Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut

Our intuitions aren’t infallible. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.
JOHN KOESSLER| JUNE 21, 2019

Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut

Watson Thornton was already serving as a missionary in Japan when he decided to join the Japan Evangelistic Band, an evangelistic mission founded in England in 1903. He decided to travel to the town where the organization’s headquarters were located and to introduce himself to its leader. But just as he was about to get on the train, he felt a tug in his spirit that he took to be the leading of the Lord telling him to wait. He was puzzled but thought he should obey.

When the next train rolled into the station, Watson started to board but again felt he should wait. When the same thing happened with the third train, Watson began to feel foolish. Finally, the last train arrived, and once more Watson felt a check. “Don’t get on the train,” it seemed to say. Shaking his head, he thought, I guess I was wrong about this. Watson thought he had wasted most of the day for no apparent reason. Yet as he turned to go, he heard a voice call out his name. It was the mission leader he had intended to see. He came to ask whether Watson would consider joining the Japan Evangelistic Band. If Watson had ignored the impulse and boarded the train, he would have missed the meeting.

What was this impulse? Watson believed it was the voice of the Lord. Despite this, he felt unsure of himself. His actions didn’t seem to make sense at the time. It felt more like a matter of intuition than anything else.

Coincidence or Guidance?

Jonas Salk called intuition the inner voice that tells the thinking mind where to look next. Intuition is that flash of insight that prompts us to act in the moment. We all have had some experience with this. You feel a strong urge to call someone you haven’t talked to in ages. When they answer the phone, they say, “I was just thinking about you.” Or you are planning to depart for your road trip at a certain time but decide to leave two hours early. Later you learn that you missed a major traffic jam. Was it coincidence or guidance?

We can’t just live by our intuition, can we? Scripture warns that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). How can we trust it? And the mind does not seem to fare much better. Proverbs 3:5–6 advises, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We can’t trust our heart or our mind. What is left to guide us?

There is the Bible, of course. But it often does not speak to us with the specificity we might desire. It certainly works well enough on the big things. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Make disciples of all nations. Yet it doesn’t speak about the fine details. To which church should I accept a call as pastor? What week should we schedule Vacation Bible School this year? Should our short-term missions team go to Mexico or Uganda? There are all kinds of decisions I have to make that cannot be made by turning to a specific chapter and verse.

We do see something like intuition at work in the lives of God’s people in the Bible. Paul tries to enter Asia but is “kept by the Holy Spirit” from doing so (Acts 16:6). He tries to enter Bithynia but his progress is checked by “the Spirit of Jesus” (v. 7). He passes Mysia and goes down to Troas, where he has a vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come and help them (v. 9). Paul took this as a call from God and got ready at once to leave.

Whole-Self Decisions

Acting on intuition seems as if it is relying on the irrational, or at least something non-rational in us. However, it might be better to describe it as supra-rational. It involves thinking, but there is more to it than that. An intuitive act does not entirely skirt the rational processes since it often involves a decision. But it is one that is made based on different criteria than we usually rely upon when deciding or acting. Intuitive acts seem non-conscious because they don’t involve long deliberation, exhaustive research, or lists of pros and cons. Instead, the decision is made or the action taken in a moment.

Intuitive acts are more holistic than those that are purely rational. They seem to come from some place deep within. They are decisions made by the whole self rather than just the mind. Those who act on intuition often say that they are acting on the gut or their instinct. They cannot explain how they know what they should do; they just know that it is the right thing to do. It is still rational in the sense that the mind is engaged.

There is an additional factor involved where God’s people are concerned. Believers often act based on what might be called “inspired” intuition. They are moved not only by the unseen processes that affect everyone else but also by the Holy Spirit. That was how Paul understood his decision not to enter Asia, Bithynia, or Mysia. The influence of the Spirit was what compelled Watson Thornton not to get on the train, even though that was what he had come to the station to do. We usually describe this as following the “leading” of the Holy Spirit.

This is a sensitive subject for some Christians. One reason is we are not exactly sure how this guidance works. Even though there are clear instances in the Scriptures, the exact details are not always included nor do they necessarily fit our experience. For example, we are told in Acts 13:2 that the church of Antioch was prompted by the Spirit to commission Paul and Barnabas and send them out on mission. In that case, the call did not come through some inner intuition but when the Holy Spirit spoke as the church was fasting and worshiping. But how did the Spirit speak? The explicit mention of prophets and teachers could suggest that there was some kind of prophetic directive. Yet the text does not actually say this.

The same is true of the directions Paul received while he was on his missionary journey. We know the Spirit directed him not to enter some regions and allowed him to enter others. But apart from the one vision, we really don’t know what form this direction took. Was it a “feeling” on Paul’s part that some destinations were just not right? Did God use obstacles and circumstances to nip at Paul’s heels like a sheepdog in order to guarantee that he ended up in the right place at the right time?

In the end, Paul was directed to his destination by a vision. In our case, the Spirit seems to carry out his ministry of guidance by employing more ordinary means. Instead of being visited by a prophet, we receive an email or a phone call inviting us to apply for a pastoral position. When trying to decide which youth pastor to hire, the choice is made when one them turns us down. The processes we use are not at all extraordinary, but that does not mean that God is not in them.

