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

God Works with Broken Spirits

Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122

psalm 51 10 niv sgl

Have you ever done something and lacked the words to express everything to God? Saying, “God, forgive me” seems to fall short of what my sin deserves and how I feel about what I have done. If any of you have grown up in a church that was severely focused on obedience but didn’t give a full picture of who God was then you probably have felt this way, too.

Today as I was reading over Ps. 51, which is one of my favorite Psalms, I was conflicted about what I really wanted to write. What I really wanted to write about was Ps. 51.17 and correlate that back to Matthew 5.3. I actually wrote a devotion on Matthew 5.3 earlier this year and didn’t want to just duplicate the material. So today I am going to look at this Psalm in a new way.

This Psalm at its heart is a psalm of complete repentance. It expresses David’s emotion right after being confronted on his sin with Bathsheba. David’s heart is over flowing with that godly grief while in the moment of confrontation and writing his prayer to God he may have laid out a model for us to use in our own repentance. I want to break the Psalm down in sections and look at it in parts.

I think verse 1-2 provide a good preamble for what David is going to prayer for. I don’t think there is real reason to dive too deep into it.

Verse 3-6 is our first real section of the Psalm. Until recently when I looked at this section I thought lines seemed unconnected and kind of thrown together. I have changed my view on this now. I now know that all of these verses are looking to serve one purpose. In verse 3 David confesses of his sin and acknowledges that his sin is before him. Verse 4 is extremely interesting setting aside the “against you and you only” I think that this verse is referring back to 2 Samuel 12.9. David is acknowledging, according to God’s response through Nathan, that he did evil in God’s sight. By acknowledging that what God says is true is an act of obedience and submitting to God’s truth. David in line 3 and 4 says that he is admitting his fault in order to acknowledge the judgements of God as righteous and true. Verse 5 David admits that he has a deep sinfulness rooted inside him from his mother’s womb. Verse 6 is where we have the truth shine through. David says that God delights in truth in the inner being and he teaches him wisdom in his secret heart.  This is a strange statement in context at first glance. David starts out this section with confession and ends it with God delighting in truth. What is confession at its root? It’s simply telling the truth. David is acknowledging throughout this whole section his sin before God and confessing God’s truth to him. He is acknowledging God’s judgements are true and the full depth of his sin. The drive of this section is confession. We can’t ignore this last line either. God teaches him wisdom in his secret heart. This sounds almost exactly like the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made David fully aware of his sin before God. So, to close this section out verses 3-6 are entirely about confession.

The next section comprises verses 7-12. They articulate exactly what I want God to do to my heart. Verse 7 in summation is, “God cleanse me, wash away my sin”. In verse 8 he is asking God to bring joy back into his heart. His sins had just drained the joy from him. In verse 9 he is asking God to overlook his sins and remove his iniquities. In verse 10 David asks God to create in him a clean heart and to put a steadfast spirit within him. In verse 11 David is asking God to not cast him away from his presence and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. In verse 12 David asks God to restore the joy he once found in how God saved him and help him have a willing spirit. I think you probably get the point but in every one of these verses David is petitioning or asking God to help or cleanse him from his sin.

I want to really delve into each one of these verses in the section 13-17 but I don’t want to wear out your attention here. So, I am just going to give away my point. In each one of these verses David is telling God his response. In each one of these verses David is ascribing an action or a change that David is making in his heart. True repentance always comes with with a new set of actions or a change in heart.

