When Your Giant Mocks God

Young David stood and looked at Goliath face-to-face. We can read of this encounter in 1 Samuel 17:38-52.

Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth–we read of his armor–he was like a human tank. 
But David was just a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle, and simple David was stepping up for his first try at hand-to-hand combat.

And then Goliath begins to blaspheme. 

He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he believes is superior, his arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion. He is contemptuous of everything else–physical or spiritual.

Goliath essentially is a ‘human’ wood chipper. 

Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of. But I find David to be powerfully exceptional.  His reaction to the ‘human mountain’ of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is an astonishing faith.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”.

1 Sam. 17:48

Many of us face a giant called guilt, pride, doubt, or despair.

Satan (our enemy) has marched out on the field of battle, confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We’ve been rightly tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us. I suppose that should terrify us. And we’ve also been indoctrinated to accept their control, and the inevitable slavery, with a spirit of timidity.

The ‘monster’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Satan does expect to win over your soul, but Jesus stands as our advocate shielding us. We are saved because He wants us saved.

Yet so many believers cowed and intimidated, surrendering to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope and faith are drained out of our being, and we become an empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control. It’s never satisfied with just a little bit.

David ran to the battle–to face his giant. 

He passed through the dark intimidation and influence to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the fear, and then ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we might struggle and pout.  We can turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemy’s workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our own Goliath of despair.

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God’s Red Bull

We are told to press in, and to reach. 

We’re to be energized by contact with God’s Spirit.  He fills us up, enables us to run full tilt, stretching and straining.  The muscles in the neck popping out, and lunging for the tape. This is Paul’s understanding of his daily walk.

Paul was an athlete in the Spirit.

These days, developing a spiritual athleticism would not be such a bad idea.  We live in a society where we sit and watch the NFL: there are 22 men on the field, desperately in need of rest, and they’re surrounded by 50,000 people desperately in need of exercise.  We have become a society of observers and that is a shame. 

God loves us, sent his only Son to die for us.  God sets us up with a energy-packed, Red Bull. And I respond with an anemic, 2% milk religion.  And that perhaps is the real tragedy.

There’s a real tendency for entropy as a follower of Jesus.  Things have a real tendency to wind down, and start moving in the opposite direction.  I think all of us can relate to the “Sunday Syndrome.” In this truly wonderful world of fellowship, worship and the Word we seem to come together.  Life is good on a Sunday morning.  And it should be.

But we wind down, and by Thursday we have sinned and compromised a hundred times or more.  Life is not good on a Thursday afternoon.  Because of our mental illness this degradation downward is usually worse.  We experience a whole lot of shame and guilt. And that poisons our spirits.  

Throw into the mix some depression, anxiety, or OCD and it makes consistency even harder.  It’s a challenge to maintain a credible Christian walk. It’s kind of the deflated feeling  four hours after downing three Red Bulls.

Paul, always an interesting fellow, described his own personal walk with Jesus in Philippians 3:10f. in the Message Bible.

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

 12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this…

...but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 

Can you really tap into all of that energy? 

Paul is downright aggressive here, he models a “muscular Christianity” that pushes through every obstacle, whether within or without.  Most of our translations use the word “work” when translating “effort”.  The Church fathers used the word “energy” instead.  There is a distinction. 

Energy, or “energize” denotes an outside source for power.  I energize my electric razor when I plug it in at night.  It takes a charge and runs accordingly on demand.

We are told to press in, and to reach. 

We’re to be energized by contact with God’s Spirit.  He fills us up, enables us to run full tilt, stretching and straining.  The muscles in the neck popping out, and lunging for the tape. This is Paul’s understanding of his daily walk.

Paul was an athlete in the Spirit.

These days, developing a spiritual athleticism would not be such a bad idea.  We live in a society where we sit and watch the NFL: there are 22 men on the field, desperately in need of rest, and they’re surrounded by 50,000 people desperately in need of exercise.  We have become a society of observers and that is a shame. 

God loves us, sent his only Son to die for us.  God sets us up with a energy-packed, Red Bull. And I respond with an anemic, 2% milk religion.  And that perhaps is the real tragedy.

When Rags Became Grace

ebedmelech

“Ebedmelech from Ethiopia was an official at the palace, and he heard what they had done to me. So he went to speak with King Zedekiah, who was holding court at Benjamin Gate. Ebedmelech said, “Your Majesty, Jeremiah is a prophet, and those men were wrong to throw him into a well. And when Jerusalem runs out of food, Jeremiah will starve to death down there.” 10 Zedekiah answered, “Take thirty of my soldiers and pull Jeremiah out before he dies.”

11 Ebedmelech and the soldiers went to the palace and got some rags from the room under the treasury. He used ropes to lower them into the well. 1Then he said, “Put these rags under your arms so the ropes won’t hurt you.” After I did, 13the men pulled me out. And from then on, I was kept in the courtyard of the palace guard.

Jeremiah 38:8-13, CEV

At the very last, there was just one remaining.  A single man, Ebedmelech.  He was a Ethiopian; made a eunuch by the will of the king.  The situation in Jerusalem has gotten very difficult.  In an action of revenge and reprisal, certain men intend to kill the prophet Jeremiah.  They take a certain satisfaction in this, and Jeremiah is thrown into a very deep cistern.  They intend for him to starve to death, which is a terrible way to die.

The king in these last pathetic days is being manipulated by the surviving leadership of the city.  Zedekiah gives tacit approval for the destruction of Jeremiah.  He just lets it happen without a good reason.  The prophet is lowered in the muddy cistern.  Without food, he will soon starve.  In the minds of this evil mob, they have taken care of the any last vestiges of a godly ‘righteousness.’

But there is one, he is a wild card.  And no man would have guessed it.  Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian eunuch steps forward and decides to change history.  Not only his ethnicity, but his state as a castrated man are definite issues.  This mob never recognized him as someone who would intervene.  He was a non-entity, a non-factor. He was black, and a eunuch, and a nobody.

But Ebedmelech is intervening, in the face of terrible risk, he steps out boldly to make an intercession.  He doesn’t appear to be intimidated, and makes a cry for the truth.  He becomes an intense and strong advocate for the release of Jeremiah from the deep mud.

Ebedmelech is given the ‘green-light’ by king Zedekiah. Ebedmelech rounds up thirty men to assist him as he delivers the prophet.  Ropes are brought out, and out comes Ebedmelech with a big armload of rags.  They shout down to Jeremiah.  The instructions are called down to him of what needs to take place for the extraction.

It’s interesting, but the rags are the most interesting. 

They are really an extra touch, not a necessity.  The rags become essentially, a form of grace.  They would pad the ropes, providing a degree of comfort as the prophet is pulled up out of the mud.  Ebedmelech showed the heart of God in what he did.  There was his desire to somehow make the prophet comfortable.  In doing so he communicated a kindness and concern that was saturated with God’s own enveloping presence.

Our illnesses– physical or mental, have moved us to a lonely place on the edge. 

We are those on the so-called ‘margins.’ Ebedmelech has now become a carrier of God’s grace.  Jeremiah could have been lifted up by just the ropes.  It would’ve been more difficult, granted.  But the rags sent down by Ebedmelech provided the prophet an extra gentleness.  And I am certain it did not pass by without notice.  Their mention in this Book of Jeremiah is significant, and shows Jeremiah’s deep appreciation of kindness.

We can gather up much from what has been written.  We will sometimes find ourselves in parallel situations.  But our kindness and concern can make the difference.  Admittedly, they are quite insignificant–quite minor. Call it ‘icing on the cake.’ But when you show the kindness of our Father, you will infuse the situation with love, and grace.  

So be an  Ebedmelech,—  an outcast perhaps– but in a position of kindness.

 

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The Breath of Jesus

breath
artist unknown, but greatly appreciated

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:20-22, ESV

Here we have an eye-witness account of the most amazing event in all of human history!  The risen Jesus, who definitely is not dead flesh, appears in a locked room that the stunned disciples hid out in.  He is now flesh and blood, as real as you or me.  The disciples are pretty much freaked out by all of this.  Fearful mutterings can be heard, “What is this… who is this…who unlocked the door?”

The risen Lord walks in with 22 eyes fixed on him.  He is confident,  and walks with resurrection authority.  He holds out his hands–they see for themselves the wounds the nails made.  He lifts his robe, and they kneel down to see for themselves the holes.  In spite of His brutal wounds, He shows He indeed is the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Savior of the world!

The disciples are ecstatic!  They are spontaneously laughing and crying and leaping around the room.  It’s like they just won the World Series, (but without the champagne!)  Pure joy pulsates through them.  He is very much alive! (Hey, isn’t that Andrew, doing a backflip?)

It’s in this ‘gonzo-intense’ moment, Jesus speaks–and they become very quiet.  He proceeds to impart peace into their hearts and minds with a simple command, “Peace be with you” verse 21.  Peace is a vital ingredient in the humble heart of every faithful disciple.

He then directs them to complete the work that the Father gave him to do.  He now extends the torch of evangelistic work to them. Seeing the resurrection up close like this will drastically alter your life’s trajectory. (They’ll be further fortified by the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-4.)

It’s now the time for the excited emotion of the moment to put on ‘work gloves.’

In this Jesus had does something unprecedented, He leans over each disciple and exhales on them. Now this is more than just a really weird ritual.  You see, His breath is saturated with resurrection life, and they inspire into their lungs the life of a risen man!  They now carry his ‘life essence,’ and in the light of Jesus’ previous statements to them are any indication, they will need it.

When God created Adam, he gave him his breath (Genesis 2:7).  Life is more than existence; it is the energy to “live.” When you really experience the resurrected Jesus, you will need more than good and noble ideas.  You’ll need Him, and you will need to rely on his breath to lead you to wherever you’re sent.

Jesus breathes on all His witnesses–those who have been picked to follow.  His breath fills our lungs, his oxygen enters our blood stream, where it now powers us on a biochemical level.  You can never, ever be the same again.  Never, even if you tried.

“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

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