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Friday, January 31, 2014

Surreal and Sweet Small Group Meeting

I had a surreal but sweet experience last night.

The young adults Link Group at our church has been studying Resisting Gossip in their weekly meetings, and last night they invited me to come for their last discussion.

It was a bit surreal to hear them read chapter 9 together and discuss the questions that I wrote, but it was also really sweet to hear their conversation. Several times throughout the evening I thought, "That's exactly what I was hoping the discussion would sound and feel like when I wrote that!"

They also encouraged me by saying that they felt equipped now to confront gossip in their own lives and in their relationships. Praise God!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

On the Boundless Show

I thoroughly enjoyed talking about Resisting Gossip with Lisa Anderson on today's episode of the Boundless Show (our interview starts at the 25:54 mark). What a great ministry for young adults!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

60 Days Until the "Grace for the Broken" Conference

I'm looking forward to participating in this conference, both as an attendee and a speaker.

I can't believe it's only 60 days away!

In the video below, keynote speaker Ed Welch talks about the conference theme.

In my breakout session, I'll be talking about Resisting Gossip by the power of grace.
Hope to see you there!


Ed Welch Speaks About Brokenness from Foundations Christian Counseling on Vimeo.
Ed Welch, faculty member at CCEF, speaks with Jeremy Yeckley on the topic of brokenness. Both Ed and Jeremy will be featured speakers at the Grace for the Broken Biblical Counseling Conference on March 29, 2014.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pictures from the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar in Shelby Ohio

I had a terrific time on Saturday with the Christians from all over north-central Ohio who met in the frigid weather at Core Community Church for the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar. Special thanks to the four EFCA who invited me and for coordinator Josh Harpold and his team!

Here are a few pictures to give you a feel for the event:

Cool set design!

A copy of the book in the photographer's bag. Thanks, Troy Magers, for taking these great photos!

How did they do that?

Good looking kids running the booktable. (They take after their mom.)

Bad weather.

It was warm inside!

"Gossip is bearing bad news behind someone's back out of a bad heart."

Brrrr.

"Resistance is not futile!"

Attentive audience.

"The gospel defeats gossip."


Josh: "How great is our God!"

"A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue." - Proverb 17:4

Great people!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Do the Right Thing"

“Do the Right Thing”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 26, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 26:1-25

Our series is called “A Heart for the Heart of God” and it’s become about the anointed king David who is not yet king over Israel, but God has said that he will be.

And it’s also been about the anointed king Saul who has been a disappointment in just about every way. Saul has not had a heart for the heart of God, and God has promised to tear the kingdom away from him.

And in the meantime, Saul is chasing David. Relentlessly. Wrongly but relentlessly.

One anointed king is chasing the next anointed king. All around the middle east.

David who has exhibited a heart for the heart of God has been chased but not caught.

Chased but not caught.

Which we have said is like a metaphor for how difficult life can be as a follower of God. Difficult but good.

Chased but not caught.

And two weeks ago, we saw David get a chance to cut the corner and put an end to all the chasing.

King Saul was in David’s grasp, but he let him get away–on purpose. He chose to do the right thing.

David chose to do what he knew was the right thing to do, even though I’m sure it was a hard thing to do.

Well, in today’s story (chapter 26), David does it again.

Something similar happens to David a second time, and he has yet another chance to cut the corner and end the chasing once and for all.

And we’re going to see David choose again to “Do the Right Thing.”

And that will be our major application of this story to our lives today, as well.

“Do the Right Thing.”

Not just when it’s popular.
Not just when it’s easy.
Not just when you feel like it.

Do the right thing.

Our story starts with the Ziphites doing the wrong thing.

Remember the residents of the Ziph? How they betrayed David back in chapter 23?

They’re still up to their old tricks. V.1

“The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?’ So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David.”

Nothing has changed. David is still on the run. The Ziphites are still betraying him. They have chosen to be, as we say, “on the wrong of history.”

They have told Saul where David is, and Saul has brought his army of 3,000 hand-picked men to catch David.

But watch what happens. V.3

“Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert [hidden]. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.”

Do you see the picture?

Saul has been the one doing the chasing with his hounds, but the fox is up at night.

And David has crept up to Saul’s camp and can see the entire army asleep around him.

One great big circle of men with Saul at the center.

And David gets a wild idea into his head. V.6

“David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, ‘Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?’ ‘I'll go with you,’ said Abishai. So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.”

Oh boy!  This is exciting.

Two men carefully stepping over all of these soldiers, winding their way through the army, creeping, creeping, creeping to the very center of the camp.

This is crazy risk taking. I’m not saying that this was doing the right thing. I’m not sure.

I’m not sure why David was doing it, really. Maybe he wasn’t even sure.

But Abishai was sure he knew! V.8

“Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice.’”

“We are here today to be assassins!  Why else would we have come down here?” v.9

“But David said to Abishai, ‘Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,’ he said, ‘the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let's go.’”

He did it again!

And this time, he didn’t cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

David knows that it would be wrong for him to kill Saul.

So, he does the right thing.

His restraint is really remarkable. Saul is right there, again, in his grasp!

And Abishai is certain that it’s God’s will for them to kill him!

“Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear...”

“No. It would be wrong.”  V.9

“Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?”

It would be wrong. It would be evil.

Let’s do the right thing.

Now, I fought against that being the application of this message–I looked for another application of this passage for today because we just talked about this two weeks ago.

We shouldn’t cut corners. We should do what know is the right thing, even when it hurts.

We just said that two weeks ago.

But it’s the right thing to say today, as well.

David had to choose that again and again.

And so do we.

You and I are tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil to do things the world’s way, the flesh’s way, and the devil’s way every single day.

And we need to be reminded again and again to do things God’s way.

Do the right thing.

Do the right thing with your mouth.
Do the right thing with your eyes.
Do the right thing with your sexual organs.
Do the right thing with your feet.
Do the right thing with your hands.
Do the right thing with your purse and your wallet and your checkbook.

Do the right thing by your neighbors.
Do the right thing by your employer.
Do the right thing by your employees.
Do the right thing by your business partners.

Do the right thing even when it hurts or when it’s unpopular and even when your friends tell you that it’s God’s will for you to sin.

Do the right thing.

Now, that’s easy to say, but it’s often hard to do.

How was David able to show such restraint?

Let me give you three things I see in this story that helped David to do the right thing.

#1. TRUST IN GOD’S JUSTICE.

Look at verse 10 again.

“As surely as the LORD lives,’ he said, ‘the LORD himself will strike [Saul]; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed.

Do you see what he’s saying?

David is trusting that God will take care of justice.

Do you think he learned anything from last week’s story with that fool Nabal?

Last week, David pulled up just in time from committing an atrocity over an insult.

And then he saw the LORD make things right. Nabal died, and David got the girl!

David saw firsthand that God can take care of the justice. He didn’t know how or when but that God’s justice would win.

So, he knew that he could leave it in God’s hands.

That’s what the apostle Paul is saying in Romans chapter 12 when he says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (vv.17-19).

“Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

That’s not easy to do.

It’s a lot easier to go off on a rant on Facebook.
It’s a lot easier to take a key to someone’s car.
It’s a lot easier to gossip your frustrations into someone else’s ear.
It’s a lot easier to take your ball and go home.

It’s a lot easier to hold a grudge.
It’s a lot easier to kick that person out of your life.
It’s a lot easier to pick up that spear and send it into their heart.

“Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

God is so much more able to carry out justice.

So, you and I can do the right thing.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Do you have an enemy that you are tempted to sin against? To take revenge upon?

“Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

God’s justice is perfect. He will make sure that every sin is eventually paid for, either at the Cross of Christ, or forever in eternity in Hell.

“‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Trust in God’s justice.

#2. BELIEVE GOD IS AT WORK.

Even when we can’t see it. Look at verse 12.

“So David took the spear and water jug near Saul's head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.”

I never noticed that verse before in this story.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this 1 Samuel 26, but I never noticed that the LORD was the one keeping everybody asleep.

But the author of 1 Samuel wants to make sure don’t miss it.

“They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.” God had David’s back here.

He might not have even realized that God was doing this, but He was.

Just think about it.

Three thousand [!] sleeping soldiers.

And David and Abishai just walk in and walk out?

How could David be so chased but not caught?

It was a God thing.

And all it was here was sleep. God gave these guys deep sleep, and David got away.

I think the thing to point out here is that we don’t always see what God is doing even though it’s all around us.

And that should help us to do the right thing.

Because God is at work. Even doing things like giving people around me more sleep!

Sometimes it feels like we have to take things into our own hands because God is asleep at the wheel.

But that’s not at all the way it really is. The reality is that God is in control and at work and on the move, and we can trust His secret ways.

And do the right thing.

God was right there with David in the middle of the camp.

Do you need to be told today that God is right there with you in the middle of your trial and your temptation?

Do the right thing.  He’s got your back. V.13

“Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them.

He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, [Hey!] ‘Aren't you going to answer me, Abner?’ Abner replied, ‘Who are you who calls to the king?’”

He’s probably all groggy and having a hard time waking up from his God-induced sleep. “Who is it?” V.15

“David said, ‘You're a man, aren't you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn't you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men deserve to die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD's anointed. Look around you. Where are the king's spear and water jug that were near his head?’”

David is “trash-talking” old Abner.

He’s on the run for no good reason, but Abner who has actually failed the king is right there with Saul. V.17

“Saul recognized David's voice and said, ‘Is that your voice, David my son?’ David replied, ‘Yes it is, my lord the king.’”

You can almost hear Saul’s “gulp.”

“Is that you?” v.18

“And he added, ‘Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? [None!] Now let my lord the king listen to his servant's words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have now driven me from my share in the LORD's inheritance and have said, 'Go, serve other gods.' [He’s giving Saul an “out,” “I’m not even blaming you. Just stop chasing me!”] Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. [From the land of Israel and the tabernacle!] The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea–as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.’”

“Please leave me alone. I’m not worth it.”

“Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.’”

Good for Saul.

Finally, he admits his sin and folly and errors and shame.

It’s too late. David knows that he can’t trust him.

Even if he’s not laying a trap. Saul isn’t trustworthy in the slightest.

But at least he speaks the truth and admits that David is in the right and Saul is in the wrong. V.22

“‘Here is the king's spear,’ David answered. ‘Let one of your young men come over and get it. The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD's anointed.  As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.”

Here’s number 3.

#3. LOOK FOR GOD’S REWARD.

Do you see what David understands?

Look at what he says to Saul in verse 23.

“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.”

“I didn’t do the right thing, O Saul, because I like you so much!”

“I didn’t do it just because I felt like it. I didn’t feel like it.”

“I did the right thing because I know that God rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.”

With obedience comes blessing.

From God.

So, often, we look to other people for our reward.

What will he think?
What will she think?
What will they think?

As if the reward of other people could be greater than the reward of our Lord?!

There was probably a time when David wanted Saul’s reward.

But now, he’s living for the Lord’s reward.

That’s part of what it means to have a heart for the heart of God.

To look for God’s rewards. To anticipate the blessings that will come because we’ve done the right thing (by faith in God’s promises).

“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.”

You reap what you sow.

So, do the right thing.

With obedience comes blessing.

And even Saul blesses David! V.25 “Then Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.”

Saul has to agree. “You’ve done the right thing. And God will bless you. Sooner or later. You can count on it.”

And the two of them part.

You know what? As far as we know, that’s the last time these two anointed men ever met.

And these were the last things they said to one another.

David said, “I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed.”  I chose today to do the right thing.

And Saul said, “Yes you did, and you can count on the Lord’s reward.”

Do you need to hear that today?

Do the right thing and God will bless you.

It may take a lifetime to see that blessing.
It may be after you die that you see it in all of its fullness.

But you can count on it.
You can take it to the bank.

“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.”

He forgives ours because of what Jesus did for us.
And He gives us the power to do the right thing.

And when we do, by faith, He promises to reward us with blessings on top of blessings!

So, why wouldn’t we do the right thing?

If God’s justice is perfect?
And He’s at work all around us?
And He promises to reward us bountifully?

Do the right thing!

Not just when it’s popular.
Not just when it’s easy.
Not just when you feel like it.

What are you facing this week?  What are you tempted to give in to that you know is the wrong thing?

What is that spear in Abishai’s hand?

Don’t do it.

Do what you know is right.

And experience God’s reward.

