Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Lies We Tell

Recently, Americans were made privy to an interview of President Trump by investigative journalist Bob Woodard where Trump admitted that to some extent he downplayed the severity of the virus in an effort to deter public panic. A misrepresentation of the truth from a politician in and of itself is not so unusual. However, this concealment of known information on the coronavirus may have had grave consequences for thousands of Americans, and to some extent, the nation as a whole. It was revealed that President Trump knew as far back as early February that COVID-19 was airborne, very dangerous and much different from the typical flu that ravages the nation every year. Despite that knowledge, when he addressed the public, he compared the COVID-19 to the flu and implied that the virus was mostly exasperated by the media as a hoax. He generally minimized the severity of the virus to be something less dangerous than what he himself knew it to be. Lies have consequences. Perhaps many Americans would have taken the pandemic more seriously had our president been more candid with coronavirus concerns? Perhaps they would have been even more hysterical than they already were as some feared? Either way our desire is not to be political or to take sides. Both Republicans and Democrats knew of the lethal potential of COVID-19. There is plenty of blame for the pandemic's mismanagement to go around. However, because of President Trump’s position, his actions are more impactful than most. Still, he’s not the only one who has a problem skirting the truth. 
I said in my haste, “All men are liars.” - Psalm 116:11
All of us have lied on occasion, and some of us lie habitually. We all have our excuses. President Trump explained his deception by saying that he didn’t want to cause a panic. To many, that may sound like a flimsy excuse, but are the excuses we give any better? We’ve all heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy,” but many of us probably only believe that is true in cases where being honest won’t negatively impact us. Unfortunately, we are often shortsighted. We believe we’re escaping consequences by telling lies, but in many cases we only wind up putting those consequences off and compounding them making our circumstances worse than they would have been had we just been honest from the start.

Most Christians believe lying is wrong. If asked about it, some will instantly point right to the ten commandments. One of the most famous of the commandments is:
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor - Exodus 20:16
That’s not as general a directive against lying as some suggest. It’s really more about a specific type of lie where someone knowingly and wrongfully blames another person for wrongdoing. The Bible is clear that lying in that way will have consequences.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free. - Proverbs 19:5
The first part of the above verse simply tells us that breaking the commandment about bearing false witness will lead to punishment. The second part of the verse is less specific. It simply means that people who routinely lie will not escape retribution. There is no question about how God feels about liars.
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. - Proverbs 12:22
There is also no doubt about how Christians should view lying.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. - Colossians 3:9-10
According to the Bible, we shouldn’t lie. Do these words apply to all lies? What about the white lies we tell in an effort to save the feelings of others? Some of those lies are genuinely told out of love. The Bible does not always distinguish between the various types of lies told. In context, most of the verses addressing lying are about lies with malicious intent. We aren’t God and don’t always know what the results will be when we take certain actions. We may see someone living a certain lifestyle and know it’s unhealthy, but not want to be truthful because we know that person is sensitive about the problem. Sure, the intent there may be to avoid hurting that person’s feelings, but what if the result of the lie is that we become complicit in that person's bad actions. What if we wind up enabling the bad behavior and leading him or her to believe that their actions are not harmful. Maybe in cases like that, we become accomplices in person’s unintentional self harm. When we really think about it the number of scenarios where we believe telling a lie is the best thing for all parties involved is probably very low. If we’re honest, even the supposedly good lies we tell are usually told more for the convenience of the liar than the benefit of the person being lied to.

So what's the answer to this conundrum? The Bible has the answer.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. - Ephesians 4:25
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. - Colossians 4:6

Instead of avoiding the truth, we should put more effort into finding ways to present it in a loving manner. There is another famous saying: “the truth hurts.” Sometimes hurting feelings is unavoidable, but sometimes being hurt is necessary to improve oneself. Sometimes a painful brush with the truth is just what we need to motivate us to make necessary corrections in our lives for our benefits and the benefits of others.

Had our president simply found a reasonable way to present the truth about the virus, maybe the public would have responded in a way that would have kept the pandemic from becoming as bad. Instead of panicking the citizens of the nation, his words may have motivated people to do the right thing. Let us all take this lesson and apply it to our own lives. The lies we tell may not impact the lives of millions of people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destructive in their own right.

