What kind of times are we living in? Are you an optimist, believing that the world is getting better and better? Or and things going downhill? What are the problems we face? What are the solutions?
One of the advantages of accumulating a lot of birthdays is that we gain perspective. We have a longer view, and can more easily see trends. Pete’s 80+-year-old grandmother (right) frequently observed, “The world is going to hell in a handbasket!” Being in our 20s, we thought it was just old age speaking. Now that I’m considerably older, I’m beginning to share her perspective.
Some things are obvious. On a positive note, science and technology have improved our lives to a great degree (and also caused a host of new problems). Due to the civil rights movement, past injustices are being corrected. In spite of the dire claims you hear, the environment is actually much cleaner than it was when I was coming of age in the ’70s. On a global scale, extreme poverty and child mortality are down, literacy rates are rising, and overall, if we look at the standard of living, a majority of people are living healthier and more comfortable lives.[i]
Pete and I were chatting with a friend, sharing stories about how we’d learned to trust God. So often we’re focused on what’s happening now that we forget to look back at the many years of God’s faithfulness and direction. As Pete related one major lesson he’d learned many years ago, explaining how it laid the foundation for so much of the ministry he had now, I realized that it’s a story worth sharing. I didn’t know Pete when this happened—I met him a month later—but it’s had a huge impact on my life. Maybe God will use it in your life, too. Continue reading
I find it frustrating when well-meaning friends and acquaintances try to convince me of something I know to be a bunch of hooey. When I try to point out that their “facts” aren’t confirmed by science, their standard retort it, “But it works!” As if having something work means it’s true, or right, or God’s will.
From a science point of view, having something work doesn’t prove anything. Just by chance, sometimes doing A will result in outcome B, even if there’s no connection. I’ve said it before: correlation doesn’t prove causation. If you don’t believe me, check out these fun charts.
God must love road trips. He took the Israelites on a 40 year road trip in the desert. You wouldn’t think it should take 40 years to get from Egypt to the Promised Land, even walking, but God doesn’t always travel in a straight line. There are too many lessons He wants to teach us along the way.
Exodus 13:17-18 reads:
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert toad toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
I hate interruptions. I find them particularly annoying. Put me in front of a computer and give me an article to write or a pile of photos to edit, and I have no problem staying focused. When the house needs cleaning, I set aside a day and get the entire place sparkling. When digging in the garden, I might forget to come in for lunch. And when I read a book, I often read all 400 or so pages in one sitting, even to the point of staying up half the night.
While this predilection to concentrate can be an asset when it comes to getting tasks done, it isn’t so helpful when it comes to relationships. Almost by definition, doing anything with another person tends to involve interruptions. That’s the reason we do things together in the first place. Parenting takes this to an extreme. As anyone who’s ever raised a two-year-old knows, kids are nothing but interruptions!
As we saw last week, Saul was a fearful man. He was afraid of his enemies. He was afraid of his friends. He was even afraid of being king. Sadly, the one fear he lacked was a fear of God.
When we left Saul, he was in bad shape. His fears had led him to disobey God. As a result, God had rejected him as king over Israel. Now let’s pick up the story in 1 Samuel 16. When Samuel goes to anoint David as Saul’s successor, we’re told at “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” At the same time, “the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul.” As far as heaven was concerned, David was king and Saul was not. However, it would take years for this truth to work itself out on Earth. In the meantime, Saul manages to go from bad to worse. Reading the next few chapters, I tried to feel sorry for the guy, but what I really wanted was to whap him upside the head!
Saul was one messed up king. That’s my conclusion as I read through 1 Samuel, and it’s easy to see why. He screwed up, royally (sorry). From disobeying God’s specific orders (see 1 Samuel 13 and 15) to years of trying to murder his most valuable and devoted subject, David, he seemed to have a hard time getting anything right. I’ve been wondering why God picked him in the first place.
Chapter 9 explains one possible reason:
Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.