Tag Archives: David

Rescued from Drowning

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When I was in elementary school, my dad was hired as our church youth pastor.  I thought it was the best thing that could ever happen to a 4th grader because my sister and I got to go to all the youth group events:  hay rack rides, roller skating nights, camp outs, and bon fires.  On one of these summer events, we went tubing down the Apple River, splashing each other and flipping each other’s tubes as we floated down the lazy river.

The top end of the river had been dammed to make a small lake with an island in the center.  It was a small dam because at its headwaters, the river is not much more than a creek.  The small dam was sloped in a way that we could ride our inner tubes down it like a big water slide and at the end of the slide we were rolled and tumbled in the curl of water where the dam met the river.  It was great fun!

While we were waiting our turns on the dam slide (haha, I just made myself giggle) we paddled around the little lake and explored the island.   Some of us invented a sort of game where four of us would all sit on the sides of the same tube and on the count of three we’d all fall backwards into the lake.  Over and over again we’d scramble back up the sides of the tube, laughing and splashing the whole time.  It was great fun to be included in games with the teenagers!

I was having a blast until the very last moment.  No one gave a single thought to the fact that this last load of kids on the inner tube was very mismatched in weight.  We all counted to three and arched our backs to flop into the lake, but since I was the lightest in the group, the inner tube flipped over on top of me.  Before I could get out from under it, the other kids were scrambling back on top of the tube, their feet kicking me as I was trapped under the now fully loaded tube.

I was running out of breath, but I decided that to get out from under their feet I needed to swim deeper and then to the right.  Unfortunately when I sank deeper, my feet became tangled in the weeds at the bottom of the lake.  That’s when I got scared.  I could see the circle of sunlight in the center of the inner tube above me, legs dangling through the hole.  I reached up my hand, but I couldn’t touch anyone.

My lungs were burning.  I was scared.  “This is it,” I thought sadly.  “I’m going to drown within inches of the surface of the water.”  I stretched my arm a little higher, praying that someone would see me.

Suddenly, one of the teenage boys plunged his hand into the water and grabbed my hand with a strong grip.  He pulled me up hard.  As I broke through the surface that had seemed so far out of my reach, I gasped for air.  The boy didn’t say a word, but he draped my arms over the edge of the tube and began paddling towards the shore.  Everyone else on the tube was giggling and splashing, completely unaware of the fact that I had just nearly drowned.  The boy and I did not say a word to each other.  When we got to the shore of the lake, he held me by the shoulders to steer me as I weakly staggered to a sitting position on the narrow strip of sand at the edge of the water.  I sat there trembling.  Then he ran back to join the others for more fun.  I think he knew he had just saved my life, but it was too heavy of a thought to press into words.

I think about that incident when I read the Psalms.  David often speaks of times of sorrow or trouble when the waters are over his head.  He sings of how God lifted him up and put his feet on solid ground.  That’s what God does when we call out to him.  He reaches down and pulls us up.

“Save me O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.  I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.  I am worn out calling for help.”  (Psalm 69:1-3)

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice, he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me.  I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord, ‘O Lord, save me!’  The Lord is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simple-hearted.  When I was in great need, he saved me.  Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:1-6)

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Pause, Young Wannabe-Leader, Pause

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“I had coffee with a guy this week who just graduated college and wanted to know how he could prepare himself for being in ministry and becoming a better leader. He could feel the tension between the raw gifts and ambitions God had given him to lead and how he should refine them. The derailment of many young leaders is impatience, a premature demand to take the reins before the character or gifts are ready.”

I read this opening paragraph in an article “What’s Your Next Move, Young Leader?” on line last week.  The article continues with 5-6 points of advice that I myself have given young people who are eager to find what God has planned for their lives.  However, I would like to revise my advice from all those years ago.

Today if this young person who just graduated from college were sitting across from me, sipping coffee and asking for advice; I would say something quite different.  I would say “Pause.”  How can you prepare yourself for ministry and becoming a leader?  Pause.  How about 40 days in the wilderness fasting.  How about 40 YEARS in the wilderness leading stupid sheep.  How about loads of silence, and how about a crushing sense of being forgotten in a prison cell.  How about being a servant when God has given you the vision of being a great leader.

“Pause your life.”  You aren’t ready to begin yet.

Young people are always eager for their purpose to appear and for their life to start having meaning.  I remember I was eager at that age too.  “Just tell me what I’m going to do and I’ll be happy to get on with it!”  was how I thought back then.  But over and over in the Bible we see God preparing men for greatness by isolating them and breaking them down FIRST.  Those are steps that NO college graduate wants to take.

Think about it.  David didn’t become King over night.  He spent years running for his life from a jealous King Saul.  Moses was super eager to begin leading the Israelites.  So eager, in fact, that he jumped the gun and killed a guy.  Then he spent the next 40 years hiding on the back side of the desert with a bunch of sheep.  Joseph had dreams and visions of his future greatness at a very early age.  But when his brothers sold him into slavery and his slave master threw him in jail, I’m sure Joseph wondered if his dreams would ever come true.  Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his public ministry.  But there were 30 years behind those 40 days!

God plants the seeds of greatness in Isolation.  Young Wannabe-Leader, get alone with God.  Let God isolate you and break you open before he impregnates your heart with vision.  In the quiet, in the dark, all alone a seed dies in the dirt before it grows up into the sunshine.

My advice for young leaders is to Pause before you rush out into the spotlight with your ears full of your own voice, and your eyes full of your own visions, and your mind full of your own ideas.  Pause.  Wait on God.  Wait a long, long time if you have to.  Great men of God are made in isolation.

“Frienemies”

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“My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.  His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalm 55:20-21

We tend to think that Frienemies- Enemies disguised as friends- are a new thing come with the arrival of Facebook and text messaging.  But the problem of friends who stab you in the back is as old as dust!  Jesus had his Judas.  David had his Saul.  Moses had his Aaron and Miriam… family.

We expect attacks to come from our known enemies.  But when an attack comes from the person at your side, it’s bitter.  When someone who is supposed to be your ally, your family, your team member attacks you, it’s shocking.  You just don’t expect a blind-side.

The betrayal is even harder to accept when it comes from someone whom you have loved, someone who has been the recipient of the kindness of your heart.  When someone accepts your kindness with a smile and then spits in your face, it’s awful.   It makes you heart-sick.

Rather than jumping right up to defend yourself, pause for a moment.  Remind yourself that when a person complains or accuses another it is usually a smoke screen to hid that they are struggling with that very same thing in their own heart.  If they accuse you of rejecting them, it’s because they fear being rejected.  If they accuse you of hypocrisy, it’s usually they who are the hypocrites.  If they complain that you are intolerant, it is their own rigid beliefs they are trying to conceal.  It’s not you.  It’s them.  You are just the easiest target or the nearest warm body to take a stab at.

Once you realize that you probably are not the real target of this attack, it’s easier to let go of your right to defend yourself.  As a Christian, we are not supposed to seek our own revenge.  We are supposed to let God fight our battles.  Sometimes we see God vindicating us, and sometimes we don’t actually get to see it.  But if we give our hurt heart to God, He will be our hero.  He will fight for us.  And in time, that stab wound in your back will begin to heal.  Rise above the pain and walk on the high road.

When Pigs Fly!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about King Saul lately.

He was ancient Israel’s first king.  Before Saul, the people of Israel were lead by prophets and judges, but the rule of government was spotty at best.  The Bible says, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  And boy, was it a disaster.  The last judge was the priest/prophet Samuel.

Samuel was getting along in years and had served the Lord and Israel faithfully for his entire life.  But the people started itching for something different.  They wanted to be like the nations around them who all had real kings.  For Israel, God was supposed to be their King.  But the people decided they didn’t want God for King nor Samuel’s sons as judges, they wanted to be like their neighbors.  They rejected God and demanded a king.

So God said, “Fine, I’ll give you a King, but you won’t be happy with the situation.”  God told Samuel to anoint Saul as King.

Now Saul was a nobody from a nobody family with nothing going for him except his good looks.  He was taller than everyone else and had a handsome face.  But his character was far from Princely.  As a matter of fact, on the day that Samuel anointed Saul to be king, he told him that later on he would come across a band of prophets.  Sure enough, later in the day Saul ran into the group and they were prophesying.  The Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came over Saul, changed his personality, and he began to prophesy too.  This was such a dramatic  departure from his normal character that it became an expression of shock to say, “What?  Is Saul among the prophets?”  It became their version of “when pigs fly!”

But Saul’s change of character just didn’t stick because he had a hard time obeying God.  His new power went right to his head and he felt like he was exempt from rules.  Saul’s heart became harder and harder until the Bible says God’s Spirit departed from him… and he never noticed the difference.  Saul was so self absorbed that he only followed his own heart and didn’t seek after God’s heart.

So God told Samuel to go anoint David as Saul’s successor.  David was “a man after God’s own heart.”  Meanwhile, Saul remained king and his hard heart lead to desperate, horrible things.  Saul even stooped so low as to consult a witch for advice about the future!  Eventually Saul committed suicide by falling on his own sword.  His reign ended in misery and heartache for everyone around him.

Now my thoughts turn to you and I.  Have we “clamored for a king” like the Israelites because we don’t like the idea of God ruling over us?  Have we gone in for the pretty face of a sin without considering the content or character beneath the surface?  If God’s Spirit left us, would we even notice the difference?  These are all questions that we can ask ourselves both individually and as a community.  As for me, I pray along with David who wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God… and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  (Psalm 51)