Divine Imagination: A Cure For Bitterness

bitternessWe can easily steal a moment at work to daydreaming about how we will tell off our boss one day. As we drift into sleep a few hours later, we imagine how we would get even with our aunt. And the next morning during our commute,  we scheme about how we will settle the score with our spouse. Bitterness, anger, and resentment readily feed the human imagination, pushing its owners further into the murky and foreboding cloud of sin.

When we allow our bitterness to proceed unchecked, we will inevitable awake one day to discover that the secret fleeting thoughts which promised only to take a minute or two of time have now devoured years if not whole lime times. And despite their promises of salvation, all those dreams of revenge fail to resolve the angst buried deep within out souls. We need another antidote for our bitterness. We need a divinely inspired imagination.

To escape the cancer of anger, we must place our trust in the power and goodness of God. In Samuel 26:9, David has the opportunity to go beyond dreaming. He has the chance the kill Saul, the man who has driven him from his home, his family, and even his house of worship. As Abishai tells David, “Let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” David can redeem his pound of flesh to borrow from Shakespeare’s Shylock. But the future king refuses to get even with Saul. David says, “The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed (1 Sam. 26:11a).”

David will not disobey God’s Word and exact his own vengeance upon Saul. David walks away from Saul because the future king trusts the Lord. The antidote for hateful day dreams of revenge is divine imagination.

David spares Saul’s life because he knows God reigns and will make all things right. David tell Abishai,

And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish (1 Sam 26:10).”

David imagines all the ways God could make things right. Instead of fearing his enemies, David trusts the God who rules over his enemies. David knows God cannot be thwarted by power dynamics, money, race, gender, or prestige. Even the cruelest men and women of the universe can only wake up each morning by the grace of God. David knows that the God of the universe watches over David. Instead of speculating about all the ways he could get revenge. David speculates about all the ways God can save him. As David told Saul, may the Lord “deliver me out of all my tribulation (1 Sam 26:24).

David trusted God knowing the Messiah was coming. Now that Jesus has come, New Testament believers have more reason to trust Jesus. Paul reminds us that Jesus “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us (Eph 3:20b).” Friends since the power that raised Jesus from the dead brings transformation to our hearts and to our world, we should daydream about the goodness, power, mercy, justice, and love of God. We should imagine an unlimited all powerful God who delights in recusing his people. Our God is indeed that and more. Pastor Dale Ralph Davis helpful notes,

Faith needs imagination to pull out all the stops if it is even to begin to grasp the grandeur, majesty, and ability of Yahweh…imagination will not lead us beyond but will help us arrive at the truth of God.

Divine imagination guided by the Holy Spirit sustains the Christian as he or she walks through the storms of life.

What do your hearts dream about? Do we trust the God who rescued David? Or do we fear the bullies, the cruel spouses, and the troublesome coworkers? Do we find salvation in plotting revenge or in imagining how God could save us? What do you imagine?

Bad Thinking, The Lottery, and Why Christians Fail At Life

Lottery-blog.jpgNo one wakes up intending to ruin his or her life. People do not start affairs, embezzle money, or chug a bottle of vodka, hoping to destroy their marriages, their families, and their careers. Yet, Christians regularly invited disaster into their lives, seemingly torpedoing the very ship of joy they are sailing upon.

Why do they do this?  We do Christians self-destruct some days?

They stop meditating on the promises and character of the God.

In 1 Samuel 27:1, David fills his head with unsanctified thoughts. The man who had vanquished Goliath, who had lead God’s armies, and who had repeatedly escaped the murderous plans of Saul, believes God can no longer protect him. The Bible reports, “Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines.” David sets in motion of series of lies, murders, and rebellion because he doubted God. He concluded that Saul could not be stopped by God. He took matters into his own hands, lost his wives, and was almost stoned to death (1 Sam 30:5-6). David made a wreck of his life because he entertained thoughts of doubt about the character and power of God.

And what caused David to despair? What events informed his thinking?

David derived his thoughts from the circumstances surrounding his family. 1 Samuel 27:3 reports that David went to Philistia to protect the households of his men and his wives. David who cut off the heads of giants was conquered by a honey-do-list.

Christians often fall into grave sins because they allow normal, domesticated concerns to become the measure of their life’s success and joy. They fix college admissions programs to avoid the ridicule that comes with underperforming children. They engage in an affair because they feel like neglect by their spouse who seems to value work more than them. They become enraged when their kids leave a light on, threatening to reveal the believer’s inability to manage her money to the watching world. Concerns about education, entertainment, bills, chores, and bedtimes possess the ability to steal our eyes away from Jesus. Once we begin to look at earthly needs, we tend to forget that God is good, loving, and all powerful. We forget that God can care for kids even if they never graduate from college. We forget that God is our comfort and that God can change our spouse’s heart. We forget that God promises to provide for all our needs, loving us deeply. In short, we forget the goodness of our God; we fear that our fears about failure, loneliness, and bankruptcy will come true and so we run to the Philistines looking for help.

But as David before us, we do not find salvation. We find more fear. Where once we feared one bad letter, a few bad nights, and a bad bill, now we fear tens if not hundreds of people who can expose our lies, our evil deeds, and our lack of character. We scheme even harder to protect ourselves, teaching more lies, embracing more sin, and experiencing more corruption.

In 1997, Billy Bob Harrel believed he had found the answer to his greatest problem in the form of a little piece of paper. After being laid off from two jobs, Billy Bob found himself stocking shelves at Home Depot, working for a disagreeable boss. His wife also started back to work to makes ends meet. Billy Bob loved his wife and kids and happily attended church. But the lack of income loomed over his mind. Instead finding consolation in the promises of God, he dreamed about winning the lottery, telling all who would listen about his plans to save his family. Then on a hot, Texas summer day, his insurance policy came true. His lottery numbers were called. Billy Bob who had struggled to pay his bills now owned the rights to 31 million dollars.

At first, the money empowered Billy Bob. He helped his church; he bought multiple cars; and, he purchased homes for all of his close family members.

But the large bank account did not become the salvation Billy Bob envisioned. People badgered him and his immediate family for money, even stopping his wife in Walmart. He lost many friends. His blood pressure rose; his health declined; and, he became a regular at his local pharmacy. The girl that checked him out developed into his girlfriend. His wife left him; he entered into tangled agreements with loan sharks and found himself battling depression. His Philistia proved no better than David’s hope.

Two years after winning the lottery, Billy Bob said “It was the worse thing that ever happened to me.” A few days later, he took his own life, leaving behind a note for his wife and family that said, “I didn’t want this. I just wanted you.”

He arrived at death’s door because his thoughts had drifted. Instead of looking to God for help with his unspectacular troubles he dreamed of being a millionaire. He lost hold of his thoughts and found the ultimate destruction, death.

Readers should not fault Billy Bob for his mistakes. He possessed no special propensity for sin or evil. He had served as a pastor and appeared to walk faithfully with God before his life crumbled. As David before him, he let his thoughts wander and placed his hope in a false salvation.

If we our honest, we must admit that we too are “prone to wonder, Lord if feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love.” Friends, we must guard our hearts. We must guard our thoughts from unbiblical thinking that doubts God and elevates our powers. We must remember the teaching of Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

What are you thinking about?

Christian: Stop Saving Yourself

Christian-StopThe apostolic Faith is founded upon the idea that Jesus saves us from our sin. 1 Peter 2:24 declares, that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” Though we delight in the idea of God saving us from our sins, we struggle to live like saved men and women.

Instead of gazing towards heaven, we focus upon our problems, our surroundings, and our circumstances. We believe today measures the quality of our life; we regularly seek to get life to where we think it should be. We seek to save ourselves. We put the overbearing mom on the PTA in her place with a gossip attack, spreading rumors with the speed of heat. We cut down our wayward brother with a steady stream of anger filled snide remarks. And, we spend the night attacking the FB page and twitter account of the company that unjustly fired us a few hours earlier. We seek to be our own salvation.

David attempts to save himself in 1 Samuel 25. He had been watching Nabal’s 4,000 sheep and goats acting as a “wall “ to the shepherds “by night and by day.” The shepherds testify that David and his men were, “very good to us (15).” Yet when David asks Nabal to keep with tradition and feed his troops along with the rest of those who helped him during the shearing days, Nabal rudely rebuffs the future king. David responds to the insult with anger. The text says, “And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword (13).” He intends to on kill every male on Nabal’s property. Thankfully before David gets to Nabal and commits senseless murder, Abigail gets to David and reminds him of truth.

She stops David from working out his own salvation. She tells David in verse 31 that he should spare Nabal to avoid the grief and pains that come from, “working salvation himself.” David concurs saying Abigail kept him “from working salvation with my own hand!” Though the word “salvation” can be translated “avenged,” the Hebrew word niph usually means to “receive help.” This is the same word used Psalm 116:6  to convey the idea of God saving us. The verse reads: “The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.” In short, the battle for David’s heart was a battle for salvation. Would David save David? Or would God save David?

We face this exact same battle weekly, daily, and perhaps hourly. Will we trust God to save us? Will we trust God to make things right? Or will we grab our phones, our digital keyboards, and our tongues and go save ourselves?  From where does our salvation come?

The source of our salvation for life’s little problems reveals the source of our salvation for all of life. Those who cannot regularly trust God to walk them through a rough PTA meeting, a broken relationship, or a low bank account have not yet trusted Christ to save them from sin. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes,

[Christians] are meant to have, a joy that can face the cross, yes, and the weakness and the apparent desertion, of those whom we trusted, and on those whom we relied (Assurance of Our Salvation. 

Those who trust in Christ possess the joy of Christ and refuse to be their own salvation.

Admittedly, we all struggle at this at times as did David. In 1 Samuel 24:12, David forgives King Saul murderous plots. David boldly proclaims, “May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.” David looks to the Lord for salvation. And then we turn the page and see him taking up swords over some food.

How do we handle our hearts when the lose focus? How do we help encourage others who have fallen from the mountain of faith into the valley of anger? We follow Abigail’s lead and remind them of the salvation of God and of the consequences of sin.

When Abigail confronted David, she reminds David of God’s promises. She tells him not to workout his salvation because God had bound David in his heart. God defeats David’s enemies casting them away like a rock flying out of a sling (1 Sam 25:4).  She reminds David that he will be prince of Israel. God’s promise remains sure, regardless of David’s circumstances and regardless of whether or not people give David food. David will be king because God fights for him.

The same truth applies to us. Our hope is not our circumstances. Our hope is the promise reigning with Christ in heaven. Nothing our neighbors, family members, or employers do to us can keep us from heaven. Nothing they do can thwart, break, or destroy God’s plan for us. We will be with him in paradise. He will vindicate us. He will stand by his people.

God stands by David and Abigail. As soon as David puts his sword away, Nabal has a stroke and dies. David then marries Abigail, saving her from financial and social ruin. In short, God makes all things right. Friends do we believe God is big enough and powerful enough to defend us when other people attack us, criticize us, and insult us? Do we trust God to save us or must we always have the last word?

Next, Abigail reminds David of the consequences of sin. The shedding of innocent blood would stain David’s ascension to the throne. Though David would have forgotten the insult, the consequences of the sin would have remained. His reign would have been undermined even before it began. And when David does stumble into sin with Bathsheba, the remainder of his rule feels the consequences of sorrow and suffering that follow David’s sin.

Friends when we find ourselves viewing sin to be the means of our salvation, we too should remember that the wages of sin our death (Rom. 6:23). The sin that promises us the hope of salvation is nothing more than a nicely painted anvil tied to our neck that will take our soul to the bottom of the sea of death. And while Christ offers forgiveness from our sins, our lawless actions are accompanied by consequences that last a lifetime. God forgives divorce but our children will spend the rest of their life bouncing between two homes. God forgives greed, but we may spend the rest of our lives paying of credit card debt. God forgives our cruel words but we may never spend another holiday with our sibling. God forgives those who attempt to be their own salvation. But a life lived free from the sorrow of sin is far better than the life lived under the consequences of sin.

We should not save ourselves. We should remember that God saves and that our salvation created on the assembling line of sin leads to death. We should rest in the salvation of the Lord. Do you?