The Maybe

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I’m often fascinated by Abigail in the story of King David. If you don’t know her background, quick sumup is she was married to a rich doofus named Nabal who tried to stiff David on some back pay. David gets ready to teach him a lesson, Judean wilderness style, but Abigail intervenes with food and some straight-up flattery of David, and he decided to forgo his revenge. When Nabal finds out, he promptly has a stroke and dies, after which David marries Abigail.

This story is always interesting to me because of the Maybe’s. Abigail was described as beautiful and intelligent, so right away we know she’s all that and a bag of chips. She’s clever, and yet remains loyal to her chumpweasel of a husband despite his stupidity and foolishness.

So here’s the Maybe’s – what if David had just married her and none of his other wives? Sometimes David’s story is seen as God’s blessing on polygamy, but what if it’s more of a warning? Abigail is probably David’s first wife (there’s some dispute here with Michal and Ahinoam, so I won’t be dogmatic about it), and she appears to be the one he married with the purest intention. Most of the others were either political marriages (that David used to solidify his claim to the throne) or flat-out wrong (Bathsheba).

Many of David’s problems later in life were a result of the in-fighting within his own family. What if David had just married Abigail, and trusted God for the political strength? Maybe there would be no Bathsheba. Maybe there would be no Tamar and Amnon, Maybe there would be no rebellion from Absalom. Maybe maybe maybe.

I think often we create a lot of problems for ourselves by trying to solve problems that wouldn’t even be problems if we just followed God’s leading. We worry ourselves sick worrying about getting sick. We create fights with people because we worried that they are thinking bad about us. We create the the very situations that we have to focus our time on.

What if we instead just focused on following Christ, and let the problems come as they will? What if we just spent each day actually being with Jesus, instead of worrying about what tomorrow might bring. Could it be that the thing we are worrying about might not actually happen at all? If David hadn’t been worried about losing his throne, he might never have had to fight for his throne later on.

What problems might you be creating today in your effort to outplan God?

Mystery Seeds

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Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head – Mark 4:27-28

Jesus’ parables are some of the most famous passages in the Bible, especially the Good Samaritan, the Sower, and the Prodigal Son.  But Jesus gave us many parables, so why do we choose to just focus on a few?  Is it just because they’re familiar?  Why do we think of these as the “good” parables and others as the “minor” parables?  I suppose we could argue that we tend to focus on the longer parables, but we also like the wheat and tares story, and that’s fairly short.  So why is it we skip over some parables, like the Shrewd Manager or the Growing Seed?

Ready for my theory? Perhaps it’s because we don’t like parables that confuse us (the manager is good because he cooks the books?), or maybe because it doesn’t fit our own worldview.  We want to read the stories of how God forgives our worst sins, or “safe” parables like the Sower (“safe” because we know we’re the good seed, right?), but not the ones that make us re-evaluate ourselves.


 In our chapter for today, we find the story of the Growing Seed. Without claiming any deep theological insight here, it seems like God is telling us that ultimately, everything is outside our control.  We can plant, and water, and fertilize, and weed, and all this, that, and the other, but nothing we do can force a seed to grow.  It just grows.   

Moreover, it takes a process.  The seed doesn’t turn into the full-grown plant overnight.  It goes through a slow process of foundation (the stalk), maturity (the head), and finally production and reproduction (full kernel).  No matter how much you encourage and yell and prod a plant with electrodes, it will still take time for that plant to grow. 

And that makes us uncomfortable. Assuming the Seed is the Word, we don’t like the idea that growing in Christ takes time.  We want to have a process of growth that is under our control, on our schedule. We love the stories of our transgressions being forgiven (the Prodigal), but we’re a little less excited to dwell on the idea that ultimately we need to depend on God for everything, or that things may take time rather than respond to our demands for speed.


And it’s not just growth in ourselves. Many of us desperately want to “force” the Seed to grow in someone else, to make them get saved.  We preach on hellfire, we cajole with God’s love, we may even use excommunication or affection to try to convince someone to trust God.  But ultimately, the growth of the seed in others is outside our control. 

If I may, my friend, let me put your mind at ease.  You can’t force that friend of yours to get saved.  You can’t make that relative fall in love with Jesus.  That’s not your calling.  Your calling is to love them with Christ’s love, and to pray.  The Seed does its work as we do ours.  You might be planting that seed (like Paul), or watering the Seed (like Apollos), but ultimately only God makes it grow (and for the free will people, we also choose how the seed grows in us.  But not in others.)

We want so desperately to have Christian maturity under our control, but the heart of the gospel is giving up our control to the Lordship of Jesus.  And that includes our own growth and the growth of others. We have to trust that growth is happening, even if it’s below the surface, just out of sight.

Take heart.  Sometimes that Seed is growing; it just takes time.  

The Regretted Inferno

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“But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.” – Esther 7:7

Burning a bridge is the recurring daydream of everyone who has ever lived in the history of the universe.

I realize that may seem like an overstatement, but let’s gather some anecdotal evidence, and you’ll see how truly true it is.  How many times have you played a scenario in your head before it happened?  Ever think about walking into your boss’s office the day after winning the lottery, and how you’re going to finally say all those things you’ve been holding back?  Ever think about that conversation you’re going to have with that significant other, and have your final statement planned out before you turn and walk dramatically out the door?  Ever had the perfect comeback planned for that co-worker? We want to have that last word, the parting shot as we walk away, or the best mic drop.

(I think we all can agree that this paragraph proves my statement beyond all reasonable doubt.)

Here’s the problem:  what happens when the lottery turns out to be a scam and you a) need to go ask for your job back or b) need to use that boss as a reference.  What happens when that co-worker you just burned becomes the new manager of your department? As it turns out, sometimes we may actually need to walk back over the charred remains of that bridge.


This same thing happens to our good friend Haman at the end of Esther.  For most of the story, Haman is bent on destroying the Jews as a whole because of a personal anger at Mordecai.  Finally, at the crucial moment, Esther tells the King that Haman is trying to kill her and her people, and the King storms off to (presumably) count to ten before reacting.

In the few minutes he’s gone, Haman realizes that the King is not going to come back with good news, and he decides his only hope is the very same woman who just spoke up to the King.  I find it ironic that Haman, moments before, was determined to wipe out an entire people because he was so enraged by the actions of one Jew, but suddenly he finds himself begging for mercy from the same people.  He thought burning that bridge would teach “them” a lesson, but it turns out they were the last strand of hope he had.

I wonder what Esther would have done if the king hadn’t shown up at that exact moment.  What if she would have had time to speak to the King before Haman was killed.  Would she have supported Haman? Would she have used this as a chance to take vengeance?  Maybe she would have begged the king for Haman’s life as well, to show the mercy of God?  We’ll never know, but I like to think she would have at least tried.


You never know what the next moment will bring.  Maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss those who are “beneath” our notice right now.  What if that co-worker you hope gets fired is the person doing your job interview at your next job?  What if that guy you cut off in traffic with a friendly wave is the bank officer you will ask for a loan tomorrow? What if that pastor you vote out is the next head of your district?  It might be that the people we think are “not us” today are the people we will be asking for mercy tomorrow.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.  Some of that is to model Christ’s love for all (pretty important), but it also could be for our own good (possibly more importanter).  Only God knows what the next turn in the road will bring us, and treating everyone kindly could very well turn out to be for our benefit as well as theirs.  Naturally, this doesn’t mean that we should be kind to people only because we might get something out of it, but that we should be kind to people because that’s what Jesus tells us to do, and we trust Him.

Maybe our daydreams should be on building bridges, rather than burning them.