Tag Archives: Circumstance

Faith and Praise: David’s Personal Relationship With God

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem
David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8 (NIV)

For the better part of this year, we’ve been journeying through the story of David and before that the psalms which are ancient song lyrics attributed largely to David. In a bit of synchronicity, the group of believers with whom Wendy and I worship on Sunday mornings are starting a series of messages on the life of David next week. It flows out of a five week series in which we’ve been looking at the “chain reaction of praise,” and I’ve been asked to give the lead off message of the series.

The connection between the two series is the fact that, no matter the circumstances, David was a man of praise and faith. David the hero, David the warrior, David the outlaw, David the sinner, David the King, David the victim — no matter which part of David’s life you study you find him seeking God, praising God, crying to God, and consulting God. You can almost always find a psalm that corresponds to a particular episode in David’s life. Throughout his long journey David was always translating his daily life experiences into songs, poems, and prayers of faith and praise.

I thought about that as I read this morning of David the King who was not embarrassed nor ashamed to worship and dance “with all his might” before God and the ark of the covenant. He was not concerned with what it might look like to others. He was not worried about looking cool, kingly, and above it all. He was not one to order others to do his praising for him. For David, his relationship with God was not just “a part of the job.” David’s relationship with God was personal from the time he was a boy until he was uttering his last words on his death bed.

Today, I’m thinking about my own life and David’s example. I don’t want my faith and praise to be a compartment of my life which I take out on Sunday morning and sundry, appropriate occasions. I don’t want my faith to fit neatly into others sense of propriety. I want my praise to be with “all my might” and my relationship to be intensely personal each and every day of my life.

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Letting Go of My Personal Timetable

Agenda
Agenda (Photo credit: Jim Ceballos)

“The Lord has done what he predicted through me.” 1 Samuel 28:17 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I couldn’t wait to grow up. There is a natural progression of time and life, but there was something in me that wanted desperately to push everything forward. My restless, extroverted nature was always pushing the clock. I wanted to got. I wanted to move. I wanted to push things forward. Perhaps this was the result of being the youngest or perhaps there was a spiritual restlessness in me. In any event, I was always pushing the timeline to get to adulthood as quickly as possible. I graduated from high school early. I went to college early. I got married early, and I had chidren early.

Looking back on my life journey (from just over the hill), I can see the natural consequences and difficult life lessons that resulted in me trying to constantly push time and circumstances to acheive my own personal will and desires. As I’ve progressed in my journey I’ve come to a deep appreciation of God’s divine timing. I have increasingly learned the contentment required to wait for to be at peace in the moment and to wait for God to move.

In the story of David and Saul we see another stark contrast between the two men in this regard. David was anointed king as a child, but has patiently refused to push God’s hand by taking Saul’s life and stepping up the timeline to his ascension as monarch. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, especially since it resulted in years of being an outlaw and living in exile. Saul, however, was always pushing his own will. It was what got him into hot water in the first place and in today’s chapter we see that he has still not learned the lesson. His decision to consult a medium and conjure up Samuel’s spirit is just another illustration of Saul’s refusal to be content with God’s will and timing.

Today, I’m taking stock of the circumstances of my life in which I feel impatience. There are a number of them. Naming them one by one, I am choosing to let go of my will and timing. Instead, I am handing them over once more to God and entrusting them to His perfect will and divine schedule.

A Mysterious Tension: Personal Initiative and Divine Timing

david with saul's spearAs surely as the Lord lives,” [David] said, “the Lord himself will strike [Saul], or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed1 Samuel 26:10-11a (NIV)

Last week I shared a sliver of the story of how I began working for the company of which I am now a partner owner. It happened in the summer of 1994. I had been working for a parachurch ministry for a year, and had been raising financial support from friends and family to do so. The agreement I had with my employer had been that I would raise financial support for one year. It had been a good year in many regards and I enjoyed what I was doing, but as the end of that year drew closer my employer remained silent regarding the plan for what was going to happen next.

Months before the end of our one year agreement I began to ask my employer for a plan. I even offered to continue raising support if we could sketch out an agreement to reduce the amount I had to raise over a period of time. The answer I received multiple times was “I’ll put it on the board agenda for next month.” After the board meeting I would hear “We didn’t get to it. We’ll talk about it next month.” Finally, my year ended and I still had no answer from my employer. I felt a responsibility to my financial supporters who had faithfully sent me money that year to support me and the ministry I worked for. Many supporters had asked me about it, but I had nothing to tell them because my employer refused to talk to me about a compensation plan.

Suddenly, I felt a stirring inside me. While I wasn’t unhappy with my job and hadn’t really considered another job change, I realized that I could not trust my employer. There was a principle involved here that I needed to heed as it wasn’t just about my employers integrity, but also about my own. I had asked my supporters for a year commitment and the year was over. I felt dishonest asking them to continue their support. The problem was, I had a family with two small children and no earthly idea what I was going to do. I had no job prospects. I didn’t even have a resume put together.

Nevertheless, I knew in my heart that I had to make a move. One morning just after the one year anniversary passed, I began calling my financial supporters and telling them not to bother sending another check. On the list of supporters was my old employer and mentor.

“What are you going to do?” he asked me on the phone.

“I don’t know,” I answered, then explained my reasoning. I shared that I felt I couldn’t in good conscience ask my supporters to extend their commitment when my current employer wouldn’t even talk to me about extending his. I admitted that I had no plan and no job prospects.

“Are you really going to leave? Have you told your employer?” my friend and mentor asked.

“I haven’t said anything yet, but I really think I’m going to leave,” I answered.

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Make a firm decision by noon and call me back,” he said abruptly. When I called him back an hour later to let him know I had decided to leave he said, “Meet me at 2:00 at Village Inn.”

We met that afternoon and he offered me a job. Within a few hours of deciding to leave, I had another job. Of course, my old mentor made a step of faith in asking me to join his consulting firm, but he also felt the divine timing of events. He did not have enough work to pay me much and had to trust that there would be new projects coming that he couldn’t see. The new opportunity was not a slam dunk or a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. I was leaving a tenuous position to an even more tenuous position, but it was the right timing and I knew it in my soul. As I drove home that day, and I pulled into the driveway I heard Holy Spirit whisper clearly in my soul:

“Take this job and stick with it. You will be blessed.”

I took the job, stuck with it, and have been immensely blessed. That was 20 years ago next summer.

Along life’s road I have found a mysterious tension between taking personal initiative and waiting on divine timing. I even struggle to define it well, yet I can look back and see how certain circumstances and life decisions happened at what I know to be a divinely appointed moment in time. Had I attempted to make something happen by force of personal will it would not have worked out the way it was supposed to happen. Yet, it was important for me to be sensitive to God’s hand moving in my circumstances and listening for Holy Spirit’s whisper in my soul.

Today we read about the second of three opportunities that David had to take the life of the man who was hunting him: King Saul. His men even encouraged David to take personal initiative when the opportunity to do so presented itself. David, however, was sensitive to the tension between personal initiative and divine timing. David understood that Saul, despite his flaws, had been God’s choice to be King and God alone should end Saul’s reign.

Today, I’m grateful for God’s perfect timing which I see in many different experiences along life’s road. I want to continue holding that mysterious tension between personal initiative and divine timing, as elusive and ill defined as it seems.

Perfect Timing; Respecting the Plan

Old Clock
(Photo credit: wwarby)

“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” – David (1 Samuel 24:12)

“I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” – King Saul (1 Samuel 24:20)

“Timing,” as they say, “is everything.”

When I was a young believer in high school, I had an afterschool job. My boss at this particular job became a mentor to me. He spent an early morning each week studying God’s Message, taught me disciplines critical for this faith journey, and generously provided opportunities for me that became essential to my maturity. He also had a vision of starting a consulting business based on Biblical principles, and he wanted me to be a part of it. One day while having lunch at Wendy’s he laid out his vision, asked me to consider going to business school and getting an M.B.A. with the expressed intent of joining his consulting group. As much as I desired to please him, I knew in my heart that it was not the right step to take. I went a different direction, and during college my mentor and I lost touch. I did not speak to him for many years.

For anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, you know that I chose (though I believe my steps were directed) a different path than the one my mentor wanted for me. Rather than business, I chose to become a theatre major. Fast forward past college. Rather than a consulting practice I chose to go into pastoral ministry and then into parachurch ministry in which I raised financial support to cover part of my income. In a series of events I will not take the time to share in this post, I suddenly found myself being directed away from this particular parachurch ministry with no earthly idea what my next steps would be.

As fate (a.k.a. God) would have it, one of my financial supporters was my old boss and mentor with whom I had gotten back in touch after six or so years. When I called him to let him know not to send a support check the next month as I was leaving my position he asked what my plans were. I told him I had no earthly idea what I was going to do next, but I knew I had to leave my position immediately. That afternoon he asked to meet with me and offered me the position with the consulting firm he had envisioned and discussed with me back when I was in high school. I took the position and in 2014 I will celebrate 20 years in my job. In 2005 my dear mentor and friend retired and I have been privileged and blessed to be a partner and owner of the company ever since.

I look back on this experience and it has been a life lesson to me of God’s timing. My boss had a clear vision of the path I should take and the position he wanted to hire me to fulfill. When he laid out his vision to me I knew in my heart that it was not the right path, nor the right timing. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, I now see with 20/20 hindsight how being a theatre major uniquely prepared me to be successful in the position I was hired to fill. Likewise, my experiences in six years of ministry taught me life lessons that were essential to preparing me for the role I would eventually fulfill in business.

In today’s chapter, we continue to watch as the story of David’s ascent to the throne of Israel unfolds. He was anointed as King of Israel while a young man, but he was not ready to take up the mantel of monarch. It would be 20-30 years before David would be in the position God ultimately had for him. Over those many years David would develop the experience and skills necessary for his position as King.

We also continue to see the contrast of the bookend monarchs. David refuses to take a shortcut on God’s timing. He refuses to try and make his ascent to the throne happen by killing Saul even though he appears to have justifiable reason for doing so. David wants the throne in God’s time, not his own. Saul, on the other hand, continues to pursue David despite knowing that God’s anointing has left him and gone to David. He refuses to humble himself and instead gives into fear, seeking to kill David before David wipes out his family and his legacy.

Today, I am grateful for God’s timing. I believe that there is a divine plan for me. I can look back and see it unfold. I can look forward and trust that it will continue to play out. My job is to trust God, be faithful in walking the path laid out for me today, and respect the ultimate plan.

Divinely Sanctioned Detours on Life’s Road

Judah and Tamar (painting circa 1650–1660 by t...
Judah and Tamar (painting circa 1650–1660 by the school of Rembrandt) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him. So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. Genesis 38:14 (NLT)

Interesting that as Joseph is taken off to Egypt and sold into service of the man in charge of Pharaoh’s  house guard, the writer of Genesis gives us a literary aside. As Joseph lives out his unintended exile, we now get a picture of what’s going on in the lives of one of Joseph’s brothers back home. It’s no surprise that we see a perpetuation of the back-dealing and deception that has marked the family system to this point. Judah deals falsely with his daughter-in-law and forces her to resort to her own deception to survive and force Judah to lawfully provide for her.

I am reminded this morning that sometimes when circumstances force us to make detours on life’s road, God can actually use them to protect and provide. No doubt Joseph had every reason to feel angry at his brothers, miss his home, and bemoan the difficult circumstances into which he was forced. At the same time, he was placed into one of the most prominent households in Egypt where he would have opportunity to be trained, educated and to become his own person. Had he not been removed from the family system at a relatively young age, one wonders what affect it would have had on him. As we will find, the “detour” on which his brothers forcibly sent him would arguably be the best thing that ever happened to him.

When life throws you a wicked curve ball, just wait for it. Time and time again I’ve witnessed God knock it out of the park.

Just What I Need in the Moment

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 69

Save me, O God,
for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire;
I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water,
and the floods overwhelm me.
Psalm 69:1-2 (NLT)

It’s been a crazy week, and things are about to get even crazier. Wendy and I are in production week with shows this weekend and next. I have two project deadlines for work this week (one is done, one is not) and have two major client deliveries next week. In the midst of it, Wendy and I had to make a road trip south for two days. You can feel the tension in our house from the sheer anxiety of “Oh my goodness I have so much to do and the task list keeps getting longer while the time gets shorter and I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done and could the phone PLEASE stop ringing because I don’t want to answer it and have MORE things piled on top of the mountain of things that need to be accomplished or I think I’m going to go TOTALLY insane (breathe, Tom, breathe….remember to breathe)!!!!!”

One of the things I love about the Psalms is the way you can read one particular lyric from one particular psalm and it can be packed with so much meaning. Sometimes one line, phrase or a particular verse can speak to you right where you are in a given moment on your life journey. Today is a great example. The first two verses of Psalm 69 leapt off the page this morning because it so perfectly expressed what both my head and my heart are feeling in this moment. It was like a tailor made prayer just for me this morning. I read it and my spirit groaned, “Yes, God, yes. That’s what I’m feeling. I feel like I’m drowning.” [Then, the song Flood by Jars of Clay suddenly became a soundtrack for the rest of the psalm]

The psalm also came with a much needed word of encouragement that is my take-away for today:

The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.

 

Swimming Against the Tide of Circumstance

Israel
Cave in En Gedi (Photo credit: andrew dowsett)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 57

My heart is confident in you, O God;
    my heart is confident.
    No wonder I can sing your praises!
Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

According to the liner notes at the beginning of Psalm 57, David wrote these lyrics at a very precise moment in time. Let me set the stage:

  • David had been anointed the future King of Israel by the prophet Samuel when he was a young boy of 12 or 13.
  • David subsequently killed Goliath and became wildly popular. He becomes best buds with Prince of Israel. Things were really looking up for the young man.
  • Check that. Rather than being made king as prophesied, David suddenly finds himself the victim of jealous hatred by the current King of Israel (who was given to mental health issues and fits of homicidal rage).
  • David flees for his life into the barren desert and holes up in the back of a cave.
  • Crazy King Saul (think Javier Bardem in Skyfall) and a posse of a thousand men find out where David is hiding and hit the trail to kill him.

And, at that moment the wanted young man hiding in a cave with a psychopath monarch and one thousand soldiers bearing down on him picks up his harp and sings: “My heart is CONFIDENT.”

Of course he does. The truth of matter is, those of us who follow God are called, time and time again, to swim against the tide of momentary circumstance and natural human emotion. Faith trumps fear. Trust in God leads to inexplicable peace and joy in the midst of terror:

  • “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Written by Jeremiah as he surveyed the destruction of Jerusalem and watched desperate people eating the flesh of their own dead children to survive; Lamentations 3:22-23).
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:44)
  • “You are blessed when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil about you because of me.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:11)
  • Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. – (James 1:2-3)
  • We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. – Romans 5:3
  • Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – I Thessalonians 5:8

When you consider that David was “a man after God’s own heart,” then it’s no wonder that in the midst of tough circumstances and facing overwhelming odds David felt a surge of confidence. So it is with those whose hearts are surrendered to God who is exceeding, abundantly in and through, above and beyond momentary human circumstance.