Singing in the Storm

I heard a song recently with lyrics something like this – don’t quote me! “I’m going to sing in the middle of the storm!” and this idea of singing in the midst of trouble has stuck with me.

When we find ourselves in times of trouble, it can be all too easy to let praise take a back seat. Our prayer life, if not full of complaining, turns into a set of demands to deliver us out of this trial. It is, of course, not wrong to ask the Lord to take difficulties away, we also must realise such trials have a purpose. No trial, no triumph.

This idea has had me reflecting on James’ words from his letter:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

James 5:13 (NIV)

James puts it succinctly – if you’re happy, then sing, and if you have a problem, pray! What truly great advice! So simple, yet very profound too. We too often turn to complaining rather than prayer, and when we do find ourselves happy, we become occupied with the things of this life and don’t give God the attention He deserves.

What about singing in the storm though? James suggests praying in the storm, rather than singing right?

Clearly, the answer is yes, but I wonder if we are sometimes a little too clear cut. In the storm, it is entirely right to pray, as James advises us. Pray and pray, and keep on praying. But prayer is not simply asking God for things. Prayer is far greater than that, and our prayers should be made up of more than just definite requests (petition). I have said it before i’m sure, but our praise must always outweigh our petition when it comes to prayer.

So, once we’ve asked God for help in the middle of that storm, we turn to praise and thanksgiving. While the wind is blowing, and the rain is thrashing down, let’s raise our voices and worship Him. If the storm gets louder, so do we!

What storms are you facing right now? Pray about them by all means, and once you have, lift up your voice in song. You probably won’t feel like it, and it may be difficult, but as you turn your attention off of the storm and onto our wonderful God, you will find harbour.

Someone once said, “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, rather tell the storm how big your God is!”

Have a blessed day!

Don’t Speak Out of Your Pain

You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians:

Be angry, and don’t sin.” Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,

Ephesians 4:26 (WEB)

Anger is by no means the only time when need to be careful about our words. In fact, anger is usually a secondary emotion. By this I mean it always follows some other emotional trigger. When someone stands on your foot, you may get angry about it, but the first thing you felt was pain, then anger followed. Similarly, anger can follow on from embarrassment, guilt or emotional pain.

In the midst of significant pain, irrespective of the type of pain or the cause, try not to speak out of that pain. Words that erupt from pain may feel very real indeed, but in the cold light of day, rarely reflect a reality we would be happy with.

As in all other things, Christ is our ultimate example of this. As He faced the biggest trial of His life, and indeed perhaps the biggest trial of all time, He was especially careful about His words. Indeed, there were moments when Jesus simply refused to speak.

Now I have told you before it happens so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do. Arise, let’s go from here.

John 14:29-31 (WEB)

And similarly, before Pilate:

Immediately in the morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, bound Jesus, carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

He answered, “So you say.”

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they testify against you!”

5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate marveled.

Mark 15:1-5 (WEB)

I cannot begin to imagine what Jesus would have been feeling in these situations, knowing what He was about to face. Were I in His shoes (laughable as it is), what might I have been saying? It seems hugely unlikely that I would have remained silent.

Yet, like a sheep before the shearer, He remained silent (Isaiah 53:7).

We would do well to learn to remain silent in times of great distress or pain. Too often we pour out words that harm ourselves and those around us. Christ did not say one word He did not entirely mean, and none of us can say the same.

I am no psychologist of course, and am certainly not advising you to simply bottle up your feelings and never share them. That’s quite a different and equally dangerous thing. I am merely saying that there is a time to speak, and a time to remain silent. When our emotions are high, when we feel an intense pain or boiling anger, that is probably not the best time to speak, or to discuss with others. Of course, we must find healthy ways of processing our emotions. Anger and pain are debilitating if not properly worked through, but often we require much time or space to do that.

I recently heard someone talking about a time of trauma they went through. They reflected that at the time, and shortly thereafter, they spoke often and loudly about the pain they had been through. Dear friends advised them to be careful about their words during that time, because it was clear their pain was driving what they were saying, rather than any reasoned opinion or thought. The realised this was good advice that they were sorely in need of. It took them a number of years to process what they had been through before they could speak about it with any sense of balance.

If you are not going through a difficult time right now, then please do not dismiss this. IF you are not going through a difficult time at the moment… then just wait! Chances are you will sooner or later, and when you do, don’t speak out of the pain you are feeling then and there.

For more on the power of words, check out my post Words can be Atom Bombs

God bless you!

Belief and Action

Here is an essay I wrote as part of my Course in Christian Studies. I hope you enjoy! I hope that normal service will resume on the blog in the not too distant…!

7. Write an essay of between 1500 and 2000 words on the question: What have you learned from Paul about the relationship between what we believe and how we act?

By Andrew Brown

In this essay, I will attempt to explain what I have learned from Paul about the relationship between what we (Christians) believe, and how we ought to therefore act.

Before we can explore what I have learned from Paul about this, we must first ask if any such connection exists. Do our beliefs affect our actions at all, or rather do our actions go on to affect our beliefs? Or, alternatively, is there little connection between them whatsoever?

Let’s take a simple example to begin with. What does the act of sitting down in a chair tell us, if anything, about our beliefs? The obvious answer is that by the act of sitting in a chair, we learn that the individual must first have believed that the chair could hold their weight. If they did not believe this, then there would have been no corresponding action. The action is driven by the belief.

Similarly, a person who says they believe a chair can hold their weight, and yet refuses to take the action of actually sitting in it, is likely not being totally honest. What faith can we put in their “belief” if they are not willing to act on it?

Finally, what came first – belief or action? Without belief, one may have chosen not to take the action at all and this suggests the believing must precede the action. However, one who does not believe, sits down anyway, and yet the chair does not fall… such a person would derive belief from that action.

Of course this example has limitations, but it in some small way aids us in understanding what I have learned from Paul in his letters – namely, that what we believe is crucial, and that it drives the actions we take.

Using Colossians as our prime example, I hope to demonstrate that we must first believe in the truth of the Gospel and in what Christ achieved for us, and this, therefore, leads to us living and acting in the way Paul directs us.

Paul opens his letter like so: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,” (Col. 1:1 ESV) and we note that Paul is an apostle, not on his own merit, education or effort, but rather by the will of God.

Chapter 1 begins with Paul giving thanks for the Colossians, and their response to the Gospel which they heard from Epaphras (v7). He tells them that he has not stopped praying for them since he heard of their faith (v3-4). Beginning at verse 9, Paul then notes down some of his prayers for the church. Part of verse 9 says “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” and this is a prayer about their belief rather than action. It is about helping them fully understand spiritual matters and to know His will for them. Verse 10 then begins “so,” as of a result of this, that they may “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…” Before they can act in a pleasing way, they must first know and believe the truth of the Gospel.

Having completed his prayer, Paul goes on to discuss the Pre-eminence of Christ, starting at v15. Paul sets out that Christ is the image of the invisible God (v15), and that all things were created by and for Him (v16). Verse 18 tells us He (Christ) is the head of the body, that is the church, and v19 is astonishing as it states that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him!

Verses 21 to 23 tell us how Christ reconciled us, despite our evil, to Himself through the death of His body. That we may be present holy and blameless and even above reproach if we continue steadfastly in our faith. This all achieved by Christ, and not attributed to our own action or righteousness. It is all about our faith in the One who has achieved it for us!

Paul concludes chapter one by explaining his ministry in Christ for the church. We see almost no instruction to act in any particular way here, and Paul has made a case for what Christ has done. He has stated the theology we must first accept and believe.

Chapter 2 continues in like manner. Paul sets out how he wants the church to have full understanding of the mystery of Christ. He continues to build the theology, wanting them to be “knit together in love.” Only at verse 6 do we see a command to act – “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Again, it begins with “Therefore,” like the “so” above, and as a result of what they believe they must act accordingly.

After a warning to guard against deception in “philosophy and empty deceit,” (v8), Paul goes back to setting out the supremacy of Christ. Verse 12 points out how we were buried with Him in baptism, and raised with Christ through faith. Verse 14 shows how our debt to God (in sin) has been cancelled, and nailed to the cross forever.

Paul ends chapter 2 arguing that the church is free from the demands of rituals to do with food or drink, New Moons or Sabbaths. The final verse of the chapter points out that while such laws have the appearance of wisdom or “self made religion,” – “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (v23). 

