Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

“They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands…” (1 Samuel 18:8 NIV).

How do we react when someone else receives praise? When you’ve worked hard and poured yourself out for something, and then someone else is thanked or recognized for their service, what happens in your heart? Many of us can relate, at least a little, to Saul’s thought from 1 Samuel 18:8.

Saul had been used to receiving all the accolades, but now David is on the scene. Everyone in Saul’s army, including Saul himself, was too scared to face Goliath. But David, who would most likely have been 13 or 14 at the time, killed the Philistine’s most celebrated warrior in single combat. David gained tremendous popularity with the soldiers and showed his mettle on the battlefield while Saul cowered in the tents. Imagine the embarrassment Saul felt. He sent a boy to do a man’s job, and David did it handily! It’s no wonder the people credited David with exceeding the military exploits of Saul.

But the real point that pressed into my heart when I read these verses was not that David was better than Saul, but that Saul struggled when David was recognized more than he was. As a pastor, I’ve experienced this come around to bite me. I’ve recognized or complimented some, only to have another become angry with me and say, “You said nice things about them, but nothing about me.”

As a human being who struggles with sin, I’ve also thought Saul’s thought in my own heart. When I read these verses, the Lord lovingly reminded me that I serve for His pleasure alone. My reward is from Him. I do receive a lot of feedback from people, mostly positive. But ultimately, I must guard my heart against becoming too dependent upon the praise of people, and continuously refocus my ears to God’s voice. I’ve actually grown to enjoy hearing others receive recognition because it has become a way to test where my heart is. If I react like Saul, I recognize a growing pride in myself. I can confess that sin, pray a quick prayer of blessing over the other person, and hammer another nail in my pride’s coffin.

My prayer for the week is that the Lord reveals in you an area of needed growth and that you take that step!

A Fifth Prayer

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17, NIV)

Yesterday, I preached about four prayers that have changed my life:

  1. “Help my unbelief” (from Mark 9:24).
  2. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (from 1 Samuel 3:10).
  3. “Give me wisdom” (from James 1:5).
  4. “Not my will, but Yours be done” (from Luke 22:42).

There is a fifth prayer I wanted to share, but I only recently found it. In other words, it hasn’t changed my life, yet, because I only just started praying it! However, I have a feeling about this prayer–that it will be as life-changing as the other four. So, I wanted to share it with you and invite you to pray it with me.

It comes from Psalm 90:17. “Establish the work of our hands.” It seems to me, as I reflect and pray through this Psalm, that this prayer acknowledges an important truth. I can’t say it any better than Jesus did, so I’ll just quote Him:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

No matter how much we work, no matter how much we make, without God, it all amounts to nothing. As Psalm 90:10 points out, we have 70 or 80 years to make the most of what God has called us to do. What are we doing with those years? One of my friends, Gary Wheeler, says that each day we get 24 hours. And then he asks, “How are you spending your 24?” We can only spend them once!

I know my life is like a mist that vanishes with the sun, and my time on this side of eternity will one day come to an end. But I also know that I want the work of my hands to endure far longer. I want to look back over my life as I near the end and know that I did something that made a difference. So, the best thing I can do is turn to God and ask Him to establish the work of my hands. Without Jesus, my life will have no fruit. But if I abide in Him, and ask God to establish the work of my hands for the glory of Christ and the common good, I know that He will answer that prayer (probably in many ways I don’t expect).

I also recently discovered the song below that was written from Psalm 90:17. My prayer is that it will bless you this week, as it has blessed me, and that God will establish the work of your hands!

A Zero-Sum Game

As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly… (1 Samuel 18:7–8a, NIV)

Ah, pride. King Saul had it in spades. As the first king of Israel, he pretty much had unlimited power; and we’ve all heard the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s precisely what happened to Saul. And when a new leader began to rise and gain influence with the people, Saul felt his power threatened; his pride was poked in the eye, and he became outraged.

Saul was looking at things from a zero-sum perspective. In other words, if power is a zero-sum game, David’s rise in power and influence is only possible if Saul’s power and influence decrease. As David gains it, Saul loses it. And Saul didn’t like losing it.

As I reflected on this story, it occurred to me that this issue is very prevalent in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our nation, and (if we’re honest) our churches. It’s the mindset behind the posturing and politicking, the manipulating and popularity contests, the territorialism and insecurity. We are in a position of influence, God calls up another leader, and we immediately feel threatened. Often we react the same way Saul did. We get angry. We get scared. We draw battle lines. We try to discredit the other person. We turn passive-aggressive. We try to limit their sphere of influence. Saul tried to kill David. We may not go that far, but we just might attack their character through gossip and slander.

The truth is, power is a zero-sum game, and God has all of it. The moment we think that we have any of it is the moment we put our foot in Saul’s snare. All the power belongs to God, and He raises up leaders to serve His purposes according to His will and sovereign plan. God raised up Saul for a time, but power and position don’t last forever. When we find ourselves in Saul’s shoes, watching a David rise through the ranks, let’s not make Saul’s mistake. The power and the position were never ours; they are God’s and always will be. God has a plan for that person, and we have an opportunity to use our experience, training, and wisdom to help rather than hinder.

My prayer for the week is that God will bring to us someone we can pour into and be part of God’s plan for their life and ministry.

Four Questions for Scripture

We all know that we should spend time with God in His Word on a consistent basis. While it’s true that the vast majority of Christians throughout the vast majority of Christian history have either not been able to read or have not had access to their own copy of the Bible, it’s also true that during those periods of history many of those same Christians attended worship services and Bible studies multiple times a week, often even daily! In our fast-paced society, making time for everything but God, our involvement in the church has dwindled (according to a recent Barna Research Group study, the typical active Christian only attends worship services an average of 1.7 times per month!).

Given that we’re engaging God’s Word less and less in the context of the church (which severely stunts our spiritual growth), it’s all the more important to spend time with God in His Word devotionally. To that end, here are four questions to help guide your devotional time with God in Scripture.

(1) What does this passage reveal about God? The Bible is first and foremost God’s self-revelation to humanity. I hear people call the Bible a “roadmap to life.” While the Bible does contain a lot of truth about you and your life, it is not ultimately about you or your life! It’s about God and His plan to save the world.

(2) What does this passage reveal about the world? The Bible also reveals truth about the world. For instance, the Bible reveals the origin of sin and shows us how the world got so jacked up. When you read, look for truth about the world, the condition of humanity, why things are the way they are, how human nature works, etc.

(3) What does this passage reveal about me? As you work through a passage, start big and gradually get more specific: God, the world, you. Discovering truth about God and the world should spark questions about your own heart and mind. For instance, Jesus said the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few, and commanded His followers to pray that God would send out workers to reap a harvest (Luke 10:2). We see that (a) God desires people to be saved, and (b) the world is ripe for a spiritual harvest. This should cause you to ask questions about yourself like: Am I working to reap a harvest for Jesus?

(4) What does this passage reveal about God’s will for me? In other words, what is God calling you to change, do, or become as a result of reading this passage? What is going to be different in you? Maybe He’s calling you to think differently, feel differently, desire differently, or act differently. Or maybe He’s not calling you to change anything specifically, but rather using this passage to encourage you to pray for someone else, like your spouse or your kids, a co-worker or classmate, or someone in your church. This last step is a big place to dialogue with God and listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

Happy reading! My prayer for the week is that you will connect with God in His Word, and begin learning to recognize His voice as He speaks to you.

Heard & Seen

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:7-8 NIV)

Truth be told, I’ve always found these verses in 1 John to be challenging to understand. It seems like he contradicts himself–is the command a new one or not? The command itself is to live as Jesus lived by loving one another. We see this in the immediate context of vv. 3-11. Jesus gave this command to His disciples in John 13:34.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

But how is this a “new command”? Leviticus 19:18, written about 1,400 years before Jesus’ miraculous birth says this:

 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbors as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18 NIV)

I’ve puzzled over these verses for years, never fully comprehending the old vs. new concept. Then, as I was talking through this with the Lord over coffee, the middle of John’s old and new command teaching seemed to stand out as if it were written in bold and italics, like this:

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

The command itself is an old command. What makes it new is that in Christ it is seen, not just heard. It’s not just a principle we read about in an ancient book or print on a coffee cup. We actually see this command embodied in Jesus.

Further, not only is it seen in Christ, but it is also seen in us. There is something incredible that happens when Jesus moves from a message that is heard to a person who is seen in us. The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is as profound and “new” as if it were actually new teaching we’d never heard before. When God becomes more than just a concept, it’s as if we’re discovering Him for the very first time–even if we’ve grown up in church and know all the Bible stories by heart!

Of course, this applies to everything the Bible teaches. Love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, care for those in need, be humble, don’t gossip, put off the old self with its sinful desires… all these are “old commands” we have heard. Are they “new commands” that are seen in our lives as we have seen them embodied in Christ?

My prayer for the week is that God will show us a specific old command that needs to become a new one seen in us.

Is This Uncomfortable?

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Note: This post comes from Kim Devore, the LVStudents Director at LakeView Church.

This past year my family and I left home, friendships, and family to move to a land where we knew no one. We planned to remain near to our family and many friends. However, God had other plans, and He called us to unfamiliar territory: Wisconsin. This move was filled with excitement for a new beginning, yet also with a fear of the unknown. “What if the job does not work out?” “How will the kids navigate their new high school as a senior and a sophomore?” “What if our kids choose friends who make poor choices?” “Can I really homeschool my 11-year-old while chasing a 2-year-old?” “Who will our friends be?”… The list of questions went on. With all the fear and worry, we were very uncomfortable through this change.

When God calls us to move, it is not always comfortable. His calling can look very different for each of us: grow a family, change jobs, change schools, move to a new house, a new state, a new country, etc. When God is moving and asking us to move, in whatever area of our lives, it can be scary. Fear is often what holds people back from following God’s call. And this fear sometimes comes from the enemy working hard to try and stop the work God has called us to do. Our fear, then, tends to be bigger than our faith.

We can find some peace knowing that God’s calling His children to something uncomfortable is nothing new. Throughout Scripture, we see many instances of this. For example, Noah walked out in faith by trusting God and building a massive boat to survive the catastrophic flood that was to come. Scripture does not directly speak of how uncomfortable Noah and his family were during this time, but let’s take a moment and think about it. We know that Noah had to bring “two of every creature” (Gen. 6:19) into a ship that was about half the size of the Titanic. He and his family shared their space on the ark with all those animals for 150 days. I’m guessing the smell and constant clamor caused many sleepless nights. Noah probably would have preferred to be in his old bed and tent, but he was faithful and obeyed God’s calling.

Being called is not always easy or comfortable, but remember God’s promise that He never leaves us and goes wherever we go (see Gen. 28:15a, Deut. 31:6, Josh. 1:5, Isa. 41:10). We just have to take that step of faith and trust that He has a great plan and purpose for each one of us. When we put our faith and hope in God, we can see the beautiful and wonderful blessings He has already granted. We may not know or understand our future, but we trust that God does, we embrace the now, and we praise God for each blessing He has provided and will provide. May God bless you and walk with you through each journey.

Thanks, Kim, for being a guest contributor!

11 Tips for Reading the Bible

“… our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand…” (2 Peter 3:15b–16a, NIV)

I smile every time I read these words. If you’ve ever read through something in the New Testament and sat there scratching your head, you’re not alone. Even the great Apostle Peter had a difficult time understanding some of the things the Apostle Paul wrote! There is much in the Bible that seems clear to us, but there is also much that is difficult to understand. So, to help us get started on this journey of discovery in God’s Word, here are 11 tips for reading the Bible.

  1. Pray before, during, and after you read. Reading the Bible is having a conversation with God. He inspired the book, so why not talk to Him about what it says? Remember, we’re not just reading historical stories, we’re interacting with a living God who still speaks today.
  2. Get a Bible buddy. This will not only help you be accountable and stay on your reading, but you can also read the same book/passage and discuss it together.
  3. Get a study Bible. Study Bibles are filled with a wealth of information that will help open the meaning of God’s Word to us. Read the introductions to each book before you read the book, and look for the major themes and ideas. When you come to a difficult passage, read the footnotes for additional insight. My #1 recommendation is the Life Application Study Bible, which you can buy in many different English translations.
  4. Be consistent. Reading the Bible can be hard, and learning to recognize God’s voice in Scripture takes time and practice. The more you read and re-read, the more you’ll begin to see the flow and meaning of the text, and over time, it will become more apparent. Don’t give up!
  5. Look at a passage in its context.  What came just before this passage?  What follows immediately after?  How does that affect the meaning?
  6. Stick with a translationThere are many different English translations, and it’s important to stick with one that you can easily engage with. To save money, try reading the same chapter in several different English versions for free here. When you find one that resonates, that might be your version to buy. My top recommendations are the NIV, NLT, ESV, or CSB (we mostly use the NIV in worship at LakeView).
  7. But browse others from time to time. Even though you’ll have your primary translation (mine is the NIV), it’s still a good idea to sometimes read a passage in another version. Sometimes a different English translation can open up the meaning of a passage from a fresh perspective.
  8. Try listening, not just reading. It’s only been in the last 200 years or so that Bibles became affordable and available to a majority of people who could read. For most of Christian history, most Christians engaged God’s Word by listening to it. My favorite audio Bible is Inspired by the Bible Experience, although you can get others for free.
  9. Get an app. There are many Bible apps available, and one of the best is YouVersion.
  10. Use a devotional. Devotionals often unpack a verse or phrase in a thought-provoking way. My favorite devotional is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The Daily Audio Bible is a great podcast & app audio-devotional.
  11. Search online, but be careful. Google will find everything, good and bad alike. In my experience, there’s more bad than good. The best biblically sound online resource I’ve found for Bible and theology questions is You can type in a question about a specific verse or topic, and almost always find at least one answer.

My prayer for the week is that we all get inspired to dig into God’s Word!