Of Holes and Sin

Life Notes—July 26, 2012 

“It happened late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful.”  2 Samuel 11:2

“It is a good thing to follow the first law of holes; if you are in one, stop digging.”  D. Healy 

Israel’s King David found himself in a hole.  He sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing on her roof, inquires about and sends for her.  In doing so he coveted another man’s wife.  He slept with her, committing adultery, and she became pregnant.  Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s military leaders.  David calls Uriah back from the war and encourages him to sleep with Bathsheba, hoping the child of his adulterous act will then appear to belong to Uriah.  But Uriah refuses to sleep with his wife out of respect for his fellow soldiers who cannot leave the front to sleep with their wives.  So David has Uriah sent to the front of the most intense fighting, ordering the other soldiers to draw back from him.  Uriah dies in battle and David has committed murder. 

David tried to get out of the hole of his own creation by continuing to dig.  In the process he violated at least four of the Ten Commandments.  Despicable behavior on the part of our much admired hero, wouldn’t you agree?  It makes me think of the quote by Lord Acton: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  David lived a life of royalty, but apparently that wasn’t enough.  Maybe he was used to getting whatever he desired, so when he laid eyes on Bathsheba he thought he deserved her, too.  David’s wrongdoing is exposed by Nathan, the royal prophet at the time, through a parable that made David furious at the villain, saying the murderous, thieving, adulterous villain should be put to death—at least until Nathan exposed the villain as David. Only then did he stop digging.  He repented and God continued to bless the people through him. 

I’ve been told we should always tell the truth unless we have a very good memory.  When we regularly lie, deceive or otherwise sin it quickly becomes an impossible task to remember what we have said or done to whom. We get caught in our sin, needing either to invent additional deception or to confess, repent and seek forgiveness.  That we sin is one thing, and a common characteristic of humanity.  How we respond when we’ve sinned is quite another.  Usually it’s wise to first stop digging… 

The seven-week sermon series on David continues this Sunday, with David Peterson downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “David and Bathsheba,” based on 2 Samuel 11:1-5.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Is there a hole in your life that is deep enough?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Grace and Fear

Life Notes—July 19, 2012

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him…”  Psalm 103:11

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”  From Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779

What does fear have to do with grace and love?  It seems odd, doesn’t it, that scripture admonishes us many times to “fear” God, and yet describes God as one who loves us so completely?  Where does fear fit when we are to love and be loved?  It was the writer of Amazing Grace, during the time of our Revolutionary War, who claimed that grace both taught him how to fear and relieved those same fears.  I once read that substituting the word “awe” for fear comes closer to what is meant in scripture; that in fearing God we are recognizing the awesomeness of God.  So we fear God in the same way we might fear looking out over the edge of the Grand Canyon—we see something so amazing and so much larger than our life that we stand in a state of awe that is similar to fear.  Our fear rises in direct proportion to the awesomeness we perceive. And so does our amazement. 

But consider love and vulnerability.  If we are to love something or someone deeply, we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable.  And the more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be, the more capable we become to experience the blessings of love, while knowingly opening ourselves to the possibility of greater and deeper hurt should the object of our love turn against us.  Love requires trust—that as we make ourselves vulnerable, love will provide a return equal to or greater than the risk of hurt.  Divorce is usually very painful because two people join their lives together—making themselves extremely vulnerable to another—and then that love is withdrawn.  The hurt they feared in first giving themselves over to another materializes. 

So there is a natural component of fear in love.  Clearly a decision to make ourselves vulnerable to hurt is a fearful decision.  We cannot directly see, touch or hear God but as faithful Christians we are to turn our entire lives over to this invisible being.  And the more trust we place in God, the more frightening it can be.  The less trust we place in God—the “safer” our relationship—the less likely we are to recognize God’s blessings and protections.  So we are called to acknowledge the awesomeness of God, putting our complete trust in God, becoming vulnerable to God so that we can receive and recognize God’s blessings in abundance.  It can be frightening and amazing at the same time. 

Both Tom and Mitch continue their seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “City of David, City of God,” based on 2 Samuel 6:16-23.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday. Grace is amazing when we are vulnerable enough to fear.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Choices Made

Life Notes—July 12, 2012

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”  Excerpt from The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

A few weeks ago I went to a reunion of people from my Junior High School.  It wasn’t a significant anniversary; we just have a handful of people who enjoy the company of this particular class enough to arrange for reunions every few years.  And we have a few dozen people interested enough to attend.  I have attended most of the numerous reunions held over the past 15 or so years and have enjoyed them all, even though there is no one from that class I keep in regular contact with anymore. 

One interesting thing about reunions is not just how people have changed, but how many have taken dramatically different paths for their lives than what I had imagined they would when we were still in school.  One girl I felt certain would marry a rich man and live a life of luxury far away fromKansas.  But all these years later she lives a modest life in the town she grew up in.  One boy, bright and enthusiastic in school, I thought would certainly rise through the ranks quickly in whatever profession he chose.  Instead, he has remained a blue collar laborer, treasuring the freedom of unencumbered evenings and weekends.  As I look back on my life at the various choices I made that led me down far different paths than I had once intended.  I love the life I have today, but had someone described this life to me in high school and said this was where I was headed I would almost certainly have made dramatic changes to try to steer my life differently. 

Many times we make decisions with no idea of the long-term implications.  Sometimes world events beyond our direct control happen and change the course of world history.  Some positive, some negative.  If Hitler had succeeded in conquering the world, what would our world look like today?  What if Goliath had killed David?  Jesus’ lineage traces directly through David.  Our lives can take strange and wonderful and troubling twists, sometimes with little or no notice.  Personally, I believe the decisions and events that shape the years to come are divinely guided.  While I try to prayerfully consider all decisions I suspect may have long-term consequences, some do not seem to rise to that level at the time.  Many years ago I opted to strike up a conversation with a young lady on an opposing volleyball team.  Had I not done that, would she be my wife today?  We cannot know how life would differ had we taken another path.  But we can rejoice in the blessings of the roads we have taken. 

Both Tom and Mitch continue their seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “David’s Dramatic Journey to the Throne,” based on 2 Samuel 2:1-4.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  What has made all the difference in your life?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator


In Dependence Day

Life Notes—July 5, 2012

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  John 8:31-32 

Yesterday manyU.S.citizens celebrated Independence Day.  People gathered with the two F’s” (friends and family) for the four “F’s” (food, fun, fellowship and fireworks).  Obviously, the holiday recognizes the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, by which theUnited Statesdeclared itself free from the rule ofGreat Britain.  ‘Taxation without representation’ was a primary complaint. 

In the spirit of the day I looked up the definition of ‘independence.’  My dictionary said “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.”  And I thought, “Hmmm.”  I understand the desire to be free from the control of another, but do I really want to be free from the influence, support or aid of others?  Certainly, I appreciate the freedom to at least choose whose influence, support and aid I receive. The dictionary then directed me to look up ‘freedom.’  Freedom is “the state of being free or at liberty, rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”  I appreciate that.  Further, freedom is “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.” and “the power to determine action without restraint.”  Well, after this little research project I have to say I am fully, 100%, unequivocally in favor of independence and freedom—at least within limits.  When I think about freedom as the power to act without restraint I think of a handful of evil people throughout history who use and used their power to impose unspeakable evils on multitudes of innocent victims.  Hitler comes to mind.  Certainly, independence and freedom must be tempered with measures of personal responsibility, accountability and social consciousness.  No doubt, our Founding Fathers understood such would need to be the case.  Hence, our Constitution establishes the structure for the creation and enforcement of laws restricting certain freedoms, in the interest of the majority.  We have established freedom and independence, within limits. 

Jesus equates freedom with truth.  If we know the truth, the truth will set us free.  And we know the truth by following Jesus and living out his word.  It seems contradictory, doesn’t it, that in order to be truly free we must limit our ‘freedom’ by submitting to our Savior?  Personally, I cherish my independence.  There are times, however, I am thankful to be in dependence on others for influence, support, aid…oh, and salvation! 

Both Tom and Mitch continue their seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “David and Goliath,” based on Psalm 151.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Worship at the west campus begins at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Are you living independence or in dependence?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator