Marriage Resoration from Michael & Paula Elliott

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Michael and Paula Elliott have been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2013, and reside in Grand Prairie, TX with their two children.  You can find Michael ushering, and Paula singing in the choir, or serving together in kid city as well as any other ministries God calls them toward in the future.  In their spare time, Michael and Paula like to watch movies, play board games, hunt, travel, hike, kayak, and camp with family.  The Elliotts are also Group Coordinators and volunteers with Family Life Ministries, and have been for eight years.

God’s Restoration in Marriage


Paula and Michael Elliott celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary on July 21, 2016.  It’s an especially exciting milestone as the Elliotts almost didn’t make it into their seventh year of marriage.  Paula had been very vocal about her unhappiness, but before she decided to end the marriage, Paula wanted to be sure she had exhausted all her options; including marriage counseling. A police chaplain suggested the Elliotts attend a Family Life “Weekend to Remember” event.   Paula felt this was their last chance and was thankful that she didn’t have to convince Michael to go; he was willing.  Michael thought “sure why not?” Maybe Paula would learn something.  Michael says he ended up learning a lot about himself and his role as a Christian, husband, father, etc.

The Elliotts pinpoint that retreat as the moment their lives changed forever! For Michael, it was a work session where they go off by themselves to pray and write a letter to their spouse. At that time, Michael was going to church regularly by himself and "doing all the right things” (according to the checklist so many Christians make). While he was praying God revealed to Michael that he was doing life his way and not His. Michael said the prayer of salvation when he was in the 8th grade, but this was the first time he felt Christ's arms around him.

During another part of the conference, there’s a specific time when people can pray for salvation and or re-dedication. Paula had been under the impression that because she had been “saved” as a teenager, she was still a Christian. After she and Michael married, they attended church only once a year at Easter with her parents.  Paula realized that something had to change and it was then that Paula signed a card pledging to re-dedicate her life to Christ and turned it in.

Paula said God quickly gave her relief, healing, humbleness, oneness, and strength.  Michael admits it took about two to three years before things really started clicking for him. He had many personal issues to overcome that took a while; there was much that needed to be reprogrammed.   Since then Michael knows he has to pray daily, "today I commit myself to You," and if he doesn’t, he won't.

God illumined several verses for the Elliotts as they went through the restoration process.  Paula recognized her thoughts were so negative towards Michael and believed that she had married the wrong man.  Then Philippians 4:8-9 showed Paula that she should think about the positive things only.  Michael saw the verse as a reminder to focus on what is right with your spouse. Sometimes you need to make a list to remind yourself all the things that attracted you to them in the first place. Only thinking of the negative is like a splinter festering beneath the skin.

Ephesians 5:22-23 has been like a commandment for Paula to submit to her husband; trust in him and have confidence.  She tells herself, especially when she is upset with Michael, that when she submits to her husband, she is ultimately submitting to God and that makes it much, much easier. Michael points out that if you read it correctly, 99% of the burden is placed upon the husband to make sure everything goes right in the household. There's a lot of responsibility, and it can become overwhelming. The hardest part is loving your spouse even when you are feeling disrespected. 

During this time, Michael also said Ephesians 4:22-24, where Paul talks about taking off the old man and renewing your mind to think like Christ, became clear for him. That action is what we are called to do as Christians, and if we do, everything else will start falling into place. Simply put: work on our shortcomings, and don't focus on the shortcomings of others.

Paula says that God has brought her closer to Him as He restored her marriage.  He has not only made the Elliotts marriage better than it was before, but also blessed them with a daughter, and now she and Michael are building a legacy for their children.  Beyond repairing the relationship, Paula is more appreciative and thankful for her husband and this life God has given her. She is glad God chose her to be married to Michael, and a mom to their two children.  Michael points out the main thing is that they both now understand that happiness is fleeting and that joy is something different; they realize that another person cannot bring that joy but only share in it. True Joy only comes from a daily relationship with God.

Paula and Michael both emphasize the need to make God number one in your life and household. He’ll take care of the rest, your spouse, and you.  Michael points out that if you study the relationship of Christ to the Church you learn how your marriage is supposed to work. Marriage is what God gave Christians to learn about those relationships.  If we try to do it our way, and only look at what makes us happy, we will fail. Only when we live life God's way, we draw closer to each other; we need to focus on our shortcomings instead of focusing on our spouse’s. Paula knows she still has a long way to go to be the servant that God created her to be, but she believes she’s on the right path and He’s given her the right tools and continues to help her.  Paula says she had no idea that marriage was going to be so hard, but God restored the importance of seeking His face, daily.  We have to pray for our marriages every day, especially if they’re in trouble.

Michael says God restoring his marriage has taught him to love others where he previously didn’t.  That's what the two Great commandments are about; love God and love others. The main focus on restoring a marriage is focusing on God. There's a triangle illustration that is often used that shows the closer you grow to God the closer you grow to each other.  We all need help making it in this world, and God created the church to help with that. Part of what Michael suspects are missing for many couples is the mentoring or disciplining from today's church. Whether it is with marriage, parenting, work, or any other relationship; we all have something to contribute, and we all have something to learn from one other.  The hardest part is sharing your pains with someone you don't know very well, but sometimes the worst thing is to look for someone who only reinforces the negatives by taking your side, by agreeing with you, and not correcting you.

All the great marriages have two things in common: (1) Christ is at the center of the marriage, and (2) they all went through much suffering before they came to that point.  Although Michael and Paula endured five to six years of significant suffering; it’s when things seem to be at the lowest point that you have to dig in the hardest. Michael wouldn't trade those years for anything because he knows now what happens once you come out of the flames.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Weekend to Remember® by Family Life you may visit the official website or contact The Elliotts with questions at melliott2112[at]reagan.com or via Facebook

What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?

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Recently, God has been teaching me what it means to seek Him. I've learned that seeking God is much more than filling my head with more information about Him. Seeking God is a daily pursuit for His manifest presence. This article by John Piper has helped me in explaining what the Bible has to say about seeking the presence of God.

In Christ, 
Brandon H.




What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?

Meditation on Psalm 105:4


Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.
But aren’t his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things.
And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

When He’s Not with Us

But there is a sense in which God’s presence is not with us always. For this reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “seek the Lord . . . seek his presence continually.” God’s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of God and give him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him “unmanifested” — that is, unperceived as great and beautiful and valuable by the eyes of our hearts.
His face — the brightness of his personal character — is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.

What It Means to Seek

This happens through “seeking.” Continual seeking. But what does that mean practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a “setting of the mind and heart” on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on God.
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mindson things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2)

A Conscious Choice

This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for the church: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is a gift from God.
We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is lost. That’s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. Nevertheless, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.
The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek himthrough that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natural means to God himself — to constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation. This is what seeking God means.

Obstacles to Avoid

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee spiritually dulling activities. We must run from them and get around them. They are blocking our way.
We know what makes us vitally sensitive to God’s appearances in the world and in the word. And we know what dulls us and blinds us and makes us not even want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go aroundif we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.
And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we cry out to him. This too is what seeking him means.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy . . . ” (Job 8:5)
Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face.

Humility Essential

The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.
The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
Seeking with you,

Pastor John
Thumb author john piper
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.
© 2016 Desiring God Foundation.  This full article and all associated links can be found at http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-it-mean-to-seek-the-lord 

Run Pt. 4 | The Cost of Running

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Jonah 1:3-14 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
4But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
7And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
11Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”
13Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.”

When you run from God things get complicated.

The journey away from God at first appears harmless on the outset. Jonah goes to the port, finds a ship going to Tarshish and pays the fare. It may have appeared way too easy, there just happened to be a ship and he just happened to have the money. It all seemed like the right thing to do for him. Which proves the point, when you really want to disobey the Lord there is always a way. You don’t have to look hard to find an alternative path to flee from the presence of the Lord.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post, if you choose to take that alternative path, there is a cost. The fare Jonah paid to get a ride was only the beginning of what he would have to pay for running from God.

