I've been working through Beth Moore's study, A Heart Like His. I started this last year with a group meeting at one church and had difficulty finishing it. I'll discuss that in my notes. God opened a door for me to go through it again, and I've stuck with it. I missed a few group sessions but have managed to stick with the material and continue going when I can in spite of missing some sessions. I'm glad I did.
Before I start, I should note that I'll be quoting from two different things:
- the member book ($14.95 at Amazon.com), which the entire group is using
- A Heart Like His: Intimate Reflections on the Life of David: a big book that Mom bought for me by "mistake" instead of the member book last year and which is a very good read
I got behind during the first couple of weeks of the study this year so took a catch-up week during the first week of this month. I read along in the big book to see what I could glean that wasn't in the member book. Some of the text is identical--the point of the big book is to give the reader the benefit of most of Beth's teaching in a book that can be read passively and reflected on. There is also additional text, and the big book is a nice accompaniment to the workbook (in my opinion, of course). It does not include the teaching material from the videos, so you can't sit at home and do the studies without involving yourself in a study group. This is not a bad thing unless you can't find or get to a study group in your area, and I'm glad that Beth is starting to put some of her studies online.
And now a few notes from the past few weeks... These are edited and expanded (because I have some time to write more now about a few things I jotted down previously). The study of David's life takes me to some very personal places, and there are naturally some things revealed in this study that must remain between me and God and in some cases between me and God and an accountability partner or group. There are other things that I can share openly, and I do freely share them.
God loved the Philistines, and He knew that the best thing for them, and for us, is to worship Him. He is perfectly willing to "plague" us until we acknowledge Him. (big book, p. 26)
Has God been "plaguing" me? There is only one way to find out: acknowledge Him and see if whatever is "plaguing" me stops.
Have you ever wanted a certain answer from God so desperately that you consciously or subconsciously tried to "rig" the results? Reading things into the answer that just weren't there? Grabbing the first thing out of someone's mouth as your answer? I think we all have. It's easy to do, but it invariably leads to pain because we end up claiming a promise or a position God never gave us.
Obviously, the cows wouldn't pull the cart together, and certainly they wouldn't leave their calves. Certainly, that is, except for God. The cows obeyed the Creator of cows. I guess this story proves another basic truth. Sin makes you stupid. The cows had better sense than the Philistines. God can appoint even the beasts of the field to do His bidding. (big book, p. 27)
This is a hard thing to think about. I know in my heart that I have done this many times: looked for what I want to see. I also know that God is Lord over all things and that He doesn't let me get away with this.
Remember the shepherd boy chosen by the prophet of God? Samuel clandestinely anointed David as the rightful king of Israel, but as so often occurs in life, an obstacle existed. This obstacle stood a head taller than any other man in Israel, was the king, and bore the name Saul. (big book, p. 28)
This struck me... Is something standing in my way even though I am anointed for something? Maybe it isn't someone else doing my job but some kind of obstacle that keeps me from entering the position that I am anointed for.
What should you do when God has called you but you don't know what to do next? I certainly can't take the Spirit's job, but here's a good principle: Keep studying God's Word and listening to His voice; but while you're listening, take care of the responsibilities He has given you. (big book, pp. 28-29)
What are my responsibilities? I'm still struggling with this, still thinking that there's something I'm missing, something big and important that I'm supposed to be doing.
From my journal on September 30:
On [workbook] p. 30, the fact that David possessed both tenderness and strength is pointed out. Lately I have struggled with a tendency to respond to things with an intense anger. Is that intense anger a sign of dueling tenderness and strength that need to be cultivated to work in harmony under the control of the Holy Spirit?
