Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I wrote the following devotion for the end of Samuel/Kings/Chronicles class at The Master's Seminary. We were in 1 Samuel 16-31. I find this text warmly encouraging and convicting. I hope you do as well.
To God be the Glory!
Dr. Greg Harris
The Master’s Seminary
After David defeated the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17), the soul of King Saul’s son Jonathan “was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself” (1 Sam. 18:1). The same context states, “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt” (1 Sam. 18:3-4).
When the fearful king found out that his own son had made a covenant with one that Saul himself considered an enemy who must be destroyed, then “Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die’” (1 Sam. 20:30-31).
What a fool, thought Saul, as all the Sauls of this world continue to think. You must fight, dig, and grab for all that is yours. The utter folly of freely and willingly handing over what you possess to another always creates a nauseating repulsion in the pits of their stomachs because such a release is so alien to the Sauls of this world. “Fool! Look at what you have! Look at what you could have! The entire world lies before you ready to be enjoyed to its fullest! Fools—utter fools! To humble yourself before one who some say will one day rule over Israel. A shepherd from Bethlehem? King over all Israel? Utter folly.”
Jonathan did not reason as his hard-hearted father did. He knew—no, make that, Jonathan accepted this as God’s ordained decree; acceptance is much stronger that a simple belief that can waver. Jonathan knew that David would be king over Israel. He also knew by faith that whatever he gave up he would receive back one hundredfold, added with the unspeakable presence of his beloved friend, and with the holy blessing of God Himself.
Jonathan’s total acceptance of God’s decree repeatedly shows in his actions. Instead of bringing about David’s death, and after multiple attempts at convincing his father the king that David was no true enemy (even to Jonathan’s own peril), Jonathan went to bring the heartbreaking news to the exiled David that all was not well: it was not safe for David to return to the King Saul’s court. Yet even in the midst of his own grief at what would amount to the loss of ongoing fellowship with beloved friend, even how he brought the news to David bears witness that he looked out for his heart-friend brother: “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father shall not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD; and David stayed at Horesh while Jonathan went to his house (1 Sam. 23:16-18). Both friends departed deeply saddened that day. They both had to accept by faith in God’s Word that this once-rejected king would ultimately one day reign over what was rightfully his.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the Jonathans of this world were blessed with having a friend like David, and all the David’s of this world had a friend like Jonathan? Would it not be blissful to enter into a covenant of love relationship with so deep a friend, and to enjoy your friend’s presence as well as the holy blessing of God?
In fact, we whom the Lord redeemed already have this—and much, much more.
We who are saved (especially in this context Gentiles) have had our status eternally changed because God saw fit to enter into a covenant relation with us: “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13). No longer separated; no longer excluded; no longer strangers to the covenants of promise to those who are in Christ.
However, as good as any manmade covenant can be (such as the one Jonathan and David made), the covenants of God are always better because of our own sinful frailties and because of His own perfection. Accordingly, “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22) for those who love Him and have entered into a covenant relationship with Him.
God not only gives His beloved a better covenant with a better guarantee in Christ Jesus, but also He gives rich promises of His future reward that He will one day give. To the faithful church in Philadelphia (and all other spiritually similar who love the Lord and have not gone home to be with Him yet), Jesus exhorts: “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Rev. 2:25-29).
In the last promise given to the overcomers in Revelation 2-3, Jesus Himself promises, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21). If we had written these verses on our own accord, they would be blasphemy. The fact that Jesus makes these promises to us is sheer grace upon grace. His victory, His reward, He freely shares with those in Christ.
“I know you will be king over Israel (and all else), and I will be next to you.”
However, whoever enters into this covenant costs both parties dearly. It cost Jesus—and it costs us: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:23-28). The self-examination of our own sins—and sinfulness—is a lifetime process and the least favorite part of the covenant for many believers. However, it is foundational to those who walk with the Holy King who also shepherds us into conformity with His image as we walk with him (Rom. 8:29; 12:1-2).
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for entering into a covenant relationship with me, one much stronger than the Mosaic Covenant, with a much deeper love than David and Jonathan had.
Please take my robe—the outer visible source of how people perceive me; a symbol of my physical status. Clothe me instead with your righteousness, grace and humility (Rev. 3:5; 1 Pet. 5:5).
Please take my armor—I expose my utter frailty—and utter sinfulness—as I give it to you. I do not do this naturally, Lord. As You so fully know, this goes against my nature. Undergird me, dear Heavenly Father, and help me do this. Teach me to look to You as my shield and refuge. “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him (Ps. 18:30). “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great” (Ps. 18:35). “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him (Psa. 28:7).
“Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (Psa. 33:20).
Please take my sword and my bow—my perceived source of strength and hope for physical deliverance, I hand over to You. Teach me to know firsthand the power of God that is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:24-25), and the freefall faith that knows “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail” (1 Sam. 2:8-9). Teach me to know firsthand that “the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).
Cultivate in me the spiritual warrior’s mindset to see that my many weaknesses give you opportunity for You to show Your strength. When others come at me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin—or a mouth—help me to stand in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, for you, LORD, do not deliver by sword or by spear, for the battle is the LORD’s (1 Sam. 17:45, 47). Train me in “the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left” (2 Cor. 6:7).
Please take my belt—a source of security for me that holds everything together. Instead help me to appropriate the armor You have given me, having girded my loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which I will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. Help me to take up and implement “the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14-17). Teach me to pray as well as the tremendous value—and privilege—of prayer (Eph. 6:18).
And please, Lord, once I have fully given these to you, please teach me how not to come looking for them again. Please keep me from seeking counterfeit replacements from the enemy, the world, and from within myself, for I know by experience that I am greatly biased toward doing so.
O Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13), the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16), the Spirit and the bride are saying, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, Come!” (Rev. 22:17).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:10), for I know You will be King, and I will be next to you (1 Sam. 23:17; Rev. 2:25-28; 3:21).
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Around this time last year you spoke on the subject of suffering at my husband's (fiancee, at the time) Bible study. There was also a time of Q&A that you and Betsy were kind enough to do after. I was so deeply moved and encouraged by your testimonies that I wanted to "read on." Your book, The Cup and the Glory, was available for those interested in purchasing it. You graciously gave me a free copy after learning I had no money on me and I wanted to thank you again for that.
Planning a wedding and working overtime gave me little to no free time to read the book, so I temporarily put it aside until the appropriate time. Lonngren and I were married early January and by early March we learned we were five weeks pregnant with twins. We were ecstatic and started preparing prayerfully for them (e.g. that they would be saved at an early age, wisdom in raising them, etc).
At this point I was a full-time homemaker and finally had time to read and study The Cup and the Glory. I took my time digesting it, one page at a time. As I read through the first chapters your account of the loss of your twins came back to me. Only this time I was tuning in more, now that I was having twins. I must have read and re-read the story several times. I could not believe the magnitude of the trial, but was even more amazed that God had given you and Betsy such strength during a very painful time. I also could not help to put myself in that situation thinking that I would be absolutely devastated! Lord, would I be able to drink the cup? I wanted to be able to but, could I take it in really small doses Lord? God was working on my heart.
This spurred Lonngren and I to be praying more diligently for the Lord's will and our obedience to it. This was especially true since my first trimester was a rocky one with many false alarms. We were constantly reminded that the Lord gives and the Lord takes, and that the twins belong to God and we were only temporary caregivers. Reading your book also inspired me to do an in-depth study of First Peter, which I have had the opportunity to do. How rich it is!
This last week, my 17th week of pregnancy, I was on the last chapter of your book. While I was reading the final pages on God's glory, I put the book down to take a small break. As I stood up my water broke. I was in shock and could only cry out to my Father. Lonngren and I rushed to the hospital. Lord, please don't take our babies, I don't know if I could handle it, I would be devastated, please please don't take them! The Lord took our babies to be with Him on June 5. But before He did, at our amazement, he gave us the peace which surpasses all understanding. God poured out His grace on us that we were able to respond by submitting to His will and giving Him the glory that our twins were safely home. They are getting the royal treatment by standing in the presence of our Lord. Why would I selfishly want anything less for them by wanting them back with us on this sin-cursed earth? In a sense God had answered our prayer we had consistently prayed about saving them at a young age. He actually did better; He took them before they got to experience sin. What a privilege and blessing! Lonngren and I desparetly look forward to eternity where we will get to see them again.
So I wanted to thank you Dr. Harris and to let you know that the small gift you gave me went a long way. Apart from the deep comfort His Word brought me, the Lord knew of another book that would minister to my heart in the midst of a difficult time. I now have a greater appreciation for and understanding of the perfecting, confirming, strengthening and establishing that He is doing in me as part of His grand plan. Blessed be His name!
For His glory,