Keep a Lid on It

When the LORD does for my lord all the good He promised and appoints you ruler over Israel, there will not be remorse or a troubled conscience for my lord because of needless bloodshed or my lord’s revenge. And when the LORD does good things for my lord, may you remember [me] your servant. – 1 Samuel 25:30-31

ryan-franco-684436-unsplash

Have you ever lost your temper? Of course, you have. We all do.

Were you remorseful afterward? Yeah, me too. So, what can we do to keep it from happening again?

David wanted to kill Abigail’s husband (the guy was a selfish doofus), but Abigail convinced David not to go through with his plan. She reasoned that David’s reputation was more valuable than her husband’s life and that a clear conscience is priceless. Good words to a rising leader at an opportune moment.

No doubt, in your life you have met (or will certainly meet) a lot of people. Some of the people you meet or encounter in this life will treat you badly, if they have not already done so. When they do (treat you badly … ignore you … revile you … criticize you), what should you do Why not pray right now for the wisdom you will need when these moments come? Ask the Father to give you a wise counselor (like Abigail) who is willing to speak the word and truth of God to your heart AND ask the Father to give you … in the moment … ears to listen.

No … really … go ahead … do it now. “In the moment” may be too late.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain

Greater Grace

For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not turned from my God to wickedness. Indeed, I have kept all His ordinances in mind and have not disregarded His statutes. I was blameless toward Him and kept myself from sinning. So the LORD repaid me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. With the faithful You prove Yourself faithful; with the blameless man You prove Yourself blameless…. – Psalm 18:21-25

felix-koutchinski-710412-unsplash

The words above were written by the same man who would one day commit adultery and murder. Obviously, before his actions with Bathsheba, David saw God as the “Great Balance-Keeper.” He believed that as long as a person was good, then God would bless, but if the person was bad, then God would punish. This system succeeded for David as long as he remained obedient … and it is clear from his own words that he once considered himself blameless.

Psalm 51 was written by someone who came to a different conclusion. Same man … different story.

While God surely knows the good and evil of our lives, He has chosen to weight the balance in our favor. In fact, you can actually throw ALL of your sin … all your sin for all time on one side and the blood of Christ on the other and the result is (for those who believe) declared innocence, righteousness, and heaven forever. God is, indeed, a great balance-keeper.

His grace is not only greater than all our sin, it is also greater than all our good.

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self. – Francis of Assisi

Get in the Game

Who can agree to your proposal? The share of the one who goes into battle is to be the same as the share of the one who remains with the supplies. They will share equally. – 1 Samuel 30:24

anna-samoylova-535880-unsplash

Were you ever part of a team in which you ended up spending most of your time on the bench? In America, you would be called a “bench-warmer” and in my youth I spent a lot of my time doing just that! I was too small to play the major sports of football and basketball (too slow, too … great combination) and ended up being an athletic trainer instead. I did not play, but I taped a lot of ankles and knees so guys could keep on playing. In 1972, our high school football team had an undefeated season and as a member of the team, I was honored just like all the rest. I still have the letter jacket and memoirs packed away somewhere to prove my participation and involvement.

Likewise, every disciple has a part in the cause of Christ around the world. With thousands of unreached people groups out there, every disciple of every church needs to be a part of spreading God’s truth. Maybe you cannot “play.” Maybe your hands and feet are not “game-worthy.” Perhaps you think your “situation” rules you out or that your faith is too “small.” Does this mean you have no purpose in the task that remains?

You can still be in the game. All you need to do is get on your knees and fight.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth

I See That Hand?

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. – Galatians 6:7

marcos-luiz-photograph-292744-unsplash

We who have been involved in professional ministry for some time have often laughed at or at least mildly mocked the oft-used mass invitational approach to evangelism and, in particular, the phrase, “I see that hand.” It has been used by many through the years to acknowledge the uplifted hand of someone supposedly making a “decision” for Christ in a large meeting. Many have ceased to use it … though I am sure that significant others still do.

Even if we have abandoned this practice are we still guilty of continuing to perpetuate the misconception that a raised hand … an “indicated decision” … equals conversion? Why are we impressed by continued reports proclaiming huge numbers and multiple activities as if God is impressed with our “busy”ness? Is it not possible that we are “busy” doing things that make no impact upon His Kingdom? Are we willing to admit that while we may “see a hand,” God alone can see a heart? Where is the fruit? Where are the changed lives? If we are truly making the impact we claim to be making, then why are cities, communities, families, and individual lives still crumbling and our churches still in decline? WHERE IS THE TRANSFORMATION?

You can put a bow on a pig, but it still oinks.

Is the aim of a church’s overseas work that their short-term teams should have a “missionary experience” or is it to see a people transformed for Christ? How many thousands … no millions of dollars will be spent this year to continue to take the Gospel to places where the church already exists?! How many churches will proudly report their mission “activity,” but report no discernible change where they have been? AND by change, I mean leaders identified and raised up in order that resources might better be used elsewhere? Activity is not the answer. If the aim is not kingdom expansion, then why call what we do “missionary?” Call it “cross-cultural church encouragement” or “supporting the saints,” but let’s not deceive ourselves and call it “missions.”

Well over 6,000 people groups have no healthy, vibrant church. Some of these people groups, not all, have NO believers among them. Can we honestly be PROUD of going where the gospel resides, when there are places it does not? We desperately need a sustainable, indigenously-led missionary effort and we need to be willing to honestly evaluate the state of that work once engaged.

We may see a hand. We may count a hand. We may even report (proudly) on the hands we have seen … but God sees hearts.

I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God. More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means. – J. C. Ryle

By His Hand

Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me.” But his armor-bearer would not do it because he was terrified. Then Saul took his sword and fell on it. – 1 Samuel 31:4

fernanda-marin-1358779-unsplash

Instead of dying at the hands of the Philistines (his mortal enemy), Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. He considered the dishonor of death by Philistine hands to be worse than taking his own life.

How would you like to die … for you will (if the Lord tarries)? By the hand of the Enemy, by your own hand, or by the hand of God?

Make no mistake, God’s Enemy (Satan) would like to see God’s children die and he wants to kill them … to kill you. Some escape this possibility by simply staying out of the battle. They deduce that by remaining on the spiritual sidelines, their lives will remain safe, secure, and free from strife. Others, it seems, would rather die by their own hand. Like Saul, they abdicate their God-granted victory through disobedience and the result is a hopeless life, a win-less victory, and death by self-impalement. Shame indeed kills even if a sword doesn’t.

There is, of course, another option. We can choose to die by the hand of God. For when a person places his or her life IN the hand of God, then ANY death must ultimately by His hand. In such circumstances, a person’s life AND death are not only BY God, but also FOR God and for His glory.

We live and we die. Wouldn’t it be best to live and die by HIS hand?

Death is always around the corner, but often our society gives it inordinate help. – Carter Burwell

Strength in Numbers?

From the Issacharites, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do: 200 chiefs with all their relatives under their command. – 1 Chronicles 12:32

chuttersnap-1103205-unsplash

We are all familiar with the phrase, “There is strength in numbers,” but is it true?

Perhaps. After David became the king of Israel, soldiers from all the tribes joined him at Hebron. Among these were chiefs from Issachar “with all their relatives under their command.” What made these men different from all the others? According to the biblical record, they “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”

Is there strength in numbers? Sure, but there is greater strength in the RIGHT KIND of numbers! To illustrate, which church is more powerful: a) the church with 200 faithful, wise members and 50 unfaithful, unwise or, b) the church with 200 faithful, wise members and 300 unfaithful, unwise? Which leader has more influence and opportunity to make an impact for the Kingdom, the one who leads church A or the one who leads church B? Simply put, while church B may have the “numbers,” church A will accomplish more for the kingdom because they possess the unity to make it happen. Unfortunately, too many pastors have within the midst of the church those who understand the times, yet see the influence of the unfaithful drowning out the possibilities for Kingdom expansion.

There is greater strength in the RIGHT KIND of numbers and bold, courageous leadership that is wise enough to tap into their God-honoring strength. The church is rarely equal to the crowd, but instead found within it.

We want a crowd to make us feel important and liked. But why is getting a crowd our focus? Jesus never suggested that crowds were the goal. He never addresses getting your church to grow. Never. – Chuck Swindoll

The God Who Makes a Way

So the Israelites went up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated the Philistines there. Then David said, “Like a bursting flood, God has used me to burst out against my enemies.” Therefore, they named that place the Lord Bursts Out. – 1 Chronicles 14:11

jonatan-pie-338427-unsplash

I read the Bible in French from time-to-time and sometimes in that reading I discover that the French translation of Scripture is very different from the English, requiring me to review better source material to see which uses the best wording. For example, in the verse above, the English translation reads that they named the place, “The Lord Bursts Out,” but the French translation is more like, “The Lord of Openings or Gaps.” In this situation, I needed to know, which was best? While both possibilities provide accurate descriptions, Baal-perazim literally means “the God who makes a hole or breach.”

Now, I have THREE possibilities, but the wonderful truth is that God IS all three … and more! By His power, He bursts forth, making a breach in the defense of the enemy, creating a gap or hole or path that his people might gain the victory. Indeed, He is the God who makes way!

I am not aware of the obstacles that you face, but I know a God who can remove them for His glory. He is indeed the God who makes a way when the way seems blocked. Du courage (be encouraged), disciple of Christ. All of the walls that block God’s purposes eventually come down.

Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block. – Annie Dillard