Having built a strong foundation of faith in the first two chapters, that is, the beliefs of the Christian, chapter three then begins to set out how we ought to act as a result. Paul tells them to seek the things that are above, and to keep their minds focussed on the matters of Heaven, not of the Earth. Verse 5 instructs the church to put to death the earthly things, such as sexual immorality, impurity and evil desire. Verse 8 tells us to put away things such as anger, malice and obscene talk, and verse 9 that we ought not to lie to one another.

Verse 12 begins the contrast, stating what we should be doing; compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Verse 13 gives the instruction to forgive each other and above all else, verse 14 tells us to put on love. As a result of acting this way, the peace of Christ will rule in our hearts (v15).

The remainder of chapter 3 gives instructions for the Christian household, advising how wives, husbands, children and parents ought to act towards each other. Many of these commands are difficult and often contrary to the ways of the world, and so we must act this way out of the firm foundation of our belief in the Gospel and what Christ has achieved.

Before Paul concludes his letter in chapter 4 with his final greetings, he gives further instructions for “masters” and also general instructions about prayer and wisdom. All of these come together to paint a clear picture of how we Christians ought to act.

As demonstrated above, we see that Paul does not launch straight into instruction for the church in his letters. Instead, he builds a foundation of faith and belief, and then, as a result, directs us to live and act in certain ways. Such a structure is not unique to Colossians, and we see it also in Paul’s other epistles.

There is insufficient space here to discuss the letter of Romans to any degree, but it is another example of how Paul sets out the comprehensive view of the Gospel in perhaps the first eleven chapters, and then turns to instruction in the concluding chapters. Romans 12 opens with the famous verse from the NIV: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” This “Therefore” builds on the theology of the previous chapters to then give us instructions of how to act.

Finally, we can make similar arguments of the structure of Galatians or Ephesians, but I cannot pass up the opportunity to discuss the small letter of Philemon. In this letter, Paul writes to Philemon asking him to accept back his runaway servant Onesimus. This short letter encapsulates the relationship between belief and action that I have learned from Paul.

Paul begins by praying for Philemon, and rejoicing in his love driven by his faith in the Lord Jesus. He then, rather than commanding Philemon to accept back Onesimus, appeals to him on the basis on his love and faith. Paul has little doubt that Philemon will do the right thing because he believes the truth of the Gospel and acts out his love. Paul does not seem to need to instruct, but instead points out his knowledge of the faith, and therefore relies on this to appeal to Philemon to do what is right.

In conclusion, I take from all of this that in order to act in a manner worthy of the Lord, we must first have proper belief, that is, correct theology about what Christ has achieved in and for us. If we believe right, then this will lead to right actions. I believe that if we attempt to act well without proper belief, then we are merely acting as those under the Law. We do not act to obtain God’s love and favour, instead we have already obtained it through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, so therefore we act accordingly.

When studying Paul’s letters, I may be tempted to jump straight to the instructional sections, wanting to practice my faith. However, I believe I will have little success unless I have a firm grasp of the truth of the Gospel, and like Paul, I “ask God to fill you [me] with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9 NIV).

God doesn’t forgive issues (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

God does not forgive issues; He forgives sin

Every so often, I put out a shorter post which I call Pearls of Wisdom. The usual format is a short phrase or “pearl” with a few words from me highlighting its wisdom. I mention it here as I’ve not done one in a while, and I know there are a few newer readers. (Thanks for joining me!)

I listened to a sermon this week, and the preacher happened to mention the above phrase. It struck me that when we minimise sin (referring to it as slip, mistake or issue) we also minimise what God has done to resolve it.

We may not like to use the word sin or sinful to describe our behaviour, and so water it down with words like issues. All this does is serve to weaken our resolve against sin in all its forms.

God hates sin, and so should we. Christ’s great work at the cross did not achieve the forgiveness of “issues” but of sin and its wickedness.

The older I get, the more I realise the depth of my sinfulness. Not that I consider myself worse than anyone else, it is rather that the more I get to know Christ, it becomes apparent how far short I fall of His wonderful holiness.

Sin is a dreadful thing, and it carries a heavy cost. We Christians can be thankful that this cost is fully paid for by Christ. Let us not minimise His work by softening sin down to mere mishaps. Sin is sin, and yet God forgives it through the blood of Jesus! Hallelujah!

Rejoice in this truth today, and be blessed!

Reliable

13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

    is a faithful messenger to those who send him;

    he refreshes the soul of his masters.

