The Power of Confession

Acts 19 

May 7

No one wants to look bad. The perfect example of this is social media. No one is ever like I want to post that picture that is the most authentic version of me. We want the absolute best version of us on the internet, with all the cropping and filters and perfect lighting we can find. I definitely understand why. The internet is forever. This does go into our real lives though, too. 

We all have video cameras on the front of our phones. I am very thankful that I grew up in an era where if you said something dumb only the people within earshot knew. People in general are more afraid of trying new things publicly because they are afraid of it ending up on snapchat or insta or as a meme. I think most of us realize that many of the stories or memes we see don’t reflect that whole person’s life. 

We all make mistakes. I feel like our flow chart for mistake making is in the wrong order though. The first thought for me is either towards the person or towards God and then we normally don’t want anyone else to find out. Once again no one enjoys looking bad, not even me. 

In Acts 19.11-20 Paul is in Ephesus and an incident occurs where the sons of a Jewish priest try to perform an exorcism. Exorcists were common during this time period. Exorcists would claim a name of high power, during their exorcisms, thinking the higher power the name, the higher the percentage chance of an exorcism . The sons of Sceva made an error this time. They claimed the name of Jesus as the source of their power and they weren’t following Jesus. They said it works for Paul and it should work for us. That really isn’t how the name of Jesus works though. The man with the spirits attacks the sons of Sceva and beats them and sends all seven running away naked. That was a bad day for those brothers. 

Word of this incident spreads around the region and in v. 18 “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.” People realized how wrong the magic arts were after hearing about the sons of Sceva. These were people who were already believers and still had these books and maybe were still practicing magic arts. 

I admire the people of Ephesus for this one. When they figured out something was wrong, they confessed and divulged their practices. When there is a sin that has more power in our life, we don’t come and confess it. We want to have victory over it or be healed of it before we confess it. We want to have a problem, fix it ourselves and then tell everyone about it. This is to our detriment. In darkness sin can grow. If you confess it to someone, your problem will not magically go away but, it’s the start in the right direction. 

Most alcoholics don’t think they have a drinking problem. The first of the twelve steps in recovery is admitting that you cannot manage your own life. (I actually wonder if many Christians get past this first step.) 

Admitting you have made a mistake is half the work. You can find a trustworthy individual to talk about what you are struggling with and in doing so you can take a little more ground on the thing that you are working on. 

Everyone likes confession until they have something to confess. It is worth the time and the embarrassment. The church in Ephesus after they burned their magic books kept growing. It says in v. 20 that “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightly.” I want that for my church and for myself. Bite the bullet and let’s take some medicine and see God work.

Thank you for sticking around. I have enjoyed writing for you guys this week. 

-Daniel (Dan, Danny) Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How does this relate to your everyday life? What is your experience with confession – or not confessing?
  2. What is the problem with believing but not confessing?
  3. What is the power of confessing? Prayerfully consider if there is something you need to confess.

Do Not Be Silent

Acts 18 

May 6

Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth at the start of Acts 18. Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila and works with them as tentmakers in Corinth. Paul visits the synagogue and tries to appeal to the Jews and Greeks. He was reviled in the synagogue and then shakes out his garments and declares that he will only speak to the Gentiles. Even with the ruler of the synagogue being converted he still faces danger in the city. 

Paul had been chased from the towns of Thessalonica, Derea, and Iconium. I am sure Paul must have been wondering if this was his time to get chased from this city as well. The anxiety of knowing that in every new city he came to there was a chance of being thrown out of it and physical harm coming to him would have been a lot to bear. 

God comes to Paul in a vision. God giving Paul this vision is an act of grace towards Paul. God is trying to comfort Paul and give him direction. God starts out with the simple statement of “Do not be afraid”. This feels a lot like Joshua 1.9. God gives Paul two more commands; Go on speaking and do not be silent. Paul has probably realized that most of his trouble befalls him when he speaks and he is not silent. The same thing is true of me except it normally isn’t because I’m preaching the gospel. God gives three commands and the unique thing about this vision is God also gives Paul three reasons why he should do those things. 