***

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Teasel

 

Friday, January 24, 2014

My 2014 Annual Report for Lanse Free Church

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2013

Dear Church Family,

Happy New Year! Each year, I understand more fully what a high privilege it is to be your pastor. This year, it really came home to me during a half-day prayer retreat I took in September. This is what I wrote on my blog after the experience:
Today, I headed off into the woods of Black Moshannon State Park with a pile of prayer cards and a determination to bear the burdens of the flock under my care, the families of Lanse Free Church, to the one who bears our burdens (Ps 68:19).
I saw the sun (and the moon!), beautiful Fall colored trees, sparkling water on the lake, a loon, leaves all over the path, and white tailed deer running in the distance.
I breathed in delicious fresh air and breathed out desperate prayers.  So many of our folks asked me to pray about difficult situations: trials, health trouble, difficult job situations, and especially un-saved family members.  I asked the Lord so many times to "Please, capture the heart of ...."
My prayer hike was good for me, too. I started with praise and adoration and then moved into personal confession–one of my biggest prayers was for help in not being lax about prayer, a pastor needs to pray for his people.  I want to become an Epaphras, whose people know that he "is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" (Colossians 4:12).
It came to me today what a privilege it is to be able to pray–that God listens to the request of His people. And what a joyful privilege it is to be set aside for the Word of God and prayer! So thankful that I don't have to carry our little flock's burdens on my own, but am able to cast them on the Lord because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Looking forward to seeing how God answers some of today's prayers.
Some of those prayers have been answered already. Some we’re still awaiting the answers. What a privilege it is for me to be your shepherd!  Thank you.

Last year, I said that 2013 would be year of expansion, and it turned out to be:

As a church, we expanded our missionary force by taking on three new missionary units (two of which expanded their families and had babies this year!).

We expanded our district involvement by hosting the Allegheny District Conference in April. I’m as proud as a pastor is allowed to be because of how our church family rallied together to put on such an awesome event!

We expanded our outreach by not only putting on the Good News Cruise again, but also offering a follow-up Gospel Hour concert.  That wasn’t the only concert we hosted, either. We also had the Moody Bible Institute Chorale, the Gray Havens, and an Oaxaca Missions Team music night!

We remodeled the conference room into a family/handicap restroom for expanded accessability.

We expanded the arsenal of scripture in our hearts through the "Hide the Word" initiative on Sunday mornings. Can you still say Ephesians 3: 20-21, 1 John 4: 7-8, Proverbs 12:18, Isaiah 40:30-31, Colossians 3:23-24, Psalm 27-1, John 1:14 from heart?

Each of our many ministries prayed about how the Lord might expand their effectiveness in worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. Read their accounts elsewhere in this report to see what God did!

We expanded our attendance. The average participation on Sundays was 149 people (up about 3% from 2012) with Resurrection Sunday (258) and Christmas Eve (212) being our best-attended services.

We also expanded our membership.  Todd & Heather Dobo, Schenley Pilgram, Tyler & Kendra Piotrowski, and Ildiko Schall were added to membership.

One of the biggest surprises was the birth of another home-grown missions trip for our church family. We had not planned one so soon after our Serbia trip in 2012, but God began putting things together in 2013 for a trip that is now just around the corner. At this writing, the Oaxaca Mission Team (11 men, women, and teens from LEFC) is fully funded (almost completely from giving within our generous church!) and is preparing to go. That’s expansion!

Pastoral Ministry

I envision my pastoral role in three main areas: preaching, equipping, and shepherding.

Preach the Word

What a privilege it is to preach God’s word! In 2013, we finished our series on the book of 1 John called “Essential Christianity.” We also talked about talking in a sermon series on “The Tongue of the Wise.” And I began our current series on 1 Samuel, “A Heart for the Heart of God.”  I also got to speak about Resisting Gossip in several places, talk to the West Branch Bible Club a few times, preach in churches in Western Canada on vacation, and open the Word at the Windy Hill Nursing Home in February.

When I was out of the pulpit, we had terrific guest-preachers: Henoc Lucien, Roger Piger, Tim McGill, Jeff Powell, Jim Panaggio, and our own Cody Crumrine (first time ever!).

Equip the Saints

We have so many great people working “behind the scenes” at LEFC to do the work of the ministry. I love getting to be a “coach” to equip them for effective service (Eph 4:11).  It’s not glamorous to go to committee meetings, but it’s one of my joys.

I continued to be heavily involved in the EFCA both in our particular district (heading the Constitutions and Credentials Board, leading a regional pastors group for Central PA), and nationally (as book review coordinator for EFCA Today). I was able to write an article for EFCA Today entitled “Social Media Shepherd?” which laid out my philosophy of using technology such as Facebook to pastor people. I also got to teach on Resisting Gossip at EFCA One, our national leadership conference (which Heather and I attended with Roper and Lita Houston–their first!).

Shepherd the Flock

Thank you for allowing me into your lives. I love the privilege of visiting, counseling, discipling, and praying for you and your families. Being a people-shepherd is my favorite of this job!

It was a joy to baptize four of you this year: Esther & Joshua Guerra and Jonathon Guerra on Resurrection Sunday and Velma Francisko on Mother’s Day! Conversely, it was a sad privilege to lead five funerals in 2014: Ed “Buggar” Orwick, Tom Plisco, Rosemary Kovach, Anna Neidrick, and Darla Coble.

Personal Highlights and Thanks

My book came out this year! Thank you to all who prayed me through the very long publishing process and then celebrated with us in this milestone. Thanks for throwing a Resisting Gossip release party (complete with Texas Sheet Cake!) and hosting CLC publisher Dave Almack and his wife Deb for a nice visit.

I’m enjoying being a published author, but I enjoy simply being your pastor even more. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving Heather and our kids. Thanks for releasing us for a whole month this year for another fantastic Canadian vacation. Thank you for paying me so generously and for praying for us so faithfully.

I’m thankful for a hard-working staff and a strong elder board. This was, after several decades of service, Blair Murray’s last year as an official board elder. I can’t say how thankful I am for his faithful service over those many years. Thanks, Blair!

This year, I completed my fifteenth full year as your pastor. I am praying for a least fifteen more.

Vision for 2014

I believe that the key word for 2014 is “stretching.”

I see the Lord stretching our Oaxaca Mission Team as most of them head out into uncharted territory.

I see the 2014 Challenge Conference as being a call for our teens to be stretched in new ways.

We have a number of newly elected leaders, including 2 new elders. I’ll bet they are stretched as they learn the ropes and the rest of us are stretched to embrace new ideas and perspectives that they will bring.

We look forward to finishing the “Great Clean Out” and reorganization that began with the remodeling project we did last year. Hopefully, that will stretch our abilities to minister effectively to more and more people.

I have a feeling that we are going to be stretched in new directions as the Holy Spirit answers the prayer with which we started 2014:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Funny Forgotten Backstory of "Resisting Gossip" at SteveKMcCoy.com

Funny story:

Last month, I was googling myself and the book (not always the best idea), and I found a link to a 2006 post about gossip at stevekmccoy.com, a blog that I have frequented over the years.

And, strangely, enough, while reading it, I found myself commenting in the comments!

I had pretty much completely forgotten about this 8 year old conversation (though the emoticons were definitely me), but what really surprised me was my tongue-in-cheek plan to someday write a "biblical, systematic, but practical" book on the problem of gossip!

True. And it can change your life without you even remembering it! Thanks, Steve, for your excellent blog.

Made My Week

Photo Credit: Isaac Mitchell
It really makes my day when I hear about Resisting Gossip being used in someone's life.

On Tuesday, I got a card from a ladies' small group from a church in Minnesota whose leader had been searching for a study on the problem of gossip and stumbled upon Resisting Gossip on September 6th (3 days after its release!).

Each of the ladies signed the card with a personal note of encouragement.

Thanks, ladies, for making my day week!

***

Resisting Gossip is on sale perfect for small groups at WTSBooks.com (54% off if you buy 3 or more.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Professor Kirk (C.S. Lewis) on Resisting Gossip

"My dear young lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."
"What's that?" said Susan.
"We might all try minding our own business," said he. And that was the end of that conversation.
(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, pg. 40)

This Saturday - Resisting Gossip Seminar in Shelby Ohio

Looking forward to being with the good folks of Shelby, Ashland, and Mansfield, Ohio this Saturday for the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar at Core Community Church.

This seminar is being sponsored by a coalition of four EFCA churches:

Core Community Church
Grace EFC of Mansfield
Christ Community EFC
Substance Church

If you are in northcentral Ohio and need to connect to a church family, check these out!

***

If you can't make it to the seminar, you might want to pick up a copy of Resisting Gossip which is on sale right now at WTBooks.  (Only $7.00/each (50% off) or $6.50 if you buy 3 or more!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fabulous Sale of "Resisting Gossip" at WTSBooks.com

Good news!

The terrific folks at WTSBooks have put Resisting Gossip on sale again this week for only $7.00 (half off!) and $6.50 if you buy 3 or more!

That's a tremendous deal--perfect for small groups.

And it's paired with an amazing price for Paul Miller's new book A Loving Life. I can't wait to read that one.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "A Tale of Two Fools"

“A Tale of Two Fools”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 19, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 25:1-44

Our story for today begins on a very somber note. The man whom this very book is named after dies.

In verse 1, Samuel dies, and that means that we are in a new era.  There is now no national prophet, now no judge-like character to step in between the reigning king Saul and the anointed king David whom King Saul is chasing.

The man whom both Saul and David had once counted as a friend has gone on to his reward and left them both.

That’s how this story begins.

Let’s look at it. Chapter 25, verse 1.

“Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon.”

So, Samuel is dead and David (and Saul for that matter) are on their own.

Nothing really has changed. After the funeral, Saul is still after David, even though, last chapter he admitted to being in the wrong and knowing that he’s going to eventually lose.

But David is still a fugitive, on the run.

Chased but not caught.

And right now, he’s running with his rag tag army in the desert of Maon.

And also in that region is a very wealthy man who is also a fool.

And his name actually means “Fool.” His name is Nabal.  “Foolish.”

I wonder if his Mom was drunk when she named him?

Or maybe it’s his nickname?

From what we’re going to read, the shoe obviously fits.

I’ve actually entitled this message “A Tale of Two Fools.”

The one fool is obviously Nabal.

But there is another person who acts quite foolishly in this chapter, and it isn’t Nabal’s wife, Abigail.

It is the king-elect of Israel. His name is...David.

Let’s get into chapter 25 and see what happens. V.2

“A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.”

That’s quite a way to start a story, isn’t it?

You get a quite a picture. A nasty guy who has managed to marry very well.

He is very wealthy but also very foolish, surly and mean.

She is intelligent and beautiful.

He is a Calebite, which means that he, like David, is from the tribe of Judah. Perhaps, they are actually distant relations, possibly even kinsmen or cousins of some kind. The text does not say.

And it turns out that David and his men have been in living in the region of Nabal’s flocks and have been helpful to Nabal’s shepherds.

And because it’s shearing time, David decides to send a delegation to Nabal to ask for a thank-you gift for all of the services that David and his men have been rendering.

Now, this is not a protection racket–he’s not threatening to break Nabal’s kneecaps if he doesn’t comply.

This is a simply a normal custom of the time in the Near East. It’s festival time and David feels that he’s been a help to Nabal and sees a way that Nabal can be a help to him at a time when Nabal should be giving out favors.  V.4

“While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, ‘Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: 'Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! [Blessings!]

‘'Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing.

Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.'’”

It’s a bold request but not, I think, an unreasonable one.

However, it gets an unreasonable response. V.9

“When David's men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David's name. Then they waited. Nabal answered David's servants, ‘Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?’”

He could have just said, “No.”

But instead Nabal insults David. He calls him names. He calls him a runaway slave. He acts like he doesn’t know who David is or why David is on the run.

David has acted honorably towards Nabal, but Nabal returns evil for good. V.12

“David's men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, ‘Put on your swords!’ So they put on their swords, and David put on his. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.”

Uh oh.

David says, “Them’s fighting words.”

David is insulted to the extreme, and he’s not going to take it lying down.

“Get your guns, boys. We’re going to town.”

Now, last week, we saw David show great restraint when given the chance to harm the Lord’s anointed king.

But, Nabal is not Saul. David has not promised to keep his hands off of Nabal.

In fact, he’s just about to promise the opposite! There is going to be trouble at the OK Corral in Maon tonight.

And that’s just what one of the servants of Nabal thinks, and instead of talking to Nabal, he goes to the one everyone knows has the real brains in this outfit. V.14

“One of the servants told Nabal's wife Abigail: ‘David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them. [Everything David had said was true.] Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.’ [What a fool.]”

But Abigail is no fool! V.18

“Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I'll follow you.’ But she did not tell her husband Nabal. [You can’t tell him anything.] As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her [with their swords!], and she met them.

David had just said, ‘It's been useless–all my watching over this fellow's property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!’”

Friends, that is foolish talk.

It’s normal talk. We talk all the time about getting even with those who are bad to us.

And David has the means to do it.

But it’s foolish talk.  But watch what happens next. V.23

“When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: ‘My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.

May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name–his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.

‘Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal.

And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant's offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD's battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live.

Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.

When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.’”

What a masterful speech!

Abigail pulls out all of the rhetorical stops and uses all of her persuasive powers to reach David and try to stop him from doing something rash, something that he would eventually regret, something incredibly foolish.

Abigail is wise. She doesn’t just say, “Please don’t do it!” She presents reasons. She uses images. I love that v. 29 “Even though someone [Saul] is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master [David] will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. [Doesn’t that sound good? I’m not sure exactly what it means but it sounds really good, “bound securely in the bundle of the living.”] But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.”  A sling! What’s she reminding him of?

This is the longest recorded speech by any woman in the Old Testament.

And it’s shrewd.

Abigail appeals to David to not become like Saul. To not nurse a grudge. To not give in to bloodshed and avenging himself and going against his conscience.

“Don’t do something like Saul and Doeg did at Nob!”

“Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live!”

Abigail reminds David who he really is. V.28

You are the one who “fights the LORD’s battles.”

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

“Don’t act like this. Don’t be a fool...like my husband. Blame me, if you must, but don’t be another fool.”

V.32

“David said to Abigail, ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.

Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.’

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, ‘Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.’”

David may have been acting like a hot-tempered fool, but he pulls up short at the last second!

Thanks to Abigail!

Now, I want to come back to that when we get to the end of the story and do some application together.

David is here is a marvelous example of repentance, of turning away from foolishness.

David shows evidences a heart for the heart of God.

Yes, he can be foolish! But he doesn’t love foolishness.

But the other fool in this tale does love his foolishness. V.36

“When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak. [You can’t talk to this guy, especially when he is drunk.] Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and .... his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.”

I don’t know exactly what got him the most.

Was it that he found out just how close he had come to getting killed by David?

Or was it that he found out that Abigail had gone behind his back and given a gift to the person he had just insulted?

Whatever it was, Nabal got something like a stroke and became like a stone.

And ten days later, the Lord just took his life.

Just like that.

From rich man feasting like a king to invalid to dead in just 10 days.

And it was a judgment. There’s no question about it. It was the judgment of God.

Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man [a fool], but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25).

But the other foolish person in this story now has no regrets. And he gets the girl. V.39

“When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. [Justice!] He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal's wrongdoing down on his own head.’ Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.

His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, ‘David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.’ She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, ‘Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master's servants.’

Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David's messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.”

So, that’s how Abigail came to be paired with David.

Unfortunately, David has multiple wives. In the Bible, while it that is sometimes permitted, it is always a bad idea and always spells trouble for the family.

Ahinoam will give him a son named Amnon.  Michal has already been trouble for him and will be again. Just wait.

But Abigail is a good match for him. And she may even bring all of Nabal’s fortune  with her. She is his widow, after all.

It’s even possible that David is acting here as a kinsmen redeemer, like Boaz with Ruth, and their son Kileab might have been reckoned as Nabal’s. It’s possible.

The point, however, is that David wins and without doing something foolish.

He has turned from his foolishness and into wisdom.

And it has paid off–big time.

David says (v.39), “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

A tale of two fools.

One who was a fool from beginning to end.

One who started to go foolish and then pulled up before it was too late.

David is presented here, again, as having the qualities needed for a king after God’s own heart.

David is not perfect. Not by a long chalk. And we’re going to see in following chapters just how imperfect he is.

But David has a heart for the heart of God, and it shows.

Let me point out 3 heart qualities of David here that are wise and not foolish.

Three qualities that we would do well to cultivate ourselves.

#1. DISCERNING.

David has a discerning heart.

He sees what’s going on, spiritually, in his situation. Go back up to verse 32.

“David said to Abigail (after her big speech), ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Irsael, who has sent you today to meet me.’”

David realizes that this was no coincidence that Abigail was so wise to run to between him and Nabal.

It was a God-thing.

He discerned that God was restraining. God was hindering him from going to far. V.39 “He has kept his servant from doing wrong...”

One of the commentators I read this week summarized what David was discerning here this way:

“The text then teaches us how Yahweh rescues his servants from their own stupidity, how he restrains them from executing their sinful purposes, how sometimes he graciously and firmly intercepts us on the road to folly...What loving hands construct the roadblocks to our foolishness!” (Dale Ralph Davis, pg. 260).

David discerns that here.

God’s hand is holding him back.

Have you ever been thwarted by God and been frustrated that He’s hindering you?

Have you seen that as God’s loving care, holding you back from doing something you’ll regret later?

Waiting is hard. Especially when you’re hurting.

And David has been constantly on the run and now insulted.

But he realizes, in the nick of time, that the LORD is holding him back.

He sees God’s hand at work in Abigail.

He’s discerning?

How are you and I doing at discerning what God is doing in our own situations?

A fool just rushes in, but a wise man looks for God’s hand, even in his hardships.

“What loving hands construct the roadblocks to our foolishness.”

#2. ENTREATABLE.

David exhibits an entreatable heart.

That’s an old-fashioned word. It means someone who will listen to an appeal.

We might use the word “teachable,” but it’s more than just open to being taught, it’s open to being shown where we are wrong.

Approachable for rebuke.

You couldn’t tell Nabal anything. Especially bad news.

But David listened to Abigail. A woman!

And he recognized her good judgment (v.33), “May you be blesed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day...”

And he repented of his brash, rash, foolishness!

David was entreatable.

Are you entreatable? Am I?

So often, we are sure that we are right.

And that everyone else is wrong.

But are we willing to be persuaded? To be shown otherwise?

To be shown where we need work?

That’s wisdom.

Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

Do you love those who rebuke you?

Several times this week, I needed my wife’s gentle rebuke.

She has an amazing knack for putting her finger right on where I’m wrong and need adjusting.

Yesterday, she said like two sentences, and it totally sent me in a new direction.

She told me that I might be listening to Satan and letting him get me off track in a certain area.

And (boom), I was headed in a new direction.

Now, the good part of that story (beyond the fact that she loves me enough to rebuke me) is that I was entreatable enough to not dig in my heals and not listen.

“La, la, la, la, la, I’m not listening!”

Entreatable.  (I don’t always handle it that well!)

I think it’s good to just be open to the word!

Entreatable.

Are you open to a life-giving rebuke?

#3. PATIENT.

David was patient.

He wasn’t at first! He was hot-headed at first.

But by the time Abigail had finished her speech, he was patient again. He was not rash. He was not unrestrained but restrained. He was not out of control, he was self-controlled again.

David remembered who he was and Whose he was.

And he was able again to take the long-view.

As people, we love instant gratification.  The short view. The quick payoff.

But followers of Christ believe in delayed gratification. Taking the long view. Investing in something that will come later in God’s timing.

Followers of the God of the Bible know that God has given us great and precious promises, but they aren’t immediate. We have to be patient. We have to wait.

That’s the main point of this part of David’s story, isn’t it?

Chased but not caught. Chased, chased, chased.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Last week, we saw David tempted to cut the corner. And we didn’t blame him. His life stinks and a quick little sword-work and it would all be over.

But that’s not God’s way.

His way includes waiting. It includes patience. It includes trusting in the promises yet to come.

Two chapters ago, Jonathan reminded David of the promises.
Last chapter, it was actually Saul who assured David of the promises.

And in this chapter, Abigail does. V.28

“...the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles...the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God.”  V.30, “[T]he LORD [will do] for my master every good thing he promised concerning him.”

Abigail reminds David of God’s promises.

And David believes and waits patiently for them to come true.

Even though it hurts.

Even though that dirty dog Nabal has insulted his name and returned evil for good.

David trusts in the justice of God.

David trusts in the promises of God.

And David turns away from foolishness and into patient wisdom.

How about you and me?

Are we living patiently, trusting in God to bring the blessing He has promised His  in His timing? Or are we cutting the corners and trying to get things going our own way?

Are we living impatiently, foolishly, like Nabal?

Or are we waiting patiently for our Lord to come through?

Waiting is hard, but it’s worth it.

Our Lord Jesus endured even more than David did.

He dealt with worse than Nabal. He patiently endured the attacks of sinful men that eventuated in His death on the Cross for you and me.

Hebrews 12 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We can cultivate patient endurance as we fix our eyes on Jesus.

***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You
14. The Fugitive

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Serious About My Online Addiction

Recently I joked on Facebook:

I like to give people the impression that I'm constantly online. I perform this trick by being online constantly.
This week, however, I woke up to the fact that I really do have a problem and that I need to deal with it.

Boundless Conviction

I was listening to three back-to-back episodes of the The Boundless Show from Focus on the Family to prepare for an upcoming interview about Resisting Gossip. These episodes were handpicked by our friend Schenley as indicative of the quality of the program.

(By the way, I'm super excited to be on Boundless. They do a terrific job of creating feisty, fun, interesting, biblical, and practical content for young adults! Okay, back to the story...)

So, the first episode I picked was #275 on "Smartphone Addiction" which certainly sounded like a problem that some other people have...

...and before it was over I had made a serious decision to change my online habits.

As Boundless' raucous roundtable chatted about how their lives can be dominated by their smartphones, I realized that even though I don't have a smartphone (I just have a dumb phone), I have something that I use as compulsively as these young folks use their iPhones--my laptop. And I realized at the same time that it's been drawing me away from my family.

"Houston, we have a problem."

It's not that I'm not I'm not home enough, but that I'm not "present" enough when I am home. All of a sudden it's clear to me that my time working, being social, and being inquisitive (my "information addiction") online have bled into times when I should be engaging with my family.

Up until I listened to this episode, I thought I had a good balance going. Over the Fall, I had begun fasting every Sunday afternoon and evening from working on anything and from being online. We limit our kids time online, and I had been trying to be a good example.

But one afternoon a week is not enough down time.

I've also been reading Crazy Busy and The Pastor's Family about finding balance in life and ministry. I realized that my time online has been crowding out play time with my kids, and just "being with" the family in extended moments.

Changes

So, I'm not saying "Sayōnara" to all social media. But I am making two major changes:

1. The laptop now stays shut during breakfast.

I realized that I've been keeping it open to receive notifications of emails, FB messages, "likes," new Twitter followers, and whatever else might burst onto the screen while we're eating together.

But I don't need other people at the breakfast table with us. And my family needs their whole Dad during that time.

2. The laptop now stays shut after supper until at least the kids go to bed.

This one will be harder to do, and there may need to be exceptions made, especially when the rest of the family is otherwise engaged. But those exceptions can't become the rule again.

We've been living in these two changes for a couple of days now. So far, so good. I think that the family is finding it funny to have me so much more mentally present. They joke about it--"Are you 'engaging' us, Dad?"  (which shows, I think, the degree to which these changes were needed.)

And why am I telling you about this?

1. If you know me personally, you can pray for me that I would stick with my repentance from online addiction and its replacement of increased service of my family.

2. If I tell the world, then it will increase my accountability and therefore my chances of succeeding at forming new habits. You'll also be more understanding, hopefully, if you don't get an immediate online response from me as you might have in the past.

3. You might want to seriously re-evaluate your time online. Give the Boundless show a listen (don't worry, it's fun!), and ask the other people who populate your life if they think you have a problem.

See you online...but not as much.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Locally-Grown Boy Coming Back to Mansfield and Shelby Next Weekend

It's fun to see the headline "Locally-grown author returns to discuss his book on Resisting Gossip" at the Shelby Churches website.

I'm looking forward to being back in my hometown next Friday and Saturday for a book-signing at the Bookery-Parable Christian Store and the Resisting Gossip Live Seminar hosted by Core Community Church.

We've been planning this event for a long time, and it's exciting that it's coming together now!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reverse Gossip?

Last night, our small group (our church calls them "Link Groups") studied Ecclesiastes 7 together, and we had a brief discussion of verses 21-22:

"Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you--for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others." (NIV)

The New Living Translation renders it like this:  "Don't eavesdrop on others--you may hear your servant laughing at you. For you know how often you yourself have laughed at others." (NLT)

If I understand it right (and that's always a big if when Ecclesiastes is involved!), it seems to me to be a little like "reverse gossip" -- listening to someone talk about you "behind their back" (when they don't know they're being listened to) out of a bad heart.


The Teacher says to avoid this sort of thing, too, and overlook as much as you can. "Give people slack. You know you've done it, too." That's no excuse for cursing or laughing at others--it's just a reminder to do to others as you would want them to do to you, even when you're in the wrong.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Cutting Corners"

“Cutting Corners”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
January 12, 2014 :: 1 Samuel 24:1-22

Our current sermon series (of which this is message #15) is called “A Heart for the Heart of God” and we’re learning together what it means to be man or a woman after God’s own heart.

We’ve learned about a prophet named Samuel who had a heart for God, and his mother Hannah who had a heart for God.

And we’ve also learned about a king named Saul who did not have a heart for the heart of God.

And since chapter 16, we’ve been learning about a new king, a king-to-be named David who had a heart for the heart of God.

And strangely enough the first anointed king is chasing the second anointed king with designs to kill him.

David is on the run. He has been now, for 5 chapters!

Last week, we called him “the Fugitive.”

And we said that David is going to be a fugitive for the entire rest of the book.

On the run from Saul.

Chased but not...what?  Caught.

Chased but not caught.
Chased but not caught.

That was the life that David lived for quite some time.

And it was not easy.

We saw last week David’s fear for his family.
We saw David’s friends be hurt and killed because they were connected to him.

And he felt responsible.

We saw David get betrayed and have to duck from one place to another all over the middle east.

It was really, really hard.

Life stunk for David.

But he was not caught. At least...not yet.

And when we left off last week, David had just about been caught by Saul on the side of a mountain called Sela Hammahlekoth.

But Saul got called away to attend to a problem with the Philistines, and David got away to the strongholds of En Gedi on the west shore of the Dead Sea.

That’s where our exciting story picks up today because Saul gets intelligence of where David has fled to. Chapter 24, verse 1.

“After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the Desert of En Gedi.’ So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.”

Do you see how there’s no let-up for David?

He’s constantly on the run. He’s dogged at every step.

And now there is a force of 3000 chosen men that are after him in the desert of En Gedi.  Back to Saul. V.3

“He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave.”

Oh boy, this just got exciting.

Saul has to go to the bathroom, and he picks the one cave in all of that region where David and his men are hiding.

Saul is all alone.

And David is hiding right there in the dark.

What do you think he’s going to do?

What would you do?

Your enemy is right there in the dark and you know it and he doesn’t.

He wants to kill you, he’s been trying to kill you[!], and you don’t deserve it.

What are you going to do?

Now’s your chance, right?

That’s what David’s men think. Listen to them whisper in verse 4.

“The men said, ‘This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'’”

This is the day! We’re gonna to be free!

You’re gonna be king! God is doing it! Get out your sword!

And here he goes. V.4

“Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.”

That’s probably very symbolic. Just like it was symbolic when Samuel’s robe tore at Saul’s hand. Just like it was symbolic when Jonathan gave David his royal robe.

It probably was a symbol of rebellion. It was probably the first step toward cutting the kingdom away from Saul, undermining him, revolting against him, and ultimately taking his life.

Snip!

But just after he did it, he regretted it.

David stopped and didn’t go forward with any more rebellion.

He backed quietly through the cave and whispered to his men. V.5

“Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.’ With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

What a moment! What a story!

He had him right there in his grasp.

One more second and the whole thing would have been over.

But David’s heart, David’s conscience wouldn’t let him.

In fact, it beat against him for just cutting off the edge of his robe.

And he went back and stopped his men from attacking their enemy.

The NIV says, “did not allow.” The old King James says, “suffered them not.”

But the Hebrew word is really strong here. It really means, “he tore them apart.” David had to use force to stop his men from killing Saul.

I’m sure they thought that he was crazy!

I’m sure they thought he was a crazy as King Acish thought he was last week!

What are you thinking?

That’s Saul. That’s your enemy. That’s the guy whose trying to kill you.

David, says, “I know. I know. I’m really tempted. But it would be wrong.”

Today’s sermon title is a terrible play on words.

The pun is intended today.

The title is “Cutting Corners.”

Which is what David literally did and also what David was figuratively tempted to do.

How often are you and I tempted to cut corners in life?

We know what God wants us to do, but we grow impatient and decide to do it our way.

To take matters into our own hands.
To short circuit God’s way and do it our way.
To cut corners.

Remember when the devil tempted Jesus and took him up to see all the kingdoms of the world? And he said that they would be Jesus’ just for the asking. All he had to do was bow down to Satan.

That’s cutting a corner, in the extreme way.

“Jesus, you can skip the Cross. You can skip the trial. You can skip beatings, the scourgings, the spittings, the nails.

All ya gotta do is bow down to me.

Just cut the corner, and you’ll have what you want.”

Now, when it’s Satan saying “bow down to me,” it’s not as obviously tempting.

But we are all tempted to cut those corners.

We get impatient with God and decide to speed things up a little.

I just read this week about Abram and Sarai and their idea of surrogate motherhood with Hagar. How did that one work out?

“Well, God had promised a son. We just need cut this corner here so that we can get that son.  Hasn’t happened yet God’s way!”

Now, you and I shake our heads at that.

But how are we actually tempted to cut corners?

I think that just about every time we sin, we are doing that.

So, when we lash out at our enemies–maybe an ungodly Facebook rant–we are cutting a corner like that.

Christians are called to love their enemies yet often we complain about them, make fun of them, sound off about how bad we’ve been treated, and try to get back at them.

Instead of resolving the problem, we take our case to Facebook.

Cheapshots are cutting corners.

So is just plain old fighting. When our kids get to fighting, what’s going on? Normally, there’s been some perceived injustice that’s happened, and instead of working it out or getting help to work it out, one kid decides to work it out! Pow!  And then the other decides to get justice for themself. Pow back!

And it’s not just kids that fight, is it?

How about yelling at our children? Isn’t that cutting a corner?

I’m annoyed at your behavior, and instead of kindly asking you to stop–I skip right to yelling. Cutting the corner.

