Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chapter 12 - The Trials of a King

What was he thinking? How could David fall for the oldest trick in the book? Lonely night, can't sleep, beautiful woman and … well, you know the rest of the story. How sobering to see such a man of God fall so dramatically that he would not only sin morally but then arrange for the death of his lover's husband.

I see two warnings in this chapter:

(1) Sin can get us all. If Satan can find David's weakness then certainly he can find mine. Vigilance is required of all God's people, and although David finds forgiveness he suffers greatly from his sin. It's easy to throw stones at David, but perhaps even more sobering is his encounter with Nathan and his damning words, "You are the man." As we come to this chapter in The Story let's not forget that each one of is The Man. We are all guilty to some degree of egregious sins and we should all be asking that same question of ourselves - "What was I thinking?" Sin can creep up on us ever so covertly and before we know it we are trapped! The apostle Peter, who also knew how quick a believer can go form hero to zero, shares this wisdom: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

(2) Sin can be easily ignored. It seems as if David is able to file away his sin and live quite comfortably in blissful ignorance. Isn’t it amazing how we can rationalize, compartmentalize, and disregard sin in our own lives? Sin can be so subtle and so deceptive. David had relegated his sin to the deepest, darkest corner of his mind that it took a prophet and a little story to bring to light the seriousness of the sin he had committed. Perhaps it is as equally dangerous to ignore sin than to have committed the sin itself! May the Lord reveal to all of us those sins we have been able to silence.

In spite of the warnings I also see a blessing. David confesses and finds forgiveness. His relationship with God actually seems to deepen as he struggles with sin. In God he finds a compassionate Shepherd, a caring Father, a forgiving Savior. Intertwined in this chapter are the heart-felt Psalms of a man who wrestles with the tension of seeking God and pleasing himself. That is what separates David from the rest of the pack - he wrestles and doesn’t give up. His life is a constant struggle and I learn that what may be most important is to stay in the battle.

Life is a spiritual battlefield. We will win some and lose some, but we must always invite God to both our celebrations and our hardships. And amazingly he will accept each invitation and His presence will always make things better!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chapter 11 - From Shepherd to King

Make sure you listen to our middle school students read chapter 11.
Go to www.thestory4texoma.com for a link to the audio.

In chapter 11 we are introduced to David -- the great king of Israel, great poet, and man after God's own heart. It is indeed a wonderful story. The youngest of his family he is hand-chosen by God through Samuel to succeed the less-than-impressive Saul. Even as a young man he demonstrates his courage and strength in his battle with Goliath. Have you ever read a more moving challenge against evil than his words on p. 120, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." It makes you want to get up and shout! And that's what his actions do. After he slays Goliath the armies of Israel surge ahead to defeat their enemies. All it took was one man to stand up for the rest to follow along!

And then you have to be impressed with his loyalty to Saul. Given an occasion to kill the obstacle to the throne, David refuses to out of respect for the Lord's anointed. He knows his time will come when God is good and ready!

And above all David displays a passion for worship as he sends for the Ark of the Covenant to be retrieved and brought to a more permanent resting place in Jerusalem. In spite of the little accident along the way (poor Uzzah), David shows proper respect for the Ark. Jerusalem will soon become the long-standing capital of Israel.

Then David has a dream, a dream for a temple worthy of the glory of God, and although he is not the one to build it (Solomon will get that honor) it is David's concept. Even in spite of God prohibiting him from building the temple David still stands amazed that God has chosen him to be such a critical player in The Story -- "Who am I Lord God that you have brought me this far? You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted on men."

This guy is the total package.

This is certainly one of the high points in The Story. When David is on the screen there is a crescendo of music! This is Rocky at the top of the art museum steps. This is Roy Hobbs hitting the homerun. This is Julie Andrews singing on the hills of Austria.

It doesn’t get much better than this. God and the angels are high-fiving each other. The plan is in full swing. This is the way it was meant to be. King David - a man after God's own heart!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Story - Chapter 10
Standing Tall, Falling Hard

I am not a tall man and have long ago embraced my height (or lack thereof) and have even found some advantages to being vertically-challenged. Here are some:

• Shorter fall to the ground.
• You don't hit your head so often.
• You can get in places at kids prices.
• The atmosphere is less rarefied.
• You can fit in to a locker to hide from bullies.
• You can do the limbo without breaking your back.

… and the list goes on!

I bring up the height issue because in this week's reading one of the descriptions of Saul includes that he was a head taller than anyone else. As a short person I wonder why this is important enough to include in the inspired record. Is it just a passing comment or is this somehow related to the choice of Saul as king? I tend to believe the latter to be true.

Saul's height no doubt contributed to his selection as king. Right or wrong, his imposing stature must have given the Israelites confidence that he could rule powerfully. It needs to be noted also that Saul is described by the phrase "as handsome a man as could be found anywhere in Israel." Outward appearance was a factor in who would be considered fit to rule as a king!

But his height and good looks could not overcome some serious character flaws. As Saul's story plays itself out he does indeed stand tall, but he just as surely falls hard.

Although as a short person it gives me some perverted joy in seeing the failure of man chosen for leadership in part because he was tall, I contend that his failure was not due to his height or his good looks. People don’t fail or succeed because of their outward appearance. As my mom always told me, it's what's inside that counts!

I think this little brief description exposes a problem that doomed the Israelites and really has doomed mankind since the very beginning. We tend to make judgments based on appearance when we really need to look at people a little deeper. We tend to be partial to people who look a certain way and that is a dangerous road to take.

James puts it quite bluntly -- If you treat one person as being more important than another, you are sinning. You are guilty of breaking God’s law. (James 2:9 - NCV)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Story - Chapter 9

I recently saw on television a show called Best in Film. It chronicled poll results in film categories, one of which was best film ending. Personally I think the end of Field of Dreams is the very best - father and son reunited and reconciled over a game of catch. Or what about Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston discovers he's really on a futuristic earth as he glimpses a broken and fallen Statue of Liberty? You have to love the ending of Rocky - Rocky loses in the ring but who cares because Adrian is racing to his side. Great endings really can make a movie memorable.

As far as books of the Bible are concerned, I think Ruth has one of the greatest endings. Down and out Ruth and Naomi. Both widowed. Both desperate for the security of a husband. Both childless. They've experienced the death of loved ones, a devastating famine, and financial hardships. This book has all the makings of a real downer.

But there's that ending.

Boaz enters to save the day. He seems instantly taken back by Ruth. At their first meeting you can sense that love is in the air. Boaz cares for Ruth and eventually takes her as his wife and the two have a baby. But what is really great about this ending is that not only does Ruth have a child, but Naomi has a grandson. The grandson she thought she would never have after her two sons died. This woman who, refusing to be called by her given name, took the name Mara (bitter) experiences nothing but the sweetest of endings.

The book of Ruth ends with Naomi holding her grandson Obed. Bitter Naomi certainly never looked so blessed. What makes this ending even more wonderful is that Obed will have a son, Jesse, who will also have a son, David -- the great King of Israel. A simply wonderful ending.

What’s more bizarre is that this wonderful ending all takes place in Bethlehem - the place where all of our endings are changed from bitter to blessed!