The Drift

It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle… David remained at Jerusalem.    2 Samuel 11:1

It was generally believed that he was about 50 years old or so at this time. He wasn’t an old man yet, but he wasn’t the golden boy anymore either. And women didn’t look at him the same way they used to. He started using Rogaine. He told himself he was going to work out a little more, get a jogging track installed around the palace. He didn’t tell anybody, but he had a little Metamucil added to the royal diet.

What did he want? David didn’t really know. He wanted to feel young. He wanted to feel alive. He wanted to feel vital. He was restless, and he was lonely, and he was a little bored. So, he decided he would stay home.

But what he apparently did not do is he did not talk to God about this.

We find an interesting insight into the God/David relationship in Second Samuel 12:7, about halfway through the verse, after the first phrase. God speaks through David’s pastor, Nathan:

‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!

God says to David, “I’ve had my eye on you your whole life long, and I love you, and I want the best for you, and I’ve given you so much. And if all this had been too little, David, I would have given you more. Why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you ask me? Why didn’t you talk to me?”

I think of how often in human history God has said that to his children, “And if all this had been too little, I would have given you more.” If more is what it takes to make the human heart content, God will just keep giving more.

But, of course, generally more doesn’t do it.

David’s problem is he did not trust that God really did have his best interest at heart. He did not trust that God was that good. David really thought, as so many of us do at a really deep level, that really when it comes right down to it, “I’m going to have to look out for myself. I can’t really trust that if I abandon myself to God that radically, he will take care of me.”

David should have spent some time alone with God, this God who waits to bless and waits to give and find out why was this drift factor at work in him.

He needed to ask himself why another man’s wife was so beautiful to him that he was willing to risk his kingdom to be with her. He needed to ask himself what was lacking in his walk with God that made holding Bathsheba in his arms more important than being held in the arms of God.

But he doesn’t do that. He drifts.

You are familiar with how this story ends. Nathan comes to King David and confronts him with the truth of his sin. David is undone. He is truly repentant and is never the same.

I want to show you what he wrote in his journal after he had come to terms with his sin and we will get a glimpse of the real reason for his broken world.

Against You, You only, have I sinned. (Psalm 51:4)

by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

David realized that there was a sin underneath the sin. Before he committed physical adultery, he committed spiritual adultery. Before he committed adultery with Bathsheba, he committed adultery against God. He wanted her arms because he didn’t have God’s arms. He wanted her beauty because he didn’t have God’s beauty.

That is the nature of spiritual drift.

But, thank God, David stops the drift and returns to his fist love. And when he does he makes an amazing discovery:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given. ~ Frederick Faber

Thank God.

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The Dance

David was afraid of the Lord that day; he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?”

In King David’s spiritual haste to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to his home town, they all got a little too casual in the handling the holiest artifact in the Jewish faith and a colleague died and, as a result, the entire company are suffering from a panic attack–including King David. He sends the Ark away, but that won’t do either so he makes plans to try again to bring the Ark into his town.

What David realized was that he can’t live without God, but he can’t live with Him either. And I can completely relate to that feeling. We can’t live without transcendence, without God; but we can’t live with him either. He is too holy. He is too perfect.

I love that place in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe where the children are asking about this mysterious creature named Aslan and Mr. Beaver goes about to set them straight,

“He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment.”

After Beaver recites an old (prophetic) rhyme about Aslan, notching the tension even higher, Lucy asks, “Is — is he a man?”

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the woods and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”

Then, of course, Susan and Lucy ask if this lion is safe — to which Beaver answers with his memorable line, “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

David is not certain that God is altogether safe. He’s not sure he can live with the ark.

But in time, David recommitted to treating the symbolic presence of God with proper fear and trembling by sacrificing the blood of an innocent third-party animal to acknowledge that because of the sinfulness of mankind, he might have God by his side, but he does not have God in his pocket. And this brings great joy to David.

The story tells us, David danced before the Lord with all his might.

Grace got King David dancing. And grace is what gets us dancing too. Because this dance of joy and this Ark are sign posts to Jesus of Nazareth. They point to a time when God would not be on the other side of some mystical place where a select few might have access. Jesus would come as the ultimate Ark, the final Temple.

Do you remember in John 2 when Jesus builds a whip and drives out the money-changers and trinket-sellers to purify the Temple? And when they protest and fuss with him about his actions he says,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”  But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead…

Jesus’ body would be the final place where the presence of God would overlap and interlock with this world. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, the living God doing a sacrifice for us; throwing open a doorway into his perfect presence for imperfect people.

Now, the way we “get in” to God’s presence and find the transcendence we have all been looking for is not a place, it’s in a person.

Will you and I hear the music of God’s grace in Jesus?

If we begin to dance to this grace-music, there might be folks close to us who do not hear the same tune and do not appreciate our dancing.

The story continues…

Michal (David’s wife) looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

There is a wonderful line in a sermon by a preacher of a hundred years ago named Alexander Whyte where he says about David and Michal,

Those who are deaf always despise those who dance.

The question for us is will we hear the music of Jesus, or will we be deaf to it?

Cadie Chambers

When my grandgingers were about 3 or four years old one of the girls came to visit my wife and I for the weekend. We noticed when she was in the play room she was dancing. It was a wonderful twirling, fluid, graceful motion. We both stopped and watched from the hallway through a door, slightly ajar. We looked at each other smiled and one of us said, “There is no music.” The other of us said, “She can hear music that we can’t hear.”

There’s an old hymn we used to sing when I was a boy that none of you will know…

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
in all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
sweetest name I know,
fills my every longing,
keeps me singing as I go.

So, dear friends, may you hear the music of grace and may God get you dancing in life.

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School Shootings (A Lament)

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of America.
Children have been murdered at a school in Florida.
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold your peace
And do not be still, O God!
O that the metal, plastic, and composite material
would be melted and ground down into seesaws and merry-go-rounds.

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Children have been murdered at a school in Florida.
Defenders of weapons and idolaters of the sword do not weep
Nor sit in ashes.
O that the metal, plastic, and composite material
would be melted and ground down into seesaws and merry-go-rounds.
Come now, and let us reason together
Says the Lord,
Though your sins are like children’s blood,
they shall be as white as snow.

Defenders of weapons and idolaters of the sword do not weep
Nor sit in ashes.
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold your peace
And do not be still, O God!
Come now, and let us reason together
Says the Lord,
Though your sins are like children’s blood,
They shall be as white as snow.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of America.

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Be Careful What You Say About The Church

“Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:9

The church gets kicked around a lot these days. Certainly, from those who do not follow Jesus. That even makes sense. Why would they be warm to an institution that is antithetical to their way of living? But what hurts my heart is that there are many stone-throwers who attend church and say that they love Jesus; or used to attend church and often they are the most prolific rock-chuckers.

Often, they sit at home and watch their favorite preacher on T.V. (I’m not going to say much about this approach except to say: It is about as lazy as it gets) However, many are involved in para-church organizations which have taken the place of the church for lots of Christian leaders. Recovery groups, retreat centers, discipleship ministries, itinerant conferences, and denominational gatherings have become the preferred alternative to weekly and often mundane attendance full of sinners led by the chief of sinners—the preacher.

Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors. ~ Eugene Peterson

Then there are the elite followers of Jesus who decide that it is better to find a small gathering of like-minded believers who really “get it” and know how to live the Christian life on a more authentic, missional, and intentional way. They even take some pride in saying, “I don’t go to church, but I love Jesus.”

I have two problems with these neo-gnostic approaches to being a Christian. First, I don’t see a good example in the Bible of retreating from the messy living and loving of one another outside of the Body of Christ.

Where does one go to devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers? Do these ministries administer the sacraments? Do they serve communion? (Some do) Do they Baptize? Do they perform marriages? Do they officiate funerals? Do they take casseroles to the bereaved? Do they visit the hospitals and minister in the nursing homes? Do they go to the jails and listen, love, and pray for broken humanity?

I reckon there are some that do, and I would say they are the exception that proves the rule.

