Grace Debrief 7/14/19

The end of 2 Samuel represents the conclusion of David's effective reign over Israel. Much of the last few chapters recount the great days of David's life and ascension to the throne.

But then there's chapter 24. Go ahead and read it.

There are so many challenging aspects of this story, it's impossible to cover it all here. In the end, we have to trust that God always acts within his character, and so whatever he did here, he did within his love, mercy, justice, and righteousness. It's a matter of our trust in him.

Which really is the whole point of the story. 

David "counts" Israel. This is technically not a census - a mere counting of heads. It's a detailed and organized military resource assessment, enacted by the leaders of David's army.

But those commanders know that it's all wrong. In fact, it doesn't take David himself long to recognize that what he had done by this assessment was, in fact, wickedness and sin.

Why? We're not told outright exactly why this is a sin for David. Others in the Old Testament had done the same thing, and it wasn't judged a sin. So why here?

It's not a stretch to figure out the answer. This was sin for David because of one thing: he didn't trust God. There was no threat. There was no crisis which motivated the counting. David just didn't trust. His mistrust lead him to assess his military readiness, instead of resting in God's ability to protect. 

You can see from reading the chapter that the consequences for David and all of Israel were very grave. As is the case for all sin.

All sin has its background in the same mistrust of God. Name any sin that comes to mind, and you will be able to trace its origin in a lack of trust in God. Even in David's life, every sinful episode in which he failed to make a righteous decision is prompted by his lack of trust. The same is true for us.

So how do we engage in a trust habit that can minimize the possibility of sin? Here are four disciplines that can help:

  • Decision mindfulness

  • Prayer

  • Bible reading

  • Good advisers

Proverbs 3:5-6 (Benson Paraphrase)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding. In all your decisions, bring him in on the matter - trust him -  and he will set you on the right path.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 7/7/19

KINSHIP SUNDAY! 

What a good day to worship, spend time with God and each other, and nurture the Family of God. If you haven't been at Grace on the first Sunday of the month, you should make it a priority. You can't get this anywhere else.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 6/30/19

The grace of God through Jesus Christ provides forgiveness of sin. Even the big ones. Even the great, big, stinking ones.

David sinned. Big time. It was huge. It was an abuse of his power and position. It was out of character. It was horrible. But God forgave that sin.

Read all about the sordid details in 2 Samuel 11 - 12. Nakedness. Lust. Sex. Conspiracy. Murder. It's all in there. And it's all forgiven.

But . . . 

Even though sin has been forgiven does not exempt us from its consequences. And, in David's case, the consequences are grave. 

Just because sin is forgiven does not mean we should continue to sin! Sin hurts us. It hurts the people around us. It leaves damage that can pour out on generations to come. David's sin was a decision. A decision that went south because selfishness overwhelmed wisdom. 

Here's how that happened with David and happens in us. A decision to sin occurs . . .

  • When we avoid responsibility.

  • When we give attention to temptation.

  • When we lie to ourselves.

  • When we cover up the problem.

  • When we presume on God's grace.

In that moment of decision, when temptation is ripe, we need to trust God to give us the power to avoid the sin.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 6/23/19

Last week, Ivan Suarez, owner of restaurant Llagar de Colloto in Spain, set the Guinness World Record for most expensive cheese sold at auction. He paid $16,142.41 for 5.78 pounds of artisan blue cheese.

Why? I DON'T KNOW.

But obviously, Ivan has his priorities.

What are your priorities? Ivan's priority brought him to a place where he would take action on what was important to him. His decision was based on his priorities.

David, too, was driven to decide based on his priority. In 2 Samuel 6, we see David's priority unfold. Read it and you'll discover what it is.

OK. I'll just tell you. David's priority is getting God's presence to the place it belongs - in the capital of Jerusalem, the center of Israel.

We all have things that are important to us, and they form our priority architecture for decision-making. Family, friendships, occupation, education, ministry - all possible priorities in the structure. All taking a place as we make decisions.

David had those kinds of priorities. Establishing a nation. Procuring peace. Bring prosperity to his people. But there was one thing that drove all the others. God's presence in the place it belongs.

Want to know how to make decisions that are good - decisions that matter for eternity? Put God in the center place of that priority structure, and let your decisions flow from that presence.

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 6/16/19

When I set up our pool this year, I knew I'd need to turn on the pump and filter right away. The cottonwood trees were in full "snow" production, and I needed that filter to do some work.

All of us use filters to make decisions. Our choices are always conditioned by those filters. You may not ever have thought about those filters, or considered that you're using them, but every decision you make is passed through a set of filters that help you to say "yes" or "no" to that choice.

Let's use your breakfast as an example. What filters did you use to choose what you ate for breakfast? A filter of your likes and dislikes. A filter of what is healthy and what is not. A filter of what someone made for you and whether you would eat that or choose something else. See how it works? 

We don't always have to actually think about the filters, but they are there just the same. 

David didn't arrive in the city of Jerusalem accidentally. He didn't find a crown along the side of the road and put it on and declare himself to be king of all Israel. 

Want to read something swashbuckling and cool? Read the last ten chapters of 1 Samuel. Chart the number of decisions David made. Slide all the way into the first five chapters of 2 Samuel. And then ask this: what filters did David use to make his choices?

In 2 Sam 2 and 5, we can learn about a few of those filters - decision filters that we would do well to share with David:

  • He inquired of the Lord. David had this amazing way of conversing with Almighty God!

  • He covenanted with God's people. David viewed his ties to the community of faith as a filter through which he could make decisions. We do not act for self; our decisions are not made in isolation of others.

  • He proceeded to take the stronghold. Filters are not meant to halt progress toward the goal. In spite of the obstacles and the odds, we need to keep moving forward to God's will. If God is directing, and the filters of purpose are in place, eventually it must be time to take action.

Today, this week, this month - you will make decisions. How you decide will be based on the filters you have in place in your life. How will God factor in to those filters and decisions?

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 6/9/19

[OK. This week I'm going to make you work a little. Are you ready?]

Put a thousand mouse traps in a big room. Arm them and place a ping pong ball on each one. Then throw a ping pong ball into the center. What do you get?

Like ping pong balls flying into and bouncing off one another, our decisions affect the decisions of others around us. My decisions are not made in a empty room, with no consequences beyond my own individual life. Those choices I make influence and even set off decisions of other people.

Think of your family unit. Whether good or bad or indifferent, the decision of one family member often - usually - always? - has direct power to influence the decisions of others in the family. The same is true of friendships, workplace environments, schools, and virtually any other place or situation in life. Unless you're Tom Hanks living your life out alone on a desert island, your decisions affect other people.

We form webs of decisions, networks of choices where our ping pong ball sets of chain reactions of decisions of those around us.

David's experience recorded in I Samuel 25 illustrates this decision-web phenomenon. Would you be willing to read it? As you do, notice the three major players in the story. Identify the decisions that each of the three make, and trace those decisions as the other players interact with the choices made. And ask yourself: Which one of these people chooses best? Which one brings God into the decision-web?

Make a list on paper:

What choices does Nabal make?
What choices does David make?
What choices does Abigail make?
Who factors God's plans into the decision-web?

I'm not going to give you the answers. (If you listen to the sermon here, you can get some of the answers!)

Now, one more question: Will you be like Nabal, or David, or Abigail? 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 6/2/19

Great day of communion and community! We shared quality worship with our Grace Band. We applauded and prayed for Gabriel and Erika (and Faile, too!) who are all recent grads. We spent some time praying for many needs and concerns. We talked about the need to remember the "why" of our faith. We received Communion together and fellowship around the tables at Grace Grub. We spend the morning celebrating the Family of God!

Next Sunday we'll return to our series on Decisions from the life of David.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 5/26/19

From the moment we're alive, the decisions we make are critically dependent on one thing.

Relationships. 

Think about it. When we make decisions - especially important ones - we make them with people. Even if we don't share the decision out loud with anyone else, the decision is usually made with people in mind. And, if you're smart, you get counsel and advice with the big decisions of your life from the people you love and trust.

That's why friendships - relationships - are vitally important to making good decisions. Who you go to for advice makes a big difference in which choices you make. The people you have surrounding you likely have some share of influence on the directions you go.

It makes plain good sense to surround yourself with quality friends. That's what David did.

In I Samuel 18-20, we get a picture of David's closest friendship. David becomes a friend to the son of King Saul, Jonathan. As described in the Bible, this relationship is very close, and sets the benchmark for quality friendships. Read those chapters and you'll see that there are several things about these friends that God uses to influence decisions. 

  • A strong friendship provides confidence.

  • A sacrificial friendship provides options and freedom.

  • A loyal friendship provides honest guidance. 

Who do you have in your life that serves as that kind of friend? (Don't say "Jesus." I know he's your friend, and that is VERY IMPORTANT. But God wants us to have friends around us, physically with us, who will serve as flesh-and-blood surrogates.)

A second question: To whom are you a friend providing these important attributes? Is your friendship with other people leading them to Godly decisions?

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 5/19/19

David and Goliath. Heard of that one?

Of course you have. Have you read the story recently? Here it is: 1 Samuel 17 (ESV)

What a great story. It describes a moment of decision - made by David - that is, arguably, one of the most amazing decisions in the Old Testament. David decides to go up against Goliath, the Philistine giant from Gath.

Goliath. Big, ugly, scary obstacle to forward spiritual momentum.

Israel is (still) working on God's plan to remove the Philistines from the land. That's where God wants them. But the big, ugly, scary giant stands - literally - in the way.

You and I face giants. Goliaths in our lives are big, ugly, scary obstacles that stand in the way of our own forward spiritual momentum. These big boundaries stand between where we are now and where God wants us to be.

David makes a decision to take a stand for and with God against the giant. What does it take to make a decision like that? Here are five stones for making decisions:

  • A willingness to be a servant. 

  • A desire to see things differently.

  • A determination to engage abilities.

  • A choice to trust God's help.

  • The courage to stand now.

Where are the giants standing in your way? Where will you take your stand?

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 5/12/19

Between getting anointed as King and killing Goliath, something interesting happens. David gets picked as a psychological musician to a monarch who is having problems.

Saul is that other king. He's the king that is on his way out so that David can take his place. But in the meantime, Saul is having fits of madness that need attention, and his advisers suggest that a nice mini-concert on a stringed instrument would provide the comfort and soothing to calm the king. So they look for someone who is a master of the lyre. (Because nobody is soothed by a stinky lyre player).

Guess who plays the lyre? Yep. David is a proficient lyre-prodigy. Not only that, but David is not only "skillful in playing," but he is also "a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” (I Samuel 16:18).

So David becomes the comforter of the king, as well as his armor-bearer. Which basically means that David was Saul's chief body guard who played a really mean lyre.

(Imagine if the Secret Service agents protecting the President also broke out in a rockin' and rollin' dance number while they escorted him from place to place!)

Our topic is decision-making. David doesn't make any decisions here - at least none mentioned in detail by the author of this history. But, like all situations in life, the decisions here lie in the background. It's like one of those hidden picture puzzles on the back page of your Highlights magazine in the doctor's office: the decisions are there all the time, you just have to look for them.

If you look for them here you'll find them in the way David was ready for the assignment. Look back at that description. These things don't happen by accident. David was ready on purpose.

No - he probably didn't know WHAT he was getting ready for. Neither do you. Neither do I.

But readiness is an important decision.

  • It means being prepared.

  • It means being available.

  • It means being in tune with the heart of God.

So when the call came, it was David who came to serve.

Are you ready? 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 5/5/19

We prayed together. We worshiped together. We shared our burdens together. We learned more about God and each other together. We came before the Lord in Communion together. And we shared a great meal together (THANKS, LEADERSHIP TEAM, FOR THE GREAT MEXICAN FARE!).

THIS IS KINSHIP!

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 4/28/19

What decisions were made before you were you that influence the decisions you make right now?

Sunday we started a series on the decisions we make. We want to take a look at how we make decisions and what God's role in those decisions is. We're going to use the life of David in the Bible to examine what Godly decision-making looks like.

But we don't start with David. We start with the decisions that were made before we see David making any decisions. Because the fact is this: one moment in David's life served as the foundation for all the other decisions he made. And that one moment did not involve a decision of David, but a decision by God.

Read I Samuel 16:1-13. You'll get the picture. Samuel is directed by God to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the new king. Once Samuel arrived, God would reveal exactly which of Jesse's sons would be The One.

So the sacrifices were made, and the selection process began. Starting with the eldest brother, the sons were brought to Samuel. But God said "no" to every one. Samuel was perplexed. So he asked Jesse, "You got any more kids?"

Turns out, he did. Presumably to allow the other bros to meet with Samuel, Jesse sent David, the youngest, to babysit the sheep, not ever thinking that whatever Samuel's intentions were would not require the runt of the family. So David was fetched. And, of course, David was The One.

David was anointed as King of Israel. He did not choose this course. The decision was made in spite of him. The decision was made by God.

"So?" you might be thinking, "what does this have to do with me?"

Glad you asked. St. Paul, in Ephesians, makes it clear that those of us who have aligned ourselves with Jesus Christ as our Lord were chosen long before we ever made the decision. Read carefully Ephesians 1:3-6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

So, here's the deal: that day in Jesse's backyard, when David had oil poured over his head as a sign that God had made a decision about him, that day laid a foundation for David and every single decision he would ever make for the rest of his life. No decision David ever made was made separate from the decision God made that day.

And in the same way, the decision God made before the world was made serves as a foundation for EVERY DECISION YOU AND I MAKE AS CHILDREN OF GOD.

So sit on this thought for a while. A decision about you that you did not make - God's choosing of you - must be the central factor for every decision you make.

Can you ever make a decision the same again?

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 4/21/19

EASTER SUNDAY! - What a GREAT day of worship! Thank you to Linda B. and all the kiddos for the bell choir! Thanks to Becca and the Grace Band for such amazing music! 

We finished our series, Lifeline, looking at how the death and resurrection of Jesus gives offers us a life like no other - life with a capital "L".

In earlier messages, we looked at how Jesus' shed blood provides forgiveness, freedom, and an intimate relationship with God. But none of it would mean a thing except for the resurrection of Jesus.

If you were drowning in the ocean and grabbed on to a lifeline from the ship, it would be great - unless there was nothing on the other end!

If you despaired of your life and called a suicide hotline and got an answering machine, it would be horrible!

The offer of forgiveness and freedom and a relationship with God is empty - worthless - if Jesus didn't deliver victory over death and the grave by coming back to life.

Jesus' resurrection means life - real life - LIFE! - can be altogether different for those who trust in his offer of new living. 

JESUS' RESURRECTION ALLOWS FOR . . .

  • Living Fear-Free

  • Living Debt-Free

  • Living Full-On

He offers. You decide. What will it be? Same old same old, or abundant life?

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 4/14/19

There's only one reason Jesus died.

Relationship.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.

God's love and his desire to have a relationship with us - his goal from the very beginning - is the motive for Jesus showing up, living a life, dying on a cross, and coming back to life. 

There is simply nothing about us more important to God than relationship. His first priority is that we would have a relationship with him. His second priority is that we would have a relationship with each other. (Check out Jesus' prayer in John 17 to verify this truth).

