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ACAD – Rejection: 1 Samuel 15

Saul Defeats the Amalekites but Spares Their King

Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

So Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers, and ten thousand soldiers of Judah. Saul came to the city of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. Saul said to the Kenites, “Go! Leave! Withdraw from among the Amalekites, or I will destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from the Amalekites. Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

Saul Rejected as King

The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.” Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, and Samuel was told, “Saul went to Carmel, where he set up a monument for himself, and on returning he passed on down to Gilgal.” When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” He replied, “Speak.”

Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
    and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has also rejected you from being king.”

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant[a] or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind.” Then Saul[b] said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the Lord.

Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” And Agag came to him haltingly.[c] Agag said, “Surely this is the bitterness of death.”[d] But Samuel said,

“As your sword has made women childless,
    so your mother shall be childless among women.”

And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.


Footnotes:

  1. a. 1 Samuel 15:29 Q Ms Gk: MT deceive
  2. b. 1 Samuel 15:30 Heb he
  3. c. 1 Samuel 15:32 Cn Compare Gk: Meaning of Heb uncertain
  4. d. 1 Samuel 15:32 Q Ms Gk: MT Surely the bitterness of death is past


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Wife… do you respect me?

excerpt from The Worker: A Man of God by LaShawnda Jones

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”   

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.  ~ Genesis 2:1-7 NLT

It could be argued that Eve had no respect for Adam’s relationship with God. As evidenced by her actions, her lack of respect for that divine relationship altered her marriage – for the worst. Eve was presented to her man in the midst of paradise. There was no shame in her baring or her interactions with her mate. Adam was responsible for teaching her everything he knew. He told her of God’s instructions to him regarding the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (a.k.a. the Tree of Death). Eve acknowledged Adam’s teachings when she told the serpent what God had said regarding the forbidden tree and it’s fruit.

Imagine Adam escorting Eve proudly through the Garden paradise God had created just for them, eagerly showing her the wonders of God’s expressive love for them. Imagine Adam stopping here and there to introduce her with the pride of belonging – the pride of oneness – as his wife. As his help mate. As his companion in all things. As the woman who would bear his likeness and his children. The woman who would share his authority over all the earth. Imagine Adam proclaiming, “Tree, greet my wife! Honor your mistress with the rustling on your leaves! Sky, salute the helper of my soul! Clear away the clouds so the Sun may meet its rival in the glowing countenance of my wife’s face.” Adam was a man about the Garden with the best part of creation on his arm – he knew it and wanted every other part of creation to know it, too. Imagine the level of intimacy Adam and Eve shared. The amount of joy they must have taken in one another. Exploring, teaching and learning together all day, every day. As Adam shared what he knew, he learned again from her perspective. And as Eve took in what he shared, she also taught him something new. Each new day must have been an enlightening revelation. The oneness of their union is evident in the oneness of their growth… and the oneness of their fall.

God first – always makes your wife a priority

Father God tells us, if we respect Him, we need to get to know Him.

The One who knows our needs better than we do says, if we love Him, simply do as He says.

The Word of God says, respect for God is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7, 111:10)

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. ~ 1 John 5:3-5

You know the story. One day, Eve forgot herself. Or perhaps, Adam didn’t make himself as clear as he should have

On the surface, Eve disobeyed Adam, but looking deeper, we see that Adam allowed Eve to disobey a direct order from God.

God says that the one way you can show that you love Him is by obeying His commandments. That’s it. Do what I say, says the LORD Almighty, and I will know that you’re committed to this relationship with me. I will know that you love me. I will know that you put no other before me.

When Adam stood by and allowed Eve to do what God had explicitly told him not to do, he was essentially putting Eve before God. How? Eve was in a selfish state of mind where she was seeking something she thought was being withheld from her. She wanted something she thought God was being stingy with. The thought of being equal to God appealed to her ego. Adam stood by and participated in their shared disobedience because he essentially chose to please his wife over pleasing God. That is the wrong turn Adam took early in his marriage.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. A man should be intent on pleasing his wife, just as a wife should seek to please her husband. Remember, Eve wasn’t seeking knowledge only for herself; she desired it for both herself and her husband, whom she passed the fruit to. However, our desire to please our spouse should not supersede God’s instructions to us. Essentially, Adam and Eve got in trouble when they put each other before God. Had they both made God’s instructions a priority in their relationship they may have still been in the Garden of God today! Don’t get this twisted – putting God first DOES NOT mean NEGLECT your spouse. God’s primary concern is our relationship with Him and how our love for Him is manifested in our human relationships, in particular, within our marriage relationship. Obeying God will never harm your relationship with your spouse. However, in your obedience, you must include your spouse. If a husband has received instructions from God (which means his life is going to change), it is his responsibility to share those instructions, and his interpretation of them, with his wife. One of three things will happen when a man shares his thoughts and intentions with his wife:

    1. She will not stand in agreement with him
    2. She will stand in agreement with him, without question
    3. She will ask a series of questions to help her figure out how she can best assist him

The partnership of marriage

A wife is either for or against her husband. No wife is neutral. But, a wife can become discouraged.

If your wife has no idea where she fits into your life, your work, your assignment, or your purpose, she will not feel useful to your life or valued by you. Within the marriage relationship, a woman’s value is tied to how she aides her husband, and how he values her contributions. This is embedded in woman from the beginning – from the moment of Eve’s installation as Adam’s helper. In contrast, a man’s value within marriage is tied to how he cares for his wife and family – they are the expression of his life and his offering to God. This is also embedded in man from the beginning – from Adam’s first instruction to tend to the garden and to care for it.

                Dear Worker, what has God told you to do in your life? How has he told you to honor Him?

                Are you doing what He told you to do? Is your wife aware of your assignment?

Your wife is assigned to your life as your assistant. Her primary role and function is to support you in your assignment from God. You honor God by honoring your wife’s role in your life.

Love and respect – different sides of the same coin

Don’t mistake your wife for a cost-free laborer, unworthy of your consideration. The woman who believes on Christ has already been redeemed by His blood. She is precious, indeed. Treat her as such. When you marry, whatever your Kingdom work is, you are automatically registered as a partnership. You have an ally like no other – one made to fit you and your needs specifically. You are two individuals, but one entity. You have different points of view, but one vision. When it comes to the direction of your enterprise – your marriage – you, the husband, are responsible for communicating the destination; however, your wife may be the logistical genius who plots out the route step by step. But you are both responsible for keeping your marriage enterprise on course.

respect
noun
1. esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability
2. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment
3. the condition of being esteemed or honored
 
verb
1. to hold in esteem or honor
2. to show regard or consideration for
3. to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with
(www.dictionary.com)

The fear of the Lord – Reverence for God; respect for his law, his will, his government, himself; the fear of offending him, which will lead us to do right. This fear is not that of a slave; it is not mere dread; it is not terror. It is consistent with love, and springs from it. It is consistent with calmness of mind, and promotes it. It does not produce terror, but rather delivers from it, and preserves the mind from alarms. The word here rendered “fear” is a noun of the same origin as the word rendered “reverend” in the previous verse. The suggestion to the mind of the psalmist that the “name of the Lord” was “reverend,” or was to be venerated, introduced this thought that such reverence is the very foundation of wisdom.

Is the beginning of wisdom – The foundation, the origin, the commencement of being truly wise. It is so. There is no true wisdom which does not recognize the being, the perfections, and the claims of God. The highest wisdom – the most lofty endowment of man – is that he “may” know and honor God. This, in capability, makes him wise above the brute creation; this, in exercise, makes one man more wise than another; this, when it springs up in the soul, makes a man more wise than he was before – or, is the “beginning” of true wisdom in the soul. (Barnes, 1834)

Compare Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Deuteronomy 4:6; Job 28:28; Ecclesiastes 12:13.

The difference your heart makes

Dear Worker, you earn your wife’s respect by what you share with her and how you treat her. Let me assure you, your sharing has nothing to do with money or material goods. Your sharing has everything to do with your heart and your spirit.

Many women believe the falsehood that a good relationship and a happy marriage is predicated on their husband’s income, bank account, worldly possessions, social connections and all the luxury he can afford to lavish on them. Many men believe the lies. I stand as a witness that has seen similar-thinking men and women co-exist in some of the unhappiest and unhealthiest marriages because they believed that marital bliss could be found in an elite job and a secluded neighborhood; a luxury car and an exclusive country club. They believe marital bliss is one materialistic goal away.

To the contrary, no matter how hard the husband’s work to give these wives what they said they wanted – all the trappings of wealth and worldly success they could afford – they end up empty. Deep into the years of their marriages, each husband will come to the conclusion that they can’t buy their wives enough to satisfy them, because there is always something newer, something bigger, something better, something more. There will always be something that another woman has that will make this wife feel her lifestyle is inferior – that her she is not as well-provided for as she should be by her husband. But in a quiet corner of her empty home, speaking softly to a friend on a dark, starless night, or sitting at a dining table set for the family, with a seat waiting to be filled by the head of household who was too busy working in an effort to maintain his wife’s declared need for the next best thing, the woman who constantly looks outward for satisfaction will break within. As she crumbles, she quietly weeps and prays for her husband to come home and hold her. Come home and share a meal and conversation with her. She sobs to her friend that all she wants is for her man to be with her sharing his presence and his thoughts, giving her his attention and his time. Depositing his knowledge into her. Right below the shallow surface, this woman (like every  other woman) wants her husband to be content to hold her and love her.

“Seriously,” she tosses at her friend, “what do I need with another piece of jewelry? What good is a larger house when it will only increase the echo of my loneliness? What value does an exclusive education have when my children don’t even know their father? And what child can respect a father they don’t know? What authority does a man have in his own home when respect is absent? Truly, what good is it for a woman to be given all the trappings of wealth and good living, if she has lost the heart and soul of her husband?”

This woman may fail to explore another reason her children have no respect for their father. Respect is something that is observed and taught. Children learn from watching those around them. They will first learn how to respect their father by their mother’s treatment of him. If a woman has no respect for her husband, her children will most likely follow suit. But this all comes down to the diminished presence of many men in their homes. If a man is not present, how can he lead his wife and correct his children? If he is not present, when does he speak words of life into his household? A man needs to be present in order to rebuke the outside influences on the minds, hearts and spirits of his wife and children.     

If a man only provides the bare necessities, but fails to nourish his family with God’s word which also grows into a hedge of protection around his household, then what has he truly done with his life? What is his presentation to God for the use of his body and his life when his family perishes from lack of true spiritual care?

In Proverbs 24:27, God elaborates, “Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” There is no instruction after “build your house.” Preparation comes before the household arrives. The worker may have to work continuously, but he needs to know that once his house is built, once his wife is claimed and mated and their family had been started, the household takes precedence over the outside work.

The look and feel of respect

Dear Worker, you may wonder if your wife respects you. Or you may not wonder at all and just wish that she did. I’m going to put this on scripture: Man, if you do for your wife as Jesus did for His Bride – he gave His life as a complete sacrifice in order to wash and cleanse her, to prepare her for holy presentation to God – then your wife will respond by falling to your feet and washing your work-wearied, sun-dried toes with her tears. She will dry your aching arches with her hair. She will anoint your life with everything that is in her. That’s respect. That’s honor. That’s favor and blessing. That is an expression of gratitude for the man God joined her to. That is, indeed, love.

In the second chapter of Proverbs, the Father warns His Son to beware of the immoral woman calling out to him form the side of the road. That woman is promises only fleshly pleasure and if he heeds her call, she will lead him to his death. After Eve had listened to the serpent, she turned to her husband to beacon with the promise of fleshly pleasures – worldly wisdom. Adam heeded her call because he chose to follow his wife into the realm of lustful deceit – a realm where the desire to get outweighs the desire to give. As a result, Adam and Eve and all the children seeded within them entered into a cycle of death.

Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman. She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God.  ~ Proverbs 2:16-17

If God is not a priority for your wife, chances are He is not a priority for you. What is important to a man becomes important to his wife. Her faithfulness increases the more you share with her. This way, husband and wife have a shared focus, a shared purpose, and a shared commitment to their assignment.

Adam failed to impress upon Eve the absoluteness of God’s instructions regarding the trees of life and death. He had to have failed in expressing that in honoring the word God had given him for his life, and his family, she would also be honoring her husband. Likewise, in honoring her husband, she was also giving honor and glory to God.

Adam was not clear enough on that point. He was not adamant enough about the absoluteness of God’s command. He was not insistent on Eve’s need for obedience. How can I possibly say that with any conviction? Because I believe the Word of God and throughout God’s Word he talks about the passion of the lover and the heart of the receptive bride. A heart that is turned towards its’ mate. Eager to please its’ partner.

Confront the darkness in your wife

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.  ~ Ephesians 5:10-14

Eve is the prototype and archetype of woman. She is no different than any of her daughters through the millennia. Created in a sinless state, in a paradise set apart from the world, she was still susceptible to the wafting whisper of corruption. In all her perfection, and even in a perfect environment, Eve was still vulnerable to the evil that is disobedience to God’s Word. Adam did not cleanse his wife when she exposed her shifting heart to him. Adam did not rebuke the spirit of deceit that gained a foothold in Eve’s mind. Adam did not speak against the evil influence taking precedence over God’s Word in spirit.

Though we were all created in a sinless environment, we have all been born into a sinful nature. Yet and still, that is only the middle of the story. We have all been offered redemption through Jesus Christ – the first Worker, the first Son, the first Husband, the first Vessel of God’s love. Jesus is man’s first and best example for all aspects of human life. Study Jesus to learn about true manhood. Follow Jesus to experience a close brotherhood. Keep your eyes on Jesus to be the best husband you can be – by emulating Jesus, he will shine through you. It is through the provision of Jesus Christ that mankind can return to God – again and again. God provided Jesus to us as redemption for every aspect of our lives. Jesus is not only the conqueror of death, He is our chief life warrior as well. Equally as important as dying to our nature, is living in His Spirit.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved usand offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.  ~ Ephesians 5:1-2

In marriage, this means that through the Christ that has already been provided as a sacrifice and deposit for the hearts of Believers, a man and wife can turn to each other to offer redemption and to be redeemed from each and every fall – each and every stumble, every instance of poor judgment and all their wrongful acts caused by their insecurities. Mercy, grace and forgiveness are all rolled into redemption. Redemption is the active process of reclaiming something of value to the owner – the person the redeemed belongs to.

                Dear Worker, do you value your wife?

How can Eve, or any woman for that matter, respect a man who doesn’t speak life into her? To do so would be against God’s layout for marital relationship. God’s Word does not say, “Wife, respect your husband simply because he is a man. Or simply because he is your husband. Or because he is the father of your children. Or because he bought you something. No. God’s Word in Ephesians chapter five compares the husband to Christ. As Christ is submitted to God. As Christ is the head of the church. In this way, wives should submit (defer) to a husband who is submitted to God. In this way, a husband who loves his wife as he loves himself is worthy of his wife’s respect. This isn’t just flowery speech, it’s a law of the Spirit of God. Any woman living in the Spirit would respond to her husband’s words of life and acts of love.   

Think about it, what did Christ do for the church?

He died to Himself, so that His Bride, the Church would have a more abundant life. Through His one-time sacrifice, He is still building His Church. His Bride is still seeking Him. She is still growing and changing. She is looking forward to the day she can see her Husband face to face because she remembers what He did for her – how He gave His all for her. (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33)

Perhaps the question of Christ’s action should precede the question of Wife…do you respect me? What a man values, he honors by investing himself, his time, and his presence into. What a man values will carry his mark. What a man values will be revealed by him in every area and aspect of his life. There will be no corner of his life that will be unacquainted with what a man holds above all else. For the sake of God’s praise and the sake of your family, let what you value most be your God and you wife – in that order.

Speak firmly from a faithful heart

Adam had a responsibility to His God and his wife to speak up for both. To honor both by defending both. It is possible to do. If he had spoken words of life into Eve in her moment of weakness, he would have maintained his authority, strengthened Eve spiritually, and saved both of their lives. If Adam had chosen to speak words of life into Eve at the moment he saw the serpent sway her conviction, he would have defeated the serpent with the simple act of obeying God, which doubled as a wife-builder. That simple act would have had eternal reverberations – just as the act Adam actually chose does. But the most profoundly important effect, had he chosen to obey God and speak against the evil in the Garden infecting his wife, is that Adam would have glorified God with his faithfulness.

All that, by simply telling his wife, “No, we are not going to do this thing. We are not going to be disobedient or irreverent or disrespectful to God’s spoken will. We are not going to respond to His love with a hateful act. In this house (Garden of God) we will obey and serve our creator, God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth – and the Maker of you and me. Woman, you will stand with me and agree with me against this threat and we will honor our God together.” Or some such variation….

FYI – that’s hot!

A man who speaks with conviction about his God, and he and his wife’s roles in executing God’s plan for their relationship, is beyond attractive. His words become a life-long memory in the heart of his wife. A caveat: it’s only hot, however, when the wife believes with her husband. If her husband had already deposited God’s word for his life and assignment within her, the Holy Spirit will activate a believing wife’s heart to hear you.

I’m telling you, Eve (and any other wife) would have obeyed that “this-house-is-united-not-divided” command from Adam (and any other husband). Obedience would be given not because a growling man spoke from his ego while thumping his chest, but because a faithful man, fearful of displeasing his Lord and destroying his family knows that he needs unity with his wife to defeat everything that comes against them.  No matter what the state of your relationship, a woman will willingly stand next to a husband who wants her by his side. No matter how strong or outspoken your wife may appear, she wants to listen to and depend on the leader in her husband.

Faith, Respect, and Unity add priceless value to your marriage

A disrespectful wife breeds separation of purpose in a marriage.

A husband who doesn’t value his wife breeds her disrespect.

What comes first? Does it really matter? No. Not if you have the power and authority to change it.

The man has the power and authority to change the nature and temperament of his marriage relationship and his family environment. The man, the husband, the head of the household, God’s worker, has only to do what the Word of God tells him to do. Pursue your wife. Lead your wife. Disciple your wife. Share your life with your wife. Infuse her with your fragrance – a fragrance that only envelopes her through your broken and contrite heart. Your pride may attract her attention, but it’s your humbleness that will keep her heart turned towards you.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit….  ~ Psalm 51:17-19

Dear Worker, when you do all you are instructed to do for the woman God has blessed you with to be your crown and your joy, then you will know your wife respects you by the way she honors you, blesses you, watches you, waits for you, prays for you, longs for you, and yearns for your presence. Your wife will respect you for correcting her. She will appreciate that you value her so much that you risk her displeasure so that you may rejoice in her life.

Wife… do you respect me? is not a question a man who models himself after God’s heart will have to ask often or at all.   

 Related posts by LaShawnda Jones:

Husband… do you love me?

A Foolish Woman vs. A Wise Woman

A Faithless Man vs. A Faithful Man

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Some Thoughts on Challenges

My former pastor taught a sermon last year on the source of all our struggles. In the moment I received his words as truth, I felt a rush of relief in my spirit. My body felt lighter and so did my mind. He taught from Ephesians 6:12 and though I’d read that passage numerous times before, I was able to comprehend it on a whole different level that day and every day since. His simple words were: “Our fight is not against people.”

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

I had long since forgiven my dad for the destruction he reaped on our relationship and to our family. I had spent a number of years trying to build a relationship with him, but the last three years plus of his life I was “emotionally done” with him. I chose not to exert any more unsolicited energy on him. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t willing to be available if/when he wanted me around.

I believe the challenges we face in our lives are all the same (source or nature) at ages 30 and 60 as they were at 3 and 6. We just process them differently and learn from different elements of the challenge.

For the past few years I’ve repeatedly had issues and conflicts with people in leadership positions who abuse their influence and authority (that may well be my biggest pet peeve for the rest of my days). The last three episodes have been in churches and the three episodes prior to those were in the work place. But the original episode (saga) was in my home with my dad. I haven’t always been able to see the link. But now that I am able to see that these situations are the same challenge in a different wrapper, I seek God immediately and constantly and ask, “What am I supposed to get from it this time? What did I miss last time?” I don’t want to go through it again if I don’t have to.

With each person/episode I learned something more about myself. With the first work situation, I quit the job (I became too stressed from the conflict). The second work situation, I sought God first, then quit in faith that he would provide a better situation for me. In the third work situation, I refused to move until God told me to. That led to the best job and boss I’ve ever had (current position).

With the first church situation, I confronted the leader (as instructed in Matthew 18:15-17 – directly, within the group and then took it to church administration). Nothing was done at any of the levels and I didn’t feel up for the fight, so I stepped away from the church. With the second church situation, I did the same process, however I felt released to leave that particular church (the same church as before, but a couple of years later). I’ve just stepped away from my third church conflict and I took the same steps (direct/group/leadership confrontation). In each of these situations, I have stood firmly on the word of God, but the first time, I identified myself as my mother’s daughter. The second time as my own woman (I’m too grown for this mess!). This time I snapped in my authority in Christ – I am a child of God (you betta recognize!).

The church conflicts got me to vividly see the controlling spirit that has been following me around. All of the people mentioned were attempting to control some aspect of me – my mind, my life, my behavior, my beliefs, my actions. There were some very deep moments of helplessness and hopelessness throughout the years. Moments of disbelief and unbelief, long periods of self-doubt – mostly before I began consciously acting on faith. By and large, the more I’m bombarded by the controlling spirits, the more I resist. The more I resist, the stronger I become. This is only possible through my foundation of belief, faith and obedience to God’s Word.

So, though the challenges present themselves in the guise of people and I am confronted with occasional fears of inadequacy, I am now aware going in, that the outcome will increase me spiritually and the fruit of the spiritual growth will manifest in my physical life. This awareness is the result of years of process. Five years ago, I met each challenge with a woeful cry and a pitiful, “Why me!” Now I’m likely to warn my opponent that they’re not ready for what I’m going to unleash!

Recent culmination: I met with my most recent former pastor a couple of weekends ago regarding an email argument with one of his small group leaders and myself. The issue at hand is that the church is teaching a “condensed summary” of the Bible (the target audience is new believers). It’s a ten week series; I sat in on the first week a few weeks ago. There was misinformation in the summaries from the word “go.” There were a lot of questions in the group and the group leader had no answers and didn’t direct anyone to the Bible. The next day, with the intention of helping, I emailed the group members who were in attendance (and whom were on my FB) and provided viewpoints on a couple of their questions with a lot of scriptural sources to look at (I was clear that they should research for themselves). The group leader took offense and told me to run any emails to the group by him first and that I was basically speaking in direct contradiction to what this church teaches. Then he labeled me a reformist and a couple of other theological terms. All of which I rejected in my final email to him – in the same email I identified myself as “simply a child of God who grounds herself in His Word.” The small group leader forwarded the emails to the pastor who asked to speak with me that week. Can I tell you, had I not been through all the other “situations” with manipulators and controllers, I would not have been ready or prepared for him? Since this whole bru-hah started, I had been meditating on Ezekiel passages, 1 Kings 13 and 2 Timothy 2.

The pastor’s game was to show himself as a “friend.” I had already identified him as the old prophet from Bethel in 1 Kings 13, seeking only to lead me to a spiritual death. I had already determined he was not going to win the battle for control of my spirit (i.e. what I feed my spirit (whose words)). Had the Holy Spirit not put the above passages before me right before all this broke out, I perhaps would’ve gone down, because as I told the pastor, ultimately, I want what was on offer at that church – I want to belong someplace, I want to connect with people, I desire a community, I’m looking for leadership and I would rather not stand alone. Yes, his community-minded church offers all that, but as I also shared with him, community is nice but it doesn’t trump a personal relationship with God. I am not going to believe any man, group or organization over the Word of God – no matter the level of education or years of experience. If their words do not ring true or line up with the Word as I read it and understand it, I have to remove myself their influence. It’s paramount that we not only cultivate our personal relationship with God, we must also protect and nurture it. Cultivation, protection and nurturing by nature means limited, reduced or no exposure to harmful elements with a focus of positioning, directing and feeding that which is being cultivated, protected and nurtured only good, healthy food for growth and strength. That’s how I view my relationship with God and by extension my other personal relationships.

What was the deciding factor to move on from this last church situation? The pastor’s defense of teaching the condensed summaries was that the Bible is derived from oral history (i.e. how are we to know that what is written is as it was said thousands of years before it was put to paper?). I replied that all scripture is inspired by God. He replied that so are the condensed summaries. Before I shut myself up, I reiterated that no one should be taught a man’s version (re-writing) of God’s word with no direct foundation of God’s Word – i.e. they need to be directed to the Bible. From there, they will develop an ear to hear anything he or any other man has to say. The role of a pastor is to teach the undiluted word of God. Interpretation is fine; the Word of God is only manageable in bites. Re-writing and omitting? Not good.

All this to say – challenges build us up – whether they are perceived to come from ourselves or from others. The whole design of our life will be affected by how we handle them. I’ve learned that the worst thing I can do is run away and bury my head in the sand – nothing changes that way, least of all me.

Know that you are blessed in your struggles and God is glorified when you face and persevere in your challenges.

Be blessed.