“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance... The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16.7
Recently I had an odd encounter. After saying "Hi" and inquiring how an acquaintance was doing, their response was "Loving Jesus & changin' the world!" I laughed... and then the awkward silence set in. I heard someone else with a similar story (different person, same outcome) with the reply being "I'm living the dream - LIVING THE DREAM!" Again, it was followed by an awkward silence as, well, what does one say after something so cliche is given as a serious reply?
Sure, short punchy statements have their place (like Love God, Love People, Live Jesus!) but when you try to sound significant by distilling your existence in a single sentence, it just comes off flat. "Living the dream"... what dream? Whose dream? "Loving Jesus and changing the world"... how? For the better - I hope? There's a tendency to try to be this important, significant SOMEBODY by dressing yourself up or trying to sell people on this confident, self-assured image you want to project. For the record, God's not buying it - and probably not many people are either. While it is true that wearing one's insecurities on one's sleeve isn't particularly helpful either, there is definitely truth to the fact that God is looking for sincerity and authenticity. Who are you REALLY? Don't know? Unsure? Actually, most of us are in that same boat. But one thing is for sure: Trying to sell the world on your significance by a single cliche is a waste of time. Chasing people's favor and trying to appear powerful and popular is an empty enterprise.
The way up... is down. Humble yourself. Don't seek greatness. Hunger for holiness. Go after goodness. Cultivate Christlikeness. God looks at the heart. Give your attention to being more genuine and sincere rather than spouting soundbites - to pursuing what God says is worthwhile instead of buying into self-help's latest mantra. It'll payoff a lot more than trying to "live the dream".
Spark. Bonfire. Burn the trash. Keep the good.
“These were the descendants of Levi in their various families. Like the descendants of Aaron, they were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank.” - 1 Chronicles 24.30-31
The Bible has a recurring theme that God does things differently than we do. One of the ideas is that "My ways are higher..." and this passage in 1 Chronicles refers to this again. In our culture, we pay attention to certain things like image, prestige, position, wealth, the perception of power. There is a way that we "rank" people. In the culture of this passage, age was also considered as the elders were to be respected. And yet, here the Bible tells us of a time when people were being selected for positions of great responsibility, and the usual considerations were set aside.
Today, maybe you need to press the PAUSE button on your usual expectations about who is qualified or should be chosen. Perhaps the Lord is up to something unusual and has a fresh path forward. There may be a certain logic to doing things the way you've always done them, but perhaps today the Lord wants something different - "...without regard to age or rank". Be open to letting Him do something different in His own unique way!
Spark... from an unexpected source.
“The king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!” Nathan replied to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that same night the LORD said to Nathan,” - 2 Samuel 7:2-4
Here’s a good lesson for today! Notice that David, a man after gods own heart, had a spiritual leader that he listened to… But God said something different than the Leader did!
Here’s the simple starting point for your week: sure, it’s great to have spiritual people that you draw inspiration and advice from. However, it is never a substitute for you hearing gods voice for yourself! It’s absolutely right to check with others to make sure that you’re not getting adrift – sure. But just as real, is the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to you.
Trust God today! Listen for his voice! Well-meaning people may share what makes sense to them… good advice isn’t always God advice! You are his, and you know his voice, (Jesus said so in John 10) so listen to Him today!
Dare to Compare
Which is bigger- a chair or a car? Answer: the car is bigger. What about a house, is the car bigger or smaller? Answer: smaller. But how can that be if the car is defined as being bigger? Of course, the explanation is that it depends on what you compare the item to, but that is a bit of a problem for us as humans, and Christians. We compare ourselves to each other and then define ourselves accordingly. Some days we end up A+ Awesome, then come crashing down because we ran into someone who does the same, but is nicer, more attractive, and has a better relationship with their spouse – or their mother. Or they do more things for their church, community, or… mother. Maybe they suck at personal relationships, and we are back to feeling Awesome again. Point is, we are not meant to live in that instability of circumstantial comparison.
One of the most difficult things for us as individuals to comprehend is God’s love for us. Now I don’t mean that it is a complicated concept, but the stark contradiction of his relationship vs. human tendency makes us want to question and put contingencies on it.
“Well, maybe God loves me, but only compared to his feelings towards murderers. – Oh wait, he loves them too. Okay, well maybe then when compared to the most wretched person imaginable – Chief of All Sinners (see what I did there, lol). Oh wait, the bible says that it’s all sin in God’s eyes.” (See Rom. 3:23 and Jas 2:10)
So, the answer is this: God loves you just as you are, regardless of where you are, because it is the way he says it is. There is no comparison. He sent his beloved son, not so that he could love us again, but because he already does love us. (See Jn. 3:16 and Jn. 15:13)
Sometimes we think Christ died for God’s benefit.
“We messed it up, so therefore God had to do something so that he could look at us again.” (Insert age-old Christianese of “God can’t look at sin”)
Truth is, his position on loving us has NEVER changed. There was never a “bigger” or “smaller”, it just was. What a beautiful gift! Let it free you today. You are wholly loved by God. Always have been, always will be.
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised;”
- Psalm 56.8-10
Good morning! As you start this new day in this new week, here is a reminder for you: God is on your side! He knows everything you’ve been through, and everything you’re going through. Remember what he has promised. “I will never leave you and forsake you.” He keeps track of all your sorrows, and is paying attention. What He promises, He will do. You are not alone. You are defended.
Short. Sweet. Should warm the heart… Spark!
“At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!
“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.
But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.”
- 1 Samuel 24:3-7
I hear people say all the time "God doesn't care about the little details of your life" and while it is true that we can sometimes get paralyzed by over analyzing things, the opposite is more often the case - we react on gut instinct and then wonder why things turned out so rough in the aftermath! Every "good" opportunity is not necessarily a GOD opportunity! Ever notice how we think "an open door must be one the Lord has opened for me"? Besides the awkward setting of this story of Saul and David (talk about your awkward bathroom moment!) the bigger point here is that David had the presence of mind to recognize that just b/c you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD.
Really short and to the point today but just stop and ask yourself: "Is the choice I'm about to make something that will honor God?"
“He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me. My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness. I am surrounded by fierce lions who greedily devour human prey - whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows, and whose tongues cut like swords. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens! May your glory shine over all the earth. My enemies have set a trap for me. I am weary from distress. They have dug a deep pit in my path, but they themselves have fallen into it. My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises! Wake up, my heart! Wake up, O lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people
When you think about praising God, I bet you think about a perfect church setting: the music and the lights set the right mood, friends all around sharing your love for God, our voices rising together in harmony to bring God glory… That sounds fantastic. Yet in Psalm 56, David is talking about praising God in a very different place: in the middle of conflict. You notice how we create this fairytale version of our spiritual life where everyone gets along with us and we get along with everybody without arguments, without conflict, without someone somewhere deciding if they are our enemy and we deserve the worst they can give us. Instead of harmony, there is discord. Instead of a reverent atmosphere, things are toxic. Absolutely, we should do as the New Testament says and “as much as possible live in peace with everyone.” Even there though, the point is “as much as possible.”
Today, there might be someone who just gets on your nerves, or that has decided the world would be better off if people like you weren’t around. Sure, make sure to do a self check to ensure that you’re not the one in the wrong but either way, there’s no reason not to let circumstances dictate your joy and whether you can praise God. Don’t wait for or expect a perfect time and place to have a heart for worship. David trusted that God would take care of his enemies, and understood that his situation was just one more reason for praise. God sees you, God knows the situation, God is for you! Your circumstances may very well end up being one more reason to give Him glory!
“So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men.”
- 1 Samuel 22:1-2
What is it about the authentically godly that attracts the broken and hurting? Sure, one could read this as if it were some fluke, or perhaps David was attracting these people intentionally to build a really rough and tough bunch of warriors. But the Bible indicates that these people sought him out instead of the other way around. Maybe it's the sense of security and stability. Perhaps the godly have this lack of fear in dealing with people in crisis. Its too easy to be afraid of people with problems, isn't it? It can seem like we might 'catch some of their crazy" or "get infected" by their bad fortune somehow. The godly know who they are and Whose they are. This sense of security in God gives them the courage to not be threatened by people who are struggling, to hold their own course and in doing so, to be a compass for those who feel lost and alone.
It is the same with Jesus. Broken, hurting, troubled, discontent people are drawn to the purity and safety of the Savior. The truly godly are not seen as a threat to the troubled - they represent a safe harbor, a place, a person that knows what is good, right and true and can provide stability and a sense of safety and meaning in uncertain times.
I hope today, you will be that safe place, that Jesus-in-the-here-and-now for somebody around you. Help the hurting find healing and hope as you live out Jesus today with courage and confidence! Don't be suprised if the hurting are drawn to you to learn from the Healer you represent.
“When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Sam 16.6-7
You know this - but maybe you need to be reminded: God doesn't see things the way you see them. People are all about the image, the appearance, how we are perceived. We say "perception is reality" (there is some limited but useful value to the idea, but that's for another time) but God doesn't "do" perception - He's all about what is authentic.
Jesus was never "slick" or "polished". His hand-chosen team would never make anyone's list of "best and brightest" or "up and coming", etc. All that stuff matters to the corporate cutthroats, the haughty, proud and the shallow style-seeking set. But it's not so important for those who follow Jesus - and reminder #2: He said the meek will inherit the earth one day. (Kinda think that wins over being a "somebody" by the shallower standards the world has, don't you?)
So a simple but profound reality check for you today - sure, put your "best foot forward" (and all that stuff) but ultimately, remember that God is concerned with the real you, deep down inside. We'll all do better to worry less about how things look and instead work on how we really are. Jesus is focused on what matters (your heart and soul) and you should be too.
See you Sunday.
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.
Niki is a wife and mother of 2 children. She lives in Charlotte, NC where she enjoys everyday moments that ignite her relationship with our Lord and Savior.