I like what Beth writes:
Two qualities I've come to admire most in both men and women are tenderness and strength. I no longer see them as exclusive terms. Quite the contrary; I've come to realize that one without the other leaves an individual lacking wholeness. I deeply desire to be a woman of tenderness and strength because my dearest role model possessed both. (big book, p. 30; workbook, p. 24)
Incidentally, it is equally difficult sometimes to accept strength in a female, although in some ways the "women's liberation" movement has represented a human attempt to make this more a reality. But this isn't a realistic acceptance of godly strength and womanly character--at least not in my opinion. A woman doesn't have to prove herself equal to a man in order to be strong or for her strength to be accepted. I don't think it is wrong for a female to work on a car or anything else that is sometimes necessary for women to do as the need arises, any more than I think it is wrong for a person to work on Sunday when the need arises. But I do think women and men were given differing abilities in general for a purpose and it isn't necessarily demeaning to acknowledge the general fact. I hope that it's possible to acknowledge it without completely stereotyping every female in existence. I'm not ashamed of being a "typical" female. Some females are stronger physically than I am; but my lack of strength and "huskiness" doesn't make me less valuable and I don't want society measuring me by a man's standard.
Father; I pray that You will teach us to value tenderness and strength in all Your children, male or female, even as You teach us to rely upon Your Son, the essence of all strength. Amen. (big book, p. 31)
Father, I ask specifically that You impress on us the value of tenderness in men and teach us women how to bring our strength captive to Christ and use it for Your glory and not to tear down other people.
God arranged for Saul to encounter Samuel. You've heard of a wild goose chase; this was a wild donkey chase. Saul and a servant had been searching for three lost donkeys. After three days, they consulted the prophet, who happened to be Samuel. Note this principle: God often uses the practical to lead to the spiritual. Saul and his servant might have considered every stop to be a dead end, but from a heavenly Throne's eye view, each closed door ultimately opened the way to a word from God!
I find it very interesting that God wants us so much that He can bring us to Himself even when we think we're going somewhere else. Never forget that the mundane can lead to the miraculous. (big book, p. 34)
It's a shame the study didn't start just a bit earlier. This would have made a fabulous question. How has the mundane led to encountering God in my life?
How do we distinguish between godly humility and low self-esteem? Which did Saul display? One key lies in our focus. A person with godly humility looks to the Master. He or she neither exalts nor denigrates self, because to do either is to make self the center of our universe. When we're really serving Christ, our reputations and abilities simply cease to be so important. We must decrease that He may increase.
We need to recognize that lack of confidence does not equal humility. In fact, genuinely humble people have enormous confidence because it rests in a great God. Saul's self-centeredness eventually cost him dearly, as a self-focus always does. (workbook, p. 34)
Wow! That's some powerful stuff! How often do I think that the answer to "not being cocky" is to put myself down, that this is how I "decrease?"
Self-consciousness constitutes the opposite of God-consciousness. (big book, p. 37)
That needs to go in my quote book.
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)
I've been validating a book for Bookshare called Doctors of Conscience. It tells the stories of doctors who performed abortions before 1973. It would be very easy for a reader of this book to admire these doctors for standing up for what they believe in, especially when reading about women who were dying because of abortions done incorrectly or in unsafe conditions. But these factors don't make abortion right. It is not right to take a life in order to improve another life. In many of these situations, the abortion was simply being done because a person wanted a career and a pregnancy would jeopardize an opportunity to attend school or because a wealthy couple simply didn't want any more children. I made a comment one day that alarmed someone. I said, "If you don't want kids, don't have sex." I was referring to people who are unmarried primarily. This is called self-control; and it's why we are people and not animals. God made sex for the purpose of reproduction, not for people to go around getting kicks. If saying that makes me a judgmental person, then I need to accept that. I wouldn't turn a pregnant girl out on the streets or condemn someone for having had an abortion; but I don't admire doctors who provided abortion for the sake of "reproductive freedom." Supporting someone just because he stands up for what he believes in is pretty equivalent to supporting the act itself for me, and I can't do it. Somehow I need to find a way to communicate this stuff to people and still communicate my love for them.
My attitude toward God's actions in response to my situation is: God could help me if He wanted, but He doesn't seem to want to very often. I am very frustrated by this. I wish that I could somehow not concern myself with whether or not He wanted to. On the other hand, I wish that He would want to. I do find myself becoming frustrated and assuming not that He can't but that He has decided to just leave me alone as if I don't even exist. "I often feel alone, as if God is not interested in my battles," would also apply somewhat, but I think a more accurate statement is, "I often feel that God doesn't care about my earthly circumstances because He is angry with me for not focusing only on the eternal.
Principal question: Based on the impressions of Jonathan you received in day 1, how would you describe him?
Jonathan seems very wise and discerning, watching for and interpreting God's signs.
The lesson for this day talks about Saul's arrogance... I've been thinking about the concept of arrogance lately. 1 Cor. 13 says that love is not arrogant or rude. Reading these chapters about Saul, it becomes apparent that low self-esteem leads to arrogance... When a person begins to feel better about him/herself--or maybe Saul didn't feel better about himself at all--he begins to lift himself up, to be arrogant.
Saul made some very serious and inappropriate presumptions. He kept King Agag alive, not to spare his life out of mercy, but to present him as a trophy-a public exhibit. He did not slaughter the sheep and cattle for the very same reason: he saved the best to make himself look better. Verse 9 ends with a sad commentary on Saul's actions: "These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed." Saul had the audacity to improve on God's command. (workbook, p. 16)
Briefly describe a time in your life when you knew God was humbling you so that He could more fully use you.
I think that this is partially what has been happening lately with my poverty.
What are a few ways you could keep your heart humble before God?
Going about my daily tasks without complaining about what other people have that I don't, living a disciplined life and not insisting that I "deserve" little pleasures.
Another convicting passage:
In verse 23, Samuel compares rebellion to the sin of divination or witchcraft. The comparison seems puzzling until we consider that rebellion is a means by which we attempt to set the course of our futures. We try to choose our own futures by our independent actions. Divination attempts to foretell or sway the future. In the same verse, God likens arrogance to the evil of idolatry. When we are arrogant, who becomes God in our lives? (workbook, p. 17)
This is what I did in some of my past actions. Talk about not knowing what I was doing! I really had no idea of the implications of this at all! I thought I was doing something in the heat of the moment, but peeling those layers of thought back I can see that I had motivations far deeper that my conscious mind was unaware of.
I notice here that Saul seemed to have kind of a cavalier attitude about repentence. "Ok, I did it. Now come with me so I can worship. What is the difference between this and David's repentence? David also disobeyed gravely; but the outcome was very different. The problem isn't my disobedience. It's how I respond to it. I want to be repentent.
Principal question: Based on 1 Samuel 15:22, why do you think obedience is more important to God than sacrifice?
I like Beth's wording:
Saul learned that obedience was better than sacrifice. Samuel learned that sometimes obedience is the sacrifice.
Can you think of a time when God's obvious choice for you did not make sense based on outward appearances? If so, in the margin describe the experience. (workbook p. 19)
This makes me think of Moses: "But I am slow of speech." "But I am blind." "But I am fat." "But I can't hold my breath for two phrases..." I am no Sandi Patty or even Ginny Owens. Oh, there is this one. "But I have no stage presence--and I don't want to spend lots of effort trying to learn how to act just right for people." I don't mind God calling me--I'm actually very willing, and I'm willing to do what is reasonable to answer the call. I'm not willing to become obsessed with people-pleasing.
Principal question: What evidences do you see in Psalm 78:70-72 to refute the following statement: God called David in spite of his being a common shepherd?
It says God took him "from the sheep pens" and that David "shephered them with integrity of heart ... and skillful hands..."
What are a few of your occupational skills? (workbook p. 20)
Writing, counseling, HTML, knowledge of adaptive technology, knowledge of disability-related terminology and needs,, ability to do research, music composition and production, public speaking.
Can you think of any ways God can use or has used you because of your skills and not just in spite of them?
Moderating email discussion groups, occasional music performances, web site.
That day so many years ago, the eyes of the Lord looked throughout the whole earth and fell upon an obscure little village called Bethlehem. There He found a heart-one like unto His own. He found a heart tendered to little lost sheep, and He showed himself strong on behalf of that heart, just like He promised.
I'm starting to get the picture... "After God's own heart." "In His image." "Like God."
The Holy Spirit had a different relationship with people before Christ died on the cross. Now His Spirit lives in all believers (Rom. 8:9). Before Calvary; the Holy Spirit worked to empower specific types of service rather than to bring a new relationship with God through salvation. Less than 100 people in the Old Testament were ever characterized by the Holy Spirit being on or in them. The Holy Spirit came on only those who were being empowered for specific tasks or positions.
Another important contrast can be drawn between the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Saul's experience demonstrates that the Holy Spirit could depart from a person. After the atoning death of Christ, the Spirit comes to establish a new and permanent relationship with the believer. The Gospel of John offers believers assurance concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit. (workbook, p. 22)
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Now I understand why David prayed, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me! He knew what had happened to Saul because of his failure to obey God.
The exit of the Holy Spirit left Saul open to the torment of an evil spirit. If he had been a man of character, Saul might have cooperated with God to add David to his royal ranks through less painful means, but Saul had already proved himself to be self-centered and rebellious. God used Saul's selfishness to bring David to the royal courts.
God is sovereign. He allowed the evil spirit to torment Saul. He knows what methods will work to bring about His will. David had to be summoned to the kingdom. God allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul because He knew Saul would seek David's services.
The Hebrew word for torment is ba'ath which means "to be frightened, to overtake, to strike with fear, to be afraid, to dread, to be terrified, to be overtaken by a sudden terror. It is the strongest form of intimidation." Mentally apply this definition to Saul. In essence, God allowed the spirit of fear to come on him. Few things torment me like fear. (workbook, p. 23)
Why does God allow suffering? Not to punish, but because He knows that it will have an impact on us. We can choose to let it have its impact or to fight it.
Think back on the most memorable time in your life when you were tormented by fear. Below describe the situation.
I am afraid right now, afraid that I will not be able to support myself, afraid that I will grow old with no family, afraid that I will just plain be forgotten in this "community."
Principal question: Based on your impressions of 1 Samuel 16:18, how would you describe David?
Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. I am struck by the amount of responsibility that David gained. Was it his tenderness that led him to seek too many wives? He doesn't seem to be the type to seek after his own self-interest. What, exactly, did he see in Bathsheba? A woman lonely because her husband was away at battle? The shower is often the place where I tend to be the most vulnerable emotionally. Was she doing the same? Exposed to this vulnerability, did he feel tender toward her the way he did toward Abigail following the death of her husband?
I'm not sure anyone can encourage or discourage us like family. The views of our family members toward us are very convincing, aren't they? If people who know us the best encourage us the least, we have few chances to develop confidence. (P. 50)
This is very true for me. I am very sensitive to anything that feels like discouragement coming from my family. In the same light, encouragement from them is also invaluable. I think this is why Jesus talked about taking up the cross and following him and leaving family behind. It's an act of faith, a test of whether we trust God or circumstances.
We tend to measure our obstacles against our own strength. We often feel overwhelmed and defeated before the battle begins. (workbook, p. 27)
I do this a lot... Most of the time.
Also, notice another detail of the story. When David volunteered to fight the giant, Saul promptly dressed David in the king's armor. Imagine that picture: a young shepherd boy, dressed in the armor of the middle- aged king who was twice his size. Is it any wonder David could hardly walk, let alone fight?
David made a wise choice that is a lesson for us: "’I cannot go in these,' he said to Saul, `because I am not used to them'" (1 Sam. 17:39). What wisdom from such a youth. David was comfortable enough with himself to say, "This just isn't me."
I heard a great phrase from Norris Smith, a wonderful man who counsels ministers. He said our attempts to copy somebody else is like "wearing Saul's armor." Have you tried to wear Saul's armor? It is a miserable fit. We can learn from David that God has made us to be who we are, not who somebody else is. What a life lesson! (big book, p. 50)
Is there a point to me not wanting to get all fluffed up for my performances, wanting to rEmain simple and just "be me?" What is the balance between looking nice and hiding in "the king's armor?"
Principal question: What do you believe David's most powerful weapon was against Goliath?
His faith in God. Not just faith.
Continued in another entry...