Monday, July 18, 2011

Got Baggage?

Sunday at church our pastor was preaching out of 1 Samuel 17. It is the story of David and Goliath.  Most of us have read it or heard it told at some point in our lives. It’s a story that I love and have spoken from before.  There are so many wonderful lessons inside this one slice of history.
     During the reading, however, I had one of those moments where a verse tucked inside the chapter – that I’m not sure I had ever noticed before – got my attention.  The pastor continued reading and in my mind I was thinking, “WAIT, hold on, can we go back and read that verse again and talk about that?!” Obviously, not the place to do that. 
     Perhaps you have read it, I Samuel 17:22 - “Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers.” 
     David was on the verge of one of his greatest conquests of all time. He didn’t know that.  He thought he was just going to check on his brothers and take them some food.  But, before he could even run toward the front lines and see his brothers, he had to let go of some things.
     Often when we hear about leaving behind baggage, we think of our bad junk.  We think of emotional baggage, scars, wounds, hurt, pain, bitterness, dysfunctional relationships (the list could go on). But, I have a feeling that in David’s baggage there were some things that people would consider good, even valuable. Not all baggage that we lug around with us is horrible. But sometimes, God requires us to even let go of the good, in order to run, so we can be unencumbered by anything that would keep us from experiencing all God has for us.  He took with him his shepherds pouch, his sling and a stick. These were his essentials.
     David faced several battles before he even got to Goliath. First, he faced sibling rivalry from his brothers.  Really? Grown men? Really. They tried to lay emotional baggage on him.  I get the impression he just let the comments roll off.  Secondly, he faced the doubts of a previous generation.  Even when he convinced Saul he was up for the task, David was girded in Saul’s armor and equipped with his weapon. However, David had the common sense and courage to reject these items.  These were things that were perceived to be good and even beneficial, but they were merely baggage to David, because they weren’t the method of warfare the Lord had been teaching him on the hillsides in the backside of nowhere as he faced bears and lions.
     The Lord has been preparing us for interesting days ahead - perhaps for some of the greatest spiritual conquests and adventures of our lives.  But we are going to have to have the wisdom and courage to leave our baggage – the good and the bad behind – and we are going to have to resist picking up and carrying more baggage along the way.  We must only take with us the essential tools and weapons that God has equipped us with and trained us to use as we have spent time with him in the backside of nowhere – otherwise known as the secret place. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pondering Presumption

Sometimes when I read stories in the Bible, they stick with me throughout the day and I find myself doing a lot of pondering. Often I have to let the pondering spill to the written page, thus this blog.

Stuck in my head today is a little story tucked in 1 Chronicles 19. (It’s also in 2 Samuel 10.)

Here’s the overview: Nahash king of the Ammonites died and his son Hanun became king in his place. David heard about the death of the king. Since Nahash had always been loyal and shown kindness toward him, David decided to send messengers on his behalf to Hanun in order to console him and to honor the deceased. Nothing unusual about the story to this point, however when the messengers reached the land of the Ammonites, that's when the trouble started.

There were people of influence around the grieving son. Various biblical references call them commanders, advisors, princes, servants and even leaders. Whoever they were, they had the king’s ear and they planted seeds of doubt. They lied and caused the king to question the intent of the messengers. History records them as convincing Hanun that David’s ambassadors weren’t coming to offer sympathy, but rather had been sent to spy out the land and try to conquer it. Hanun falls for it, hook, line & sinker. In a brash reaction, he seizes David’s men – shaves their beard and cuts their robes off up to their behinds - total humiliation and an obvious rejection of David’s offer of consolation. David was insulted, which obviously was not a good thing. The Ammonites realized that insulting the king of Israel was probably a bad decision, and they spent huge resources to secure equipment and hired men to fight, in order to defend themselves against what would surely be the wrath of David. What resulted was all out war, devastation and the loss of resources,allies and sadly many lives.

This story could have ended differently. It should have ended differently. Everything changed due to a lack of discernment. Hanun was surrounded by people who looked for the negative. His ‘counselors’ assumed the worst about everyone. Rather than accepting the wishes of sympathy offered and simply saying “Thank you”, he created chaos. Because why? Because of a deceitful word spoken by someone he trusted, but shouldn’t have. He reacted to the lies rather than responding to a kind gesture. When we don’t know the truth behind gestures made and assume the worst – it can lead to an absolute mess. Just because our motives aren’t always pure, doesn’t mean someone else’s isn’t. Families, nations, and relationships have been shattered and torn apart over mistrust birthed out of the wrong assumption of motive. The enemy of our souls LOVES this tactic. He plants those little questions in our mind and our imaginations go wild. Often the questions are fueled by jealousy, insecurity, bitterness, unresolved hurt and it grows until it is out of control and until we do something foolish. After all, people couldn’t be loving, caring, or giving without some ulterior motive. (They want credit.  They want to fuel their own ego. They want someting in return. Shall I continue?)  If we’re honest, we can admit that we’ve all done it on some scale at some point in our lives. Things get blown out of proportion and essentially by our actions and our words we symbolically shave their beards and cut off their robes – and the damage is done and too often destruction lies in the wake. It’s at that point the enemy has his party rejoicing that devastation has come to a situation where all someone was trying to do was be kind, to be generous, to be....like Jesus.

This is where discernment and wisdom come into play. I love discernment - I long for more of it. I love wisdom - I long for more of it.  However, I am learning that discernment and wisdom, all must be birthed in a place of prayer and by knowing the Word. It’s in those moments of taking that seed of doubt into the secret place and laying it out before the Lord so that I can allow him to shed light on what is really going on. Sometimes he does reveal ill intent and lets me know my response even in that moment is not to cause destruction, but to be wise. However, it often times reveals issues inside me, rather than in the person I am so quick to judge. (Ouch)

Questions are rattling in my head, maybe they should rattle in yours, too.
What kind of people am I surrounding myself with?
Who influences me?
Who should influence me?
Who do I influence?
Do I have enough godly discernment and wisdom to separate truth from lies?
Am I actively seeking after wisdom and discernment?
Do I assume the worst about people and their motives?
Am I reactionary or do I respond in a godly manner?

My prayer today for myself and for whomever might read this is:
Lord, give us a greater capacity for and infusion of wisdom and discernment.  Send godly counselors that speak truth.  Allow us to be a voice of truth to those around us.  May we stop the game of assumption dead in it's tracks.  Teach us to be thankful and apprecaitive of those who simply want to be like you - generous, giving and kind - let us know how to graciously show kindness in return.  Teach us to be those who are generous, giving and kind....teach us to be like you. Rather than wasting time assuming the worst - Lord, help us live out Philippians 4:8  "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Yeah, see what I mean? A simple Bible story, an awful lot of pondering!