Chris Lawyer and Everett Pope

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Bible Character Spotlight: David Part 2

Previously, the spotlight was put on David in his youth. He went from an unassuming shepherd boy to a giant killer and eventually to the young man destined to become king. At that point in his life, David seemed like the perfect model of what it meant to be a follower of God. He put his faith in God, obeyed God’s commands, and even wrote songs to praise God. His story also seemed like the perfect example of how someone can benefit from being faithful to God. No matter what trouble came his way, David always came out on top. So when David became king, he was the perfect ruler for the Israelites right? Well, not exactly.

David is a good example of the fact that no one is perfect. We all fall short even those of us who have been given every reason not to. He is also good evidence for the truthfulness of the time honored adage “Power Corrupts.” After all, David was most pious when he had the least. When he became king, he was not the same man. None of this is to say that David wasn’t a good king or that he was a bad man. Even at his lowest, he was still an impressive follower of God. He just didn’t hold up to the standard of the one true king, Jesus.

David’s rule started with drama and violence. He became king after Saul died. David was not of Saul’s lineage, so unsurprisingly, Saul’s family objected to David being made king. 
The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. - 2 Samuel 3:1
It might be fair to say that David’s rule was defined by fighting. He was truly a warrior king, but he was also a just king. Abner and Ish-Bosheth were relatives of Saul that were at odds with David. Eventually, they came to understand that David was meant to be king. Both separately made peace with David. One of David’s men, Joab, killed Abner out of a sense of vengeance even though he knew David had made peace with Abner. David did not side with Joab despite Joab being loyal to David.
Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.” - 2 Samuel 3:28-29
When two of David’s overzealous followers killed Ish-Bosheth to court favor, his reaction was not what they thought it would be.
David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!” - 2 Samuel 4:9-11
David had them killed. It might have been easy for him to let them slide. They were his men. They killed for him. Maybe he could have even claimed they didn’t know peace had been made, but that’s not who David was. He was a righteous man and believed in justice, and God continued to reward David for those traits. David was able to consolidate his power over all the Israelites and beat back the Philistines. God was so happy with David that God made a lofty promise, which he delivered through His servant, Nathan.
“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. - 2 Samuel 7:11-13
David responded just as he should have. He thanked God sincerely and humbly. God was true to his world and gave David further victories and made his name great above all others. It’s probably because David had proven to be such a good person that, when he did fall short, it seemed so bad. His transgression was not a small one though. David knowingly had sex with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. Uriah was one of David’s most faithful servants. When it was revealed that Bathsheba was pregnant, David did not do the right thing by admitting his transgression and asking forgiveness. Instead, he brought Uriah home from the war being fought in an effort to get him to have sex with Bathsheba so that no one would know the child was David’s. Unfortunately for David, Uriah was so loyal and committed to his duties that he did not go to his wife as David planned. Instead of being moved by just how good a person Uriah was, David was so committed to hiding his own sin that he took and action that can only be considered evil.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” - 2 Samuel 11:14-15
How could someone so obedient and loyal to God do something so terrible? It’s hard to say. To make matters worse, David had no shame about what he did. He took Bathsheba to be his wife, and she bore his son. He lived on as if he hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s amazing that as much as David knew God’s greatness, he somehow made the mistake of thinking that God wouldn’t know what he did. God did knew though, and he sent Nathan to David once more.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” - 2 Samuel 12:11-12
Just as David was quick to respond with harsh punishment against his servants when they committed murder for selfish reasons, God handled David the same. He did not kill David, but David suffered nonetheless. He lost multiple children. Turmoil entered into his family with one of his sons, Absalom, playing usurper and taking the kingship away from David. David lost the hearts of the people who had previously adored him without question. Even many of David’s loyal soldiers turned against him. God had given David so much, and because of David’s sin, God wound up taking most of it away. David achieved great heights, but because of his actions he took a great fall. There is a lesson there for all of us. No matter how good we think we are, we should always remain humble because we are always just one bad act away from ruin.