To pull all these together, David started out in verses 3-6 with a pure confession and a confession of God’s truth in the world. In verse 7-12 David petitions God to cleanse and purify him, to replace his heart, uphold him, give him a right spirit and finally to restore his joy. In verses 13-17 David tells God what he is going to do in response. David says he will teach transgressors God’s ways, his tongue will sing aloud of God’s righteousness, his mouth will declare God’s praise and finally give God the true sacrifice which is a broken or contrite spirit. This model of confession, petition of cleansing, and response is a great example for us. It firstly acknowledges our sin, then asks God to cleanse us and then gives God the response to our sin. This model allows us to do what we can do and allows God to do what ultimately only he can do. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our sin but ultimately, we can’t cleanse ourselves or restore our joy. Those things are dependent on God and David in this section of scripture acknowledges that fact. David doesn’t just stop his life, though. He acknowledges that he can still praise God and he can still offer up the proper sacrifice of a broken spirit through which God can work.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32%2C+51%2C+86%2C+122&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 13-15 as we progress on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Stay in His Program

He is for you

2 Samuel 11-12 & 1 Chronicles 20

2 Samuel 12 8 9 NIV sgl

A couple of weeks ago I was working on my unit as a residential counselor for severely traumatized and troubled youth. There is a younger kid on my unit named Mike, for the sake of this story, he has a history of violent aggression and has anxiety issues which can lead to this violent aggression. In order to help him when he gets anxious to avoid his going into crisis and having a violent episode, we take him for safety walks or he can go for a walk outside by himself as long as there are no other youth outside.

Mike and I have a pretty good relationship and I have been able to calm him down and deescalate the situation to keep him from going into crisis. I have also helped him work through the aftermath of a crisis. At the current moment because the whole country is shut down my background check from Georgia has not come back. I am not allowed full clearance to be alone with any of the children until that clears, unfortunately. This has caused a lot of problems and has interfered with my effectiveness at work.

Mike was starting to get anxious a couple of weeks ago so he asked if he could go on a walk by himself. Unfortunately, there was already another child outside on campus going for a walk. So, the only way that I could get Mike outside for a walk was if he went with a staff member. Due to the restriction I couldn’t take him unless another staff member went with me. So, I start running around seeing if there were any additional staff to take him. I asked the supervisor who could take him and he told me to find another staff. In order to let Mike know I was working on it I went back to my original unit and let him know. Otherwise his anxiety levels would continue to rise. After that I went and found the staff member and asked them to take him for a walk. They said yes. So, I go back on to the unit and tell him they are coming, just give them a minute.

A few minutes go by and I can see his anxiety levels rising and could tell that he was about to hit the crash bar or emergency exit. The crash bar when its hit sounds an alarm and also means that the client is out of program and an incident report needs to be filed. This means that Mike would have consequences for leaving without a staff member. So, in a rush to try to keep Mike from the crash bar I go get the other staff and urge them along to try to keep Mike in program. I wanted desperately to keep Mike in program and to not have him suffer the consequences of acting impulsively by not waiting for a staff member.

I talk to the staff member and they grab their jacket and we walk on to the unit. Where Mike had literally just hit the crash bar and went outside by himself and out of program. All Mike needed to do was wait 15 more seconds. 15 more seconds was all that he needed for a consequence free walk.

This was so frustrating. I remember saying this is so stupid. It was so stupid. 15 more seconds. I was frustrated because I went running around talking to different people and he still went out of program. I wanted so badly for him to have another good day and stay within the rules.

This more than anything I think is the feeling portrayed by God in 2 Samuel 12.7-15. In my case, if Mike had waited 15 more seconds, he could have realistically been one more day closer to going home. I think we all know the story of David and Bathsheba. So, I am not going to rehash it.

I want to look at God’s response through Nathan.

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:7-9)

Does God condemn David for his actions? Totally, but he also says something else here as well. God goes over all that he did for David to try to set him up for success. He saved him from Saul and anointed him and made him King over Israel, he gave him peace, gave him his wife, Saul’s daughter, back, and made him the beautiful covenant promises that we saw in 2 Samuel 7. Was there any more God could have done for David? Yet David still did this absolutely terrible thing. The last line in verse 8 really gets me. God tells David He would have done much more for David. If David had waited 15 more seconds and stayed in God’s program what would God have given him? God was actively rooting for David and trying to help him stay in his program. His program that gives life and peace and a relationship with God.

In verse 9 I can hear the sadness in God’s voice. Why did you despise my words? Why did you go astray and hurt yourself? Why did you hurt me, God, by doing this? Why did you have to make me see you do that? Why did stray from me?

I’m not framing it like this to heap grief on us for our sins. I am framing it like this because I want you to see there is someone actively working to help us follow Christ. The way that leads to peace, life, love, and grace. He is actively with us trying to help us keep on his way. I want you to know the depth shown in scripture of how the Lord cares for us and how he is seeking our good through righteousness. In our times of temptation, we have a loving God alongside us to ask for help. He is seeking our good far more than we seek our own. Fulness of life is found when we hold true to his way to love God.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+11-12%2C+1+Chronicles+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

He Designed That

Psalms 65-67 and 69-70

psalm 65 8 NIV sgl

I wrote this devotion with Ps. 65 in mind but specifically v.5-13. Go ahead and read it now if you haven’t already.

Everybody has their hobbies and one of mine is woodworking. It’s super tactile and when I am woodworking, I have a kind of solitude. In a crazy technology driven era it is just really nice to do something physical and focused. It allows me to focus completely on one thing. No distractions, just wood and my hands and tools. My tools aren’t seeking my attention and neither is the wood. One of the other parts of woodworking that I love is the design element. Taking different materials and being able to think about how to put them together to get something that is designed well for its purpose but also holds a beauty. One of my favorite things that I have designed is a coffee table for my girlfriend. I made it as a Christmas present and definitely spent a ton of time (read: too much time) making it. Haha. I had a great time doing it though. I originally was just going to make it out of a wormy pine but I realized I didn’t have enough materials to make it the dimensions I wanted to. Through a little bit of problem solving and some design though I decided to make it out of two different types of wood. I had some beautiful red oak that I thought would work perfectly. I laid the oak and pine in an alternating pattern to make the table the size that I wanted. At the end of the process I was really happy with what I had made for her and in my opinion, it is really beautiful.

coffeetable

This new hobby has also allowed me to grow a deeper appreciation for how things are designed. This includes many types of design from something like how businesses are structured to the architecture in homes. People have designed some really awesome things. I think about how they designed the pyramids with no modern construction equipment to the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. There have been a couple failures, too, like the sinking city of Venice and the leaning tower of Pisa. Maybe Italians aren’t the best architects. Haha. Too much passion and not enough structural integrity.

Some of the designs I have seen in the world made by humans are really impressive but the designs of God are truly mind boggling to me. The more I think about how God designed things in creation the more amazed I am. There are a ton of different things to consider too. All too often we can simply consider the earth and how beautiful it is. However, God’s design goes so far beyond that. God in 6 days did some pretty incredible things. Some of the things that really put me in awe are how he designed the water cycle, which allows the earth to receive water all over the land. If you think about water without the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation it would just stay in the lowest place it could run to. God designed that. He designed it so that all the earth would be watered as in Psalm 65.10.

He also designed the concept of gravity and set its force in just the right way. It is perfectly tared so that we are neither crushed to death by its pull or float around with nothing to tether us to the ground. God designed that. This gravity is also the same force which draws the water to flow in beautiful streams and rivers to a lower point in the earth.

He also happened to design the earth in such a way that it is self-sustaining. The earth requires absolutely nothing from humans except not to harm it. Haha. It has been around thousands of years without us doing anything to maintain it. It has been and will be. God designed it that way.

He designed the process of photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis plants take the energy from the Sun and convert it into food which the plant then uses to grow and sustain itself. God designed that.

Oh yeah, and it just so happens that we take that plant and eat, or preferably take that plant and feed it to another animal and eat that animal. Haha. God designed that

Oh yeah and the Sun, we missed that one. God designed it so that the earth was the perfect distance from the Sun. Too far away and we would be a block of ice and too close and we would be a ball of fire. God designed that.

He designed the seasons by making the earth rotate around the sun in such a way that the hemispheres received longer and shorter periods of sunlight. Thereby, allowing us to have beautiful white snow on the ground in February for most people, or if you are in New York, in May, and also get to experience the warm summer days and plants growing all around. God designed that.

You may be saying, I get it – God designed it all. For me it all screams of his glory, might, and his love for us that we would get to experience something that he designed so beautifully. This all leads me to a point of awe. An awe of all creation. My heart’s desire is to always have something to praise God for and something to keep me in awe of Him. Sometimes when I am looking for something I go to God’s creation and I can admire the beauty of his design and the deep level of care that He put into all of it. He did so for his glory. I am so thankful that I get to experience all of it, that he allows me to use his beautiful creation and that it provides for me.

Hope you guys have a great day back to work and really enjoy the day that God has given you to rejoice in.

Daniel Wall
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+65-67%2C+69-70&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 11-12 and 1 Chronicles 20 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In God’s Big Hands

2 Samuel 10, 1Chronicles 19 & Psalm 20

2 Samuel 10 12 NRSV sgl

Have you ever felt a little weird asking God to heal someone who is sick? I know I totally have. Inside my brain I feel this want to pray that God would heal the person but I also feel this tension between wanting God’s will to be done and wanting my own specific will to happen. For the record I absolutely think that we should be praying for the sick. I think that in some ways the tension exists because we want what we want and we all want this world to be as pleasurable as possible for everyone. While I think it is a little short sighted, it makes perfect sense. We don’t want to see our loved ones in pain, so we pray that God would bless them.

On the other hand, I do believe that the will of God will be accomplished eventually in this world. I also believe that the will of God is absolutely the best solution for each situation. Babies still die and sometimes younger people die too early. They don’t get to grow old and experience life through a number of years. This leads me to believe that there may be a creature out there in this world who is in opposition to God. So the question sort of remains do we pray that people will be healed or do we just pray that God’s will would be done in this situation. I believe that our prayers can be effective through God’s actions if they are God’s will. I think above all else in the realm of prayer my goal is to praise the Lord for all he has done and to try to pray according to his will.

In the reading today in 2 Samuel 10 we have this super weird story with half shaven beards and half naked men. Kind of crazy. The retaliation of this is where I want to focus though. So here the Ammonites had hired the Syrians and the king of Macaah and his men and the king of Tob and his men. This is looking to be a pretty intense battle. It’s sort of looking like everyone versus Israel in this scene. Now the Ammonites hired 33,000 soldiers and in addition you can throw in there all the men that the Ammonites had together. I can almost guarantee you that this was a formidable force against the army that Joab had.

Now this situation is kind of tricky because not only are they facing an army  that is larger than them but that army is also facing them on both sides. This is what is known as a flank and it’s a well used military strategy. Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, knows this and he knows that the odds are not in his favor at the current moment. He is well aware that he is already in trouble and the battle hasn’t even begun yet. Joab does the best with what he’s got and makes a plan to fight the battle. He divides his two forces and tells them we will help each other where we need it and after that Joab gives an awesome pep talk.

We don’t hear a lot about Joab’s life. We mostly hear about his military conquests but here we get a little glimpse into his spiritual life. In verse 12 he says, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” Love this motivational speech. He says be of good courage, which in my head and maybe some of Joab’s men immediately kicks me back to Joshua where Israel was winning every battle set before them. Then he says do for the fam, or for the family, and for the cities of our God. He acknowledges that they are God’s cities, Amen, right?!

The next subphrase though I want to hone in on a little bit. He asks that the Lord may do what seems good to him. That is nuts. He has all these men under him, he is literally responsible for all their lives. That is how leadership works. No begging and pleading for mercy and asking for blessings on his men and his nation. All he is asking is the Lord to do what seems good to him. He must have really believed that he deserved good to be done with him or he must have decided that God deserves to have what is good done in his eyes. He believed in putting it in God’s hands. He may have even believed and had confidence that God would want to do good to him. Not because of his actions surely, but because of God’s nature.

I think this phrase was spoken in humility and he was allowing his life and the lives of his men to be put in God’s hands. Of course all our lives are in God’s and the things that go on in our lives are still in God’s hands but Joab was crazy enough to voluntarily submit and acknowledge it. That’s the best type of crazy. I think this was the same attitude Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane.

I think what is actually going on is these people are volunteering their sense of control over their lives. They are submitting to God and telling him you do what you think is good to you. This is the point of surrender in our lives that I believe God is continuously working us towards – an emptiness of our own and fullness of things of God. It is ushering us towards the freedom that we yield control over our lives to God.

So let’s give to God what is his and pray that he would do what is good to Him in our lives.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+10%2C+1Chronicles+19%2C+Psalm+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalms 65-67 & 69-70 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Leading to a Deeper Faith

Psalm 50, 53, 60, 75

Psalm 14 15 NIV

Some of my really good friends a few years ago started to hold a dinner on Sunday nights after church. This dinner was absolutely awesome back in the day. It was the highlight of my week. I know we are supposed to say church is always the highlight of our week but this was even better than church. Hopefully I am not blaspheming right there. Haha.

The reason why it was so awesome was all of my favorite people gathered under one roof, having a meal together, talking about God, life and just having an awesome time. The way the dinner worked was that everyone would simply bring something with them to the meal. Whether it was a side dish, a plate of cookies or some beverages. The host would normally provide the meat and everyone would chip in to make it an awesome meal.

In the beginning everyone would chip in to help out to clean up. We all sought to do our fair share of the work. Eventually, we started to invite more and more people. The problem that arose was some of these new people didn’t contribute their fair share to the meal. When it’s just one person this isn’t such a big deal but when it’s a larger group of people it is more of an issue. People also stopped contributing as much to clean up. This left the group that was contributing doing more work and for more people. People grew too complacent in not contributing to the meal.

In my life I tend to do the same thing. Humans just have a natural tendency to get complacent in things like our relationships or work. The people of Israel in Psalm 50 had become complacent. They were going through the motions making sacrifices but it had become an emotionless, passionless ritual that lacked the heart behind their actions. Now, dry seasons where you don’t feel God with you are just a part of life. I think these may have even been manufactured or designed to make us want him, commit and submit to him more. I think too many Christians are afraid to admit that they have or are in one of these times. We view these times as negatives and feel like we should never have these moments in our life.

There are natural rhythms to life and at times complacency happens. Sometimes we find that we have become complacent or sometimes its told to us (ugh hate/love that I have people in my life who will do this). I don’t think we need to get hung up on the guilt or shame though. God uses discipline to help his people (Ps. 94.12, Rev. 3.19). He even rebukes those who hate discipline (Ps. 50.17). Discipline is ultimately to our benefit. Discipline is not always suffering the consequences of your actions. Rather, discipline from God is always for your benefit. It is to help you grow. God doesn’t just punish you to hurt you. In the TOTC commentary for Psalm 50 it describes how truth being realized or spoken in our life should be received. “But the truth is meant to heal, not only to convict.” This a great concept. I believe it allows us to look at failures in our lives and cast our future in a positive growth mindset.

This morning in a weird coincidence I was reading about Moses and the people of Israel as they left Egypt and wandered into the desert. They went three whole days into the wilderness with no water. Now this left them empty and physically wanting. Their reaction is not great but I think this incident illustrates something to us. God led them out into the desert, God knew there was no water, God knew that they would need water, and God clearly ended up giving them water because the Bible doesn’t say that they all ran out of water and died. So, what was the point of the whole incident? I’m theorizing but maybe God wanted them to ask him for water. He might have been trying to make them more dependent upon him. Out of this incident in Exodus 17 the Israelites were able to see that God would provide for them. The hopeful reaction from the people was supposed to be trust and faith that God would provide for them. Their period of physical dehydration was supposed to lead them to deeper faith.

Knowing that the difficult or challenging things in our lives may be godly discipline or our complacency could allow for growth, healing or growing in faith and love for God as I wait for him gives me a good perspective for handling these things.

Hope everyone keeps their eyes focused on God and that we can walk with God through whatever circumstances we are going through.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+50%2C53%2C60%2C+75&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 10,  1Chronicles 19 and Psalm 20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Extreme Grace

2 Samuel 8-9 and 1 Chronicles 18

2 Samuel 9 3 NIV

I somewhat recently took a job as a Residential Counselor at Residential Treatment Facility for youth in the teenage age range. These kids have had severe traumas in their lives and have had terrible things done to them and happen in their lives. Most of them have terribly dysfunctional families that have hurt them in extreme ways. In order to cope and also survive through learned behavior they verbally and sometimes physically abuse staff for reasons as simple as being told “No.” There are times they will use all the ammo on you to try to hurt you or get a rise out of you. This isn’t normal teenage behavior like saying I hate you or You are dumb. Think the worst things that people have ever said to you. Now I want to be super clear that these behaviors are not entirely these kids’ faults. They’ve simply been dealt an unfair hand and do not entirely have the capacity to behave in ways other than this.

One night, I was handling a situation with a kid where other kids had lied to a girl, I will call Ivery, and told her the lie and how I reacted to the situation. In an attempt to advocate for the youth on the unit she proceeded to call me every name under the sun. She called me a pervert. She made fun of me in every way she could think of and then because she knew I had a girlfriend started to say anything to get a rise out of me in that area of my life. Finally, when she was running out of ammunition to get me off kilter, she threatened to kill me, my family and my girlfriend. Now, I knew she couldn’t actually pull that off but it was quite an experience to be threatened like that. I responded as best I could and didn’t try to discuss anything when she was just looking for an argument. After the fact I was definitely hurt that anyone would say those things about me.

I would love to say my next shift I just showed up and loved her and it all went away but those feelings stuck with me longer than I would have liked them to.

2 Samuel 9 is a great example of a man who despite what was done to him didn’t let the actions of other people affect how he treated overs. In this chapter David is looking for someone from the house of Saul to bless on account of Jonathan, Saul’s son. If you remember, this is the same Saul who had chased David through the desert and caves all over Israel seeking to kill him. This wasn’t just a brief period of time. Some scholars imagine this time period to be 7 years!! I can’t imagine what I would feel toward my oppressor after being chased under threat of death for even 3 years. All the same, I feel David’s desire to try to find someone from Saul’s house to bless is an amazing story of forgiveness. I could probably write a whole devotion about that but I want to focus on one particular verse of this awesome story.

In verse 3 David is talking to Saul’s former servant and asks him, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?”. This whole line is crazy to me. David is asking and even seeking out someone to bless from the house of Saul. I’ll be honest, most my kindness doesn’t go past the people I interact with. It stays in my world. I am not seeking out people that I can bless.

Let alone am I seeking out people from the family of the man who had just tried to kill me for 7 years and literally only by his death could I return to my home country. But that is David, the man after God’s own heart. This is extreme grace, thoughtfulness and care that he would go out of his way to search out a man from Saul’s house to bless.

The phrase “that I may show the kindness of God to him?” says once again so much about David and how he viewed everything. David releases in this simple phrase any form of ownership to how he was going to bless Saul’s relative. He points it directly back to God. He didn’t try to take the credit and say look at my kindness to my enemy. He identifies back to God.

This line continues to show just how much David acknowledged the fact that what he had wasn’t his. He lived in continual recognition that what he had been given to him was by God. He acknowledges his forgiveness isn’t from himself. His kindness isn’t his. His life isn’t his. His kingdom isn’t his. It is God’s.

