Dear Bathsheba…

04-David-and-Bathsheba

Source: http://oldandnewproject.com

Dear Bathsheba,

I thought I knew your story, until I read your story.  I had heard your story my whole life but I never took the time to fully read and comprehend your story. For that I am sorry.  I am sorry because having finally read your story, I realize that we have treated you unfairly. We have painted a portrait of you that bears no resemblance. We have called you “the adulteress”, “the harlot”, “the seductress”, “immodest” and a host of other erroneous descriptions that do not fit you or tell your story correctly.

I cannot even imagine how you felt the night everything changed.  How were you supposed to know the King was even home when he was supposed to be at war (2 Samuel 11:1)? For the record, I have no reason to believe that you did anything to elicit his attention that night.  You were and are a victim of abuse at the hands of someone you thought you would be able to trust. A man you thought had more respect for himself, his people, even one of his own mighty men Uriah (2 Samuel 23:39), and his God. Who knew that the man after God’s own heart would squeeze God out in order to take advantage of his position and power just to spend a few moments with you? Yet, that is exactly what happened. You were violated, you were raped, then, to cover up his dirt, this same man had your husband killed and was the cause of your baby’s death.

One impulsive, lustful act transformed you from being a law abiding woman (2 Samuel 11:4) into a wounded widow who eventually became another fixture in the King’s long list of wives. You did not deserve that and you do not deserve to be treated like we have done throughout history via Sunday school stories, sermons, works of art, film or any other medium. We owe you a huge apology and I personally want to admit my guilt in having believed (in ignorance) a lie.

Your story is a far too common story and it should not and does not have to be that way. You too bear the image of our Creator and should be regarded just as precious as anyone else. Especially, from those of us who have been given the charge to lead. You are not a second-class citizen of the Universe. You are not collateral and you are not property. You are a woman, created and loved by God for his eternal purpose.

My intent in this letter then is threefold: 1) to apologize for how we have treated you and your story and for allowing David’s “greatness” to overshadow his sinfulness; 2) to affirm your value and your worth as an image bearer of God; and 3) to accentuate the fact that your life did not end that night.

You may feel as if you have nothing else to live for. You may feel that the wound is too deep and the scars to visible. You may feel less than because of what happened to you.  You may question and doubt the goodness of God. Besides, how could a good God allow this to happen to you? You may feel like your life as you know it is over. You may feel like life is not worth living. You may feel like you can never love or be loved again. You may feel like you are alone. You may feel like no one cares about your pain and your hurt. You may feel like there is no justice for Bathsheba. You may feel like it was your fault for taking a bath that night. You may feel that this is all your fault and that you deserved all of it.

I plead with you to not believe the lies and fight through the doubt.  You are not less than, you are a daughter of the Creator of the Universe. You are not alone; we see you and stand with you (I am not the only one who feels this way and acknowledge the others who share my feelings). There is a countless number of people who know your pain (experientially) and feel your pain (compassionately).  It is not your fault, none of it.  I do not know why God allowed it to happen to you, but I can say that God has a way of turning tragedy into triumph.  I say that not to downplay or trivialize your experience, but to offer you hope. Your life didn’t end that night. David did not put the final punctuation mark on your life when he hurt you. He is but a man, but God is one with the pen in his hand and I can assure you that the night you were raped, that was not the end of your sentence.  In fact, this is truly how the sentence of your life reads, “And on that night Bathsheba was raped, but God.”

Who knows what will happen next?  Perhaps you will get the justice you deserve.  Perhaps, you will continue to trust God in and with your time of grief and healing . Perhaps, God will use your story to show others His goodness despite the tragic circumstances they face. Perhaps, God will even use you to usher in a greater a Kingdom; a Kingdom with no end.  I can see it now, “Bathsheba, the great-great-great-great-great…grandmother of the King of Kings!”

Hold on to life, hold on to God. It won’t always be like this.

Sincerely,

Terry

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Resolved: A Resolution for the Ages

New Year

Millions of people have already started planning and mapping out how 2014 is going to be different from 2013.  If it hasn’t happened already, people will be making lists and checking them twice to make sure 2014 is their best year yet.  I know you’re probably thinking I’m about to start bashing resolutions; well, I’m not. Go ahead. Make your list. In fact, I will make one myself. There are definitely some areas in my life that I would like to see treated differently  in the coming year.

I do also know that for a lot of people, January 1st is just another day on the calendar and they have nothing to really look forward to, work toward or work at. I honestly think this type of person is in a more dangerous place than those who make resolutions (even if they’re not always kept). I say, this cautiously and with all sincerity, “if you have no one or nothing to live for, you are missing out on life!” You are stuck.

