Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Entrusted: King of the Misfits

Have you ever noticed that I Samuel's account of David in exile sounds a lot like the character of Robin Hood? Take a look at the following passages. First, he goes into exile. Then a crowd of men begin to gather about him:
David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul,[a] gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. I Samuel 22:1-2
 Sounds an awful lot like he's accumulated his "merry men". And then he gains a "friar Tuck":
20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 22 And David said to Abiathar..., 23 "Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” I Samuel 22:20, 22a, & 23
There's also an antagonist in this story whose attitude is similar to that of the Sheriff of Nottingham:
And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. I Samuel 23:8
Chasing, chasing, Saul constantly chasing David....

Do you believe me now that David and Robin Hood are some sort of historical twins? (Born several hundred years apart, I know, but hey- they might as well be!) Pretty cool, huh?

Lately David has been on my mind a lot. I'm currently reading through the Old Testament again and have been taking my time through David's story. There are still so many things about him that amaze me. Things like how flawed he was. I mean, he got a whole bunch of priests and all their family member's killed because he used them to escape from Saul! And he abandoned his first wife, seeming to forget all about her the whole time he was on the run. Then he married another woman. And another.... He even committed adultery and murder,

And yet, these things don't disqualify him from kingship in God's eyes. In fact, He even goes so far as to call David "a man after my own heart". Wow. That's so encouraging for us! If David (who REALLY messed up, by the way) could still be loved and used by God, then so can we.

But that's not what I want to focus on right now. Today my thoughts have not been on his character so much as his kingship.

By the time chapter 22 of I Samuel rolls around, David has had the promise of becoming king following him around like a shadow for what has to be years. He was only a boy when anointed. Now, as he flees from Saul and men gather around him, he's known as a fierce warrior. I'm sure he's put on quite a bit of muscle and a few inches since the oil was poured on his head. He's also grown a little more refined because of his stay in the palace. He's had a taste of the good life. But now... now he's living in caves. His life is that of a hunted man. The comforts of the palace couldn't be more distant. And probably the shining promise of being king seems more like a dream than a possible reality.

And yet... who are these people that gather around him? Are they tax payers? Probably not. Do they pledge their allegiance to the tyrant king named Saul? I seriously doubt it. Who is it they follow without question? Who is it they trust to take care of them and would give their lives for? It's David. David, the Boy Who Would Be King... Someday. Or maybe that day came sooner than he thought. Because weren't these men following him like they would a king?

All hail David, King of the Misfits.

Sure, maybe a pile of rocks wasn't the throne he was hoping for. Maybe his warrior's helm wasn't a crown of gold. Maybe the cave didn't exactly look (or smell) like a palace.

But this was the kingdom God had given him. 

After Saul stopped hunting him the first time, David had the chance to return home. No one would have disputed his right to live in the palace and take his place once again as the King's son-in-law. In fact, I bet it was expected. But David took one look at those following him and he did something that probably no one expected: he chose the misfits. 
Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. I Samuel 24:22b
You see, I believe David understood that his kingdom might not have been complete and it might not have been what God ultimately had for him, but it was there. It was the task set before him in the moment. He knew he'd been entrusted with the care of his ragtag group and he wasn't about to walk away from that until God told him it was time. These people needed him to keep them in line and safe. They needed his wisdom and faith. Without him... who knows? Maybe they would have become a band of robbers, plundering indiscriminately.

What does this have to do with us? Think about the people in your life. Who are the ones that have been entrusted to your care? Who are your band of "misfits"? Maybe they're people from work or school. Or maybe they're your children or youth group. Everyone has someone who needs them and looks up to them, even if it's only in a small way. I do, you do. We all do. We just have to open our eyes to see them. 

So own up to it! Step up to the plate. Look around and take ownership of the weight of leadership and shepherding that has been placed upon you. If it's only in a small way with your little band of "merry men", then great! Start there. Because I can guarantee that your "kingdom" will not always be those people and probably will not stay that small. This, right here and right now, is your training grounds. Just like it was for David.

Just remember: being a leader doesn't mean that there isn't anyone above you. You may be "King" or "Queen" of your band, but whether you realize it or not you are also a member of someone else's. There will always be someone who you look up to and emulate. It's not a bad thing. Use that. Observe those people. Be teachable. And even if you don't have someone like that right now in your life, remember this:

You may be King of the Misfits, but that doesn't make you High King. Someone much more powerful than you holds that title.

Think about it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Facebook Crack Down

For years Facebook has had a rather nonsensical approach to posts and pages. Many of them that should be taken down, never are. But harmless, although contradictory, Christian memes are removed because enough people decided they were "offensive". (I'd like to see how many non-religious posts they find offensive but don't bother to notify Facebook about, but that's for another discussion.)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Facebook has decided it's time to clean house. Recently my sister's work place sued a past employee for misconduct and slander. The person had been making their lives miserable by keeping control of the company's Facebook page (among other things), so out of a desire to keep their company's reputation intact, they asked Facebook for help. When FB did nothing, they reluctantly started a new page. It did well for a while and things seemed to be alright, aside from occasional harassment from the ex-employee. But then things went terribly wrong.

Facebook shut them down.

And I don't mean just the page. Facebook apparently had received "complaints" from a certain employee about their social media conduct. And I guess it must have been too much trouble to figure out who the guilty parties were or to wait for the law suit concerning both parties to be over, so they shut down the page AND the personal Facebook accounts. I don't know if the ex-employee's was, but my sister's and her fellow employee's were (they were both admins on the company page). At around the same time, my sister was made aware of several other pages and accounts that received similar treatment. When she tried contacting Facebook about the mistake, they made it abundantly clear that she would never be getting her account back. She lost everything: pictures, school and professional contacts, personal contacts.... Basically she was cut off entirely without notice.

Now, I'm not saying that Facebook is the bad guy here. If anything, it's the ex-employee out to get the company. Because of her anger, two people and a business have been declared dead to the Facebook world. Sure they could probably open new accounts under different names, but their whole history (both the meaningless and the important) is gone. It's such a huge loss that my sister has no desire to return to the Facebook world, so those of you who know her will have to go the extra mile if you want to stay in contact. (*Gasp!) 

Because Facebook is a free social media outlet, I get that they might not have the time to investigate every case that comes their way. And when they have time, they're probably more concerned about striking each case off the list as quickly as possible. All the time we hear about how FB is working to create a safer virtual world by shutting down drug and child trafficking and terrorist sites. But when it happens to someone close to you, you begin to realize that none of us are "safe". All it takes is someone with a grudge and a computer and your social web life is toast.

So why am I telling you all this? It's not so that you will have an excuse to hate on Facebook or leave it. I'm warning you so that you can do what my sister wishes she could have: make copies of everything. Download all of your photo albums (there's an easy way to do this now). Save those "saved" websites on your web browser, not your FB account. Learn the basic Don'ts so you stay out of "Facebook Jail". (Yes, "jail" is for businesses, but you can get caught, too, if you don't follow the rules.) Make sure you have only people you trust friend-ed on your account-- especially as co-admins on a business or fan page! And beware how you comport yourself not only for you, but for your family and friends. You never know if something could get messed up, taking down you and someone else.

All of this has gotten me to thinking: if I had known how involved Facebook would be with my life, would I still be a part of it a decade later? Would I have even signed up for it at all? Maybe it's time to cut some ties of my own, even if it's removing useless junk from my feed. What about you? How has Facebook invaded your life? And does the good outweigh the bad? Either way, stay safe out there in virtual space, my friends, because one thing's for sure: where the intangible is concerned, nothing is certain.

Think about it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Clockwork Heart: Are You Real?

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

Have you ever heard the story of the Clockwork Heart? No? It's the story of a couple who were very much in love, so much so that their favorite past time was to dance the hours away, gazing into one another's eyes. One day, a tragedy struck, taking the wife. The husband because of his grief over the loss of his "heart", decided to remake her out of cogs and springs. For months, maybe even years, he worked, trying to bring her back. In the end, there she stood before him, a nearly perfect copy. But all he could see was a creation of his own hands: a clockwork heart.

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

For the past few months I've been studying the life of Moses. He had it rough. I mean, if anyone deserved a vacation, he did. What a fickle people he led! How childish they were! How exhausting was their complaining. It seemed like no matter what happened, how faithful and selfless he was and how merciful God was, they always rebelled.

It amazes me that throughout history God's people could go from following Him to worshiping idols in the span of a single generation. And it happened several times, one of which was immediately after the death of Joshua:
 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. (Judges 2:10-12 ESV)
Wow. Admittedly, the ones who "forsook" the LORD were their children and grandchildren, but you'd have thought that all the stories heard directly from the mouths of those who were there would have made a difference.

An even better example is that of the golden calf:
       When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him,Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”  (Exodus 32:1,4,5 ESV)
Wow. All Moses had to do was turn his back on the people and they were already worshiping their own version of "the LORD".

So what's my point? Well, it seems to me that in both these instances the people followed God as long as they were being watched. Once the truly faithful were removed from their presence, their true nature came out. Their devotion and "hearts of flesh" turned out to be an imitation-- just a ticking clock.

A real heart beats. It's alive. It feels. It understands. But a clockwork heart, though a pretty device, is not the real thing. A clockwork heart cannot give life. It cannot make you truly care. It cannot love.

It is dead.

Too many people in the Bible seemed to believe in and follow the LORD, but in the end proved just to be conforming to those around them. When given the chance, they gave up pretending.

And, as much as we would like to believe that this was an Old Testament problem, it's not. In fact, it is extremely active in the church today. There are many people who grew up in a believing family, surrounded by church-goers, who heard the Gospel from the time they were little, and who still don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Their heads understand, but their hearts are inactive. They are the quiet tick lost among the beats.

It's easy to recognize a dead heart or "a heart of stone", but not so easy to discern the hidden machine from the real thing since more often than not, they're not the ones we are looking for. In the church, we encourage evangelism and "reaching out to the lost". But what if the lost are sitting right here, in our midst, the whole time? What if it's your sister? Your best friend? Your Sunday school teacher?

Or is it you?

Do you avoid self evaluation? (One of the best books I've read that does this is Wasted Faith by Jim Elliff.) Do you find yourself comparing your righteousness to others? Are you hard-pressed to find faults in yourself? Do you wonder if you have to follow everything the Bible says? Do you pick and choose what to believe, writing certain Biblical commands off as "cultural differences"?

Maybe, if you are honest, you will say yes to one or all of these. If so, I'd encourage you to start investigating. Pull out that heart, grab a magnifying glass, and really look to see if it is what it seems to be. If it is, praise the Lord! Maybe you just have a few things to work on. If it's not, then get concerned: just because your family and friends are Believers doesn't make you one. As a mass murderer can hide in a neighborhood full of respectable people, so can you in a church. At the end of your life, you won't be declared righteous. You won't hear "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Instead you'll hear, "I never knew you."

I'm not saying this to scare anyone or make you doubt your salvation. On the contrary: I think we should rest in God's grace and have confidence in our Savior. But we do need to be like David, constantly seeking out our own faults, seeking change. We should be able to honestly pray with him:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
If we can't say this, then we need a change. Maybe it's because we've grown lax in our devotion.

Or maybe we need a new heart.

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

Think about it.