We have plenty of commands of God and God very often gives us the reasons why we should follow his command. Sometimes we aren’t willing to look hard enough for the reasons but there are almost always reasons. Sometimes we won’t find out the reasons until later or maybe we find out the reasons why in the kingdom. There is an element of faith in following Christ. 

God’s reasons for why Paul should obey his commands are that God is with him. God being with you may result in a kind of fearlessness. God’s next reason why is that no one will attack Paul to harm him. This statement must have relieved a lot of anxiety from Paul. God’s third reason why is that God has many in this city. 

God makes good on his promises to Paul. In verses 12-17 Paul is brought before the proconsul of Achaia, the ruler of that region, by the Jewish rulers and the new ruler of the synagogue. He is accused of persuading people to worship God contrary to the law. Just as Paul was about to speak the proconsul says that because it is a quarrel about words and there is no wrongdoing that he refuses to rule on this. The proconsul drives all of Paul’s accusers away. The mob that had formed ends up beating the new ruler of the synagogue, one of Paul’s enemies, in front of the proconsul. 

When we follow God’s lead and direction it will put us into positions where we get to see God work in situations. This situation for Paul worked out well for him. He didn’t even need to do anything to get out of the situation. He relied on God and God worked it out. The proconsul responded in his favor before Paul spoke. God was clearly at work in this situation because after that his enemy, the ruler of the synagogue, ended up being killed by the mob. His enemy was killed by the people who had originally intended to kill him. 

When we join God in what He is doing we will see this provision for us as well. There will be suffering and some pain but there will also be moments where we get to see God do God things and experience Him through those events. That’s part of what makes Christianity so exciting, fulfilling and awesome. 

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of a time you didn’t speak up for God, perhaps because of fear or discomfort? What promises of God might you have missed out on with that failed opportunity?
  2. When have you had the pleasure of “see(ing) God do God things and experience(ing) Him through those events”
  3. What can we learn from Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila later in this chapter?

God Did All This

Acts 17

May 5

Paul starts out in Acts chapter 17 arriving in Thessalonica and speaking in the synagogues for 3 Sabbaths. He proclaims that Jesus needed to suffer and be raised from the dead. The Jews corner Paul and he is forced to leave the city after paying the officials. Paul and Silas depart for Berea. The Berean Jews listen to him and study to see if what he is saying is true and many of them believed. The Jews from Thessalonica find out Paul is in Berea and come after him there.

Paul is immediately sent away by the brothers in Berea and Paul arrives in Athens. Paul doesn’t take a break while in Athens. Paul seeing the city full of idols almost can’t help himself. Paul starts going into the marketplace and reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue and preaching to them about Jesus resurrected. They bring Paul to the Areopagus, a court of philosophy, and Paul launches into one of the most cultured speeches or sermons in the New Testament.

Paul starts out with the general declaration that God has made everything in v.24. God doesn’t live in a temple, made of human hands. He instead dwells within all of us. This is in abstraction to all the gods of Athens who needed a temple, a place for them to dwell. Our God when a house is built for him it was only supposed to represent God’s presence with his nation, Israel. It was a symbol for his people.

Paul makes his third statement about God’s sovereignty in v. 25. He doesn’t need us to serve him. For there is nothing that he needs from us that he can’t do for himself.  He instead involves us and allows us to serve him for our own good. Our service to God is a matter of grace from God to us. It is letting us love him back. We are like children using the money mommy gave us to buy something for daddy.

Paul then makes a statement about the whole world’s dependence on God. He says that God gives to us life, breath and everything. Life: many of you may think of this as coming from your mom and dad; but as at least some of you may know, pregnancy is a miracle in and of itself. Either way God gave you your life. Have you had any enjoyment in it? Praise God because he gave it to you. Breath: God has provided you the air in your lungs right now and all the air you have ever used. He gave you the air you used to praise him and the air you used to sin against him. Everything: Everything you have ever interacted with – like that piece of cake or your mama. He made all that as well.