The Biblical testimony and the witness of Christian history is that the Church is the last best hope for this dark world. The bride of Jesus; the body of Christ—these do not describe Young Life, Southern Baptist, or John Elderedge’s ministry. They describe the First Methobapterian church in your town.

These ministries are important and even essential to the edification of the Church, but make no mistake, they are NOT the Church.

But another reason I have a problem with kicking the church to the curb is more personal. I wrote in my journal this morning after doing my Lectio on 1 Timothy 3:14-16 what you see in the photo:

In the fall of 1999, I resigned my Church in Colorado and moved my young family to the Pacific Northwest. I had made sinful choices that led to this upheaval. Our destination was a little church in Sumner, Washington. My brother was the pastor of the church and they welcomed us with open arms in spite of my scarlet reputation.

They had a building fund they used to move us out to Sumner and provide funds for me to go to New Life Clinic in Los Angeles for a therapy intensive that lasted three weeks.

We were unemployed and homeless. The little church provided us a place to live next door in a house they had purchased and remodeled for Sunday School classes. They gave me a job of tearing down a condemned house next door to that house so that the lot could be used for parking. They paid for Lynette and me to go to marriage counseling sometimes twice a week for over a year. They helped pay the tuition for my oldest son to attend a private Christian school.

More importantly they loved us deeply; they loved us well. They didn’t smother us. They weren’t cloyingly sweet with their affection. Do you know what they did? They made space for us. It was like they were eating a lavish and wonderful meal at a long table and we were unexpected guests. They scrunched together, got more plates and silverware and made room for us at their table. That simple act began our healing.

After about a year, they asked me to teach a Sunday School class. Not long after that, my brother had to be out of town and he asked me to preach for him. It had been about a year and a half since I had preached. I remember standing in front of this little congregation, with tears streaking down my face, saying thank you to them for the honor of preaching to them. A man from the back of the church shouted, “We love you, Joe!”

To shorten this story, in about 3 years that church disbanded. They had exhausted themselves in giving to my family and had run out of everything to stay alive except love. Do you remember that hymn that was sung in the first church found in Philippians chapter two?

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself…

If ever there was a church that followed Jesus down into obscurity in the world’s eyes and greatness in God’s, it was Christ Church of Sumner.

They gave themselves away so that my family could stay together and find healing and restoration. Because of their kenosis and agape love, my oldest son met his future wife in that little church and we have four wonderful grandchildren; my other two sons grew up in that little church and made lasting friends. My wife and I just celebrated our thirty-sixth year of marriage. God has graciously allowed me to pastor again and has given my wife and I ministry to pastors and their families.

All that is to say that I don’t take it well when Christians neglect, throw rocks, and bad-mouth the bride of Jesus.

There’s nobody who doesn’t have problems with the church, because there’s sin in the church. But there’s no other place to be a Christian… Eugene Peterson

So, let me say this as loving as I can. Stop chunking rocks at my Lord’s bride or I’ll fight you in the church parking lot.

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Sacred Companions

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 1 Samuel 18:3

Jonathan’s love entered David’s heart in a way that Saul’s hatred never could. –Eugene Peterson

Of all the forces that mark us, I believe none are more important than people. And no people are more important than those we call by the title “friends.” I think there’s no wonder like the wonder of friendship. I think that’s one of the most powerful words in the world — “friend.”

I asked a man one time, “What is it like to be my friend?”

Here is his email response:

Joe, you have a thoughtful, caring conscience. When I’m with you I get opportunity to shed posturing and to get real at any moment. You value knowing the vision of God’s work in the center of my life as being of greater concern than any other work or personal accomplishment.

Knowing there is someone willing to call me on the need for taking personal responsibility for a necessary step in my journey with Jesus rather than merely affirming a stated intent is marking my life.

I love you, Joe.

When a friend does that for a friend, it gets way down into your soul. I’ve read that and re-read that several times in the last few days. Friends that take the time to say words like those are golden.

I had lunch with a man my age a couple of years ago who is struggling with his life. As I sat across the table from him and looked at him and said, “Bill, I just want to be your friend.” His eyes brimmed with tears and he looked down at his Won Ton Soup and said, “I really need a friend. Thank you, Joe.”

What’s the difference between a good friend that happens to be a Christian, and a spiritual friend? A spiritual friend is an intimate, life giving friend who helps me pay attention to God.

A spiritual friend will say to you, “How is God speaking to you in this? How does God want to be at work in your life through this? And how are you responding to him?” They help you pay attention to God.

If you find someone you might want to be a spiritual friend, don’t schedule a lunch with that person and say, “I want you to be my spiritual friend. I want to meet with you and be shaped by you and be committed to you every day for the rest of my life.” Because if that person is healthy at all, they will run out of the restaurant. And if they’re not, you’re going to end up in worse shape than they are.

Test the water, go slow, be patient. Test the relationship by taking little relational risks. Move beyond polite conversation.

Polite conversation is built on trying not to hurt somebody’s feelings. And that’s not a bad thing. Spiritual friendship is different. You might begin by disclosing some area of struggle, not the deepest one in your life, but a significant one.

  • Is there a level of empathy there?
  • Do they listen well?
  • Or do they only want to focus on talking about themselves?
  • Are they wise and discerning in their response?
  • Is there kind of a judgmental spirit attached to them?
  • Do they honor confidentiality?

I have been going through a dry wilderness time in my soul these days. There is nothing in my life that is especially difficult. No hidden sins, no relational trauma, no professional failures. My health is good. My marriage is good. My Church is good. And yet my heart is lonely.

Facebook says that I have over one thousand friends, but that is a lie. Most of them have unfollowed me and I have unfollowed many of them.

I was driving across the great expanse of South Park towards Colorado Springs last week to meet a friend for breakfast. As I drove through that treeless and big sky valley a song came on my sound system by U2 called, Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own.

Tough, you think you’ve got the stuff
You’re telling me and anyone
You’re hard enough

You don’t have to put up a fight
You don’t have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches
For you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone

Maybe it was the emptiness of the road or the large Colorado sky; or maybe is was the ache in my heart, but when that song came on and I began to sing along, my eyes burned with tears and my voice broke.

I stopped singing and listened to the song wind down. When it was over, I said to myself, “I can’t wait to see my friend this morning.”

When I met with Joe, he didn’t necessarily give me deep words of encouragement or warm words of affirmation. We shared a meal together and it became a sacrament of grace for my soul. It was the simple act of me being aware of my ache and sitting with my friend at breakfast that thawed out my cold, cold heart.

I drove back across that mountain valley and felt the heaviness lift. My heart was strangely warmed, and I whispered to the friend who sticks closer than a brother, “Thank you, Lord. I am a blessed man.”

I’m not sure that anyone can have a great deep friend and be called poor. I’m not sure that anybody could lack having a great deep friend and be called rich.

There is nothing like the wonder of a friend.

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Killing Giants

 “Sometimes fear does not subside, and we must choose to do it afraid.”  ~Elisabeth Elliot

When have you been most afraid?

I could tell you about breaking my leg in the wilderness and lying on the ground for two days waiting to be rescued. I could tell you about when the school thug/bully promised he would kill me because I was dating his former girlfriend. I could tell you about being in some alpine caves and having a panic attack inside the cave, 300 feet from the entrance to the cave. I could tell you about leading seven friends up Broken Hand Mountain and all of us nearly dying of hypothermia when we got caught in a summer storm.

But one of the most frightening moments of my life was far more pedestrian than those. About 15 years ago I had been out of ministry for a couple of years in order to rebuild and restore my marriage. I dared to attempt to interview for a pastor position down in Alamosa.

I drove down from Poncha Springs where I was staying with my father. I got to Alamosa early and went to a coffee shop where I prayed. The devil was screaming in my ear that I didn’t belong in ministry. That I was a loser. That ministry would finish off my marriage. That I was washed up and useless to God.

I sat in that coffee shop waiting, as if for my execution, with every muscle taut. My legs were bouncing. My tongue was cotton-mouth dry. My heart was racing. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like a piano was sitting right in the middle of my chest. I couldn’t make spit to talk.

I remember hearing God say to me, “Son, why are you so afraid?”

I muttered, “I’m afraid of being rejected, Lord.”

God said, “By who?”

“By this church.”

“But you are my son.”


I stepped outside into the crisp air, took a deep breath and went to the interview with those words ringing in my ear—“You are my son.”

To shorten the story, the interview went well. The little church said they wanted me to be their next pastor. I went home, and Lynette and I prayed and finally decided the best thing for our family was to withdraw my name as a candidate.

Turns out that was the right decision, but I’ll never forget that intense moment of fear waiting to go to that interview in Alamosa.

What is the most frightened you have ever been? What has caused your knees to buckle?

Do you know what the top fears are in our country? On most lists you might find, fear of death hovers right around number five and the number one fear in America is typically the fear of public speaking.

So, let me get this straight, some of you would reading this blog would rather die than do what I do week in and week out? One strategy I was told in speech class to help with being nervous in a talk was to imagine your audience sitting in their underwear. As a pastor, I want to assure you that I have never done that. I never will!

Being intimidated by an audience, or scared by a spider, or battling the fear of rejection can be debilitating. It can cause us to run for cover. It can cause us to make poor decisions. What do we do when we are faced with an overwhelming fear?

When you read the ancient story found in 1 Samuel 17, you discover a conversation between the brothers and Saul, all of them had a Goliath-centered view of what was going on. Only David had a God-centered view of the situation—only David managed to see God.

There is an interesting word usage in the David and Goliath story that I want to show you.

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath.

The word “champion” is a Hebrew word that means the man in between. It is used to describe someone who is a representative fighter. The champion is a brother of the tribe; often the captain of the army and sometimes even the king. And he fights on behalf of the rest of his people.

Who should be Israel’s champion? Saul should be Israel’s champion, but he is doing his best imitation of Don Knotts hiding in his tent.

So, here David, the least of his brothers, comes out to face Goliath as the captain of his people and eventually the king.

I love the way Eugene Peterson put this in a poem called Smooth Stones,

Odd shaped pebbles roll
And tumble ‘round the Rock which
Smooths them into five smooth
One of which will
Kill a giant

This is a three-thousand-year-old picture of the victory that you and I will have fought for us by the Son of David on the cross of Calvary. Jesus faced down the ultimate giants that have haunted mankind since we were kicked out of Eden. The giants of sin and death. And Jesus didn’t face them at the risk of his life, but at the cost of his life.

Only when you have your eyes on Jesus—your brother, captain, and king—can you actually deal with your giants.

At the end of the first of the Lord of the Rings movies there is a powerful scene. Boromir is the son of the Steward of Gondor. He has strong ambitions to be the next king. But he knows this will only happen if he gets his hands on the one ring that Frodo is carrying and can take it back to Gondor.

Boromir tries to take the ring by force and in the struggle Frodo slips the magic ring on his finger and disappears leaving Boromir flailing about.  It is here Boromir’s rage and passion dissipate and he “comes to himself” only to realize that he has failed the temptation to resist the seduction of the ring.  He weeps and is filled with shame and regret.  Meanwhile Frodo and the ring are gone.  Suddenly other hobbits in the fellowship are in danger and Boromir rises to fulfill his heroic calling by defending the lesser characters to the death.

As he lies dying the once and future king—the true king of Middle Earth, Aragorn, rushes to his aid and fights off the Orcs and goblins. When he has won the field, Aragorn kneels down to lend comfort to the mortally wounded Boromir.

In Boromir’s death scene he looks into the face of the true king of men, Aragorn, and says, “I would have followed you my brother, my captain, my king.”

It is my prayer that as you face whatever giants await you that you will open the door of deep faith to Jesus your deliverer—your brother, captain, and King.

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How God Sees

The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 17:7

People have always wanted to be like everybody else, to do the popular thing, and the Israelites were no exception.

“We’re tired of worshiping an invisible God. Everybody says, ‘Where’s your king?’ And we have to say, ‘Oh, he’s in the heavens.’ We want a leader here on earth, Samuel. We want to be like all the other nations. Look at the Philistines, and the Moabites and the Jebusites and all the other nations. They’ve all got kings. We want to be like all of them!”

