Posts Tagged Samuel

The Disease of Self-Chosen Sacrifice

Abraham and IsaacI have previously noted the West’s tendency to project its perception of need on the poor — an inclination many Christians have come to share.

The most obvious problem is that not everyone prefers SUVs, organic tomatoes and modern plumbing in the same order as your run-of-the-mill suburban soccer mom. But the deeper issue is that such an approach elevates material needs and temporary handouts above spiritual vacancy and the ever-necessary whole-life transformation through Christ.

What the poor, broken, hurting, and abandoned really need is discipleship, not some mechanistic plan that tries to leverage Hipster Jimmy’s quest for a unique coffee tumbler into a noble, planet-healing event. Such schemes are mere “spiritual frosting,” as Steve Saint calls them: surface-level gloss that does little to nothing for the kingdom.

Many such errors are due to lapses in our thinking, which is why we often like to lob the reminder that “good” intentions (quotes intended) don’t automatically translate to proper thinking or productive action. (I apply this critique routinely.)

Yet at an even deeper level, we must be mindful that we are called to press further, beyond our God-given capacity for earthly wisdom, knowledge, and prudence. This does not, however, mean that we should return to Hipster Jimmy’s blind consumeristic emotionalism and draw from it where it makes us feel warm and tingly. It means we need to consult with the Divine himself.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes about this with precision:

Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings— anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.

In the end, no matter how promising our earthly schemes for sacrifice may seem on paper, or how effective they may appear in application, we need to ask ourselves who/what we are truly sacrificing for. Our efforts may indeed seem “promising” and/or “effective,” but according to whom?

The answer, as Samuel made clear to Saul, is that our actions must always be in sync with God’s will, but as obvious as this may seem, and as prevalent as many Christians think it to be in their own world outlooks, we often think this imposes far fewer demands than it really does.

When pressed on the spiritual legitimacy of our actions, we react by pointing to verses about loving our neighbors or taking in orphans or feeding the hungry (Jim Wallis, anyone?). Yet while each of these imperatives are important and necessary in the life of a Christian, they mustn’t be where we stop. Far too often we draw on the Bible’s generic calls to action while simultaneously rejecting the Helper he sent to assist us in doing the work. We think the message is his, but the method is ours.

But the Christian life is not about taking bumper-sticker slogans and applying them to our own petty schemes as we wish. It’s about transcending our Read the rest of this entry »

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What Can Christians Learn from Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand, atheism, Objectivism, Christianity, ethicsOver the last few weeks, Ayn Rand has been a frequent topic on the blog (see parts 1, 2, and 3). Thus, I thought it might be beneficial to wrap things up with what I believe to be the key takeaways for Christians.

“For Christians?” you ask? Yes, for Christians.

Atheist and Objectivist William Schultz has done a great job of providing insight into the basics of Randian ethics and how they fundamentally differ from those of Christianity (see here and here). But rather than get into a deep debate over the merits and demerits of such an ethical framework (and/or it’s assumptions, conclusions, etc.), I figured I’d assess what the Christian might learn simply by examining it, assuming one retains their view of God, Christ, “objective” truth, etc. (I hope you have!)

In other words, what I believe we can learn from Rand would most certainly be rejected by Rand herself. In my own spiritual and intellectual journey, Rand has, most simply, challenged me to reconsider and build upon, though not abandon, specific features of my beliefs, and has, in turn, contributed more depth and dimension to the way I, as a Christian, view the individual and his subsequent relationship to God and man.

So, without further explanation, here’s what I think we can learn:

1. Truth matters. This may seem like a given, but today’s Christians have a tendency to elevate “love” above “truth,” as if one can exist without the other (e.g. Love Wins). Rand’s entire premise is that we must strive to discover the truth (the “objective” kind) and by doing so we will somehow achieve happiness (her highest value). For the Christian, our “objective” truth differs drastically from Rand’s. Ours is, shall we say, “super-objective” in the sense that it is supernatural. In addition, “happiness” — either our own or that of others — is not to be our highest end or “value”; the Glory of God is. In many ways, however, Rand seems more concerned with discovering, defining, promoting, and incorporating truth (itself) than Read the rest of this entry »

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Supported by Jehovah: Why We Named Our Son Josiah

Josiah Daniel Sunde

Our beautiful boy: Josiah Daniel SundeI’ve only been a parent for a short time, but I've already been asked the following question several times:“What does it feel like to bring a child into today’s society? The economy is crumbling, culture is deteriorating, and the End Times are upon us. Doesn’t it concern you to know that you're bringing your child into such terrible a world?”Let’s ignore for the moment that modern society is pretty great on a number of levels, because the question isn’t really about modern society but about the way we perceive humanity and its role in this world.Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty of evil in the world — indeed there always has been — but if spreading the Gospel is the solution to the world’s woes, don’t we need people to do that?After all, since the beginning of time, God ordained humans to steward and rule over His creation. Doesn’t this mean that our children can provide immense value to a dark world? I understand that we should be concerned for our children’s safety and well-being, but raising Godly people is one of the greatest ways we can maximize both earthly and heavenly potential.It was within this context that we decided to name our son Josiah.You may be thinking that name selection is a pretty frivolous way to go about changing the world, but this was an initial step toward instilling a proper foundation in our child. One day he will probably wonder why we named him Josiah, and we wanted to have an answer that would go beyond matters of mere aesthetics and social mobility. We wanted to have an answer that he could identify with and apply to his relationship with God and the world around him.Plus, throughout the Bible God shows us time and time again how our names can largely impact our identities. God changed Abram’s name (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) to signify their covenant. He changed Jacob’s name to Israel to identify Jacob’s conversion from “supplanter” to “having power with God.” He changed Simon’s name (“God has heard”) to Peter (“rock”) to remind him of his responsibility to build the Church.I am not saying that parents can replace God’s authoritative power, but we are supposed to help our children find their identities, which includes helping them find God.King Josiah rediscovers the Torah.

For those who don’t know, Josiah was the 19th king of Judah, and was unique among the other kings in the extent to which He restored God’s law in the land. On the surface this may seem like a simple story, but Josiah did not begin his reign in the best of circumstances.

Josiah’s grandfather, King Manassah, had reversed all of the spiritual gains made by his father King Hezekiah. Manassah was absorbed in idolatry and witchcraft, and eventually sacrificed his own son on an altar of fire. After Manassah’s death, his son Amon (Josiah’s father) reigned in a similar fashion — building temples to Baal, worshipping idols, and continuing to “forsake the Lord” as 2 Kings describes it. After reigning for only two years, Amon was assassinated by his own servants, leaving his son Josiah to assume the kingship at only eight years of age.

In short, the Kingdom of Judah had backslidden into 57 years of spiritual adultery. When Josiah became king, he was immediately confronted with a choice that most children aren’t faced with — he could continue to perpetuate the status quo of idolatry and human sacrifice (i.e. the easy route), or he could abandon everything he knew and return to worship of the one true God — Jehovah.

For reasons related to his fear of the Lord, Josiah chose the latter. By the age of eighteen, Josiah had commissioned the priests to restore the temple to its proper place, after which he rediscovered the Book of the Law (either the Torah or the Book of Deuteronomy). Upon hearing his secretary read it out loud, Josiah was dismayed by the implications.

2 Kings 22:11 describes the incident in detail:

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.

In other words, Josiah immediately had faith in the Word of God, and by applying it to the culture around him he realized how disobedient and profane God’s people had become. Remember that in this moment Josiah is hearing God’s Word for the first time and he simply believes it right away. Given how countercultural such stringent laws would be at that time, the audacity and immediacy of his faith is incredibly inspiring to me.

It reminds me of what Abraham talks about in Jesus’ parable of Lazureus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31). When the rich man is burning in Hades, he begs Abraham to let him go back to earth and warn his family against continuing their wrongdoing. Abraham responds by saying they need no more warning than what they already have at their disposal.

“They have Moses and the Prophets,” Abraham says. “Let them listen to them.”

Josiah didn’t have the privilege of a Christian (or Jewish) upbringing. He wasn’t the recipient of “proper parenting.” He wasn’t taught to memorize Bible verses or tithe from his paycheck. He didn’t go to youth group every Sunday or attend summer camp revival services.

After all, his father was a pagan.

But when Josiah was confronted with God’s word, he simply knew it to be true. From a young age, he sought and pursued God despite his cultural disposition and “natural inclinations.” He recognized evil and realized that living righteously required faith in God and a holistic rejection of the world as he knew it.

After this realization, Josiah took many actions to reverse the wrongs of his forefathers. He restored the Temple, re-instituted the Law, destroyed the “high places” of idol worship and prostitution, and presided over the first Passover since the days of Samuel.

We can all talk the talk and say we love the Lord, but when Josiah heard God’s voice, he took immediate and extreme action. He really believed that God was true to His word.

This is what the Lord had to say to Josiah:

Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.

The Hebrew translation of Josiah is “Jehovah will support,” and from the above passage it is evident God was indeed backing Josiah’s decisions. Covenants are two-way deals, and Josiah was supported by Jehovah because he made the choice to enter into relationship with God, even when the earthly systems of his day were going the opposite way.

That is what I want for my son. I don’t want him to have the fatherless childhood Josiah had, and I will try my best to protect him from the rampant idolatry of this world. But my prayer for him is that he discovers an earnest and sincere devotion for the one true God — one that perseveres the wickedness that will inevitably surround him. My son may have been born into a culture of corruption and deceit, but it can’t be any worse than the one King Josiah was confronted with.

As my wife and I continue to shepherd him toward adulthood, we will continue to pray and trust that our son will meet God intimately and realize the value that Jehovah can bring to a fallen world.

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After the Avalanche: Sleeping At Last’s “Unmade”

I recently wrote a post on how King Saul put sacrifice above obedience to God.

This music video was just put out by Sleeping At Last, and although its message is a bit more obscure than the one found in 1 Samuel 15, I think it hits on some of the same points when it comes to our tendency to get too puffed up and caught up in our earthly schemes.

Take a look:




These lyrics stood out to me in particular: Read the rest of this entry »

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Obedience vs. Sacrifice: King Saul and the Spoils of War

I was reading 1 Samuel 15 the other day and something stuck out to me about the difference between obedience and sacrifice.

In the story, Samuel is sent by God to command King Saul to go out and destroy the Amalekites — a people who were a thorn in Israel’s side. God is extremely specific in His instruction, telling Saul the destruction must be administered thoroughly:

Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

Samuel Cursing Saul by Hans Holbein the Younger (1530)

Upon hearing this, Saul gathers his men and does what God commanded…sort of. He conquers the Amalekites, but although he kills off the men, women, and children, he spares their king and seizes their livestock. Saul clearly disobeys what God commands. He doesn’t have a problem doing the dirty work, but he doesn’t follow through when it comes to the things he sees as valuable.

Soon after Saul’s victory, the Lord visits Read the rest of this entry »

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