Archive for May, 2018

2 Samuel 5:17-25
David Conquers the Philistines

You know a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled “If You Had a Goat, They Would Get It” in which I wrote about dealing with difficult people in a godly manner. There are just those people who get under your skin. They passive/aggressively make you feel uncomfortable or less than with veiled comments about your abilities, or your age bracket, or your personality type, or your profession. Never directly at you specifically but general comments about those things but it is always done in your presence. A chuckle here. A veiled comment there. All the while, promoting themselves as being superior because of their abilities, age bracket, personality type, or profession. These are the difficult persons in our lives. We all have them. You may be lucky and have a stretch in your life where there is no difficult person in your life but most of us are not so lucky. We all have a difficult person somewhere in our lives, all our lives. The names change, the source changes, etc. but there is always that one person. Sometimes, you have multiple difficult people in your life in the same stretch of time. What joy these people can be!

How to respond to such people? The natural inclination is to explode at them periodically. Either that or give me the old “freeze out” – not talking to them even in passing in the hallway or something. Even the freeze out ends up at some point in an explosion, it just takes longer. What is it that we should do? Sure, when I have had such people in my life, I tend toward the “freeze out” technique where after an offense has occurred, I just won’t speak to them or only when they address me directly. This often does nothing but make me angrier at that person. I am one of those people who avoids conflict at all cost even to my own detriment sometimes. I then have confrontations with the difficult person in my mind about the offense many times over. What I shoulda said, runs through my mind a lot. Since these are imaginary scenarios in my mind not based in the reality of the missed opportunity to confront the difficult person, it only serves to multiply the degree of the offense in my mind instead of resolving it. One day then a blow up happens where I let go of all that pent-up hurt in one big confrontation. But even responding immediately to every offense or perceived offense is not healthy either.

So, what to do? We should have a relationship with God such that we can go to him even about such things as how to deal with difficult people. We should consult with God in prayer and through His Word as to how to handle such people. When we do get God’s guidance via God’s Word or that feeling, that thought that He gives us through the Holy Spirit, we need to follow God’s instructions carefully. God’s character always involves honesty. God’s character always involves reconciliation. God’s character always involves love. Thus, it is a pretty sure bet that God will give us His will that involves these elements. As sinful humans, we just want to “bomb the place”, “declare war”, and anything that promotes us having victory of that person. Our way typically does not promote true honesty nor reconciliation nor love. We want to win and step on and over the vanquished. Our way usually leads to another “war” or confrontation in increasing levels of hostility. If we just consult God before we dive into doing it our way, we would often save ourselves great deals of heartache.

That idea of consulting God before a confrontation is what struck me in reading this passage today, 2 Samuel 5:17-25. For David, the Philistines were his “difficult people” in his life. They were always a thorn to Israel and particularly to David. He shows us in this passage, how we should handle our responses to difficult people in our lives. Let’s read the passage now, together:

 

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he went into the stronghold. 18 The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 19 So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”

The Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”

20 So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”). 21 The Philistines had abandoned their idols there, so David and his men confiscated them.

22 But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 23 And again David asked the Lord what to do. “Do not attack them straight on,” the Lord replied. “Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar[a] trees. 24 When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be the signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army.” 25 So David did what the Lord commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon[b] to Gezer.

In this passage, we see that David fought his battles the way God instructed him. In each instance he (1) asked if he should fight or not, (2) followed instructions carefully, and (3) gave God the glory. We can err in our “battles” if we ignore these steps and, instead, (1) do what we want without seeking God’s will in the matter first, (2) do things our own way and ignore advice in the Bible or from wiser persons than us and (3) take the glory ourselves or give it to someone else without acknowledging the help we received from God. All these responses are sinful.

Lord, help us to always consult with you before we enter into difficult situations with difficult people. Help us to respond to them in ways that will yield fruit that reflects your character. Help us to seek your Word for our response. Helps us to seek your will through prayer. Help us to seek you in our response.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 5:6-16 (Part 3 of 3)
David Captures Jerusalem

I have a dear friend of mine who from the time he was a kid pretty much knew that he was going to be a pastor. Everything in his life from junior high, high school, college and seminary pointed to his becoming a youth pastor or a lead or solo pastor of a church. It was just in his DNA from the beginning. He accepted Christ as his savior as a young child. It wasn’t one of those things where he accepted Christ in a group setting and you could say it was the power of influence and maybe he didn’t really accept Christ as you can say with most people who claim early conversion. He accepted Christ alone in his room as a small child and he remembers every moment of his salvation experience to this day in vivid detail. From that point on, everything pointed toward working full-time in ministry in some way, shape or form. He met his future wife in high school and they married right after high school. She followed him to college and to seminary. All the while, they were having babies. By the time, he became a pastor he and his wife had four children under the age of 8.

They were an awesome couple. They planted a church in the outer edges of the Bay Area in northern California. They were able to grow the church from nothing to about 75 people by the time we met them and they were about 1 ½ to 2 years into the church planting process there. They were engaging and challenging when it came to Christ. They made being a Christ follower fun. They made it meaningful to every day life. They led my wife to the Lord while under their care as our pastoral couple. They became our best friends while we lived there. We are still close with both of them but not like in those days when we lived in the same town! They challenged me to as a Christ follower who had been a spiritual baby for a long time to go deeper and broader with Christ. He challenged me to quick picking and choosing what I wanted to believe and see God’s Word as the measure for my life not the other way around. He challenged me to make my relationship with Jesus Christ a 24/7/365 thing not a Sunday morning thing. He confronted me on issues where my choices in life were in opposition to God’s Word. He did it in a firm but yet loving way. That’s when discipling is most effective. I knew he was my discipler and his words carried weight so they always impacted me greatly. I respected him greatly and it seemed that the church was going to take off as we regretfully had to move to South Carolina because of my job. I just knew that the church was going to make it and make it big because of his and his wife’s faithfulness to their cause for Christ.

However, lurking in the background, was an unchecked sin in my friend’s life. He had a pornography addiction that he kept hidden from everyone. It became a growing and overpowering part of his life. It ultimately rocked his marriage and cost him his church. When you read the statistics on pastors with this same addiction, it will astound you. This sin caused ripple effects in their marriage that they are still dealing with today almost a decade later. His sin led his wife to her own sins which cause insecurities in him which led to further control issues and other problems in their marriage. They are on the edge of divorce as we speak. Their marriage and ministry together, once so vibrant and alive, is a shell of what it could have been. I just wonder what would have happened with that church back in the Bay Area had these issues not come up. Sin unchecked is like a nuclear bomb. It ravages everything in its circle of explosion. Sin unchecked sucks the life out of everything. Sin unchecked kills ministry. Sin unchecked discredits the work we do for God. Satan smiles when we say this sin is OK. He smiles when we say we can handle it.

That idea of unchecked sin festering in the background that ultimately causes us destruction is what I thought of this morning as I read 2 Samuel 5:6-16 for the third and final time before we move on to the next passage. Let’s read the passage now, together:

6 David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. 7 But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.

8 On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites.[b] Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.[c]” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”[d]

9 So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces[e] and working inward. 10 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.

