing man in the world. They adored me. They loved me with an innocence and purity when they were little girls that made you feel so loved and also so maybe even unworthy of it. And they were so little and dainty and so beautiful with the cutest little girl voices.

How could whipping them hurt me more than it hurt them. Let me tell you, the few times that I had to whip Meghan or Taylor, and they were very few, it would literally make me want to throw up afterwards. To hear them cry as if the world was ending would rip my heart out. Usually with both Meghan and Taylor, I could just look at them mean and they would stop doing what they were doing and be sad for having made their hero dad mad. If that didn’t work a really stern talking to and they would never exhibit the offending behavior again. But there were those few times though that obstinate and rebellious behavior or fighting between the girls I would have to use the last resort, “the Black Spirit of Power”, my belt. I came then to know what my dad had said was true. This is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you. I would literally throw up after having to whip one of them. You knew you had to enforce discipline against the worst violations of family law and common decency, but those were my little girls. They adored me. And I too just adored them. I still do to this day. Even when I have had to be tough on them in our relationship as dad to adult daughters, it makes me want to throw up to punish them. But those few whippings back in the day when they were little truly did, as my dad would tell me, hurt me worse than it hurt them. Funny thing being a parent, huh? All those things that you didn’t understand as a child become crystal clear as a quiet lake first thing in the morning when you become a parent yourself.

That was the thing that I immediately thought of this morning when I read through this passage one final time before we move on to the next one. This time I was concentrating on the second half of the passage, vv. 34-35. How could Samuel mourn over Saul? Saul was like an impetuous child – only thinking of himself. Saul would violate God’s commands at a drop of hat if it suited what he wanted. He was just like a precocious child in that way. But yet Samuel mourned over him. How could he do that? It doesn’t make sense. Samuel knew exactly why Saul was going to lose his throne – he had not obeyed his Father in heaven. The punishment of losing the kingdom was just and right. However, Samuel still mourned. That idea of hurting me worse than it hurting you was what the Holy Spirit planted in my brain after having read this passage this morning. Let us read today’s passage, 1 Samuel 15:32-25, for third of three blogs:

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring King Agag to me.” Agag arrived full of hope, for he thought, “Surely the worst is over, and I have been spared!”[a] 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has killed the sons of many mothers, now your mother will be childless.” And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel.

In this passage, we see that that Samuel grieves over the way that Saul has acted. He grieves because Saul could have made better choices and simply trusted the Lord enough to have obeyed him completely. However, actions have consequences. Sins have consequences and Saul chose to violate God’s commands. That Saul could have been a great king if he had been obedient was what Samuel grieved over. He could have been so much more if he had loved God more than anything else. If Saul had not been a selfish, self-centered, out to protect what was his, it’s all about me precocious child, he could have been much more of a king than he was. He goes down in history as having been a petty, selfish, paranoid, self-preservationist king whose line of kingship was taken away from him. Samuel was grieving that the actions of Saul caused his punishment. Samuel grieved over the poor choices of Saul just as a parent grieves over the poor choices of his or her children. We love our children but sometimes we cannot save them from the punishment that must come when they act sinfully. God allows our sins to have their own toll on our lives – not because he is a mean ogre but that is just the way sin is. It is never good in the end. It brings its own punishment.

Just as I grieved over having to execute punishment over my children as they were growing up and it made me want to throw up afterwards. How much more do we grieve our Father in heaven when we commit our wanton and daily sins. He knows that there are consequences that will inevitably result from our sins and it most assuredly makes our Father in heaven want to throw up. After all, he gave us all the instructions for lives well lived in his Word and we have much of God’s goodness wired into us directly by Him (knowing right from wrong innately) but yet we wantonly and brazenly violate His commands each and every day. It make our Father in heaven sick to his stomach daily. He knows the consequences of any sins is that we become separated from Him permanently. Since God is perfection and sinless, we cannot exist in His presence eternally with the stain of sin in our souls – even just one sin disqualifies us. We are sunk with the first sin we commit. We are done. We are sentenced to hell with the first sin we commit (and there is a 100% probability that we will sin) much less the ample additional evidence of our need for eternal punishment with every next sin that we commit daily throughout our lifetime. It grieves the heart of God that we are separated from Him on our own merits by our lifetimes of sin. Like a parent of a wayward child, he grieves over our rebelliousness. It makes Him want to throw up.

Because the Lord our God is so grieved by our separation from Him, and the fact that He loves us so much (just like a dad and his children), he made a way for us to be reunited in His arms. That way is Jesus Christ. He came to earth as God in the flesh and lived the perfect life and demonstrated to us what the Kingdom of God should look like and taught us about the heart of God and how our relationship with Him should be. The main purpose though of Christ’s first advent was to reconcile us to God through His atoning death on the cross. It was there that He took on the eternal wrath and punishment of God for our sins so that we could be escape unharmed from our rightful sentence to hell before a just and righteous God. It is the equivalent of Meghan taking a whipping for Taylor that Taylor deserved but Meghan did not want to see Taylor get punished because she knew that Taylor really didn’t understand the implications of her behavior. Meghan taking a whipping that Taylor deserved is a demonstration of immeasurable love for her sister. That’s how much God loves us. He had the right to eternally separate Himself from us and allow our sin to punish us in hell. But He sends Himself in Jesus to take our punishment for us. God’s Son taking the punishment we deserve. Through Jesus taking our punishment, we are made right with God. We are seen as innocent before Him through our faith in Jesus Christ that He is the Son of God and that He died for our sins. We are restored to a right parent child relationship. We are loved.

Just think about how much God loves us. He took on the pain of punishment for our sins. Talk about the old saying, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!” God loves us enough to send Jesus to the cross to take on all that suffering and pain for us…for us…FOR US. Just think about how much THAT LOVE is.

Amen and Amen.