Tag Archives: Jesus

“I Will Bring You Home”

“At that time I will bring you home….”
Zephaniah 3:20 (NRSV)

Here in the heartland of America, in the great state of Iowa, we have been experiencing an early spring. It’s March Madness, which is usually a time when we receive the final blast of winter’s fury. The state high school girl’s basketball tournament is mythically synonymous with “blizzard.” But not this year.

The temperatures have been unseasonably warm. The tulips are already shooting up from the earth. We’ve already used the grill on the patio multiple times. The sounds of Cubs baseball is becoming daily ambient audio here at Vander Well Manor, even if it is just spring training.

There is something exciting about spring. The death of winter gives way to new life in spring. We celebrate the journey from grave to empty tomb. Shivering in the cold yields to basking in the sun’s warmth. Resurrection, hope, and joy are kindled in our souls, reminding us that old things pass away and new things are coming.

How apt, I thought, that in this morning’s chapter we find Zephaniah’s predictions of doom and gloom giving way to hope and salvation. And, amidst the hopeful promises God gives through the ancient prophet is the simple phrase “I will bring you home.” That phrase has so much meaning for me in so many layers:

  • As I care for aging parents and grieve the “home” that I once knew.
  • As I watch our girls spread their wings and scatter to their respective paths and realize the “home” that I have so recently known and loved has suddenly gone the way of winter in an early spring.
  • As I come home from three long days working with clients to find Wendy waiting at the door for me with a cold beer, hot meatloaf, and a warm kiss; realizing in that moment the home that I am so blessed to experience each day, right now.
  • As I wax poetic in my annual giddiness for baseball season and ponder anew the game in which the goal is to arrive safely home.

I will bring you home,” God says through Zephaniah.

[sigh]

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in March 2016
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Paying the Price (or Not)

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

It was almost cliche. It was the first weekend that my sister and I, as teenagers, had been left alone in the house. My parents headed to Le Mars to spend the weekend with Grandpa Vander Well. I was fourteen. My sister was sixteen. We were given the standard parental instructions not to have anyone over, to keep the house clean while they were gone, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

We invited a few people over. I honestly remember it only being a few people. Nevertheless, word spread that there was a party at the Vander Wells, whose parents were out of town. Somehow, the kids kept coming that night. At one point I remember hiding in the laundry room because of the chaos outside. I’m not sure when I realized that things were out of control. Perhaps it was when members of the football team began daring each other to successfully jump from the roof of our house onto the roof of the detached garage.

This, of course, was the pre-cell phone era. News took longer to travel. The parents got home on Sunday evening. The house was picked up and spotless. We thought we’d gotten away with it. I’m not sure which neighbor ratted us out, but on Monday morning Jody and I were quickly tried in a kitchen tribunal and found guilty as charged. I could have made a defense that it was Jody’s idea and the crowd was mostly older kids who Jody knew. I could have pled the defense that our older siblings, Tim and Terry, never got in trouble for the parties that they had when the rest of us were gone. Forget it. I knew it was useless.

We were grounded for a week. I didn’t argue. I didn’t complain. I didn’t whine. I was guilty and I knew it. I gladly paid the price for my sin.

I was struck by David’s response to Arauna, who offered to give David everything he needed to atone for his mistake. David understood the spiritual principle that the price has to be paid for your mistake. David had blown it and he deserved to pay the price of the sacrifice. I had blown it and knew I had to do a week in the 3107 Madison penitentiary as the price for my infraction.

I think almost all of us know when we blow it, whether we wish to admit it or not. I think almost all of us understand that we deserve to pay the price for our mistakes. What is difficult is to accept that Jesus paid the price for me. That’s what the cross was all about. When I arrive at the metaphorical threshing floor seeking to make some sacrifice to atone for what I’ve done, Jesus says “I’ve already paid the price. I’ve already made the sacrifice, once and for all. The only thing you have to do is accept it.

For me, the spiritual economics of this cut against the grain of everything I’ve experienced and have been taught. I want to pay the price for my sin. I need to pay the price for my sin. I can’t believe that my guilty conscience can be absolved in any other way than for me to personally pay the price and feel the pain. So, I self-flagellate. I become Robert Di Nero, the repentant slave trader in The Mission (watch the movie clip below), dragging a heavy sack of armor up a rocky cliff as penance to confront the people he’d been enslaving because I simply cannot believe that forgiveness can be found by any other means than personally paying a heavy price.

How ironic that, for some, the obstacle to believing in Jesus is simply accepting and allowing Him to have paid the price for us.

Today, I’m thinking about the things I do out of guilt for what I’ve done, rather than gratitude for what Jesus did for me when He paid the price and made the sacrifice I deserved to make. And, I’m uttering a prayer of thanksgiving.

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Disloyalty and Criticism

The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?”

Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’”

Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.”
2 Samuel 16:3-4 (NIV)

I recently mentioned in a chapter-a-day post a gentleman whom I met who had served under five different U.S. presidents while working for the Department of Commerce. His favorite, he told me, was Harry Truman who always made a requested decision in a timely way and was always on top of the many details necessary to carry out the office well. His least favorite, he added, was Dwight Eisenhower whom he observed was on the golf course more than he was in the oval office and who seemed to avoid the politics and details the job required. His observations came to mind again this morning as I read the chapter.

As a history buff I’ve heard it said that military generals, with the exception of George Washington, make poor presidents. Politics is messier than the military. People don’t have to obey your every command. You can’t just give orders, you have to persuade and cajole those who disagree with you. U.S. Grant, who had the dogged determination to order his armies forward no matter the defeat, was the right man for the job in bringing the American Civil War to an end. He has been, however, generally regarded as one of the worst U.S. presidents in history.

As I read the story of David, I find it fascinating that this theme of difficulty moving from military command to political power appears to be apt, even in antiquity. David was a great military leader, but his leadership as a monarch reveals tragic flaws that echo the reflections of Eisenhower by my acquaintance. Absalom stole people’s hearts because he would take the time to listen to their cases and grievances while David avoided the responsibility and kept people waiting. Despite his genuine desire for God’s blessing on his people, David appears to have been more interested in personal pursuits than in national problems.

In today’s chapter, David is on the run for the second time in his life. This time, he’s fleeing his own son. David’s scandals have decimated his approval rating. He has few loyal followers left. As his monarchy collapses around him, people’s true feelings come to light and we see two examples of it in today’s text. I found the contrast between David’s response in the two confrontations found in today’s chapter interesting.

Mephibosheth, the handicapped son of Saul, had personally been shown favor by David. Now that David appears to have let the throne slip through his fingers, Mephibosheth repays David’s grace with disloyalty rather than gratitude. There is a power vacuum and Mephibosheth is going to try and make a play to grab power for himself. David responds by rescinding his former kindness and giving Saul’s holdings back to Saul’s servant, Ziba.

Shimei the Benjaminite lets out his frustrations with David in an annoying one-man protest in which he screams his disdain for David and hurls stones at the king. Unlike Mephibosheth’s disloyalty, which was a personal dishonoring of David’s kindness, Shimei’s verbal and stone assault comes from pent-up frustration with David’s leadership, scandals, and the resulting fallout. Perhaps David recognized the truth in Shimei’s criticism. David turns the other cheek and won’t even let his loyal guard force Shimei to be quiet.

Today I’m thinking and pondering the criticism and confrontations we all face. There is a difference between Mephibosheth’s selfish power grab and Shimei’s frontal assault. There’s a difference in David’s response. Nevertheless, Jesus never made such distinctions in his command to forgive others. His parables and Sermon on the Mount instruct me to forgive both hurtful verbal criticism and a very personal slap across the face. For the record, He experienced both.

In the quiet this morning, I’m taking a little inventory this morning of those who’ve been critical of me, and those who’ve caused me injury. I’m thinking about my own life, leadership and the blind spots that have given others good reason to be critical. I’m considering my own responses and searching my own heart to ask if I’ve truly forgiven them.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

Today’s featured image created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Miscommunication’s Collateral Damage

Miscommunication's Collateral Damage (CaD 2 Sam 10) Wayfarer

In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.
2 Samuel 10:1-4 (NIV)

This past week I was witness to an unexpected public confrontation. An intoxicated friend publicly confronted another friend regarding a particular past incident. The former was blind-sided and blamed the latter for something after it had been poorly communicated via a third party and created a projected misunderstanding of intent and consequence. It was messy and awkward and completely unnecessary.

For almost thirty years of my career, I’ve been assessing customer expectations, experiences, and satisfaction. Having analyzed literally tens of thousands of interactions between customers and companies, I can tell you that almost every escalated customer situation begins with miscommunication or a misunderstanding of intentions. I’ve observed that the same is true for most human conflicts.

I’m spending this week on-site with a client, mentoring a group of relatively inexperienced managers. As I shadow them and observe them interacting with and coaching their team members, I am reminded of how critical intention, tone, and clarity are to the power and reception of communication.

So it was for the Ammonites in today’s chapter. David sent his envoys with the purest of intentions, but his intentions were misunderstood and the resulting escalation and conflict claimed the lives of over 40,000 soldiers.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded of the sage of Proverbs who wrote “when words are many, sin is not absent.” No wonder Jesus told His disciples to speak clearly and directly with a simple “yes” or “no.” Miscommunication of both words and intent can carry a high price in collateral damage relationally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically. When it comes to those types of price tags, I prefer to be a cheapskate.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Featured image on today’s post created with Wonder A.I.

The Source and the Purpose

The Source and the Purpose (CaD 1 Sam 30) Wayfarer

David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”
1 Samuel 30:23-24 (NIV)

This past Sunday afternoon, Wendy and I were blessed to help host over 100 people for a backyard cookout along with one of our backyard neighbors. We grilled up a bunch of burgers and dogs and people brought sides and desserts to share.

Last night our home was invaded by about twenty or so high school sophomores and their three adult leaders. A few weeks ago we were asked if the young people could meet at our house on Wednesday nights during this school year. There was never really any question. We’re glad to have them. Wendy and I stuck around for a bit to be introduced to the kids before we sequestered ourselves. Wendy and I have talked about making Wednesday night a date night with some friends who have also volunteered their house for the Wednesday night youth gatherings.

In today’s chapter, David and his men return to their sanctuary town in Philistine territory having been told to do so by King Achish in yesterday’s chapter. While they were off mustering for battle a raiding party of Amalekites swept through, plundered their town, and burned it to the ground. The Amalekites also took all of their wives and children as captives. The first thing David does is consult the priest, Abiathar, to inquire of God whether they should pursue the raiding party. David is given the green light.

While they are in hot pursuit, about 200 of David’s 600 men become weary and choose to stay behind. The remaining 400 overtake the Amalekites, defeat them and return with everyone’s women, children, and all the plunder the Amalekites had taken on their raids.

At this point, the 400 men who completed the defeat of the Amalekites argue with David that the 200 men who stayed behind should not receive any of the plunder since they didn’t participate in the battle. David’s response is swift and strong. The victory, David says, belongs to the Lord, not to their military prowess. The plunder, therefore, is a gift from God and it is to be shared by everyone. David calls his men to think about their Level Three circumstances with a Level Four perspective.

Along my spiritual journey, I have slowly come to embrace the spiritual reality that everything I have belongs to God. Everything in my “possession” will be abandoned and left behind when this journey is over. Jesus is the Alpha point from which all good things flow and all the good things that have flowed into my life. Jesus is the Omega point to which all good things, including all the good things in my life, will ultimately return. I’m not an owner. I’m a steward. The belief that anything I have is really mine is an illusion.

This is why there was never really any question that Wendy and I would allow our home to be invaded every Wednesday night by a bunch of teenagers. We are so blessed with our house. It’s exceeding, abundantly, beyond what we could have once imagined. The story of building it is a God story that leaves us with no doubt that we were supposed to build it, that we were supposed to use it generously, and with it, we were to practice hospitality. It was built to be used, lived in, and shared.

This morning, in the quiet, I’m thankful for all of the blessings I enjoy including my wonderful home office where I sit and type these words, but I’m also thankful for learning to have perspective about the source of the blessing and what we are to do with it.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Prototype

The Prototype (CaD 1 Sam 23) Wayfarer

May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.
1 Samuel 24:12 (NIV)

One of the things I’m discovering on my current stretch of Life’s road is that my spiritual life is growing deeper and more meaningful even as my body begins to show the signs of the aging process that will continue to lead to its inevitable, physical demise.

I have been preparing a message for the past few weeks on a familiar piece of Jesus’ teaching called The Beatitudes. As I have been memorizing, studying, and meditating on them I have come to realize that it is a road map for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. One commentator I read called it “a new way to be human.”

I suppose that it’s inevitable that as I meditate deeply on Jesus’ nine-fold path of being that it would become a filter through which I begin to see new things in old stories. Like today’s chapter.

I have mentioned in recent posts that the saga of Saul and David is a study in contrasts, and those contrasts continue in today’s episode.

King Saul holds all the worldly power. He has a nation’s army at his command. He has an entourage catering to his every whim and seeking to ride the gravy train to their own personal empowerment. King Saul has become obsessed with killing his young rival, David.

David has no earthly power. He is living a life on the run. He’s hiding in a cave in the desert with a rag-tag crew of misfits and mercenaries. He was anointed as God’s to-be King by Samuel, but that doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition any time soon. In fact, looking at the circumstances, I’ve got to believe that David is wondering if the whole thing is some kind of joke.

In today’s chapter, King Saul and his army are on the hunt for David. They’re in a desert area that is riddled with caves. King Saul finds himself needing to “answer nature’s call” so he steps into one of the caves to have a “seat on the throne,” so to speak. What he doesn’t know is that David and his men are in hiding just a bit deeper in the back of the cave.

From the perspective of the culture of those times, this is David’s chance. His men are adamant that David assassinate Saul and make his prophesied rise happen. No one would bat an eye if David were to seize this opportunity. They live in a dog-eat-dog world of conquest. Kill-or-be-killed is their everyday reality. The strongest and most violent are the ones who rise to power in their world. There’s no person in the world who would question David’s actions were he to take out his vengeance on the mad King who had, unjustifiably, ruined his life and made his daily existence a living hell.

This is where David is different. God told Samuel that David was “a man after my own heart.” David wasn’t concerned with what everyone in this world would think. David was concerned with what the God of heaven would think. David is revealing “a different way to be human.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
David is embracing his impoverished circumstances and placing his trust in God to fulfill his destiny, not take it into his own hands.

“Blessed are those who mourn…”
David is embracing his lament, turning them into poetic songs, and seeking the comfort of God’s mercy rather than his personal revenge.

“Blessed are the meek…”
David has the power to assassinate the King, but he humbly chooses not to use that power.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
David willingly chooses not to be a judge, jury, and executioner, deferring justice and vengeance on Saul to God.

“Blessed are the merciful…”
David mercifully treats Saul as he would like to be treated by Saul.

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”
David is more concerned with the condition of his heart than the condition of his circumstances.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”
David, having cut off a piece of King Saul’s robe as the monarch was indisposed, confronts Saul in an effort to peacefully resolve their conflict.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…”
David’s entire life has become that of unjust persecution because God has blessed him and not Saul. Still, David humbly surrenders to God’s will and God’s timing for the right time to lift him to the position and power that has been prophesied.

“Blessed are you when others insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice, and be glad…”
At the end of today’s episode, Saul goes back to his palace, power, and position while David retreats back into his cave where he picks up his lyre and pens the lyrics of Psalm 57 in which he laments living among “lions, ravenous beasts, and men whose teeth are sharp spears” (remember Saul twice tried to kill David with his spear), but then in the very next line writes:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

If the Beatitudes are Jesus’ prescription for a different way of being human, then David was the ancient prototype.

In the quiet this morning, I simply find myself desiring to live however many days I have left on this earthly journey exemplifying Jesus’ nine-fold path of being human, just like David did.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Rules and Principles

Rules and Principles (CaD 1 Sam 21) Wayfarer

So the priest gave [David] the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
1 Samuel 21:6 (NIV)

I once attended a local gathering of Jesus’ followers that belonged to a particular denomination. The denomination was hundreds of years old, and over those years the leaders of this denomination established a set of rules and regulations regarding everything from how the local gathering should be governed, how meetings were to be handled, and even how one goes about both personal and corporate worship.

There was in this particular gathering a man whose family had been members of this denomination for generations. He had the denominational rule book practically memorized, and he let everyone know it, all the time, by bringing it up whenever he sensed that one of the rules and regulations was being broken.

I confess: I found him annoying.

I have one vivid memory of him questioning something I did, pointing to the denominational regulation manual and expressing that I may have gone afoul of its religious code (as he interpreted it). I pointed him to the scripture that directly motivated my actions. It was obvious that he was zealously studying and following the denominational rules, but he was oblivious to God’s fundamental life principles.

In today’s chapter, David begins his life on the lam. King Saul wants him dead. David’s first stop is in the town of Nob. Nob is where the Hebrew’s traveling tent Temple, known as the Tabernacle (from the time of their Exodus out of Egypt) is set up. David talks to the high priest and expresses his need for food and a weapon. While it is not explicit in the text of today’s chapter, David will quickly be joined in the wilderness by his brothers and men who are loyal to him. They’ll need food. The sword of Goliath is there in the Tabernacle, which David takes. The only food available for David to take is the bread that has been consecrated to the LORD as part of the temple’s regular thanksgiving offering ritual. The high priest allows David to take it for himself and his men.

About a thousand years later after this incident, Jesus will be cornered by the religious rule-keepers regarding the fact that His disciples break the rules by picking grain to eat on the Sabbath day of rest.

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus’ point is that there are fundamental principles on which the laws were given. Chief among them are principles of love for God and loving others as you love yourself. There is also the law of life. David was in dire straits and the compassionate thing to do was give the consecrated bread to David for him and his men to stay alive as he flees into the Judean wilderness, even though it was going against the established religious ritual protocol. To put in terms of Jesus’ Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12) it was the “pure in heart” thing to do, and it was the “merciful” thing to do, and those things supersede ritual protocol.

One of the things I love about Jesus was the fact that He was constantly ignoring the religious thing to do in order to carry out the right thing to do. I endeavor to always follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even if/when it completely ignores religious rules and regulations.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Good for the Soul

Good for the Soul (CaD 1 Sam 16) Wayfarer

“Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
1 Samuel 16:16 (NIV)

I have mentioned before the three questions that I regularly ask myself when I’m trying to gain my bearings on this life journey:

  • Where have I been?
  • Where am I at?
  • Where am I going?

The question “Where have I been?” tends to take me down two trails of thought. One is to think about how life itself has changed from an external perspective. Daily life, work, politics, culture, technology, and the like. The other is to think about how I have personally and internally changed over time.

Today’s chapter is pivotal in the larger story that the author of 1 Samuel is telling. It’s like that episode in a good drama series when you realize all the characters and circumstances are lining up for a major conflict, and you can’t wait to get to the next episode to see how it all plays out.

Having rejected Saul as King, God sends Samuel to the “little town of Bethlehem” (Yep, the same town where Jesus was born), to the home of a man named Jesse. Samuel has Jesse bring out all of his sons, one by one, to determine which of them God has chosen to be anointed as King. Jesse parades all seven of his older sons, but not one of them is the right one. Seven is a fascinating number because it’s the number of completion. It’s almost like saying that Jesse showed Samuel the complete package of sons he considered worthy or capable of being chosen by God, completely dismissing his youngest son, David. God, however, chooses what the world dismisses. David is called for and anointed King.

Now we have the rejected King Saul, still on the throne and slowly descending into madness. We also have God’s anointed King: David, a shepherd boy from a podunk town in the region of Judah. Saul’s attendants suggest to him that music would be soothing for his tortured soul when he descends into one of his fits. One attendant remembers this kid, David, who was a pretty good musician. So Saul calls for David, enjoys his playing, and brings David into his service as minstrel and armor-bearer.

The plot thickens. This is a set-up for a major conflict. Shakespeare himself could not have framed this storyline any better.

What struck me as I read this chapter was the fact that music was recommended as a remedy for Saul’s mental, emotional, and spiritual funk. This got me thinking about how music has increasingly become a constant in Wendy’s and my daily lives. Looking back at my earlier years, the television was always on. I was a news radio and sports radio junkie. I put the morning news on first thing in the morning. I had it playing in the background all day, and I went to bed watching the 10:00 news before falling asleep to whichever late-night talk show happened to be my favorite at the time.

Today, Wendy and I almost never watch the news, but music is almost always playing in the background. Gregorian chants and classical choral music accompany my quiet time each morning. Some of our favorite worship music accompanies our morning routine and often continues softly in the background of the kitchen through the rest of our day. I might have some oldies playing as I get shaved, showered, and dressed. Some of my favorite classic southern rock is the staple when I’m working in the garage or on house projects. When I’m working in my office during the day, it’s usually some kind of soothing spa playlist or some baroque classical. We have playlists to accompany drinks and/or dinner when we have friends or loved ones over. Music accompanies our daily life.

In the quiet this morning, I’ve come to the conclusion that my habits changed with the rise of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle. Headlines turning mole-hills of news into mountains of crisis, talking heads screaming at each other, news anchors waxing repetitiously saying the same things over and over again, it all added levels of stress, anxiety, and fear that drained Life out of me. Music, on the other hand, is medication for my soul. It soothes, inspires, brings joy, sparks memories, and prompts me to spontaneously hum and sing.

In a few minutes, I’ll head downstairs for my blueberry-spinach smoothie and a fresh cup o’ joe. Wendy and I will peruse the news online to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, and we’ll share our thoughts and opinions with one another. We will then choose to shut our tablets, put the news away, and enter the tasks of our day, accompanied by music.

Even the ancients knew that music was good for the soul.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Plunder

Plunder (CaD 1 Sam 15) Wayfarer

“The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
1 Samuel 15:21 (NIV)

Plundering has been an aspect of warfare for as long as people have made war on one another. In fact, throughout history, there have been people groups who made themselves rich by attacking weaker people groups and plundering all of their possessions as their own. Part of the horrors of the holocaust, less than 100 years ago, was the fact that the Nazis drove Jewish families from their own homes to death camps, and then plundered all of their possessions. American soldiers also plundered as they fought their way through Europe to Berlin. Plundering has always been a part of warfare.

In today’s chapter, it’s important to place Samuel’s directive to King Saul in this light. The Amalekites were a nomadic people who had violently opposed God and set themselves against God’s people since the days of Abraham. We read about the Amalekites warring against Abraham, Moses, and Joshua as well as in the days of the Judges. When Samuel gives Saul the instruction to destroy the Amalekites, the ancient Hebrew word refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to God. In other words: No plundering. Destroy it all.

Of course, this directive would not have been popular with the fighting men who saw plunder as the reward for putting their lives on the line. Plundering was viewed as a right and privilege of warfare. There would have been grumbling and complaining. There might even have been talking amidst the troops of desertion or rebellion. This is a test of Saul’s leadership.

He fails.

Saul compromises on carrying out the directive, allowing his men to plunder “the best” of the Amalekites’ hoard. He then “set up a monument in his own honor.” When confronted by Samuel, Saul tries to justify his actions before confessing that he feared his own men. Samuel then declares that God has rejected Saul as king.

I noticed a small detail in the text that I believe might often be overlooked. When Saul is justifying his disobedience he twice tells Samuel that they took the Amalekite plunder in order to sacrifice them to “the LORD your God.”

As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Saul distances himself from God, and God’s command. This is your God, Samuel. We did this to make sacrifices to your God.

This got me thinking this morning about my own relationship with God. I have long observed individuals who relate to God as other. Jesus, however, was quite specific about His desire to be one with His followers just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in the mysterious union of being that is beyond human comprehension. I don’t consider God to be other, I consider God to be intimately personal, connected, and one with me, and me with God, in ways I can’t even comprehend.

As I wrap up my quiet time this morning and launch into a busy new work week, I’m not leaving God behind in the quiet. As St. Patrick’s prayer so aptly communicates, God goes with me, within me, before me, beside me, above me, behind me, on my right, and on my left. This, in turn, changes the way I think about the entire week.

I’m living to surrender and serve Christ, not plunder this world.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Believer vs. Disciple

Quick Note to my subscribers: Due to some scheduling challenges this week, I may not be posting my regular chapter-a-day regularly week. Feel free to browse the archive for a fix if you wish. Cheers!

This past week I delivered a message among my local gathering of Jesus’ followers. In the message, I referenced John 8:31-32 which contains one of the most well-known statements Jesus ever made: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That famous statement, however, is part of an if/then statement, which means that the statement by itself will always be out of context.

Jesus was speaking to a group of believers to whom Jesus was differentiating from those who were disciples.

I was raised to be a believer in Jesus but later I became a disciple of Jesus. Looking back on my experience and observations of growing as a disciple of Jesus for over 40 years, I penned the following list contrasting the two. I was asked by many to make this publicly available. Here it is:

• A believer makes a mental agreement that Jesus was who He said He was and that the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament are both true and worthwhile.
• A disciple makes a life-long decision to willingly and obediently think, speak, and act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament.

• A believer goes to church on Sunday, at least occasionally, because it is expected.
• A disciple attends worship regularly out of a desire to corporately worship God and make meaningful, relational life connections with other disciples.

• A believer brings their Bible to church to follow along with the preacher (and because it looks good to have it with you).
• A disciple devours the Bible continuously as spiritual nourishment and Life sustenance.

• A believer prays in church on Sunday, says the Lord’s Prayer, prays over meals, and prays in time of need.
• A disciple acknowledges Holy Spirit’s indwelling and God’s ever-presence, making everyday life an ongoing conversation with God.

• A believer “fellowships” on Sunday mornings before & after service with other believers.
• A disciple lives everyday life growing in increasingly intimate relationships with fellow disciples: loving one another, confessing to one another, forgiving one another, admonishing one another, building up one another, bearing one another’s burdens, being generous with one another, and comforting one another.

• A believer seeks assurance of entrance to heaven after death.
• A disciple seeks to die to self each day in order to be a citizen and ambassador of heaven on earth.

• A believer excuses their lack of knowledge, education, training, standing, goodness, holiness, purity, and/or godliness, in order to justify leaving the work of ministry to paid professionals on staff of the local institutional church.
• A disciple receives God’s grace, forgiveness, and indwelling, translating it into an embrace of the spiritual reality that Jesus made every follower a minister of the Gospel of Christ at every moment of every day no matter one’s age, gender, education, ability, sinfulness, or past failures.

• A believer gives God a place in their lives.
• A disciple surrenders their life to God in response to the life that His Son gave for them.

• A believer comes to the bricks-and-mortar church (or watches the YouTube feed) to pay God a visit.
• A disciple is the flesh-and-blood church taking God’s love & presence to every person with whom they visit.

If you’d like to watch the entire message: