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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Giant lessons

The story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 is one of the best known of all the stories in the Bible. Being so familiar, however, we often miss what it is talking about. As I studied the passage this week, here are 11 giant lessons I learned.

This battle was unnecessary. It should have been resolved much earlier (1 Samuel 14). The battle against the Philistines could have been won decisively by the Israelite army except for an edict which Saul foolishly declares forbidding any of his soldiers food before evening. The weariness of the soldiers due to their hunger keeps them from fighting well as the day drags on. Further, the extra time it takes to properly prepare food for this famished army of Israelites cost Saul and his men the window of opportunity for a decisive and final victory over the Philistines.

Both fear (11, 24) and faith (52) are contagious. Be selective who you listen to. On the one hand, Goliath intimidated Israel twice a day for 40 days. As time went on, people began to believe the message—we have no chance against the giant. Fear spread throughout the camp and infected everyone. On the other hand, when David cut off Goliath’s head, his victory inspired the army. They chased the Philistines all the way back to the cities.

A giant’s chief weapon is intimidation (1-11). Intimidation is the major challenge when we face giants. When they intimidate us, we get tongue-tied. We lose our train of thought. We forget how to pray. We focus on the odds against us. We think of all the reasons we are doomed to fail. We forget whom we represent, and we stand there with our knees knocking.

If you tolerate a giant, he will take more and more of your territory (25). Verse 25 contains a curious question, “Have you seen this man who has come up?” Goliath had now crossed the ravine at the base of the valley and is coming up Israel’s side. If you tolerate a Goliath, he’ll take over your territory. He’ll move into your camp. He’ll take your thoughts that normally ought to be on God, and he’ll focus them on himself. We can’t afford to tolerate giants; we have to kill them.

Others may criticize you for tackling a giant (28) or tell you “it can’t be done” (33). There is a Civil War legend that tells of a confused soldier who put on the Confederate gray coat, and the Union blue trousers. From his appearance it was impossible to tell where his sympathies were. So when he went into battle he got shot at from both sides! The Federals shot him in the coat, and the Confederates shot him in the seat of the pants!

While we expect the enemy to shoot at us, there are times when our “friends” and “supporters” will also take shots at us. If we take a stand for faith or want to do something for God, we may embarrass those who are sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. Whether they are intimidated by the enemy or merely comfortable, they may not take kindly to our desires for change.

God uses little tests to prepare us for bigger battles (34-37). God brings small tasks into our lives to prepare us for larger assignments. He brings small challenges and enemies to get us ready for greater ones. We need to remember what God did in the past because it will give us confidence for the future. Too often, we remember the defeats and forget the victories. We remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember.

Keep the giant in perspective (36-37). Having fought a lion and a bear, David saw Goliath as just one more predator. If God delivered him from those, what’s one more?

Don’t rely on other’s weapons. Use ones you have confidence in (38-40). Don’t put on someone else’s armor. Don’t rely on other people’s faith. Don’t rely on their weapons. Study, prepare, learn, and develop confidence in your own resources and weapons. God provides unique techniques for unique people.

Keep your focus on God, not the giant (41-47). No matter how big the giant might be, God is greater.

When God is on your side, you are never outnumbered (45). David had a sling and five stones against a heavily armed giant. On the one hand, he had no chance. On the other hand, he did not put his trust in his weapons; he put his trust in God.

Deal with giants decisively (48-51). Don’t tolerate giants of worry, fear, intimidation, and sin. Put them to death. If you don’t, they will continue to plague you.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Character, Passion, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Effective communicators

There is a great difference between merely being a good speaker and one who really knows what he’s talking about. In his book, Everyone communicates, Few Connect, author John Maxwell tells the following story about the great actor Charles Laughton.

It’s said that Laughton was attending a Christmas party with a family in London. During the evening the host asked everyone attending to recite a favorite passage that best represented the spirit of Christmas. When it was Laughton’s turn, he skillfully recited Psalm 23. Everyone applauded his performance, and the process continued.

The last to participate was an adored elderly aunt who had dozed off in a corner. Someone gently woke her, explained what was going on, and asked her to take part. She thought for a moment and then began in her shaky voice, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . .” When she finished, everyone was in tears.

When Laughton departed at the end of the evening, a member of the family thanked him for coming and remarked about the difference in the response by the family to the two recitations of the psalm. When asked his opinion on the difference, Laughton responded, “I know the psalm; she knows the Shepherd.”

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Books, Preaching, Quotes

 

Invoking the Klinger defense

I received a note from someone explaining he and his wife were leaving our church because they preferred a more contemporary style of ministry. While I was sad to see them leave, I could not argue with their reasons. I too prefer a more contemporary approach to music and ministry. I recognize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to ministry. Not every church can minister to every person. You need to find a church where you feel at home, where you can grow, and where you can contribute to the ministry.

If he left it there, I would be sad but understanding. It was when he invoked the Klinger defense that my eyebrows were raised.

Corporal Maxwell Klinger was a character in M.A.S.H. who feigned insanity as a strategy for being sent home from the Korean War. However, the fact he could think of ingenious ways to appear insane demonstrated he was in his right mind.

My friend said that he and his wife were younger followers of Christ who needed a more contemporary approach to grow spiritually. A more traditional approach to ministry “blocked” them from hearing the message of Christ. Therefore, we should allow them to find a church that caters to their preferences.

The problem with that argument is the fact that in developing it in the first place proves the individual is not as immature as he lets on. That’s high level reasoning. Instead of being excused for being immature, he should be held accountable for the fact that he knows better.

If you have a preference for a style of music and ministry, be honest enough to admit it. Just don’t invoke the Klinger defense and justify it with creative rationalizations.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2010 in Character, Church

 

Am I missing something?

For the first time since 1973, I no longer have a moustache. Considering close to half of it had fallen out due to the spreading alopecia areata, it was not exactly a difficult decision to shave it off. Rather than mourn the loss or the change in my appearance, my hope and prayer is that I receive this trial with joy (James 1:2-4), handle it with grace, and use it to bring glory to God.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2010 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

A change of perspective

I am amazed at the anamorphic chalk drawings of Julian Beever, a chalk artist from the U.K. Anamorphic drawings are ones that from one angle appear to be a flat two dimensional drawing. But from the correct angle and the correct distance, they rise up out of the ground as a three dimensional object. To appreciate his work, you need a change of perspective.

The same is true for appreciating life as God created it to be lived. If we are honest, we tend to view life and people from a different perspective than God does. When it comes to choosing leaders, that truth is especially true.

In 1 Samuel 16, God explains this to the judge, Samuel. In fact, he points out five areas where he needs a new perspective:

1) In the darkest of times, God is still at work. Trust his plan. In verse 1, Samuel was grieving because Israel’s king, Saul, turned out to be an abject failure. And Samuel was the one who put him on the throne. Despite Saul’s failure, God’s plans had not failed. In fact, God was at work identifying Israel’s next, and greatest, king—David. If you are facing challenging times—health, finances, career, relational, it is easy to believe our prospects are bleak and hope is gone. We need to remember that God is still in control and trust his plan.

2) When God gives you a task, be faithful to carry it out. Obey his instructions. God gave Saul specific instructions as to how to lead the nation of Israel. However, chapters 13-15 explain that Saul disobeyed every instruction. In 16:1-2, God gave Samuel instructions to go to Bethlehem to anoint God’s man. Despite his hesitation, Samuel obeyed. We should strive to be more like Samuel than Saul.

3) God views life and people from a different perspective. Ask him to open your eyes. In 16:7, God explains to Samuel that a person’s stature, credentials, education, and experience are not the most important factors when it comes to choosing leaders. It is the character of one’s heart. We need to look beyond the surface and view people as God does.

4) God chooses leaders on the basis of their heart. Ask God to increase your desire for him. If we want to make a difference in the world for God, we need to focus more on internal growth than on building our portfolio.

5) If God calls you to a task, he will provide for your success. Rely on his provision. Over the past month, I have been renovating part of my house. I don’t know how many trips I’ve made to the hardware store to buy the materials, take back the wrong materials, buy more materials because my estimate was incorrect, etc., etc. I am not always well equipped to get the job done. In contrast, God always provides what we need to be successful. In 16:13, Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel. God confirmed that choice by giving him the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but these are five lessons I need to learn.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Lifelong learning

I found myself behind a bus this week whose message read, “Because your story hasn’t been told.” It was an ad for continuing education at the University of Washington. It was fitting because the previous evening, I essentially gave the same message during a class on Principles of Leadership for United Evangelical Free Church‘s Veritas Leadership Development Program.

In 1 Timothy 4:6-16, the apostle Paul wrote to his protegé, Timothy, to encourage him to continue growing in four areas if he wanted to be an effective leader. He should grow in his Content (6-10) or his knowledge of God and his Word. He should grow in his Character (12). He should grow in his Competence (13) or his ministry skills. He should also grow in his Call (14) or his understanding of how God had gifted him. Lastly, Timothy should be committed to Lifelong Learning (15-16) and to make visible progress in these areas.

No matter our age, there are areas of life where we can keep growing. And we still have many more stories to tell.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in Leadership, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Growth charts

Man, the University of Washington Husky Football team was thoroughly thrashed by the Nebraska Cornhuskers this afternoon! They were beaten in every phase of the game–offense, defense, and special teams. 56-21. It was ugly. Then again, when it looked like the Dawgs would put their tail between their legs and run for the kennel, they forced a punt, or drove the length of the field for a touchdown.

On the one hand, they were beaten soundly. On the other hand, they showed flashes of hope. Considering the number of freshman who played and gained valuable game experience, there is hope for the future. The Huskies could find encouragement in the Cornhuskers. Three years ago, they were one of the worst teams in the nation. Now, they are back in the top ten.

The game showed two facts. One, the Dawgs are headed in the right direction. Two, they have a long way to go.

You could argue that UW should not schedule top ten teams for their non-conference games. Better to pad the record and stats by only scheduling Cupcake U. Then again, how would you know if you were making progress in building a strong program? UW is facing a steep growth curve, but they have come a long way from 0-12 two years ago.

This causes me to ponder the question, Why do we encourage football and basketball teams to schedule challenging opponents so they can measure their progress, but as individuals we avoid challenges? Why do we settle for the familiar, easy routines? As Christians, why do we run scared from trials, even though God promises that those tests will produce deeper character (Romans 5:3-5) and greater perseverance (James 1:2-4)? Why don’t we view trials and tests as an opportunity to measure our growth and development?

While I wouldn’t advise going out of your way to schedule a humongous test just to see if you last longer than the last time, perhaps we could at least ask God to help us change our perspective and see them as growth charts.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2010 in Character, Passion, Personal growth, Sports