11 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. 12 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

13 After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. 14 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

In this passage, we see that in the final three verses (vv. 13-15) there is this, like closure cap to this passage and the one before it (together telling the story of the capture of Jerusalem and David making his throne of the united kingdom there). These verses as are often seen in Old Testament writings are a kind segway into the next story in a book. Kind of future projecting and filler or buffer between two stories. However, just because these verses are transitional from one story to the next one, let us not gloss over them as if they were unnecessary and not worthy of study in and of themselves. Here, there is a subtle story that needs to be understand and learned from. There is power in every verse of the Bible and let us not miss these opportunities.

Here, you see mention of the fact, as filler or transitional information to help end one story before another begins, that David married more wives and took more concubines. Let us not miss the significance of this information. Although David was a man passionate about God and would go down in biblical history as one of the great, godly men of the Old Testament, he, just every other giant of the Bible, was a flawed man. Each biblical giant had blind spots to sin and David is no different. This passing mention of David marrying more wives and taking more concubines tells us two things. David ignored the Bible in this area and it is because his greatest sin weakness was the lusts of the flesh. He loved women. No greater moment is that evident than with Bathsheba. But this set of seemingly throwaway verses shows us that this sexual lustfulness was a problem for David from the time he began to be a man of influence among the Israelites. He loved all women. He lusted after them. He had them at his beckoned call. The Bathsheba incident just didn’t jump on the radar. David’s lust for women can be seen throughout his life history including in these seemingly unimportant verses. Sin unchecked can ultimately bring us down as men of God. Sin unchecked will show itself eventually and lead to our destruction. David almost lost his kingdom over the results of the lusts of the flesh. The infighting between half-siblings led to all out civil war that almost brought David’s kingdom to its knees. How many times in today’s world do we see megachurch pastors who do not have a proper ring of accountability around them and just have yes men that end up failing morally and usually over the lusts for the sexual favors of women.

Let us read and learn from these transitional verses and taking them for more than just a bridge from one story in 2 Samuel to the next. Let us learn that the seeds of David’s sin with Bathsheba and the civil war that came later all can be traced to his lusts of the flesh that we can see right here. David plan out ignores God’s plan for marriage throughout his life. His many wives and concubines are evidence of his disregard for God’s Word in this area. When we ignore God’s Word in a certain area, it is because we want to continue playing with our favorite toy, our favorite sin. You can see in David here. You can see in the story of my friend. You can see it in any of a number of major pastors in the Christian megachurch world. We must measure our lives by God’s Word and repent of our sin when God’s Word calls us out. We must have Christian friends who have the guts to call us out on our sins. We cannot let our sins fester and fester. Sin always destroys. You know it. I know it. God knows it. Let us pray that when God convicts us of a sin that we will repent and turn from it.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 5:6-16 (Part 2 of 3)
David Captures Jerusalem

I had a conversation with a younger man yesterday about his belief that he has been called to be a pastor. It was a good and honest conversation. I remember those years that I battled the call to full-time ministry quietly in my soul and gave God every excuse for why I could not do it. God eliminated each and every one of those excuses over the years until the point, I said OK God I hear you and I submit. Once I declared it to others, it was a long road. In fact, it turned out to be about 8 years from the time I publicly declared to my senior pastor at the time until now that it took me to come into full-time ministry. I remember my first conversation about the ministry and the many conversations with my senior pastor in our South Carolina church, he would do his best to discourage me from going into the ministry. He often said that if you can do anything else, do it. I don’t think that he meant it to say that I was not capable of being a minister but rather that being a pastor is so much more demanding than people generally think. Many people think it is all just what you see on Sunday morning and it’s playing golf and having lunches the rest of the week.

He wanted me to understand that it is the hardest job you will ever have, the most draining job you will ever have, and then there are those moments where you say this is why I went into the ministry. Those highlight moments are what keep you in the ministry but they are often days, weeks, and even months apart. The intervening times are dealing with people, making someone mad about something at least once a week, navigating broken families and hurting for them deep in your soul, navigating apathy among the people, navigating busy schedules filled with the mundane tasks of running what amounts to a small business enterprise, worrying about finances, worrying about your own family because the church demands so much of your time, people wanting your favor because they think if they are close with the pastor that they are somehow closer to God and more important than other parishioners, discerning who you can trust with your inner feelings and struggles and who you can’t, struggling with how real you can be even with your closest friends, navigating deaths of loved ones in the church family, and a 1,000 or more other demands on your time. He said if you can do anything else, do it. He said if you want to get into ministry for the local celebrity of it that you can become, don’t do it. If you want to go into ministry because you think that every pastor makes what a large church senior pastor makes, don’t do it. Especially when you start out, you will not be a senior pastor of a large church, you will be an associate pastor at best, a small church pastor in some small out of the way place, or you will be a church planter. None of these are get rich quick schemes. So don’t do it, if that’s the real reason. If you want to get into ministry because you think it’s all about being on stage on Sunday morning, don’t do it. If you want to go into ministry because you think it would be a fun way to spend the remainder of your life, don’t do it.

However, he said, if you are so burdened with this calling that nothing else will do even when you consider all the negatives of being a pastor. If serving God full time is all you can do and all you can think about and everything else seems now dissatisfying or empty, then go do it. If you can deal with God’s inevitable slow timing compared to what we want as far as being a pastor, then go do it. He will test your resolve. If you can deal with that, go do it. If you cannot do anything else but follow God’s call on your life to be a full time pastor, and nothing, nothing but serving God will do, then go do it. If you can wait and wait and wait on God, then go do it. If you can serve God where you are at until God says it is time for you to fly off into ministry, then go do it – even if it is 8 years from now. Think Moses in the desert at Midian for 40 years, Joseph in prison for 12 years, Jesus serving as a carpenter for 30 years – each had long times of waiting before they came into the season where they fulfilled the purpose that God was preparing them for.

That conversation yesterday with a friend desiring to go into full time ministry reminded me of where I was at 8 years or so ago. It reminded me that we are not the ones calling the shots. God is the one in control. Why did I think about this fact when I read this passage, 2 Samuel 5:6-16 for a second time today? It was because David recognizes in this passage that it is God from whom his greatness comes. I think that was the point of my whole 8 year journey from declaration of God’s calling on my life to the now where I am serving Him full-time. It was a time where He molded me into a servant who understands that God is the one in control of my journey and I must trust that – even when I get impatient:

6 David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. 7 But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.

8 On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites.[b] Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.[c]” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”[d]

9 So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces[e] and working inward. 10 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.

11 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. 12 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

13 After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. 14 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

In this passage, we see that it says, “David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king…” Although the pagan kingdoms based their greatness on conquest, power, armies and wealth, David knew that his greatness came only from God. To be great means keeping a close relationship with God personally and nationally. To do this, David had to keep his ambition under control. Although he was famous, successful, and well-liked, he gave God first place in his life and served the people according to God’s purposes. Do you seek greatness from God or from people? In the drive for success, remember to keep your ambition under God’s control.

Lord, help us to remember that even when you call us to do something that honors you that we must learn to bow our desires and ambitions to you. We must learn to trust that You have our future in your hands. We must trust that you have our best interest at heart. We must trust that Your timing is the best timing. We may have to plow and plow and plow to the point of impatience with your execution of the calling that You gave us but we must be obedient enough to recognize that it is in the plowing that we learn how to farm in your fields. We must trust that you are teaching us the things that we will need when we come into the season that you have designed for us.