Is God concerned about other things in our lives? Is he concerned about my finances? Is he concerned about my job? Is he concerned about my health? Is he concerned about my ministry? Is he concerned about my obedience? Sure.

God is concerned about all that, and more. BUT ONLY AS ANY OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH RELATIONSHIP!

Jesus shed his blood for this: that you could have a relationship with the Father of the universe. Jesus died on the cross so that you and I could be welcomed into the family of God and call God "Daddy" - JUST LIKE JESUS DOES! 

This is the reason. God did this. Sink yourself into this truth and believe it. Trust it. Trust him. 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 4/7/19

Another great Kinship Service today! We sang out strong with the Grace Band in worship. We learned about Michael Weidner's amazing stack-up of miracles in his life, and heard about how his faith in Christ helps him deal with chronic heart problems. We prayed for one another and rejoiced at what God is up to in our lives. We talked about how together we can move barns and glorify God by helping our neighbors and living in harmony with one another. We shared Communion and a meal. It was a very good day of connection and worship. 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 3/31/19

The blood of Jesus on the cross provides a way for our sins to be forgiven. This forgiveness allows us to have a relationship with God. That's what we need, and it's the place for which we were created. 

But there's still a problem . . .

That problem shows up in the history of Israel. God's chosen people align themselves with his law, then get cocky and arrogant and fall into sin. Eventually they repent, and in his mercy, God forgives them and restores them and they align themselves with his law. But the whole thing happens again. And again. And again.

Forgiveness is offered through the blood of Jesus Christ. But it doesn't end there. What Jesus came to do goes even deeper. God wants to end the cycle. Jesus offers a way.

The prophets in the Old Testament record the words of God as he promises that he has plans for a permanent solution that goes beyond the forgiveness-sin-repentance-forgiveness treadmill. Grab your Bible and check these out: Ezekiel 36:24-27 and Jeremiah 31:33-34.

Then look at how the author of Hebrews sees these promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ - Hebrews 8:6-13. Do you see what God's ultimate solution is?

He wants to replace your heart. He wants to do a heart transplant. He desires to rip out your old, hard, stubborn, willful, obstinate, heart of stone and replace it with a soft, tender, responsive, and spiritually alive heart of flesh.

The only way we're going to escape the merry-go-round of constant sin-repentance-forgiveness-sin is to have a complete overhaul. Jesus offers us a lifeline through his blood. He provides a way that the Holy Spirit can . . .

Live around us? Live alongside us? Live near us? Nope.

Jesus provides a way for the Holy Spirit to live in us.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  2 Corinthians 5:17

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 3/24/19

In spite of all the jewelry, the cross of Jesus is not a popular topic for conversation, especially when we focus on the blood part. It's gross. It's disturbing. And it's clearly not politically correct.

But it's the pin that sticks God's offer of forgiveness to reality.

I don't have the space here to explain God, and besides - others have done that. And I don't have the will to defend him, and besides - others have tried. Here's the plain truth: from the beginning, God has engineered for our sin problem to be handled by shedding of blood. "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins." (Hebrews  9:22)

There are many prophecies of Jesus that point to the events of his life and death and resurrection. Perhaps none is so graphic and powerful as Isaiah 53. Take a look in your Bible and read up.

Here's what that prophecy tells us about Jesus and his cross and his shed blood:

  • He took our sin on himself. All of it. "All our iniquity."

  • He became an offering for guilt. The sacrifice for sin. "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

  • He provided a way for us to be counted as righteous. When we trust that he took our sins on himself, and that he made the ultimate and final sacrifice for our forgiveness, our names can be removed from the "sinner" column of his ledger to the "righteous" column. Not because of what we've done, but because of what he's done.

Billy Graham said, "Be assured that there is no sin you have ever committed that the blood of Jesus Christ cannot cleanse."

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 3/17/19

Sunday, I took an informal poll of Grace peeps during our service. I asked how many people had ever heard a sermon on parenting adult children. Results?

You got it. Zip. Nothing. Nada.

It's astounding, really. Especially now that I'm one of those parents, I understand that this is a whole different kind of thing than raising littles. When our kids were three, Linda and I found it pretty easy to set them right, fix their problems, correct their mistakes, mend their boo-boos. Now that they're all adults, the "terrible twos" don't sound so terrible at all.

Our kids aren't terrible - not at all. We're very proud of them and the people they've become. But we have had to alter our approach to parenting to adapt to their adulting. It's not that parenting is over (we've learned that never really happens), it's that it has to change or we'll lose our kids.

This is Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in the first page of his letter. It's a prayer that very much applies to what I want for my kids. When they were under age ten, I had the authority to enforce some of these things, kinda. But now, the most important thing I can do is, like Paul, pray.

Ephesians 1:17-19a

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

So we pray, YES LORD! 

What do our adult kids need from us besides prayer? Here are a few important things:

* Presence without pushiness. 
* Advice without pressure. 
* Generosity without expectation. 
* Love without condition.  
* Prayer on purpose.  

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 3/10/19

Parenting teens can be challenging, but very rewarding! How can we navigate the adolescent transition with grace? Here are four guidelines to help:

  • Re-create grace. An environment of grace matures and changes. The Bible tells us to "grow in grace," which implies that grace is something that evolves and changes us. When our kids approach the teen years, parents should adapt with more honesty, sincere confession, and mutuality - when we let them know they are assets, not liabilities. All of this might seem counter-intuitive.

  • Ease up on control. Don't ask where you can apply more rules, ask where you can relax the rules. "But I have to win every battle!" No, you don't. Try finding battles you can lose. Someone has said, "Rules don't create lasting, heartfelt obedience after age nine." Rules need to morph into guidelines.

For instance, at first you have a rule for your child: NEVER CROSS THE STREET!  Then, when the time is right, that rule becomes, ALWAYS HOLD MY HAND WHEN YOU CROSS THE STREET! That rule morphs into, NEVER CROSS THE STREET ALONE! Eventually, that rule might become, ALWAYS LOOK BOTH WAYS WHEN YOU CROSS THE STREET! But eventually, the rule becomes a guideline: Streets can be dangerous, so please be careful. Then, at some point, you want your kid to say, HEY! WANNA PLAY SOME CATCH IN THE STREET?! 

  • Grant more responsibility. Adolescence needs to be a safe zone for practicing adulting. That implies that mistakes will be made. WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOUR CHILD FAILS WILL COMPOUND INTO THE FUTURE! Remember, "Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo."

  • Promote free will. Think of free will as a muscle that needs to be strengthened, taught to move correctly, and stretched. The more we control decisions, the more we rob our kids of the exercise of free will. That muscle will atrophy, and they may not be able to follow through toward being an adult. Of course, as a parent, you still need control when kids are becoming adults, but the more we can allow them to use the muscle of free will, the more they will learn to adult.

And remember this: helping our kids through the teen years can be exhausting and perplexing. But God promises that, when we are generous with our attention to the task, he will supply. Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 2/24/19

In Colossians 3:21, Paul gives fathers (parents, actually) some very practical advice: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

That provoking thing - Paul elsewhere says it leads our kids to anger. That anger is what prompts the discouragement, literally: the draining of spirit.

Our culture is filling with kids who are angry and are discouraged. I believe it's because we are missing the boat at giving our kids hope - real, resilient hope.

Three things are essential for hope. One is a firm trust that God loves us. The second is that we have relational connections with people who love us. And that we see these love relationships as unconditional and sacrificial. 

(Could part of our problem be that children are tolerated, at best, and that we let them know by our words and actions that their being around causes us no end of inconvenience and frustration?)

The third element that's needed for our kids to have hope is that we show them how to find their God-given strength, and help them to put that strength into practice as they mature into adulthood.

Beth WiseComment