They didn’t say, “We want to wait on God to provide what we need.” This broke Samuel’s heart, and so he went to God in prayer about it.

So, God let them have exactly what they wanted. Did He ever!

The man they chose, Saul, was tall, dark, and handsome. That’s how people choose kings. They go for someone who looks good. “Wow, he’ll be a good image for Israel. Saul’s our guy. Saul’s our hero.”

So Saul came on the scene and swept them off their feet. He had a measure of humility to begin with, and he seemed able to rally people around a cause. He had enough moxie to get an army together, and before long the Israelites thought, “He’s the man for the job.”

But guess what? Even though Saul was forty years old when he started to rule, before long he became thin-skinned, hot-tempered, and given to seasons of depression, even thoughts of murder. Some hero he turned out to be.

So much for the man who was the people’s choice.

David was born about ten years after Saul became king. Talk about being born into volatile times! The people of Israel were on a long drift from God, and now, to make matters worse, they were becoming disillusioned with the leader they had chosen.

But what do you do when your king doesn’t walk with God? What do you do when you’ve gotten your own way and it’s all wrong. It’s the most disillusioning, insecure feeling in the world, yet you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong.

But graciously, God does not abandon His people. Through Samuel, He intervenes.

God always knows what He’s doing. So He says to Samuel, “You go to Bethlehem, and there you will find the man I have already chosen.” This is the first Samuel has heard that God had already zeroed in on a man to replace Saul.

God says, “I’ve selected a king for Myself. The people haven’t chosen this man. He’s My man.”

What a person is down in their depths, down underneath the clothes, skin, intellect, beauty—this area the bible calls the heart—is what will determine the life of a person. And yet for most of us this is the very last thing that we look at in another person.

In the cultural moment that we live in, we are obsessed with the outside and we almost completely ignore the inside of a person.

In an October, 2011 article of the Wall Street Journal there was an interview about this…

Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, measures out the benefits in his book, “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.”

According to his research, attractive people are likely to earn an average of 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average looks. That adds up to $230,000 more over a lifetime for the typical good-looking person, Dr. Hamermesh estimates. Even an average-looking worker is likely to make $140,000 more over a lifetime than an ugly worker.

I searched the article and could not find a dollar value for humility, patience, or gentleness. We tend to fixate on the outside, when God pays attention to the inside.

How will you see those you come in contact with this week? The spouse you quarreled with last night. The co-worker that is mildly annoying to you. The neighbor that has a dog that just won’t stop barking.

When the Bible calls David “a man after God’s own heart” what in the world does that mean? Well, it certainly cannot mean that David has some kind of squeaky clean moral perfection. This man is a piece of work. Hardly hero material. One writer said that when you look at David from only a human point of view he looks like a “blood-thirsty, over-sexed, bandit.”

I like the way John Calvin put this.

“Let us therefore remember that David is like a mirror, in which God sets before us the continual course of His grace.”

The David stories are not stories about how we should live; they are a mirror of how we do live. And how God’s grace works and operates in our broken lives. In David’s story there is very little morality, absolutely no miracles, but there is a lot of mess.

I find comfort in that. It tells me that my failures in life do not push me out of reach from the God who says He loves me. If God can love David, maybe, just maybe, he would love me too.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

We see David talking to God in all of the moments of his life. Through his working and his playing. Through his betrayals and his faithful friendships. We see David talking to God in his innocence and in his deepest guilt. In the best moments of his life and in his most desperate moments.

That is a person after God’s heart. Someone who turns their imperfect life towards God’s presence. Someone who lives their flawed life deeply with God. God wants us to live our lives, messy as they are, with Him. And that makes God the hero of our story. 

I love what former Watergate conspirator and Nixon hatchet man Chuck Colson said before he died a few years ago:

“The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure—that I was an ex-convict.  My great humiliation—being sent to prison—was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.”

Is it possible that, as you move into the messiness of your life, that that is exactly where God will meet you and restore you to who he intended you to be when he thought you up before he created a single particle of dust?

Let God be your hero. That may not be the popular way, but it is the Jesus way.

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