New “Following Hard” Website

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Dear Friends,

I am in the process of transitioning this blog to my own new website. There are new posts on the site of http://gretchenfleming.com/  (gretchenfleming.com) and this blog address at WordPress will be completely switched over soon. Feel free to look up the new site for the most recent posts.

I am honored that you join me on this most rewarding journey of a lifetime. I will keep writing of Him who captivates me and I hope you will keep reading. Thank you for your time and sharing my blog with others.

To His Glory and Grace,

Gretchen

 

The Cost And Consequences Of Accountability

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After having written the previous post about accountability, I felt I should expound further, sharing my own personal struggle that our family endured. You see, I know first hand the cost and consequences from accountability.

It was 2013. Hardest year of my life. Hardest year for our whole family. Kyle (my husband) and I were at our breaking point. We had two family issues going on at the same time, concerning two of our children. We had been struggling for several years with both issues but this particular year, they both peaked at the same time, causing us to plummet in our emotional, spiritual, and mental capacities. We were more than desperate. We were at that scary place of becoming utterly incapable of coming up with anything more. We had nothing left. No answers. No wisdom. No resolution in sight.

We felt broken, incapable of fixing ourselves or our family’s problems.  We only had one option left to try but oh how we did not want to do THAT!! We did not even know if we had it in us to do it. We had hoped and begged and prayed for anything but that! But we had placed it on the table, pleaded not to use it, but felt backed into a corner with no other options. Now, we were being forced to follow through on our threat.

Only one of our family issues required the extent of accountability that tested our strength, but both issues depleted us equally. As parents, we were at our weakest point ever, so I know what it is to not want to have to hold someone accountable. When you are at your weakest, that makes it all the more difficult to be strong enough to follow through with accountability.

But I had seen enough from the Word, from King David, and my own family legacy to know nothing good comes from the neglect of accountability. It allows sin to run amuck and people to spiral out of control, damaging those in their path. It is unbiblical to let sin go without loving correction. It is actually unloving to allow people a free pass on their trail of sin.

But it takes guts to do!! Because most likely, those who try to hold people accountable will be chewed up and spit out. Their trail of sin becomes your trail of tears for trying to intervene and bring perspective or correction. Such was our fear and such became our reality…..

While we had enforced discipline leading up to this final show down, we had followed through each time but at a cost. Although each attempt was not as ultimately path changing as we hoped, each was still costly as we implemented accountability. After each encounter and the resulting arguments and enforcement of said discipline, we felt increasing dread of the next confrontation. So by the final showdown, we were quaking in our boots. We used to describe the scenes like standoffs against a pit bull. Our child was tenacious! And we were exhausted……

So I completely get how King David would not want to confront his child over his sin in 2 Samuel 13. But this led to an even bigger problem within the family as Absalom took matters into his own hands to hold his brother accountable. What began as a family travesty became a national crisis.

That is what happens when we forego doing what ought to be done. We may “kick the can”  but eventually the consequences come and usually much worse because of our neglect to stand up against sin. When we tolerate sin, we are culpable to it.

Jesus Himself had harsh words for the church in Revelation 2:20 as they tolerated the sin of another. What we tolerate is what we ourselves will be held accountable for! How’s that for a cycle of accountability!

The cost of accountability can be dear but the consequences can be even graver if we neglect to do so. But what hope and life comes from repentance and redemption!!!

When we followed through with our child for the ultimate show down, it was ugly and painful, but the God-given consequences from it have been beyond our hope and prayers. God triumphed in a glorious way over the next months and years from that time. I often think how the absolute hardest thing I ever did as a parent, what cost me so much as a mother, gave back a hundred fold in the life of my child and the perspective had by him today. He finally has eyes to see, and it is profoundly meaningful to me as I watch him live his life, processing in a completely different way than before.

Miracles never cease…..even today as I was writing this post, that child of mine who fought so hard against accountability, called his mom to hold her accountable for something! And he was completely in the right for doing so.  Now that is the cycle of accountability I want for my children, AND the generations to come! I will gladly say, the cost and consequences are worth it….

