May God do what seems right to Him - 2 Samuel 10:12

Joab’s Faith

In 2 Samuel 10:6-19 we see an example of the kind of faith that gives God room to be God. The story starts after a group of David’s men have been humiliated by his enemy after they were sent on a mission of comfort (v. 1-5). The enemy realizes that David was upset at their treatment of his men, so they regrouped and called in (paid) allies to come and defend, possibly attack David. David sends out Joab, commander of his army, with what is described as “all the host of the might men” (v. 7).

Joab sees that they’ve flanked his group and he divides his men into two groups to face the army. Their loose battle plan is to fight and if either one seems to be losing badly, the other group will come help (v. 11). Not exactly a detailed attack plan, but Joab follows it up with an observation that shows his understanding of their true source, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (v. 12).

Joab is going to do his best for the people he cares about and he’s going to allow God room to be sovereign. He doesn’t demand an outcome or hinge his belief on the outcome on his view of God’s favor for him. He simply allows God to do what he things is best in situation and pours himself in to doing his best.

Too often we confuse faith in God with the idea that we deserve something from Him. We think that because we love Him, he must or should do something. God is a good god and He is always working for our best interest. However, He is not a force we can manipulate or connive. He doesn’t operate out of guilt. He is a sovereign God (meaning he’s the boss), and He will do what is best for all His children for all of time. That may or may not line up with your selfish outlook on what he should or shouldn’t do.

God will do what seems good to Him, and we are to do our best. We are to step into the role and circumstances that we find ourselves in and let go of the outcome. However it turns out, it’s the good outcome. Sometimes, it might be easier to accept that than others. It’s our faith in God that allows us to see past our limited circumstances to accept His goodness because of who He is and what He’s accomplishing.

The outcome for Joab, by the way, was the fleeing of the entire army before him. Then, after the enemy gathered even more men to attack with, David came with all of Israel and defeated them so soundly that the paid soldiers were too afraid to attack David anymore (v. 19). That’s God working for the good of his people: He’s working toward our ultimate win, not just momentary relief.

Rejoicing at what the Lord Says - Nehemiah 8:12

Hearing, Believing, and Changing

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. … And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” … And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. – Nehemiah 8:1, 9-10, 12 ESV

Nehemiah was a prophet who lived in the time that the Babylonian exile ended. At the time that the exiles were returning to Jerusalem, he had been in the court of the king in Babylon. But, when he heard that Jerusalem was destroyed and walls in ruins, he gave up his high position and went back to help rebuild the city. Part of what Nehemiah did for the people was to teach them about the Law of Moses. Over the seventy years of captivity and exile, the habits and traditions around keeping the law had fallen away.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we see the effect that the renewing of the laws and traditions had on the people. Ezra the scribe was asked to read the Law of Moses to the people. As they heard it being read, clearly and so they could understand it, the people started weeping. Nehemiah and the Levites reminded them that this is a time of joy, not weeping. They said, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” (v. 9). In verse 12, it explains a little more what the people were going through, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions [to the poor] and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

I love this story! Everything is here that shows us what we need to do to make changes happen and stick in our lives is here. These parts are

  • Knowledge and Understanding
  • Connection
  • Supporting leadership
  • Willingness to obey

The first part has two elements to it: knowledge and understanding. The people weren’t being rebellious or defiant; they simply didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. Nehemiah doesn’t try to correct behavior first thing. He knows that they have to know the truth of God and be taught it. It might seem like splitting hairs to say that knowledge and understanding are different, but the nuance of them is captured in the part that says, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” (v.8 NIV). They didn’t just put the words out there and tell the people to start a Bible study if they didn’t understand it. They explained it in such a way that they understood what they heard. They now had the knowledge of the law and the understanding of it as well.

The second piece of this is connection. Religion is an abstract concept. It is an idea that we can’t always define quickly and easily. These abstract concepts include things like: there’s a powerful being who is intelligent and loving, but invisible and intangible, and ideas like love, mercy and justice. Even if the intangible is acknowledged, it can be difficult to apply this knowledge to our lives, or, said another way, to care about it. To take all these things and believe that they are real and important enough to be willing to change our lives for is a huge step of faith.

This step of faith can only happen when something connects us with the truth that’s in the knowledge we’ve gained. Knowledge alone isn’t enough, in most cases, to change a person or commit their steps to a path that will cost them personally with no earthly gain in site. That kind of belief is found only in the presence of the Lord. Only when we accept the words of understanding and allow them to connect us to His Spirit. This is why the people wept, because they were so overwhelmed with the Spirit that they felt the connection to Him deeply and personally.

The next piece of this story is the supportive leadership shown by Nehemiah and the Levites. All of Israel is gathered here and is crying. I imagine that some of the Levites were a bit overwhelmed by the people’s response. Thousands of people crying would be intimidating! Fortunately, Nehemiah knew what was happening and knew how to support the people as the Spirit was working in them.

He offered them a day to celebrate the goodness of God while they absorbed the love and knowledge they’d gained. He sent them home, telling them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (v. 10). The first time you feel the moving of the Spirt, you might not know how to handle it. Nehemiah is given them the opportunity to enjoy the moment and to have a good meal (eat the fat) and make sure the poor in the group can enjoy a good meal as well.

The final part of this is the willingness to obey. In the next section of chapter 8 and 9, Nehemiah and the other leaders and priests start implementing what they’ve been reading in the Law, right away, no wasted time! The people celebrate and rejoice in this and join in wholeheartedly.

When we’ve been brought into a new understanding of God’s truth, we need to be willing to step into obedience as well, without hesitation and with wholehearted devotion. This is the only way we can see the true change in us: hear it, understand it, celebrate it (leaders support it), and do it.

Feed me with what I need - Proverbs 30:8

Enough Is Enough

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV

Proverbs 30:7-9 shows us the troubles of both not having our needs meet and having too much stuff in our lives. On the one side, not having enough tempts us to get what we need in whatever way we can. The flip of that is that we tend to trust in ourselves and our stuff when we have more than what we need.

The desire of the author is to be content with what he has, saying, “Feed me with the food that is needful for me.” In order to be satisfied with what we have, we have to know and believe one thing, what we have is what we need. Or, perhaps, we will have what we need.

So many things in our lives distract us from what is truly needed in our life. I’m not saying that, since we can live on bread and water, we should never have more than that. I personally don’t call that living. But I also know that I cling to things that I think are valuable or important but that in the end, have no lasting value.

In addition, I base my decisions and sense of comfort and stability on some underlying idea of what happened yesterday will happen today and will continue on in the future. We all do this; it’s a part of staying sane in this world. In and of itself, I don’t think it’s a wrong way to think. The problem comes in when we limit our future to what we know and can see. The future is a big unknown and trying to mold it and manipulate it into our way of thinking only ends in disappointment.

God holds our days and knows our steps (Job 14:5). We can fully rely on and trust Him to provide for whatever is coming our way. In fact, fighting Him about what we need or don’t need only ends with us having to learn the hard way that He knew what He was doing the whole time.

I recently read a fantastic example of this on Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience. Her son had some difficult health issues recently and she talks in her entry about the struggle and pain, but also joy and growth that comes through that.

God knew this would happen. He knows what will happen and knows the length and quality of Ann’s son’s life. He isn’t surprised or disappointed by the diagnosis her son received. Ann says this, “Grieving how plans change — is part of the plan to change us.” Just because tomorrow brings unexpected news to us doesn’t mean God won’t be there every step of the way. He will provide what is needful for us today, tomorrow and forever.

Be Humble and Be Glad - Psalm 34:2

Humility and Faith

My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. – Psalm 34:2 ESV

[Note: This is my 100th blog post! I can’t believe I’ve been able to do this. I thought I’d get tired and give up on this a long time ago. Thank you so much for reading! It means a lot to me!]

In an article called Faith is not a Feeling, author Ney Bailey talks about her journey to understanding what faith is.

“After reading and rereading the passage, with all its references to the phrase “by faith,” I began to see that all the people mentioned had one thing in common: No matter whom the writer of Hebrews was talking about, each person had simply taken God at His word and obeyed His command. And they were remembered for their faith….

Through my study of these three passages, I had arrived at a simple, workable definition of faith: Faith is taking God at His word.”[1]

I love this idea of faith defined so simply and I realized that humility can be looked at in a similar way. “Humility is accepting God’s word about who I am.” Humility is an act of faith in regard to who you are. It’s not trying to be anything else than what He created you to be, or do anything else than He is asking you to do.

Faith, while seemingly simple, is very difficult to live out because it requires two things of us: hearing God’s word and accepting it. With all the conflicting voices and ideas demanding our time and attention it is a choice to listen to God and a choice to accept it, no matter what else we hear.

Humility is the same way. There are many things that we hear about ourselves. There are messages around us about what makes us valuable and what or who we should be striving to be.  We have to choose to listen and accept what God says about us in His Word and choose to act and live based on those truths.

Humility keeps us from becoming prideful. It allows us to stay on our knees before the Lord without succumbing to false humility of self-degradation. God doesn’t want us to abase ourselves or grovel like a worm. He wants us to remember who He’s told us we are. To hold to that and let Him teach us more and more about Him and ourselves so He can lift us up and bless us.

When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. – Psalm 69:32 ESV

[1] Bailey, Ney. “Faith Is Not a Feeling.” Starting With God. Web. 23 Jan. 2016. <>.

Jesus Brings Life - John 6:35

Facing His Words

John chapter 6 shows us an example of what happens when God calls us into a deeper relationship with him. Some will respond and come closer to him, but some will leave because of the very truth that’s calling them. In this passage, we see the reason that many Christians get stuck in their walk with the Lord and we see the only way that we can climb out and walk in new paths with Him.

In John 6, Jesus does two major miracles and preaches an intense sermon. The first miracle if the feeding of 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and two fish (vs. 1-13). Then, after escaping the crowd that wanted to king Him, He walks on water to the boat His twelve disciples are in and transports it instantly to the far shore (vs. 16-21). After the crowd finally finds Him, He preaches them an intense sermon promising them eternal life if they believe.

The response to this intense time is summed up in verse 66, “After this many disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” There it is. They left Him. He turned fives loaves and two fishes into a meal for 5,000 people, walked on water, instantly transported a boat with people on it, and gave a powerful sermon. As a result, he loses the devotion of many of His followers. What about what he said that drove many away? Why did they so quickly vanish when Jesus had just demonstrated his power over nature, food and sea alike?

There are three things combined in this passage that we need to understand the impact of in order to be able to better understand the struggle and to apply this truth to our lives.

  1. Our motivation

First we see the people’s motivation. In verse 15, they were all ready to take Jesus and make Him be their king. But less than a day or so later, they not only have backed down from that, they have given up following Him as well. What changed is this: they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to be a hand-out all the time kind of leader. They had just had their bellies filled with no work and with a miracle! I’d love to have that kind of blessing all the time, too. However, Jesus wasn’t coming to fulfill our selfish desires.

We want God to give us what we want when we want it. When we feel like God is pouring out blessings on us, we are in a great mood! We feel “close” to Him and feel holier and more loved. Then, the blessing stops. Does our devotion stop as well? Does taking away the blessings show ugly spiritual selfishness?

The people in Jesus’s time were motivated by the wrong things. We must know our motivation for having a relationship with God. Do you love remember what God will give you or do for you? Do you focus on what you’re going to be getting out of this relationship? Do you feel anxious when you can’t see the end of a struggle or don’t get a result you want? Be careful, you might be treading in the land of selfish spirituality.

God loves to bless his children and He knows how to give good gifts. But receiving those gifts shouldn’t be the motivating factor for why you are in this relationship. You should be in this relationship because you know the one true God and are willing to serve Him and nothing else.

This is a position that we grow into. When I first committed my everyday life to the Lord, I did so because He was pouring out His love for me. Like a newborn baby that required everything to be done for it, my spirituality was very needy, requiring help from both God and from the people around me. But, if a thirty year old, fully-capable adult demands to be treated like a newborn, we consider them delusional.

Spiritual growth is very similar. It’s alright to be needy and seek blessings when we are first learning to walk with the Lord. But, please, don’t stay there. Grow and learn and try to accept that God is a great and powerful leader who knows what’s best for all people, not just you. Let go of your need for blessing and step into the grown up spirituality of accepting God’s work in you, no matter how it may look or feel.

  1. Our knowledge

Some in this crowd knew Jesus, or at least knew His earthly family, and they doubted because they couldn’t accept the incarnate, divine truth of Jesus. We do the same thing many times when God is calling us to go deeper in Him. We take His call and we apply our personal experience and knowledge to the situation and try to understand it. We are finite and small and have only one small perspective on everything. We very often don’t have the knowledge we need to accept and walk in all the truth that God calls us to, at least at first.

We often have to step outside of what we are comfortable with and can easily define and learn to believe in a deeper way. After we’ve experienced it, we can articulate it and understand it. It’s only when we are inexperienced in an area that we feel uncomfortable with it.

Walking with God is a path and we are traveling down it daily. We have to be willing to keep moving forward and trusting Him as our guide. Second guessing your navigator when you’re deep in the woods and you don’t know how to get out is not a wise decision. This doesn’t mean you accept anything that contradicts the Word, of course, but don’t let your belief in your own experiences trump your belief in God’s guidance and call.

  1. Our limitations

By spelling out Himself, His work and the cost of following Him (eating His body and drinking His blood, v. 56), Jesus found out the limitations of His followers beliefs. Often in life we have intentions of what we’ll believe. We say, “I’ll follow Him forever!” but then the road gets rough and we want to sit down by the side of the road and nap, not follow Him forever. We say, “I believe every word of the Bible” but when it contradicts our friends, we fudge it and ignore the bits we don’t like.

Every time we are called by God to walk deeper, He puts us in a place where we have to live what our words said. We have committed our lives to Him in word and in intention, but He calls us to commit in action. Being loyal is easy when things are good. The team is winning, so you’re a fan. The team hasn’t won in a decade, and you wouldn’t admit to even owning a t-shirt, let alone attend a game.

Loyalty happens no matter whether things are good or bad, but loyalty is strengthened when you choose to stay true when it would be easier to quit. This is what Jesus’s words showed in His followers. They intended to be loyal, but the first challenge broke their intention and they found an easier route.

The Ones Who Stayed

Jesus’s twelve disciples didn’t fall away when Jesus’s words became difficult to understand or accept. The difference in their response is this, “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.” They had known and experienced the truth of who Jesus was. Their loyalty to God came from a place of experiencing the truth of Jesus and choosing it no matter what. They weren’t swayed by the mass exodus of the other followers, because their loyalty was based on the experience of the truth of Jesus, not their hope for personal comfort.