1st It hurts you.

The Bible says he was fast asleep in the ship. He was so distressed, rebellious, depressed, and freaked out that he had no interest in life and no energy to face his circumstances. You could say he was dying in his sleep trying to escape his troubles. The captain comes down to where he was sleeping through a crazy storm and shouts at him, “What are you doing, you sleeper!?”

Have you ever been so depressed like Jonah that all you want to do is sleep your problems away? Men and women who have spent time in jail or prison know this feeling very well. There are countless stories of inmates who were released after some time of being locked up whose sleep schedule is totally out of whack because they slept through most of their sentence. When they get a job, they struggle to make it on time because of their wrecked sleeping schedule. Depression, specifically brought on from rebellion, might begin as only a mental state, but it costs a person physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

And it all happens because God has wired you in a specific way. He has a plan for you, and when you choose to follow your own plan, it’s like a lion choosing to cage itself. The lion needs to hunt and roar. Those caged lions at the circus all look depressed because they’re not getting the adventure they’re wired for.

That’s exactly what happens to us when we try to do things our own way. Sure it looks a lot like freedom and it might even feel a lot like freedom. But only for a while. Soon you’ll slowly begin to realize you’ve put yourself in a cage and you’ll find yourself increasingly unsatisfied with the life you chose. That’s when depression sets in. But your stubborn sin nature will continue to fight it. Forcing you to run further and faster in search of something satisfying, not realizing that the only thing that can satisfy you is waiting just behind you with His arms wide open.

The personal cost of running from Christ is great and it’s not worth it. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you’ll find out soon enough the hard way. But you need to understand, it doesn’t just hurt you.

2nd It hurts others too.

The storm of Jonah’s consequences brought trouble upon a lot of innocent people. The storm was so great that the most experienced sailors were terrified. Remember this…

We don’t get to sin for free.

When I was about 18 years old, I went on a mission trip to the desert lands of Utah to do some work at a ranch camp. On one of the days there we got to have a little fun on a horseback adventure. We were told to meet at the barn where the horses were, and they would help us get saddled up.

So once we were all saddled up we set off on our adventure, my friends all leading the way with me and my dusty steed, Billy, taking up the rear. The trail just took us around some rocky hills and through a couple fields. It was a pretty simple trail really. But Billy, the old horse, didn’t really like to follow in the line and he didn’t really want to listen to me. Instead he wanted to walk into the field and eat the wheat. Several times we were just walking along and he would lose his step and stumble just a little and my heart would jump into my throat. I was fully expecting this old boy to fall over on my leg and crush me and I would have to whisper my final words before I died in the dessert like a western movie. But he always caught his footing, and we kept moseying on behind everybody.

I also soon found out that this old, clumsy horse didn’t like other horses either. The reason we fell into the back of the line was because he didn’t like having another horse beside him. Once or twice we would end up beside the next horse and he would swing his head and try to bite the other horse. This made me fear for my life and start pleading with him to love his neighbor like he should.

Eventually we all wound up on top of a hill to catch an astounding view of the sunset. Sunsets in the desert are stunning to say the least. We all sat there gazing in wonder from the top of this tall hill. We could see far across the desert and watch the shadows growing. That’s when I realized… what goes up a hill must also go down a hill. Right then the tour guide, sitting on the precipice looks back at us and says, “Just lean back!” and he and his perfectly graceful horse plunged over the ledge.

One by one all of the others started slowly downhill, leaning as far back as they could, and their horses elegantly tiptoed down the hill. And then it was just me and Billy... “Billy, I know we’ve had our differences. But I ask, that just this time, you please follow the rest of them.” But Billy is old and Billy is clumsy. And Billy doesn’t like other horses. So with all of my faith in this horse, I lean back and he starts down the hill. All is going well. Billy is behaving like a true gentleman. Until the clumsy old man stumbled.