Or nitpicking and nagging your spouse. Instead of lovingly confronting a sinful or careless behavior and then talking to God about it when it isn’t resolved–we can nag or nitpick or henpeck or scold. A constant dripping.

That’s the easy way. Cut the corner.

How about sleeping with your boyfriend or your girlfriend?

Yeah, I know that God wants us to stay pure and save sex for marriage. But that’s not really reasonable to expect nowadays. That’s difficult.

I don’t know when my boyfriend might propose.
I don’t know when we might have enough money to get married.
I’m not sure if this is the girl for me for life yet.

So, we’re just going to live together for now.

That’s cutting the corner.

Any time we get impatient with God–that he’s not doing things fast enough, bring enough blessing, saving us from our troubles and trials and then do things our way, we’re cutting corners.

Do you see that?

Getting drunk, doing drugs, overeating with food, binging on social media, indulging in pornography and masturbation. Those kind of escaping sins are cutting corners, as well.

Because life hurts, and God doesn’t seem to be fixing it!

So we cut the corner.

We take matters into our own hands.

We short circuit God’s way and try to hot-wire things our own way.

Where are you tempted to cut the corner right now?

There it is right there in front of you.

You know you want it.  Take it!  Grab it.

Carpe Deum. Seize the day.

God is giving it to you!

“This is the day that the LORD” is giving your enemy into your hand.

It’s totally understandable. In fact, it’s from God.

David was so tempted. In fact, he started. But then he stopped.

Why? Because He had a big view of God.

Three points this morning.

#1. THE LORD FORBID.

That’s what he says in verse 6.  “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”

The key word there is LORD.

David was thinking about God.

David didn’t care that much about whether or not he killed Saul. He’s killed other men, and Saul has definitely acted as his enemy.

But David does care what YHWH says. What the LORD thinks. What the LORD wants.

God forbid that I would rebel against God!

He sounds like Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, right?

She’s all sexy and wants him, and nobody needs to know.

And Joseph says, “God would know. How could I sin against GOD that way? How could I sin against your husband that way, but even more God?”

The key to not cutting the corner is to think about the God who does not want the corner cut.

“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing.”

David knew what was right and what was wrong. Even though Saul was in the wrong, he was still David’s king.  The transition had not yet occurred.

And David was not supposed to take the kingdom by force.

He knew that. That was God’s marching orders.

Who I am to go against the supreme commander?

That’s how Jesus defeats Satan, isn’t it?

It is written. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

We’ve got our marching orders, and they say to go all the way around the corners.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

It’s actually really hard.

Because it hurts, right?

Last week we said that following God by faith can be really really hard.

Life as a disciple of Jesus can really stink at times.

Chased but not caught. Constantly chased.

And here, if he just got out his sword, it would all be over.

Just like that.

I’m sure that whatever corner your tempted to cut right now seems really hard to go all the way around.  It hurts, doesn’t it?

But God is worth it.

And David knew that. David had a heart for the heart of God.

In fact, this is proof right here that David is the right kind of man for the job of king.

He has a heart for the heart of God.

He wants to please God.
He wants to obey God.
He wants to want what God wants.

And when finds that he hasn’t, he repents.

And here, he withholds his hand. And Saul walks away. V.7

“And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

But their interaction was not over. V.8

“Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’”

Woo. That was a little risky.

There are 3,000 men nearby who are after him.

But David wants to talk.

Imagine Saul’s head whipping around when David calls: “I know that voice. How did he get over here?” v.8

When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. [Honor.] He said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen when men say, 'David is bent on harming you'?

This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.'

See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.

May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.

As the old saying goes, 'From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you.

‘Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.’”

What a speech!

He sounds like a defense attorney at his own trial. “And your honor, I am not guilty and you know it. Here’s the evidence.”

In fact, he doesn’t treat Saul as the judge. He says that the LORD is going to judge.

Point #2. THE LORD JUDGE. V.12

“May the LORD judge between you and me.”

Do you see what David is doing?

He is entrusting judgment to the LORD. He has decided that he will not take it into his own hands.

He is trusting in God’s justice in God’s timing.

Let the LORD judge.

Listen to what Paul told us in Romans 12.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends, [that’s cutting the corner!] but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Even when it hurts?

That’s Christianity.

We don’t make our own justice.

We wait for God’s.

Now, that doesn’t rule out the earthly judicial system or parental rule at home or anything like that.  But we know that those human systems of justice are very fallible.

And we don’t cut the corner and take justice into our own hands.

Not even in our hearts and words.

We leave the condemnation up to God.

All injustice will be repaid either at the Cross or in Hell.

The LORD judge.

He’ll do a much better job of it. I don’t have to. V.15

“May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

I’m not going to cut the corner.  V.16

“When David finished saying this, Saul asked, ‘Is that your voice, David my son?’ And he wept aloud. ‘You are more righteous than I,’ he said. ‘You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.

When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today.

I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father's family.’

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.”

#3. THE LORD REWARD.

Saul cannot believe what has just happened to him.

He would never have spared David’s life. That’s not what you do!

That’s supernatural. That’s a God thing.

And he ashamed that David is such a better man.

He has to admit that he knows in his heart (just like Jonathan said in the last chapter, that in his heart he knows) that David is going to be the king.

Saul has regret and he asks for David to promise to not hurt his family.

And David, a man after God’s own heart makes that promise, and then Saul walks away.

You can’t trust him. Saul didn’t even really apologize!

David doesn’t go home with him. There is not trust there, and it’s a good thing, as we’ll see.

But for a time, Saul comes to his senses and sees that David has not cut the corner.

He has done the right thing, and he blessed David and calls upon God to reward him v.19

“May the LORD reward you well for the way you have treated me today.”

And that’s from Saul!

Saul knows that David deserves to be rewarded for waiting.

How much more can we expect that from the LORD Himself?

There is great reward for doing things God’s way.

It comes in God’s timing, but it’s as sure as the sunrise.

The LORD rewards those who trust in Him and obey him and love Him and do things His way.

The LORD rewards those who wait on Him.

It’s hard. But He is good to those who do not cut the corners.

Trust Him and do it His way.

You will not be disappointed.

***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord
11. The Lord Looks at the Heart
12. The Battle Is the Lord's
13. May the LORD Be With You
14. The Fugitive