A Measure of Risk

Just as we do not entirely understand the natural processes involved when we act intuitively, we do not always know the spiritual processes involved when God directs us as believers. We often talk about being “led” by the Lord, but when Paul employs this language in Galatians 5:18, he is talking about morality, not decision-making. Those who are led by the Spirit are empowered by him to obey. They “walk”—that is, live—by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh, the sinful nature. Being led by the Spirit in a biblical sense is not the art of spontaneous direction or action but the power of God to obey. As New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce once explained, “To be ‘led by the Spirit’ is to walk by the Spirit—to have the power to rebut the desire of the flesh, to be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Here, then, is the first principle when it comes to guidance. You already know most of what you need to know to be where you are supposed to be. The art of being led by the Spirit is not a matter of waiting each moment for some mystical experience of divine direction. It is a matter of trusting God for the power to obey what he has already told you to do.

The trouble with living by natural intuition is that it sometimes leads us astray. Some will say that our instincts are never wrong, that we should always lead with our gut. But our actual experience proves otherwise. And research confirms what our own experience tells us: Intuition is real but not infallible. “Psychology,” says Hope College psychologist David Myers, “is replete with compelling examples of how people fool themselves. Even the most intelligent people make predictable and costly intuitive errors; coaches, athletes, investors, interviewers, gamblers, and psychics fall prey to well-documented illusory intuitions.”

This raises an important question. If Christians can err just like anyone else when they act intuitively, then why should we listen to intuition at all? We must admit that there is a measure of risk. The intuitive choices made by Christians are not automatically better than those made by unbelievers. Like everyone else, our hunches can and do go wrong. That investment that our gut told us would be good suddenly tanks. The employee we hired and with whom we seemed to have an instant connection turns out to be lazy. Our sudden impulse to call a friend results in a pleasant but insignificant conversation. We do not always get it right.

Yet the same is sometimes true of the decisions we make after long thought and careful deliberation. The fact that we sometimes get it wrong after doing our research and weighing all the pros and cons does not cause us to conclude that we should throw reason and deliberation out the window. Why would we do the same with intuition? Believers who trust in Spirit-guided intuition are not afraid to make a decision in the moment when they sense God’s prompting. It is worth the risk.

Why didn’t God use the Holy Spirit to give us an infallible understanding of the choices we have to make? I don’t know. I know that if he had, it would not have guaranteed our obedience. The Bible is full of instances in which God’s people know without a doubt what he wants them to do, and yet they often do otherwise. When Israel was poised on the border of Canaan, they did not need intuition to tell them where to go from there. Their problem was that their intuition sent them the wrong message. When they saw the size of the enemy, their gut reaction was: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:31). Notice that this wasn’t just intuition. It was also the result of their research. Yet Caleb’s intuition sent the opposite message: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30). What made the difference? Caleb’s intuitive sense was shaped by God’s promise.

God uses both careful deliberation and intuition to guide us. There is an element of risk in each. Our confidence is not in our own infallibility but in God’s sovereignty. We know that if we belong to Jesus Christ, even when we get things wrong, all things work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). God’s ultimate plan for our lives—to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ—cannot be thwarted, not even by our own missteps.

God’s Familiar Voice

In the summer of 1988, Watson Thornton stopped at a post office in the small town of Green Valley, Illinois, to mail a package. By then, he was in his 80s and had retired after a long career in the ministry. He had moved to a nearby town to live with his daughter after his wife’s death.

Watson’s first visit to Green Valley did not especially impress him. “The town does not even have a filling station for gasoline,” he later observed. “I parked across the road from an old dingy store-front, with the title ‘Valley Chapel’ on it, and some children running out from their [Vacation Bible School].”

Despite its dingy appearance, Watson was interested in the tiny church. Two hours earlier, he had prayed, asking God if there might be a small country church nearby where he would feel comfortable. On an impulse, Watson crossed the street and walked in the door. “I stopped in and introduced myself to the young pastor, his wife, and some of the teachers,” he later wrote. “They took me right in and I have felt very much at home.”

I know that this is true. I was the young pastor at the time.

If this was a miracle, it was a small one. Most people would probably write it off as a coincidence. What are the odds of finding a small country church in a town like Green Valley? Pretty good, I suppose. But to someone like Watson, who had spent his life listening for the gentle whisper of the Spirit, it was much more. It was a moment of inspired intuition. This was no coincidence; it was God’s familiar voice—faithful in directing Watson in the small decisions, just as he had always been in the large ones.

John Koessler is chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. This article was adapted from his book, Practicing the Present: The Neglected Art of Living in the Now (Moody).

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-august/john-koessler-practicing-present-intuition.html

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A Rich Legacy to Enjoy

by John MacArthur , June 12, 2019

Where did Christians ever get the notion that they need anything other than Christ? Is He somehow inadequate? Is His gift of salvation somehow deficient? Certainly not. We are children of God, joint heirs with Christ, and therefore beneficiaries of a richer legacy than the human mind could ever comprehend: “We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17). Christians are rich beyond measure. All true Christians are heirs together with Christ Himself.

Scripture has much to say about the Christian’s inheritance. It is, in fact, the central point of our New Covenant relationship with Christ. The writer of Hebrews referred to Christ as “the mediator of a new covenant, so that . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

We were chosen for adoption into God’s own family before the world began (Ephesians 1:4–5). And with our adoption came all the rights and privileges of family membership, including an inheritance in time and eternity that is beyond our ability to exhaust.

This was a key element in the theology of the early church. In Acts 26:18 Paul says he was commissioned by Christ to preach to the Gentiles “so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Christ].” In Colossians 1:12 he says that God the Father has “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” Paul viewed the believer’s inheritance as so enormous in scope that he prayed the Ephesians would have the spiritual enlightenment to comprehend the richness of its glory (Ephesians 1:18).

The concept of an inheritance from God had great significance to early Jewish believers in Christ because their Old Testament forefathers inherited the land of Canaan as part of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1). Theirs was for the most part an earthly, material inheritance (Deuteronomy 15:419:10), though it included many spiritual blessings. Our inheritance in Christ, however, is primarily spiritual. That is, it is not a promise of wealth and material prosperity. It goes far beyond temporal or transient physical blessings.

We Inherit God

Believers inherit God. This concept was key to the Old Testament understanding of a spiritual inheritance. Joshua 13:33 says, “To the tribe of Levi, Moses did not give an [earthly] inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He had promised to them.” Of the twelve tribes of Israel, Levi had a uniquely spiritual function: It was the priestly tribe. As such, its members did not inherit a portion of the Promised Land; the Lord Himself was their inheritance. They literally inherited God as their own possession.

David said, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance” (Psalm 16:5). In Psalm 73:25–26 Asaph says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. . . . God is the strength of my heart and my [inheritance] forever.”

The prophet Jeremiah said, “The Lord is my portion . . . therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24). That Old Testament principle applies to every Christian. We are “heirs of God” (Romans 8:17). First Peter 2:9 describes believers as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” We are His, and He is ours. What a joy to know that we inherit God Himself and will spend eternity in His presence!

We Inherit Christ

Believers enter into an eternal oneness with Christ. Christ Himself indwells them (Colossians 1:27). He prayed to the Father “that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me” (John 17:22–23). Someday “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2) and we will reign with Him as joint heirs (Romans 8:17).

We Inherit the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:14 says that the Holy Spirit “is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” That is, He is the Guarantor of our inheritance. The Greek word translated “pledge” (arrabōn) originally referred to a down payment—money given to secure a purchase. It came to represent any token of a pledge. A form of the word even came to be used for an engagement ring. The Holy Spirit is the resident guarantee of our eternal inheritance.

We Inherit Salvation

Peter said our inheritance includes “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). The Greek word translated “salvation” (sōtērian) speaks of a rescue or deliverance. In its broadest sense it refers to our full and final deliverance from the curse of the law; the power and presence of sin; and grief, pain, death, and judgment. No matter how difficult our present circumstances might be, we can look beyond them and bless God for the ultimate fullness of our eternal salvation.

We Inherit the Kingdom

Jesus said in Matthew 25:34: “The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

And so, we inherit God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, eternal salvation, and the kingdom. Still, the fullness of our inheritance has not yet been revealed to us. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be” (1 John 3:2). Paul said, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

We’re like a child prince who is too young and immature to understand the privileges of his position or the royal inheritance that awaits him. Consequently he may struggle with petty wants and throw tantrums over trinkets that pale in comparison to the riches he has access to, and will receive when he assumes his father’s throne. As he grows up, his parents must discipline and train him so he learns to behave like someone of royal lineage. Throughout that training and maturing process he begins to understand the immense value and implications of his inheritance.

We, too, will someday experience the fullness of our inheritance. In the meantime we must learn to act like children of the King, and let the hope of future blessings purify our lives (1 John 3:3).

(Adapted from Our Sufficiency in Christ)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B190612

The Root of Idolatry

by John MacArthur, June 3, 2019

Idolatry is the product of rebellion, not confusion. While hearts and minds darkened by sin can’t find God on their own apart from His Word, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the root of idolatry is man’s rejection of creation’s testimony to its Creator.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)

The sinner’s attempt to suppress the truth about God is foundational to all forms of idolatry and false religion. The unrepentant heart will subscribe to all sorts of farcical notions and obvious lies in the vain hope of shielding itself from the universe’s Creator and Judge.

Paul understood the unbelief that undergirded the plethora of deities in Athens. The closing words of his sermon on Mars’ Hill were a fatal shot at Athenian paganism, “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man” (Acts 17:29). In other words, if God made us, God Himself must be greater than any man-made image. This is a critical point. It was as if Paul took one enormous philosophical sledgehammer and smashed all their idols. If God is really the sovereign, infinite being even the poets acknowledged He must be, we can’t blasphemously reduce Him to a statue, a shrine, or any other graven image.