He quickly caught himself, but it sent us down the hill at a slightly quicker trot. It wasn’t long until we came up alongside the rider in front of us. Which Billy doesn’t approve of one bit. So Billy does what can only be expected from a grumpy, stubborn, clumsy horse. He starts bucking, kicking, and running down the hill full speed. Rocks are being kicked up in the air. We’re nearly beginning a land slide. We’re whizzing past all of the other riders. And all I can feel is my spine being whipped back and forth like a maraca.

No amount of pulling, tugging, or screaming would stop Billy. He was on a rampage. Over my own screaming and the laughing of all the others I hear the voice of the tour guide. “Pull back!!!” So for the sake of my own survival I pull back with all of my might on the reign and Billy slides to a halt at the bottom of the hill. Dust clouds swirling all around me. Knuckles white. Heart beating like a jungle war-drum. Prayers still echoing through the hills. And a justifiable anger in my heart towards Billy the grumpy horse. I didn’t talk to him the rest of the trip.

Billy basically made his own life miserable. He was unhappy and couldn’t get along with other horses. He refused to follow the path that was set before him. And every time he tried to take his own route, things got uncomfortable. But it wasn’t just Billy who suffered. The other horses suffered from his grumpiness and the rider most definitely suffered from his stubbornness.

Your rebellion doesn’t just affect you. Others are hurt when we try to forge our own trail. It happened with me and Billy. It happened with Jonah and the sailors. And it happens with you and those closest to you. So this is the final cost of running from God: The pain of sin and correction enter your life. Not only do you have to deal with the consequences but those around you, most often those who care for you the most, have to deal with the pain as well.

The good news is, there is a person who took the ultimate consequence of your sins so you could be restored to your Heavenly Father. Next month, we’ll examine the cure to running.

Embracing Grace

12:55 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

“EMBRACE GRACE”

What do you think, when you think about God?  What posture does God assume toward you?
  • ANGRY?  Clenched fists, looking down on places like Haiti and Japan (post-earthquakes)? Little children that are suffering and disease wracked places?  A God who has the ability to intervene and do something, but doesn't?
  • DISTANT?  Yes, He's out there and He's powerful and mysterious, but very far away and not involved with where I live and breathe, raise my family, and go to work?
  • DISAPPOINTED?  Arms crossed, shaking His head, because He has given you all these chances, a good job and family, but wondering why you haven't come around decided to serve Him?
  • DESPERATE?  Wringing His hands over how badly the world is going? Full of love hoping we'll make the right decisions? Hoping we'll take better care of our planet and each other? The kind of God hoping we'll get this thing straight and desperate for our approval?
  • FATHER?  That's either positive or negative depending on the kind of father you had here on Earth.  If you had a good upbringing, a daddy who you loved, that means a whole different thing than if you had a dad that was abusive, distant, or difficult to live with.

What do you think, when you think about God?

I came across a quote from the old pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer and it stopped me in my tracks:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.  The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and…no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.  For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most (important) fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”                                       
-A.W. Tozer

What you think, when you think of God…is the most important fact in your life right now.  It is impacting every single day: How you deal with your past. How you relate to your job, your money, your mate, your kids in. Things in the present and your hope in the future.

What is God like? 

(What posture does He assume toward us?)


If you ask this book we call the Bible that question, what is God like, all 66 books come back with the same answer:  GRACE.

If you go to the very beginning and you ask Adam and Eve what God is like, they would say grace.  If you ask Abraham, the beginning of the Jewish people, what he thought about God, he would say grace.  If you asked Noah (the Ark), a story a lot of people have pushed aside as untrue but the Bible says was literal, the Bible says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

When you come to the New Testament, Paul (who wrote 3/4 of the Bible) 130 times talked about the grace of God.  He gave the summation of it all when he says, Ephesians 2:8-9   8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast  

We do we think of Jesus Christ?  Most anybody, whatever their view of Christ, think of Him as a good man, a powerful figure in history.  Jesus, though He never used the term "grace", the phrase he used more than any other was "fear not".  The Bible says in John 1 that Jesus was full of grace and truth:
John 1:14, 16-17   And the Word (CHRIST) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

What is Grace?


We use words like that all the time: grace, faith, redemption, justification... Sometimes we get kind of "churchy" and don't explain our terms or talk about what we mean.  Let's be honest, we use "grace" all the time. When we pray before a meal we are saying grace.  When a ballet dancer does something amazing, we talk about how graceful they are.  Princess Diana was known for her grace; there's a book title called "Grace is Not a Blue-eyed Blond".  What do we mean when we talk about grace?  I could spend some time trying to tell you, but I want to spend our time showing you [in the Bible].

Grace can mean coordination of movement, it can mean a prayer, it can refer to dignity and elegance.  So when it comes to God…what is GRACE?

[Praying] God, open our minds today to Your truth.  Lord Jesus, give us what You want us to see.  What man says doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  What You say makes all the difference.  God every planet in our universe finds it's orbit based on what we think of You.  Every relationship, every struggle, are all determined by what we think when we think of You.  Show us what to think today.  It's in Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Our story takes place over 3,000 years ago in the palace of David, the King of the Jews, over all of Israel.  David was born to very humble beginnings; he was just a shepherd boy.  Nobody was that impressed or took notice of David.  No one said, "this kid's got an amazing future" and yet, God was watching David and had plans for him.  God uses a series of amazing circumstances as David grew up to introduce him to the King of Israel (at the time), a man by the name of Saul.  As David grows up he starts finding favor with Saul; fights in Saul's army winning battle after battle.  David is growing in prominence and becoming quite an extraordinary young man and King Saul becomes terribly jealous.  He starts to hate David as much as he ever loved him; Saul hates David with a passionate hatred, so much so that he curses David and tries to kill him on numerous occasions.  We find David in the early part of 1 Samuel running for his life from King Saul.  In a single battle, Saul is killed and God raises David all the way to the throne.  The picture I want you to get before we even open this chapter is David now doesn't need anything from any other human being.  David's the king!  He's got the robes, crown, palace, all the money he could need, all the favor and acclaim.  He doesn't need anything from anybody and that's where we pick up in our text...

2 Samuel 9:1 And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness (lit. GRACE) for Jonathan’s sake?

Already tremendously weird, unusual circumstances, because usually the new king would seek out the family of the former king and kill them.  They don't want any challengers coming after them to restore their father's kingdom.  That was the policy of the day, to wipe out [the former king's] descendants completely so they are no threat.  David wants to show the family kindness.  That word literally in Hebrew is GRACE.  David wants to show grace to one of Saul's descendants and do it for Jonathan's sake.

You see, there's part of the story I didn't tell you.  Though Saul hated David's guts with all of his being, Saul had a son named Jonathan.  Jonathan and David were best friends.  They loved each other with all their heart and at one point Jonathan came to David and said "I know God is setting you up and taking my Dad down.  When you get to your kingdom, when God gives all this to you, I don't want you to forget about me.  I want you to remember my house and not wipe us out.  Promise me David."  And David made that promise to Saul's son and now he wants to know if there is any of Saul's decedents he can show grace to for Jonathan's sake.

Now here's the answer to that question...
2 Samuel 9:2-5  And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet...

Before we go any further, why did Ziba say that?  David didn't ask that; what he looked like, what kind of background he had, what physical state he was in, if he was handicapped. Yet Ziba throws out "yeah, there's a guy. He has a descendant, but he's lame [he's crippled]." I think what Ziba is saying here is "I kinda get where you're going here David, you want a poster boy for Saul's kingdom and show everybody how good and gracious you are and parade him around.  Listen, this guy is not going to be your poster child.  You don't want to bring out this one to show your grace.  He's crippled...." and I think what Ziba doesn't tell David (and this is me talking not the Bible) is that this guy H.A.T.E.S. you.

...4And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. 5Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.

Lodebar is an interesting word.  "Lo" literally means "no" and "debar" means "pasture"; what it's saying is "no pasture land".  This was a barren, nasty, outskirts type of place. David has this attitude of  'I want to show grace to Saul's decedents' and now we meet Mephibosheth, one of Saul's decedents, and the attitude he has.  Mephibosheth is living his life away from the present king; afraid of David.  A life of bitter anger toward the present king.  He's gotten as far away as he could go, as far as  he can, so David will never find him.  Mephibosheth doesn't want to be found or recognized because naturally this king will want to take his life if he ever found him.

Let me give you a reason why I believe this man by the name of Mephibosheth was angry toward David.  If you look a few chapters back, you find a unique little scene.  Whenever Saul and Jonathan died in battle, word got back to Mephibosheth's nurse (he was just a baby) that the king and his son were dead.  Naturally the nurse assumes they are coming to kill Mephibosheth because he is next in line and there will be no future for either of them.  The Bible says in her haste, she drops the baby and it cripples him.  Here's what you find, Mephibosheth has been running not only from David but the very thought of David all his life.  Every time he sees that crutch hanging up on the wall, "David's the one who made me like this."  "David's the reason I have to live out here."  "David's the reason I can't have any kind of life."  He's away, afraid, and angry; then one day the thing he's most scared of comes knocking.  Mephibosheth is out in Lodebar, a long way from the capital and the palace.  You may of thought you were hidden real well and you weren't; the king wants to see you.  The king knows you're here.  He told us to bring you to the palace.  All his fears about David and that fateful day have just come true and we believe this guy has a wife.  We know he's got a baby.  They pick Mephibosheth up, they grab his crutch, and they make the journey to the palace.  I don't even know how to tell you, my imagination is not keen enough, can you just imagine what Mephibosheth is feeling when those giant wood doors swing open, guards on either side, sharp swords and spears and shields, and Mephibosheth is walking down a long pathway to the throne room of the king.  The doors open and there's David seated on his throne.  As weak as Mephibosheth is, that's how strong David is. Mephibosheth is brought down all the way to the throne of the king and the one that he's had in mind all his life, he's never seen or talked to, but had his mind made up about, is seated on the throne.

Let's see what happens...
2 Samuel 9:6  Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, (slings out his crutch and falls flat on his face in front of the king) and did reverence...  
I don't think this guy was a coward. I think this guy has a wife and a baby, he knows there's not a shot in this world that he survives, but maybe he won't kill my wife and kid.  Maybe there's some kind of hope here if I beg him.

2 Samuel 9:6  Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence And David said, Mephibosheth...  Mephibosheth can't even see David, his face is down to the ground.  He didn't know if David's arms were crossed, if his hands were in the pockets of his robe, Mephibosheth didn't know if David was distant, hateful

And David said, Mephibosheth And he answered, Behold thy servant! (Exclamation point, fear in those words).

I've read this a bunch of time and I still can't get over it...
2 Samuel 9:7  And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake (and I'm not only going to spare you), and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.

Then David stooped.  The king, all of his royalty, all of his power; he bends down to this man and takes him by the arm.  "What you thought I was like, I'm not like that.  The reason you thought I brought you here, I didn't bring you for that reason.  You’re mine.  I take you just as you are, crutches and hang-ups and liabilities and all.  I don't take you because I have to, I take you because I want to,  I take you for your daddy's sake."

Y'all, I was amazed by this.  Do you know what the word "grace" literally means in the Hebrew?
Grace –  (HEBR)“To bend, to stoop.” It carries with it this thought, "To extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.”  

What do you think when you think about God?  The Bible says God stoops.
You want to know His posture toward you?  His feeling toward you?  God stoops.

The story of every single one of us is a story of us being away, afraid, and in most cases us being angry.  This God took my Daddy two years ago with prostate cancer. I don't know why God lets some of these things happen.  For some of you, you suffered abuse growing up.  "I don't know why my life has turned out like this and this God if He's really a God of love, how could He do that?  Be like that?  Allow that?"

We spend our lives taking His gifts.  Every morning the gift of breath in your lungs.  The gift of a beating heart.  The gift of healthy kids in most cases. The gift of a roof over your head and a car in your garage.  The gift of a job.  The gift of America.  The list goes on and on but we take the gifts and reject the Giver.  We run like mad from God and we crash straight into Him at funerals when we can't think about anything else.  We crash into Him when life caves in and the bullets are flying. We cry out to God when most of the time we've spent our life thinking evil thoughts about God.  And all the while, God stoops.

You say, "Preacher, if you knew the stuff I've done, I've said, the people I've betrayed.  If you knew the way I've let my loved ones down; the sins I've committed and the lies I've told you'd know that God may stoop toward somebody else, but he can't stoop toward me.  He can't reach down to me.  The stuff I've done, I deserve hell.  I deserve to be cut off.  I don't deserve God."  Friend, listen to me.  David didn't take Mephibosheth for his sake; he took Mephibosheth  for Jonathan's sake.

God is stooping down to you this morning for Christ's sake.  

Two-thousand years ago, God sent His Son down to planet Earth.  He lived a perfect, flawless life.  He thanked God for every breath and every beat of his heart.  We all know he died on a Roman cross at the age of 33.  Don't let the culture steer you wrong on this; He wasn't just a good man, He wasn't just dying to make a point. The Bible says the penalty of God, his wrath and judgement, all the wrong stuff you've done and ever thought, all the filthy stuff I've ever done and thought, He has to punish that and he punished Jesus on the cross so that He could set you free.  Jesus took your place so that God could bend down to you and say "Listen, I will take you just like you are.  I'll take you with your crutches, hangups, problems, temptations, all your flaws, like you are for Jesus' sake!"  That, my friend, is what we mean when we talk about Grace.

Now Mephibosheth has a choice doesn't he?  How is he going to respond?

PRIDE?  I don't need you.  I don't need anything you can give me.  I don't need your kingdom or your table.  Give me my crutch and I'll make it out of here the same way  I came in here.  You're the one who made me like this and I don't need a thing from you.

UNEARNED?  David, let me do better first.  Let me extend some effort .  I haven't done anything for you; I can't accept a gift like this.  Let me go out and praise you and serve you a little bit.  David, let me earn this somehow.

SHAME? David, I'm too ashamed.  I can't sit at your table, it's too embarrassing.  It's too humiliating.  I don't deserve it.

Listen friends, you know why some of you have not yet bowed the knee to Christ or said "God if You're stooping down to me, I'll take it.  If you sent Jesus for me, I'll take it."  BECAUSE YOU HAVE TOO MUCH PRIDE.  "God, I don't need you.  You let that happen to my family, to me when I was a kid; You're the source of my problems and I don't want to have to bow a knee to You. I don't need You."

Some of you have tried to be religious to earn your way back to God.  You have tried to do good works, to please Him. You tried to somehow earn it and you've been so ashamed of yourself that you thought it wasn't for you.  Can you imagine how tremendously insulting it would have been if the king is stooping down to this man and this man for any reason says "I can't take it, I don't want it, you can't give it to me."  That's the one thing on the face of this Earth that could have sent him back out those palace doors EMPTY.

No problem, sin, struggle, flaw, or frailty could have kept him from the king, but pride and shame would have sent him away empty.  That's not what he did...
2 Samuel 9:8-13  8And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. 10Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. 12And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. 13So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

I want you to picture this for a minute.  David had some kids that were actually flesh children of the king. He had Absalom, this handsome, tall, good looking young man with long flowing hair.  He had Joab, his soldier, main general who was not doubt bronzed by the sun, muscular, handsome.  He had a daughter, Tamar, who  was absolutely gorgeous. He had his son Solomon who had been in the library studying all the while and was a genius. They're all sitting around the king's table looking beautiful, powerful, like they belong here and all of the sudden here he comes [crutch sounds]. Mephibosheth comes in and pulls a seat up at the table and the table cloth covers those broken legs.

I don't understand the thought of me sitting down with King David in heaven, men like Hudson Taylor (who we've been reading about as a church), Peter, Paul, and James, when I can be such a coward, flawed, when I don't feel like I've done much of anything for Jesus like I should.  That thought BOGGLES the mind until you realize they aren't there because of how good and beautiful they were.  The ONLY way you sit at that table is through Jesus; the blood of [God's] son.  God will pull up a seat for you at that table.  He will cover everything you have ever done. Everything you are struggling with, doubts you have.  Every pain from your past.

Am I saying God will make everything flawless?  There will be no pain, no trouble, no discipline?  Oh no my friend; good fathers will discipline you at times, but He will stoop to bring you back.

It was March 21, 1748, and a young slave-trader by the name of John Newton was on a ship caught in the midst of a terrible storm.  The story goes that in the middle of this storm he wakes up and goes up on deck. The Captain is screaming through the foam and sound of that storm and says "hand me a knife".  John Newton goes to hand him a knife and wave comes and the next second the Captain is gone.  John Newton knows he's just a step away from death and we know this is an accurate metaphor for his life in almost every way.

John Newton was raised by a godly mother until she died when he was seven.  Now he was left with a sea-faring father.  His childhood came straight out of a Charles Dickens novel; abuse, pain, and neglect.  At 17 he joined the navy, only to desert and be beaten within an inch of his life for it.  Eventually he winds up with a Portuguese slave trader who's making treks to Africa.  Binding men, women, and children together in shackles on ships in the most disgusting conditions you can imagine.  This Portuguese slave trader's wife so hated John Newton she made him eat the scraps that fell off her table like a dog.  He's living in the worst kind of conditions and would later write these words:
“My delight and habitual practice was wickedness and I neither feared God nor regarded men.  My daily life was a course of the most terrible blasphemy and profaneness.  I don’t believe that I have ever since met so daring a blasphemer as myself.  Not content with common profanities and cursing, I daily invented new ones…”

This guy would show up at their destination with 3/4 of the human beings making that journey dead from disease and cramped quarters.  He had seen barbarity and death and not only had he seen it but he was guilty of it.  If there's ever a guy that we should say deserves death, deserves hell, it was John Newton.

In the midst of the storm, Newton is bailing water from 3 in the morning until noon the next day, and something his mom had taught him way back clicked inside his heart. He runs down to the hold of the ship, and with it rocking on the waves, he found a Bible. He began to flip through it and landed in the Gospel of Luke...
Luke 11:13   If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

John Newton said "I'm evil but maybe God can take somebody even like me."  It didn't end there and over the next few years, God spoke and drew John Newton.  This filthy, vile, slave trader asked Jesus Christ to stoop down and save his wicked soul.  Later down the road, John Newton got sick, he went blind, his wife came within an inch of death; but through all that, God called him to be a preacher.  He became not just a preacher, but a powerful writer of songs.  He sat down one day to write a song he entitled “Faith’s Review and Expectation” and here's how the song went:

“Faith’s Review and Expectation”
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was Blind…but now I see."

If God can save John Newton, do you think God can save you?  Think God can stoop down to where you are and pull you out of all you've been involved in, all you've thought, all your shame and running, all your pain?

At lot of our folks here at Calvary have become familiar with what we do at the end of a service, but for our friends here today let me narrate it for you.  We believe that the power of anything is not in the guy standing up here, the song leader, or anything we can do but in the power of a Living God that the Bible says is not off in Heaven.  He's here, everywhere, closer than the air you breathe, right here in the room.

We pause at the end of every time we open [the Bible] to say what will we do with this truth? How will we take it?  What do you think when you think of God?  That's what we ponder right now.  Let's talk about the most important thing on the face of this Earth, the thing that changes everything; what you think when you think about God?

 

Pastor Brian Loveless Sermon "Embrace Grace" on March 27, 2011 at Calvary Baptist Church Grand Prairie, Texas on Friend Day.