Dancing before the Lord…

Standard

David-Dancing-before-the-Lord

2 Samuel 6:14 David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 16 As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

I love this image of King David dancing with all his might before the Lord, to the point of looking foolish. He just didn’t care what people thought about him. His dancing and worship was to please the Lord alone. Even his own wife was embarrassed by him. Whatever. There is a boldness in lavish worship that blesses God and people

I’m part of the Lutheran denomination, which is not a tribe known for lavish, unabashed worship – at least not in a physical sense. You won’t see much in the way of jumping or dancing or even raising hands. That’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a cultural reflection of the northern European roots from which Lutheranism comes. Worship in a Lutheran church tends to be orderly, controlled, dignified. Again, this is not a criticism, but my experience of things.

That said, I was once pastor of a church (one in which I served as the church planter) which was not nearly as reserved in its physical expression of worship. There was much more movement, verbal participation, even dancing. There was more of a charismatic edge in the church’s worship life than what I had anticipated in its formation, but was glad to embrace when it emerged. This morning I’m aware that I miss that kind of worship. There’s something about worshipping with a sense of physical abandon that is cathartic for me, pleasing, spiritually satisfying.

Lord give me grace to worship you with physical vigor, like David did. For we are not on this earth to please other people, but to please you. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Revenge…

Standard

blogger-image-625277599

2 Samuel 3:5 Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. 7 Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8 They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” 

The sons of Rimmon (Rechab and Baanah) took revenge on Ishbaal because he had killed one of their brothers. The fact that it served King David’s purposes was a bonus. They expected to be reward by David, but that’s not what happened. David had them killed because they had killed the man in a manner God would not approve. David didn’t want innocent blood on his hands.

What I find interesting is the contrast between how David and the two brothers Rechab and Baanah responded to enemies. The brothers took matters into their own hands. David, on the other hand, “forgave” Saul. He had two chances to kill Saul but didn’t to it. In other words, David returned to God the right to deal with Saul rather than doing so himself – something that can be really hard to do.

It’s one thing to let the offense go when there’s little opportunity for revenge. It’s another when revenge is staring you in the face.

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice…

Standard

1462471207-iwo-jima

Psalm 118: 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is a simple verse of thanksgiving, but it means a lot. I am the pastor Rejoice Lutheran Church in suburban Dallas, so this is a popular verse for us. I’ve heard it hundreds of times, to the point where I don’t really think about it much anymore. But as I read this verse today I see some new perspectives emerge.

This is the day that the Lord has made…

First, we don’t know what kind of day it is the psalmist is referring to. Is it a bad day? Is it a good day? The rest of the psalm would suggest it is, but perhaps not. Sometimes the most difficult times in life come after what appears to be great success or victory. I was recently reading about the flag flown over the island of Iwo Jima during WW2. It was a moment of great triumph and a much-needed shot in the arm for US marines – but there was a lot of fighting left to do. In fact, three of the men appearing in the photo above ultimately died on the island. Victory today, death tomorrow. It happens.

The only thing we know for sure about the day in our verse is that God made that day. And every day before or since. God ordains each day with his presence and the promise that God will be present with us, no matter what kind of day it might be. Then there is the second half of the psalm,

“Let us rejoice and be glad in it…”

Here is expressed a determination to rejoice and be glad – whatever a day brings. There are some people who manage to find what’s wrong in just about any situation. They are people whose first impulse is to complain. I’ll admit I can be a bit like that too. It’s hard not to cry out when you’re getting hit from all sides. Some days are just like that. Other days, of course, are wonderful.

But in our verse the psalmist makes no distinction. There’s not one posture for good days and another for bad days. There is simply the mindset to rejoice and be glad – no matter what. For whatever reason, that speaks to me today. Even on the most difficult of days I have so much to be thankful for. God has been good to me and those I love.

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Amen.

Christians are… cannibals?! What?!

