Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2 Samuel 12:26-13:22

2 Samuel 12:26-13:22

If you have read the last few posts, I hope you have not received a negative impression about David. I do hope that you have realized that he was human, just like us. And although we all sin and mess up, I hope you understand the hope we have in God. Although He cannot accept sin in His presence, He did provide a way of forgiveness through His Son, Jesus. Just as David received forgiveness from God when he recognized and repented of his sins, we too can find forgiveness. So although the story of David took a turn for the worse, he rebounded. He turned to God and set things right, and God was able to use David again in many more great ways.

Now we enter into the second half of 2 Samuel, and these closing chapters will present more struggles for David. Even though he has put his past behind him and moved on, there are still consequences for sin. The same is true for us. Yes, we can receive forgiveness for our sins, but that does not mean life goes back to normal. There may be consequences for what we have done. Whereas God forgave us, it may take others more time to do so. So we have to understand that life may still provide challenges. For David these problems began with his children, but before we get to that part of the story, take a look at the end of 2 Samuel 12. After the situation with Bathsheba was over, David and Joab set off for the Ammonites again, and as before they found victory. David took over all the cities of the Ammonites and these closing verses show that in one sense, David had been restored to his position as king over Israel. God was giving him victory in his battles again.

Then, in 2 Samuel 13, the trouble began. Part of the problem was the fact that David had several wives. As a result, he had children with these different wives, and that caused problems. Absalom and Tamar were David’s son and daughter from one marriage, and Amnon was their half-brother from another marriage. The problem was that Absalom was a very protective brother for Tamar, and Amnon lusted after her. Amnon desired to have Tamar so much that he was willing to lie and trick his entire family into just having a few moments with her alone. First, he consulted one of his best friends, and together they developed a crafty scheme. Then, he faked an illness to convince David to allow Tamar to see after him while he was sick. Finally, when she brought food into him, he ordered everyone else out of the room so that he could be alone with her. He then told her of his desires, and when she objected, he overpowered her and raped her.

Of course Tamar, having been a virgin, was greatly upset with what Amnon had done to her. Furthermore, after the fact, he despised her and ordered her to leave, which was worse than what he had originally done. She was forced out of his presence, and she went into a state of grief, upset over what had happened. When Absalom and David heard of what had happened, they were quite angry at Amnon. Absalom refused to speak with him, and he took care of Tamar, allowing her to stay with him. This situation will grow worse as the chapters continue, but all of a sudden the promise God made to David through David is coming true. He said that trouble would arise as a result of what he had done to Uriah and Bathsheba, and He said that it would come out of his own house. This situation between Amnon and Tamar is just the first problem to arise.


Monday, December 13, 2010

2 Samuel 12:1-25

2 Samuel 12:1-25

After David’s moral downfall, God sought out Nathan the prophet and sent a message to David through him. Nathan told David a story about a rich man who took a sheep from a poor man. The rich man, who had probably four times more (or maybe more) than the poor man, was expecting a visitor. To welcome the visitor, the rich man decided to prepare a sheep for him, but rather taking one of his own, he took the poor man’s only sheep. When Nathan had finished, David saw the problem in the situation and immediately ordered that this man be punished and the poor man be repaid for all that he had lost in this deal. That is when Nathan pointed out to David that the story had been about him. He was the man who had taken the only sheep, Bathsheba, from Uriah.

As a result, God was upset with what David had done. After all that God had given David, protection from Saul, great riches, and the kingdom of Israel, God was upset that David had turned from Him. As punishment for his sin, God declared that David would find turmoil within his own family in the future. He would lose wives to other men, his own family would rise up against him and there would be great fights within them, and he would lose the child that Bathsheba was carrying. Immediately, David realized what he had done, and he was truly sorry for his sin. It is easy to harp on David in 2 Samuel 11, but to see the turnaround in 2 Samuel 12 shows what kind of a man he was. He did not deny the fact that he had sinned. He did not try to cover it up any longer. He took responsibility for what he had done, and although he asked that God reconsider the punishment so that his child would not die, David understood why God was taking that child from him. David repented of his sins and found forgiveness from God, and David was restored. So while this is really is a tragic story in the life of David, he shows us the right response to our sin. We must accept it, repent of it, receive forgiveness, and move on. Ultimately, it should lead us back to God so that we might grow closer to Him.

David was upset that his child was destined to die, and although he held out hope that God might change His mind, he knew that the child’s death was inevitable. When the child eventually died, David moved on with his life. Instead of entering into a state of mourning and grief, he began anew and allowed the situation to draw him closer to God. We all have or all will go through situations such as this, and it is easy at those times to question God. Why does He allow pain and suffering? For David, it was a result of his sin, but that is not always the case. But instead of blaming God for the pain that we experience, we should turn to God for help. He will comfort us. He will be with us through those tough times, and we should allow those situations to deepen our faith and trust in Him. As for David, in the end, God blessed him again, and gave him another son through Bathsheba. That child was named Solomon.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

2 Samuel 11

2 Samuel 11

After all the great stories about David, after his many victories, after all of the sacrifices he made for others and the glory He gave to God, 2 Samuel 11 shows us that David was human. There was only one man in all of history who lived a perfect life, and that was Jesus. Therefore, we have to know that David sinned at times. However, for David, it seemed as if it all happened at once. How could such a righteous man fall so far? This story about David is not just one small example of how David sinned. It is a downward spiral for him. The good news is that 2 Samuel 12 will set things straight, but for now, let us look at what caused David to stumble.

It began while Israel was out to battle, and for the first time mentioned in Scripture, David did not go with them. David had led his men in battles for quite a long time. Even before he was king, he was leading groups of men into battle. But for some reason, he decided to stay at home for this particular battle against the Ammonites, and that innocent decision cost him greatly. For while he was at home, enjoying the day on his roof, he noticed a woman bathing on a roof nearby. That was Bathsheba, the wife of one of David’s men who was out to war. Finding her beautiful, David decided to inquire about her and pursue her. Sometime later, she sent word back to David that she was pregnant, and since her husband Uriah was at war at the time, David was the father.