Verse 26 says that God providentially gave to each a time and a place. Verse 27 Tells us exactly why he did this. He gave us our time, place, life, breath, and everything that we have and everyone we love that we would SEEK Him and FIND Him. This statement is so significant if we look at it from Paul’s audience’s perspective. God made everything and gave everything, that we would find Him. He did it, so it would point us to Him.

The good things that he gives to non-Christians and the good things he gave to us, when we didn’t love him, were all done for us that we would seek and find Him.

We are going to skip down to verse 30. Paul tells us he has overlooked our ignorance and is telling them to repent and that he will judge the world by a righteous man. Paul then says that we have assurance of this because Christ was raised from the dead.

This is the third time in this chapter Paul talks about Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is paramount to the Christian faith. If Christ isn’t raised we have nothing. His resurrection gives us Christ in us and God in Christ and therefore God in all of us. By his resurrection, not just his death, we are justified (Romans 4.25).

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you be more mindful of all that God has made and done for you today?
  2. How will you seek Him?
  3. Who do you know who still needs to hear about and know the “unknown God”? How can you introduce them?
  4. What does Christ’s resurrection mean to you?

Staying Where God Wants You

Acts 16

May 4

In Chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement and they end up parting ways. Paul ends up taking Silas and departing on Paul’s second missionary journey and goes back to Derbe and Lystra, where Paul had been stoned on his first missionary journey (read Monday’s devotion for the details on that). In Chapter 16 Paul and Silas revisit some of the cities of Turkey that Paul had previously visited and Paul is forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in the rest of Asia (which includes the western part of Turkey). Paul is then visited in a vision by the Macedonian man. The man from Macedonia asks Paul to come over to Macedonia. Paul and Silas then immediately seek to go to Macedonia believing God called them to preach there. 

In the city of Phillipi there was a slave girl, who had a spirit of divination. This spirit had caused the owners of the girl to profit by fortune telling. This spirit had caused her to follow Paul and Silas and cry out in a loud voice. Paul heals this girl. Her owners become angry because they can no longer profit off her fortune telling. They have Paul and Silas imprisoned. 

Paul’s behavior in this chapter is definitely weird. Paul, a missionary to Gentiles, goes through all these Turkish towns, Gentile towns, and doesn’t preach the gospel to them. This is a man who won’t let a stoning stop him from preaching the Gospel but walks through all these cities without speaking a word. Paul was truly led, guided, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. It says that in verse 7 that the spirit of Jesus didn’t let them preach in those regions. 

The next extremely weird behavior in this chapter happens in this prison scene(v.25-40). Some of you may remember in Acts 5 when Peter is imprisoned and an angel opens the doors of the prison and sets him free. What happens to Paul and Silas is similar except for a couple of details. There is an earthquake that sets all the prisoners free but instead of leaving the prison Paul and Silas stay (v.26). Actually they do something even more radical than just staying in prison; they keep all the other prisoners from leaving the prison (v.28). 

Pretend, you are imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Imprisoned with no privacy, no family and no wifi. Also you are imprisoned with people who have actually committed crimes. Probably not a low security facility either. I am talking about the type of crimes that make Law and Order. So, you survive the first day and there is an earthquake and you and all the prisoners can escape. You decide not to leave and also decide to keep all the actual criminals inside the prison as well. Does this sound like something you would do? No, me neither. 

When the jailer awakes and sees all the doors open for the cells he pulls out his sword and is about to kill himself when Paul yells out that the prisoners were still there (v.27). Remember the jailer is the guy that is supposed to keep you in prison. The jailer killing himself means that you could leave. The jailer killing himself would be very advantageous to you, as someone in prison. The jailer was going to kill himself because that was the only honorable move for a Roman soldier after presumably losing all his prisoners. 

Paul must have been completely and totally reliant on God’s spirit through this for leading, guidance, and power. Immediately after this Paul is given the opportunity to preach to the jailer and he and his family were baptized that night. 

At many points during this Paul could have just escaped; he could have escaped right after the earthquake or let the jailer kill himself. Paul decided to stay in his prison cell. Even when it would have been easy for him to get out of that situation; Paul decided to stay where God had put him. He did this throughout his missionary journeys. Paul continually decides to stay where God wants him. Even when it is to his own physical harm or it could lead to his death he continually decides to stay. 

If we decide to go with God we could end up in similar positions. Positions where harm to us is possible to us whether physical, or mental. We, like Paul, have to decide whether to stay where God puts us or is leading us or go our own way. Our own way is so much easier and is almost guaranteed to involve less pain (at least for the moment).

Paul stayed though. He stayed where God wanted him. 

His reward … bringing a whole family to know God and His Son Jesus.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever felt God wanted you to stay in a difficult situation? If you did stay, what were some positive blessings that came as a result – for you and/or others?
  2. Why is the easy path not always the best?
  3. After reading Acts 16, what are some adjectives you would use to describe Paul? Which of those adjectives could also be used to describe you? Which is not a strength for you, but something you would like to develop more? How so?

Led by the Holy Spirit

Acts 15

May 3

Acts 15 is a chapter of disagreements. Our first disagreement comes within the larger church and is about the rules for Gentiles regarding circumcision. Some of the church had been instructing new Gentiles to be circumcised and debate arose amongst the apostles and elders. Paul, Peter and James all make statements that are recorded in this chapter.

I’m going to bring up a couple of highlights from this chapter that may or may not be related. In verse 8 the marker that Peter uses that Gentiles are now welcome to the family of God is that the Gentiles recieved the Holy Spirit, the same way that the Jews did. The Holy Spirit being a marker for Gentiles is a significant statement about how critical the Holy Spirit is to Christianity. This statement shows that the apostles had a high view of the Holy Spirit.

At McGintytown we are currently revising our constitution. If any of you have been a part of one of these committees you know how much work it is. One of the questions that gets brought up is how much power should each individual person or group have over the church. Acts 15 is an interesting case study of this because of the scope of the decision being made. The decision the apostles and elders are making for Gentiles is going to affect ALL Gentiles. The apostles and elders are representing God for his people.

In verse 28 we have the reason provided for this decision. The apostles told the Gentiles that it seemed good to them and the Holy Spirit. If I were them I would want some sort of lighting bolt or some Gideon like signs or maybe having God rewind time like he did for Hezekiah. The apostles and elders feel good imposing only four rules on the Gentiles.

How could the apostles be so confident that they were doing what God wants? In Dallas Willard’s Hearing God he presents the idea that the same way that you may know what a friend or spouse or boss would want done in a situation, that as we progress in our spiritual lives, that we should know what God wants. This is why having a daily progressing relationship with God is so important. It is impossible to know what God would want if we don’t know God. This doesn’t mean God won’t continue to speak to us, it just means that we don’t need to be paralyzed by decisions. That is as long as you feel you know what God would want.

We encounter situations that the Bible doesn’t necessarily give us a direct command about. As long as we are spending time with God and have a sense of where he is leading us we don’t need to wait for some miraculous sign to make a decision. Being led by the spirit doesn’t mean having to pray what cereal to eat, what route to take to work or how to handle work decisions. We can lean in to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and proceed.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In this chapter, what can we learn about handling disagreements that arise in the church? Consider how they handled the question of circumcision as well as the debate over John also called Mark.
  2. How do you tend to handle disagreements? What can you put into practice next time?
  3. Would you consider yourself more Spirit led, or self led? What’s the difference? When making decisions and living your life, how important is it to you to be doing what God wants? How do you work at knowing what He wants?

Unstoppable Courage

Acts 14

May 2

Paul and Barnabas continue on their first missionary trip in Acts 14. They continue on land through modern day Turkey making stops in various cities through the region. Paul’s first missionary journey goes through the island of Cyprus and then goes to Turkey. Paul returns the same way that he came except he bypasses a stop at Cyprus on his way home. 

In Iconium an attempt was made by some Gentiles and Jews to stone Paul and Barnabas, they fled for Lystra and this is where their lives start to get interesting. Paul and Barnabas are hailed as gods because they heal a crippled man. After Paul addresses them with a beautiful statement about the general revelation of God to the Gentiles in v.17, the people who had attempted to stone him in Iconium find him in Lystra.

The Jews from Iconium find Paul and drag him out of the city and stone him. We can’t really completely understand what it is like to be stoned while trying to preach the gospel. The experience of being hit with stones on your body and head from many people until they think there is no way you are alive is unfathomable for us. The purpose of a stoning was to kill a person. It is completely a miracle by the grace and love of God that Paul survived this attack.

Paul’s friends come to him. We must assume that this is hours after Paul is stoned and left for dead because if the Jews had seen his friends Paul’s friends probably would have been stoned. Paul endures this stoning more than likely by himself.

Paul’s legend grows here. After his friends gather around Paul he goes back into the city, where all the danger would have been. If you get beaten so badly that people think you are dead it would take a few days(probably weeks) to recover. The next day Paul goes to another city to preach the gospel. We see in this incident Paul living out Philippians 4.13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul demonstrates an enormous strength just continuing on the next day.

Paul’s example of strength and boldness didn’t stop here. Paul after preaching in Derbe returns to the city he was just stoned outside of to encourage those disciples. Then he goes to the city where the people who stoned him lived and strengthened the disciples there. Paul’s lack of regard for his own safety is by all measures of today reckless. Paul demonstrated that he found more value in strengthening his disciples than in his own safety. Paul believed that he could do and make it through whatever lies ahead because God’s spirit was strengthening him.

The first thing to take away from Paul in these incidents is Paul did not stop. I think too many people walk around setting artificial limits on themselves. We don’t face our problems thinking I have Christ in me and God’s spirit strengthening me. When problems arise my first thought is maybe I should take a break. There is power available in God’s spirit that lives within us (Acts 1.8).

The second take away from Paul in Acts 14 is courage. I think Paul’s courage came from his death to himself. Paul’s motto was to live is Christ and death is gain. When death is viewed as gain and you lack fear of it, being courageous is much simpler. For Paul’s own words on this subject read Philippians 1.18-26.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What limiter are you putting on yourself that God didn’t put there?
  2. Are you depending upon God’s spirit working in you for strength in your life?
  3. In what areas of your life are you living for yourself and therefore lack courage?
  4. Do you believe Paul was made of the same dust of the ground that you are?

Death

Acts 13

May 1

As a pastor, I try my best to get out and visit the sick and elderly. I feel a constant tension when visiting an elderly or really sick person that I want to pray for their healing but I also acknowledge that everyone I know will, probably, die. I have had people in my life who are Christians die at an old age. Many people would comment that when a person has grown old and had a full life that death was more acceptable.

There is something in our minds that feels better when a person grows old and has experienced all of life and then dies. We say that they have lived a full life.

In our chapter of the day Paul is being sent out on his first missionary journey. He is sent out by the elders of the Antioch church and he makes a significant statement about death. He is asked to give a word of encouragement in the synagogue in Pisidia. As a side note, I love how Paul is geared up and just already has something on his heart to share with this group. As the text reads Barnabas and Paul are asked and then Paul just stands up and goes. As someone who preaches most Sundays I love the idea of no outline, just God speaking to you and you speaking to people. Paul was a man who was hooked up to the well and out flowed the things that God put there.

Now back to get back on track … Acts 13.36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption”

Paul says something implicitly about life that could be helpful for us. Paul says that David dies after he had served his purpose to God. Essentially after he had done what God wanted him to do David died. For some people this may seem like harsh treatment by God to his servant. Why wouldn’t God give David a long good life after how David served him? David gave his life to God. Shouldn’t God give David a retirement package? You know like 20 years where David could do what he wanted or do the things he hadn’t gotten to do because he was busy serving God.

I don’t think David was just living for the Kingdom. I think David’s primary motivation in this life was the glory of God. Once David had done what he was supposed to do for that purpose he died. You see this in elderly people quite often. As long as they have a purpose in life they continue to live but often when that purpose is removed their health tends to deteriorate. This could be part of how God made us.

I think we undervalue how great it is that we serve God according to a purpose that he gives to us. Purpose in this verse could also mean plan. God has had a plan for the world of redeeming it and glorifying it and making it new. The same way he has started this work of making things new by resurrecting Jesus and then started the process of making us new by giving us new hearts. We get to take part in God’s plan and purpose for this world that is millennium old and ends with everything made new and God properly glorified.

