Posts Tagged ‘doing the right thing’

2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 2 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

How would you like to have been in this guy’s shoes? You are a soldier. You find the leader of the enemy forces hung up in a tree, dangling there, with no way to get down. He would be easy pickings. Just kill him and the civil war would be over and you would get the accolades for having killed the leader of the revolt. However, in this case, the leader of the revolt was the son of the king. What would you do? You could kill him and nobody would know the difference. You could claim whatever you wanted to claim. You could kill him. Cut him down from the tree and then throw his body somewhere where the wild animals in the wilderness could tear him apart. You could claim that the wild animals killed him. You could get away with it and nobody would be the wiser. But instead, you tell your commander that you saw the king’s son dangling from a tree. Then, the commander questions you as to why you did not kill him. However, the commander, you and all the troops heard David say not to harm Absalom, his son. This was a bad situation to be in, a no-win situation. You did the right thing by not disobeying the king’s orders but you get shamed by your commander for not doing the deed. You know, too, that Joab would have thrown you under the bus if you had killed the king’s son. Talk about your no-win scenarios.

It kind of reminds you of the Starfleet Academy captain’s test. Yes, I am a Star Trek geek. It reminds you of the The Kobayashi Maru. The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a training exercise in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. Screenwriter Jack B. Sowards is credited with inventing the test. The test’s name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario, a test of one’s character or a solution that involves redefining the problem.

The notional primary goal of the exercise is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The disabled ship is located in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would cause an interstellar border incident. The approaching cadet crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction. If the cadet chooses to attempt rescue, the simulation is designed to guarantee that the cadet’s ship is destroyed with the loss of all crew members.

James T. Kirk took the test three times while at Starfleet Academy. Before his third attempt, Kirk surreptitiously reprogrammed the simulator so that it was possible to rescue the freighter. Despite having cheated, Kirk was awarded a commendation for “original thinking”. This fact is revealed in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as Kirk, Saavik and others are marooned. Saavik accuses Kirk of never having faced the no-win scenario. Kirk replies that he does not believe in it.

Each of us have to face those ethical situations where doing the right thing may get you ridiculed or we do what Kirk did and basically bend the truth to suit our needs. Have you been in a situation like that? Do the right thing and get ridiculed, fired, or lose something or take advantage of a situation by bending the truth to meet your own needs! We have all been there at some point in our lives. If not, there will come a day where you have to make that tough choice.

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the second of four times, and see how this soldier deals with the no-win situation.

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see that this man had caught Joab in his hypocrisy. He knew Joab would have turned on him for killing Absalom if the king had found out about it. Joab could answer the man and simply dismissed him. Those who are about to do evil often don’t pause to consider what they are about to do. They don’t care whether or not it is right or lawful. Don’t rush into action without thinking. Consider whether what you are about to do is right or wrong.

Often as Christ followers, we are presented with situations where we have the option to “be like Jesus” in private or revert to our base sinful self and take advantage of a situation. What are you like when you are alone? Are you striving to be like Jesus? Or when no one is around, do you revert to your sin-self. When no one is looking, what are you like? How far are you taking this Christ follower thing? Do you want to be like Jesus when you are alone? What are you like when no one is looking?

As Christ followers, you and I both know that we have opportunities everyday to demonstrate if we take being a Christ follower seriously. We all have those no-win scenarios at some point where being a Christ follower will be of disadvantage to us. We must choose the way of Jesus Christ or the way of the world. Probably, we all fail in these situations more often than we win. The key is I think to recognize when you get in those situations and ask that clichéd question, “What would Jesus do?” Not to be flippant, but really ask that question with a humble heart that is submitted to Jesus Christ. What would Jesus do in this situation. The key is recognition. Our base self is a sin filled dark soul that will default to evil without even thinking about it. Thus, recognizing when we are in a no-win situation and asking the question of ourselves every time when get into questionable situations will help us to gain a Christ-like perspective. Staying in God’s Word helps us internalize the difference between right and wrong in God’s eyes. Prayer about doing the right thing helps us to hear God’s voice about specific situations.

Then, what would Jesus do? is not a difficult question to answer. Our heart becomes molded toward pleasing God and not on what will preserve my rights in a sin-filled world. Pleasing God becomes more important that our position in the world. Pleasing God is what we want to do rather than have to do. Pleasing God rather than pleasing ourselves is our new perspective.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 11:1-15
Saul Defeats the Ammonites

Is anger ever good? I have, because of events over the course of my life, always thought getting angry to the point of arguing or fighting was wrong. It was always a negative thing for me. Always a need to apologize. Always a mess to clean up, either literally or figuratively. It always had negative consequences for me, particularly in my relationships with the woman in my life, whomever that might have been at the particular time. There were always consequences for standing up for what I thought was right, in my mind. You know the consequences in a male-female relationship! I would be cut-off from the very thing that I found my personal worth through – sexual relations. Often the result of those occasions where I got angry over some offense to my rights, over some offense to my manhood, over some offense to my kids, whatever, would be to lose the rights and privileges of a man with his woman. Without that validation of my manhood, my worth as a man, I would buckle easily. However, most times, I would sublimate my anger over offenses to keep the supply lines, or the possibility of keeping the supply lines open. Ignoring the needs of my children, sure it would make me angry, but gotta keep the supply lines open. I measured my worth by whether I had access to the bedroom pleasures that my wife gave me. I had no sense of personal value outside that.

Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid moving every few years, I learned the approval game early on. I measured my worth by how many people I could get to like me. When you have no roots in a community, when you are frequently the new kid in town, you become a chameleon. You change and adapt to your environment. You are like a bad politician, doing whatever it takes to get elected. In some towns, I was the friend of rich kids and acted the part. In some towns, we were in farming communities and I was a redneck country boy. Whatever was needed to fit in and be approved that was me. That continued in my first two marriages, and particularly the second. Whatever wrongs were done to me, I pushed it down because wanting to be approved and accepted and being validated by sex was the most important thing to me. In my second marriage, there was this jealousy of anything to do with my past when it came to my wife and her kids. It was so bad that I pretty much had to ignore or not overtly show the affection to my own kids that I wanted to show and they needed from me. All the jealousy and in-fighting would make me so angry. Sometimes, I just wanted to hold my girls in my arms but I would always fear the jealousy and repercussions. I almost lost any hope of a relationship with my girls during the 9 years of that marriage. Finally, when my oldest daughter was in college, my second wife thought that our obligation to my oldest child was over. However, having a kid in college is probably the most needed time of support for a child. There are so many things that are not covered by tuition grants and loans. So, trying to avoid confrontations, hid my financial support for my daughter from my second wife, her stepmom.

As with all things that are hidden, they will eventually come to light. And it did. Major confrontation. My life as I knew it was on the line. Sexual validation on one hand and the needs of my child on the other. No denying what happened. The evidence was there. But still being the approval seeker, I tried to smooth it over for a couple of weeks. But finally, you stand for something or you fall for anything. Stand by your child or buckle under the weight of the need for approval. I chose the needs of my child over the needs of my sexual validation on August 4, 2004. I don’t blame my second wife anymore for the choices I was forced to make. Spouses will take the power, fill the vacuum, that you allow them to. They have the power over you that you let them have. On that day in August 2004, I released a decade of pushing anger down and it all exploded in walking away from the oppression of a bad marriage and being forced to ignore my children. There was no physical violence that day but just a release of anger and there were words from which there was no return. No takebacks. This was it. The final confrontation – a decade in the making. The relationship had taken the form I let it take – seeking approval over doing the right things by my kids. The release of anger and of changing the course of my life was freeing. I knew what it was going to cost me but I no longer cared. The release of anger was almost a righteous feeling. Is anger right sometimes?
That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 11:1-15 this morning – how Saul’s anger at what was happening to the people of Israel was a righteous anger. Sometimes, when it’s spirit-induced anger, it is right to be angry at what is wrong. Let us read this passage now:

11 About a month later,[a] King Nahash of Ammon led his army against the Israelite town of Jabesh-gilead. But all the citizens of Jabesh asked for peace. “Make a treaty with us, and we will be your servants,” they pleaded.

2 “All right,” Nahash said, “but only on one condition. I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel!”

3 “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout Israel!” replied the elders of Jabesh. “If no one comes to save us, we will agree to your terms.”

4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the people about their plight, everyone broke into tears. 5 Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh.

6 Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry. 7 He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one. 8 When Saul mobilized them at Bezek, he found that there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000[b] men from Judah.

9 So Saul sent the messengers back to Jabesh-gilead to say, “We will rescue you by noontime tomorrow!” There was great joy throughout the town when that message arrived!

10 The men of Jabesh then told their enemies, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you can do to us whatever you wish.” 11 But before dawn the next morning, Saul arrived, having divided his army into three detachments. He launched a surprise attack against the Ammonites and slaughtered them the whole morning. The remnant of their army was so badly scattered that no two of them were left together.

12 Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, “Now where are those men who said, ‘Why should Saul rule over us?’ Bring them here, and we will kill them!”

13 But Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us all go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.” 15 So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy.

In this passage, we see that anger is powerful emotion. Often it may drive people to hurt others with words or physical violence. But anger directed at sin or injustice is not wrong. Saul was angered by the Ammonites’ threat to humiliate and mistreat his people. The Holy Spirit used Saul’s anger to bring justice and freedom. When injustice or sin makes you angry, ask God how you can channel that anger in constructive ways to help bring about positive change.

I am not hear to celebrate my second divorce. God hates divorce. But God also wants to be the center of our marriages and He never was in either of my first two marriages. These were not God honoring marriages. These were unsaved people out to protect their interests. Mine was maintaining access to sex no matter the cost to me or anyone else.

As I sit here on the birthday of my third and final wife, I thank God that there was that righteous anger over my kids on August 4, 2004. Otherwise, I would never have met the woman that God intended for me in my Elena. She has been the best thing that ever happened to me and she has been so good for my relationship with my girls. It is not either or with her. It is us. Her kids/my kids, they are OUR kids. No choices to make. I am able to love my kids and my wife at the same time. What if I did not have that righteous anger on August 4, 2004 over the state of my relationship with my kids. Where would I be now? I surely would not have the peace that that I have now. With a Christian wife and us living to please God rather than each other, we have ended up having a marriage that pleases us both. On her birthday today, I thank God for having met this woman. On her birthday, I thank God for some righteous anger.

Amen and Amen.

Romans 9:1-29 — Even though I am 52 years old now, does the fact that I grew up as a Methodist preacher’s kid give me an auto-pass into heaven? Does being part of church for most of my life give me brownie points on judgment day? Does doing all the right things get me there? These are the types of questions that Paul talks about in this passage.

In Romans 9-11, Paul deals with the heritage of the Jews as God’s chosen people and how that relates to salvation in Jesus Christ. The Jewish people were very proud of the fact that they traced their lineage back to Abraham. It was through Abraham’s line that God promised to make his descendants His people. God made covenant with the Jews and made them His chosen people through who He would bring forth the blessing to all nations. God made His chosen people different. He gave them the law, social and ceremonial rules that made them completely different from the nations around them. He did this so people would be drawn to them because it was through them that Jesus would come. Over time though, the Jews fell in love with who they were rather than being in love with God. The reveled in their privileged position. They thought that because they were among the chosen that this mere fact saved them and would give them heaven. Paul says no one can claim to be chosen by simply by heritage. Being born a Jew does not guarantee salvation. Being born a preacher’s kid does not make me chosen. It did not guarantee salvation. My pedigree does not save me. My salvation comes from the mercy of God to give me Jesus as the sacrificial lamb who took my punishment for what I deserve. My salvation comes from the Lord. It comes from His mercy. Being a preacher’s kid does not give me a free pass nor more than being born a Jew. We all are dependent upon the mercy of the Lord so that no one can boast. I was born this. I was born that.

OK, so if my heritage as a preacher’s kid doesn’t give me a leg up, what if I do all the right things? What if I am in church every Sunday? What if I serve in every way possible at church? What if I follow your command to tithe? What if I read the Bible daily? What if give alms to the poor? What if I do all the right things? What if I go to seminary to learn more about you, Lord? What if I write a daily post on Facebook and/or a blog where I help people understand Scripture? Nope. These things don’t save me. Don’t get me wrong, these things are admirable but in and of themselves they do not save me. Nothing that I do. There is no effort, no action that I can take that will make me heaven-worthy. The only thing that can save me is a relationship with Jesus Christ. No amount of good that I can do in a million lifetimes can erase the sin nature that I have and the sins that I have committed. If God is perfect and sin is imperfection then I cannot be in his presence no matter how much good I try to do in this life. I am saved by realizing that I need mercy. I am saved by God’s mercy as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ. He cleans me up and makes me right and beautiful before the Father. Doing good deeds for the sake of seeking favor or brownie points with God is like putting the cart before the horse. Because of the joy of our salvation, because of the joy of my salvation, good deeds flow overflow. We are so thankful for this salvation that we KNOW we don’t deserve that we can help ourselves but serve Him in every way possible.

If my lineage saved me, if my deeds saved me, there would be reason to boast and there would those who are excluded from salvation because they are from the wrong people group or they simply don’t care about doing all that churchy stuff. We could easily say I am better than you because I do this and I do that. If you live on the wrong side of the tracks, or you have done all these bad things in life that are so much more seriously bad than the things I have done, then sorry bud I guess you are screwed. Have you ever noticed when God leaves things up to us, we try to make gradations out of everything. That way I can measure myself against you. That way I can determine and show you that I am better than you. Paul says wait a minute! THERE IS NOTHING that we can do to earn our salvation. My pedigree doesn’t save me. My degrees don’t save me. My social position doesn’t save me. My church membership doesn’t save me. My good deeds and service don’t save me.

It is the mercy of our God that matters. A man that lives like hell for 70 years and accepts God as His Savior in the last years of his life has the same standing as one who accepted Christ at 7 and has lived a life of service ever since then. God grants His grace in the manner that He chooses. We are saved by grace not by who we are, what we are, what we do, when we do it, how often we do it. So, there is no life that is so horrible that God cannot redeem it through grace given through Jesus Christ. Nothing that you have done is so horrible that I cannot be covered in grace. You are never too far gone. Our bad deeds don’t condemn us. If that we the case, heaven would be empty. God’s grace through Jesus is a gift. It is not something we earn.

Think about it. It’s like doing something wrong repeatedly even though your parents told you not to. So, finally, they put us on restrictions and oh yeah you know that trip to Six Flags this weekend, you as a teenager have to stay with us your parents the whole time. Uggh what torture that is going to be. Being seen by all the kids in the world having to hang with your parents. The humiliation! But when you get to Six Flags as you are preparing for your humiliating day, your parents inexplicably say go, go have fun. See you at the gate at the end of the day! Freedom not deserved but freedom given. That is grace. If salvation was something we earned, then we are in trouble. I am in trouble. Thank God for grace. Thank God that He has mercy. And thank God it really isn’t about who we are and dependent on what we do. Thank God for your mercy. Thank God I don’t get what I deserve. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God!