Standard

John 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

It’s no wonder there were rumors that early Christians were cannibals, though they were not. In our passage Jesus was referring to the Lord’s Supper which he instituted before his eventual arrest, death, and resurrection. That said, you gotta admit Jesus could have done a better job of clarifying his remarks at the time.

“Christians are cannibals” is a good example of how easy it is to think the worst of people with whom we disagree. This happens all the time in our modern world, particularly in the political arena. It takes effort to really understand people with whom we are unfamiliar or don’t understand or with whom we disagree. Christians can do better. I can do better.

Lord, ignorance is easy. Understanding takes effort. Give us grace to actually get to know people, not just the rumors about people. Amen.

 

 

Saul – a cautionary tale…

Standard

003-moody-david-saul

1 Samuel 31:1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.” But his armor-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together on the same day. 

This is a sad ending to Saul’s life. He never expected to be the first king of Israel, but God chose him anyway. And if you read the entire book of 1 Samuel you’ll realize Saul wasn’t a very good king. His faith was weak. He was too easily influenced by the anxiety of his own subjects. He was ultimately replaced by David who would be a much better king.

In one sense, Saul is a cautionary tale of a man who failed to live up to expectations. But it’s also a tale of failure by God. God chose Saul, not the other way around. God raised him up, then sent evil spirits into him when he proved weak in faith (1 Samuel 16:4). Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

Forgiveness and God’s justice…

Standard

0_V9p8id8Jrt79OvQe

1 Samuel 25:32 David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33 Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34 For as surely as the LORD the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal so much as one male.”

Abigail’s husband Nabal (a wealthy man) had insulted David by refusing to provide David and his men with food – despite the fact that David had protected Nabal’s shepherds and flocks outside the village. It would have been easy for David and his men to have simply taken several of Nabal’s sheep for food, but David thought to ask permission instead. It was the right thing to do. Nabal refused anyway. Bad move. So David and some of his men were on their way to kill Nabal when Nabal’s wife Abigail met them on the way. She had brought with her plenty of food for the men hoping she could appease David and avoid the death of her husband and other family members. It worked. In the passage above David praises Abigail who kept David from “avenging myself by my own hand”.

I recently did some study on the biblical concept of forgiveness. It’s obvious from even a cursory reading of scripture that forgiveness is a very important practice in the Kingdom of God. The Lord’s Prayer even says “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. But what does it mean to forgive? Does it mean to let someone off the hook for their actions? Does it mean staying in relationship with someone who is hurting/abusing you? Does it mean ignoring destructive behavior and allowing it to continue?

In my study I realized that forgiveness means none of these things. Forgiveness is, in essence, returning to God the right and responsibility to mete out justice to an offender – in this case, Nabal. One could say, after encountering Abigail and hearing her out, David determined to “forgive” Nabal. He didn’t forget what Nabal had done. But he did not take justice into his own hands. He let go of the offense and trusted God to take action in God’s time. Which is exactly what happened.

This morning I’m wondering where I might need to forgive someone who has hurt/offended me. Lord, give me grace to do as David did – to trust your justice rather than taking matters into my own hands. Amen.

 

…the Son can do nothing on his own…

Standard

ways

John 5:19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

Here’s my problem. I’m one of these guys with 100 ideas before breakfast. I tend to walk into most situations visualizing in my mind what can be improved. I’m guessing some of you readers may be like this as well. I get excited by new ideas, dreams, possibilities. I believe God wired me this way, which can be a great gift. But it can also be a problem.

It’s easy for me to want to pursue things that are of my own making, not the Lord’s making. But over the years I’ve come to learn that my ideas often go nowhere if the Lord is not behind them. Like Jesus, I need to do my best to follow after where God the Father is leading, not where my ideas want to take me.

“…the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing…”

This morning I’m asking myself, “Where in life is God’s grace going ahead of me?” Where do I see evidence of God’s hand at work? How can I get onboard with what God is doing, not the other way around? What would that look like for you?