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Kindness Gone Bad

Have you ever purposed to do something nice for someone and had the person question your pure motives?  The poor reaction to a kindness sure takes the joy right out of it, doesn't it?  Following King David on through the book of 2 Samuel we see a similar happening.

In 2 Samuel 10, King David wanted to show a little love to Hanun, the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to him.  You see, Hanun's dad had just passed away and David sincerely wanted to comfort him.  Therefore, David sent some of his own servants to comfort him.  Things would have turned out fine had some the Ammonites not bent Hanun's ear regarding the kind gesture.  Look what they said:

And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, "Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you?  Has David not  rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?  (2 Samuel 10:3 NKJV)

Hanun listened to the people, not realizing how wrong they were, and " took David's servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away." (2 Samuel 10:4 NKJV).   My, oh my.   This caused a mess.   The Israelites then ended up in battle with the Ammonites and the Syrians.  And all because of a misunderstanding. 

I wonder what would have happened had Hanun's "advisors" not been so skeptical?  The bible says that

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15 NJKV)

This makes me wonder how many times I unfairly question peoples motives for their actions.  Does it make you stop and think? 

A Look in the Mirror:

1) Are my motives pure in all of my actions?  my helps?  my pursuits?

2) How often do I question another's motive for what they are doing or saying?  Sometimes we may rightly be discerning a wrong, but sometime we may be mistaken. 


Determined Kindness

And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him?  -- David, 2 Samuel 9:3

King David was a master musician, a mighty warrior, and a merciful man.  He had the world - at least his corner of it in the land of Israel - at his fingertips.   Yet, he was concerned about doing something nice for the name of his deceased predecessor, Saul, who had continually tried to hunt him down to kill him for no good reason.  This must have been the kindness of God of which David spoke, because I believe our normal human nature would not naturally think this way.

Not only was David's thought of kindness extraordinary, but his act of kindness was over the top.  David found out that a lame grandson of Saul's, Mephibosheth, was still alive and summoned him to his home.  Mephisbosheth was the son of David's best friend, Jonathan.  At first when I saw that Mephisbosheth was Jonathan's son, I was skeptical at the true desire of David to do something nice for Saul's family.  However, remember that when David set out to do his good deed, he didn't know who of  Saul's house was still living.  David restored Mephibosheth's inheritance in Saul's property and allowed him to eat at the king's table for the rest of his life.  (2 Samuel 9:13)

Wow.    Now that is an act of kindness definitely from God.  After all, who is the source of the love and kindness dwelling inside of us anyway?  God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffereing, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NKJV)

David was able to exercise kindness even unto Saul's family because David was a man who continually walked with God the best he could.  It is no wonder he had the kindness and love of God in him.  We can all have it.  After all, we have the same God.

To think about:

1) When was the last time I intentionally reached out to offer the kindness of God to someone else?

2) Who can I touch this Christmas season with God's love?

3) How can I show those around me how much God cares about them?


For Our Own Good

God's way is always the best way.  Period.  End of story.  I'm really trying to remember this as I search for a new church home.  I'm trying also to remember that God's timing is also God's way and is also the best.   I'm believing that I won't rush into anything (a church, a ministry opportunity, etc.) until I am fully confident that I've waited on God's timing for my fate.  I am, after all,  a different person than I was several years ago. 

With all of that said, I can see the reason that through my reading of a very lesson-full 2 Samuel 6, the one section that leaped off the page to me was the part about how Uzzah was killed by God for touching the ark of God.  Uzzah was merely trying to keep the ark from jiggling off of the pretty new cart it was being carried on (2 Sam 6:3,6). Why then, was this a problem?

The problem was that God wants things done His way because He has our own best interests at heart.  First of all, the ark of God was supposed to be carried on the shoulders of men via special long poles put through gold rings on the ark (Ex 25:12), rather than be thrown on a cart like a common thing.  Had the ark not been put on a cart, it would not have started to fall off in the first place.   Thus, error #1.  Error #2 was the fact that only priests (I read this in Matthew Henry's commentary) could touch the ark.  Uzzah was not a priest and consequently his carelessness, albeit with good intentions, cost him his life.

So how does this story relate to you and me?  We, after all probably won't be coming into contact with the ark of God.  However, God still has certain plans for our lives that He wants us to take seriously.   While we may not "die" literally from not following His instructions, we will definitely not have the entire life that God has planned for us.   The good news is, if we follow the instruction manual of God's Word, we can have lives that are more abundant than we can imagine.

To think about:

1) How does God want me to live His way today?

2) How can I get to know How God wants me to achieve His purposes for my life?

3) How well do I know God through His word and the instruction manual for life?

Lord, help me to revere you in my both my corporate worship time at church and my personal worship time throughout my daily life's activities.  Show me how I can live for you.  Reveal to me more each day through Your word who You are and how I can do all things Your way.  Amen.


How Shall I Go?

Do you know where you are going this next year physically and spiritually?  Are you in a crossroads in your life where divine direction is needed?  Have you asked God for help and are you willing to wait on His timing rather than your own?  I am full of questions lately as I navigate my recent landscape of the unknown without the familiarity of a church home or ministry involvement.  As I read in 2 Samuel today about newly anointed King David, I was reminded about how much better things will turn out should I choose to rely on God's plans and timing rather than my own.

In 2 Samuel 5, David is officially anointed by the tribes to be king over all of Israel.  King David and his nation begin to prosper and in his heart, David recognizes that he himself had nothing to do with it.  What a humble man.

2 Samuel 5:12 And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake.

We, like David, need to always be fully aware that we are just a part of God's master plan to be used as He wishes.    David was merely a part of God's master plan for the nation of Israel and the  coming Messiah.   As I read this I thought: "Do I always give God the credit he deserves for my successes?"

To continue the story, upon hearing that David was anointed king, the Philistines went to look for David.  Here was David's response and God's reply to him:

So David inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?"

And the LORD said to David, "Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand."

(2 Samuel 5:19)

David asked of God, waited for God's reply and acted upon God's direction.  As a result, things turned out nicely for David.  He once again gave God all of the glory for the victory over the Philistines.  Seems simple doesn't it? 

Again in this same chapter we see that the Philistines regrouped and were assembling to again attack Israel.  Once again, David seeks God for direction and this time God tells him to wait for a "sign" before taking action.  Take a look:

Therefore, David inquired of the LORD, and He said, "You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.  And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly.  For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.  (2 Samuel 5:23-24)

Do you suppose that the sound of marching God spoke of and that David eventually heard was the sound of God's armies in the spiritual realm going out to battle for God's people?  I think so.   When we are in the middle of God's plan for our lives and are doing God's work here on earth, God will do "battle" for us too.  What an inspiring reality that is for all of us to keep pressing on in our respective callings.   The key is being quiet enough to listen to God's direction and in waiting for His timing to act.

Challenge:

1) Who or what are the "Philistines" in my life?  What "battle" must I now face?"

2) What does God say about how I should fight this "battle"?

3) When should I begin the "fight"?


Miscalculations

Have you ever tried to prove your loyalty to someone only to have it backfire on you?  I'm sure we've all done something of this nature and I believe that usually the "proving" comes out of something other than a pure motive.  In 2 Samuel 4, we see such a miscalculation. 

Saul's son, Ishbosheth, had just found out about his father's death and was resting in grief on his bed in the middle of the day  (2 Samuel 4:5).  You would think a person would be safe minding his own business in his own house in the middle of the day.  Think again.  Saul's son, Ishbosheth also had two men that were captains of his armies, who had apparently decided that this day was the day they were going to prove their loyalty to David.  So, these two men/captains went into Ish's house, killed him and took his head way across "town" to David.

First of all, I can't believe that in these times people hauled bloody heads around as souvenirs.  Secondly, as I write this I'm trying to imagine what was going on in the minds of these captains as they betrayed their former "boss" to prove their loyalty to the new king (David).   I bet they thought they were going places.  Little did they know that David was a man of God.  Look at David's response upon finding out about the "deed" and then we'll apply this passage to our lives:

David answered Recab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, "As surely as the Lord lives, how has delivered me out of all trouble, when a man told me, 'Saul is dead,' and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag.  That was the reward I gave him for his news!  How much more - when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed - should I not now demand his blood from you hand and rid the earth of you!" (2 Samuel 4:9-11 NIV)

Yes, the plot of Recab and Baanah didn't quite turn out as they had planned.   They were trying to achieve favor with a man by disobeying the laws of God and ended up dead.   Friends, that never works for long.  We must always strive to please God with pure hearts and pure motives.  If we do that alone, we will win favor with men.

To think about:

1) Who am I serving, really?  Am I trying to impress others by improper deeds?

2) Do I seek God's direction before I act or do I rely on my own wisdom for my decision making?


A Pure Heart

And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.  (2 Samuel 3:36)

What are you known for?  Are your actions "pleasing" to other people?  I'm not speaking of your actions being pleasing to others because you have tried to win favor with them, but of your overall persona.  Do you live a life of integrity, stability and humility?  Are you known for having pure motives?

I think of these things as I muse about the character of biblical King David.  While David was by no means a perfect man, he was well known for his character - his seeking after God's heart.  If we try to please God rather than man, we will still wind up pleasing man anyway for the most part in the areas of character.    In the passage above, we see that whatever David did pleased all the people.

I admire David for what I've seen in the few passages ending 1 Samuel and continuing through 2 Samuel 3.  Do you remember that David had been chased by King Saul who was threatening to kill him?  Also, you must know that Saul's man Abner was in on this too as he was Saul's main general.    Knowing this, I find it amazing how David mourned over Saul (2 Samuel 1:12) and also mourned over Abner's death as well (2 Samuel 3:32).  David had such a tender heart, didn't he?  A heart like God's.  David was able to love these departed souls in spite of all of the recent past history.  Amazing.  It is no wonder that the people under David's reign loved him.  He practiced what he preached.  He walked his talk.  And most importantly, he sought after God.

What can we learn from this passage?  As with most scripture, we can learn a lot of things so long as we take the time to dig for the treasure within.    Here's what I'll be thinking about until next time:

1) What am I doing to demonstrate my beliefs through my actions so that others will know my heart?

2) What is the state of my heart towards those who have been less than kind to me?

3) Who in my life do I need to forgive?

Lord in heaven, I thank You for the truths of Your word that never change.   I thank You for putting the examples of real people in the pages of our bibles so that we can see what it really looks like to emulate Your love.  Change us and mold us so that our thinking and our actions reflect Your glory.  Amen.


Feeling Helpless?

Feeling helpless is not a very fun place to be.   I'm sure we can all think of a few times when something painful or challenging has come upon us and we had no place to turn but to lift our eyes and voices up to heaven crying out "Why?' or "Help!".   In 1 Samuel 30, David, along with his faithful troop of 600, also found himself facing catastrophe. 

Remember, David had been hiding from Saul and living in the land of the Philistines in a city named Ziklag.   David had temporarily "forgotten" his faith in all of his fear of being tracked down by Saul.  He and his men returned home (to Ziklag) from fighting one day and discovered that the city had been burned down and their loved ones had been taken captive (1 Sam 30:3).   Even David's mighty men had a problem keeping it together with this sight:

Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. (1 Sam 30:4 NKJV)

I can't imagine the helplessness these men felt.  David had even a larger burden to bear.  Had he not led his men out to battle, they would have been able to protect their city and their families from ruin.  David was extremely distressed, however, we see that "David strengthened himself in the LORD his God." (1 Sam 30:6 NKJV).

In the middle of his distress, David sought God for comfort and found it.   Although he had temporarily left his faith behind for awhile, (I say this because had he not, he would have been living with the rest of his people, the Israelites, and not been hiding out from Saul), he still knew that when things got rough, God would be there for Him.   After seeking God for direction (30:8) God directed David and his men to the place where their families were being held captive and saved the day.  David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away.  (30:18)

God proves time and time again that He is in control and that He can deliver us in our time of need.  I wonder, though, how things would have turned out had David not taken the time to strengthen himself in God in his distress.  We need to do the same.  How do we practically find comfort in God in the midst of the trying circumstances of our lives?  How do we strengthen ourselves in Him?

To strengthen ourselves in God is to purposefully remember His goodness, power and strength to accomplish all that He desires for us in our lives.  If we can remember that He is able to overcome any obstacle for us and that He only wishes the best for us, we can be strengthened and encouraged to press on to "fight" another day. 

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
(Psalm 56:8-11)

____________________________________________________________________________

Janna Rust is a Life Coach and Speaker dedicated to encouraging others towards lives God intends for them.  For more information, visit her at www.purposefulpartnerships.com.


Saul's last day

If you knew you only had one day left on this earth, what would you do?  Where would you go?  Who would you see?  I watched the TV show "House" this past week - it is a rare occasion that I watch it, but my husband was watching it - and during the show a man was temporarily aroused from a coma and would only remain conscious for a couple of days.  He chose to go to Atlantic City to gamble.  That choice wouldn't make my list at all, but I thought it was interesting.

In 1 Samuel 28, I believe that Saul had this same dilemma.  He was afraid of the Philistines (v5) once again because they were about to attack Israel.  He tried to ask God what to do, but God wouldn't answer him (v6).  So then, Saul decided to consult a medium to bring up Samuel's spirit from the dead so Samuel could tell him what to do.  Saul was an interesting guy, huh?  Saul was the epitomy of a person who has trouble waiting on God and loves to take matters into their own hands.  Can anyone relate to this? 

I thought it was interesting that the medium really did bring up Samuel's spirit because in vs 15-19 we are shown in the bible the conversation between Saul and the deceased Samuel.  This wasn't a dream.  And...this isn't a post about the spirit world either.  Let's move on.    Here's the bottom line of what Samuel told Saul:

1 Samuel 28:18-19 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.  Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.  The LORD will also deliver the army of the Israel into the hand of the Philistines. (NKJV)

There was Saul's crystal ball.   All of his disobedience to God had finally taken its toll and the day of reckoning had come.  (See fulfillment of this short-term prophecy in 1 Sam 31).  Unfortunately, that day came upon his sons too.  So in closing, I'll leave with a couple of my personal applications from the above passage.

TO THINK ABOUT:

1) In what area of my life am I currently being disobedient to God in some way?

2) If I could see into the future the impact my actions would have on myself and my loved ones, would I be more inclined to change?

Lord, please reveal to me those areas where I fail you.   Show me the subtle ways that I unknowingly disobey you in my attitudes and actions because of deep-seeded behavior patterns and help me to see these things as You see them.  Forgive me and cleanse me from this unrighteousness and lead me on to walk more fully in Your ways.  Amen.


Our Life's Landscapes - Part IV of IV

The final landscape discussed at our conference was The Wide Open Spaces of God.  To quote Beth Booram's website:

The wide open spaces of God are often preceded by a time when we feel suffocated, stifled or disillusioned.  Finally, there is a break in the clouds and we catch sight of a new way of doing life, a way that brings freedom.  Through these seminal experiences we turn out into the wide open spaces of God.  God gives us the courage to break free and invites us to explore a much bigger life than we thought was ours.

To reiterate my past few posts on our life's landscapes (my reflections from our women's conference), in my life over the past 6 months I have been in what I thought was my promised land (my ministry), caught a glimpse of what God may have for me in a new "land" (a new ministry?), gone up the mountain to seek God's direction and taken a leap into the wide open spaces of God.  It has been quite a journey and has been thrilling to see God's fingerprints all over my life through some decisions I've made, the women's conference and my recent experiences at the Cove (which I will be blogging about next).

Do you have a vision of a bigger life for yourself?  What does that look like to you?  Is it a happier home or a more meaningful ministry?  What are you holding on to so tightly that is keeping you from all God has planned for you?  What are you saying "no" to in order so you can keep your life small and manageable?

Our speaker had lots to say regarding the "wide open spaces", but remember, I'm not trying to provide a summary, but merely how I related personally to what was discussed.   You see, I have recently stepped out into God's wide open space, not knowing what God has planned for me, but knowing that He is in control and only wants the best for me as Jeremiah 29:11 says:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

I have much to say about how this verse has come up in my life lately, and will probably share at a later, but sooner-than-later date.  For now, let's just say that God has been very good to me in reassuring me that a decision I've made is what He intends for my life.  What is the decision that has propelled me into the wide open spaces?  I have decided that I must move on to another church - where, I don't know - and leave my ministry and current church home of almost 10 years behind.  As to the reason, I prefer not to discuss here.  (If anyone wants to discuss further "offline", send me an email).  Suffice it to say that my decision was finally made after much deliberation and prayer and that God has finally told me to go for a variety of reasons. 

So, I'm out here.  Homeless in the "Wide Open Spaces of God" but looking forward to all that He has promised for my life as I wholeheartedly seek His direction for it.  I pray that each one of you, dear readers, has the courage to explore a bigger life than what you are currently living.  What is it that God wants you to do?  If you know, is it time to respond to the call?  If you aren't sure, have you been to see Him on the "mountain"?  If it is the time, what are you really waiting for? 

Until next time,

Janna


Our Life's Landscapes - Part III

Now that I think I'm finally getting back on track, I'm going to resume discussing my personal lessons learned from our speaker at our women's conference.   As I discussed in an earlier post, The Promised Land was the landscape we visited first.    The promised land is home.  However, what happens when you feel that God is moving you away from "home"?  You must seek God for answers to your questions.  Just as Elijah did in 1 Kings 18:1-19:18, we must go up the "mountain" to seek God's face for these answers.

The Mountain of God.  What answer are you seeking in your life? Is there something going on or has something happened that you don't understand?  Are you unsettled in your status quo and seeking direction?  The questions are endless as we all are in different phases of our life's journey.  I have recently been up that mountain of God, seeking His answers and direction for my life.   

It was interesting to me how the topics of this conference, selected in late spring of this year, were so applicable to my life in November.  I had, after all, thought I'd been in my promised land, but was wondering if another was really it.  And in the past two months had trekked up the mountain of God seeking direction.  I got direction and have now acted on that direction, which I will share in a subsequent post.

I can imagine Elijah on that mountain, fearing for his life and wondering if God still loves him at all.  Our speaker, Beth Booram, pointed out that underneath all of our tough questions for God is probably just one question: "God, do you love me?".  Pretty simple, but pretty profound when you think about it.  We can get through about anything as long as we know that someone - especially God - loves us, can't we?  God does love us and will speak to us, but not always in the ways we expect to hear Him.  Elijah didn't hear or see God in the wind or in the earthquake or in the fire, but heard God in a "still small voice" after things calmed down.  (1 Kings 19:11-12).  It was then that we see Elijah pouring out his troubled heart to God.

Have you let the storms of your mind calm down to hear God's small voice?  I picture this voice as the whisper of a father in his upset child's ear as He gently rocks the child to sleep.  God loves us more than we can imagine and will speak to us when we are ready to hear Him.  He wants to and will give us direction when we journey up that "mountain" to seek Him and only Him.