Thursday, 13 September 2018

Garrison your victory


Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went. 
2 Samuel 8:14 (ESV)

I read this and wondered, why does this section repeat the fact that David put garrisons in Edom? If something is said more than once, i figure it must be Important. Firstly I wondered what a garrison was, in case, like me you weren't sure either, Garrisons are groups of soldiers stationed in an area, to guard and protect it. 

So, basically what has happened is David and his army have overcome the area of Edom, and to ensure the sustained victory over the area, there are now groups of soldiers assigned to guard the it. 

This caused me to consider, when I have a victory in my life, do I protect that achievement? Do I protect the ground that I have overcome? Do I seek to protect the progress I made? Do you?

David was a mighty king, a conqueror and a man of God, he knew that some areas of his victory needed to be protected. He understood that if he didn't protect the ground he'd taken, the enemy could swoop in again and take the ground and maybe even take more ground. David wanted to ensure that his victory was secure. Do you do the same? 

Life has ups and downs, times where we fail and when we achieve. Do you make a point of securing your victory? 
Do you remember the last time you overcame something? When you were proud of something you achieved? 

I find sometimes that when one area of my life is going well, something usually crops up somewhere else that can knock me back. It can cause me to lose sight of the good things and make me focus on the knock. 
It can take a lot of strength to 'garrison' the success. We need to remember that although the enemy exists, the ground is ours. 
We can protect ourselves. It could be by written down answered prayers. I've started listing things I'm praying for and then I can look back and see what God has done, I'm looking forward to seeing what God has answered. He's already answered some and I am glad we have asked for prayer on those things because it's a reminder that although other areas are difficult, the success is garrisoned. We have taken ground and the enemy is not welcome to crawl back in. We can claim God's movement in our lives, recall what he has done in us and for us. It's good to have a record of these things because it's so easy to be blinded by what isn't done. What area of your life do you need to garrison? Maybe you need to tell a trusted friend about a success so they can remind you, maybe it's a journal or post-it's of God's goodness.

Like David did, don't forget to garrison your victory! 


Thursday, 6 September 2018

Do you inquire of the Lord?



2 Samuel 5:17–25 (ESV): David Defeats the Philistines
17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 21 And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away. 
22 And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 25 And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer

David had just become king of all Israel, and now he was in charge and had the Philistines attacking. What does David do first? He doesn't assemble a committee or draw up a plan, but he prays. 
What do you do when you know a difficult situation is coming? 
It is so easy to consult our own strengths, our own mind and our friends, family and colleagues, but I love this example of David as it challenges me. When things are coming up that look hard, he consulted God first. He didn't rely on anything or anyone else. He allowed God to make the plan and he put it into action. 
David doesn't then rely on the same strategy the second time the same situation occurs, instead, he consults God again. It's so easy for us to think, 'well this worked last time' and just get on with whatever problem it is we are facing. Yet, God uses a different strategy with David, even though he faces the same enemy. I admire David's reliance, this David who is the king of a nation doesn't rely on his reputation, authority or knowledge, but defers to God both times. 

David has probably learned that when he relies on God, situations work out, I mean after all David started as a shepherd, was ostracised and hunted down yet he survived. David knew God keeps his promises, he'd seen God's faithfulness in action. I know I have seen God's faithfulness in my life too, yet I forget to rely on that in my everyday life. 


What about you? Do you ask God first or just get on with things? I wonder if we are missing out on some success or peace when we do things our own way. David asked of God, did what He said and experienced success. I wonder if sometimes there's a better way than our own ideas? 

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Consider the stars...

Last week we were on a camping holiday, and one night I was outside and noticed the amazing night sky. The amount of stars was incredible.  Have you ever been somewhere where the night sky is so visible and beautiful, and it seems the amount of stars are innumerable? 

It's a stunning sight and took my breath away a bit. A collection of stars is stunning, but the night sky is made up of each individual star, and each star is in fact a sun. Every star has powerful heat and light like our sun, they are just so far away that they seem tiny pinpricks of light. Don't you think that's amazing? 
Every star is a bright burning ball of light. I have no idea how many stars there are, I'm no astronomer, but they beauty of the night sky amazes me. The fact that these stunning stars are actually suns boggles my mind.

Then I remember, 'By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth' (Psalm 33:6). 
How incredible is that? 
The multitude of stars that we see were created by the breath of God. The complexity and beauty of the night sky were made in a moment. 

God is so powerful and creative that even his breath makes things! We breathe and our bodies keep going, God breathes and things are created! In the book of Genesis we can read about the creation of this world. God not only made the stars, but He spoke all things into being! His word, his breath can create the universe, isn't that incredible?! 


'When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?'

Psalm 8:3-4

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Abigail

This week, reading through 1 Samuel, I've encountered a woman called Abigail. 
We meet her after her husband has refused to honour David and his men for looking after his shepherds. The custom was that her husband, Nabal, should of given David and his company a gift - food and drink as a sign of appreciation/payment for their protection. 
Nabal refused. His servants know he's refused and are concerned about it, it's not like Nabal doesn't have plenty to spare, he just doesn't want to give David anything. The servants are worried, what's going to happen now? David is likely to be pretty angry, they are so concerned that one of them goes and tells Abigail. Why? What can she do? This servant goes, explains what happens and trusts her to do something. Abigail's character must of been one of strength and action. Otherwise the servant wouldn't of bothered her, but they knew Abigail was a woman to trust, a woman who does the right thing and has the power to do it.

Abigail gets going straightaway, she gets together a pretty impressive offering without her husband knowing about it (shows how rich he was not to miss amongst other things 200 cakes of figs!). She sends the offering off ahead of herself and follows along behind. She doesn't shy away, embarrassed of either her husband's actions, or trying to hide the fact that she's acted instead. She accompanies the gift she can give, she takes responsibility. She knows the decision of her husband, and she knows it wasn't right, so she does something about it. She doesn't confront him straight away, but she apologises straight away. She uses the authority she has to humbly apologise, not deflecting guilt, but taking it completely upon herself.

When Abigail meets David, she gets off her donkey and bows before him. This woman who has authority in herself, humbles herself into the dirt. 
Why? What for? For a man, her husband, Nabal. The kind of man who is described as a 'worthless man' by his servants, and known to live up to his name which means folly. Yet, Abigail, on his behalf, humbles herself. She acts as a noble wife. We can think of others around us as worthless and foolish at times, but how do we ourselves act? Do we take the responsibility we have and act in humility and justice as Abigail does? 
Abigail shows concern for David and his men and respect for Nabal. 
Abigail protects, fends for and takes upon herself the foolishness of her husband. She honours her husband and does her best to cover what would of been his shame, and accepts the guilt. She takes on the blame and intercedes for him. 

Abigail also honours David and his group, she takes what she can to give as a gift to them as a sign of appreciation. She approaches David with great humility, but also great strength. She bows in humility and yet speaks with authority. 

Abigail, she acknowledges who she is and who she isn't. This is what I admire about her - She knows the extent of her authority and doesn't overstep or under play it. She acknowledges both her worth and her weakness. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Know when to quit


When things get difficult, what do you do? Do you carry on or give up?  Do you continue to persevere or quit when the going gets tough? What's your natural inclination when things get hard?

I have been told that I am determined, perseverant, but I know really that it verges into stubbornness. When I start something I finish it. If I take on a challenge I complete it, if I do an exam I work so hard that I pass it. 
The thing is, I love a challenge, but I don't know when to stop! This may sound like I'm reliable and determined, but the problem is I can get stuck, but I struggle to recognise that I've reached capacity. I will continue with dogged determination no matter the suffering, the inconvenience or final result. Sometimes I may need to stop, but I don't. I may not have the skills, knowledge or availability but once I've started something I will see it through til the bitter end, and sometimes the end is bitter.

Others may find that they get to something difficult and they are ready to chuck it all in. They struggle to finish things. Maybe they give up too easily, good at starting things but not finishing them. They would probably appreciate a bit of the determination and perseverance that I have. 

So, there must be a middle ground. There must be a point where we learn to know when to quit at the right time. Whether that's to push ourselves to persevere because it will grow us and stretch us, or getting to the point where we let go of our pride, admit our capacity, and stop. There is a point when it's right to quit, the question is how do we find it? 

I'm writing about this now, because last weekend I was taking part in an event called Man vs Lakes. 50km in the Lake District, across some lakes, up hills, through remote woods, water activities and a lot of running! 
Halfway through we had ascended two major hills, my body felt fine, my breathing did not. The second hill I encountered I stopped about every 10 steps to catch my breath. I wasn't making good progress, I spoke to one of the marshalls at this halfway point and asked if the second half was like the first. Yes it was, in fact, it was even more hilly. So, what do I do? 
I have taken on this challenge. I know my body can take it, I've done that distance before, my legs felt fine, but my breathing was difficult. Could I continue knowing that what was to come would put more stress on my body? Breathing was already tricky, could I keep going, through the remote areas, alone, was it safe/sensible? Reality was if breathing got really bad there would not be easy access to help. Yet, the rest of me felt alright. My mind was focussed, my legs felt ready and I was fuelling well. In that situation, what would you of done? I had an internal debate, reaching a decision wasn't easy. My natural inclination was to keep going regardless, finish what I had started. Its what I always do. 

Then I  recalled what I heard one guy say on the last hill, "will I think any less of myself if I give up now?

For me, that's quite profound. 
If I admit this challenge is too great, does it make me less? Does it effect who I am? My honest answer at that moment was 'No'. I wouldn't think less of myself if I stopped now, so that's just what I did. I actually quit, for the first time that I can remember. I actually recognised my limitations and didn't continue with dogged determination to painfully cross the finish. 

That's the balance I think. To be aware of our limitations isn't a weakness. To realise when something is too much, or even to ask for help doesn't make us less. If we quit when we know we are in too deep it doesn't effect who we are. 

I know that I made a sensible judgement call, for my own wellbeing. I know that I didn't get a medal this weekend but that's ok. I am at peace with the decision to quit. It was the right call. I could of completed the event, but to what end? I would of put myself under great pressure and could of ended up not just tired, but damaging my health. I actually made a sensible decision rather than stubbornly seeing this event through to completion. 

If you are like me and usually keep going to your own detriment, I want to let you know; it's ok to slow down, it's ok to stop, and it's ok to quit sometimes. 
It doesn't effect who you are, in fact I don't feel embarrassed or ashamed of quitting. It was the right thing to do for me and others around me. Don't run yourself into the ground to prove a point or even to achieve something epic.

Know when to quit. 


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Unlikely Friendships



From 1 Samuel 18 we start to discover the unlikely friendship of David and Jonathon develop. The depth of friendship they have is beautiful. They have genuine love and respect for one another, they understand each other and admire one another. They share mutual respect, one doesn't consider himself above or beneath the other. Don't you find that fascinating considering one is a shepherd, the other a prince? 

David, a shepherd, basically lived and grew up on the family farm, probably doing all the medial tasks that no one else wanted to do because he's the youngest. He was often overlooked - he wasn't even invited to the party when Samuel visited. He must of spent a lot of time alone, often not even invited to dinner. Jonathon on the other hand was raised as the son of a king. Prince from birth he lived in the royal court, surrounded by people of influence and authority. He had been learning the ways of the kingdom from childhood. Trained for battle, a capable young man with authority and respect. He ate at the kings table, he didn't need an invite!

So, how did these two form this unlikely friendship? 

Their heritage, background, knowledge and experiences are so different so what is there to connect them? Not just connect them - but connect them in the mutually supportive way that they did. They considered themselves closer to one another than their own family. We see that when Jonathon sticks up for David to his Dad, and David, when in trouble, runs to Jonathon first. They truly trust, honour and love one another. They developed something deeper than the common friendship. 

So, how did they develop this unlikely friendship? What connects them? Their social status doesn't, their worldly knowledge doesn't, nor do their experiences or their upbringing. 

The common link I see is that they are both mighty men of faith. 

The first time we really meet Jonathon he is a mighty, God-fearing hero as he and his armour bearer go against a Philistine garrison. David, well, we know he went against a giant Philistine in the name of God. With little else to hope for or to guarantee their victories they both had faith in their God. They were both mighty, God-fearing heroes. Men of Godly courage. This faith is what connects them. 

It doesn't matter what differences they had, they have the commonality of a deep and true faith that they not only believed, but lived with courage. This kind of connection overcomes so many differences. This is the beauty of the church - All people are welcome - all people of any nation, background, social standing or experience are welcomed into God's family. The church is where unlikely friendships can grow as you come together as God-fearing heroes, courageously living your life for God.

Where are your unlikely friendships? 
Who are your God-fearing heroes? 
Who do you connect with that if it wasn't for faith you wouldn't have much in common? 

Enjoy and appreciate these people, they will stand with you, strengthen you and protect you throughout your life -  just like Jonathon and David. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

What are you fighting for?


What are you fighting for? Or maybe a better question would be - Who are you fighting for?

In 1 Samuel we can read about the infamous battle of the Israelites and Philistines. David and Goliath going head to head - Goliath fighting for his country, for the increase of their power and land. David, what did he fight for? 
David himself says so; "that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:47 (ESV)

David fought, not for renown, power, glory, land or even patriotism, he fought because he knew this battle was God's. 

He saw and heard the defiance of the enemy, against his God and that offended him. He had such connection with God, such fervour and love for Him that he had to do something about it. Have you ever felt like that when someone is talking badly about someone you love? You have to stand up for them. You have to do something about it. It's not a conscious decision or a thought through process. The offence seeps into your heart because of the earnest loving connection you have. Ever felt like that?

What amazes me is that David had that level of earnest loving connection with God! He knew God. Not just knew about him, he knew God. He knew His presence, His friendship, His values and expectations. So when someone came against God, starts bad-mouthing Him and His people, it was David's natural response to stand up and fight. Not that God needs our protection, but this is the natural response of deep friendship. David stands up, goes forward and empowered by his love of God fights the fight. David's passion for God leads him into the battle. It wasn't his own pride or concern for his own self-esteem, it was his recognition of who God is that he could not let this enemy defy. David knew that as soon as he stepped up, that God would be right there with him. When you stand up for God's causes, He is right there with you. David knew that it wasn't even his own fight, but God's. When you have so much assurance that you are fighting with God and His purposes, victory is secure! 


So next time, before you prepare for the next fight in your life, consider - Who's fight is it? Is the battle you're fighting God's?