Monday, March 22, 2010

He's Pleased When...

Our friend's head hung low, his shoulders were slumped and his eyes told of the fears he was fighting. He was facing a medical test and was afraid of all the "what ifs" the future might hold. The giant was very real. It was one of those times when you absolutely know how good it is to be part of a family. We gathered around him to pray and encourage and to share our strength and faith.

I saw him again yesterday and remembered that test results were soon due. He told me it was going to be a week longer than he'd expected until he got them. Yet, he was standing there with head held high and clear eyes and I realized that I was seeing faith in action. The Holy Spirit reminded me at that moment that faith is what pleases God. I said, "God sees your faith and it pleases Him. He's looking at you saying, 'There's my son. He trusts me.'" I was amazed at the effect of those words on him and his wife!!

How radically, powerfully, transforming would it be if we lived in the awareness that our Papa is pleased??
"It is impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 MSG
Do you believe that He exists? Do you believe that he cares enough to respond to your seeking? Is He your source of hope in a difficult situation? Then He is pleased!! Your Papa is pleased because you're trusting Him and He knows that He has a good plan for you if only you'll trust Him.

The best way I know to demonstrate faith is to praise Him while you're still waiting to see the answer to your prayer. Every declaration of His goodness is an expression of faith. I have a favorite quote from a pastor named Mark Buchanan that goes like this: "Praise is an act of defiance and faith, a bold refusal to allow the trouble that surrounds us to be greater than the God who comes to meet us!"

May God bless you today as you trust and seek and praise. May you be encouraged to know that your Papa is pleased with you, His beloved son or daughter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Thoughts on David Facing Goliath

I don't feel I can leave last week's post without a few more thoughts on David facing Goliath. There are several note-worthy characteristics about David that impress me in 1 Samuel 17. I have a feeling that they may have something to do with his courage in facing the giant and that we might want to possess some of them ourselves if we're going to have the same success.

I am in awe of the way David wasn't intimidated by the scorn and accusation of his brother: "What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you're supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!" (v. 28) I don't know if he could have been any more insulting! The fact that his brother misunderstood, judged, insulted, and mocked him didn't shake his confidence in what he believed God called him to do. Joseph faced the same challenges. (Genesis 37:8) In fact, I've noticed that it's not unheard of for believers (brothers) to criticize or scorn those who dare to say a giant can be defeated.

This was a critical moment for David. His response, "What have I done now?" shows frustration, but it didn't slow him down much because he kept on in his pursuit of destroying the giant. He didn't argue with his brother until the brother was persuaded. He didn't get bitter and resentful (and those were some pretty heavy-duty insults from someone close to him). It doesn't appear that his confidence in his calling to conquer was shaken one bit! All the way through this chapter we see David repeatedly being told "facts" as to why the giant couldn't be defeated. David simply perseveres and declares the greatness and power of God.

A change is noticeable when David faces the king, the God-appointed authority. The king himself didn't think the giant could be defeated or that David was capable of the task. (v. 33) This doesn't cause David to give up. Rather, he humbly explains his confidence in the God who saved him from other enemies
(v. 34-37). His humility is impressive. He doesn't brag that past victories qualify him, but expresses faith that the same God will help him now.

David also respectfully attempted to do things according to the king's directions by wearing the king's armor. But somehow, even in his youth, he knew better than to try to fit into another person's image and mold of what he should be. (v. 39) He knew what God had gifted him to do and when he stuck to that the king blessed him and God honored him.

"Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10)

These reflections lead to a few questions for would-be giant slayers:

-Are the insults and scorn of others hindering me from my calling?
-Am I scorning or encouraging my brothers? (Hebrews 10:24)
-Is there unresolved bitterness or lingering resentment toward any of my brothers? (Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:12-15)
-Am I more focused on worshipful obedience than the opinions of others? (Acts 5:29)
-Am I respectful and under the authority of God-appointed leaders? (I Peter 5:5-7)
-Am I humble and aware of my hope being in God rather than my own strength? (Psalm 73:26)
-Am I at peace with the gifts God has given to me or am I trying to be like someone else? (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

"I pray that God, the source of hope,
will fill you completely with joy and peace
because you trust in him.

Then you will overflow with confident hope
through the power of the Holy Spirit."

Romans 15:13

Monday, March 8, 2010

Facing the Giants

I'm a morning person. In the evening I can be anything from dopey to downright irritable. Ever since I've been a mom I've treasured my quiet time in the morning before the kids get up. My son's a morning person too and, no matter how quiet I am, he often joins me in that early morning quiet. When he does he asks for the same story. Every time. David and Goliath. Lest you think I'm some kind of extraordinarily saintly mother, I will confess to my heart sinking when the pitter-patter his feet invade my quiet, but I've valiantly turned from my choice of reading to I Samuel 17. It's come in handy lately. As I've pointed out valuable lessons from the story to my son, I've been preaching to myself...

Lately, his temper has felt like a giant bigger than Goliath. I face giants of anxiety. We've talked about the size of the giant and the size of the boy and the size of the stone that felled the giant. How was it that a boy with a stone was able to conquer a giant? The answer is in David's declaration: "I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven's Armies...Today the Lord will conquer you and I will kill you and cut off your head!" The only size that mattered was the size of the God in whom he trusted. David knew that he had to do his part, but it was going to be the power of God that would destroy His enemy.

David knew God. How did he know Him well enough to dare to defy a giant that had older, more experienced men shaking in their boots? In the years leading up to this day, David had been shepherding his father's sheep. A pretty mundane life, indeed. (Do you feel like your job/life is pretty mundane sometimes?) He had a lot of time on his hands where his mind wasn't too occupied and what did he do with it? He meditated--focused his thoughts--on God. He worshiped and praised God. A reading of the Psalms of David show that he saw God in everything around Him (Psalm 145 is good example). He knew about God's character because he was focused on all that God could and did do. When it came to facing an enemy David knew what God could do. He was more in awe of God than the giant.

Giants have a way of blocking out the light and even drowning out all other sounds. Yet, when David faced Goliath not even the roar of the giant's taunts could drown David's confidence in the Lord of Heaven's Armies! All those years of building intimacy with God prepared him for this day when a giant was defeated and whole nation was liberated!

Giants are inevitable. Intimacy with God is optional. I want to be more like David.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one can snatch them away from me,
for my Father has given them to me and
He is more powerful than anyone else.
No one can snatch them from the Father's hand.

John 10:27-29

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Does He Like Me?

"Mom, do you think God likes me?"

Big, earnest eyes were begging an honest answer. The little guy has been through a challenging couple of weeks, learning difficult lessons about decisions and consequences and self-control. Giants for the best of us, much less a little boy. After failing yet again, an important question surfaces: I believe God forgives me, but does He like me?

My parenting experiences have given my a much deeper understanding of God's Father heart. We're imperfect parents and we love our kids so much--how much greater is the love of the Perfect Father? (Luke 11:11)

My love for my son hasn't lessened one bit as he's been experiencing this "learning curve". If anything, I'm more aware than ever how much I love him. There's nothing I wouldn't do right now to help him over this hurdle. How much more our heavenly Father...? He went to the extreme lengths of sacrificing His Son to make a way for us imperfect, fumbling children to be reconnected with Him. Everything about the life of Jesus expresses His huge yearning for relationship with us. His Holy Spirit is freely available to us to comfort and encourage and strengthen us as we face "giants".

And then there's the whole discipline thing... It's tough to let my son face the consequences of his decisions. Not rescuing our kids from consequences has required greater strength than lots of other things I've had to do. How much more our heavenly Father...? I think I understand a little more of how much it must make His heart ache when choose to ignore the commandments He's given to us for our own well being. How often has He had to endure our whining and acting like a victim when what is happening is simply the consequence of our choice to ignore His way and choose our own? It's definitely an act of profound love to let someone you love suffer from the consequences of their choices. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

As the perfect Father, God can do so much more than we earthly parents can: He can redeem our messes and make something beautiful come out of them if we'll surrender to Him! (Romans 8:26-30) Everything about His nature is redeeming, restoring, and reviving.

So, does He like us even though we don't get it right all the time? I love the question because I love the answer! Yes!! "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners... So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God." (Romans 5:8&11, emphasis added) He loved us when we were messing things up in complete rebellion--how much more now that we're seeking Him and His help? And friends of God? Wow. I like my friends a lot--even though they're not perfect.

And so I answered my son confidently, "Yes, buddy, I know He likes you. He likes you a lot!"

"For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." (Zepaniah 3:17)
"For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust." (Psalm 103:11-14)