There is another lesson though. Even when we fall short and God is angry with us, he is still with us. God punished David harshly, but he didn’t forsake him. When David was down and surrounded by enemies, God delivered him. David responded by doing the one thing that he may have done better than fighting and winning battles. He sang God’s praises (2 Samuel 22:1-51). In a way, David proved that he was the good servant of God he had always been. He just wasn’t perfect and never had been. When we fall short in our lives, we are in good company. Everyone has strayed from God's path at some point, even pillars of the Bible like David. He fell short, but he still understood who God was, and even with all he lost, he still recognized God’s goodness.  

We can’t just love and praise God when we are reaping the benefits of following Him. We have to do the same when we are going through low points also. We also have to trust that if God promises us something, that promise will come true, even if it seems like it couldn’t possibly happen. God promised David great things for his family line. Although David betrayed the faith and trust that God had put in him, God still kept his promise in the most fantastic way by using David’s family line to bring salvation to the whole world though the birth, life, and death of Jesus.  If God can show David such faithfulness, what can he do for us?

Chris Lawyer

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

The 2020 Experience

2020 has been quite a year so far, and not necessarily in a good way. Between the unexpected deaths of prominent figures and everyday citizens alike, a global pandemic, political unrest, a major economic downturn, and the general “What’s Next?” feeling that basically everyone one has been feeling, 2020 seems to be the bad dream that just won’t end. We know every year has its ups and downs, but 2020 seems anomalous in how bad a year it is. In general every year of life is something like a roller coaster at an amusement park, but 2020 in particular seems to have had all the lows and none of the highs.

Yes, 2020 has been bad by most subjective measures, but it’s not unprecedented. While some believe 2020 will go down as the worst year in modern history, others would argue that honor still belongs to1968. In 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated, violent riots broke out across the country, the Vietnam War was experiencing its deadliest year, and the world experienced a H3N2 pandemic (which was referred to as the Hong Kong Flu). Whether 1968 was worse than 2020 is debatable, but the similarities are certainly evident. 1968 also happened to be an election year just like 2020, and some of the personalities and rhetoric involved were very similar to what we’re experiencing now. The 1968 election was found to have been subject to influence by a foreign nation. Does that sound familiar? In the end, which year was worse doesn’t really matter. The point is that no matter how bad things might seem, we’ve seen the like before.

In fact, if you go farther back in history, you’ll find that humanity has seen worse. The COVID pandemic seems bad. We’re nearing a year of being affected by the pandemic and hundreds of thousands of people have died worldwide. In 1347, the world experienced a second major outbreak of the Bubonic Plague that led to the disease being called the Black Death. It is estimated that the Black Death was responsible for the deaths of a third of the European population at the time. The disease was also credited with being instrumental in a rise in war, crime, political upheaval, and religious persecution. That certainly does not sound like it was a good time to be alive.

At first, it might seem like much of the world’s woes result from factors beyond our control. Disease, storms, earthquakes, and all other examples of major natural calamities have befallen the world and led to major loss of life and misery. It would be easy to dismiss all the bad happenings as being out of our control, but are they really? Sure, in all the examples given so far, disease has played a part in loss of life and the negative experiences of the people in the world. However, war, crime, and political madness were also present in all of the above examples of bad years, and those factors cannot just be dismissed as natural disasters. It seems humanity bears its fair share of the blame. What’s worse is that some of it may be avoidable, but we as a people never seem to learn our lessons. That’s especially clear in the contrast between 1968 and 2020. In 1968, many would have argued that America was bad when it came to racial harmony, taking care of the poor and sick, and avoiding pointless wars. Looking at the events that have occurred so far in 2020, many would also argue that Americans haven’t moved past those problems. So maybe the right question isn’t which was a worse year between 1968 and 2020. Maybe the better question is “Why didn’t we learn the lessons following 1968 that would have helped us prevent or mitigate the problems we’re seeing in 2020?” Are humans just doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again?