 

 

The Life And Death From Accountability

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It wrecks havoc in families. It yields to sin and bullying. It holds others emotionally captive.  It gives way to collateral damage and fractured relationships. It compromises future generations. It breeds destruction. It is …………the absence of accountability.

However, where there IS accountability, there is life and emotional health. There is courage, wisdom and justice. Safety, security, respect.  Wherever there is accountability, there is love and hope!

Accountabilty is God-ordained, ultimately used to glorify His Name. It is a reflection of how He treats us and is the expectation of how we are to treat others. It is to be rooted in love and edifying in purpose. It’s value cannot be underestimated. Accountability can literally mean the difference between life and death.

James 5:19-20 is a good explanation of the intended purpose of accountability. “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

We see this verse played out in two different ways in the life of David. David had been on the receiving end of accountability in 2 Samuel 12 from the prophet Nathan, with his response to the rebuke described in Psalm 51.

These are wonderful examples of the grand, glorious purpose of accountability. We see how the prophet was forthright with David, rebuking him for his grievous sin with Bathsheba and orchestrating the death of her husband. The best part of this whole story is how King David first responds to Nathan in the Samual passage. After the stinging rebuke and Nathan conveying God’s impending judgement for him, David utters immediately,” I have sinned against the LORD.”

I am struck with how upright his knee-jerk response was! Most of us, especially me, get defensive with our initial response to criticism or correction. Not David! He was instinctivly admitting his wrong and agreeing with God’s perspective. He submitted and took responsibility. How refreshing?!

Then to elaborate further on the proper response at being held accountable, he penned Psalm 51. He lays out so plainly how sin is an offense against God first and foremost. He admits his fault and pleads for forgiveness and mercy. David is a true example of being in the wrong, getting called out on it, and responding appropriately with humble repentance.

Because of his response, his relationship with the Lord was restored, although he and his family still suffered the consequences of their sin when their baby died. God offered full forgiveness but that does not mean He withholds consequences or discipline. David prayed and fasted in hopes that God would change His mind, but in the end he yielded to the Lord’s decision.

One of the reasons I love David so is that he provides such practical examples in living the life of faith, the highs and the lows. I learn from him how to worship, how to call upon God, how to cry out for help, how to be devoted passionately to the Lord, how to persevere………but I also learn how to confess and repent.

The next example of King David dealing with accountability is surprising to me. After having been on the receiving end of it, he misses the opportunity in 2 Samuel 13 at holding his son accountable. Even though he knew the process and purpose of it, he neglected to offer it to his own family as they began to spiral downward into sin.

His son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar and when David hears of it in verse 21, it says he was furious. What it does not say is even more important though. Nowhere is it mentioned that King David did anything about the grievous sin! He never confronted his son or sought to reconcile the family as he helped them process the situation biblically. He did not confront, or correct, or lead them to repentance. There was no justice. No recompense. No accountability…….

His family was left to deal with it on their own; his daughter devastated and disgraced, her half-brother carrying on like nothing happened, and her full brother Absalom steadily building into a murderous rage at his unvindicated sister. Two years pass and the family implodes! Revenge, murder, and exile follow in the absence of accountability. Eventually, Absalom initiates a move and in effect, steals his father’s throne. Now David has lost the kingdom as he becomes the exiled.

Time and lives are lost in this struggle between father and son, all because of David’s unwillingness to hold his own son accountable. Life is never the same for this family. What’s more, God is shamed at all this sin spiraling out of control.

How many today can attest to  fractured relationships and broken lives attributed to the lack of accountability? Generational tendencies left unchecked cause damage, leaving handicapped souls in it’s path. It sends people into unhealthy cycles and can take many years to grapple with the far-reaching effects that are unnecessary and unfair.

David learned the hard way that he had way more to lose than personal emotional upheaval over confronting sin. I wonder if he would have done things differently, thought it was worth the effort to say “No!” to those who needed to hear it. His inability to offer accountability caused his family’s sin to become the nation’s dismay.

When we do not have the courage to hold others accountable for their actions, it more than compromises future generations, it defames His Name. May we heed God’s Word to remind us that turning a sinner from the error of his way can save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The Scandal

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It can happen to anyone. But the fact that it happened to David is an eye-opener. He was a man after God’s own heart; devoted  in his faith, passionate in his worship, upright in his righteousness……and blinded by his lust and sin like anyone else.

The life of David thrills me as it gives me a living example of priorities and passion. I am a practical person so I love the “how to” of examples in the Word. David excelled at loving God with his whole being. Worship seemed to be the heart of who he was. From reading the Scriptures, it seemed that if you knew anything about David, you knew he held fast to his God.

But his life also teaches me that as upright as he was, he fell hard and fast into sin. I learn that there is no protective spot in faith where I am immune to my own fleshly desires. As close as David felt with the Lord, and as many trials as he had persevered through while remaining obedient to God, he let all of that go to grab hold of what was not his. In the blink of an eye, as he gazed at what intrigued him on that rooftop in 2 Samuel 11:2-27, he gave way to a path that would lead to scandal.

He was the King, the leader and example of the Lord’s anointed for the nation of Israel. He not only led the kingdom, he was a very public leader in faith to their LORD. He upheld the commands of God, encouraging the people to follow them. He always had his mind on what was right and needed to be done in accordance to what pleased God. Until that one evening…….

As I read through this portion of the Bible, I learn another valuable lesson from David; to be on my guard after a great blessing or time of prosperity. David did not seem aware of his potential to sin so greatly nor was he on guard after the wonderful experience of bringing the ark back into Jerusalem. He seemed to have checked off another bucket list item as he was settled as the King in his kingdom, victorious over surrounding enemies, and now he had brought the ark back. He was happy and satisfied. No more threats or problems rearing their ugly heads to him. What a time of rest and contentment!

And that is exactly the moment his most dangerous enemy struck, while he was unaware and unguarded. David neglected to be mindful of the devil, the one enemy who never tires at trying to derail the faith of believers. As David strolled on that rooftop fat and happy, the devil was laying his trap and David stepped right into it.

I can’t help but compare this scene of temptation with Luke 4:1-13 where Jesus is tempted after having been baptized. He was full of the Holy Spirit and led into the desert for 40 days of temptation from the devil. I find that detail worth noting, that Jesus was not tempted once or twice, but for 40 days! Yet unlike David, Jesus did not fall victim to the trap of the devil.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus was victorious over the schemes of the enemy because of the way he responded to each temptation. Jesus met each moment of weakness or intrigue, the thought of what could be His for the taking, with the Word of God. Each time the devil tempted, Jesus remembered what God had already said in His Word that warned him and gave authority concerning that issue. Jesus was victorious each and every time He met temptation because He was not unaware or unguarded. He knew His potential because even though He was the Son of God, He was also the Son of Man.

Jesus triumphed over this round of temptation but also what was to come. It says in Luke 4:13 that the devil left him after all this tempting until an opportune time. This means that Jesus was continually tempted and he stood firm each time! How do I know this for sure? Because of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Now that is what we could call a scandal of grace! From one man came the scandal of sin for the nation to experience and the other the shocking relief from such bondage of sin!

I learn much from comparing these two scenes of temptation, from these two men. It is so beneficial to use Scripture to interpret and give insight to other Scripture. I am able to learn both from the failures and the victories of others. This educates me, equips me to better walk the path of faith so that I won’t be left unaware or unguarded.

I have seen way too many friends and family that have been left devastated by the scandal of sin, walking away from their faith and continuing on this path without repentance. There is too much to lose to remain unaware and unguarded. And I learn from David that there is not a moment in my life of faith where I am not equally vulnerable so it is critical that I learn and apply as much as possible. But oh the relief of knowing Christ as my Savior, where His scandal of grace meets my every failure when I repent and look to Him through faith! I know this amazing grace because He has saved me from my own devastating sin, so that now I too become the righteousness of God. Oh what a Savior!

Stepping Back And Digging Deeper

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Do you find it difficult to read the Bible and find meaning relevant for your life? Do you even want to read the Word? I have hope for you because I was just like that when I first started.

My  reading and studying the Bible has evolved over the years. I used to struggle with spending time in the Word, only doing it out of duty really. I was caught in a cycle of inconsistency as well. Then I changed two things that made a huge difference in my life of faith.

First, I began praying daily for a few months this prayer, “God, give me a passion for You and Your Word”. I taped index cards with reminders about this prayer just to be sure I would be consistent. This prayer began influencing my desire for the Word which made a wonderful impact on my consistency. I found that God actually answered my prayer with real joy for my Bible study time.

During this time, I also began getting up earlier to give God consistent, uninterrupted time. If the kids got up early, I sent them back to bed or up in the playroom for book time . I taught them that Mommy’s Bible time was most important and unless it was an emergency, they were to wait quietly and patiently. I did not let them believe that they were more important than God. Their juice need or play time could wait. As long as I woke early to give time to God first, that was the commitment that I expected them to abide by, no matter if they woke unexpectedly early  or not. By prioritizing God and His Word first thing in my day, the devil did not get as much of a chance to interrupt or distract me. I had my time with the Lord on a regular basis and that profoundly changed my affections for studying and being able to gain relevant meaning for my life.

As much as I changed in the beginning with my increased desire and consistency, I also changed as I continued studying. My reading the Word has evolved over time. As I read a particular passage I was studying  the other day, I noticed how I automatically made adjustments in the way I interacted with the text.  I wondered if it might benefit some of you to explain how it works for me, in case some struggle with trying to read the Bible and gain value for everyday life.

When reading 2 Samuel 5:17-21 and 1 Chronicals 14:8-12, the same story given in two different sections of the Bible, it spoke of David “inquiring ” of the Lord. It described a situation where David inquired and then responded accordingly. It was so simple and matter-of-fact.

I have begun taking the time to do more than read the Scriptures. I want to understand. So oftentimes, I slow down my process of reading and take a step back in perspective, asking “why” and “how”. I consider why God said what He did or why the people did what they did, or why the event happened as it did. Then I look at how something was done or achieved.

So as I looked at these two passages, I pondered why David inquired and the lesson is obvious. It reinforces faith and the relationship with his higher authority. David knew he was God’s. He also knew he was in the safest place by asking advice and wisdom of the Lord. When David “inquired “, he was in reality committing himself to his All-Knowing, All-Loving, All-Powerful Creator and Sustainer. Who better to turn to for matters in life?!

David looked to God and what he received from his inquiring was practical. He gained so much more than just advice. He acquired guidance, ability and outcome. He had already learned the potential. When David sought God, he received His help exponentially. 

I learn from David why to inquire but also how; through prayer and the Bible, what God has already said on certain matters. This is where digging deeper comes into play. Sometimes there is plenty of wisdom but we have to search deeper in the Scriptures to find and understand it better. Case in point, 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 and 1 Chronicles 15:1-26. 

David found out the hard way what can happen when we don’t inquire of the Lord. In chapter 13, he inquired of his military officials and priests about whether it was good to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, but he did not bother to determine how it should be accomplished. God had given Moses specific instructions for handling the ark and it was written in the Law for future generations to remember. So when David neglected to learn the proper way of carrying out his good and approved desire, God’s wrath broke out and it cost a man his life.

David was dumbfounded as to why his good plan did not go well. He was also profoundly grieved that it cost Uzzah his life. But David being David, he went digging deeper into God’s Word to determine how he went wrong. He obviously found his mistake because by chapter 15, he gave different directions on how to carry the ark back and went on to explain what the mistake had been.

I have found that it is good for me to dig deeper like David. When I don’t understand God’s actions at times in the Word, I have gone searching for further explanation of the matter. So as I came across the first instance with David and how things went so terribly wrong, I looked up the corresponding Scriptures to give insight. I found Numbers 4:15 gave  the reason for God’s wrath. Not just anyone could carry the ark nor in any way they saw fit. The Kohathites(from the tribe of Levites) were to carry it using poles but they were forbidden to touch it or “they would die”. When David chose to use a cart with oxen pulling it, he was in disobedience. Therefore it did not go well.

I find it interesting as I compare the events as I dig further to understand. The oxen stumbled and it was not without it’s trouble the first time but in the second attempt, there were no stumbles or such. Makes me want to ask “why” or “how” did it happen that way. Then I read in 1 Chronicles 15:26, ” Because God had helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD”.

Bingo! God helped His people with what needed to be done when they went to the effort to inquire of Him. So by digging deeper for myself, I learn that I can expect God to help me with necessary tasks if I take the time to inquire for His guidance, ability, and outcome. I can ALWAYS expect God to help me when I chose to act in accordance with His commands.

As you see, there are times to step back in perspective as we read the Bible and there are times to dig deeper, all in the process of living life by God’s will and purpose. That is where we find the “sweet spot” in life, our utmost for His highest!

The Hands Of Time

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Oh how we long to control the hands of time! At least I do anyway. Rarely does it feel like timing is just right. Some seasons of life take way too long while others go much too fast.

I have found if I am enduring a circumstance in my life or waiting for some desire, it takes forever! Yet, if I am relishing moments in time, they are fleeting. It is like the weather in north Florida; the hot days are endless while the cool days fly by like there’s no tomorrow.

Timing, therefore, is subjective. But there is one thing I have learned; God is in control of it and uses it for His glory and our good. I have seen evidence firsthand of this glorious truth.

As much as I wish I could control it, I am forced to admit I would abuse it; lengthening the easy seasons and shortening the difficult ones. This, in turn, would only bring harm to myself and others in my life because maturity would be difficult to come by. In my experience, waiting and enduring have precipitated great gain in my character and faith. I see this in the life of David as well.

In 2 Samuel 5:4 it says, “David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.” Thirty years of age does not sound old to become a king but when you keep in mind that David was anointed king as a teenager, then this seems like a long time. David waited roughly 15 years from the time he was chosen by God to succeed King Saul until he actually ascended the throne. Not to mention that while he “waited”, he was in reality being hunted!

Even as he became King, this was accomplished in stages. He did not claim the throne all at once. The people of Judah first crowned him King but it would take 7 1/2 more years until the rest of the tribes of Israel pledged their allegiance.

Not only the time it took for his anointing to become a reality, but the process of how it occurred impresses me. One of the many reasons I love David is how he exemplified patience and submission to God. He waited on God and did not initiate the fulfillment of God’s promise or will. You never see him trying to make it happen or force the issue. Even after King Saul was killed, David sat still. He waited on the Lord and His timing to accomplish His will.

Why did he do this? How was he able to do this?

I think the priorities and convictions of David’s life give insight. I see two reasons explaining David’s success in waiting upon the Lord’s timing and not taking matters into his own hands.

First, in Psalm 16:2, it reveals the driving priority and passion of David’s life. It is believed he wrote this Psalm soon after becoming King of all Israel. It says, “I said to the LORD, ‘ You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.'”

What a statement to be made by someone with a newly acquired kingdom! Although David was now the King of Israel with a kingdom in his possession, what he valued most was his God! That explains why  David was able to wait so well. He valued what he waited for less than who he waited upon. He prioritized God above all else in his life. That positioned him to be better equipped for the waiting game of life.

Secondly, Psalm 138:8 says, ” The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.” David was confident that God was always in control of his life and times, regardless of how long some circumstances remained in limbo. David was able to wait upon God’s timing, not hastening his acquisition of the kingdom,   because he rested in God’s sovereignty and trustworthiness. He knew that he did not need to make it happen because God was fully capable and faithful. This allowed David to trust and rest as he waited, knowing the hands of his God were in control of the hands of his time.

I long to be more like David; content and confident, as I wait for God’s purpose to be accomplished. Regretfully, squirming can be my norm……

But I am encouraged.  By valuing the Lord more than what I wait for and trusting in His wisdom and ability, I too can cease struggling against time;  learning to submit peacefully to the hands beyond my control.

