name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: May 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do As I Say...

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." --Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

My One Year Bible has been taking me through the ups and downs of King David's life. He is a study in contrasts. He was a man after God's own heart; a brave warrior, a gifted songwriter. But when it came to parenting, he failed miserably.

2 Samuel 11 & 12
When David made the decision to sleep with Bathsheba, I'm sure he never stopped to think about the consequences of his actions...a pregnant mistress, an uncooperative but honorable man, the murder of a good soldier, the death of his infant son, and an angry God.

What is disturbing to me is how David's actions with Bathsheba set the stage for the drama that takes place amongst David's other children. Step-brothers, Amnon and Absolom, are young men who lead a life of privilege. They may have overheard their father, the king, talk about the way people were to be treated. It appears that he forgot to have a father-son talk that included the words, "Do as I say and not as I do."

2 Samuel 13
So when David's son, Amnon, decides he is in love with Absolom's sister, Tamar (Amnon's half-sister), he doesn't ignore his feelings. He acts on them. He is the king's son, after all.

Amnon has the audacity to involve the king.

"Please let my sister come and cook my favorite dish..." (v. 6)

David agrees and sends Tamar to Amnon's home. Long story-short, Tamar is raped and thrown out on the doorstep as a ruined woman.

Scripture says that King David was angry. I don't know if he said anything. I don't know if he did anything. All I know is that David was angry. But angry with whom?
Surely he was angry at Amnon.
Was he angry with Tamar?
Or was he angry with himself?

He'd been duped. He was played the fool by his own kid. Ouch!

Two years pass. For two years, Absolom harbors a hatred for Amnon that goes unspoken. For two years he thinks about avenging his sister's reputation and his family's honor. For two years, he hates and he plots and he waits for the right opportunity.

He needs help with his plan so who does he turn to? His dad, of course.

"Well, then, if you can't come, how about sending my brother, Amnon with us?" (v. 26)

David agrees and sends Amnon to the feast. Absolom orders his men to murder Amnon and then flees to safety in a different city.

Once again, David is played the fool by one of his children. Once again, David unknowingly sends one child into harm's way which just so happens to be his own flesh and blood. For days afterward, King David weeps bitterly and mourns for his dead son and for the one who has run away. Heavy sigh.

David wept for his sons.

But what about Tamar, his daughter?

Who wept for her?

I am convinced that You weep over the selfish choices that we, Your children, make on this earth. Forgive me for the grief I have caused You over the years. Forgive us for our sinful ways. And Lord? Tell Tamar I am sorry. In Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Driving Companion

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."-- Deuteronomy 31:8

Last weekend, I made a road trip to San Antonio. On the five hour drive back to Dallas, I made the decision to leave the radio off and spend some time with God. I worked my way through a litany of praise, confessions, requests, and concerns. Once I was finished talking there was this awkward silence. What had seemed like a good idea now felt forced and uncomfortable.

I resorted to small talk.

So, this is some weather we're having.

I was only half kidding. Up ahead was a line of dark, ominous storm clouds. The outside temperature began to plunge on the digital readout. What had been the high 80's dropped to the low 70's. The headlights of oncoming traffic reminded me to turn on my own lights. I eased up on the gas pedal as my windshield wipers competed with the furious raindrops.

And, just like that, the need for small talk was gone. In its place was a companionable silence that was as comfortable as it was reassuring. It was enough to just enjoy His presence. I found myself remembering, with a deep gratitude, a few of the more memorable times God has been my traveling companion...

- Returning home from college in an ice storm, spinning out on the highway, while miraculously avoiding all other traffic.
- Heading to the airport, with my best friend, with only a map, a backpack and a train pass for a 28 day journey through Europe. (in the days before cell phones & GPS systems)
- Leaving my apartment as a single woman and entering my new home as a bride.
-The heartbreaking trip to the E.R. where they confirmed the miscarriage of my first child.
- Eighteen months later, driving to the hospital as a couple and leaving with a healthy baby boy.
- The subsequent trips that added baby #2 and baby #3 to our expanding family.
- The ride to the airport that was our goodbye to St. Louis and hello to San Antonio.
- That first day's drive to preschools, kindergartens, middle schools and high schools for my kids.
- The all night drive to Oklahoma to be with my husband's grieving family after the sudden death of my father-in-law.
- The sad drive from San Antonio to Dallas that made our present move a reality.

"He will never leave you nor forsake you."

It's true. He has been my driving companion through it all. And, at no point in my life has He ever left me or forsaken me.

A long time ago, a young family (from my husband's hometown) stayed at our home while their newborn son was gravely ill in a nearby children's hospital. When their son died, a few short days after his birth, the father chose to drive his son's tiny body back home. He could do this because he was the town's mortician. Don't you know that Jesus was in the car with them during that very sad drive back to the small town that waited with grieving hearts for the return of one of its own.

He will never leave us nor forsake matter what.

Thank You that You are a God who keeps His Word. And, thanks for all of the road trips that You have made with me over the years. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Deviating From God's Plan

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” --Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)

For the last several days, I have been reading about King Saul and his ups and downs as ruler of Israel. (See 1 Samuel 9 – 16) In chapter 15, Saul is commanded, by God, to completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation; including men, women, children, and livestock.

Saul sets out with an army of 210,000 men. They slaughter the Amalekites but end up sparing the life of Agag, the Amalekite king, and keeping the best of the livestock. In other words, Saul decided to improve on God’s orders.

The different responses to Saul’s disobedience are marked. God regrets having ever made Saul king (v. 10). Samuel, the prophet, mourns Saul’s actions (v. 11). And, Saul, when he is called on the carpet, doesn’t think he did anything wrong (vs. 13, 20)!!

The consequences are serious. Even after Saul confesses his sin (sort of) there is no turning back. God yanks the kingdom of Israel from Saul and gives it to someone else. The whole story disturbs me to no end.

Why, since God knew Saul was going to screw up, did He make Saul king?
Why didn’t Saul show the remorse he should have once his sin was revealed?
Why did Saul feel the need to deviate from God’s plan?

Deviating from God’s plan...

The reason this story irritates me so much is because I have been in Saul’s shoes. I, too, have been given orders to follow. And, just like Saul, I have been known to modify them; sometimes because they didn’t make sense to me, sometimes because to obey would cause me great discomfort, and other times, because I was concerned about what people might think. I can recall one such instance where all three reasons came into play.

I was sitting in the Sanctuary waiting to meet someone for a preset prayer time. While I waited, I asked the Lord if there was any Scripture I was to claim on this individual's behalf. God directed me to something in Psalms. I read the verses and they all made sense to me, except for one small phrase that came across very strongly and stuck out in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable.

Minutes later, I joined a few others and we met and prayed for the individual in question. When it was my turn to pray, I began to dutifully read the verses from the Psalm aloud. But when I got to the words that made me skittish, I left them out. Our short time of prayer came to a close and each of us left to do other things.

I was certain that no one in the room had any idea that I had left out part of a verse. But I knew. More importantly, God knew.

The Holy Spirit convicted me, almost immediately. I responded with defensiveness. Nobody knows I left anything out. If I had read all of the words surely somebody would have been tripped up by them…they were harsh and strong. My job as a prayer partner is to help the individual feel God’s peace and strength, right? Speaking words that didn’t make sense would only stir their spirit up, right? Who am I, after all, to deliver strong words without any warning? The more I tried to justify my actions, the more I was convicted of my sin. I had edited God’s Word.

Things didn’t get better until I finally quit defending my right to deviate from God’s plan and owned up to my wrong doing. The next day, I found myself calling the individual who I had prayed for and asked if I could have a few minutes of their time.

Once there, I confessed to leaving the words out. I asked for forgiveness. I asked if I could pray, again, only this time speaking all of the words that I had been given to say. The individual kindly received me but I’m sure they were puzzled by the entire thing. At that point, it didn’t matter. My own misery at being out of right relationship with God outweighed any embarrassment I had been concerned about the day before. It was an eye opening experience for me.

Looking at my own episodes of deviating from God’s plan and comparing them to Saul’s adventures fills me with gratitude. Not because I think Saul screwed up in a bigger way than I have or because I am living my life better than him. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. We are equally guilty of disobeying God.

My gratitude comes from knowing Jesus. Saul was born in a time before Jesus Christ walked the earth. Even as the LORD’s anointed, Saul was condemned to sin. He died out of relationship with God. And that is where we are different. What sets me apart?

The conviction of the Holy Spirit. The strong yet subtle voice that whispers to me whenever I stray from the plan.
The blood of Jesus. My sins (all of them) have been paid for by the death and resurrection of my Savior. I am redeemed.
The forgiveness of the Father. Because He sees me through the blood of His precious Son, I am clean in His eyes.

Thank You for preserving Your Word through the ages. Thank You for the details of the lives of men and women, who walked with You, disobeyed You, loved You, and rebelled from Your ways. Forgive me for those times when I am quick to dismiss the underlying lessons within the pages of Your Word. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear how it applies to me. Thank you, Jesus for the gift of life. Thank you for dying on the cross and carrying my sins to the grave. Thank you for sitting at God’s right hand, interceding, even now, on my behalf. Show me how to live my life in a way that brings You glory. Without You, Lord, I am nothing but a shell of who You have called me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Life

"How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures...

These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things." --Psalm 104:24, 27-28

One of the highlights of driving my kids to and from school each day is checking on "the horses." On a two lane road, nestled between a couple of modest homes, is a fenced-in field where two mares and a stallion peacefully graze. The fence line comes within fifteen feet of the street. My daughter is a horse nut so, whenever traffic allows, we slow down (speed limit is only 30 mph to begin with) to get a closer look.

About a month or so ago, we made the delightful discovery that a foal had joined the threesome. A week later, another foal appeared. There is something so enchanting about new life in the form of these wobbly legged creatures.

In the beginning, the mares kept the foals at the far end of the field. The foals rarely stood up. They spent the majority of their time lying down on their sides, soaking up the sun. The only signs of life came from their tails, swishing at the occasional fly.

As the foals have grown in size and strength, they are spending more time on their legs. The mares have guided them closer to the fence line to acclimate them to the cars and people that pass by.
Yesterday, I told my friend that I was relating to the foals. I've been sticking close to the Father. I need a lot of breaks in order to make it through a day. I'm growing in strength but life is all about the basics, right now.

She wisely pointed out that even as God does this for us, He calls us to do the same for others. Then she proceeded to cite examples where this is true in my own life. I've been thinking about her words ever since...

As someone experiencing new life:
Spend all of your time near the Parent. Look around and take in your surroundings. Eat when you're hungry. Stand when you can. Lay down when you're tired. Soak up the sun. Swat flies when necessary.

As a Believer in Christ travelling with others:
Stand near while the one experiencing new life rests. Reassure them as they try to gain their balance. Guide them to nourishment. Position yourself between them and the road/strangers. Step back at the proper time. (Prayer, fellowship, holy encouragement)

I am amazed that I serve a God who allows me to receive even as He calls me to give.

You are the perfect parent! Thank You for watching over me as I gain strength and grow into this new life. Forgive my impatience regarding this process. Help me to trust Your plan. And, Father, thank You for those beautiful people (family, friends and strangers) that You have allowed me to travel with on this journey of faith. Remind me to stand near when necessary and step back - all in your perfect timing. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.