When you read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, you just might believe the answer to that question is “Yes.” The Israelites didn’t just experience a year of bad circumstances. They went through prolonged periods of bondage, war, and subjugation, and most of it was self inflicted. They had a major problem with trusting and obeying God. He brought them out of Egypt, and they responded by worshipping idols. He delivered them to the Promised Land, and they disobeyed his commands. He gave them victories over their enemies, and they grew arrogant and prideful. Just think about when Stephen was on trial and he recounted the history of the Israelites and their mistakes (Acts 7:1-53). He summarized the cause of their problems pretty clearly:
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” - Acts 7:51-53
The people did not trust in God as they should have. In fact, they fell into a pattern of resisting God and what He wanted for them. Perhaps, we aren’t so much different from the Isrealites. Unlike the people in the Old Testament, we have direct access to the Holy Spirit who lives in all believers, yet when trials come, too often we make the mistake of relying on things outside of us rather than on that which resides inside of us.

On top of that, too many of us forget what the Bible tells us about love.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. - 1 Peter 4:8
If our sinfulness and disobedience is the root of so much of the bad occurrences that befall us, then love is our way to rise above it all. 2020 has been terrible in so many ways, but how much better would it have been if we loved as the Bible commands. Not everyone believes in wearing masks in response to the COVID pandemic, but what if everyone complied because they loved their fellow people enough to want to protect them just in case? What if our political leaders made decisions affecting our healthcare and economic systems out of love for their constituents rather than political gamesmanship? What would the response to the incidents of police brutality have been if everyone loved others enough to empathize with the victims, families of victims, and people that fear they might one day become victims? Would 2020 be the same terrible year it has turned out to be? Sure, people would have still died, and the world would still have faced challenges, but would we be mired in the same amount negativity that we are now or would we as a people have found a way to rise above it all?

2020 has been a wild ride full of tragedy, but perhaps the biggest tragedy would be for us to experience all of this and still not learn anything. For Believers in particular, we should take 2020 as a lesson. Whether we're dealing with a year of craziness for the world at large or just a season within our own lives where it seems that everything is going wrong, God is the key to survival and living the way he directed is the best way to navigate the rough patches that we all inevitably experience.

Chris Lawyer
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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Something to Believe In

The world has a belief problem. It’s not so much that people don’t believe in anything. Everyone alive has beliefs of some sort. The problem is more that people have a problem knowing what to believe. In the past few years, we’ve seen examples of world leaders lying, scientists fudging data, and even religious leaders misrepresenting doctrine. When authorities cannot be trusted, the world finds itself plunged in turmoil. People won’t trust the instructions on how to handle a pandemic or even if the pandemic exists. People won’t accept that the actions of the masses could be affecting our climate and environment. Some people won’t even accept the truth about the planet on which we live. Yes, flat earthers exist. 

Maybe some might find this lack of belief in our world to be something to laugh at or mock, but the truth is that it can be dangerous. The constant questioning of the existence and severity of the pandemic has made it difficult to overcome. The dismissal of manmade climate change and other environmental problems are pushing our planet closer and closer a point where it may not be able to recover. It would be easy to blame these problems on the people who don’t believe, but again, time after time, we are shown that skepticism isn’t just warranted in this world, but necessary.

So how can we figure out what we should believe as we try to navigate through our lives. Maybe the best thing to do is find something solid on which to build a foundation of belief and progress from there. For Christians, God should be that foundation. What we believe should start with Him and what he’s done for us. Unlike with many of our daily concerns, if we believe the Bible, we know exactly what our belief requires and what will come from it. That is important. Of course, we understand that salvation and eternal life are the most important consequences of belief in God and Jesus specifically.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. - John 20:31
However, belief in God doesn’t just earn us life after death. It can give us something for which to live.
That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. - 1 Timothy 4:10
Paul was telling Timothy that their lives had been given purpose through their belief in God. Their belief gave them direction and a reason to persevere. Many in today’s world need the same. Some people flounder through life unable to find peace of mind, and often the reason for that is their lack of purpose. We all should have many things in our lives that drive us forward, but even one cause can spur a person on towards a successful life. With God, we are given multiple purposes. We are to spread the Gospel, live righteous lives, and love God and our fellow people. Any goal or hope we attach to those purposes can only work to benefit us and more importantly God’s will and the people around us.

Belief in God can also relieve stress and worry. Many of our problems come from what we do not have or what we believe we need, but the Bible tells us that if we believe in God, we will have everything we need.
“And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” - Matthew 21:22
If we truly believe in God and strive to live by his Word, we have no reason to fret over what we feel we lack. God will provide, so as believers we can put our faith in Him and keep moving forward. 

Our belief in God won’t necessarily eliminate all the sources of confusion that we may face in our lives, but, if we truly believe in Him, then at the very least we can dismiss anything that we know goes against His will and word. For everything else, we have the benefit of having God as a consultant. Through prayer and faith, we may receive guidance from the Father by way of the Holy Spirit. Even if we don’t fully know who or what to believe when it comes to the things the world throws at us, we will be able to make the right decisions because God always knows the truth and He will never lead us astray.

Chris Lawyer
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Say a Little Prayer

Praying is one of the most fundamental practices of Christianity. It’s the means by which believers communicate with God. To some it might seem pointless. If God already knows our hearts and minds, why is it necessary to pray? Well, simply put, because God says so. The Bible instructs us to pray, so that’s what we should do.
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14
If we need or want something from God, we need to ask even if He already knows what it is. This is not that foreign a concept. After all, human parents do the same thing with their children all the time. Prayer isn’t just about asking for things though. Again, it is the way by which we access the open line of communication between ourselves and God. Many of us do not use that line enough. Sure, most believers pray before every meal and perhaps when we wake up in the morning or when we go to bed at night, but is that enough?  How much should we actually pray? 
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The Bible isn’t telling us that we should literally be on our knees praying at all times without interruption. It is telling us that prayer should be a constant part of our regimen. Whatever we’re going through. Whatever we’re doing. Whatever we’re experiencing. Prayer should be in the mix. If we’re honest, many of us find it difficult to do that, but why? It should be one of the most natural parts of the Christian experience.

Perhaps it’s due in part to the misconception of what prayer should be. It’s not unusual to go to a church or watch some televangelist on TV and see a long drawn out prayer with a lot of passion and pleas and invocations. Prayers like that seem powerful, and you often hear people say things like “That was a good prayer.” What is a good prayer? If good prayers exist, then does that also mean that there is such a thing as bad prayers? The Bible actually answers both questions, but those answers might not be what you think based on what a prayer is commonly portrayed to be. Jesus gave us the “Our Father” prayer as a basic model for what a prayer should be (Matthew 6:9-13). So, that prayer and any prayer that follows that format is good. Immediately before giving us that prayer, he also pointed out what kind of prayers are considered bad.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. - Matthew 6:5-8
Jesus is very clearly telling us two things here. We shouldn’t pray in a showy manner. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t ever pray in public. Sometimes public prayer is a legitimate showing of faith and commitment to God. He is saying that our motivation shouldn’t be for others to see how great our prayers are or how great we are for praying in such a way. If we are motivated in that way, then our prayers aren’t about communicating with God. They are about uplifting ourselves and are thus pointless.

The other takeaway is that our prayers need not be long. We don’t have to ask for every desire or need one by one. We don’t have to call out every individual person that we know that needs help. Our prayers don’t need filler. We need only be direct and purposeful just as Jesus was with the Our Father prayer. There is nothing wrong with keeping your prayers short and sweet. When we realize that, then it’s easier to understand how you can pray without ceasing. If you’re at work and you find out you receive a raise, you don’t have to drop to your knees in front of all your coworkers and start yelling out for ten minutes about how good God is. You can simply whisper your thanks to God in a couple sentences. He’ll hear you. If you catch yourself doing something wrong, you don’t have to inflict physical pain on yourself and wail in sorrow about your wrongdoing as some misguided Christians have done in the past. You can simply say “I’m sorry for that, Lord” and express your intent to avoid committing that same sin in the future.

Prayer doesn’t have to be a big production. In fact, it shouldn’t be. God is our father. Our interaction with him should be similar in some regard to how it is with our parents. It’s true that our prayers should have all the respect and reverence that we would give a parent, but they should also have an air of familiarity. They should flow as if we’re speaking to someone that we love and that we know loves us because that’s exactly what we’re doing. Sometimes we have long conversations with our parents because there are serious issues we need help with. Sometimes our interactions with our parents are little more than quick greetings or simple words of gratitude for something they’ve done for us.  It can be the same with God. The big prayers are often necessary, but if we can work the little ones into our daily lives more consistently, we might just find ourselves praying in exactly the way the Bible instructs.

Chris Lawyer
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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Like a Child

Children are our future. We’ve all heard that said at some point, and we all know what it means. As children grow and come of age, they will take over where many current adults leave off. They are essentially the hope for the continuation of our species, and mankind will continue to progress generation by generation as long as God wills it. That’s not particularly surprising. After all, that is what procreation is all about. However, Jesus gave us a different way of looking at children.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. - Mark 10:13-16
At first, it seems like Jesus is uttering a similar sentiment. He seems to be speaking about children inheriting the Kingdom of God the same way they will eventually inherit the Earth. When you read further, the truth becomes clearer. Jesus isn’t just saying that children are the future of God’s kingdom. He is saying that they are models for those that seek to enter God’s kingdom. That might seem mind boggling at first. How can children represent what Christians should be? Many of us would argue that most children, particularly the very young, do not even understand the Faith and everything that goes along with it. They certainly don’t know about all the temptations the world has to offer; the very things that threaten to pull us away from God. To some extent, those arguments would be correct. However, they also miss the point. That innocence is precisely what Jesus is telling us we need to have.

The innocence of children is not their only important quality. Children are naturally humble in a way that adults struggle to be. They know they don’t know everything. They seek to learn and understand. They are obsessive about the things they believe are important and are constantly seeking more. That is exactly the way we should be when it comes to Godly things. Perhaps, most importantly, they have a blind faith that is foreign to older people. They believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy without question. To us, we see that as cute in its silliness. Based on what Jesus is saying, it’s important that we start to look at the faith of children in a different way. It’s vital for our own salvations. Children accept God, Jesus, and everything the Bible tells us with the same fervor that they accept fairy tales and fantasy characters. When you teach them that God created the universe or that he helped Moses and the Hebrews cross the Red Sea or that he sent his Son to die and rise again to save us from our sins, they just accept it. To them, it doesn’t matter that the stories in question may defy the rules of science or our own understanding of the world around us. They are told that the Bible is a book of authority and they accept what it says.

Of course things aren’t that easy once you’ve grown up. As adults we become more knowledgeable and, in some cases, wiser. Our understanding of the natural world grows. We often become cynical and learn to question everything. When it comes to worldly matters, all of that can serve us well. This world offers many pitfalls that can mean danger for us if we are not careful. The problem is God is not of this world. He does not exist according to the same rules that define the physical world, and we shouldn’t expect him to operate in the same way that things around us do.

Children are really only expected to grow and become the kind of people society needs them to be. As children, their responsibilities and the things required of them are relatively limited. As adults we have to pay bills, take care of others, and take on jobs and tasks that don’t just affect us but also those around us. We come to put faith in ourselves and what we can do. So, when it is suggested that we should instead put our faith in God, whose existence and will seems to contradict everything that we believe we know, we balk at it. Many people treat God the same way as Santa or the Easter Bunny, and see belief in Him as something a reasonable person grows out of over time. Even those of us who continue to believe in Him often struggle with what believing means. It’s easy to say God exists and frame your life in a way that is generally in line with what the Bible teaches. It’s hard to not just follow the Bible as a general framework but instead adhere to all the fine details that lie in the many verses the book holds. It’s nearly impossible to submit to God’s will and truly put Him at the head of our lives unless we reclaim some of what we lose as we grow up.

As he often did, Jesus said something that seemed very simple but turned out to be wiser than what was immediately apparent. The ramifications of what he said are very important. After his departure, Jesus’ disciples taught the world about the importance of qualities such as humility and faithfulness, but Jesus didn’t just teach us about how important those things are. He gave us the key to recapturing those qualities for our own lives. We were all once children, so none of the qualities that children have are foreign to us. We’ve just trained ourselves to abandon those qualities. Jesus is also giving us hope that we can reclaim some of what we’ve lost. It’s vital that we do because if we truly want to be with God we can’t just say that we are his children. We have to act like it.

Chris Lawyer 
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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Bible Character Spotlight: David Part 1


David is probably neck and neck with Moses as the most important character in the Old Testament. His story starts when he was a young boy and follows right out of the story of Samuel, the last character we put under the spotlight. While 1 Samuel does not delve too deeply into David’s character as a young boy, it is worth noting and understanding how godly David was even as a young boy. Many of the verses from the book of Psalms were written by David throughout his life including when he was still fairly young. One of David’s psalms is probably one of the most well known sets of verses in the Bible.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. - Psalm 23
One thing this and the other Psalms tell us about David was that he was a faithful person. God recognized that and, through Samuel, chose David even though, at the time, David seemed like an unlikely choice. When Samuel was sent to find King Saul’s replacement, God gave him the following instructions:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7
Samuel found David who was the youngest of his father’s sons. David was a shepherd not a warrior, but God still selected him even if that meant that David would wind serving and eventually fighting for Saul. At first, David’s role was just to soothe Saul by playing the lyre (once again we see evidence of David’s musical talent), but eventually David was introduced to combat. That introduction came in dramatic fashion and has gone on to be a very well-known Biblical story.

The Israelites were at war against the Philistines again. This time it was the Philistines who had a seemingly superhuman soldier, Goliath, a giant among men. No one in the army of the Israelites wanted to fight Goliath.
Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. - 1 Samuel 17:10
At this time, David was not a soldier. He did not even serve Saul full time. He split time between tending to sheep back home and playing for Saul. He eventually arrived on the scene while Goliath was making his challenge. While everyone else in Saul’s army cowered from the very thought of fighting Goliath, David resolutely declared that he would accept the challenge. Saul was understandably shocked by David’s words and rejected the idea at first, but David said the following:
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” - 1 Samuel 17:35-37
There we see it, David’s faith. It wasn’t something new that just popped up at the moment of truth. It was something that had been crafted and tested even while he was working what some might have thought was a tamer job. David had no doubt that God would protect him because he already knew that God had protected him in the past. It seems simple, but we have to remember that time after time in the stories preceding David’s that the Children of Israel doubted and questioned God despite God helping them every bit as much as He had helped David. David wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill follower of God. He was a paragon. His faith could not be questioned and, as a result, he was rewarded when he managed to take down the mountain of a man, Goliath, with nothing more than a sling and a stone.

Many understand that the story of David and Goliath is about faith in God and just how powerful it can be, but we have to put the story in perspective. It wasn’t the pinnacle of David’s achievements. It was just the first.  We have to put that event in the proper context of the part it played in David's life just like we have to understand the significance of the events in our own lives.  Sometimes we see the big feat that God had to achieve just to bring us to Him, and we fixate on that. In doing so, we may miss out on the fact that God continues to work miracles throughout the rest of our lives.

We see that concept play out in David’s story. His defeat of Goliath brought him respect and renown, which are undoubtedly good things.  Unfortunately, his feat also led to David being the object of Saul's fear and jealousy. Saul and everyone else could see that David was a true man of God. and David’s connection to God brought him success and prominence.
In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. - 1 Samuel 18:14-16
Saul offered David his daughter in marriage and treated David like a beloved servant, but increasingly he just wanted to be rid of David. First, he tried to set David up in a scenario where David would die in battle against the Philistines, but David found nothing but success when challenged. Eventually, Saul tried to kill David himself.
But an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape. - 1 Samuel 19:9-10
When he failed to do the deed, Saul sent others to kill David on multiple occasions, and those attempts failed too. The thing Saul didn’t get was the lesson he should have learned when David defeated Goliath. David was faithful to God, and God was faithful to David. God protected David from the Philistines, and he would protect David from Saul. Saul eventually learned that lesson, but by the time he did, it was too late for him. David’s star continued to rise as he found more and more success, while Saul went from king to a pariah. David would have been justified in killing Saul after everything Saul did to him, but that was not his way. David knew not to touch God's anointed. David spared Saul multiple times. He knew he didn’t need to get vengeance because he knew the Lord had his back. In the end, David claimed his role as king and Saul wound up taking his own life. David had proven to be the better man and would go on to be a better king, but that doesn’t mean he was perfect. In fact, to some extent, David’s time as king can be wrapped up in the well known phrase “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” We’ll see that during the next spotlight.

Chris Lawyer
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