This realization frightened David and he knew that he had to figure out a way to resolve this situation. What would people think if they knew what he had done? Although David had never encountered a problem of this kind before, he had been faced with several tough situations in his life. 1 and 2 Samuel have shown us how in every situation, David always turned to God for guidance. Although he might initially try to devise a plan of his own, he always found it best to let God lead him. In this situation, however, David did not turn to God.

Instead, he first sent for Uriah to return to Jerusalem, in hopes that he would stay with his wife and it would appear as if he had been the one that caused her to be pregnant. When Uriah felt guilty about having the privilege to be with his wife while his fellow soldiers were at war, Uriah slept near David’s door. When questioned, Uriah explained how he did not feel right about having such a privilege. Again, David had the opportunity to turn to God for guidance, confess his sins, and set things straight with Uriah, but instead, he developed a second plan. This time, he invited Uriah to meet with him, and in the process Uriah became drunk. David hoped that Uriah’s thoughts would be clouded and he would return home. But again, Uriah did not do so. Finally, David was so upset that things were not working out that he sent word to Joab, through Uriah, ordering Uriah’s death on the battlefield. Uriah did not know the king’s plan, but when he returned to the battle, he was killed by the enemy. Furthermore, Joab and his men struggled in the battle, and while they were not defeated, the battle itself was not won as easily as they expected.

Although David had not rectified the situation in the way he had originally intended, Uriah was now out of the way, and he was able to take Bathsheba as his wife. She bore him a son, and in David’s eyes, all was well. However, God was upset with David. He had not only lusted after another woman who was married (and David was married as well), but he also tried to cover up his mistake, and killed a man in the process. Although David did not see it at the time, all sin has consequences. Think back to what Moses and Joshua had taught Israel about obeying God’s commands. There would always be consequences for their disobedience while there would be blessings for their obedience. David’s actions in 2 Samuel 11 would lead to some hard times in Israel’s future, and the rest of 2 Samuel will show how this happened. But even though this is such a negative story, there was hope for David. Although sin does separate us from God, God also offers us forgiveness for that sin. The next chapter will show how God reached out to David, and although He punished him for his sins, He also offered David forgiveness.


"Our House" and Scripture Memory

Have you ever found yourself singing along with a random commercial on TV before? Or have you ever found yourself quoting the dialogue right along with the actors of that commercial? Without even trying to, we learn the lyrics to our favorite and sometimes our not so favorite commercials. I know that I have found myself sitting in front of the TV before quoting a commercial without even realizing what I was doing. This actually happened just a few days ago. I do not even remember what I was watching now, but I was sitting in my chair working on my laptop when I heard a new commercial come on. After singing “Jingle Bells,” the commercial broke off into “Our House.” Immediately I thought it was a Maxwell House commercial again because I have grown accustomed to associating that song with that brand of coffee. I was singing the lyrics of that song when I looked up at the TV and realized that they were not advertising Maxwell House. It was a Verizon commercial! I then realized how quickly these commercials can become integrated into our lives, which prompted me to write this new post.

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, and not necessarily of the posts that have been walking through the Bible, you might have noticed that I am a big believer in the importance of memorizing Scripture. Just about two or three years ago, I thought I had done a great job at memorizing Scripture, participating in Bible Drill and knowing verses from several books of the Bible. But as I got into college, I learned that Jews (at least in earlier times for I am not sure about today) were required to memorize the entire Pentateuch during their childhood. That means that they would know by heart the first five books of the Bible! Then, professors required Scripture memory in some of my classes, and they required passages, not verses. I began to see the importance of memorizing chunks of Scripture and not just single verses, although both are beneficial. Now, I have begun to make the commitment to memorizing whole books.

But before this post becomes a pedestal for me to stand on so that I can showcase all my accomplishments, let me say that that is not my intention at all. In previous posts I have mentioned my desire to memorize a book, at the time Philippians. But that plan fell through, I became discouraged, and it never happened. I have told you about the encouragement I remembered gaining from David Platt who came to Union and quoted Romans 1-8 in a chapel service. That encouraged me to get back into memorization and I finished learning 2 Timothy, which I had done most of a few years before that service. But for some reason, I could not get back into it and find the commitment to learn Philippians from start to finish. My problem was a lack of commitment.

Finally, back in the spring I told you about a commitment I made with some students on a recent mission trip about Scripture memory. We committed to learn Philippians, and I was able try this again. About 10 weeks later, I finally accomplished this task, and it was because I made a commitment to God, and He gave me the strength and ability to do it. I have since been working on 1 John, and am amazed at how easy it has become. But it has only come by commitment and sacrifice. There is a method I found thanks to the leader of that mission trip, and by setting aside 20-30 minutes each day, I gradually worked my way through these books. I will not go into detail about that method now, but if you would like to know more, leave a comment, and I will get back to you. Basically though, by learning two verses a day (I now do three) and reviewing each day, you can work your way through any chapter or book. Once you have reached your goal, review it for 100 days, and you will have it down almost perfectly. Then, by studying it about once a week, you will be amazed at how well it sticks with you.

I share this method with you today because it worked so well for me. While there is no magic in the different methods you can use, for me having an organized plan was much better than me trying to figure out what to do and how much to do each day. If you commit yourself to it and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of your time each day, you can learn a chapter of Scripture, which might be a great first goal. Who knows, you may even be able to memorize your favorite book. We all probably know hundreds of songs and hundreds of commercials that we could quote at any time. So why do we not put more time into memorizing God’s Word? I encourage you to find a method that works for you and start today. As I said, if you would like to learn more about the method that has worked for me, just let me know below and I will send it to you. Most importantly, I pray that if you decide to do this that you will not do it for your own glory but for God’s glory.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

"There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it."

That is the opening line from C.S. Lewis's book, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it fits the character of Eustace quite well.  The movie was just released yesterday, and during the first showing around midday yesterday, I was at the theater ready to watch it.  Thankfully, I was very pleased with the movie.  It did not let me down like Prince Caspian had done a couple years ago.  While there were changes to the main story line, the key scenes from the book and the main themes were left in the movie.  One of the biggest differences between the book and the film was the ordering of the events.  Since Lewis wrote the book in a very episodic format, casually hopping from island to island across the Narnian sees, this would not translate well into the movie.  So the producers had to reorganize the scenes in order to make the storyline flow better on the big screen.

I for one did not have a problem with this reorganization.  While minor things were changed in the process, the movie still held true to the book.  Eustace was a pain from the start, and it was not until later in the movie that Narnia changed him into a much better person.  He also kept his diary, showing his skepticism of the whole adventure, which is true to the book.  He and Reepicheep did not get along, and Reepicheep exhibited his great faith that there was something at the edge of the sea at Aslan's country.  Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace all faced their temptations and showed how we are to overcome them.  While there was a mysterious power out on the sea, Narnia itself was in a time of peace, which allowed Caspian to set sail in search of the 7 lost lords.

One of the major additions to the movie was the quest for their swords as well.  While this is not in the book, I felt it was a great addition as it helped tie their various journeys and encounters on the different islands together in a more cohesive way.  They had a mission and a reason to get to Aslan's table.  Another addition was Edmund's temptation with the White Witch.  While Edmund did face his temptation of greed (which Lewis placed in the book), he also had to face the White Witch again, but not in the way you might think.

For those of you have read the book, I really do think you will love this movie.  Understand that it is not a word-for-word interpretation of the book.  But if you are looking for the salve traders, the dragon, the gold water lake, the magical book, the dufflepuds, Aslan's table, and the trip to Aslan's country, it is all there!  If you are looking for the spiritual elements: the struggles with temptation and the importance of having faith in God, they are there as well.  Aslan is amazing in this movie, and the closing scenes are very moving!

Finally, for all you avid Narnia fans, if you have also read The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, which would be the next book, you get a little taste of it at the end of this movie.  I will not spoil the surprise, for this comes from a scene that is not in the book.  But when Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace return to Eustace's home, be sure to listen carefully to his mother.  Like the movies before it, this movie prepares you for the next one, but you will have to see the movie to figure out how.

So go out and support this movie.  While I still like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the best, and mainly because it is closest to the book, this movie now takes second place.  It is far better than Prince Caspian.  However, if I were to judge these movies on the visual aspects and the special effects, the 3D carries this movie far past the other two.  I hope you all find the time to check this movie out before it leaves theaters, and hopefully in a few years we will be heading out to see the next one.

So that is all until... The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair.


2 Samuel 9-10

2 Samuel 9-10

If you can remember back to some of closing chapters of 1 Samuel you might remember a conversation that David and Jonathan had about their future. David and Jonathan had been best friends, and Jonathan knew that David would one day be king of Israel, even though he was the son of the current king. Although Jonathan was Saul’s son, he knew that his father had made several mistakes and that God had pulled the kingdom away from them. But Jonathan was not bitter. In fact, he was very supportive of David. Jonathan fully expected to still be alive when David took the throne, and so he asked David to not forget him and his family when that time came. David promised to do so and was determined to not leave his friend Jonathan to suffer. But Jonathan was killed unexpectedly in the battle that also killed his father.

Now, several years later, David remembered the promise that he had made to Jonathan and began to inquire about Saul and Jonathan’s descendants. He asked around to see if there was anyone still alive that fell in their line. That is how he found Jonathan’s son Mephilbosheth. This young man was a cripple who was lame in both feet. Most people might have even viewed him as the enemy, knowing that he was the grandson of Saul. To David, however, Mephilbosheth was his best friend’s son, and he wanted to look out for and take care of him. So David allowed him to eat at the king’s table and gave him a group of servants so that all his needs would be taken care of as long as he lived. So once again, we see the good heart of David. He could have easily forgotten the promise he made to Jonathan, since no one but Jonathan knew about it. He could have kept it all to himself and not worried about figuring out how to take care of a crippled man. But that is not how David lived. He knew that God still loved Mephilbosheth. As God had provided for David in 2 Samuel 7, David provided for Mephilbosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

David then continued to add victories to his name, but in 2 Samuel 10 he was not looking for a battle. The king of the Ammonites had died, and David sent them help in their time of grief. The Ammonites had never been any trouble, and Israel had gotten along with the Ammonites under David’s rule. But when David sent some of his men to help them, some of the new king’s servants became suspicious. They thought that David was sending spies into their land so that he could take over. So they dealt harshly with David’s men and then went to Syria to recruit some help, knowing that David would most definitely retaliate.

David waited them out for a time, giving his men time to heal. He then put together an army under the leadership of Joab and sent them to fight against the Ammonites and the Syrians. These two groups of people soon learned how powerful David and his men were, and those that did not flee the battle were killed. After the battle was over, not only had David successfully defeated these two nations, but he also caused the Ammonites and Syrians to break ties. The Syrians vowed to never return to the aid of the Ammonites again. So God gave David the victory again, and all was going well in the nation of Israel.

But as mentioned yesterday, things would soon turn for the worse. So far we have seen all the positive aspects of David’s character. Even in times of temptation, he has been able to overcome it and move on. There were times when it seemed like he would falter, but always came out victorious. But we must remember that David was indeed human, and like us, he had his moments of sin. That is the next part of David’s story.


Friday, December 10, 2010

2 Samuel 7:18-8:18

2 Samuel 7:18-8:18

David’s humility and servant heart is seen even more in the closing verses of 2 Samuel 7. After God made all these promises to him about his future and the future of his family, the first thing David asks is “why?” He does not get excited and dance around. He does not accept God’s gifts and go on with his life. David sits in the presence of God and humbly asks why it is that God would bless him and his family. He knew that he is insignificant in the grand scheme of the world for he is only one man. He also knew that God could have accomplished all that had been done through his life with anyone else. God did not need David, for all the great things that had happened were done by God alone.

This understanding of God’s power led David into a spirit of worship. He praised God for all that He had done and all that He was going to do. He thanked God for who He was and declared that there was no one or nothing like Him. All of David’s prayers, whether in the form of questions or praise, were completely directed toward God. It was as if he had not yet realized all that God had promised to do in his life. Those things did not matter to David because he was amazed by God. Then once he realized all that God had promised, He asked that God come through. Yet even in this request, David was not selfish. He did not want to have a great family and great fame for his sake. He asked that God do all that He had promised so that He might be glorified for it.

David exemplifies what it means to follow God. He was humble, willing to serve, obedient to God’s commands, and did not want to take any of the glory for Himself. He praised God in the hard times, like when he was being pursued by Saul, and in the good times, such as God’s promises to him in 2 Samuel 7. While we have yet to see David’s mistakes, showing that he was indeed human and struggled with sin just like the rest of us, David was truly a man after God’s own heart.

As a result of his faithfulness to God, God continued to give David victories over his enemies. In 2 Samuel 8 we see David heading back out into battle, first taking on the Philistines. Everywhere David went and against all who pursued him, God gave David victory after victory. During the reign of Saul, David became well known amongst the people of Israel and the Philistines. They all knew that he was a strong opponent and how successful he had been. Then, during his reign, his fame spread to the surrounding nations as God allowed him to conquer more land. But even in these victories, David did not want to keep the fame to himself. Instead, he dedicated the battles and the victories to God, giving the credit to him. David knew that it had been God who had allowed him to be victorious. 2 Samuel 8 ends by listing some of the men that worked closest to David.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

2 Samuel 7:1-17

2 Samuel 7:1-17

After all the chaos settled down in Israel, David found himself ruling over a very peaceful nation. The battles against the surrounding nations, such as the Philistines, were over. Saul and his legacy were nothing but memories of the past. The Ark of the Covenant was finally back where it belonged in the capital city of Israel. The land was peaceful, and because of David’s faithfulness, God had allowed him to have this time of peace. But even in the midst of peace, David was not satisfied. Now you may be thinking that by not being satisfied, David desired more material things or more power, but that was not the case. David’s dissatisfaction was not about what he lacked or did not have, it came about because he felt like God was not getting all that He deserved. David was a very selfless man, and he was not as concerned about himself as he was about God. He knew that it had been God who had put him in this position. God had driven out all of his enemies, and he had only been God’s instrument. So in the lap of luxury, David was struggling with the fact that he had so much in his palace and God had so little in the tabernacle.

David was distressed that God’s dwelling was so small and that He did not have a permanent place to dwell. He did not want to live in a more extravagant building than the God that he worshipped. He knew in his heart that God deserved more. So when he confronted Nathan the prophet about his desires to build a nicer dwelling for God, Nathan initially gave him the go ahead to do whatever his heart desired. But that night, God spoke to Nathan asking that David not worry about building Him a nice place to dwell.

God’s place was with the Israelites. It did not matter to Him that there was not a permanent place for Him to dwell. He had traveled with Israel for years, and He was more concerned about providing them with their security in the Promised Land. Now we know that God is a spiritual being, and although He came to the earth in human flesh in Jesus for a time, He does not actually physically dwell among us. Jesus is still fully God and fully man, but He will not be on this earth again until His second coming. So He did not actually need a physical building in which to dwell. However, such a building can be a symbol of worship, giving people a specific place to go where they know that they will encounter their Lord. So why would God have forbidden David of building such a place for the people to go? And why would He later ask David’s son, Solomon, to go ahead with construction when He had told David not to build it?

I think He was using this moment as a teaching moment for David. David had always done so well in depending on God. He rarely did anything without consulting God about the matter first. Now that the nation was in a time of peace and stability, God did not want David to forget his dependence on Him. God did not need David to build a house for Him, but David most certainly needed God, even in those times of peace. Although there was nothing wrong with what David asked of God, God did not want him to become complacent and forget where his need for God. So God did not allow David to build a temple for Him at the time, but He did promise David that one day his son would build it. So like David, we must never forget our need for our God. He is our only source of strength, and when troubles come, we can always turn to Him. Yet even in those times of peace, when everything in life seems to be going great, we must never forget to continue to grow in God, praying to Him, and reading His Word.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2 Samuel 6

2 Samuel 6

In 2 Samuel 6 David continues his reign as king of Israel by recovering the Ark of Covenant and bringing it into the new capital of Jerusalem. The journey itself, however, was filled with several complications. First, as the Ark was being taken from Baale-judah, one of the oxen carrying the ark stumbled, and it appeared as if the Ark was going to fall off the cart. So one of the men traveling beside the Ark, Uzzah, reached out to catch it and put it back on the cart. The problem was that no one was allowed to touch the Ark of the Covenant under any circumstances. Like the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, the Ark of the Covenant was one thing that God had strictly prohibited anyone being near or touching. If you remember from the laws listed in the Books of Law, there were strict laws surrounding the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark had led the Israelites for generations, guiding them into the Promised Land and protecting them during battles. Some of Israel’s most treasured possessions, such as the tablets that held the 10 Commandments, were inside. So when Uzzah touched the ark, God struck him dead immediately, which sent fear through the rest of the men around him.

David was one of those men, and he was upset with what God had done. He was so upset and fearful of what had happened that he refused to finish the trip to Jerusalem. Instead, he took the Ark to the house of Obed-edom, and he and his men returned to Jerusalem. The Ark had traditionally blessed those with whom it rested. As Israel traveled into the Promised Land, it had been the Ark that went ahead of them as God split the Jordan River. It was the Ark that went with them into battle when God would give them the victories. So when the Ark stayed with Obed-edom at this time, he and his family were blessed as a result. Word eventually got back to David on how the house of Obed-edom had been blessed, and this caused him to go after the Ark again, to finish the journey. Now whether David was just encouraged to finish the journey or if jealousy sparked his sudden interest again is unclear, but it appears as if jealousy could have been a key in getting the Ark into Jerusalem. I mean if I heard that someone else was being blessed by it, and it had been my mission to bring it to my city, that might motivate me to finish the task. While this might not be the proper motive for doing something for God, it might not have been David’s motive either.

As the Ark entered into Jerusalem, David led the people in celebration. Because of the significance of the Ark to the Jewish people, David was extremely excited to have it in the capital of the nation. He danced before the Lord, praising Him for allowing them to have this privilege. The Ark had been the place in the tabernacle where Moses had received direction from God. It had played such pivotal roles in their history, and David felt blessed to have it back in the center of their life as a nation again. In the midst of this celebration, however, another source of jealousy arose. This time it was David’s wife Michal who exhibited jealousy. Seeing David dance around the streets in the way he was, she felt like he was showing off for the people around him, especially the women. But I do not think she was only jealous of them. It also appears as if she might have been jealous of God, that He was getting more attention from David than she was. Furthermore, when she confronted David on this issue, he assured her that he was not trying to show off for the women, and that he would continue to praise and worship God.

We all like to be on top. That is just part of our human nature. We all like attention, and none of us want to be ignored by others. We all want the best in life, and I do not think many of us would say that we would desire less than excellence in all that we attempt. We strive to be the best. Because of these motives, when we see someone doing better than we are, whether that be them making more money, earning a promotion, or just doing better in life in general, jealousy arises. But there is no place for jealousy in the life of the Christian. We have all that we need in God, and even if we do not have as much “stuff” as someone else, we do have God.


Don't Waste Your Life - Part 2

Here is the rest of my review for Don't Waste Your Life.  Whereas Part 1 was a summary of some of the main ideas of the book, this second part will focus in on just 3 ideas that I found interesting and elaborated on in my review.

Although Piper makes many great points in this book, there are a few that stood out above the rest. First, the journey begins in boasting in the cross of Christ. This is where Piper began, and this was the first point that stood out. He said, “If we desire that there be no boasting except in the cross, then we must live near the cross––indeed we must live on the cross” (55). It is easy to go to church on Sunday, attend the worship service, listen to the sermon, and get excited about living for Christ. It is easy to be moved emotionally and to become ready to cling to the cross. Sadly, many people go out the next day and forget what they learned in church just hours before. Are they really clinging to the cross of Christ or are they just going through the motions? To boast in the cross, Piper says that “we must live on the cross,” which means that we must put to death the things of this world (55). We cannot say that our desire is to glorify God at church if we are not willing to make that sacrifice outside the church walls.

To be effective in our ministry in the world we cannot be of the world. The world recognizes hypocrisy, and if someone claims to be a Christian while participating in the same sinful activities that the world participates in, then what message does the world receive? They see a bunch of egotistical religious fanatics who do not actually live what they say they believe. Therefore it is crucial that anyone who desires to live a life that points to and glorifies God must remove themselves from the temptations of this world. Personally, this will ruin my reputation as a Christian, and if I am leading a church someday, it will also ruin that church’s reputation in the community. There is too much at risk for Christians to be straddling the line between these two completely different lifestyles. Being on the cross means dying to the world in order that we might be more effective in reaching them.

This leads to the next significant point. To die on the cross of Christ and ultimately die to the world is a huge risk. In portions of the world where Christianity is illegal, this is a much greater risk than we face in America; however, it is still a risk in our American culture. Adults could lose jobs or not be hired because of their faith. Teenagers might experience isolation at school because of what they believe. Families might be ostracized from the community because of what they stand for. Furthermore, America’s future could hold religious persecution. We do not know what the future might hold for Christians, but we must decide now what our faith means to us. In accepting Christ, are we actually willing to die for Him?

Piper walked through a series of biblical examples that illustrated men and women who were willing to risk it all for God. From David’s faith in battle to Esther’s boldness to enter into the king’s presence, from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s willingness to be thrown into a furnace to Paul’s willingness to suffer many afflictions, these people considered the cost and still chose to follow God. Do we really consider what our faith in Christ might cost us or do we take it as our way out of Hell? Many Christians in America have forgotten that serving Christ will lead to some form of suffering, and they tend to think of suffering as punishment. If we are truly holding to the cross of Christ, having died to this world, they are going to retaliate. They are not going to willingly sit by and let us completely destroy the way they live. They do not want to be told that they are wrong. This leads to conflict and ultimately suffering.

No matter how much suffering comes in our lives, however, we must realize that it is most definitely worth it. We must all come to the point to where we are willing to risk it all for Christ. It is a continual process, and I do not believe that I am there yet. As I continue to grow in Christ, I pray that I will learn what it means to truly follow Him. I pray that I will be willing to risk it all, because even in the American setting, following Christ will be risky. Through my continual growth in Christ, I also pray that I can help lead others in the future to learn what it means to follow Christ in this manner as well.

All of this culminates in the third and final significant point. Many people today feel like witnessing should be left up to the church leaders. They make a division between the secular workplace and the spiritual workplace. Some do not understand how they can incorporate their faith into their secular work environments. Even the word secular causes many to believe that they should quit their jobs and find a more “holy” workplace. Piper reminds his readers that “the vast majority of Christians are meant to live in the world and work among unbelievers” (134). So if a Christian is willing to take the risk to live for Christ and die to the world on the cross of Christ, then they will find that they can still work in the world without actually being of it. This attitude will open up doors for ministry that they might not have ever seen before.

I may never actually know what it is like to work in the secular work environment except for the few part time jobs I had as a teenager. If I do end up working in a church someday, I will not be in this “secular” work environment; however, I can still encourage others to use their workplace as their mission field. God has placed people in these different places for a reason, and they may be the only person able to reach the unbelievers in that particular company or business. Dying to the world does not mean resigning from a job; instead, it means letting go of sinful practices while still being a positive influence for Christ in this sinful world.

So what is a life not wasted for Christ? Piper argues that it is a life that is willing to take the risk to live for Christ no matter the cost. It is a life that will be willing to die to the world while finding all of their joy in Christ. It is a life that is willing to reach out to the lost world and offer the love of Christ to them. If Christians sit around and enjoy the “American Dream” and do not have a passion to share the Gospel with the lost world around them, then they are wasting their lives. Piper’s point is quite clear, convincing, and well supported throughout his book. Too many people are wasting their lives in the Church today. May this book be a charge to all Christians to not waste their lives but instead live for Christ.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2 Samuel 5

2 Samuel 5

Finally, after all the turmoil that David faced in his life, and possibly after more than 20 years of waiting, David was anointed as king of Israel. The dust had settled from all the lies, betrayals, and murders, and Israel once again came together as one, all declaring David as their king. David was 30 years old when he became king of Israel, and he had only been a kid when God had first chosen him for this job. David waited patiently, and God came through for him, just as He had promised. David was able to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites early on in his reign, and he chose that city to live in. Jerusalem would later become the capital city of Jerusalem, and under the reign of Solomon, a temple would be built to God in that city. Speaking of Solomon, 2 Samuel 5 mentions his birth (one of many of David’s children that were born during his reign).

After settling down in Jerusalem, the Philistines heard that David had been given the throne of Israel. Now remember that when David had been running from Saul, the Philistines came to his aid. They protected him and ultimately helped him defeat Saul, although David actually had nothing to do with that battle. The Philistines may have helped David in the past, but that had been because they had a common enemy. Just because David was on the throne of Israel did not make the Philistines Israel’s closest ally. They once again came against Israel, as they had done on multiple occasions, and David had to figure out how to handle the situation. Part of me wonders if David wanted to go easy on them. While this pure speculation on my part, I think that if I were in his shoes, I would almost want to help out the Philistines because of how they had helped me in the past.

David, however, did not hesitate to go to God for guidance. Now while I was only speculating before, David may or may not have been conflicted on what he was to do. He asked God straight out if he would win in a battle against the Philistines. That tells me that maybe David was not thinking anything about working with them. He now saw them as a threat, knew what their true intentions were, and knew that the only way he could overcome them would be through God. David was faced with another problem, a threat from the Philistines, and the first thing he thought of was God. How many times do we find ourselves in a tough situation and the first thing we think of is going to God? Sadly, I know that God is not always my first option (although He should always be). I have moments where I turn to my own strength, my own thoughts, guidance from close friends or family members first. While these can all be helpful resources, our first inclination should always be God.

For David, God assured him that he would have victory over the Philistines, and David went out to battle. He was given the victory as he had been promised, and he was even able to strip away all the idols of the Philistines. A little while later, the Philistines returned for a second attack on Israel. Just like before, David went to God for help, and God told him that he would have victory again. This second attack, however, was different. God gave David specific instructions on how and when to attack the Philistines, and the only way David would find victory was to follow those instructions exactly. David did so, and once again he struck down the Philistines. David shows us what it means to trust God, looking to Him for guidance, and to obey God, even in the details. These two truths have been some of the main themes of David’s life, and they are two great lessons that we can learn from him today.


Don't Waste Your Life - Part 1

Here is my second book of the semester that I wrote a book review of for class.  Again, it is quite a long review, so this is only Part 1 of the book review of Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.

One of the greatest tragedies among Christians in America today is that many of their lives have been wasted. They have lived the “American Dream” and have forgotten the true mission that every Christian has been given, to glorify God. John Piper deals with this issue in his book, Don’t Waste Your Life. Upon reflection of his life, Piper realized that he had wasted many years, but through the teaching of his professors and the great writers of the past, such as C. S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, Piper found himself heading in a new direction. It was not an overnight transformation where he went to sleep wasting his life and woke up with his mind set on nothing but the glory of God. He realized that each major chapter of his life brought him closer to the realization of his wasted life and the need to live for the one single passion every Christian has been called to, to glorify God.

For Piper, it all came together when he realized that glorifying God did not mean sacrificing personal happiness. He says, “but now here was the greatest mind of early America, Jonathan Edwards, saying that God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion” (31). Like Piper, many people might realize that living life to glorify God requires significant sacrifice. In thinking about sacrifice, they draw up all the negative connotations that go along with that word and conclude that they cannot live a happy, joy-filled life. Piper uses Don’t Waste Your Life to show how Christians can live to glorify God in their current situations.

God places people in jobs and environments for a reason. Piper argues that even in a typical “8 to 5” secular job, Christians can still point to and glorify God. In fact, that is what they are called to do. God’s mission for His children is to spread His name to all the nations. Therefore, each person has the responsibility to do that in the environment in which they have been placed. To do so, they must first realize what the purpose of their life is. They must come to the point in their life where they realize that a life not lived to glorify God is a life wasted. If they are not boasting in the cross and glorifying God through all situations in life (whether good or bad), then they are living a wasted life. How can someone sit on the sideline of the Christian faith living the “American Dream” and not consider the great task God has set before them?

Piper charges his readers with clinging to the cross, enduring the hard times that might arise, and taking risks in life. Ultimately, it is a great risk in this world to become a Christian. Spiritually, this is the greatest situation someone could make, for the reward is magnificent. In the world’s eyes, however, becoming a Christian is looked down upon. In fact, in many parts of the world making that decision could lead to straight to death. From the great examples from Scripture (David, Esther, Paul, and others), however, Piper concludes that taking the risk to live for God is worth it. If death comes from proclaiming God’s name, then God is still glorified and heaven is the reward for the martyr. How much better could it get? Truly, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Don’t Waste Your Life challenges readers to really think about their current situation, considering if they are wasting their life or using it to glorify God. It offers practical information on how they can boldly live for Christ in the workplace and in their part of the world while offering great Scriptural support for what a God-glorifying life looks like. It also offers encouragement for readers who might find themselves in the midst of suffering, charging them to hold fast to Christ and consider the rewards. God will not be glorified in all the nations if His children do not have the passion and drive to go out and share the Gospel with them.


Monday, December 6, 2010

'While I'm Waiting" and "In the Waiting"

While studying 2 Samuel 4 today, I could not help but think of 2 songs that deal with those waiting periods in life like David experienced.  We all have those moments between big milestones in our lives, and sometimes we look so forward to the next big thing that we miss out on what God is teaching us in the present.  While we should think of the future and plan accordingly, we must also take the time to focus on what God wants to do us in the weeks, months, or maybe even years before those big events.  David waited a few decades before he received the fulfillment of God's promise for his life, but he served God continually while waiting.  So here are some song lyrics to go with today's passage.  Check out these artists.  They are two of my favorites.