On the contrary, the reality for most of us is that we set resolutions and somewhere in February or March, we get discouraged, fall off the wagon or forget about the resolutions altogether and find ourselves stuck too. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of being stuck; especially when it comes to my relationship with God and the life that I live in Him. I’m ready for change and I want to continue the process God started in me years ago when I first believed; today.

So whether you make yearly resolutions or not, I’m here to invite you and dare I say challenge you (re)prioritize that list or at least have this ONE thing on your list. TO RUN A RACE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD.

The Call to Endurance

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnare us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (emphasis mine, Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB)

The Letter to the Hebrews is a masterpiece and one of the most intriguing books of the Bible. Partially, because no one is sure who wrote it. These five words sum up the letter, “Christ is better; trust Him.”  The first 10.5 chapters of this book talk about how:

  • Christ is better than the angels
  • Christ is better than Moses and the Mosaic Law
  • Christ offers and provides sure rest and salvation for the people of God

Then, in Hebrews 10:19-23, the writer says:

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (emphasis mine, HCSB)

In other words, in response to who Christ is and what He has accomplished on our behalf, our response is to move toward God and to live for him; by FAITH.  It is by faith that we approach God and live lives that are pleasing to Him. The writer even gives us examples (Hebrews 11) of people who have displayed and lived by faith to which God deemed their lives pleasing.

For the sake of this post, we’ll define faith as the ESV study Bible defines it:

  • A settled assurance or confidence that something in the future – something that is not yet seen but has been promised by God – will actually come to pass because God will bring it about.

Then finally, in Chapter 12 we come to our text and the writer tells us that in light of what pleases God (“faith”, see Hebrews 11:6) and the OT examples given in Chapter 11, we should resolve to live our lives the same way; or as he puts it, we should “run the race set before us.”

I see five things in the opening two verses of Hebrews 12 that give insight into what it takes to “run the race”:

  1. Embrace the fact that IT IS POSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD WITH OUR LIVES.
  • The “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in v. 1 are there to remind us that ordinary people (just like us) with faults, failures, dreams and hopes were all approved by God not so much because what they did was so great, but because of their faith (see Hebrews 11:2).  Their actions flowed out of hearts that trusted God (albeit not perfectly) and since they were able to live lives worthy of God’s approval, we can do it too; by faith.  No matter how sordid yours and my past is, no matter how much we may have blown it in 2013, we have the opportunity to run on by faith in such a way that would be pleasing to God.  We can start today.

2.  Realize that there is a PATH MARKED OUT FOR EACH OF US.

  • Each of us will receive (have received) different assignments from God and experience different trials and obstacles, but the goal is the same; finish the race.  Let me encourage you by reminding you that there is purpose for your life and God wants to do things uniquely through you for your good and His glory. You are not here by accident.  You are not still here by accident.  Maybe you gotten off course and it feels like you’re out of the  race or maybe you’re stuck at the start line and clueless about what is supposed to happen next.  Maybe these few questions will help stir up something inside of you that will cause you to start running (again):
    • What is it that God has been calling you to?
    • What is it that you have given up on because you didn’t trust God?
    • What is it that you are running away (in a negative sense) from?
  • Don’t go into 2014 with a sideline mentality when God is inviting you to draw near to Himself.  God is inviting you and all of us to a deeper and fuller relationship.  God is wanting to make us Disciples that He is pleased with.  GET (BACK) IN THE RACE!

3.  Do away with ANYTHING that keep you from RUNNING WELL.

  • The writer mentions two things that we have to cast off in order to run well, weight and sin.
  • Weight – burdens, baggage and stuff that is not necessarily sinful but can (and often do) keep us from running towards and for God.  What is it that you have been carrying with you for the last ____ years? Who or what has been holding you back from fully pursuing, trusting and serving God?  If you have ever watched a track meet you would have noticed that runners try to limit themselves to wear/carry only what is necessary during a race.   So it should be with us.  Besides, there are enough natural obstacles and trials that we have to face in this life anyways.
  • Sin that so easily ensnare us – that which is done wrong and/or everything that is offensive to God and in violation of His law.  The picture painted in this phrase is that there are sinful thoughts and patterns that we allow to “skillfully encircle and surround” us to the point that we cannot advance in a positive way.  The phrasing also suggests that we know exactly what these things are and the reason they keep us from advancing is because we refuse to renounce and free ourselves of the very sinful thoughts and patterns that Christ has already set us free from.  So again, the question must be asked; what is it that it is time to get rid of?  This is not a call to sinless perfection but an exhortation to take sin seriously and to continually be yielding to the Spirit of God and at the same time, dying to our flesh.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh,  for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (emphasis mine, Romans 8:12-13).”  The famous phrase by John Owen comes to mind here: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you!”