Finding Strength In The Lord

 

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed? In over your head? Swamped by what faces you?

David knew that feeling well. In 1 Samuel 30, he had been on the run from his enemies for far too long. He had been wrongly accused and pursued; facing danger from men and armies alike as he tried to stay one step ahead of those who were determined to end his life.

At this particular time, David and his men were returning to Ziklag, their home base while they were in hiding from King Saul in the Philistine area. They were already vulnerable as they sought to be double agents in enemy territory. They pretended to be friends of the Philistines, all the while raiding their towns, leaving no one to testify against them to the leaders of that nation. In reality, they lived in danger of the nation Isreal, under King Saul’s command, as well as the Philistines. They were caught between a rock and a hard place in essence.

So as they lived under that stress, it was no wonder that they took it hard as they returned home, only to find that they themselves had been raided by the Amalekites. As they entered the town, seeing it burned and destroyed , they were devastated. All of their wives and children were gone. They had been taken captive.

It says in verse 4 that David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. Can you imagine battle weary men bawling their eyes out?! Do you know that staggering feeling of an unexpected blow, when you are already utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread? I do.

There have been times in recent years when all I could do was try and keep my head above water. At those times I was most vulnerable,  a rogue wave would hit me from out of nowhere. Feeling on the verge of going under from the strain of life’s circumstances, it was almost impossible not to give way and feel absolutely abandoned, overwhelmed. That feeling left me gasping for air at times,  as if someone had just punched me  in the gut. I could relate personally with how David and his men wept until they had no strength left.

To make matters worse, it says that David was greatly distressed because his men were talking of stoning him, as each one was “bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters”.  They had given way to despair and what is all too predictable, blaming whomever they could at the moment. They were turning on him, seeking to satisfy their anger and vengeance.

But what happens next in verse 6 is remarkable! When all of this was crashing down upon David, losing his own family and having all his men speak of stoning him, he responded contrary to his circumstances. It says, “But David found strength in the LORD  his God“.

Wow! How does that happen?! How can someone in such overwhelming circumstances find strength?

I notice immediately the word “but” as it described David’s response. That word lets me know how unusual David was. He did what no one else did. He “found strength in the LORD”. But how did he actually do that?

I immediately go back to some of his most recent Psalms that he wrote during that particular time. They give much needed context and instruction. His Psalms give an up-close and personal view of what was going on in his heart and mind;  giving insight into how he persevered so well.

I notice a pattern in most of them. He usually testifies of who God is, what he knows to be truth about the Lord. He recites His character and ability, then he calls upon His help. He laments what he is facing while he ascribes the attributes of God that can help him. He acknowledges his difficulties or crises, but he keeps moving forward with how God is more than able to handle it all. It is as if he describes the desperate nature of his circumstances but counters with the All-sufficient nature of his God.

Psalm 69:29-30 is a good example of this. David exclaims that he is in pain and distress and pleads God’s salvation to protect him. Then the very next verse he says, ” I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”

This teaches me how he found strength in the Lord. First, he turned to the Lord. He did not lament purposelessly. He turned to the One who loved him and who could make a difference. Secondly, he reminded himself of who God was, His character and abilities. This in turn always portrayed his God to be greater than whatever he faced. It set his perspective correctly, because left to our own vision of the reality in front of us, we begin to think the issues are insurmountable. But by remembering our God, we gain valuable perspective that actually produces hope and encouragement in us. Thirdly, he always praised and worshipped the Lord and this was done progressively . He praised more than he fretted! It does not escape my notice that he chose to praise. It was not always easy, but as in verse 30, David said “I will praise….”.

I am so captivated by the One who not only gives us examples of others in the Word, but uses it to teach us how to benefit from their life story. David was one of the greatest when it came to perseverance and devotion. He endured and overcame his breaking point and now we know how; because he found strength in the Lord his God!

What about you? Are you near your breaking point? Are you feeling utterly inadequate for what you face? Remember the lessons of David and you can be the exception to the norm as he was. While others may give way and fold under the pressure, you can find strength in the Lord and overcome!

Penetrating Purpose

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There it is. That moment when I am understood. That moment when I can relate personally to what was written by someone I’ll never know from long ago. I close my eyes and the tears sting as my heart is penetrated by what I have just read.  I feel the impact immediately as I process the words.

This is why I come to His Word and read it for myself. Sharing a snap shot of my time reading the Bible is meant to encourage you in your efforts of reading and enjoying what God is saying to you. I try to give examples of how personal and applicable the Word can be, highlighting how it helps us feel better after we have read it.

I had just finished a post this morning, completed some chores around the house on my day off and sat back down to read in my chronological Bible, when half way down the page I am already struck by what I read. It depends on timing, relatable circumstances and such but it happens regularly. I don’t experience heart penetrating perspective every time I read,  but I have come to expect God’s Word to make a difference in my life. I count on it.

I am reading about David in 1 Samuel 25 when I get to his interaction with Nabal. His request from Nabal  was scorned, provoking a response from David that reflected much more than just that moment in time. It came on the heels of difficult circumstances that left David weak and vulnerable. Then came Nabal’s ungrateful response, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

David’s only response in verse 13, when hearing of  Nabal’s insult,  were chilling. “Put on your swords!” That was it! He had had just about enough of all this!!

But then I read further down and I come across even more poignant words. As David gathered his men and set out to bring vengeance on Nabal in verse 20-21, he revealed the depth of his heart when he uttered, “It’s been useless…..”

Those  3 simple words spoke volumes. They spoke of David and how close he was to complete discouragement and despair. They also spoke to me, as I could remember oh so well the sting of such a moment, when I felt just as fruitless in circumstances out of my control.

David was doing his best to do what was right, no matter how others were doing the exact opposite. Yet, with all his efforts at upright decisions, he did not see any fruit for his self-control and sacrifices. “What was the point?” was his conclusion.

He felt defeated and discouraged. I understood. I knew what it felt like to go a long time not seeing fruit from my best efforts. These efforts were based on my obedience to God alone, not what I felt like I wanted to do or what others deserved. With such actions not being reciprocated with sought after results made it even worse.

Pointless, useless, futile……that is what starts to run through a mind vulnerable to despair. But oh how God comes to our rescue! He sent Abigail to intercept David and his men before they sinned greatly in anger. Abigail in verses 23-31 gives words that not only soothe David’s anger but more importantly, they remind him of God’s prophetic promises, thereby strengthening David in the Lord!

Life giving words! What a difference they make to us to be reminded of who God is and what He has said He will do on our behalf. When you are waiting for “good” from God, being reminded of how He will surely fulfill His Word is a game changer.

David stopped his mission of vengeance and changed his direction, feeling hopeful once again. Strengthened once again. He was able to keep going in his choice of uprightness, as he waited on the Lord to bring relief and satisfaction for all his sacrifices.

Not only were Abigail’s words beneficial to him, they were to me as well. I was encouraged as I read how she reminded him of what truth and perspective he should remember. I need to remember the very same as I feel my efforts are useless at times.

Additionally, just as I knew the rest of David’s story and how God did provide what had been promised, I also have hindsight to add to my own story. I know firsthand how God’s “good” finally came to my unbearable circumstances. I could relate to the depths and heights of David’s emotions.

David’s enemies ceased their deadly pursuit of him and he ascended the throne of the nation of Israel, all in God’s timing. Prayers were answered and in due time, I too experienced relief just as sweet as David. Even though we both felt deep in our hearts, ” It’s been useless!”, God redeemed those despairing emotions with heart felt reassurance from His Word.

Oh the glory of the penetrating  purpose of God’s Holy Word!!

Running For Cover

When my children were preschoolers, we lived out in the country amongst farmland. It was quite and safe out there so they  were allowed the freedom to roam and play as I worked in the yard. Because our home was set back from the road, half the time I would be outside in my gown as I went about my chores for the day. Country life had it’s perks!

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One day, the three children were scattered around the property playing, one with a shovel, one with a hose and one on a bike, when all of a sudden a roaring sound developed. It was impossible to ascertain which direction the sound was coming from but it was getting louder and louder. Nothing could be seen, only the roar could be heard.

As an adult, I knew what the sound was because I had heard it before at other places, but my children had no idea. As I lifted my head at hearing the beginning of the sound, I saw all three of my children instantly drop what they were doing and run as fast as they could to grab hold of my gown. Not one of them made a sound, they just instinctivly ran for their mama in the confusion of the moment. It was like watching a National Geographic show where baby animals behave instinctivly!

Their knee-jerk reaction was to run for cover. But it is noteworthy that they did not run to the porch or inside the house for protection.  They ran to me. They  knew my instinct was to protect them fiercely. They did not understand military jets and their powerful engines. They didn’t need to, because they knew they had a mama who would watch over them.

As I am reading about David in 1 Samuel 21-23 and the corresponding Psalms (35,57,7), I see the same scenario at play. He is confused and panicked over the turn of events since his anointing by Samuel. He had been chosen by God as the next king of Israel but there would be a wait for him until he ascended  the throne. Meanwhile, as faithful as he had been to King Saul and the nation, he was being hunted down for execution because of jealousy and greed.

Betrayed, pursued, rejected…….this was not what he envisioned as the chosen king. He was left stunned and in fear of his life, as strangers and friends alike sought his death.

And how did David respond to these overwhelming circumstances? He ran for cover, just like my children had.

He ran for the refuge of his Heavenly Father as described in Psalm 57:1, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Many of the Psalms David wrote during his life are filled with descriptions of his turning to the Lord for strength and help. I happily admit that David is my most favorite Old Testament character because of his passion and devotion to the Lord. His life is revealed as flawed at times, but he continuously turns and seeks the Lord. And he worships the Lord in his Psalms just as hard as he cries out to Him for help.

Why? What was the reason he kept running to the Lord? Why did he wholeheartedly pursue God, in good times and bad?

Because of the intimacy! As he had spent a lifetime (beginning in his teenage years) building his relationship with God, he began to receive the payoff. Intimacy!

What started because of duty, reading the Scriptures and praying, in time developed into passion. A transaction had begun taking place. It changed from David solely “giving” in obedience to “receiving ” in love and joy, among many other attributes experienced.

What was one of the main contributing factors in this taking place? Time! David would never have experienced all the intimacy with the Lord without all the time he had put in.

He knew instinctivly what to do when life abruptly changed into what was unrecognizable. He ran for cover because He knew his God so well. With time comes depth, and with depth comes confidence.

Just as my young children knew because of the time they had spent with me; they  were confused and fearful of what was happening but they were sure of me.

What about you? When unexpected events such as death or loss, betrayal or injustice , reach your sphere of life, where do you turn? We may feel protected or immune to some storms as we strive to live in our safe little bubbles, but tragedy can come find us anywhere. Then what?

I want to stress that intimacy with God is rarely gained through reading just a short devotional in hand or with a quick app. The tendency of our day to flit here and there with our time and attention is not conducive to hard earned intimacy. Reading more words written about Scripture than the Scripture itself is risky.  If that is the only way you spend time with the Lord, I will venture to say that strength, confidence, and intimacy with God will be unlikely compared to the level that David experienced.

There is a pay off when we run for cover to the One who is sovereign and His love unfailing. But that transaction is received to the depth that it has been prepared. Spending regular time in the Word itself primes the pump to flow readily and freely for those times of unexpected life-altering events. As we read about God in the Bible He gave us, we learn about Him more and more. With time comes knowledge, with knowledge comes intimacy. To know Him is to love Him.

When life hits hard and changes our future in a heartbeat, that is when we reap the level of intimacy we have sought to build. We reap what we have sown in our attentiveness to the Lord. And what a payoff it is, to know instinctivly where to run when the mountains shake and our world gives way.

“I cry to you, O LORD; I say, ‘ You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.” Psalm 142:5-7