Friday, January 28, 2011

He Took His Life in His Hands

For the last month or so at my congregation, we've been studying the book of 1 Samuel. I'm a little bit of a keyword fanatic-- I love finding key words and marking them in my Bible. One that's popped up everywhere is "hand." I've seen everything from "the hand of the LORD" to David simply reaching his hand into a stream to pick up five smooth stones. But one use of the word "hand" has really struck me: the idea of taking one's life in one's hands.

Take a look at 1 Samuel 19. (No, really, go read it. That'd be great). At this point, King Saul is waffling back and forth between wanting to kill David, seeing him as his rival, or respecting him. At the moment, he's livid, so his son Jonathan, David's best friend, is going in to defend the future king. Now that we've got some background, take a look at verses 4 and 5:
"Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?"

This is important. Want me to prove it? Other key words in the book include "king", "servant", "LORD", "hear", "speak", and "deliver." Yeah. There are 5 key words in these two verses. When that many key words are clustered together, it's like God highlighting an important point. "He took his life in his hands." Let's quickly take a look at what exactly what "taking your life in your hands" is and what it can do.

Taking your life in your hands involves action. Look at the very first part: "He took his life in his hands and struck the Philistine." This Philistine was, of course, Goliath. If you have another minute or two to spare, go back to Chapter 17 and read the account of David and Goliath, particularly verse 26. Outraged, David exclaims, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" This guy has been terrorizing the Israelite armies all day. Nobody's stepping up, and yet David, who is still a very young man, doesn't hesitate. He's ready to go fight him right off the bat.

Taking your life in your hands involves trusting God. David never saw "taking his life in his hands" as taking CONTROL of his life. He knew it was all in God's hands. Check out verses 45 through 47 of Chapter 17. David in calling out Goliath uses "the LORD" four times and "God" twice! And look at the way he uses it: "I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts" (45), "the LORD will deliver you up into my hands" (46), "the battle is the LORD's" (47). David had no trust in himself, but he knew God had more power than he could possibly imagine. Because of this, God was able to use David's life to bless others. Jumping back to Chapter 19, we see that through David, "the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel" (5). It's kind of ironic; by taking his life in his hands, David was putting his life in God's hands.

Taking your life in your hands garners respect. Right after David slays Goliath in Chapter 17, Saul asks his commander Abner whose son David is (verse 55). Right away, he's interested. In Chapter 18, we find out that "David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war" (5). David took the opportunity to do something great for God, and as a result, he gained some favor with the king and prospered. (It wasn't until Saul began to see David as a threat to his own power that he began to hate him.) Even in Chapter 19, when Saul wants to kill David, Jonathan's reminder of this great deed of David's changes his mind, if only for a little while. Verse 6 tells us, "Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, 'As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.'" When you're courageous and take the initiative to be great for God, the people around you can't help but respect you, even those that hate you!

Naturally, we can learn a lot from looking at this side of "taking your life in your hands." However, I'm not quite telling you the whole story yet. Flip over to Chapter 28 and read the whole thing through. Saul is, of course, sinning by consulting the medium at Endor, and that's usually what we focus on. But what was the medium's response to the entire situation? Take a look at verse 21: "Behold, your maidservant has obeyed you, and I have taken my life in my hands and have listened to your words which you spoke to me."

So there must be a bad way to take your life in your hands. This woman was sinning, and she knew it. Before she calls up Samuel for Saul (whose identity is yet unknown to her), she hesitates, saying, "You know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?" (9). However, being reassured of that she will not be punished, she goes through with it.

Both David and the medium took their lives in their hands. Both took some sort of action. However, where David put his trust in God, the medium put her trust in Saul. While David received respect from both God and men for his actions, the medium had to carry out her action in secret, and the Lord certainly wouldn't have applauded her actions.

So, dear Reader, it's up to you. Life is full of opportunities. You can trust God, or you can trust yourself. You can live a life of spiritual glory, or you can live a life of shame. Your life is in your hands. What will you do with it?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Ultimate Blood Donor

Oooohhhh goodness guys. I am so terrible. I promise, promise, PROMISE that I will be posting more regularly. This is a CFYC repeat... but I promise we're going to stop having those! We're gonna have new stuff! Soon! :) <3
A few weeks ago, I donated blood for the first time. Donating is a really cool experience, and much more rewarding than I thought it would be. There’s something about knowing you’ve saved a life that gives you an incredible feeling. I highly recommend it. However, that’s not the important part. What’s important is that the more I looked into what blood does in our bodies and what donated blood can do for the recipient, the more I appreciated just how beautiful Jesus’ sacrifice for us was and is. (The way God interweaves His design for creation with His plans never ceases to amaze me!) God could have planned to save us any way He liked, but He chose to do it through blood. Looking at a few different functions of blood in our bodies can give us an incredible perspective of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

Blood gives us what we need. Of course, the circulation of blood through our hearts and veins is what keeps us alive, but why? The answer is a little protein called hemoglobin. Oxygen molecules bind to hemoglobin, which carries them in the blood stream to the rest of our bodies’ cells so that they can function. The point is that blood keeps us alive by giving us what we need to survive. Jesus’ blood does the exact same thing for us spiritually. We are imperfect and incomplete people, and without him we are dying in our own sin. Take a look at Colossians 2:13: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” We’re dead without Christ, but when we follow Him, he gives us what we need: forgiveness. Through this forgiveness, we are able to stay alive spiritually.

Blood cleanses. Our blood doesn’t just supply the things we need; it takes away the things we don’t. Plasma, the liquid part of the blood, carries waste products such as carbon dioxide to outlets where they can be flushed out of our bodies so we can stay healthy. This is just as important as supplying our needs. A body can have everything it needs to survive, but if it retains harmful waste products, it will still be in danger. The influence of Christ’s blood on our lives, too, causes us to flush out the spiritually detrimental aspects of our thoughts and actions. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature,” and James 1:21 says that by “putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness,” we can “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save [our] souls.” This complete change, this removal of the bad, is essential if we are to stay spiritually healthy. According to 1 John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light, as He Himself, is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If we go on sinning willfully, Jesus’ blood does us no good, but if we repent of the sin problems in our lives and strive to fix them, He will continue to remove our transgressions.

Blood protects. A third major function of the blood is to fight off invader diseases in the body. White blood cells literally fight a small-scale war in our bodies in order to protect us from pathogens and other intruders. Jesus’ blood also offers us an immense amount of protection spiritually. He protects us from the Devil (2 Thessalonians 3:3), from anxiety (Philippians 4:7), and of course, from eternal death (Romans 6:23). Of course, white blood cells are physical and can therefore fail us, but Jesus is steadfast and sure. As long as we are entrusting ourselves completely to Him, He will not fail to save us (2 Timothy 1:12, Hebrews 13:5-6).

When I gave blood, I had to answer a few questions to make sure my blood was pure enough to be able to help the person who received it. (On a side note, I find it interesting that most of the things that make our physical blood impure, like STDs, result from sinful actions… coincidence?) Jesus’ blood was the purest blood there ever was (Hebrews 9:14). After all, if Jesus’ blood was just as impure as the blood of those who needed it, how could it be of any help to us? However, just as my healthy blood will help someone with a disease or another need, Jesus’ blood is able to save our spiritual lives.

Finally the moment of truth came. I sat down in the big reclined chair, and within minutes they were sucking my blood. I was shocked. It didn’t hurt at all. That, my friends, is where my analogy falls apart. Jesus went through more pain in the course of a few hours than most of us will go through in our entire lives, all to give us His incredible, perfect, life-giving blood. He didn’t have to do it. He could have given up on us. He could have decided we weren’t worth it, but that’s not what He did. He gives life to any dying man or woman who wants it. Jesus Christ is the ultimate blood donor.