Posts Tagged ‘Christian joy’

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 4 of 4)
Jonathan Helps David

Have you ever just felt like wanting to run away? Have you ever had one of those days or one of those weeks? Last week, the week of March 4-10, was that way for me. It was the first week as Director of Business/Staff Pastor here at Calvary Church that I no longer had my predecessor there to continue training me and for me to rely on as was the case in the first two weeks on the job. To further complicate the situation, it was month-end, and it was taking way longer than I expected. Then, to further complicate the situation even more, the bookkeeper (who had come out of retirement to take the job only 3 months prior to my arrival) decided to quit at lunchtime on Thursday. Month-end was not completed though much of the work had been done. The bookkeeper felt as though the pressure of month-end as it was being performed prior to my arrival was just too much pressure for her.

What I have come to find out since her departure is that virtually all journal entries (even for things that are not dependent on the month being complete) were being held for month-end. So, yeah, I can see why someone coming to work at a church finance office (thinking that it might be a low-stress job) would be overwhelmed by the mass of work that had to be entered into the accounting system at month-end. In the previous two months she had worked here, she had my predecessor to lean on and to take on what she could not get done. However, with me being new, and not necessarily knowing exactly how much work she had to do at month-end, I was unaware of the overwhelming pressure she felt. In the end, she resigned at lunchtime last Thursday – at the end of my first week flying solo, at the end of a first week where month-end was not completed. So, between Thursday afternoon and coming in for a half a day on Friday (a normal day off for our staff), I was forced into finishing out the closing processes not done and preparing the reports of which there a bunch! I felt like month-end was put together with spit and gum. I haven’t felt like that in a decade (when I first started as the new controller at Fujikura America). I hate that feeling of not being sure of what you are doing or even understanding why things are done the way that they do them or whether the numbers are right or not.

That feeling caused a sleepless night Friday night – literally. As I laid down to sleep Friday night, my mind just went wild with what I did not know. I wondered about why they had separate general ledger accounts for certain pots of cash but really there was only one account at the bank. How to make that work in the reconciliation process seems impossible. Why not have separate accounts for the special purpose funds instead of keeping that cash in a single account and creating multiple general ledger accounts for the same pot of cash? The bank reconciliation process as it currently stands is bafflingly complex when it doesn’t seem like has to be. But who am I at this point to question it. They’ve been doing it this way for a good while. Why do I not see the logic, purpose and procedure behind it?

Another thing that plagued me was not understand the mechanics of the way they do things here and no longer having anyone who does at the office any longer…I am going to fail. I had not felt this lost, this powerless, and this out in left field in a long time. My fear that was plaguing me was that I left a cushy job where I had things locked down, systems and processes made sense, the flow of processes from beginning to end were understood. I was making good money and the ship was sailing smoothly after conquering various major changes in the previous years on the job. It was now a job of just maintaining the excellence and looking for ways to tweak the processes and make them better, faster, quicker. Now, I don’t understand. I began to question why God brought me here. Did I mistake His will for my will? Satan will whisper in your ear and make you question whether your calling was your calling or God calling you? God in that, did you bring me here to fail?

In this downward spiral of self-doubt, all of a sudden I am stupid again. Virtually every question asked of me, much of the time this past first week flying solo, I did not have the answers to. As part of the leaving process at the old jobs (both at Fujikura and at LifeSong), I was told how valuable I had been. I knew what I was doing and contributed greatly to both organizations. I got patted on the back on the way out the door for what I had meant. On the way in to this new position at Calvary as Director of Business/Staff Pastor, I was told I was a high-powered guy that loved the Lord and that combination is just what they were looking for. That was a compliment to the experience and knowledge and passion that I have both for finance/administration and for the Lord. Now, I am here, learning the ropes and not knowing the answers. Now, I am here and I don’t know. Now, I am here and I feel stupid. Going from the high of being that high powered guy to feeling completely inept in a matter of weeks can mess with your head. It did mine.

This week, things got a little better with the addition of a temporary bookkeeper who is familiar with Powerchurch (the finance and people management software that Calvary uses). But still that gnawing feeling of ineptitude and lostness was weighing me down.

Then I went to family night services at church night before last. Sometimes, God reminds us of our need for Him. Sometimes, he reminds us that we need to quit tinkering with the machine and let Him run things. My personal internal struggle over the past week was what I thought of today as I read through this passage (1 Samuel 20) over again this morning. I tried to read it from the perspective understanding Saul in this final of four blogs on this passage. That’s when my personal struggle this past week came to mind. I have been trying to control my struggle just as Saul does in this passage and many of the previous ones. Let’s read the passage now from that perspective:

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see that Saul was still trying to secure his throne for future generations even though he had already been told his dynasty would end with him (1 Samuel 13:13-14). Even worse, he was trying to accomplish it by sinful human means because he was not going to get any help from God in the feat. This passage reminds us of how often we feign belief in God but we go about our lives believing that we are in control or believing that God is too weak to have any real impact on our lives.

That was the thing that struck me. Saul trying to control his own destiny while at the same time claiming that He believed in God. Sometimes, you and I say we believe in the mighty power of God but yet we go on acting like we must be in control and stresses out over what to do, what not to do, what action to take, not to take. We can drive ourselves into a frenzy trying to figure out what to do when we don’t know what to do. We can drive ourselves into a frenzy over what we don’t know. We can drive ourselves into a frenzy when not knowing can make us feel weak, ineffective, stupid.

That’s when Wednesday night came in. There was the following song that we sang that spoke powerfully to me and man did Pastor Tim handle that song so well. He went on stage during the song and started speaking about God being our source of strength in times of trouble such that we can have joy (heavenly joy) at all times and he would have the worship band weave in the chorus of the song in and out as he spoke. Oh my God, it was powerful. It was powerful to me. Here are the lyrics that God used to calm the storm in my soul:

“I Will Rejoice”
William Murphy (feat. Nicole Binion)

[Verse 1:]
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of our God.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of our God.
So I will rejoice,I will rejoice, and be glad.
My depressed days are over, I will, I made up my mind, I will, I’m gonna be glad.

[Verse 2:]
There is a fountain full of grace that flows from Emmanuel’s veins.
There is a fountain so full of grace that flows from my Savior’s veins.
It came and it healed me
It came and refreshed me
It came and washed my sins away!

So I will rejoice, I will rejoice,and be glad.
I will rejoice, I will rejoice, and be glad.

[Repeat Chorus 2 times]

[Back to Verse 2:]
There is a fountain full of grace that flows from Emmanuel’s veins.
Has anybody been cleansed in the fountain, that flows from Emmanuel’s veins.
See I know for myself cause it came, and it healed me, it came and refreshed my soul, it came and washed my sins away


Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say

[Back to the chorus]


We must remember that God is in control. He did not bring us into His calling to fail. He does need us to humbly seek His power. Sometimes, we need to be humbled and realize that we do not know everything…and hey that’s OK. When we admit that we do not know everything is the beginning of needing God. We must submit everything to God even our professional knowledge and limitations of that knowledge. We need to be reminded that we are limited. We need to be reminded that we are dependent on Him. Maybe if Saul had submitted Himself to the Lord instead of trying to force his own destiny God would have blessed Him. Maybe Saul would have been less tormented, less paranoid, less susceptible to Satan’s siren call to sin. Maybe you would have had some joy and peace.

When we let go and let God control, we can indeed rejoice and be glad. We can indeed have joy. The joy of knowing that God has got this and will use it to bring Himself glory. We must just trust that.

And I will rejoice. I will rejoice. I will rejoice and be glad.


Amen and Amen.


1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 5 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look at a doctrine that we have virtually gotten rid of in Christianity in the post-modern era (the world as we know it since the end of World War II).

I will introduce this foreign concept to us with a bold statement. Let’s bring hell back! Such a statement seems a shocking one to the 21st century ear, even those who considered themselves Christians.

The existence of and doctrine surrounding hell is no longer a universally accepted concept among Christians and Jews much less those of other religions or of those who hold no religious beliefs at all. It is not surprising that in an increasingly secular American landscape that only 27% of people who consider themselves non-religious believe in the existence of a place of eternal punishment in the afterlife, according the 2015 Religious Landscape Study performed by Pew Research Center. Overall, only 58% of all survey respondents (including religious and non-religious alike) believe in the existence of hell.

Even among Christians, the statistic vary. Belief in hell is not universally accepted by Christians in the 21st century. Although belief in hell is highest among historically black Protestant churches (82%) and evangelical Protestant churches (likewise 82%), the belief level drops to 63% among Catholics, 60% among mainline Protestants, and 59% of Orthodox Christians. It was also noted in the survey that only 22% of the Jewish respondents believe in hell. Among other religions, 76% of Muslims surveyed believe in hell while not surprisingly Buddhists and Hindus surveyed affirmed the existence of hell at a rate of 32% and 28% respectively. It is worthy of noting that more non-religious respondents believe in hell (27%) than the Jews surveyed (22%). The alarming point here is that, depending on your denomination of Christianity, a pastor can look out over his congregation on Sunday and find that anywhere from one-fifth to half of his parishioners do not believe in the existence of hell. As noted earlier, outside the doors of the church, it can be extrapolated that three-fourths of the people one meets on the street do not believe in hell. One can discount the non-believer being dismissive of hell as it would be opposed his firm belief in the lack of existence of God, would dismiss his belief in moral relativism, would dismiss his belief that man controls his own destiny, and would dismiss an everyman’s ticket, where we are judged on the weight of good deeds plus good intentions to outweigh our negative nature. When deeds and intentions are weighed against our bad deeds, then, most if not all of us will ascend to some sort of nirvanic afterlife (which we will talk about tomorrow). This sentiment, we can dismiss as the product of human pride that blinds us to our own ignorance in the face of God.

That idea of the elimination of hell from our theological lexicon is what came to mind this morning when read through this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. Jonathan was being asked by his father to ignore a biblical truth because it was inconvenient to his father, Saul. Expediency was most important to Saul not what was biblically and universally true according to God’s Word. That kind of thinking is what has become of the concept of hell in Christian theology today. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. In general, not just as children of our parents, we must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If someone omits a portion of the full counsel of God’s Word just to make a biblical truth more palatable or more expedient, we must be discerning about those things too.

Saul thought like many of us today that there was no real punishment for evil deeds as long as we do more than we do bad. He seemed to think that doing evil could be offset by good deeds. All we have to do is do more good. Then, we become the judge of our goodness or badness, and, of course, we are always going to come down on the side of us being good enough or having done good enough or having done less bad than good. We are the judge of our own judgment – the fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak. Saul had situational ethics here in this passage. He thinks like many of us think. He, by his actions, appears to believe that there is no real judgment for his evil deeds and all he has to do is make up for it with a prayer here, a good deed there, a promise to God there, a ceremonial sacrifice here. He, in a sense, made himself the judge of his own fate. Jonathan had to decide whether he was going to follow his father’s belief system or follow the moral absolutes and the eternal truths of God.

In the absence of hell, we are certainly the arbiters of our own eternal fate. In the absence of hell, there is no one who judges us. In the absence of hell, God is only love but not justice. Most of us in the 21st century world have a problem with final judgment and hell. The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God’s grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. The gutting of the harsh doctrine of hell always minimizes the wonderful good news of the gospel. To preach the good news, we must preach why it is good news. We must understand why the gospel is the essential good news and that nothing else but Jesus will do.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ because of the true nature of man and what that true nature garners us in eternity. In a post-modern non-traditional world, we see ourselves as basically good people. However, the truth of the matter is that none of us are good at all. Have you ever really took notice of all the evil thoughts, the little lies, the outright lies, the meanness that comes out in us each and every day in one form or another. We believe that it requires goodness to get to heaven and that if we just do more good than bad that we will get into heaven. We don’t realize that like an ink drop into a glass of water permanently changes and stains the water irreversibly, so is committing any sin. Sin is imperfection when compared to the holiness of God. One drop of ink in a glass of pure water does it all. The same with sin. We commit one sin and we are done. It is the ultimate one and done scenario.

However, we are not just one-time sinners. We are habitual sin criminals that have been through the sin court system far too often. We sin every day like a common thief who steals something every day. We have a rap sheet a mile long of a lifetime of sins. We deserve the punishment of a career criminal in the court system having committed heinous crime after heinous crime. Our record belies anything that we can say in our defense before the righteous Judge that is God. We deserve hell. We really do. Once we commit one sin we are done, finished, not to mention a lifetime of habitual sinning. We kid ourselves that we are more good than bad because we don’t want to think of the fact that we tell lies, we hurt people, we lie to ourselves, we offend God each and every day with our prideful sinning. We are career sin criminals standing before a righteous Judge who looks at our record and has every right to throw the eternal judgment of hell at us. We deserve it. We have no excuse. No quippy comebacks. No way to talk ourselves out of what we deserve. We deserve the fiery pits of hell where Jesus said there was pain, sorrow, weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. It is the place of eternal suffering.

The very realness of hell is what make Jesus Christ so incredibly important to us. He is more than just some great philosopher that is one of the many ways of self-actualization and self-improvement. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the Father. Without the doctrine of hell, Jesus is just a way to self-improvement along with Muhammed, Buddha, Confucius, and others. With the doctrine of hell, Jesus is our Savior. Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity of God came down from heaven to live a perfect life and become the sinless sacrifice for our sins. He went to the cross to take on God’s eternal punishment for man’s sins, past, present and future. And to prove that He was of one and the same essence as God, He arose from the dead. By dying on the cross and by arising from the dead (all of which are historical facts that have yet to be realistically disputed), Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God and that He did indeed die for our sins.

Jesus doing these things would be unnecessary, truly, in the absence of what he did it for – to save us from our eternal judgment. In the absence of hell, Jesus did not need to come down from heaven and suffer as he did for us. All we need do is do is more good than bad. Jesus’ sacrifice would be the grandest excess of all in the absence of eternal judgment, in the absence of hell.

That is what makes or should make Christians the most joyous people in the universe. We have been saved from what we know as hell. The fiery pits of eternal punishment we know that we deserve. We have had our blinders taken off and see ourselves as the dirty rotten sinners that we are. The grace of Jesus Christ then becomes amazingly wonderful and just the greatest gift that could ever be given – the pardon from the fiery eternal death that we deserve. How can you have this joy when there is no judgment, there is no hell. We have been saved from what we know we deserve!

That makes Jesus even more awesome that just some great philosopher. It makes Him the Savior to whom we owe everything and to whom we owe all thanksgiving and daily praise and great joy.

That is the eternal truth of the gospel. That is the Jonathan choice. That is to walk away from the situational truths of Saul and embrace the eternal truths of God.

Amen and Amen.