14 Like clouds and wind without rain

    is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Proverbs 25:13-14 (ESV)

Has anyone ever described you as “reliable?” How did that feel? For most of us at least, being called reliable probably isn’t all that much of a compliment. There isn’t anything exciting about being “reliable,” and it probably isn’t the one word most of us would choose to sum up our lives.

Yet God is reliable. And it is something I too strive to be.

These two proverbs were the focus of my Bible study for yesterday, and it got me thinking about the subject of reliability. Few times have I ever heard someone preach on the subject in church, and the most memorable one I can recall is one I heard about excellence (which touched on the same subject).

In verse 13, the proverb compares the cool of the snow in the time of harvest. Now that is not to sy they are hoping for snow while trying to bring in their hard-earned harvest, but uses the picture of cool snow to reflect refreshment. One paraphrase depicts a refreshing drink on ice to communicate refreshment. This refreshment is then likened to a faithful messenger or worker to the his/her master. I suppose good help is hard to find at times, and so it is like a breath of fresh air when we find reliable help.

Verse 14 paints an altogether opposite picture. Like the clouds which promise rain and never deliver, is the one who talks a good game and yet does not come up with the goods. I once heard someone at work described in such terms – “He talks a good game, but I’ve yet to see him kick a football!”

It reminds me of the fig tree in Mark 11 which Jesus cursed. It promised nourishment in the form of fruit by displaying its leaves, and yet, when Christ sought the tasty fruit, it had nothing to offer. Some feel sad for this poor little fig tree which Jesus was seemingly so hard on. However, studying it in context shows that this was a picture of the religious of the day. They boasted of how they followed all the commands and looked the part, yet bore little if any fruit.

We are not to be like this.

As Christians, we must seek to be a totally reliable people who stick to their word. If we say it, then it should be considered done to those who hear us. Far too many of us say things we do not mean or have no intention of doing. This is not right at all.

God never breaks His Word. If He has said it, then we need not doubt it will be fulfilled. He is totally, 100% reliable, and that is exciting! It means that everything He has promised you will be done. That is the difference between biblical hope and the hope of the world. When the world “hopes” it just means that it wishes it was so. Not us! For us, our hope is guaranteed by the promises of God and His Word.

What does that mean for us – His people? I think it means that if we make a commitment, then we must stick with it. I think that it means we need to be very careful about what we agree to, or what we allow others to talk us into.

Psalm 15 says:

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Psalm 15:4 (ESV)

This phrase “swears to his own hurt” is interesting. I believe it means that a righteous person sticks to their word, even if it hurts them in the long run. Say they commit to helping out at church, and then realise they have double booked themselves and must miss the “must see” sporting event of the year. They stick to their commitment, despite the hurt of missing the game.

The lesson is not to commit, not to agree to build before counting the cost.

Are there examples in your own life where you have made a commitment that you wish you hadn’t? Do you need to see that through now despite regretting it?

The classic example for me is when the children are naughty. In a moment of temper, I say something ridiculous like “You’re grounded for 20 years!” (I exaggerate) and I know I don’t mean it, they know I don’t mean it, and my word is no longer reliable.

Let us not be a people who throw words away without thought. Let each of us mean what we say and say what we mean. Don’t be hasty with your words, and make sure you count the cost before you begin. If someone is pressing you to agree, and you’re just not sure, say so and ask for some time to think it over.

Let our words be few, but let us mean every single one of them.

How to do a visual Bible Study

Fun Doodle Journal Entry Early one morning I got up, as usual, made a cup of coffee, and sat down with my prayer journal. That specific morning I …

How to do a visual Bible Study

A Gentle Answer

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

This particular verse came up in my Bible reading this morning. It may be very familiar to you or perhaps it’s the first time you’ve read it. Either way, there is much wisdom in its words.

A gentle answer can make a huge difference in a single conversation, or an entire relationship. As I note these words, I wonder how many marriages broke down because somebody chose not to give the gentle answer but instead snapped in anger.

This post is for you today. It may only be brief, but it may make a world of difference in your life. If you are not in conflict right now, just wait! Conflict can occur between any two people at any time. If this is not a lesson you need today, then you very well may need it in future. I know that I do!

In the heat of the moment, please pause and take a breath. Before you react angrily, let this scripture come to your mind. A gentle answer is still an answer, and still gives you the right and space to say what you need to say. Saying it in a gentle manner however makes it much more likely that the person you are speaking to will hear you.

I pray that in all of your conversations this week, all your answers will be gentle. Ask God, as I will, to forgive you when your words spill out angrily. Speaking the right words in the right way can change a persons life.

God bless you and your words today.

God’s Love for you – A Journey with Jesus

I am still having a few technical issues with WordPress, and cannot upload any videos at the moment. I’ve put the latest video in my Lent series on Facebook, and posted the link below. Hope you are able to view it there.

In this video, I talk about how important it is to understand God’s love for you. Enjoy!

https://fb.watch/3PfG5TJKc4/

Words Can Be Atom Bombs

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Proverbs 25:18 (NIV)

You have likely heard the schoolyard or playground phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But is this true? I think not! Sticks or stones may indeed bruise our body, or in a severe case, break our bones of course but words can wound as well. How many people took a physical beating at one point and are now totally recovered, yet those same people carry deep scars from vicious or poisonous words in their past.

A single fist may bruise an eye, but a single word can start a war if spoken at the right (wrong?) time.

If sticks and stones can break our bones, then words are atom bombs!

The writer of the proverb above likens false testimony to that of real life weapons. He clearly compares clubs, swords and arrows to that of spreading falsities about one’s neighbour. When we hear the word “testimony” we may automatically think of a courtroom. While this is certainly the place to tell the truth, we can give false testimony about our neighbours in any setting. It is every bit as important to be truthful in the court of opinion and on social media as it is in a court of law.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 12:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

If there was ever a Scripture to make us shudder, then this would be it! We speak often, and how much of it is “empty words”?

The Bible has a huge amount to say about our words, and Proverbs in particular talks of the important of how we speak. James, in the New Testament, is often thought of as the Proverbs of the NT, and he too warns of the power of words. It is hard for me to state how critical this subject is. Jesus was so careful about what He did and did not say, remaining silent at crucial moments.

Although the thought terrifies me, I toy with the idea of recording myself for an entire day and listening back to the conversations I have had. What would that reveal? Would I hear myself building others up and encouraging them? Or would my words be careless, inflicting wounds without thought?

Would you wish to be recorded for a day, and have to listen to it back? Let each of us take an inventory of, not just our words, but our tone as well. Often we communicate more in the way we say things than in what we specifically say. Instead of an entire day, why not just take stock for an hour. Make notes or record yourself, then pray over the results.

Are there words in your past that you deeply regret? Such words cannot be changed, but you can learn these lessons and avoid the dangers in future.

Like the psalmist, ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

Remember, words are atomic bombs that can devastate a life. They are also a wellspring of life that can create and build up.

Watch your words today, and every day! Lord, do help us to speak out only good things to the people in our lives. Guard our mouths so that we utter nothing in anger or haste that will harm and wound. Holy Spirit, watch over our words this day and let them point people to You – in Jesus’ Name! Amen

Every Morning and Every Evening

“And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to him.”

1 Chronicles 23:30 (NLT)

In my daily Bible reading, I have been working my way through 1 Chronicles. I deliberately chose the words “working through” as it is quite tough going at times! The Chronicler has quite a different angle than the writer of Kings, and so there are some stark differences between the accounts of King David and his sons.

This morning I read from chapter 23, and include a particular verse above. In this chapter, we essentially see a total staff reorganisation like you might have in the business world. The Levites, who previously served in the Tabernacle of God, would soon begin to serve in the Temple built by Solomon. This meant a change in their duties. No longer would they need to pack up the Tent of Meeting, and move it around, as the Temple would be a fixed site to stand for generations.

With this change, what would the Levites now need to do? Chapter 23 gives some of the details, but verse 30 in particular stood out to me.

Imagine the job advert or “Help Wanted” sign… dedicated servant to give thanks to God each morning and evening. Desired characteristics – strong singing voice…

The Levites were given the specific role of thanking and praising the Lord both morning and evening. It was deemed such an important task that it was noted alongside all the other necessary duties of worship in the Temple.

Two thoughts spring to my mind about this. Firstly, it is wonderful to recognise the importance of praising and thanking God. We should learn from this, and much of our prayer lives should be focussed on that very task. We have so much to be grateful for, and yet often we find ourselves grumbling that we do not have more. Perhaps I’m alone in that, but I suspect not!

I was reading a fellow blogger’s post yesterday about the terrible situation in Mozambique, where not just Christians are being attacked and killed on a daily basis. Very few of us reading this are doing so in secret, or in fear of our lives. We likely have basic comforts – a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food in our stomachs. For this, we should be truly grateful. It is certainly not too often to thank God both morning and night.

My second thought was this: did the people of Israel become complacent about thanking God because they had a dedicated team of servants doing the job for them?

I recall a time in a previous church where we discussed appointing a “welcoming team.” The role of the team was to keep an eye out for new people and to make sure they were welcomed and looked after the first few times they attended the church. The problem we worried about was whether by having a dedicated team like this, those in the church not on the team might falsely believe it was no longer their responsibility to welcome anyone.

It is everyone’s responsibility to give thanks and praise to God. Even if you have a dedicated worship leader on staff at your church, that does not absolve you from the need to worship Him yourself. I hope that the people of Israel likewise gave regular thanks to the Lord in the same way.

How is your thanksgiving looking at the moment? Mine is inadequate I’m ashamed to admit. When I really think about how much the Lord has done for me, and all the many blessings I have in my life, I’m humbled. There is more than enough for me to thank and praise Him for the rest of my life – non-stop – and all eternity as well.

What are some of the things you need to be thankful for? Do share them below. And I leave you with this verse from 1 Thessalonians.

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Notice Paul tells us to rejoice always. This can only be done by someone who is willing to thank God every morning and every evening.

Have a great weekend – full of thanksgiving to the Lord!

What Should You Be Doing?

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

2 Samuel 11:1-3 (NIV)

King David was without a doubt Israel’s greatest king. He was beloved of God, and penned much of the Psalms we know and love today. Yet he was not a perfect man, and 2 Samuel 11 begins to tell how he fell into temptation and committed the sin of adultery.

These passages are not here for us to pick on David, nor is anything I say in this post meant to be criticism of him. These stories and words are here in our Bible to teach us, and we must learn the lessons from David’s mistakes. Hopefully by doing so, we will avoid the sins he fell into.

2 Samuel 11 opens by telling us it is spring time, and the time when kings go off to war. We might then expect it to say that King David gathered his army and went after the Ammonites, but it does not… Instead we read that David sent Joab with the army to go fight, and he stayed at home.

This is probably David’s first mistake. For whatever reason, he decides not to go out with the army. Perhaps he was fed up with war, or perhaps he was just tired. We do not know if Joab tried to convince him either way, but ultimately he was not where he needed to be – and that led him down a path of trouble.

David’s first misstep was to not do what he should have been doing. What should you be doing? Are you putting off things you know God has put on your heart? Are you making excuses not to fulfil your commitments or responsibilities? If so, then it could likewise lead you into problems.

There are likely countless examples. Do we find ourselves watching all kinds of sinfulness on TV, instead of spending time with God or our families? Are we surfing the web instead of putting in the hours at work (this is all too easy while working at home)? Are you laying in on a Sunday morning instead of being with God’s fellow people? Insert your own example here…

Verse 2 begins “One evening, David got up from his bed…” What does that tell you? David had been in bed during the day. Some immediately assume he’s spent all day in bed, and all night doing whatever he wanted. This could well be true, but we must also remember Israel can get very warm and so he may have just been resting during the heat of the day.

Irrespective, he then decides to take a walk on the roof. We do not know if this was his custom, or the done thing of the day, but again, it leads him into the path of temptation. I have no idea if David’s palace was the biggest and tallest building around, but it is in my mind at least. David, on the roof, would have had a good view of the entire area. Was it pride that took him up there, to survey his entire kingdom? Did he know it was a common time for women to bathe, and so hoped to catch a glimpse? We don’t know, and i have no wish to unfairly criticise him – as the text does not necessarily support it.

From the roof, David sees a beautiful woman. As above, we do not know if it was an accident or contrived in some way. Either way, what should he have been doing at this point? Averting his eyes? Definitely. Running away? Quite probably. And as an aside, one day i’ll write a post about “running away” as we see several examples in the Bible of people who did this, for good and bad reasons.

When he saw her bathing, instead of doing what he should have done, he sends a servant to find out who she is. It is clear that he is flirting with sin at this point. He has likely looked on her with lust, and now sets his mind to having her for himself. When he finds out that she is married, that should certainly have been the end of it. But if you know the story, then you know it is not the case.

There is more to learn from the rest of the account, but my point for today is simply to say – what should you be doing? We see more than one opportunity here for David to have done the right thing, and he chose not to. Instead of doing what he ought to be, he takes small steps towards sin.

Temptation is often like that. Rarely is someone simply tempted to commit adultery. It starts with minor things; the laugh by the water cooler, the touch of the arm, the sharing of personal thoughts… and before you know it, you are in a situation where you have moved closer and closer to sin, and it’s now much harder to escape.

Had David just gone to war as he should, then he may never have laid eyes on Bathsheba at all. If you were doing what you should be, what sin might you never lay eyes on?

Perhaps you are not engaged in a particular sin right now, but recognise you are slowly moving towards it – one step at a time. Take time now to reflect on this, and turn back before it is too late. Talk to the Lord about it, and ask Him to give you strength to resist temptation.

Legacy

I watched a movie last night called “The Dig.” It is about an archaeological discovery in Suffolk, England. At the site of some burial mounds, the team of excavators discover a 90 foot long Anglo-Saxon boat buried with its owner after his death. They found a number of treasures and gold along with it. It may not sound the most exciting blockbuster from my clumsy description, but it was an enjoyable film.

One of the key themes of the movie is about what we leave behind. On the one hand, it was a tremendous find – the boat, the treasure and the history – and yet little is known of the owner. One of the characters comments that they feel futile in the face of death, fearing they will be forgotten in a few short generations. The chief excavator rather thinks we are all part of an ongoing story, and each play our part in the richness of history.

It got me thinking about what we leave behind us – our legacy.

Life is short, and it can so often fly by without us paying full attention. Someone once said that you don’t grow old, but instead wake up one day and realise that you are! Yet we can each make a lasting difference in the world. Few of us can be world leaders, chairs of huge internationals or jet-setting celebrities but we can each make a contribution to those we live life with.

Don’t feel you have to change the entire world, but do change it for someone. You may not be able to end world hunger on your own, but you can feed someone in need for a single meal. And I suspect that is something that person will not forget in a long, long time.

The Bible tells us to think about those generations that follow.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 13:22 (NIV)

We see in this verse that we are to leave an inheritance for our grandchildren. Many of us make plans to pass on our belongings and wealth to our children, and that is clearly a right thing to do. The Bible goes further though, encouraging us to think not just of our direct children, but of their children beyond them.

Finances are but one way of leaving a legacy of course, and there are much more important things we can leave behind.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV)

The most important thing we can give the next generation, and all those that follow, is knowledge of the Lord and His Word.

These verses were given to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land, but they are every bit as applicable to us Christians today. We are to fix them in our hearts and minds. For me, that means using our brains to really understand them, but also to let them change our hearts in our inner being. Without the heart, studying the Bible becomes a mere intellectual exercise without any need for faith or a changed life.

While the Israelites took these commands literally, and actually bound the Scriptures to their hands and foreheads, I think there is a symbolic notion here too. Binding God’s commands to our foreheads again speaks to me of keeping the Word ever in our mind. It means the Word of God is ever before our eyes no matter what we or where we go. Likewise, binding the Scriptures to our hands to me means letting the command of God influence all that we do. When we work with our hands, we do so in and for God and His glory.

These verses tell us to pass on what we have learned about the Lord. We are to teach our children of the things of God, and to do so when we go out and when we come in. We are to talk about God in every situation; while we eat, while we educate, while we play games with them. Let everything we do with our children be an opportunity to point to the goodness of God and what He has done for us.

Surely this is the most vital legacy we can leave behind us! It is not about us being remembered, or our individual contribution being marked, but rather that God is remembered and His praises sung by each generation that follows.

Will these words be read by someone in a hundred years? Will one of my descendants pick up one of my books to read? Only God knows. Even if I am forgotten, I pray that my life will mean that there are more people heavenbound than there were before.

What kind of legacy will you leave? What contribution can you make to God’s glory? Seek the Lord for the answers today.

Yesterday I posted an audio post introducing A Journey with Jesus. I put the video out on Facebook last night, but for some technical reason I can’t post the video to the blog. If you want to watch, please click here to see it on Facebook.