And while our culture isn’t dominated by temples, idol worship, and polytheism the way the first-century world was, we are not immune to the threat of idolatry. John Calvin said, “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” [1] Sinners still excel at erecting idols—today it simply takes place in individual hearts rather than the public square. It could be money, influence, career goals, athletic achievements, high-priced indulgences, or even another person—the vast galaxy of idols that rule in sinners’ hearts today likely dwarfs the gods of the ancient world.

Even Christians can at times succumb to the rebellious tendency to create false gods—or to simply redefine the God of the Bible. Every time the church attempts to define God on its own terms—contrary to His self-revelation in Scripture—it bands together with the idolaters of Mars’ Hill. That’s a particular danger today, when so many in the church want to round off the sharp edges of God’s attributes and reimagine Him as a kindly cosmic grandfather rather than a holy Judge. In that sense, there is very little difference between pretending God is not who He says He is, and worshiping the rocks and trees in a local park.

We need to understand that Paul’s blunt exchange with the philosophers of Athens is far more than a historical account from a distant land. It’s a timely warning about the futility of idolatry, and a call to repent of such foolishness while there is still time.

Paul’s sermon on Mars’ Hill comes to a climax with these urgent words of warning:

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31)

Paul’s direct approach with his unbelieving audience defies a lot of modern conventional wisdom regarding cross-cultural ministry. He didn’t pander to the false beliefs of his audience. He didn’t try to accommodate the Epicureans by promising them a wonderful and pleasure-filled life. And he didn’t attempt to win the Stoics by trying to make the gospel sound as much like their philosophy as possible. He called both groups and all other sinners present to repentance, referring to the golden age of Greek philosophy as “times of ignorance.”

The word “ignorance” comes from the same Greek root as “unknown” in verse twenty-three. And the word “overlooked” comes from a word that means “to not interfere.” It doesn’t mean God disregarded or was indifferent to sinful idolatry. It means He chose not to intervene in judgment by wiping Athens off the face of the earth.

As Paul told them, however, God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness. The agent of that judgment will be a Man whom He has ordained and given testimony to by raising Him from the dead. We know who that Man is, of course. It is Jesus Christ, to whom God has given all judgment (John 5:22).

But at this point Paul was interrupted, and he evidently never even got to name the name of Christ. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’ So Paul went out of their midst” (Acts 17:32–33). The Epicureans did not believe in a resurrection at all, while the Stoics believed in a spiritual resurrection but not the resurrection of the body. Perhaps stung by his call for repentance, they responded by collectively mocking Paul. In fact, as soon as he mentioned the resurrection, the skeptics began to scoff. Evidently some had heard enough to reject Paul’s message without even hearing him out. Others said they would hear more later. So Paul simply went out of their midst.

Not everyone doubted or delayed, however. “Some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:34). Enough of the truth had penetrated their hearts so that these people followed Paul to find out more. Obviously, Paul continued his sermon for those who wanted to hear, and some of them were converted. One of the converts was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court. Another was a woman named Damaris. Since she is given no title, we can assume she was a common woman. So this sermon reached people at both ends of the social spectrum—philosophers and housewives, men and women, intellectuals and ordinary people. This little band of converts joined Paul and became the first Christians in Athens.

That seemingly meager harvest did not discourage Paul, nor did it provoke him to go back to Mars’ Hill and engage in a more culturally-sensitive discourse. As we’ll see next time, Paul had unshakable confidence in the unvarnished message of the gospel and God’s power at work through its faithful proclamation. As he would later write, the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

(Adapted from Ashamed of the Gospel)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B190603

God has a sense of humor

 

June 18, 2019 by jc cast

 

Most people I know believe God can be everything from judgmental and vengeful to kind and loving. This includes many non-believers, which is ironic, since they are attributing such traits to a God, they claim to not believe exists. Surprisingly, however, no one seems to bring up God’s sense of humor. After all, we have a sense of humor (at least most of us). Where do you think it came from? Are we not made in His image?

Then God said, “Let us make a man—someone like ourselves… (Genesis 1:26).

Can we find examples of God’s sense of humor in His Word? Absolutely! Just keep in mind that what I find humorous may not be to you, and vice-versa, because each person’s character and life experiences—which contribute to their sense of humor—varies greatly. So, you may not agree with my examples, and I may not agree with all of yours. But the fact that humor can be found in the Bible as a part of God’s character is the point, not whether we agree on each situation. And, while numerous examples my be found, I’m only going to use a few for this post.

My first example takes place soon after God allowed the Philistines to have a victory over His continually rebellious people.

The Philistines took the captured Ark of God from the battleground at Ebenezer to the temple of their idol Dagon in the city of Ashdod. But when the local citizens went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground before the Ark of Jehovah! They set him up again, but the next morning the same thing happened—the idol had fallen face down before the Ark of the Lord again. This time his head and hands had been cut off and were lying in the doorway; only the trunk of his body was left intact. — 1 Samuel 5:1-4

Can you imagine it from God’s perspective? Puny humans, the Philistines, that God used to punish his rebellious people, get so puffed up with pride that they bring their “captured treasure,” the Ark of God, into the temple of their “god,” Dagon, as an offering. Then, as the people depart for the evening, God takes a look at the lifeless idol, smiles mischievously, and flicks it over with ease. “Oops! Sorry!” And when they lift it up, He does it again, but with additional disrespect and damage.

Let us now look in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Numbers. Here we find the story of Balaam, who was asked by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites, so he can drive them out of his land. Although Balaam tells King Balak that he can only tell him what the Lord tells him to say, Balaam’s attitude in the situation angers God, so He sends an angel ahead of Balaam (now riding a donkey) to wait for him on the road.

Balaam cannot see the angel, but the donkey can. The animal attempts to go around the angel, eventually realizes the angel will not allow them to pass, and lays down in the road. During this period Balaam beat the donkey three times.

Instead of letting Balaam see the angel, God chose to have the animal speak. She gives a good account of herself, which Balaam had to accept, and God finally allowed Balaam to see the angel, and he confesses his sin, etc.

The use of a donkey in this situation is both humorous and a heck of a metaphor. After all, Balaam’s stubbornness is at the heart of the matter, not the donkeys.

Now let us look at God’s response to His rebellious people begging Samuel to appoint an earthly king over them, so they can be like other nations. God’s first choice is Saul, a choice more like humans would choose for themselves, for he “was the most handsome man in Israel. And he was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land!” — 1 Samuel 9:2. And yet, how did this future king respond when Samuel was casting lots before the tribal leaders to show the people God’s choice? When the sacred lot chose Saul, he had disappeared. The handsomest man in Israel that stood head and shoulders above everyone was cowering with the luggage (1 Samuel 10:22). An action God knew would occur before He selected Saul to be the first earthly king over Israel.

The cherry on top of this humorous situation is how God allows His second choice for king to present himself publicly during his first test. After Saul sinned against God, the Lord chose David, the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s eight sons, to take out Goliath—the largest Philistine, who even towered over Saul—after the rest of Israel’s army cowered for forty days unwilling to fight the giant-like enemy. And David did it with a slingshot and a rock!

From the human standpoint the above events occurred during serious situations. A fact not lost on God, considering the eventual outcomes. The Ark of God was returned after much death, Balaam was eventually killed during one of Israel’s attacks, and Saul and his sons perished on Mount Gilboa during a battle with the Philistines. And yet, prior to the final events God chose to reveal a part of His character not often seen—His sense of humor.

Some may consider these odd places to find humor, but is it really so odd? Don’t humans use humor during traumatic periods as a release? As a disabled Vet I can often recall some rather rude humor going on during periods of extreme danger. And are we not made in God’s image, as stated earlier?

Now let us consider God’s sense of humor outside the Bible. Those of us who believe in God can see His sense of humor throughout His creations; especially in mankind and throughout many species in nature.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, and have many fond memories watching the playful antics of otters, cats, squirrels, and other animals, along with the hilarious mating habits of many species. And most of you can probably say the same thing; which, if you’re a Believer, allows you to see a part of God’s humor. And if you’re not, just attribute it to whatever random selection you choose. Oops! Sorry! Selection implies choice, intelligent or otherwise. Just enjoy the humor for the sake of humor.

Have a good day.

 

Original here

Can We Finally Break the Silence Around Tamar?

Telling the uncomfortable story of “desolate” Tamar positions us to show a kind of compassion King David didn’t.

JEN WILKIN| MAY 17, 2019

Can We Finally Break the Silence Around Tamar?

For the past year, I’ve been teaching the Book of Samuel to a group of women at my church. We go through it chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and I challenge them to think critically about what they are reading. The Book of Samuel is filled with stories that ask us to grapple with the sovereignty of God and the severity of sin. But perhaps none is so jarring as the story of Tamar and Amnon in 2 Samuel 13.

I’m sure you know it. Amnon, one of David’s sons, violates his own sister and then casts her aside. When her brother Absalom learns what Amnon has done, he tells her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this thing to heart.” Absalom’s shushing and dismissing are certainly vile, but it is David’s reaction that stuns: “When King David heard all this, he was furious” (vv. 20–21).

Furious. That’s it. No public denouncement of Amnon, no vindication of Tamar. No justice, no words of comfort or kindness for his daughter, just impotent, mute anger. David is silent. He takes no action against Amnon, opening the door for Absalom to have his brother murdered in revenge. And Tamar is left desolate.

Why does David’s anger translate into silence and inaction? Because David sees in his sons an amplification of his own grievous sins. David sacrificed Bathsheba to his lust and then murdered her husband to cover his tracks. Now his two sons fulfill God’s prophecy of judgment by committing heightened versions of his own sins within their own family.

David’s guilt renders him silent. Tamar’s plea to Amnon as he overpowers her rings in the ears of the reader: As for me, where could I carry my shame? And David’s profound silence gives us our answer: Nowhere.

David’s inaction should spur us to act. David’s speechlessness should prompt us to speak.

The thing about teaching entire books of the Bible line by line is that you can’t skip over the uncomfortable parts. People notice. So we pressed through the passage, knowing it was bound to be a tender subject for women among us with similar experiences and offering help to anyone who needed it. My heart was crushed by how common Tamar’s story turned out to be.

Her story is common. But telling her story is not.

It occurred to me that in all my years in the church, I had never heard a sermon about Tamar. The other women on my teaching team couldn’t recall hearing it preached either. And no wonder—it is hardly “proper” subject matter for Sunday morning. Tamar makes only the rarest of appearances in sermons or teachings, and when she does, her story tends to be subsumed, muffled, or downplayed by our concerns to preserve David’s reputation as “a man after God’s own heart.”

There is a line we often hear attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

That silence from our pulpits and lecterns speaks to women who share Tamar’s history: Your shame is merited. Your story is shocking and lewd. It causes us discomfort, and we wish to pass it by.

By teaching faithfully, forthrightly, and compassionately about Tamar, we communicate the opposite to women: Your story deserves a hearing. Your grief is our grief. Your shame is undeserved. We will help you carry it to the cross.

Tamar was defiled and cast off by the son of David, and none came to her aid. The true Son of David was defiled and cast off for us, that no daughter in the family of God should ever carry shame for abuse she has suffered.

David’s inaction should spur us to act. David’s speechlessness should prompt us to speak.

There should be no desolate women in the church, only daughters of God who are seen and cherished.

By speaking of Tamar, we are speaking to the women in our churches whose voices have grown silent beneath their shame. We are inviting them to tell and to heal.

When we tell Tamar’s story aloud, we dignify her grief. And we begin to become for our sisters the advocates Tamar should have had.

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher with a passion to see women become committed followers of Christ. She is the author of None Like Him.

 

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VIDEO Where is your focus? (Along Came David)

The River Walk

Read: 1 Samuel 17:1-18:4, John 8:21-30, Psalm 111:1-10, Proverbs 15:11

You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
1 Samuel 17:45

Relate: Israel and the Palestinians (er… I mean Philistinians… no that’s not right either. Philistines?) faced off in their respective armies every day. The problem is, the Philistine army had a champion who was fighting for their cause. That champion was named Goliath. His name means “global media” (or, more literally, “to uncover or to reveal”). Every day that champion would go strutting about mocking Israel and defying their God. The armies of Israel would run and hide from this champion and so they were never able to possess the land that God had given them. On to the scene comes a boy named David. David was not sent to the battlefield not to fight Goliath. No, he was sent to the front lines to be an encouragement to his brothers and their comrades, and to give them food and supplies sent from home. But when he arrived and saw this Goliath shouting out his follies, the Spirit of God stirred his soul and he could not leave the situation alone.

Why did it take an untrained boy who was unfamiliar with the situation and untrained in the methods of conventional warfare to destroy Goliath? Ultimately the answer is because David was God’s man for that hour but sometimes I wonder if God had been trying to stir up courage in others but they just could not see it. Until David’s time, nobody had killed any giants or done any similar feats but after David does his thing, Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan all kill giants and there were other heroes doing things like standing their ground alone and killing 300 Pales… er, Philistines in the field of beans, and jumping in a pit to kill a lion on a snowy day. Just a few days earlier, we talked about Jonathan (not the giant slayer) and his armor bearer climbing a cliff to route an army. So there is certainly no dearth of heroes or at least potential heroes, in the Israelite army. So why didn’t anyone else have the courage to stand against Goliath?

React: I am going to go out on a limb here and say it was because they were looking at the wrong things. Their focus was in the wrong place. What were they looking at? 1) Goliath, 2) each other, 3) Saul, and 4) their potential reward. The first and most obvious answer is that the people were focused on the problem. “Have you seen that giant?” They knew Goliath needed to be killed. Until he was, there could be no moving forward. There was no stepping into the land as long as Goliath was out there, but that guy is just too big. He is a problem that we simply cannot conquer by our own talents and abilities. What is my Goliath? What impossible task is standing in my way that I just cannot take down?

The second thing the people were looking at was each other. ” ‘Have you seen that giant?’ the men asked each other.”  God might be prompting my heart to get a little bit out of line and do something, but then I look at my neighbor. First of all, what will he think of me if I say I will go take down Goliath? Will he think I am being stupid or foolish? Will he call me insane? On the other hand, look at his muscles and look at mine. He has an inch on me in height, another one in reach, and another around the size of his biceps. The only place I have an inch on him is around the belly. He is definitely better suited to take on Goliath. I think I will push down the Spirit’s prompting and let my neighbor deal with it instead.

The third thing they were looking at was Saul. ” ‘Have you seen that giant?’ the men asked each other. ‘The king has…’ ” Since democracy is certainly the best form of government, the soldiers all took a vote and they put Saul forward to go kill Goliath. OK, not really. But hadn’t they chosen him to be king for reasons just like Goliath, didn’t they? Did they choose him? Or was he anointed by God and not the people? If that is the case, even better. He is then obviously God’s designated hero to fight Goliath. I’m not going to step out of the boat and risk life and limb to fight him. I will leave it to my pastor (or president). God has raised him up at this hour “for such a time as this”. Goliath is none of my business.

Finally, they were looking at the potential reward. ” ‘Have you seen that giant?’ the men asked each other. ‘The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him’ ” The problem of killing Goliath has become one of economics. What is the reward for killing him, and is that reward equal to or greater than the risk involved? God is trying to call me forward, but I stamp that voice down while trying to factor in the cost. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in prosperity. God has promised a rich reward both in this life and in the life to come for those who will follow him. The problem is, all too often we confuse prosperity with physical wealth. If we have faith will we never get sick and have a big fat bank account. Hogwash. I have had an incredibly rich life in following God. That life has been rich in experience, and love, and peace and joy, and… you get the idea. I have, however never had much money. I’ve even had the choice do I walk three miles and buy bread and water later, or do I pay for transportation now and not eat today. I have also gone months at a time where one minor ailment flows right into the next with virtually no time in between. So what? That isn’t what biblical prosperity is about and, besides, biblical prosperity is a side effect of following Jesus. It is not meant to be either the cause or the motivator. When it is, God in his grace will take it away that our priorities will be right.

Along comes David. He is focused entirely on something else. David is a man chasing after God’s own heart. It isn’t that David is unaware of these things everyone else is focused on. Yes, there is a problem, a Goliath that needs to be dealt with. He was sent there to be a blessing to the others so he is certainly aware of the other soldiers. There is probably no one else alive who respected the office and kingship of Saul more than David. How many times does he later say, “God forbid that I raise my hands against the Lord’s anointed” even though he has plenty of worldly justification and opportunity to take Saul out and take that kingdom for himself? David is also aware of the reward. He is talking to the others about this reward when he is brought before Saul. It is my opinion that he is trying to stir up courage in others, but that is just my opinion and we all know what opinions are like. (Everyone’s got one and they all stink). David sees all that, but it is all periphery. His focus is on the Lord. It is for the honor and glory of God’s name that he steps forward and takes down Goliath.

Respond:

Dear God,
Have you been calling me out? I see a Goliath before me and it has stopped me in my tracks. I pray “let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done” but this Goliath is standing in the way of Your Kingdom’s advance. Is it possibly Your will that I am the one to step forward to pick up the stones and face it down? Give me the courage to do so. Give me the wisdom to know how. Give me the strength to take it on. Three things I know for certain. This Goliath must fall. I can never take him on by my own strength. And You are Greater. So help me to step out in Your name, and for Your glory.
Amen

 

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Reputation Or Foundation ???

April 22, 2019

 

If life is likened to a rope, human life is like a rope that’s not visible where the ends are. We know when it has started, we also know how long it has been done, but we don’t know when it will arrive at the end node. How much time we have left cannot be measured by how long it has taken, because each person has a different length of rope. To be sure, everyone only has one chance to live life in this world.

Now let’s pause from all the busyness to reflect on the life we have been through. Some of us have gone through it for decades, some may have been a dozen years. What kind of life have we lived? What kind of deep impressions and images are captured by others about us? Have all of our behaviors built a good or bad reputation? Has our reputation been established on a solid foundation? If in a moment we are faced with a choice between reputation or foundation, which one will we prioritize? Do we attach importance to displaying a glorious reputation or prefer to build the right foundation even though for a moment we seem to lose our reputation ??

Saul: Concerning the Image in the Human Eye

In 1 Samuel 9-10 Saul was anointed as king by Samuel. The people exclaimed “Live the king” cheering him because they were happy to have a king for the first time. Even the valiant men followed Saul because their hearts were touched by God. However, in the midst of the respect he received there was a group of people who doubted and even insulted him. Saul’s reaction to this matter is really interesting: But Saul kept silent.” (1 Sam. 10: 27 NIV)  It seems that Saul didn’t care, but apparently it hurt him. This can be seen from the decisions that show how much Saul thirst for recognition and respect from others.

One of the events that clearly shows how people’s recognition and respect is very important to Saul is when Israel fought against the Philistine forces: Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal. . . .  Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. (1 Samuel 13: 3-7 NIV)

Jonathan fought and defeated the Philistine army but Saul made it in the eyes of the people as if he had defeated the Philistines. Saul’s goal was for the people who were afraid of the retaliation from the Philistines to become dependent on him. Until this stage the goal seemed successful. Saul went to Gilgal according to Samuel’s instructions and the people followed him. But that didn’t last long. The people who followed him began to leave because Samuel had not arrived yet, while the Philistine army was ready to attack.

Knowing that he had begun to lose control of the people, Saul decided to take a shortcut by offering burnt sacrifices without waiting for Samuel. This is a violation because Samuel clearly ordered Saul to wait (1 Samuel 10: 8). When Samuel rebuked his folly, Saul made the excuse: “When I saw that the people were scattered from me . . . .” (1 Sam. 13: 11 )  For the sake of not being abandoned by his people, Saul chose to violate God’s decree.

What happened next further reinforced the tendency of Saul’s heart which emphasized reputation rather than obedience to God, namely when Saul was ordered to crush Amalek. Since Israel was still in the wilderness, in Exodus 17: 14 the Lord commanded them to crush the Amalekites to extinction because of their wickedness. This command was further confirmed by Moses in Deuteronomy 25: 19. Then Samuel commissioned Saul to carry out the Lord’s command (1 Sam. 15: 2-3). Unfortunately Saul was disobedient. He only killed everything that was despised and weak, but Agag, the king of Amalek, was left alive. He also took the best sheep and oxen. When Samuel rebuked him, Saul used his people twice as an excuse and shield to justify his disobedience: The soldiers took sheep and cattle, . . .  . Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” (1 Sam. 15: 21, 24-25 NIV)

Saul twice on behalf of others for his mistakes and twice he asked Samuel to return with him. The second request was even followed by words so that Samuel would honor him before the people: “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Samuel 15: 30 NIV)  This is an insincere confession of sin. Saul confessed to sin only so that Samuel would not leave him.

Saul asked Samuel to remain with him not because Saul realized that he needed God’s guidance, but because he was afraid that the people would leave him if Samuel left him, because at that time the priest had a huge influence. This shows that Saul’s actions and words were controlled by what people say and how people perceive him. We know how Saul became angry and jealous of David because the people sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18: 8-9 NIV)

Saul was very concerned about the words, impressions, and views of people about him. Saul is concerned with reputation, even if necessary he will violate the truth if his reputation is disturbed. The end was Saul losing what he had been chasing and trying to maintain it in various ways. The Spirit of God departed from Saul and the king’s position was given by God to David.

David: Prioritizing the Right Heart

In many ways, David’s attitude was the opposite of Saul’s. Saul cared too much about his image in the eyes of others, David did not. For example, when David left the palace because of Absalom’s rebellion. Knowing this, Shimei, one of Saul’s family, cursed David and pelted David and his troops with stones along the road. David who was accompanied by soldiers and heroes didn’t counter at all. Instead, when Zeruiah was about to avenge Shimei, David said: “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”. . . . Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Sam. 16: 10-12 NIV)  Compared to anger, feeling insulted, and retaliating, David prefers to subject himself to the authority of God.

Saul did everything he could to maintain his image, David did not. More than once David had the opportunity to kill Saul but he didn’t do it (1 Sam 24, 26). In fact, if Saul died then David’s life would be calmer because no one hunted him again. If Saul died, the way to become king would soon be realized because he had indeed been anointed as king. But David didn’t do it because he didn’t want to touch the Lord’s anointed person. David respected God and feared God. Compared to doing it in his own way, David prefers to trust God.

Saul never truly repented, while David quickly regretted his sin. When the Prophet Nathan rebuked him for taking Bathsheba, David immediately said: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam. 12: 13 NIV)David didn’t excuse or blame others for his sin.

In many instances, David prefers his heart to remain right before God. For him, God’s words are more important than human words. Most of the Psalms are the outpouring of David’s heart to God. How in joy and sorrow, in strong and weak, in various situations, he always comes closer to God. He isn’t afraid of being abandoned by humans, he just doesn’t want God to leave him. He doesn’t care about being antagonized by humans as long as God sided with him. The most valuable for him isn’t the treasure and throne, but God. That’s why God is pleased with David.

BUILDING THE TRUE FOUNDATION

A reputation, good or bad, will stick to someone as long as the person lives. Even for some people who have a big influence, their reputation will continue to be remembered even if the person is gone. As children of God, we must have a good reputation because a bad reputation will be a stumbling block. But a good reputation is not everything. The most important thing is whether that reputation has been built on the true foundation. The true foundation here isn’t true according to man, but true in God’s view.

The only absolute truth for believers is the Bible. So, whatever attitude and behavior of the children of God must be in accordance with God’s word written in the Bible. When we think, say, and act according to God’s word, what comes out of us is everything that is good and right, which in itself will build a good and right reputation. Indeed obedience to the word of God doesn’t always make us favored by others, or even makes us despised, because many of the values of this world are contrary to God’s word. But our duty isn’t to please people but to please God. What is the point of having a good reputation in human measure, but finally we are wrong before God.

A good and true reputation built on the true foundation will have eternal impact, not just to impress others. Conversely, if we try to build a reputation by relying on power, wealth, expertise, even good deeds, then we will be trapped in what people say about us. We can be encouraged to become hypocrites. We will easily compromise to please others. We will do good things just for the sake of good name, but there is no love and sincerity. We must remember that God always sees the heart, not what is in sight. If reputation is everything to us, then we will fall into arrogance and unnecessary competition with other people.

Therefore let us ensure our lives have been built on a solid and true foundation, namely the word of God. Don’t be like Saul who was more concerned with his name and image in the eyes of others than obedience to God. Be like David who was obedient and gentle in heart and makes God the most valuable treasure. Don’t put our values on the words and views of people towards us, but put our values in God. We are valuable not because we are successful, good, even godly. We are valuable because we are created like God and God loves us so much.

Let’s focus on what’s inside, whether our foundation is right or not, by always connecting with God. At the time we diligently build relationships with God and put God above all else, that’s the time we are actually building a solid foundation for our reputation. And at the time we choose to obey the word of God even though for that we will be left behind by people, that’s the time we are actually laying the right foundation for our lives. The foundation is indeed invisible but the foundation greatly determines the strength of whatever is built on it. Foundation will form reputation. Bad foundation means bad reputation. So, prioritize building the true foundation, not just a reputation.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com (edited with pixlr apps)

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