John Waller - "While I'm Waiting"

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

FFH - "In the Waiting"
I've seen the red sea part, I've seen the mountains move
But now it seems so dark, I can't even feel You
If You chose to be silent I'll be silent too
I will worship in the waiting, quiet before You

Until Your voice like manna from the sky falls
I will worship in the waiting
I will walk with this sand beneath my feet
Though the winter wind is blowing

The ground is not frozen underneath
I will worship and not grow bitter
'Cause I know You see the end of it all
And with the spring will come the rain
And I'll see what was gained

In the waiting
I've seen the blooms of spring, new life in everything
But now it seems so grey, bright colors fade away
This winter seems much longer and colder than before
But I will worship in the waiting, expecting something more
Until the sun shines warm upon my face again

He Leadeth me, He leadeth me
By His own hand, He leadeth me
His faithful follower I would be
For by His hand, He leadeth me


2 Samuel 4

2 Samuel 4

The killing continued in 2 Samuel 4, all leading up to David’s appointment of king over Israel, but David did not approve of any of these murders. Prior to this chapter we have seen Saul, Jonathan, and Abner killed, and some of the murderers thought they were doing David a favor. For instance, the young man that had reported to David about Saul’s death bragged about his involvement (whatever it may have been). However, David did not approve of this man’s confession. Murder was still murder in David’s eyes, and he did not want to use murder to advance his position in Israel. Then, when Joab thought he was helping David out by protecting him from Abner, he too felt the wrath of David who trusted Abner and again did not want to use murder to advance his position. Now, in 2 Samuel 4, another murder takes place, and the murderers once again feel as if they are helping David.

Because of all the turmoil of 2 Samuel 3 (betrayal, murder, and condemnations) those under Ish-bosheth’s rule became distressed. They no longer trusted him as much as they once had, and they wondered if he was the right leader for them. Remember that the kingdom had in essence split in two, and David only ruled over part of Israel, Ish-bosheth had the rest. But the uneasiness in Ish-bosheth’s kingdom led to a group of men plotting murder, and in the middle of the night, they murdered Ish-bosheth. The next day, they took his head to David to show him what they had done, hoping that he would be proud of their antics and reward them. They were surprised when he condemned them for their actions and told them that they would face the same punishment that the man that took credit for Saul’s death received.

David knew that God had a plan, and that God would eventually provide a way for David to assume the throne over the entire nation of Israel. God had protected him throughout all of Saul’s attempts on his life. He then brought David back to Israel after Saul’s death and began to fulfill the promise He had made to David. Even when Ish-bosheth rose up as the successor to his father, Saul, David knew that it would not be an obstacle for God. Eventually, everything would work out. But David did not want to resort to murder in order to do so. He knew that God could use any situation, and in this case it was the murder of these different men that led to David’s position as king of Israel, but God could have used other means. David should be commended for this attitude. He himself had learned restraint when he had had two different opportunities to murder Saul, and he learned in those situations that murder and revenge were not the answers. It was in those situations that he learned to depend on God’s strength. He understood that God was in control, and He would have to wait on God, no matter how long that might take. In the same way, we should not always seek the easy way out. God is in control of our lives as well, and we have to learn to have patience. When we become so focused on the end result, we miss out on what we could be learning in the waiting period. David grew a lot spiritually while waiting to be anointed king over Israel. If we lose patience and try to do things on our strength, we will miss out on what God might have been trying to teach us in the waiting.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

2 Samuel 3

2 Samuel 3

As the war between the house of David and the descendants of Saul continued, God slowly turned things over in David’s favor. David and his family grew stronger, and many sons were born to David. These are the children that will play a pivotal role in the book of 2 Samuel. As for the descendants of Saul, they grew weaker, and eventually wars broke out amongst themselves. For instance, Abner had been of great help for Ish-bosheth, but when Ish-bosheth accused Abner of taking one of his father’s concubines, their friendship and alliance broke down. Abner was hurt that Ish-bosheth would think such a thing, and he stood his ground, rightfully upset with Ish-bosheth. So Abner decided to turn his back on Ish-bosheth and join forces with David.

But Abner’s motives were all wrong. While he was being truthful with David about helping him gain control of all Israel, as had been promised by God, he was doing it not for David’s benefit but to get back at Ish-bosheth. Furthermore, Joab, one of David’s men, was rightfully concerned about Abner’s sudden allegiance to David. Knowing that Abner had been loyal to Ish-bosheth and had fought against David for so long, he questioned whether Abner’s motives were true. This then created strife between David and Joab. While David wanted to trust Abner, Joab was afraid that they were going to be defeated because of David’s blind faith and trust in Abner.

So Joab decided to take matters in his own hands without consulting David. He called Abner back to meet with him, and when Abner returned, Joab murdered him. Of course, word returned to David of what Joab had done, and he was rightfully upset with Joab’s rash actions. So David condemned Joab for murdering Abner and led the nation in a state of mourning over Abner’s death.

So who was at fault in this twisted and confusing story? In a sense almost every single one of them are at fault, except David. First Ish-bosheth wrongfully accused Abner, but then Abner did not handle the situation properly. Instead of working things out with Ish-bosheth, he fought against him with David. While it was a good move to align with David, for he was the one who was truly following God, Abner did it for the wrong reasons (out of spite and revenge). Then there was Joab, who was one of David’s trusted men. While he was right in worrying about Abner’s true motives, he should have learned to have had more faith. It was alright for him to be cautious, but when he spoke with David and realized that David trusted Abner, he should have left it at that. Even he did not trust Abner, murder should have been the last thing he thought of. In the end, David showed why he had been chosen by God. He handled the situation very well. He trusted Abner, and defended Abner in the end, even over his own man, Joab. He did not approve of Joab’s actions, even though Joab was one of his men.

One lesson we can learn from David is that we cannot support sin even if that means turning away from our closest friends and family members. Of course, we should not turn our backs on them forever and never try to restore that relationship. Instead, we should show them love and seek to restore what was lost, but we cannot support their sinful actions. Although it may be hard, what is worse, losing that family member or friend for a short time here on earth or for eternity?


Thursday, December 2, 2010

2 Samuel 2

2 Samuel 2

When I think of the two separate kingdoms of Israel (Israel and Judah) I typically think of the time in the Kings when they are split under the rule of Solomon’s son. A large section of Israel/Judah’s history is the time in which the kingdom was split in two. But there was a time even before Solomon and his sons when the kingdom was split. After Saul’s death, David knew that God would raise him up to be the next king of Israel (that being the whole land). In fact, not long after that final battle, some men from Judah approached David about ruling over their land and being their king. But as David assumes the throne in Judah, Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth rallies several of the tribes together, and they support him as their next king. So Ish-bosheth and David actually rule over two different parts of Israel simultaneously, and this last for 7 ½ years.

What happened to the promise that God had made David about him being Israel’s next king? What happened to the promise that God had made to Saul about his family no longer being able to rule as king of Israel? If you know the story of 2 Samuel, you know that this situation is resolved, and there is no need to worry about what might happen to David. And even if you do not know the story of 2 Samuel, you should understand by now that God always keeps His promises. Furthermore, God does things in his own time. While He promised that David would one day be king, He did not give any specific time constraints on that promise. David had waited this long, and God would come through for David in the end. Ish-bosheth might have thought that he had gotten away with being king, but since that was not and had never been God’s plan, Ish-bosheth’s plans would not stand.

The first conflict between these two ruling nations within Israel occurred at Gibeon, and as expected it was because of this dual leadership. While David did not seek to throw Ish-bosheth off the throne, many of his men did. Now I am sure that David was upset at the way things had turned out. He knew the promise God had given him and probably wondered why all this had happened, but he was also content with waiting on God’s timing. So when Ish-bosheth and his men came up against David, probably seeking to throw David off his throne, God protected David and gave him and his men the victory. Both sides lost men in the battle, but David came out victorious. He was still not king of Israel, and this one battle did not win the war. But God stuck by David’s side, gave him the victory, and continued to prove to David that He would be with him through all of the challenges David would face.

Just think about all that David has been through. He was the youngest of several brothers and looked down upon because of it. No one expected him to be a great warrior, but he was the one who took down Goliath. He helped Saul by playing the harp and became one of the most trusted men in Saul’s court, and yet Saul later tried to kill him on multiple occasions. So he left his home land in fear and stayed on the run for years. Then, his wives get captured by the Amalekites, and he had to go in and rescue them. It is then that he finds out about Saul’s death, and he grieves over him even though Saul was his greatest enemy. He also learns that his best friend Jonathan is dead. Then, when it finally seems like things will turn around and he will be king just as God had promised, Ish-bosheth, another one of Saul’s sons rises up in his way. But no matter the problems and challenges, David always trusted God. He did not give up on God or blame God for the challenges. Instead, he allowed God to work in those situations and every time, God came out on top for David. So when it seems like the odds are stacked against you or if life just does not seem fair (like when you see the ungodly prospering in life) always remember that God has your back. We may not understand why we have to face life’s various challenges, but with God’s help, we can make it through them all. Never give up on God.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2 Samuel 1

2 Samuel 1

Although this is the start of another new book in the Bible, the transition is so smooth, that it does not even feel like 1 Samuel has ended. Actually, these two books are one book in all. The major difference between 1 and 2 Samuel is that 1 Samuel focuses on the time in which Israel had Saul as their king and 2 Samuel focuses on the time in which Israel had David as their king. Other than that, there is no major difference. So the story in 2 Samuel 1 begins with David hearing of Saul’s death, which had just occurred during the battle between Israel and the Philistines.

David had just finished his battle against the Amalekites, and he was victorious as God had promised. He rescued all the women and children that had been captured, including his own two wives, and life was going well for David. What he did not know was that Saul had taken his life in the battle due to the fear that he was going to lose and be killed by the Philistines. So a young man travels to find David to tell him the news about Saul and Jonathan. This young Amalekite boy runs up to David to tell him that both Saul and Jonathan are dead. There is no indication in 1 Samuel 31 that this Amalekite boy killed Saul, although he claims to have done so. Instead, Saul committed suicide after his armor bearer refused to kill him. But the problem is not as to how Saul died, the problem is in the way this young boy brags about his victory.

If you remember the two times that David had the chance to kill Saul at the end of 1 Samuel, the one thing that kept him from going through with his plans was the fear of killing “the Lord’s anointed.” David understood that Saul had been chosen by God for that specific time in Israel’s history. Although he knew that Saul’s time was short and that he would one day be the next king, he knew that God would take care of Saul in his own timing. Furthermore, he did not want to feel guilty and be the one responsible for Saul’s death. So when the Amalekite boy bragged about being the one who killed Saul, David did not understand how he could be so thrilled about killing God’s chosen king. David had every right to be thrilled that Saul was indeed dead. His greatest enemy at this point in his life who had tried to kill him countless times was finally gone and would no longer be a threat to David. Furthermore, he would be able to take the throne as the new king of Israel, just as God had promised. However, David could not enjoy the victory for the grief he felt about Saul’s death.

David’s grief is a perfect example of how we should love our enemies. We all have people in our lives that we would rather not talk to, be around, or maybe ever see again. We have all been hurt by someone at one point or another, and it is hard to reconcile with that person. But would we really rejoice if we knew that the person who had hurt us so badly had died? I doubt many of us would. The same went for David when this boy told him about Saul’s death. Part of him might have felt relief and security, knowing that Saul would no longer be pursuing him, but at the same time, it hurt David to know that Saul had died because of his disobedience. He had been rejected by God, and he had paid the ultimate consequences in the end. David’s grief is shown through the lamentation he writes about Saul and Jonathan as well as the execution of the young Amalekite boy that claimed to have killed Saul. We never know when our time will be up, and in the same way we do not know how much longer anyone around us has either. Therefore, we should not hesitate to share the Gospel with those around us, friends and enemies alike. We never know what effect we might have on someone else, even the lives of our enemies.