Category Archives: Uncategorized

“God’s Grace: It Just Isn’t Fair!”

A surpassingly strange story it is, and enough to make a math or accounting major bite nails. I’m talking about Jesus’ “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-16).

Here’s the story in a nutshell: It’s grape harvest in Palestine. A vineyard owner goes out early to hire men to work in his vineyard, and he agrees to pay them a denarius, a normal day’s wage. They go to work.

At 9:00 a.m. he finds other men standing around in the marketplace and also hires them, promising to pay them a fair wage. At noon and at 3:00 he does the same thing. Finally, even at 5:00, he finds others standing around, and he hires them also.

When evening comes, he pays the workers, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. To the workers he hired last, he gives a denarius, and so on down through the line. Every worker receives the same pay.

The workers who were hired first begin to complain that it isn’t fair, that the landowner has made the fellows who worked just one hour “equal to” those who have worked all day long in the hot sun. But the landowner replies that he paid exactly what he agreed to pay, and that he has every right to be as generous as he wishes with his own money and pay the men hired last as much as those hired first.

Jesus concludes, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Quite a story, and not so much a story about vineyard owners and workers as a story about grace.

You see, where real grace is found, you’ll find our gracious God.

Law may ask grudgingly, “I know I’m to love my neighbor. Who qualifies? And under its breath it mutters, “I’ll not love anyone I don’t have to.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “Who and how many times do I have to forgive?” and mutters with frosty breath blown out over a cold heart, “It’ll be a snowy day in perdition when I forgive that one.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How much do I have to give?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll not give a penny more.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How many times do I have to go to church?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll go not one Sunday more.”

Those are not the kind of questions grace asks because they are not the kind of questions God asks. God loves, forgives, gives, walks with us, because our Father is the God of all grace. Do we deserve his gift? No! It is enough for him that we desperately need it. His loving us will never make black and white, bottom-line accounting sense. Legally, it will never add up or balance. Not even close.

Sadly, where you find real grace, you’ll also find, just as in this parable, grinchy grumblers who aim to get their salvation the old-fashioned way: they want to earn it. They are angered by a God who freely offers salvation to a thief on a cross or a prisoner at Huntsville with a needle in his arm but faith on his lips. That kind of grace just doesn’t add up! That God gives it always angers some.

May we be far too busy praising him and thanking him to ever listen to complaints from those who’ve not yet learned that the very last thing in this universe any of us should ever want to get is “what we deserve.”

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!     

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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A Real Question: “How Much Is Happiness Worth?”

“Happiness is worth a lot to me,” a good friend, colleague, and mentor once told his boss as he made a decision that would lead to his leaving the company.

“Well, so what? Isn’t happiness worth a lot to everybody?” his boss replied.

“No,” my friend replied truthfully and I think with unusual wisdom, “it is not—not to everybody.”

I’ve thought of that exchange often. My friend’s words may mean more when I tell you that he is very motivated and one of the better businessmen I know.

I haven’t conducted any polls, scientific or otherwise, to shed light on the percentages involved, but I’d speculate that more people than not so “naturally” equate “bigger and more” with better and happier—a bigger title, a bigger salary, more responsibility, more prestige, more power, increased “upward mobility,” etc.—that they hardly even consider that “bigger and more” might not mean “happier.”

It may. Aside from the fact that none of us can actually “make” anybody happy and that people who really want to be unhappy are almost always really good at it, sometimes, though not nearly as often as we think, bigger and more actually is better.

I have known some remarkably unselfish and praiseworthy folks who seem absolutely gifted by God in leadership, business skill, organization-building, etc., who have honored God in everything they’ve done. And they seem happy to me.

But every bit as impressive to me are folks I know who have realized that, in this decision or that goal, if they didn’t believe God was calling them in one direction or the other, if it was more a career choice than a moral choice, more a geographical choice than a spiritual choice, they recognized that real happiness often lies in living “peaceful and quiet lives” and “being content with what you have.” I can hardly imagine two admonitions that would more squarely slap our sick society full across the face!

But what good, after all, is a bigger house if the job you had to take to pay for it means you’re never home?

A very common and oft-repeated error some people make, author Philip Gulley writes, is to “mistake contentment for stagnation.”

Trust the Lord for your true contentment. Do your job “as honoring the Lord.” And I suspect that more than a few opportunities will come your way for advancement.

But be sure to look them over carefully and prayerfully. Not every opportunity for advancement is an opportunity for increased happiness or real contentment or genuine service. Even if this world can’t begin to understand Christ’s words, you believe them: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Happy is the person who knows that more money, more power, more prestige does not necessarily mean more genuine happiness.

 

  You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some of Life’s Best Moments Must Be Savored–or Lost

Some moments in life are golden. And some of the best of all are precious precisely because they must be savored immediately or forever lost.

Oh, as long as God is our Father, and that’s forever, beautifully sweet moments, joy surprises and cloud bursts of delight will come again. But never again the same one, for much of their rich sweetness and deep joy sparkles in the diamond-truth that no two of them are exactly alike.

None can be bottled to be uncorked and re-savored, recorded to be played back at a whim, or captured to be freed for the moments you wish to dance the same dance and want that particular joy to be your once-again, radiant-in-just-the-same-way partner in the waltz.

You never stepped out onto your front porch to gaze up at the starlit night and looked at exactly the same world. Like a river, it flows new every moment. It won’t be truly the same in ten minutes. Or in the space of your next breath. Look quickly! And look often!

You’re rocking in an old soft chair, but not alone. You and your little very grand baby are swaddled together in a warm blanket on a lazy afternoon. Raindrop-straight-down sounds are the lullaby and the babe’s whiffling breath is the sweet meter of the moment’s melody. Oh, swifter than that tiny living miracle’s heartbeat, you’d sign on were it possible to go on gazing sleepily but in utter awe and purest joy at the lovely face of that precious gift of God, and gently rock… rock… rock… on forever. Only the Giver of all good gifts knows what wonderful joy-flowers you and that precious little one will pluck together, but this particular bloom is fully open right now. And not for long. Thank God for it quickly!

You’ve sung or played or strummed or bowed the same beautiful song time and again but never in exactly the same way. A grace-note in measure eight, a joy-trill in the “bridge,” a bit more tremolo in the “intro,” and a new millisecond pause before the “tag” or the “outro”—it’s the sweetly-spaced silence that gives the intervening notes richness—and it’s an old beautiful song caressing fresh ears and washing open hearts, brand new.

To savor such moments our souls need spaces for rest and not just the counterfeit “relaxation” of loud and manic diversion. Our souls need the sweet salve, the lovely balm, of what our Father calls Sabbath, whatever its date or duration. We need times—sometimes they’re just a few breaths’ worth—of worthwhile moments, and sometimes, regularly, they need to be hours or days—when we’re quiet and still and our hearts and hands are particularly open to receive the sweet and special gifts—golden moments—our Father wants to give.

“Be still, and know that I am God,” our Father says. It’s wonderfully true eternally. But it’s most clearly known in sweet and fleeting moments of deep joy, the kind that can’t be captured—only savored, the kind that grow best in rich stillness.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Thank You, Mom, for Being Glad That God Made Me”

Sunday is Mother’s Day. May I hasten to say that having a Mother’s Day is a good thing. I am sincerely pro-Mother’s Day and pro-moms. Good ones deserve far and away more honor than they receive, and I’m happy to have some part in helping bestow some of that honor.

But as a preacher who has stood in the same pulpit now for 34 years, I’m finding that preaching on Mother’s Days is getting a bit harder. It’s my own lack of imagination, I know, but I quickly preached most of the really obvious Mother’s Day-type Bible texts, and so I’ve been floundering on Mother’s Days for, say, twenty-two years or so.

It’s a little late this year, but what I’d suggest for the future is that each of the local pastors nail together about five minutes’ worth of a potential Mother’s Day sermon. Then we’ll get these clergy-types together, have a “preach off,” and let the assembled clerics vote on the winner who will then be commissioned to finish his sermon.

Then, you see, when Mother’s Day rolls around, all the churches and preachers could meet somewhere for worship together (which is probably what we ought to be doing all the time anyway if we weren’t so faithful to Scripture and theologically careful—which being translated means “terminally near-sighted, biblically illiterate, capsized by our sinful natures, and incredibly pig-headed”), and the winner of the Muleshoe Area Mother’s Day Sermon Contest can preach his masterful homily to the whole wad of us. I guess it will never happen, but it makes perfectly good sense to me.

Anyway, what I’ll share with you now, in a Mother’s Day vein, is a little piece I once wrote for a gift book on moms (that never found a publisher). It’s entitled “Glad That God Made Me”:

“Asked why he loves God, a little fellow named Nick standing in a little church opened his mouth and gushed simple little words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Mom, when I’m with you, I’m a little child again, and again I remember some deep truths, truths that children know so easily and so naturally, truths that adults spend most of their lives relearning. And were Nick’s proffered question mine, well, what might I say?

“I might say, ‘I love God for making this beautiful world.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making mountains and trees and streams.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making the people he’s put around me.’

But were Nick’s question mine, I hope the little child in me—given life and love and laughter through your love—for I’m still your little child, you see—would open his little mouth and gush the simple words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with still unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Thank you, Mom, for giving me birth, for giving me love, for being glad that God made me.”

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Drink This Water, and You’ll Never Be Thirsty Again!”

You should probably drink a lot more water.

It’s our age’s most oft-recited quasi-medical mantra. Never mind that most of us have long thought that the human body came equipped with an “idiot light” on the dashboard that flashes “You Are Thirsty!” to be sure we don’t miss the signal that we are when we are. Thirsty, that is. In need of liquid sustenance. Maybe even . . . water. As precious as water is—far more precious than oil—you have to be really thirsty for it to taste really good; otherwise, the very best thing you can say about its taste is that it has none.

Cue, at this point, creepy, foreboding background music to set the stage for a horrific confession: I don’t much like water. I find drinking it all through the day to be tedious, boring, and annoying. And since the water gurus want you to drink a riverboat of it, you can’t just chug it and get the delightful experience over with. You’re chained to a water bottle all day long.

If you happen to be equipped with a urinary tract more than a few decades old, you will also find yourself chained to something else. Should you try to take a trip—say a fifty-minute flight to Dallas (tripled in length by TSA) and find the seat belt sign ON for most of the flight, be ready for an in-flight emergency.

You see, if the medical professional who recently told me to shoot for six bottles a day—those plastic, crackly, never decomposing vessels our planet is awash in that fools buy in bulk and never think of simply refilling from their own tap—well, if that guy’s right, we’re talking about 101.4 fluid ounces, .79251616 of a gallon, or, what I think they’re really shooting for, 3000 milliliters. Chug that, and your stomach and bladder will resemble the wreck of the Hindenburg sans fire.

Stay chained to the water bottle all day, though, and the water-pushers promise delightful results. Your car’s alternator will last longer. Vladimir Putin will become an incredibly big-hearted, warm person. Donald Trump will stop wee-hour tweeting. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez will lead hordes of their glassy-eyed followers in chants of “Cut Taxes Now!” World peace will flower.

Excuse me. I need to take a break.

From what little research I’ve done, it seems that the very food we eat contains more of the water we need than you’d think. And fluid is fluid. Strain it through a coffee bean, tea leaves, or even add hops and fermentation (I’m talking diuretics here), and you may need more fluid for the net result, but fluid is fluid. The way our brains/bodies let us know we’re thirsty is amazing, fascinating, and complex. But, basically, our bodies know.

I am trying to drink more water. I really am. Mostly, I don’t doubt that I need to drink more than I’d like to. But it’s a chore.

“Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again,” Jesus promised a water-drawing woman at a well (John 4). Thirst quenched forever! On every level, I like the sound of that.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar’s”

Tax Day 2019 has come and gone. It’s actually just Tax Filing Day since every day is a tax day and, if you somehow still manage to own a business or be self-employed, you’ll have several more lesser but still taxing opportunities.

As disheartening as Tax Day always is, April 15, 2019 was far more depressing than usual as we watched in grief and horror as Notre Dame Cathedral burned.

That day was also decidedly disheartening for many employees who file what passes for a simple 1040 form and are accustomed to receiving a tidy sum called a tax refund. Since the 2017 tax law changes, withholding guidelines have been altered. Also, many employees are paying less total tax. Thus more folks are receiving smaller refunds and maybe even having to write an actual check to the IRS. Ouch!

If that’s your situation, I feel your pain, but this disappointing turn of events could provide an instructive moment. Forgive any hint of condescension, but I’m one of those people who are not “subject to withholding” but who are, on the other hand, very regularly subject to actually writing checks to the IRS.

It’s possible there’s some good news in this difficult situation. You may actually be paying less tax this year. Good news: your take-home pay may be a bit larger. Bad news: your tax refund may be a bit smaller. I’d suggest you look at your pay stubs or talk to your tax preparer to actually find out how much tax you pay.

The whole system—I’d say the whole diabolical system—is designed to mislead, promote class warfare and political posturing, and is one notch above a misdirection con game, as this year shows much more clearly than usual.

You’re too smart not to already know this, but lots of folks have very little idea how much they pay in taxes. Why? Because under this system, their employers (operating businesses that actually create wealth and provide jobs) are forced by the government (which does, of course, need revenue) to be unpaid tax collectors. Not only are employers not paid for the onerous, productivity-leeching, and expensive task of thus garnishing their employees’ wages (it’s called “withholding”), many employees have no real idea of how much they pay in taxes, and they consider their employer to be the “bad guy.”

Ah, but then the government comes out of hiding to rescue the day by sending a nice refund check. Unless . . . the tax law changes and less of the employees’ money is filched from their paychecks during the year. Then the refund is thin or, horrors, a check has to be written, and they suddenly realize that paying taxes is both real and painful.

Personally, I don’t much blame folks for being surprised and disheartened this year. But no excuse next year. Now they know. They can either adjust the withholding or, much better, open a savings account and set up an automatic bank draft. If they want a surprise at tax time, they can ask the bank to mail a nice check to them. Their own money.

Just know this: a tax refund is no gift from a benevolent government with a note attached: “All of your money is really ours, but just to show you that we appreciate the hard work you do for that greedy boss garnishing your wages, we’re sending you with our warmest compliments this nice gift.” Phooey!

Jesus taught us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Pay your taxes. But don’t fall for a con game. Governmental or otherwise.

 

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Resurrection Is the Greatest “Eucatastrophe”

More than a few writers have talked about the place where Joy and Sorrow meet.

In a moment of deep contentment, someone may say, “I’m so happy I could cry!” And in the moments of deepest and most unutterable joy, we say nothing at all. We don’t live long before we learn that tears are more precious than diamonds, and the best tears are tears of joy.

When those joy-tears come, we usually don’t analyze them; we live the moment. But if the time comes to talk about such moments, author J. R. R. Tolkien, most famous for his amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy, has kindly coined for us a very good word.

That joy and sorrow are so closely intertwined is ironic. And so, at first glance, seems Tolkien’s word: “eucatastrophe.” “Eu-” is a Greek prefix meaning “good,” and “catastrophe”? Most of us are all too familiar with the word and the situations it describes.

“Catastrophe” is a Greek word brought directly into English that means “destruction.” According to Webster’s, it has come to hold such decidedly negative meanings as “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin,” a “violent usually destructive natural event,” or an “utter failure.” Understandably, most of us seek to avoid such. I think of the crash of the Hindenburg (see the first meaning). Or, more personally, I remember the first time I sang publicly in a quartet and we started the same song in different keys (see the third meaning).

But the word first had, and still has, a more technical meaning. In literature, especially in tragedy, the “catastrophe” is the technical term for the final conclusion or “unraveling” of the drama’s plot. No surprise that in tragedy, that conclusion is sad. Tragedies in literature, by definition, have sad endings.

Ah, but fairy tales are different. A true fairy tale always has a happy ending. Thus the master wordsmith Tolkien coined the word “eucatastrophe” to describe just such an ending: “I coined ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” He goes on to explain that what we call fairy tales actually point to the deepest truth and happiest ending of all (really a beginning), that good will overcome evil.

Tolkien knew that the Cross and Resurrection are no fairy tale. He speaks deep truth when he says that “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible.” Its truth “pierces” us with “a joy that brings tears.”

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (12:2).

“Christian joy,” Tolkien writes, “produces tears because it is so qualitatively like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Thank God When We Avoid “What Might Have Been”!

Have you noticed? When something bad, sad, and tragic happens, we agonize, “Dear God, how could you allow this?” But, too often, when we see something bad, sad, tragic avoided, we fail to give thanks.

If you are my auto insurance agent or my wife, please stop reading in 3-2-1. Now.

I like San Antonio. But a few weeks ago, we headed that way, were almost there, rounded a bend on the wet expressway, and were greeted to a sea of red brake lights much too close that I saw almost much too late. Close call.

Yesterday afternoon, I was again on the way to San Antonio. Just me. And driving a new (to me) truck that I just bought and have already fallen in love with.

(Are you still reading, dear wife? Stop now!) I don’t want my judge wife to pull my license. And I really don’t want her to send one of our kids to San Antonio to take away the keys and drag me home.

I decided just to follow the GPS lady. I’ve seen three gals get in a fight in our vehicles before. One is the “nav” system gal. One is the GPS gal who lives in my phone. The other is the lady in the copilot’s seat. I miss her, but two gals giving me directions on this trip are enough. When they say, “Recalculating,” it doesn’t sound like, “Nimrod, why didn’t you turn!”

The trip to San Antonio entails miles of two-lane roads and miles of four-lane/Interstate driving. And this year it’s gorgeous! Bluebonnets galore!

Big trucks are the hazard on the Interstate. Passing is the hazard on the two-laners. (I love the new signs on some roads that let you know a passing lane is coming, so just wait a sec!)

So . . . yesterday I’m on a two-lane road. I’ve got a Bubba-truck behind me. Too close. If Bubba can see past his eyebrow ring, he’s looking for 90 mph or so. We’re moving about 70 in hill country, stuck behind an 18-wheeler. Fairly heavy oncoming traffic. I can live with 70, but I’m sick of bookends Bubba and Big18. I was tempted to toss the former a little minor (and safe) brake light scare to get him to back off, but I didn’t.

Finally! Here comes a passing lane. The big guy slides over. I’m going for it, for sure. But ten feet or so into the shortest passing lane in this hemisphere, a sign on the right says it’s going away. Are you kidding!?

I should mention that we’re headed up a hill. I can’t see if there’s oncoming traffic, but three lanes should be plenty. (Mistake.) As I’m about to pass Big18, his left blinkers come on. It’s either abort or all in. (What will Bubba do?) Split second decision. Foot down! New truck floored! V8 roars! Three lanes turning into two. Now I see four cars coming on at light speed! Oh, give me a break and use a little shoulder, Big18! Two and a quarter lanes now. Needle threaded. Inches to spare. Start heart. Breathe. Wait for big guy to lay on his horn. He should have.

Having survived, I’ve replayed this, looking for reasons why this wasn’t mainly my fault, but… Several bad things came together at once. It could’ve been…

I wonder. How many times in life do varying degrees of fatigue, impatience, ignorance, foolishness, and just human frailty come together to issue in great pain? And sometimes no one meant evil. But serious hurt came.

How many of those times do we avoid safely, and we don’t even know we had a close call? But I know this: When we do see what could’ve been and that it was avoided, it’s a really good time to give serious thanks and drink a good dose of humility.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Sometimes the Main Event Is Not the Main Event

Sometimes the main event is not the main event.

A couple of times a year I usually receive article requests, three at a time, from a great little daily devotional magazine. As with all of their writers, the editors pick two Scripture passages for me and I get to pick the third.

So when I received the request letter a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. I opened it, perused the assigned passages, and saw that one was 1 Samuel 17:16-28.

That’s a good one! Or, to be entirely accurate, it’s cut right from the middle of a really great one. First Samuel 17 is the well-known story of “David and Goliath.” Even in our largely biblically illiterate society (and one wonders how anyone in the world, and especially in western society, can claim to be educated at all and not have some familiarity with the Bible, believe it or not, that has so shaped our literature, history, culture, and life), almost everyone knows something about that “shepherd to giant killer” story.

But I was a bit surprised that the Scripture passage I was assigned didn’t encompass the end of the story. If you read this section, you’ll see that when it begins, David has just arrived on the scene, and when it ends, the giant is still alive and ranting. Hmm.

I was a bit befuddled until this truth hit me, and I now repeat it: sometimes the main event is not the main event.

Naturally enough, when we read the great story of David and Goliath, we tend to cut right to the chase or, in this case, the swing. The young son of Jesse swings his sling. The stone flies out, locks on, sinks in; a loud-mouthed giant shuts up and falls down. Cue to cheering! But the key event that actually sets up the sling swing victory comes earlier.

Each morning and evening, like clockwork for forty days, this nine-foot-plus giant with a glandular problem and a boatload of arrogance strides out from the Philistine camp to taunt the Israelites with what seems to be a four-foot-wide mouth. When David arrives, as young and unaccustomed to battle as he is, he sizes up the problem immediately. Not Goliath and his tree-sized spear, the crux of the matter is that as the giant taunts Israel, he is defying God.

The main event? It’s when a full-of-faith shepherd about to turn giant-killer asks who this taunter of God thinks he is. David’s answer? Compared to the living God, this giant is less than nobody at all.

Dealing with a giant of a problem? Don’t we all at times? When life’s frightening giants loom large and threaten to obscure our view, may God give us eyes of faith to recognize Satan’s strategy of misdirection. The real “main event” is the choice to fixate in fear on the giant or to ask God to help us focus in faith on him. And then to help us aim. He’s already promised a victory. And he does his best work when weak folks trust him for help in defeating giants.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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