Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Slaying The Giant

Slaying The Giant
Posted by Sarah

“Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head…” 
 - 1 Samuel 17:46 (NLT)

I have always loved watching epic warriors in battle. Whether it’s medieval knights, courageous patriots, WWII soldiers, hobbits, or Lucy, Edward, Susan, and Peter in The Chronicles of Narnia, my eyes tune into the battle scene to watch the warrior fight.  I guess I’m inclined to see what happens. Will the solider retreat? Will the warrior prevail? Will courage ultimately overcome fear? 

When it comes to warriors, David comes to mind. The Bible recounts his story as a young teen who saw the injustice of a Philistine giant publicly mocked God and responded. When everyone ran in the name of fear (including Israel’s king named Saul), David stepped up. In bravery, David went to battle dismissing every naysayer who said it couldn’t happen because he was a “youth.” 

Armed with rocks and a sling, David proclaimed to the giant that the battle was the Lord’s and that He would have victory! Aggressively, David ran toward his opponent and with one precise shot, took down the giant!

Like David, I too have faced giants: Giants of fear, condemnation, guilt, insecurity, unbelief, temptation, pride, and various forms of opposition. 

While some of my encounters with the giant ended in victory like David, 0thers ended in miserable defeat like Saul. 

According to the Bible, Goliath, the Philistine champion first came on the scene calling out all of Israel to fight him. Standing six cubits and a span (nine feet, nine inches tall according to according to Thomas Nelson’s bible commentary), he was also armed and dangerous. Possessing a bronze helmet, coat of mail (overlapping plates of bronze sewn on leather), bronze armor on his legs, a bronze javelin between his shoulders (strapped onto his back according to Nelson,) a spear (where the spearhead alone weighed six hundred sheckles equaling seventeen pounds according to Nelson), and a shield barrier who went before him into battle.

Additionally, the Bible tells us that Goliath hated Israel and screamed out taunts against the nation, terrorizing and harassing the people continually.

One look at Goliath sent Saul into shear panic and I too have done the same. I’ve become intimidated, plagued with guilt, had failures haunt me, allowed fear to encroach me, and was lured by temptation. In short, I have been like Saul.

But unlike Saul, I have chosen to not withdraw in fear and to allow Jesus to dust me off and use my fumbles as lessons. In short, I chose to be like David.

Our adversary known as Satan (the devil) schemes to destroy and seeks our demise. He uses giants that come in a variety of weaknesses and forms (such as family members, cute guys, and bad thoughts) to trip us. He will capitalize on vulnerabilities, pounce on unpleasant scenarios, and shoot darts when we lest expect it. The bible calls him a roaring lion who seeks to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). He will do anything to thwart our relationship with Jesus and get us distracted, disillusioned, and ultimately, derailed. 

Yet we don’t have to be a victim. The bible warns us to let Satan take advantage us by being ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV). We can study and train for battle. I learned from David’s example that we must know our opponent and his tactics to gain ground. With God’s help, we can become aware of our weaknesses and seek to make them strong. I studied how David stepped up in courage and how He won the battle by fighting with spiritual weapons such as prayer, faith, and walking in truth, and proclaiming Christ. Additionally, I learned that the battle is won when our minds are set on victory placing our complete confidence in God (not ourselves) to know the battle is the Lord’s. Furthermore, I learned that the battle is also won when we are willing to be obey God, step up, and fight for what is right. When we ignore the naysayer’s and think big as David did, we too can experience victory! 

Yet, we must always remember that giants can resurface and revisit. When Jesus Himself was faced with temptation by the devil it says that he departed until an opportune time. The devil didn’t stop opposing him. Instead, he waited for an opportune time to attack. If he did this with Jesus, he will do it with us. But if I know he attack’s my weak points we know like David that when he attacks, he must be finished.

David cuts off the head of Goliath after he is dead in 1 Samuel 17:51. It’s blunt and gory but it’s a great illustration of what we should do with our giant. We can’t flirt with its agenda or run away. Instead with God’s help, we must be aggressive and slay the giant so the giant cannot get back up. If we want to have victory, like any great warrior, we must slay the giant.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

At Face Value

At Face Value
Posted by Michelle 

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”
    -  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Epiphanies arrive in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they arrive while we are in contemplative prayer, or sometimes while reading God’s Word. Sometimes that startling moment of clarity arrives while we are in nature, appreciating God’s creative power. This last week, an epiphany crashed over me from a different venue: a mentor.

My mentor is an older, wiser, Godly woman who I entrust my deepest struggles to. Before this week I thought mentors only listen, guide, and keep their mentees accountable. This week I learned that mentors also deliver epiphanies - and not always the warm and fuzzy ones. More like the mind blowing, “I never knew that about myself,” types of epiphanies. 

I had been telling my mentor about my week and how I had tried to help my brother with the task of buying a car. It had turned out to be a bit of a disaster, as things often do when my schedule loving ways clashes with his free spirit. My mentor stopped me mid-rant, though, and asked me why did I drop everything to help him, knowing that something frustrating like this situation usually happened. That little “why” question gave me pause. I think she wanted to remind me of reasons like, “he’s family and I love him,” or “because God told me to,” but those “right” answers didn’t ring true in my heart at that moment. I trusted my mentor enough to think hard and honestly about her question.

I looked down at my knees and realization dawned on me. 

“I wanted to be needed.”

After speaking the words, I looked up at her again, and could see in her eyes that this was going to be one of our more serious talks. She asked another power-packed question: Why do I find value in being needed?

KAHBLAM! The epiphany struck.

Ah. Here’s the thing about wise people in your life. They help you see the uncomfortable truths that you were blind to before. Here was my uncomfortable epiphany in that moment of clarity: I feel that I’m valuable when I’m needed. I’m loved, of course, but valuable, special, and irreplaceable?

Fortunately, my mentor didn’t just leave me to stew in that revelation and actually had some wisdom to speak into my life. We can’t base our value on other people, even through doing good things for them. Instead, we can only measure our value based on God’s standard. The good news is that whether we feel valuable or not, or can do some good in the world or not, God values us just the same. 

We are each His masterpiece.

I learned that I hadn’t always been doing good things for the right reasons. The right reasons are our of love and obedience to God, not out of a misguided sense of finding our value through helping other people. Now I’m reminded that I can have a secure sense of value in God, and set my focus where it belongs: on God and others. 

I hope you take away from this post a renewed confidence that you are valuable, special, and irreplaceable because God says so (He would know!). And also, that we need wise mentors in our lives. People who we can trust to listen and then speak God’s wisdom to us. Mentors can help us when walking God’s path gets tough, and keep us accountable. They also, as you saw today, deliver mind-blowing epiphanies that can change us for the better.