4.  Stay COMMITTED.

  • The Greek word used in v.1 is often translated in English to mean “steadfastness”, “patience”, “endurance”, “constancy”, “perseverance”.  According to Thayer’s Lexicon however, when used in the NT, it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.  Great runners are great because they train and are dedicated to the sport and the goal.  Even in bad weather or through injuries, great runners keep running.  When things are going well, they run.  When things are unfavorable, they keep running.  Friend, whether 2013 was great or not so great, resolve to keep running.

5.   Give Jesus your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.

  • As much as we can draw from and take encouragement from the great “cloud of witnesses”, the writer makes it very clear that in order to successfully run the race of life, we must focus intently on Jesus.   The word used here literally means to look away from every other object and focus intently on something else.  In this case, that something is not some thing, but someone; Jesus.  He is the foundation and basis of our faith and our prime example of what it looks like to truly trust the Father and live for Him.  The race He ran, He ran to perfection.  He is the standard, but not only that, He is our source of strength and life (John 4:14, 15:5).  He is our hope (1 Peter 1:3).  He is our confidence (Philippians 3:7-11).  He is our help (Psalm 46:1-3).  He is our salvation (Acts 4:11-12, Rev. 19:1-2).  He is our victory (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).  He has made it possible for us to run a race pleasing to God through His life, death, resurrection and empowering presence (through the Spirit).  He has set us free.  Free to worship/serve.  Free to trust.  Free to live.  FREE TO RUN.

So as 2014 begins there’s only three things left to do: Get on your mark. Get setGO!

Off to the races,

Terry

Ps. Check out the sermon from which this post was derived from:
Let Us Run This Race!

Embracing Overwhelmed-ness

First off, I’m not sure overwhelmed-ness is a real word but I am rolling with it.

Like most people I go through seasons where everything is going smoothly; work (auditing) isn’t too hectic, ministry is clicking on all cylinders (for lack of a better phrase), relationships aren’t too dysfunctional and I am tiptoeing through the tulips. Then there are times when I wonder why my employers even hired me? Why would God call me to Pastor? Why would these people let me Pastor them? Who decided down is up and up is down and left me out of the loop? Why aren’t there more hours in the day? Why is my metabolism working at a snail’s pace? Why is everyone enjoying relationships except me? Why am I so overwhelmed?

As of today, I’m not sure if I am going into the latter season or coming out of it, but I sense something. I may even be right in the middle of that season; in fact, I know I am. I am overwhelmed. Yes, I just full on processed my feelings in the middle of writing this.

So yesterday I drove from San Diego to La Mirada and back to San Diego in a matter of six hours for two of my jobs. I know that sounds crazy, but this is my life. I’ve done it plenty of times, but yesterday the thought of it made me feel anxious, slightly depressed and angry. I wasn’t so much upset at the fact that I have multiple jobs, but simply because it was just bad timing. There is so much going on – on one hand, and not so much on the other hand, but I’m still required to do both.   Yesterday, however, it really got to me and in my massive amounts of alone time in the car, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages:

“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations. He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.” (Psalms 61:1-8 KJV)

For the sake of this post and for the rest of this post I want to draw attention to the first four verses which end at “Selah”.

This is a Psalm of David that focuses on having and finding security in God (as noted by the heading in the HCSB translation). My aim is not to fully exegete this text, but to share how it ministered to me yesterday. As I read it multiple times and read multiple translations I kept being drawn to the word “when” in verse two. I’m not so sure that David’s heart was overwhelmed or weary or faint (words used in the different translations) at the time he wrote this. I honestly believe that he was stating a fact that there were times in his life when that was his reality and when it was, he wanted to be pointed or led to or directed to the One that he could lean on. Yes, David knew and understood that sometimes life can happen in such a way that it causes one’s heart to become weary, faint, overwhelmed or just plain weak.

It happens. It is natural. This is mankind’s plight.

In a fallen, broken world, everything is not going to go smoothly all the time. Everything is not going to go as planned all the time. There are going to be times when we are rendered powerless and confronted with our finite-ness, and that is ok.

I realized yesterday that I was beating myself up because I allowed myself to become overwhelmed as if being overwhelmed is a bad thing, or, as if I have total control over my life. Pride is so deceitful. Often times when I am overwhelmed by either throw on my superman cape and try to do everything on my own, or I become paralyzed and do nothing until the storm blows over. Both of which are terrible responses because in each case I end up handling things my way, in my strength, using my logic. Instead of being proactive like David, often times I finally turn to God when I am burned out and/or the poop has hit the fan. That’s not a good way to live and that is not the life God wants for me.

So today, I am embracing the possibility and the reality of being overwhelmed. Instead of waiting until the last-minute I am praying that in this moment and in those moments, God would continue to draw me to Himself and that He would give me the courage to rely on Him, the One, the Rock who is higher than I.

I can do this because I know from past experience, as did David, that He always delivers. He always shelters. In Him there is security. He never fails.

Selah.

Leaning on Him,

Terry

Lead Me to the Rock

Ps.  I absolutely believe we can be overwhelmed by things that are foolish and unhealthy.  This post does not speak to those things although I do firmly believe that even in those situations God invites us to Himself.

In Everything Give Thanks?

I would consider myself to be a somewhat gifted communicator.  Sometimes I can get going and stay going for an hour without pausing; especially when I know what I’m talking about.  Often times, when I get in the zone, I drop truth bombs and wisdom grenades that even catch me off guard.  Then, smack dab in the middle of talking I say something that is either in direct contradiction to everything that preceded the statement, a lie or something that sounds great but holds no value.

Sometimes when I read certain passages of Scripture I can’t help but wonder, did the authors suffer from the same condition that I do? Here’s an example of what I’m talking about…

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, he penned these words:

12 Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.

16 Rejoice always! 17 Pray constantly. 18 Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Th. 5:-22, HCSB)

Did you catch it?  Read it again; slowly.

Two statements in this passage recently stood out to me.  I mean, I’ve read the words before, but the other day as I was reflecting on this season of “Thanksgiving”, the phrases:

16) Rejoice always!

and

18) Give thanks in everything…

stood out to me like sore thumbs as if the verses had been misplaced.    Immediately questions began to formulate in my mind concerning the two verses.   Rejoice, ALWAYS? Give thanks, in EVERYTHING?

Did Paul really mean to write those words? Or was he just in the zone? Is it even possible to respond the way he exhorts his readers to?

I’m sure if you’re reading this, you and I could both create a long list of things and situations that  would not naturally cause one to rejoice and/or give thanks.  So was Paul being serious?  Should this be our response to life (not just Thanksgiving season)?

Yes; the answer is yes!!!

How do I know this?  Well, if you pluck these verses out from the larger context of the chapter they would definitely seem unreasonable, but if you read the verses in light of entire chapter (dare I say the entire letter and Scripture in general) it makes perfect sense.

Here’s why…

Paul exhorts his readers (and us) to rejoice always and give thanks in everything for two reasons;

1) Christ is coming (5:2) – Yes, the King of Glory is sure to return and in light of this truth we can rejoice because for those of us who are in Christ, we know that in Him we are eternally secure.    There’s hope in the fact that there is life beyond this life and are life is in Him.  He is our life, He is our hope.   There is life beyond our present circumstances, beyond our failures, beyond our crushed dreams, beyond our pain, beyond our persecution.

“And this is the promise that He himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 John 2:25, HCSB)

This life is not the end. Cancer is not the end.  Divorce is not the end.  Homelessness is not the end.  Why?  Because Christ promises us life; eternal.  Therefore, even in unfavorable, uncomfortable, inconvenient situations and circumstances we can choose to rejoice.  We can pursue joy.  Always.

Another definition for the Greek word used here “to rejoice” means, to be well and/or thrive.   Friends, we can be well and thrive in any situation because we know  to Whom we belong and we know that He is in control.  He is active.  He is with us.  He is coming.  The King is coming.

2) God is working (5:23-24) – Paul concludes the letter with a prayerful declaration that looks toward God’s completed work in our lives.  He prays and declares that the work started at the moment of regeneration would be brought to completion by the Faithful One who began it.  If you are a Christian, you can rest assured that God is working, transforming, purifying, making you fit for service to Him and for Him.   He is doing the work.  He is using our circumstances as tools to shape us and mold us and conform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).  Every trial and every test, every victory and every failure, every hurt and every moment of delight can be used by God for our good and for His glory.  Why? Because He is good. He is faithful.  He is in control.  He is God.

Let us therefore this season and every day of our lives,

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that Yahweh is God.
He made us, and we are His[a]
His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal;
His faithfulness endures through all generations. (Psalm 100, HCSB)

Thankfully rejoicing,

Terry