Thursday, January 25, 2007

Danger Zone (1 Samuel 18)

On my older sister's wedding cruise, I was snorkeling off of Grand Cayman in beautiful blue water. The wedding ceremony had been completed and the rum cake eaten. Thus, many of us changed out of our "formal" beachwear and began to swim along the surface of the water, occasionally diving below to see different kinds of fish and sea decor. You kind of get lost in the beauty and uniqueness of the water world, which unfortunately made it easy to venture far from shore.

Getting tired and realizing that we were too far out, my little sister (high school) and I decided to swim back in. I headed up our little school, soon realizing that the swim to shore was exhausting. We swam for quite a time and were barely making headway to the shore. I kept going, not wanting my little sister to get scared or give up, but inside I was beginning to worry. Three times the effort and only a portion of the distance! What I didn't realize when we went out was that we were near a forbidden swimming area. The water current was flowing in an odd direction as it neared the rip tide and created resistance for us.

We eventually made it to shore, but I learned some lessons along the way. Mostly, I learned to keep an eye out for danger zones. Those red floats had a significance that I did not personally understand, but luckily someone else was wise enough to place them there for protection.

Reading through 1 Samuel 18, I see David's gained favor among the people by God's divine direction. The young anointed one acted in wisdom and humility, while Saul's jealousy festered and spilled out through speech and action. Having lost the favor of God, and in decline as the most popular man, Saul chose to act according to a fleshly and self-centered heart. How I long for him to see the red floats indicating danger!

What do you see as red flags that Saul should be noticing and repenting of as a man of God?
1. Anger at David's success, though they are teammates (v.7)
2. Watching David with suspicion, an undeserved and insecure response (v.9)
3. Internally enraged and loss of inward peace (v.10)
4. Returning evil for good (v.11)
5. Distancing the relationship (v.13)
6. Plotting tactics for revenge (v.17,25)
7. Involving unnecessary parties in the conflict (v.22)
8. Honey words and whiskey deception (v.22)
9. Complete hardheartedness toward a brethren (v.29)

Well! That list brings more conviction that I really wanted this evening! Can we stop now? I relate with most of these danger signs. Moments earlier, I wanted Saul to see the danger signs that could have saved his life from striving against God. Now, I'm concerned for danger signs that pop up in my own relationships. Isn't it so tempting to want to involve others in our conflict by gossip? Isn't it terribly easy to talk sweet to someones face while harboring a grudge in the heart? Distancing people and hardening the heart toward someone alleviates the need for confrontation and honesty, and we set ourselves up for character decay. Maybe God knew that you and I have a lot more similarity to Saul than we recognize! We need to watch out for the danger zones, lest we begin to swim against God's tide.

My course of action tonight is this, that I begin to agree with God in the continued conviction of the Holy Spirit about sin in my life. Then, I need to begin to make things right by actively loving like I am commanded to in 1 Corinthians 13. My place under God's authority is to obey.

Being changed to look like Christ is a life-long process. We need to help one another to see warning signs like these, which takes honesty and a willingness to invest in one another like Christ did for each of us. Let's exhort and encourage one another toward the safe waters.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Five Smooth Stones (1 Samuel 17)

Then he took his staff in hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
(1 Sam 17:40, NIV)
Facing a giant has a way of shaking us down to our true selves. No matter if that giant is a large and intimidating person or an overwhelming circumstance like cancer or life transition, the reality of the challenge ahead of us dispells lofty and unrealistic thoughts. As seen in chapter 17 of 1 Samuel, David faced Goliath with a full measure of faith, but how? Can we face our challenges and fears without being dreamy-eyed and wishful, hiding our fear that God might abandon us as we step out to face the giant?
Saul originally presented David with a solution. The king's armor would be the best in the land, and it was offered to David for protection in facing Goliath. Fortunately, David was wise enough to know that armor and a sword would not be his strongest option. David was not trained in fighting with armor. He spent years in the fields with flocks, protecting his sheep from predators. Out in the wilderness, a sword and shield was of no use when a bear or wild cat attempted to feast on the flock. A sling and a staff were David's normal mode of fighting off danger. He was wise to turn down Saul's armor in favor of using the sling. David chose to go to battle with the tool that God had allowed him to be trained in.
To further prepare for the battle, David had to select five appropriate stones. Down to the stream he went, carefully choosing his basic, simple ammunition. Shapely and smooth, David placed the stones into his shepherd's bag. Thus, David was ready to face Goliath.
Are you prepared to face your giant?
What I learn from David is the need to consider wisely the method I use to seek out victory. My current "giant" is the pursuit of a seminary education. It is a very large goal - financially, in terms of time and energy, and in the sacrifices it requires. As I progress through this goal, I may need to be reminded of the sling and the stones that I carry. For future encouragement, I decided to name five smooth stones that God has given me to seek victory in my goal:
1. I belong to Him. I bear His name.
I am no orphan in any challenge that I face. God is with me and has named me with his own glorious name. Together we are facing this giant.
2. God is faithful.
He will continue toward His will through my life. He will continue to love me. He does not change.
3. Words of God
In my grasp I have the Words of God to encourage me, to remind me, to nurture me, and to direct me in knowing Him. They are a lifeline for my soul.
4. A passion to cummunicate the treasure of Him
I am convinced that my life's work will be to communicate to others the treasures found in God through Christ. I am driven toward it, and have not built this passion on my own. It wells up within me and is purposed to come out. Therefore, I will continue to build my skills in knowing Him and revealing the treasure of Him to others.
5. The body of believers
I am surrounded by a great body of believers in this world. Together we face our giants, encouraging, praying for, and supporting one another. We will endure.
I am ready to face my giant. I gain strength from knowing that using these five stones is nothing new. I have been practicing and using them in the wilderness for many years. To me they are familiar and a strength by which to trust God in this new seminary challenge.
Are you ready to face your giant? Have you taken the time to remember what God has already equipped you with as you fight for victory in your current battle? Someone else's armor will do you no good. Get alone and choose with God five smooth stones that will remind and challenge you toward greater faith in Him.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R). Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The End

We finished our 1 Samuel Bible study this week! Sung-Jin returned to South Korea and Mu-Chia is still in the USA from Taiwan. The other two are full blooded Texans! Thank you faithful ladies for treasuring the Lord with me this past semester.

My writings will progress throughout the whole book of 1 Samuel, though I have taken a momentary break after chapter 16. More to come soon!