Mr. Cool… king David under attack

Cursed yet cool! How a person responds to negative remarks or criticisms tells a lot about the character of that person. King David was quite a character indeed! 2 Samuel 16:5 David was cursed by Shimei, a relative of his former enemy Saul – who died already.

Facts:
The curse: v.6-8
1) Physical assault: stones were thrown at David.
2) Verbal assault: murderer, scoundrel, God’s punishment, with doom and ruin; betrayal of son

David was the king. How did he feel or what’s he thinking when someone cursed and threw stones at him?

Abishai’s response: v.9
Abishai, David’s general responded in the same vein that the enemy treated David: verbal assault – calling Shimei – dead dog; and physical assault – to cut off his head!

Natural response would be to just let Abishai give Shimei a dose of his own medicine.

Instead, David’s response: v.10-13
To Abishai, David said: Mind your own business.

These thoughts went through David’s mind:
1, If the cursing is from the Lord, who can question God? Who are you and I to object? v.10
2) If my son is trying to kill me, how much more the relative of my enemy? Let him curse for ‘The Lord has told him to’. v. 11
3) If the Lord will take pity on me, He will keep his promise to me and restore my kingdom to me. v. 12

When troubles come, what thoughts come to my mind? Do I see God’s hand in all things? Am I willing to accept it from His hand? Do I hold firmly to His goodness, His compassion that He will take pity on me and that He always keeps his promise to see me through?

Good thoughts bore positive actions and results:
1) David went on his way – even while the cursing and stone-throwing continued. v. 13
2) David exhausted at their destination but even so refreshed himself. v.14

David did not stop – he travelled on till he reached his destination. It was a natural consequence to feel tired – and even exhausted – who would not – with physical, mental, emotional attack all the way?! But because his thoughts were of God, he refreshed himself.

What about me? How do I respond when people hurl stones of criticisms at me? Do I throw some stones back? Do I have my general (my allies) resolve the problem for me? Do I think I do not deserve this? Do I go on with what I’m doing? Do I find renewal and refreshment at the end of the difficult journey? Who is in my thoughts defines how I respond. Is God in them?

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Hungry or Angry? The story of the Prodigal Son and His Brother

I have read the story of the prodigal son many times. Yet this morning, two scenes struck a chord in my heart in a poignant bitter-sweet-sour manner. One from each son:

Scene 1:
Luke 15
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

The younger son’s hunger:
The prodigal son came to a point in his wandering life where he had to work for food when he had a very rich father who can feed many servants so much better. He was literally in the mud with the pigs – even the pigs were better fed than he was. How pathetic!

How often have I been longing to fill my stomach with scraps of food from places that do not satisfy when I have a heavenly Father who created the whole universe, who gives good things to his children? Even on those who do not acknowledge Him as their father, He causes the sun to shine on them… how much more would He satisfy my hunger if only I know how to ask, seek and knock on his door!

Scene 2:
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. ’”

The older son’s anger:
The older son was angry. “I have always been a diligent responsible son. I have never disobeyed you. Yet you treat this rebel better than he deserved.. better than I deserve!” He was bitter and sour with envy.

My son, you are always with me…
How often have I taken for granted my identity as the Father’s child? The older son was so focused on what he did not get e.g. the party celebrating his brother’s presence, he forgot to celebrate what he always has: his father’s presence. Is it not sad when I lost sight of what I have because I look instead at things others have?

Everything I have is yours… If the older son had asked his father for a young goat to celebrate with his friends, do you think the father would deny him that? Everything my heavenly Father has is mine… I only need to ask… everything my father has is mine, what more can I ask?

Am I hungry or angry? Time to turn around and seek the Bread of life. Time to take pleasure in my heavenly father’s presence and claim his presents: I am his child. I am always with him as he is always with me. Everything he has is mine.
What a full, sweet and abundant life!

The Inquisition of Jesus

Many of us in the Philippines have watched the inquisition in the Senate of persons in government for graft and corruption. For all the bad things they were accused of and questioned for, the common response was often denial or pleading the 5th – refusing to answer the questions because answers might be self-incriminating.

What about Jesus? What happened at his inquisition?

Jesus on Trial – Matthew 26

Observations:

People in the room: vv. 57-58

High Priest: Caiaphas

Scribes and elders (members of the Sanhedrin – ancient Jewish high court, the supreme religious body)

Jesus

Peter: Jesus’ lone supporter following from a distance (perhaps forced to do so since he just declared with all conviction earlier that he would never leave Jesus)

Accusations of false witnesses vv.59-61

It’s interesting to note that they arrested Jesus before they were able to gather evidence (even though false). How come they could not find any when many false witnesses appeared? It’s because none of them agreed with each other on their accusations. In those days, for something to be accepted as evidence, it must be testified by two witnesses. From so many, only two agreed that Jesus said He’s going to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in 3 days.

Inquisition: High Priest and Jesus vv.62-64

High priest: Defend yourself. What do you have to say?

Jesus:

High Priest: I order you (under oath or threat of penalty) by the authority of God, to admit that You are Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus: You’ve said it. There’s more, I will be sitting at the right hand of God and will be coming on the clouds from heaven.

Verdict: vv.65-66

High priest: Blasphemy! The accused said it. No need for witnesses. What say you?

Scribes & elders: Death penalty!

Riot: 67-68

The people in the courtroom were so enraged they spat at Jesus’ face; beat Him with their fists, and others even slapped Him. They mocked:

Tell us who hit you, Son of God? Prophesy to us!

Reflections:

1) How did Jesus feel being all alone? (all disciples disappeared except for one who eventually denied him too!) No supporter, no defence lawyer, no one!

2) What kept him silent when all the witnesses were falsely accusing him?

(Whoa, I could imagine how hard it would be for me to be falsely accused and to stay silent.)

3) Yet when it comes to the truth, Jesus declared it with such conviction because He knew who He was. He’s the Son of God – not even death penalty could negate his identity. Who am I? What is my identity? Is it a firm foundation that allows me to go through life’s challenges with calmness and strength? To stand alone but never lonely… to be meek but not weak..

4) If I were to be in the room with Jesus, what would it be like for me to hear all the accusations, to see all the violence, insults and hurts hurled at my Saviour? How am I responding to his sacrificial love for me? Am I even aware of it? Do I take it for granted? How am I taking up my cross daily to follow Jesus?

The way of the cross is a difficult journey. It involves solitude – a grounded stability from within. It demands fortitude – a determined persistence that keeps moving forward. It is grounded in love – for the love of God and love of man. Jesus calls me to live love every day. The way to the cross is motivated by love and journeyed in love.

The Amazing Silence

Have you ever been accused of anything? I have. How did you respond? I had the need to explain myself – to defend myself. I felt wronged. I had to right myself.

Jesus too was accused. He was put on trial, accused wrongly. And what did he do? What did he say? Let’s see..

The Inquisition of Jesus

Matthew 27
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. 13 Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.

Whoa! How did he do that? He did not answer (v. 12) He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge. (v.14) Not a word, not a sound!

So the governor was quite amazed.

Ahhhh.. Jesus’ silence amazed his accuser. Jesus did not need to explain or defend himself because he knew he did no wrong. He knew he was sent to do the Father’s will.

Bottom line: There is sense of quiet confidence in solitude, standing alone even when everything and everyone is against you. There is assurance of self-identity. Who am I? I’m the beloved Son of God. There is confidence of a purpose-driven act. What do I need to do? I have to obey my Father in heaven. In this, I rest my case. I can be quiet. No need for words.

How to Be a Comfort in Discomfort..

1 Samuel 22
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

David was fleeing for his life. Saul wanted to kill him. Yet, he became the leader of 400 men – not 400 influential men of wealth or position to help him out of his bad place. These were men in distress, in debt or dissatisfied with their current circumstances.

When one is in distress or in a hard place, is it natural for him to take on more load – to lead a band of people perhaps in worse condition than he is in? What strength enabled David to help other people when he himself needed help?

It must be his deep relationship with his God – his constant link to open communication about all that is in his heart – his fears, his tears, his triumphs, his defeat, his joy and his praise. All these he poured out to God in his prayers and praises in the psalms. And it is not a one way street. God constantly sent people to minister and help David. David had the prophets like Nathan and Gad (to rebuke, encourage, direct and guide him). He had friends and allies like Jonathan and these 400 men to accompany him through the journey.

When I am in hard place, is my attention on my own small confined world of concerns? Am I attentive to other people in harder places that God sends to me? Am I aware of God’s presence in each detail of life? Do I hear and heed the still small voice of the Holy Spirit? What am I doing in response to this voice? Staying put in my ‘comfortable’ discomfort? Am I obedient to this call of Jesus?

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Luke 9:23-24 NIV

To deny myself is to get out of the self-focused, selfish indulgence of the flesh. To deny myself is to turn my back and fight against this mortal morally weak body – with its sinful desires and take up the cross of Jesus – the cross that takes on these sins – to crucify these sins and let them reign no more. It’s a one-time thing yet a daily dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome my weak body… to follow Jesus – to be his disciple.

How to pray…

Have you ever felt desperate that you did not know what to do? Does it seem that you’re just hanging by the end of the rope about to fall off? That you’re at your wits’ end – no idea how to go on or move forward? It’s a yes for me. I remember crying and pleading… Lord, i can’t take it anymore. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

Many of us are familiar with Ask and it will be given, seek and you will be find, knock and the door will be opened. In Bible study fellowship, we have our weekly A.S.K. so that our group mates can pray for one another. Luke 11:9-10 is sandwiched between stories, background of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. Let us study the context of what it means to Ask, seek and knock as we pray.

1. The Lord’s Prayer
What is prayer? How do I pray? What must i say? The disciples of Jesus asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus taught them the Lord’s prayer. (Luke 11:2-4)

2. Persistent Prayer
After this, Jesus told them a parable about someone asking a friend for food to give to another friend in the middle of the night. (5-8) This parable illustrates the need to pray persistently – not to give up praying until an answer is given. Now beware and hold on a bit… lest we think that this is the secret to having our prayers answered – that we can NAG God to give us what we ask for – we will ultimately have our wishes granted if we persist long enough. Let us see another story Jesus told to illustrate the point of prayer.

3. Object of Prayer
Luke 11:11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

3.1. God’s goodness: We pray to God counting on his goodness to give us what we ask of him. Jesus compared God to our earthly father – or even to us as parents. We are not good = never as good as God is. Yet in our limited goodness, we know how to give good things to our children. At least we desire and want to give them good things. So much more for God. He surely wants the best for us. He has the best for us.

3.2. God’s generosity: How much more will your heavenly Father give… aside from goodness, we can never compare with God when it comes to generous giving. He gives us so much more – more than we can ever ask.

3.3. God’s guidance: the Holy Spirit… this is the final and most important truth in persistent prayer – who/what are we asking for? God promised to give us the Holy Spirit – to guide us in our daily living.

Indeed life’s challenges often put us in desperate need to ask God for deliverance. We really need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us how to face the problems or decisions at hand. Where God leads, He guides us all the way. Let us learn to ask, seek and knock knowing that our good heavenly Father gives so much more of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
Amen.

Mission Impossible…

Mission impossible or possibilities in God’s mission!

Position, status, credentials are important in today’s world of accomplished influential power. So are resources… what you have in your hands, what abilities/skills/talents!

In the Bible, David’s triumph over Goliath is a well-known story. What did David have that enabled him to bravely go against such a giant and bring him down?

Position/Credentials/Status: David was a shepherd tending his father’s sheep. Then he became a musician to Saul to comfort him when Saul was bothered by evil spirit. David was also his father’s messenger and delivery boy.

Weapons/skills/abilities: As a shepherd, he was known to have killed a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. As his sheep’s protector, he knew how to use the stone and the sling! As a musician, he played the harp well. As his father’s messenger, he delivered food and words to his brothers in the battlefield.

Beyond these external stuffs, David had a heart for God – he was indignant and adamant when he heard Goliath insulted his God. He believed his God is able to help him fight the giant. When others were terrified of the great enemy, David stood strong and brave in the name of his great God! (1 Sam 17:45) With a stone and a sling, he brought down Goliath! He won a great important battle because God was with him.

Bottom line: With God on our side, we can win no matter how tall and intimidating our enemy might be. In the end, it does not matter if I only have a stone and a sling, because God is the One who triumphs over all seemingly impossibilities of this world. When God is present, even a shepherd, musician or messenger achieves the mission impossible!

What/Who is my Goliath? Health issues? Cancer? Addiction? (not necessarily to drugs..) Depression? Broken relationship? Superficial satisfaction? Striving after temporal gratification?

Where is my sling and stone? God’s Word and prayer… these will give me victory over Goliath because I fight him in the name of the Lord of hosts – the God of all possibilities!