Amen and Amen.

 

2 Samuel 5:6-16 (Part 1 of 3)

 

David Captures Jerusalem

 

 

 

Yesterday, I took another step in this process of becoming a pastor at Calvary Church. I had to speak publicly. Although I am like this major social person (always talking to complete strangers, “working the room” at church (speaking to people I do not know yet and welcoming them, man-hugs for the guys I know, church-hugs for the ladies at church I know)) and am unafraid of being in a crowd of people that I do not know, public speaking still makes me feel like this introvert being pushed into the spotlight with nothing but my underwear on. So, yesterday, went well. I think I did better in the first service than the second, but the main thing was that I did not truly fowl things up in doing the announcements and welcoming our guests.

 

 

 

I had a lot of ground to cover yesterday (i.e., a lot to remember). I had five things I had to hit during my time on stage – (1) opening remarks to segway from the previous thing (the opening song) into the welcome/announcement segment, (2) welcome the first and second time guests (and explain how we needed them to fill out a “connection card” and then stop by our “connection center” after the service), (3) pray over the offering that was about to take place, (4) talk about our junior high summer retreat (called Sprummer), (5) introduce the new members that have joined the church through our quarterly membership class and pastoral interview process that follows – we had 18 new members this time, and pray over the new members. The five minute segment seemed like 25 minutes to me. Being the goofy guy I am, I tried to throw in humor here and there. But even that seemed forced to me. I think the first service crowd got my humor more than the second! LOL! It was a lot to remember. I had to take a paper up there with me to remember all the stuff. I know if you were there Sunday, you probably noticed my biggest flaw – the memory vs. speaking notes vicious circle. I have not yet learned to memorize even bullet point ideas and thus need notes. Then, because of nervousness, the notes become a crutch and I become hyper-focused on them. But the one thing that I did not want to forget was how I wanted to open my remarks yesterday. So, I had to get that down on paper.

 

 

 

The opening has to be a way to tie out the first song so that it makes for a good transition into the welcome and announcements. I felt like that had to be a home-run if nothing else I said was. So in studying the order of service on Saturday and listening to the song that would precede me coming on stage, “On The Throne”, the segway then came to me – celebrating who God is. Here are the lyrics from that song below. Pay particular attention to the chorus and the bridge in the lyrics:

 

 

 

VERSE 1

 

I will walk through the fire

 

Walk through the darkest night

 

I will walk through the flood

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

VERSE 2

 

I will walk through the trial

 

Walk through the valley of fear

 

I will walk through the storm

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

CHORUS 1

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

VERSE 3

 

I will walk in Your promise

 

Walk in Your victory

 

I will walk in Your power

 

I won’t be overcome, I won’t be overcome

 

 

 

CHORUS 1

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

BRIDGE

 

On the throne

 

Glorious, Victorious, Sovereign over all

 

On the throne

 

Infinite, Magnificent, Reigning over all

 

 

 

 

 

That’s what I led off with in my remarks – because it is Scriptural truth and it was very true for the task I had on Sunday. I am sitting here reminded this morning of this truth once again as I completed reading 2 Samuel 5:6-16. Here, we see the false security that the Jebusites had in their own power. We see that the Jebusites were defeated because they placed their hope in their own power whereas the Davidian troops through David placed their hope in God:

 

 

 

6 David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. 7 But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.

 

 

 

8 On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites.[b] Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.[c]” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”[d]

 

 

 

9 So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces[e] and working inward. 10 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.

 

 

 

11 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. 12 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

 

 

 

13 After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. 14 These are the names of David’s sons who were born in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that the Jebusites had a clear advantage militarily. They boasted of their security behind the impregnable walls of Zion. However, they soon discovered that their walls would not protect them. David caught them by surprise by entering the city through the water tunnels. It is a clear example to us that only in God are we truly safe and secure. Anything else is false security. Whether you are surrounded by might walls of stone, a comfortable home, a secure job, no one can predict what tomorrow may bring. Our relationship with God is the only true security in life. It is the only thing that is truly secure.

 

 

 

Just as I am being pushed into what I consider non-comfort zones of public speaking, God is pushing me beyond my normal comforts. He is pushing me to step outside my walls of security. He is pushing me to go where I have never gone before. He is taking me places that are unknown, insecure, and foreign to me. I must rely on Him. Yesterday’s public speaking was just the beginning. This journey is going to push me farther and farther into things that make me uncomfortable and insecure. That is where I must find my total dependence on Him. For if I had it my way, I would not do these things. Outside my comfort zones is where I must rely on Him – the certain, the eternal, the secure God.

 

 

 

Just as the Jebusites counted on their constructions of life, their comfort zone that they had built up on their own, they were defeated because they relied on that which is not eternal. They relied on that which is self-constructed. On the other hand, David relied on God to do what would have been impossible for him and his men alone. David was always the one to seek God’s guidance on how to succeed against seemingly impossible odds. His greatest victories in life came when He totally relied on God and knew that God was the mighty Creator and Ruler and he was just His servant. David’s greatest failures came when he got prideful and relied on his own estimations of situations. He failed miserably when he took matters into his own hands.

 

 

 

We must rely on God – always. We must seek His guidance – always. We must trust Him when all things seem impossible – always. We must humble ourselves before Him – always. That’s because:

 

 

 

For the Lord is, He is able

 

He is faithful, Higher than the mountains that I face

 

Every season, I will press on

 

For God alone is on the throne

 

 

 

On the throne

 

Glorious, Victorious, Sovereign over all

 

On the throne

 

Infinite, Magnificent, Reigning over all

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

2 Samuel 5:1-5
David Anointed King in Hebron

Patience. It is a virtue. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit as enumerated by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. Of all the qualities of the Christian soul, this one may be the hardest one to accept and make a part of character. It is the one that God has been working on with me for the last four years in spades. I am an impatient person by nature. It has cost me a lot over the years in pain, heartache, and sometimes in my finances. Of all the qualities that I admire about my wife, it is her patience that I have learned the most from her.

To compare us in that regard, just take shopping. Elena will research what she wants. Weigh options. Look for the best combination of price vs. quality, price vs. reliability, price vs. durability. An example would be the car that she purchased right after we met. Her Chevy Blazer was about to die a slow cruel death from years and years of use. She began patiently evaluating cars that would meet her needs. Did a lot of research and then settled on a Mazda 3 as the best car for her at that point in her financial life. Then, she went shopping at several car dealerships and walked away if the deal was not right for her. Finally, she found the dealership that gave her the deal that she could reasonably afford and give her the all the options that she could reasonably afford on this cute little gun-metal gray Mazda 3 with black interior. It was an awesome car. She drove it from 2008-2016. It was our family car. When we had trips to take, it was in this car. It was comfortable and rode well for a small car. It never gave any trouble from a major mechanical standpoint. It was just the best car ever. The only reason that we are not STILL driving that car is that we gave it away to my youngest daughter to help her out in a time of real need. Elena made the right choice with her patience in looking for the right car for her (and then for us after marriage) for the long haul. Our Mazda 3 was a good looking car and one that was built for the long haul. Patience in the selection process was key to getting that right combination of stylishness, price vs. value, and durability.

She is the same way about purchases for the house, even the little stuff that you have to buy for a house. She researches. She is patient. She gets the best value. Although it is frustrating at times, her wisdom in contributing in this way to the financial success of our marriage is one thing that I love about her. She never spends money foolishly. She often forgoes buying things for herself that she really needs so as to be able to help us save money. How important that is now to cannot be understated. When we knew that the Lord had call me to full-time vocational ministry, we knew that it would be a drastic reduction in income for us compared to my income in the secular world. We began preparing by paying off debts rather that creating new ones. We began downsizing our financial appetites. We even downsized our house and our mortgage. Elena’s patience and wisdom in this regard cannot be understated either. We could have made purchases that met real needs in our life that we could have afforded rather easily but her influence on our decisions to be patient and wait on the Lord to reveal is a testament to her submission to the Lord.

She knew that someday we would be in full-time ministry. She knew that someday some church would take a chance on me so patience was called for. She was a calming influence on me as I became increasingly frustrated with the slow pace at which God was moving us toward full-time ministry. For this, I thank her for her patience and her support. God knew what He was doing when he aligned our lives such that we would meet when I moved from Greenville, SC to Rock Hill, SC (just outside of Charlotte, NC) and moved her from Clover, SC to that very same town and that very same apartment complex and that very same building within that apartment complex. What God began in Rock Hill in 2006 has now come to fruition in 2018 in Rock Island. It is ironic that we met in Rock Hill and now we are in Rock Island. The commonality is the Rock.

It has been between the towns with Rock in their names that God has taught me much through Elena and directly in His dealings with me. Through His influence through Elena and through his direct words to me, He has taught me to know the concept of “plowing the field in front of you!”.

These are the things that I thought about this morning as I read and studied 2 Samuel 5:1-5 about David at long last becoming king of all Israel. What a long hard road that was! Let us read now about David finally coming into the promise made to Him by God:

 

Chapter 5
1 Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”

3 So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. 5 He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

In this passage, we see that David did not become king over all of Israel until he was 37 years old, although he had been promised the kingdom many years earlier (see 1 Samuel 16:13). During those years David had to wait patiently for the fulfillment of God’s promise. While David had to live the life of an outlaw for many years, the outlook was often bleak, but God’s promise to make him king over the entire Promised Land of Israel was now coming into focus. Following God’s calling on our lives sometimes requires a great deal of patience, and we may desire to speed up God’s plan under our own power. We may try to push forward with impatience into what we think God has in store for us. However, when we want to short-circuit God’s plan and achieve right now what God has in store for us, let us remember David’s patience. Just as his time of waiting prepared him for his important task, learning to trust God and wait patiently as He works out the details of His plan for our lives will allow Him to prepare us such that we are adequately prepared and ready when His timing is achieved.

Right now as I meet me three month anniversary of being the administrative pastor at Calvary Church of The Quad Cities here in northwest Illinois, I must continue to be patient. But without the history of learning to plow the field in front of me and trusting God that I learned over the years waiting to get here and through the influence of my wife, I could easily become impatient. I am 55 years old. I have a relatively short time to be productive for the Lord, by my estimation. Without the example in real life of the patience of my wife, without the direct teachings of the Lord to be patient and just wait on Him, I could try to short circuit God’s plan for me here at this place at this time with these people in this place. I must trust that my senior pastor will develop me into the pastor that God intends me to be. He put me under the leadership of Pastor Tim and I have learned over the years since hearing the call to ministry to trust the Lord. He constantly pours into my heart that I must plow the field in front of me and trust Him with what’s next. Be faithful where you are at. Plow the field in front of you. God will reward your patience and obedience. Sure, we as limited mortals want to jump ahead to what we think it is that God has in store for us. But one thing have learned in the years since graduating from seminary, it is to plow the field in front of you. God has a reason for you to be in the field that you are in so plow. Just plow. Be faithful. Work the soil that you have in front of you. Work it to the best of your ability and to the glory of God.
Just as I learn patience from my wife that it does get rewarded. Her patience in buying that Mazda 3 a decade ago gave us a car that saw us from Rock Hill, SC to Livermore, CA to Lyman, SC and had we not given it away it would be here with us in Rock Island. Patience lead to the right choice there. Patiently waiting and learning over the years at Livermore Alive Community Church under Pastor Luke Brower readied us for waiting and learning over the years at LifeSong Church under Pastor Jeff Hickman. Thus, patience now at age 55 as I serve at Calvary Church and Pastor Tim Bowman is something that is easier for me to do. Without the experiences of the past and the example of my wife, I have come to see the value of patience. In patience, comes humility. In patience, comes trust in the Lord. The plowing of the field in front of me has led me from Rock Hill where I met my wife to here in Rock Island where, after years of patience, we are now serving the Lord full-time. I am now able to just say to the Lord, do with me what you will at the rate and pace that I trust you know that is best for me. I trust that He has me under the right man at this right time. Plowing the field. Plowing the field in front of me. Trusting God with the rest of it. He has not guided me wrong in the past – from Rock Hill to Rock Island.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 4:1-12 (Part 2 of 2)
The Murder of Ishbosheth

A house divided upon itself will not stand. Jesus made this statement in Matthew 12:25 when the religious leaders claimed that he cast out demons because he was a minion of Satan. Jesus simply used logic on them. If Jesus was one of Satan’s guys why the heck would he cast out one of his co-workers in evil from doing his evil deeds. Even Satan needs unity among the demons to accomplish his tasks. Yet, so often we see that God’s houses around the world, the church, is divided. We divide ourselves by denomination. We divide ourselves by whether we are Protestant (any non-Catholic church) or Catholic. Even locally within our local churches, we divide ourselves more often that we multiply ourselves. We also would rather our local expression of God’s choice die than allow others to participate in the leadership of our local expression. We fuss among ourselves. We grow weaker each and every day with all the in-fighting. That’s how Satan will make the church ineffective in our world is by inward dissension within local churches and by creating philosophical and theological fractures between denominations and between Protestants and Catholics.

We have become so estranged from each other in the two plus millennia since the church began in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the South, where the Catholic Church is admittedly sparse and weak, there are many people who have been so educated by the Protestant churches they attend that the Catholic Church as we know it today is anti-Christian. They often do not grasp that it was the Catholic Church, that catholic means universal, is the church that was born at Pentecost. It was the church. The universal church. It was the church all the way up until the 1500’s when the Protestant revolution began. Many Southerners, as well as all American Christians in general, do not know their church history. We should not think of Catholics as if they have two heads and are believers in some non-Christian religion. They are our brothers and sisters. And their church is the mother of all protestant churches. And most assuredly for all the trappings that Catholic parishioners have to wade through on their way to the cross, there are many, many Catholics who love the Lord with the same all-out passion as any Protestant. Even with all the fractures of the church since Pentecost, the Catholic Church, the original church, it remains as the largest single branch of Christianity in the world.

Certainly, the Catholic Church has lost its way over the centuries with its layers of tradition taken with the same weight as the Bible and with its outright heresies at times and with its current bent toward leaving bedrock and universal truths of the Bible so as to fit in with the world and with its cover up of sins (caused by the nonbiblical requirement that its ministers be celebate and unable to marry). These things caused fractures over the centuries from which the universal church of all believers has not recovered. And we need the Catholic Church to return to admit its mistakes and return to its roots. Satan smiles at these long time fractures.

Denominational Protestant Christianity is no better. We have divided ourselves into in excess of 150 blocs or genres of denominational thought. Sure there are some truly major denominations out there such as the Southern Baptists, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and so on (each of these majors are also fractured into many subdenominations). But we divide ourselves over what we think are hills to die on. We divide ourselves over theological derailments and we should because heresy is of Satan and misleads people. But most often, we divide ourselves over degrees of faith rather than faith itself. We divide ourselves on the theological tenet that we hold dear and fear that others do not hold it as dear as us. We divide ourselves by denominational lines because you and I do give certain beliefs pre-eminence over others. Satan smiles at the fractures within the Protestant band of Christianity.

Local Christianity as expressed in individual churches is also fracture-able. There are more church splits each year than there are church plants, according to the Barna Group, the Christian research institute. We divide over leadership struggles. We divide over some liking the pastor and others hating him. We divide over the color of the carpet. We divide over whether the fellowship hall was named after us. We divide over a room dedicated to our great grandparents 50 something years ago that has been converted to some other use 50 something years later. We divide over the kind and style of music that is played. We divide over every possible little thing. Satan smiles when each local church splits rather than when we send people out in love to plant a new church. Satan loves the split and hates the plant.

The fractured state of Christianity is what I thought of this morning as I read 2 Samuel 4:1-12 for the second and last time before I move on to the next passage. The reason that I thought of that is how the murder of Ishbosheth was like cutting off the nose to spite the face. It was just a vengeful thing and not a thing that was going to unite the kingdom. It was and could have been a permanently divisive thing had it not been for how David handled it. Let’s read the passage now and see how he does it:

Chapter 4
1 When Ishbosheth,[a] Saul’s son, heard about Abner’s death at Hebron, he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear. 2 Now there were two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parties. They were sons of Rimmon, a member of the tribe of Benjamin who lived in Beeroth. The town of Beeroth is now part of Benjamin’s territory 3 because the original people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim, where they still live as foreigners.

4 (Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth,[b] who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled.)

5 One day Recab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon from Beeroth, went to Ishbosheth’s house around noon as he was taking his midday rest. 6 The doorkeeper, who had been sifting wheat, became drowsy and fell asleep. So Recab and Baanah slipped past her.[c] 7 They went into the house and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head. Then, taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley[d] through the night. 8 When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. “Look!” they exclaimed to the king. “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!”

9 But David said to Recab and Baanah, “The Lord, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. 10 Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?”

12 So David ordered his young men to kill them, and they did. They cut off their hands and feet and hung their bodies beside the pool in Hebron. Then they took Ishbosheth’s head and buried it in Abner’s tomb in Hebron.

In this passage, we see that when David learned of Ishbosheth’s death, he was angry. He had never harmed Saul (even though he had several opportunities to do so). He also thought the assassin’s method was cowardly. David wanted to unite Israel not drive a permanent wedge between him and the house of Saul. To show that he had nothing to do with the extermination of Saul’s royal line, he ordered that the assassins be executed and gave Ishbosheth a proper burial. All the tribes of Israel, recognizing what David was doing showed strong leadership, pledged their loyalty to him.

David could have said “yeah, in yo face northern tribes! Take that!” but he knew that the unity of the entire Israelite nation was at stake. He knew that the long range goal was that the kingdom be united. That’s what God wanted. Yet, men were working against it. David knew that if he succumbed to selfishness, he would lose an opportunity to unite the nation as God desired.

In Christianity today, we should disagree and stand firm on issues of heresy where any branch of Christianity has gone off the rails from the theology of the Bible and begins to interpret it in ways that are simply pandering to the current culture. We should disagree and stand firm against any belief that is contrary to God’s Word. We should disagree and stand firm against accepting beliefs that have no basis in Scripture. However, we should always keep in mind that when we begin fighting among ourselves and have no eye toward reconciliation, Satan smiles. When we fight among ourselves globally, nationally, or locally within our own churches, we forget the mission that Jesus gave us – to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray that someday, we will quit fighting about carpet colors, room names, who is chairman, who is an elder, who is a deacon, and whether “those people” can come to our church, and whether we like the pastor or not, and remember why God gathered us together. May all the denominations learn to reconcile with one another and get rid of that which is not of God’s Word and focus on what is and get back to work together. May the Catholic Church return to its simplest roots that began in Jerusalem and spread throughout the Roman Empire within 100 years because the message was simple. May we all get out of the way of the message and all start focusing on seeking and saving the lost.

Let us quit arguing among ourselves and make Satan mad because we are working together to seek the lost and bring them to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and make new disciples of our Savior and Lord. Let us keep an eye on the ball. Let us know what is important. Let us die on the hills that we need to die on and let us work to reconcile on those hills that don’t really matter when it comes right down to it.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 4:1-12 (Part 1 of 2)
The Murder of Ishbosheth

Have you ever had a dream that you are speaking in public and you start to speak and nothing comes out? Or you try to make a joke and you hear crickets in response? Or you forget everything you rehearsed once you set foot on stage?

For all of my frequent readers, you have read the story of how I came to be the administrative pastor at Calvary Church of The Quad Cities back in mid-February. It was the end of a long road of preparation for what God has had in store for me for many years. It was up to me to obey his call on my life and be patient, oh so patient, in the preparation process. Who knows what God will do with me here at Calvary. I am not sure of what it will look like one year from now, five years from now, a decade from now. It is only mine to obey and just follow the path that He has lit in front of my feet. I can do nothing else. I am all-in at this point. My cards have been played. We are simply trusting that God will take care of us and that He will use us as long as we are obedient and faithful.

There may be teaching and leading small groups, instructional groups, special purpose study groups, all of which I have done before. I am comfortable with those things. I am good at leading groups where there is interaction between the audience and you. I am a very social person. I love being with people. I love to make them laugh with my sophomoric 15 year old boy sense of humor and my storehouse of puns and corny jokes. But it is always in small settings where there is interaction. I have preached before in small churches in the rural parts of South Carolina that my dad served over the last 10 years of his long pastoral career. I have preached at a couple of churches during my biblical preaching class at seminary. Again, the churches were small-ish. However, even then, at these small churches, I was a slave to my scripted sermon. I was not the goofy, at-ease-in-a-crowd guy that I normally am. These sermons were passionately written each time and I could visualize in my head the proper level of passion in the delivery. On the days or evenings that these sermons were actually presented though, I felt like I was having a root canal without anesthesia. The public presentations of my sermons were never the way that I had imagined them in my mind. And I know that in order to ever become more than just the preacher that keeps the books of the church and manages all its administrative details, I gotta be able to be more at ease in front of large crowds where all eyes are on me. I keep saying to myself that it is only because I have not had enough real hands-on experience in public speaking and that I will get better with practice. Up to now, with the infrequent public speaking opportunities, my effectiveness in public speaking is frozen in fear.

My mind gets cluttered and the smooth flow of conversation that I had in my head goes away when all eyes are on me. Notes in my hand become a crutch and looking down at the notes becomes more frequent than looking up and out at the audience. I envy those that have conquered their stage fear. They may have it much like me but they have learned to handle it better than me. Maybe, it is because I have had too infrequent of opportunities to practice. However, my fear is that I just am just handicapped when it comes to public speaking. Odd fear to have if your passion is to become a preaching pastor, huh? I love writing about Jesus. I love writing about God. I love writing about Scripture. Some have said that I am pretty good at the written word about The Word. But be able to communicate my joy at God’s Word and the theology associated with it, I have been ineffective so far in my pursuit of preaching. The debilitating fear is right where Satan wants us. He wants us to think we cannot do something and particularly when it comes to leading people to a deeper understanding of a God who loves them. He wants me to be afraid. He wants me to shy away from publicly proclaiming the confidence of my soul in the Lord. He wants us to be insecure about speaking of the Lord in public as a preacher and even one on one about sharing the story of how we came to know Christ (what our lives were like before Jesus, our salvation experience, and our lives after accepting Jesus as our Savior and Lord). Satan wants us stifled in fear to the point that we shy away from doing what God has called us to do.

There is a meme floating around Facebook right now whose quote is attributed to Steven Furtick and the quote is “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Satan wants us to compare ourselves to others who seem more polished. Satan wants us to fear failure. Satan wants us to quit before we even get started.

When I read today’s passage, 2 Samuel 4:1-12, that is what I thought of – how similar I am to Ishbosheth. He was debilitated by fear. He compared himself to Abner and came up wanting inside. He was defeated before he even started to reign as king of the northern tribes of Israel. He let his fears rule him to the point that he could not function. Let’s read this passage now with that thought in mind:

Chapter 4
1 When Ishbosheth,[a] Saul’s son, heard about Abner’s death at Hebron, he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear. 2 Now there were two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parties. They were sons of Rimmon, a member of the tribe of Benjamin who lived in Beeroth. The town of Beeroth is now part of Benjamin’s territory 3 because the original people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim, where they still live as foreigners.

4 (Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth,[b] who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled.)

5 One day Recab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon from Beeroth, went to Ishbosheth’s house around noon as he was taking his midday rest. 6 The doorkeeper, who had been sifting wheat, became drowsy and fell asleep. So Recab and Baanah slipped past her.[c] 7 They went into the house and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head. Then, taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley[d] through the night. 8 When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. “Look!” they exclaimed to the king. “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!”

9 But David said to Recab and Baanah, “The Lord, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. 10 Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?”

12 So David ordered his young men to kill them, and they did. They cut off their hands and feet and hung their bodies beside the pool in Hebron. Then they took Ishbosheth’s head and buried it in Abner’s tomb in Hebron.

In this passage, we see the demise of Ishbosheth. He was a man who took his courage from another man (Abner) instead of from God. When Abner died, Ishbosheth was left with nothing. In crisis and under pressure, he collapsed in fear. Fear can paralyze us but faith and trust in God can overcome fear (see 2 Timothy 1:6-8 and Hebrews 13:6). If we trust in God, we will be free to respond boldly to the events around us.

Maybe our fears are our indication that we know we cannot do anything without God’s help. Maybe we should quit trying to conquer our fears in our own power. I know that I have a fear of public speaking. Maybe, it’s because of inexperience. Maybe, it’s because I am trying to win under my own power. Maybe, I should just break down before the Lord and beg Him to take over and guide me in my attempts to speak publicly. Maybe, I should depend on Him more. Maybe, I should pray more. Maybe, I should quit comparing myself to others and rely on the Lord to pull me through. Maybe, the Lord wants me to rely on Him so that He can reveal my heart and my passion. Maybe, I should trust Him to give me the words I need to say.

Why am I writing about this? Well, this Sunday I have a small opportunity to speak publicly. In Sunday’s service, I will be doing the announcements from stage and praying over the offering, announcing the newest class of people that have made the decision to be members of our church, and so on. It will be my first opportunity to speak from stage on Sunday morning since I started as administrative pastor at Calvary three months ago. My senior pastor is pushing to have me become more publicly involved in pastoral duties. I pray that I do not let him down this coming Sunday. I do not want to be an ineffective pastor just as Ishbosheth was as king. He was debilitated by fear. I do want to become a publicly professing pastor of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to please my Lord who has put this calling on my life. I pray that I will just relax and let Him guide me. I pray that I will enunciate clearly and there will be a flow to what I say. I pray that it will seem natural as conversation among friends. I pray that my natural goofiness will come out and make me feel at ease. I know that there are bigger things to pray for in this world but I want to point people to Jesus even in my small role this Sunday. I pray that He will give me the strength to speak clearly and boldly and naturally. I covet your prayers as I take this first step in taking hold of this calling the Lord has placed on my life. I pray for showers of prayers from my friends and family members. I just want to make Jesus proud as I take this first step.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:31-39
David Mourns Abner’s Death

Sometimes, we just have a difficult person in our lives. If it were up to us, we wish we could just get rid of them and not have them in our lives at all. But sometimes in life, difficult people are in our lives and we cannot get our personal preference – to get rid of them from our lives completely. Because of circumstances, these difficult people are in our lives and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. You know this experience, right? Maybe, it’s an employee working for you. Maybe, it’s your boss. Maybe, it’s a co-worker that you have to deal with on a daily basis. They seem to be opposed to everything you say. They seem to be a loose cannon and do things their own way. And their own way often impacts you in a negative way. They seem to be the one that always has a different opinion on how to do things. They second guess you as boss, subordinate, co-worker, whatever in every decision that you make. They are the ones that if you say something about how you had an experience with the issue at hand that chimes in that they have done it and done it better. They are the ones that always one-up you. They are the ones that are passive-aggressive toward you. Little comments here and there intentionally to belittle you and its not just a rare thing – it’s a pattern of passive-aggressive veiled negativity. They are the ones that lump you in veiled comments that generalize the kind of person you are. You know the ones. We have all had to deal with these types of people in the workplace. They just get your goat and just being around them makes you uneasy and puts you on the defensive. For as long as you both work at the same place, you are going to have to deal with this person. You’ve been there. You know the drill. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

In your personal life, maybe it’s an ex-spouse who happens to be the other parent of your children. You can’t get rid of them (without doing prison time! LOL!). You must deal with them. They know your “hot buttons” and they regularly push them and it is often just to aggravate us for sport. They do things the opposite of the way we want things done for our children and seem to glory in the fact that it was in opposition to our way. Maybe, you are a daughter and your mom is the one that gets to you. Maybe, she criticizes your home’s appearance. Maybe, she criticizes your appearance. Maybe, she criticizes how you raise your kids. Maybe, she does all these things. Maybe, she not only criticizes you constantly but in every case she offers examples of how she did it better when she was in your stage of life. Maybe, you are a son and your father is the one that gets to you. Nothing ever meets his expectations of you. Nothing is every good enough. You could have always done it better. This is how I would have done is often heard. Maybe, its your older brother or older sister. Maybe, it’s a person that you volunteer with at church. It can be anybody. We all have those people in our lives that we cannot control. We have those people in our lives that seem to always do things in opposition to our opinion, our role as a leader, as a parent, as a fellow church member, you name it. Into every life, a difficult person falls into it. Some you can avoid but many you cannot.

That idea of having a difficult person on your staff at work, a difficult person in your personal life, whatever the case may be, is what came to mind as I read about how David had to handle this situation of critical national importance (the murder of Abner) that had been caused by someone who was critical to the success of David unifying the kingdom under his rule. He had a difficult person in his life, Joab. Here, we see the beginning of a very rocky relationship between the two. It got me to thinking about how we must deal with difficult people in our lives that we must deal with each and every day – whether it be at work or in our personal life. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:31-39, now:

31 Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. 33 Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as fools die?
34
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”

All the people wept again for Abner. 35 David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”

36 This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! 37 So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.

38 Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? 39 And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the Lord repay these evil men for their evil deeds.”

In this passage, we see that David ordered everyone (including Joab) to mourn, possibly because few people were aware that Joab had committed the crime and because David did not want any further trouble. If this is true, David was thinking more about the kingdom than about justice. Joab and Abishai were the two sons of Zeruiah David mentioned. David had an especially hard time controlling Joab because, although he was loyal to David, he was strong-willed, preferring to do things his own way. In exchange for his loyalty, however, David was willing to give him the flexibility he craved.

Joab’s murder of Abner is an example of his fierce independence. While David opposed the murder, he allowed it to remain unpunished because (1) to punish Joab could cause the troops to rebel, (2) Joab was David’s nephew and any harsh treatment could cause family problems, (3) Joab was an influential member of the tribe of Judah and David did not want any rebellion from within the tribe/land that he had already under his control, and (4) to get rid of Joab would mean losing a skilled commander who had been invaluable to David’s military prowess. Certainly, Abner paid for his prideful rebellion against David. He did not want to subject himself to David’s rule until the handwriting was on the wall that David was going to win this civil war. Personally, watching Abner’s moves here in these passages, I am not sure that I would have trusted him as David did. But David was a far greater man than me. He saw the big picture and sometimes I do not.

So, David’s in kind of a pickle here. What to do? What to do? We all have had or still have difficult people in our lives. As leaders, we often have people on our staff that are highly talented, brilliant people who seem to purposefully push against us in our leadership. Questioning everything. Offering alternatives sometimes for the sake of offering alternatives. You tolerate it because you need the skills that this person possesses. In our personal lives, there are often people in our lives that we have to deal with and there is nothing that we can do about it. They drive us nuts. They anger us. It seems that they are there in our lives just to be a thorn in our sides. They criticize us in everything we do. Often if it was up to us, we would rid ourselves of this person but for whatever reason these “difficult people” are in our lives for good and we must learn how to navigate in, through, and around them. Whether they are an employee or a just a person in our personal life, they force us to be prepared. They force us to think things through. They can be exhausting because we have to always be on our game when around such persons.

The one thing that we must figure out is why we find this person so difficult. What do you do with the difficult people in your life? Do you go to Jesus for strength, for courage, for wisdom, for love, in order to deal with them? I think, as Christ followers, in an employment setting or in our personal lives, we must look at how we respond to difficult people. First, we must ask ourselves if the way we respond to them gives glory to God. We must ask how best to represent Christ in the situation. Second, we must examine how we, ourselves, are contributing to the contentious nature of the relationship. Does this person push our buttons because they expose our weakness, insecurities, our sins, our jealousies? Are they more talented than us and we feel threatened by it? Are we insecure in some area of our life and they seem to be a flash point, a spotlight on our own insecurities? Let us examine just exactly why this person “gets our goat”! Third, we need to simply be honest with this person and let them know the exact things that they do that get us all in a knot. Usually, we just complain to others and talk behind that person’s back rather than deal with the person and the issues head on. It will be amazing (in most cases, not all) what a little straight on honesty will do to solve a contentious relationship. Finally, work to reconcile the relationship after having examine our own contributing factors, after confronting the person in love, then, pray for ourselves and that person to be reconciled. Pray for understanding of how that person operates. Pray for that person to understand you. Pray that God will enlighten both of you as to the need for unity among you. Instead of disliking them, go against your grain and show kindness to them. See their good qualities. Even though your stomach churns at first when doing, pay them compliments. Intentionality and prayer will lead us to see them as flawed human beings in need of Christ’s love just like us. That changes everything. Love wins over hate every time.

Amen and Amen.

 

2 Samuel 3:22-30 (Part 2 of 2)
Joab Murders Abner

In my first marriage there was much trouble. There were very few good years and those were early on. I will admit that my first wife had a rough row to hoe when it came to life. Her dad was killed in a head-on collision that also left her mother in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Miraculously, Lisa and her brother survived with just a few broken bones and some bruises (and this was back in the day when there were no seat belts in the back seats of cars). Her mother raised a son and a daughter from a wheelchair and she did the best she could with the help of close-by family members. However, because of the way Lisa had to grow up, people always made exceptions for her behavior and she blamed all the problems in her life on the way she had to grow up. Then, two weeks before we got married, her brother was also killed in a single car accident in the wee hours of June 28, 1980.

With that backdrop and the blow of her brother dying just before we got married, it was not long before Lisa began abusing drugs and became increasingly violent toward me. Her drug use was even unknown to me for much of these years between 1980-1984. She sobered up for awhile when she became pregnant with our first child, Meghan. It was after Meghan was born that her abuse of prescription narcotics began again and reached heights where I was basically parenting alone and cleaning up both my wife’s literal and metaphorical messes. During her first rehab visit in 1987, she had an affair. I don’t want to say I am a saint or anything but I tried to keep the marriage together. I would like to say it is because I was a Christian man and was trying to redeem what was broken. However, the real truth of it was that I was 25 years old, a father of a two year old of which I would have been granted custody, and I was simply too afraid to handle all that responsibility myself when I, myself, was still a kid, so to speak. During the following year in 1988, Lisa had a run in with the law that she could only escape by going into rehab once again. This time, it was a twelve-step program and not the mental health hospital approach of the previous rehab. She came away from that second rehab clean and sober (which would last quite a few years). Our second daughter, Taylor, was born during this period of sobriety. However, with her addictive personality, she became addicted to purchasing things – whether we had the money or not. Back in those days, the early 90’s, checks were still in vogue and I was chasing her bad checks constantly because she was spending more money than we had. All of these factors left me disillusioned, bitter, angry, tired, alone, fed up, and just profoundly sad all the time. That led to many fights that further enforced my defeatist feelings about life. I was in a dark place emotionally and spiritually.

In these pre-salvation days of mine, even I thought divorce was not a viable option. Not because of the high ideals of God about marriage, but because I knew how Lisa would react to it. I also knew of my own internal fortitude that I could not stand up to the expected mental and emotional onslaught that I knew she would give me. I knew that she would use my kids against me. Meghan and Taylor were the reasons that I got up each day in this marriage. So, leaving them just was something I was afraid to do. Leaving them with Lisa, I knew that they would be poisoned against me. It was a price I was not willing to pay. I was a chicken plain and simple. I was not willing to stand up for myself nor was I willing to walk away from kids. In these pre-salvation days, what is the best answer in a situation like this. Well, it disgusts me to think about it now, but in those days I was a different person. I played the martyr real well and said I deserved it and, well, Lisa had previously had her own affair. It was now my turn. It was OK. God just wanted me to be happy, right? I deserved it, right? When I look back at it, the whole thing was revenge for all the hell that Lisa had put me through over the years of our marriage.

I would like to say that our marriage survived the two affairs, hers and mine, but it did not survive mine. It was the beginning of two to three years of physical violence, and emotional terrorism (at home, while I was at work, you name it) on the part of Lisa. Finally, it came to the point that I had to leave or someone was really, actually going to die in that relationship. It had gotten that bad. From that point forward, although I had removed myself from a violent home and a emotionally abusive home, the physical violence may have stopped by the terrorism did not. For three full years after we split up, there was constant emotional terrorism. She became so consumed by revenge that it affected the rest of her life.

Although the public nature and the intensity of the terrorism stopped when Lisa remarried some 3 ½ years after we split up, she remained bitter toward me for the rest of her life. It consumed her. To hate me was her reason for existence. You were either for her or against her. She was so consumed by hatred and revenge that it spread to other people in her life to the put that she and her second husband ended isolated and alone. It was in part, I think part of the reason that she died at the early age of 55 years old (now 3 years ago). I will never forgot thinking that revenge killed her.

It was that idea of revenge, mine toward Lisa (in the years before I came to Christ as my Savior and Lord) and the all-consuming revenge of Lisa toward me, that came to mind when I read this passage again this morning. Now, with that backdrop from my life, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:22-30:

 

22 But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. 23 When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety.

24 Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? 25 You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers to catch up with Abner, asking him to return. They found him at the well of Sirah and brought him back, though David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy[a] or who walks on crutches[b] or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

In this passage, we see that Joab killed Abner in a rage of revenge. Seeking revenge will ruin your own peace of mind and create an environment of hatred that destroys everything in its path and increases the changes of a continuing tit for tat cycle of retaliation. I remember a movie called “The War” where kids fought over a tree fort and the fighting got so intense with their tit for tat violence toward one another that finally the tree fort ended up getting burned down to the ground. Nobody had anything then. Revenge is like that. It is like fire that consumes all the oxygen in its path.

Revenge is pride on a rampage. We take matters into our hands. We make ourselves God. We play God. We make it our god. Revenge can affect families for generations as we will see in the coming books in the Old Testament after 2 Samuel. The legacy of this murder extends in the book of 1 Kings (see 1 Kings 2:31-34). Revenge wins nothing but a temporary sense of victory and then we must prepare to receive retaliation.

As Christians, we must be the ones who stop the cycle of revenge. We must love those who hate us. We must pray for them. We must not take their attacks on us personally. We must take the high road and not respond in kind. We may through our prayers and our not responding in kind bring the other person to the table to resolve the issues once and for all and move on. We may not be buddy buddy with this person going forward but revenge gains nothing but a burnt fort. Revenge gains nothing but a burned out soul. Revenge belongs to the Lord. We must pray for the ones who seek revenge against us. We must love them as Jesus loved those who persecute them. Those who seek revenge are ruled by pride and not by God. Those who seek revenge should be looked on with eyes of sorrowful love. Retaliation and revenge only lead to an ever-widening circle of destruction that leaves us alone and isolated standing in our burned out tree fort.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 3:22-30 (Part 1 of 2)
Joab Murders Abner

We often hear those who wish to live life according to their own desires say that the Old Testament is no longer applicable and should be disregarded. They quote the Apostle Paul, particularly Romans 6:14, frequently in support of their claim that the law is invalid to us in the post-crucifixion era.

Certainly there are ceremonial aspects of the law that were laid out at the beginning of the civilization that we know as the Israelite nation that were only applicable to them. God had to set them apart from the pagan rituals and belief systems that they had grown up in so those aspects of the law were Israelite-specific. Those aspects of the law are not applicable to us in a day to day living sense of things but we are to understand the spirit of those laws for Israel. Again, they were meant to set Israel apart, to make them more orderly, less savage or chaotic, more holy, less unholy, more focused on God, less focused on selfish desires, more cleanly, less susceptible to the diseases of the day. Those laws, we must study what God was trying to accomplish for the Israelite nation. It was to draw them out as different, set apart, a holy nation that stood as a beacon for the rest of humanity. They were to be set apart, different, and holy to draw the attention of the world to them for it was to be threw them that Jesus Christ would come to save the world.

When I hear people completely discount the law in the Old Testament and fall full throttle into grace without concern for God’s law, I want to ask them if murder is OK now since it was one of the laws. I want to ask them if adultery is OK since it was one of the laws. I want to ask them if worshiping idols is OK since the prohibition of worshiping them was one of the laws. This is why it is important for us not to take Bible verses out of context. If you read the whole body of thought of the Apostle Paul in his various letters, it is clear that what he meant in Romans 6:14 is that we are freed from the judgment, the penalty of the law, that we rightfully deserve, through the work that Jesus Christ did on our behalf on the cross. All of us are condemned by the law by our first sin and are more than amply sentenced to hell by the lifetimes of sins that we commit to follow up on that first sin. We deserve condemnation but Jesus sets us free from the rightful and justified verdict of the law. The law is written in our hearts (Romans 2:14-15) when we are created, even when we do not recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know right from wrong even as non-believers. That’s the law. We are free from the penalty of the law which is death and sentencing to hell. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are freed from its penalty. That makes Jesus even more important when we view the law correctly in this way. Through Jesus and the freedom he gave us, we should embrace the spirit of God’s law and study them to see what their general spirit can tell us for our lives today – even the ceremonial stuff, but definitely the moral aspects of the law given to God’s people Israel. By doing so, we fall more in love with what Jesus has done for us. When we realize the gravity of the penalty under the law that we deserve, it makes us fall in love with Jesus all the more.

With that idea of the law still being alive and a body of work from which we can learn much to apply to our lives in the 21st century, let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 3:22-30:

 

22 But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. 23 When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety.

24 Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? 25 You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers to catch up with Abner, asking him to return. They found him at the well of Sirah and brought him back, though David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy[a] or who walks on crutches[b] or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

In this passage, we see that Joab took revenge for the death of his brother instead of leaving justice to God, but that act of revenge will later backfire on him (see 1 Kings 2:31-34). God will repay those who deserve it (Romans 12:19). Refuse to rejoice when you enemies suffer, and don’t try to get revenge. Seeking revenge will ruin your own peace of mind and increase the chances of further retaliation. Here, in this passage, too, it should be noted that Abner had killed Joab’s brother in self-defense. Joab then killed Abner to avenge his brother’s death. There was selfish motivation too to save his position of military leadership. If you remember, God declared that there would be cities of refuge for people who killed someone else accidentally or in self-defense (see Numbers 35:22-25). The cities of refuge were to allow for a hearing of the circumstances of the case by the religious leaders of the city of refuge. Joab show disrespect to God’s law by killing Abner out of revenge ironically IN a city of refuge, Hebron.

God’s law here provides for an orderly society by establishing a system of justice that hears out issues concerning the law and requires objective third parties (the religious leaders of the cities of refuge) to hear the case of murder and make a fair and just ruling according to God’s law. In the absence of God’s law, anything goes. That is what we have here. Joab ignoring God’s law and taking matters into his own hands. It creates chaos. Too often today, we take matters into our hands instead of trusting them to God. We want what we want and we think we are the best determiner of what that is. Then, we use God as the backup validation for our own desires.

Let us see the lesson of this passage. Let us learn from God’s law not throw it away and take matters in our own hands. Let us trust God. Let us honor the law for it is without the law that we do not know how great of sinners that we are. The law is our mirror of our sinfulness. The law points us to Jesus Christ. The makes us love Jesus Christ even more and appreciate what He did for us even more. Thus, I thank God for the law.

Amen and Amen.