He viewed the world not “how can I be kind to people” but rather “how can I show God’s kindness to others.” While the difference is oh so subtle, one is making our good deeds about us and the other is pointing the kindness back to God. David recognized as a servant to God it was no longer him doing it. It wasn’t his resources that he was using to bless this descendent of his enemy it was God’s that he was temporarily in possession of.

Now, in the same way I had the opportunity to show God’s kindness to Ivery the next day by overwhelming her with love or by showing her kindness. Don’t let opportunities slip by in your own life to give away something that isn’t ours. Rather, give away what God has given you to give away.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+8-9%2C+1+Chronicles+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow we return to the Psalms (50,53,60,75) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Teach Me, God

Psalm 25

Psalm 25 5 NIV

Truth in our current culture has been a major point of contention. The common motto of today is “You have your truth and I have my truth.” As if truth is something that can be different to different people. I believe that there is only one truth and I think this is the one that includes God in your worldview. I believe that when we become Christians, we are forced to accept the truth that there is a God in the world who is all powerful, with us and loves us.

Our faith or belief about what we believe should greatly inform how we act and how we view our world. Belief or faith in God should change our paradigms regarding the things we do, what we worry about and what we focus on. When we view the world, we cannot accept the natural possibilities but we are made to view the world in light of the knowledge that we have a miracle-working God alongside of us who is active in our world. An example where this plays out best is in the beatitude blessed are the meek because this is so contrary to the world in which we live. Living meekly through the natural course of this world doesn’t end up with our benefit but God tells us to live meekly and believe that following God’s commandments is ultimately to our benefit. This allows us to be meek because we believe that God exists, knows what’s best and cares for his people.

I think that the world teaches us a bunch of lies about how our lives should go and what will make us truly happy.

Therefore, if we have faith, we should seek and know God’s commandments and words to follow them to the best of our ability. I think this is what David is looking for in Psalm 25. I love how David opens up this psalm.

David is completely committed to the truth that God exists. He opens up the Psalm by saying to you I lift up my soul. I feel like this would be a great thing to incorporate into our own prayers. Just opening up our souls to God to begin our prayer time.

He follows that up with “O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” What this prayer says to me is David wasn’t seeking his own victory. David was seeking and depending on God for victory. David was dependent on God for his life. He submitted his life to the paradigm that God was in control and put his battles, struggles and life in God’s hands. David was humble before God by living in obedience and submitting to his leadership.

Verse 3 shows David’s conviction to this idea. David articulated a very important scriptural theme. David recognized that having faith in God meant waiting for God to act and bring victory.

In verse 4 and 5 David is asking for guidance. He asks to know God’s ways and to be taught his paths. This should be a prayer for all of us. I think sometimes we don’t seek God’s guidance in our lives. Not just in specific instances, I think we sometimes forget to ask God to teach us how to live life while believing him. The teachings of Jesus give us a great list of things we should be doing but I would rather God show me his way and his path than trying to do those things on my own path. David in this verse was acknowledging the truth of God in this world and seeking to be taught by God directly.

David later in the Psalm says that the man that abides in the path of God will have his soul abide in well-being. Is there anything more you could want? To have a soul that is abiding in well-being is the best life I can imagine. This is what happens when we learn the ways and paths of God.

In verse 5 David asks God to teach him his truth. He asks God to teach him. That is so convicting for me. I am not sure that I really do this. I just kind of assume God will because of my heart for him. We should be asking God to teach us just like we would our earthly fathers. I think that learning God’s truth will change the way that we view everything. There is only one truth and it’s God’s.

So, today I pray that God would teach us his truth. God, I ask that you would change our paradigms, the way we view others, the way we view our lives and the way we view you. I pray that you would teach us your ways, teach us your way of doing life and lead us in our pursuit of you. I pray that you would teach us.

“See” you guys tomorrow. Have a great day.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+25%2C29%2C33%2C+36%2C39&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 8-9 & 1 Chronicles 18 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan