David’s quiet time

Where I can always hide

Dunnottar Castle

O Lord, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me and rescue me,
for you do what is right.
Turn your ear to listen to me,
and set me free.
Be my rock of safety
where I can always hide.
Give the order to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 71:1-3

Today…

My Bible reading plan is all Psalms taken from times of turmoil in David’s life.

As I read these Psalms, my mind is transported back many decades.

I’m a young man, a student. In more or less constant turmoil.

Confused. Alone. Afraid.

This is a particularly difficult period.

I’m in my mid-20s. The people I’m closest to have all graduated and I feel all alone.

Again.

No words of my own

These Psalms are my comfort.

As I read them their words become my prayer, because I have no words of my own to pray—only feelings, and giving words to them makes me even more afraid.

Anyway, these words speak more accurately of what I’m feeling and thinking than anything I’ve ever read.

Words from David.

A long-ago warrior.

A man after God’s own heart.

I am reading his quiet time journal and I feel a connection to him. And through his words I am connected to the Father who sustained him many centuries before I was born.

Today

It is 2014 again and I am re-connected.

As much as I’ve healed, I still carry some of that inner turmoil around with me and it drives me back time and again to the Father who sustains me.

And David’s quiet time journal still comforts me. And encourages me. And nourishes me.

Now that I am old and gray,
do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Psalm 71:18


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Spiritual Mindfulness

ox cart cropped

Go/No go

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he went into the stronghold. The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim. So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”

The Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”

So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”).

2 Samuel 5:17-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

Even after all his success David doesn’t presume to know, on his own, what the next step is. For David—up till now—the next step is always to ask the Lord.

Never presume.

The God of the how-tos

When you keep your spiritual mindedness and don’t presume, all of the mental resources of the Creator of the universe open up to you.

But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. And again David asked the Lord what to do. “Do not attack them straight on,” the Lord replied. “Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees. When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be the signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army.” So David did what the Lord commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

2 Samuel 5:22-25 New Living Translation (NLT)

Knowing what we should do.

Knowing how we should approach doing it.

Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Spiritual what-was-he-thinking?

Then David again gathered all the elite troops in Israel, 30,000 in all. He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark. David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.

David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

David was now afraid of the Lord, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?”

2 Samuel 6:1-9New Living Translation (NLT)

What boggles my mind here is how careful David was to avail himself of God’s counsel in the area of his strength (war), yet be neglectful in what he knew to be the most critical physical component of his kingdom (the Ark).

What was he thinking?

  1. He doesn’t ask the Lord directly—as we see him do repeatedly throughout his life.
  2. He doesn’t consult the scriptures concerning the Ark—or he would have known better.

How it was supposed to work

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:

gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.

“Have the people make an Ark of acacia wood—a sacred chest 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Overlay it inside and outside with pure gold, and run a molding of gold all around it. Cast four gold rings and attach them to its four feet, two rings on each side. Make poles from acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings at the sides of the Ark to carry it. These carrying poles must stay inside the rings; never remove them. When the Ark is finished, place inside it the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you.

Exodus 25:1-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

 Notice the poles

They were there for carrying—not conveying on a wagon, no matter how sincere those who guided it.

At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.

Deuteronomy 10:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Notice the people assigned to carry the poles

They were the Levites.

This was their job.

Why didn’t David know any of that?

He thought he knew what was needed.

He wasn’t mindful.

And he was sadly and tragically wrong.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

Proverbs 3:5-7

  • Stay mindful
  • Stay focused
  • Don’t presume

 

Picture credit: David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott on Flicker
DSC00132

 


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Sometimes it’s the distraction that leads us to God

Donkey

“As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” —1 Samuel 9:20

It’s frustrating when we’re drawn off task by an unexpected problem to solve.

Sometimes, though, the thing that distracts us is the thing that brings us directly to God and the plans he has for us.

That’s what happened to Saul on his way to becoming king.

We never know, do we?

Photo credit: Clear Inner Vision on Flickr


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Eve dreamed of paradise while living in Eden.

How different from her are you and I?


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

No Matter What

FB Avatar

From this morning’s Facebook update:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39

If there was anybody who checked my timeline on a regular basis (which even I don’t do), they would notice how often I paste the same Romans 8 passage into my status. Every time it’s for a slightly different reason. But it’s always from a sense of marveling. I mean, there’s all these pairs of opposite things—a Hebrew literary device, by the way, expressing the entire gamut of possibilities, a concrete expression of infinity that can be expressed as effectively no other way.

  • Death, life.
  • Angels, demons.
  • Present, future.
  • Height, depth.

Then, in case he left anything out:

  • “Nor anything else in all creation.”

The red dot on the white background

But notice the one phrase in the middle that has no opposites.

It is the red dot on the white background:

  • “Nor any powers.”

That includes God’s powers.

And my powers.

And your powers.

One of the traditional definitions of hell is eternal separation from God. If that’s a valid definition—even if inadequate—it tells us something about the security of our future as new creations in Christ:

No matter how we fail. No matter what decisions we make. No matter how we rebel or shake our fists at God, if we have ever belonged to him. If we ever been changed by his hand. If our sins have ever been cleansed and we have been redeemed—truly, genuinely redeemed—

We will never be apart from his love.

Meaning—

We will never be apart from him.

Ever again. No matter what.


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

‘Do you want to go away as well?’

Loaves and Fishes mosaic_0912 by hoyasmeg

Was reading John 6 just now

John 6 is about the feeding of the 5000 and the conversation Jesus had with the crowd the next day.

The day after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the crowd followed Jesus across the lake, as it turned out, to get more bread.

Jesus pointed out to them that they weren’t following because of the SIGN the miracle was designed to be, but simply because they wanted more bread.

And as he talked to them about more important things than bread—who he was and what he offered them—they scoffed, demanding a sign.

A sign.

Which he’d just provided them.

Everything he said to them after that was incomprehensible—even offensive—to them.

And many who’d been following him took that opportunity to leave.

Many people you and I encounter today are interested only in bread.

No matter how carefully and prayerfully we explain great things, they’re fixated on bread and will leave and look somewhere else to get it.

It’s important that we trust God with these folks and not give into frustration at our inability to explain well enough to gain their trust for God.

Because that’s his job:

And he [Jesus] said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

—John 6:65-69

Photo Credit: Loaves and Fishes mosaic_0912, a photo by hoyasmeg on Flickr.


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Burton’s Mantra

My friend and former pastor Burton Purvis used to have a mantra he would repeat over and over to us:

Proper rations at proper times.

 

Burton at his bestThis was his working definition of stewardship. Because I had what I believed to be a superior definition, I would be endlessly irritated whenever Burton would repeat the phrase.

Then one day in my Bible reading I ran across this:

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” —Luke 12:42

Wow. I could do a whole blog post—and probably should—on teachableness, humility, and openness to differing ideas. But as this phrase has rattled around in my head the last few weeks, I can’t get away from the central truth of Jesus’s words and how they apply to my relationships and responsibilities.

You see, as a colleague at work, or a husband or dad, or a pastor-teacher, or a Facebook friend—it isn’t necessary or wise to drop the whole load of what I think I’ve learned or what I’m passionate about (or what currently upsets me) on the people around me.

Even the things that come into my head from God himself.

As my friend Woods Watson used to say—and I’m paraphrasing from a very long time ago here—discernment is for the purpose of intercession, not for sharing.

One of the great challenges for me personally is to regulate what I’m sharing, whether with a friend in The Real World or a friend I know only through Facebook, so that I’m sharing only what is necessary for that friend at that moment.

As I look over the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s conversations, the way he approached different people at different times, I can see concrete examples of this principle at work.

We need filters in our lives in at least two directions:

  1. The filters in that allow us to be open to the ideas of others without polluting our thought processes and therefore our values.
  2. The filters out that keep us from doing real harm to others, even when we are speaking stuff that’s true, but that they’re not ready to process in real time.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29

According to their needs. Not mine.

 


This post was adapted from a Facebook status update written on September 29, 2012.


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Full ADD Mode

crystal radio by callmecat

This morning…

Going through the scripture memory part of my quiet time right now, but am in full ADD mode (reigning in ADD is one reason scripture memory is a big part of my every day quiet time).

This has led me to ponder the question of my brain’s wiring.

  • How much of this wiring comes from God’s purposeful shaping of my unique personality?
  • How much is from being part of fallen Nature?
  • How much is from my own survival wiring?

I don’t worry too much about these questions because I’m confident God has them sorted out. But I’m curious nonetheless.

Update 12/18/2013

Was looking for one of my Facebook updates and discovered this one that I’d forgotten:

Uniqueness. Oddities. Good.


Photo Credit: crystal radio, a photo by callmecat on Flickr.


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

Keep listening, my friend, and you will hear

Valentine

I love this verse:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.”

—Psalm 32:8

It’s on my list right now of verses to review every morning. As I reviewed it just now, I realized how much it touches my emotional center. And I think it has for a while.

It’s like an intimate word from a parent, or even a lover.

Something only someone who knows me at my deepest, truest, most vulnerable level can know to say.

And say it in a way that escorts its message past all the filters and straight to my heart.

Here’s the truth that came to me as I thought over the verse this morning:

God has a different word for each of us that touches us in the way this verse touches me.

This particular verse may be encouraging to you. Or enlightening. Or comforting. Or whatever.

But your emotional response to it may not be what I’m experiencing right now.

However, there may be a verse—a word from your Father in heaven—that already DOES strike that chord in you. That DOES touch that deepest, most significant, truest part of you.

But there may not be yet, because that word may not have been spoken to you yet.

Or you may not have heard it yet. (Being spoken to and hearing are two distinctly different things.)

But I assure you there is a word, a message from God, that he is speaking to you and to no one else. Even if it’s the same verse, it’s not the same word.

Keep listening, my friend, and you will hear.

And you will be touched by the God of the Universe, who loves you with all his heart.

 

Photo Credit: Valentine by Lee Gonzalez Photography on Flickr


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

‘ALL IN’

ALL IN croppedToday’s my Day Off/Working on my Own Stuff Day.

I just put on an old LifeChurch.tv T-shirt.

It has a picture of stacks of poker chips on the front. And the words “ALL IN” on the back.

Brings back old memories every time I put it on. Which is probably why on most Wednesdays it’s the shirt I choose to wear.

They gave it to us several years ago to promote a teaching series at LifeChurch. I remember how pumped all of us on the Host Team were as we wore the shirts and talked about what it meant to be “ALL IN.” It meant we weren’t just Christ followers on Sundays, but every day. Not just at the church facility, but everywhere we went. Not just with each other, but with everyone who came across our path. Not just as we were engaging in “religious” activities, but in every task of every day.

And not only when we’re in need, but in helping those around us who need Jesus just as much as we do.

We’re in a different city now, in a different state.

And we’re taking this part of the LifeChurch DNA with us.

Even though there’s no LifeChurch campus here, and—frankly—no church we know of with LifeChurch’s balance of passion for nonbelievers and vision for equipping them to reach their world, our little family remains ALL IN.

We simply cannot rest while so many folks don’t yet know Christ and what he wants to do for them, in them—and through them.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” —Matthew 9:36-38

 


Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.

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