It feels all too fitting that once we have fulfilled our role in God’s purpose and plan that we would die. The intended purpose for our lives is God’s glory (Isaiah 43.7). It feels proper and good that when we fulfill our intended purpose that we would pass away whether that is young or old or somewhere in between.

I am not trying to be insensitive to people who have lost friends or family members young. I know that hurts and I’m sorry if you have. I’m trying/ hoping to reconcile life and death as a Christian.

-Daniel Wall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What do you think God’s purpose was in David’s life? In Barnabas’s life? In Saul/Paul’s life? In yours?
  2. How might God be preparing for you to serve Him? Where to go? Who to talk to? What words to speak? How can you prepare yourself for what He wants you to do?

In the Midst of a Dirty Situation

2 Samuel 16-18

2 Samuel 16 18 NIV sgl

In my job I semi-frequently get cursed at and called all sorts of names. This normally happens when the kids are in crisis themselves and are lashing out at others in their anger or, like everyone under the sun, are getting told to do something they don’t want to. The kids use their anger to try to hurt people – that is the result they are aiming for. Sometimes this results in physical violence where a kid will take a swing at you and hit their target.

I remember one day a girl was in crisis and was getting violent with all the male staff. She was stuck in the hallway between the units. Which unfortunately for her there is no emergency exit in the hallway like there are in the units. Unfortunately for us, the male staff, that meant it was impossible to walk in between the units without getting hit. She can’t really throw a punch. So, don’t think I am walking away bruised and bloodied here but no one really enjoys getting hit. Think of a 12-year-old with poor coordination hitting you and not aiming at the face because she knows that she would get put in a restraint for that. Somehow this girl had gotten into the staff break room. The go-to move for kids when in crisis is to try to destroy as much as possible and wreak havoc. In the staff break room there is a semi full refrigerator. I was in the staff break room when she broke in. So of course, she went right for the refrigerator to try to cover the walls as creatively as she could with condiments or whatever else was in there. So, since I couldn’t really stop her or drag her out of there, like your parents would to you or like you would to your children, I just stood in front of the refrigerator so she couldn’t access it. While I’m standing there, she is hitting me. I just ignore it and wait for her to get tired or bored and move on to something else.

The story of Shimei and David really resonates with me. This story is 2 Samuel 16.5-14. As a reminder, Shimei was a relative of Saul – who definitely didn’t like David. He was calling David names and throwing rocks at David and his men. This seems a lot like my normal day to day life. David’s reaction here and what he does is very intriguing. Abishai, one of David’s future commanders of a thousand, asks David essentially please let me kill this guy. I think any normal commander would have been angry at a man throwing rocks at his men. David didn’t act on this anger instead he cited a couple of reasons why Shimei could be doing this. David offers the explanation that this is God’s judgement on him for his actions, he says my son is after me why should I care about this guy? He also says that maybe God will repay me with good for this wrong done to me.

This last reason by David is crazy from an Old Testament perspective. The rule then was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and David is deciding not to take justice into his own hands and hurt Shimei. David is in effect saying, “I am putting the justice into God’s hands.” He is even saying something greater here as well.

David says that for an evil action done to me God may repay with good. David didn’t look at the harm done to him and get angry. David’s statement says something about what he believed about God and the world and everything that is going on in it. David sees suffering and says that God may bless him because of it. David didn’t play the victim card and say, “Look at me, poor David. My son took over my kingdom and now I am getting called names, getting dust kicked up at me, and getting rocks thrown at me.” His mind didn’t go there. He instead looks at his suffering with God in his view and says that God may repay me good for this. David believed that there was a God and that this God took action in his life. David believed that when God saw him suffering that he may repay him with good.

I don’t go into work with the mindset that when people call me names and try to hit me that this may ultimately be to my benefit. The thought never crossed my mind. Who really sees their suffering at the hand of other people as to their benefit? NO ONE. Yet, David did. How do you view it when people do you wrong? Can we look at these instances in those moments and say “God may repay me good for this evil done to me?” Are we going to believe that God is a god of justice and leave the justice in his hands? The way we frame things in our mind will allow us to not be bitter or angry but to maintain our joy and love for that person through difficult moments.

Daniel Wall

I really enjoyed writing all these devotions. Honestly, it has been a total blessing for me. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. If you read something interesting and wanted to reach out to me on Facebook or email at danielaaronwall@gmail.com or if you see me in person let me know you read them. It would be great to actually meet the people who have been reading the devotions.

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+16-18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 26, 40, 58, 61-62 & 64 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

on God’s team

Psalm 3-4, 12-13, 28 & 55

Psalm 3 3 ESV

I am a huge baseball fan. It is by far my favorite sport. There is a great mental challenge to baseball and it requires excellent motor function. Baseball, where I am from, means you have two options as far as baseball teams, the Mets or the Yankees. I went with the Yankees from a very young age. My grandfather was a big Yankees fan as well. I remember playing Little League and wearing a Yankees hat at practices from the age of 6 or 7. I still have the hat somewhere around my house in a box.

It just so happens that I grew up in the golden age of Yankees baseball. Since I have been alive the Yankees won the World Series 5 times and I am 29 years old. Ain’t nobody got anything on the Yankees since I was born. I remember as a kid in school all sports were really big. As a kid in high school I would go look at baseball statistics on the computers at the library during free periods and lunch. I would wear my Yankees World Series Champions t-shirts around with pride. When they would win, it would almost be like I had won. Even though I was doing absolutely nothing to contribute to them winning I was sort of sharing in the glory of their success.

In Psalm 3.3 we have something kind of like this. The text says

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

The three ideas in this verse are really awesome to think about. The Lord being a shield around me means that I am not reliant on my own strength or the military’s protection to keep me safe. I can rely on God that he will protect. The idea that he is the lifter of my head is awesome. When most people are sad, depressed or dismayed they look down at the floor. Just today one of the youths I work with was depressed and had her head hung low, looking at the floor. I wish she knew the God who is the lifter of heads, who restores joy, gives peace and is the source of true happiness.

Does anyone else feel like that middle phrase is interesting? David is saying that God is his glory. You may not necessarily think of serving God as glorious. I almost didn’t know what to make of it until I thought about the Yankees. I did nothing to receive glory from the Yankees winning; yet, because I picked them and said they are my team I got to share in their glory. David didn’t do anything to receive glory from God. There is nothing David could have done to deserve glory from God. All David did was put on the hat and said I am on Team God and wore the t-shirts of God’s victories. He still received glory because he was on the ultimate victor’s side. When God won a battle, David shared in that victory.

I think it goes even further though. The text doesn’t say that he received some of the glory from God. It says that You O Lord are my glory. That is a complete statement. David had already gone off and killed Goliath, had songs written about when he killed tens of thousands of people, killed lions and bears and was victorious over Saul. David has a seriously impressive resume. The only position he isn’t overqualified for is King.

Yet in this statement he says that all that he has done he doesn’t deserve the glory. David didn’t let his head blow up. This statement about glory is almost an identifier as well. David’s identity isn’t wrapped up in his accomplishments or his position. No one whose identity is wrapped up in the things of this world would say that God is their glory because there is no self-esteem without an identity in the image of God or in your accomplishments, beauty or position. David put his identity in the image of God in him and that is why he was able to say that his glory was in God.

Do we say that God is our glory? Do we still try to derive our glory from our relationships, beauty, intelligence, notoriety, strength, accomplishments, jobs, successes, strengths or weakness? We should be saying that God is my glory. In his victories I will share and I know that his will ultimately be the victory.

Praise God that he is our glory.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+3-4%2C+12-13%2C+28%2C+55&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 16-18 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Repairing Relationships

2 Samuel 13-15

2 Samuel 14 14 NIV sgl

Have you ever been in a conflict where you feel extremely wronged in a situation? Everyone is like yes and amen. The story of our lives. Haha. Now secretly, to a really close friend you may be able to admit that you also did some wrong stuff, too; but there ain’t no way that anyone else is finding out about that. In fact, to all your friends you portray yourself as something resembling Jesus in the situation. I hope that you aren’t so disillusioned that you actually believe this has never happened to you. We really enjoy this social feedback loop.

There are other situations that come up in life where you have a single incident and then everything spirals out of control and that one incident ends up messing up everything in that relationship. I have totally had one of those.

It seems that there is nothing new under the sun because that is exactly what has happened with Absalom and David. The worst and most ridiculous thing about this story is that the catalyst to this relational tension didn’t even involve them. As you’ve read, this caused years of tension and problems and separation between father and son.

I am not going to speculate on whether David was right in not sentencing Amnon to death after rapping Tamar or whether Absalom should have killed his brother. There comes a certain point at which what has happened in life has happened. There is nothing you can do to change it and now you just need to live your life with the future in mind. In most of these cases keeping the tension and the bad blood in the relationship isn’t profitable to our own spiritual health and doesn’t promote godliness.

The section of today’s reading that I would like to discuss is 2 Samuel 13.37-39 and 2 Samuel 14.21-24, 28.  After Absalom killed Amnon, in worry and anxiety he fled to Geshur. It says that David mourned for his son in 2 Samuel 13.37. I am not sure which son he was mourning for but I believe that given the context of the paragraph and the verses around it the verse is telling us that David mourned for Absalom. This is also supported by v.39 where David says he longed to go out to Absalom. So why didn’t he?

David didn’t go out to seek his son Absalom, even though, he wanted to. He left him out in Geshur for 3 years. In fact, it wasn’t even David’s prompting that brought him back. Joab had to step in as mediator and be the counselor in this situation for Absalom to return. I think the responsibility falls on David to take the initiative to mend the relationship with his son instead of just leaving the situation in the wind. David essentially stuck his head in the sand and ignored the problem. Ultimately, this just caused problems between David and Absalom later on.

Finally, after Joab’s prompting David brings Absalom back to Jerusalem but tells Joab that Absalom can’t enter his presence. Absalom spends 2 years in Jerusalem before any action is taken in this relationship and the initiative once again wasn’t taken by David. It took Absalom saying it would have been better if I hadn’t left Geshur than to live like this and I would rather just have David do what seems right to me. Absalom hit the point where he would rather die if he had any guilt in him than live with this relational separation.

Surveying this whole situation, we see problems on both sides but I think the judgement ultimately lies with David. He took none of the initiative to repair this relationship. There is a real danger to leaving things unsaid that should have been said. I believe David’s longing to see his son at Geshur should have moved him to take action and confront the problems in relationship instead of just waiting. David longed for his son but out of pride or anger or stubbornness didn’t take the initiative to reconcile with Absalom.

When you consider the intensity of distress Absalom must have felt at the tension and loss of relationship that he would be willing to die if he had any guilt it is obvious that this weighed heavily on him. The two men’s reconciliation is sweet but was so long overdue that I think irreversible damage was done to the relationship given what happens in Chapter 15.

So, what can draw we from this? Firstly, to not let our conflicts go on forever. Secondly, when it is on your heart to apologize or you are longing for someone who you are in conflict with it may be God working on your heart to repair the relationship. Thirdly, get a mediator or a counselor involved if needed. Don’t wait until someone else feels like something needs to be done. Fourthly, you are responsible for taking the initiative to reconcile or apologize for what you have done. Fifthly, don’t be afraid to let someone have the ability to go second. In this final scene where Absalom goes to his father, his father embraced him and kissed him. I have a feeling that David had longed for this moment. I can remember a moment in my relationship with Shelby where we were in conflict and I had my defenses up to keep myself from over apologizing or taking too much of the blame. I remember so vividly her apologizing first and immediately all the weight was lifted, my defenses dropped, and I was no longer looking out for myself but I was looking for the good of the relationship. It gave me the freedom to really say the things I wanted to say when, at first, I may have even been hostile.

Finally, our relationships will only be as good as our communication in them. Remember it is wise to address conflicts as soon as possible. Do not leave things unsaid or problems unaddressed. They don’t just go away.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+13-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 3-4, 12-13, 28 & 55 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

%d bloggers like this: