devos from the hill


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Remembering What God has Taught Us Through 40 years of Ministry

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, we are taking the time to recount the lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

As I was reflecting on 40 years of ministry, I was drawn to the life of Moses as he led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, through the Judean wilderness, and toward the land God had promised to give them.

As the Hebrew people were nearing the fulfillment of God’s promise to inherit a land of their own, these are the words that Moses spoke to them:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-2

This moment of entering the Promised Land was part of a bigger plan that God Himself had set into motion years before with a covenant promise to Abraham and his descendants. As this promise was about to be fulfilled, Moses exhorted the people to remember all the hardships they had faced and all the ways that God had faithfully led and provided for those that trusted in Him.

While I do not directly compare the Mars Hill journey to this chapter in the lives of God’s chosen people, there are some universal truths that the Word of God reveals to us. As Christians, the message for us all is that the lessons learned in this life are preparing us for what God has for us in eternity.

Just like the Hebrew followers, all the circumstances and challenges that Mars Hill has faced in the in the last 40 years have drawn us, both corporately and individually, into deeper relationships with the Lord. They have also, sharpened the focus of the ministry.

Another observation from the life of Moses is found in Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. Notice that the people saw the acts of God. They saw the sea part, they saw Him provide manna from heaven, but Moses spoke with God. He got to discuss things with Him and hear some of the reasons behind His actions.

John Morris of the Institute of Creation Research says, “We have a distinct privilege, as to know something of the “acts” of God. Scripture records many instances where He performed even miraculous deeds on behalf of His children. There is perhaps a greater privilege–that of reflecting on His “ways,” as well. “Ways,” in this context, may be understood as God’s actions and behaviors which reflect His underlying character, resulting in His “acts.”

Adrian Rogers said, “There is something more important than knowing the will of God–it is knowing the WAYS of God. There are 2 ways to know Him: Know His works (see what He does) and Know His WAYS (have insight into God’s character).To know the difference will mean the difference between peace and panic.”

“His way” is not referring to the Law (doing things His way), but to His very character. God’s ways are clearly different than ours, as stated in Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD, and also in Romans 11:33 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

But, we who are in Christ have the same privilege as Moses did, to draw near to God and learn His ways.  I Peter 4:1-2 tells us, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Through Christ, we have been shown more of God’s character and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to apply His ways to our lives as Philippians 2:5 tells us,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Revelation is progressive and it is important to take the time to remember what God has taught us. Remembering keeps us sharp and ready to learn new lessons. It is also an encouragement to review what the Lord has done in us and for us – laying a foundation of hope and assurance that He will continue to build on.

Heb 5:13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

 

Consider This:

 Rick Warren suggests keeping a journal of insights and life lessons that God has taught you about Himself, ourselves, life, relationships, and everything else. Reviewing this journal can keep us from having to relearn lessons… Hebrews 2:1 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 24

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Today we listened in on a conversation between two of King David’s closest advisors, Nathan, the prophet of God and Zadok, the priest.

God had spoken to David through Nathan on a number of occasions. For instance, in 2 Samuel 12, God revealed to Nathan that David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed in battle to cover up the fact that she was bearing his child. God then had Nathan confront and rebuke King David. He spoke truth to David, even when that truth was difficult to hear.

Zadok the High Priest was loyal to the King, but more importantly, he was faithful to God. He followed God’s laws and was certain to support the ruler who followed after and was anointed by God.

In the imagined conversation between these men, they are debating whether or not they should offer their unsolicited advice to David regarding the impending hostile take-over of the kingdom by David’s son, Absalom. Zadok thinks Nathan should confront King David as he has before, and find out what his plan is.

But Nathan isn’t so sure that he needs to talk to David. He says to Zadok, “There is no real difference between the man who discovers a Saul in his life and the man who finds an Absalom in his life. In either situation, the corrupt heart will find its ‘justification.’ The Sauls of this world can never see a David; they see only Absalom. The Absaloms of this world can never see a David; they see only Saul.”

Our prophet believes that David will respond to the man under him (Absalom) the same as he responded to the man over him (Saul). For he trusts that David’s heart is purely to follow God.

Things to consider:

  • Circumstances don’t make the person; they reveal the person.
  • What you are will determine what you will see.                                                                              Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • How might we get a pure heart? See Romans 12:1-2…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                                                                                                      

See also, Ephesians 4 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 17

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Seventeen

Today we get to join with a young soldier and sit at the feet of a wizened old soul, one who had lived alongside David in the days before he was king and also the days of his rule. We can relate to the questions the young soldier asks about King David and his mighty men of valor. We may even come up with a few questions of our own, but the answers will give us all pause for thought.

Young soldier:  Are you, sir, one of David’s mighty men of long ago – one of those men of whom we have heard so much?

Old soldier:   If you are asking if I am a former thief and cave dweller and one who followed a sobbing, hysterical fugitive, then yes, I was one of the ‘mighty men of David.’

Young soldier:  But, sir, you make the great king sound like a weakling. Was he not the greatest of all rulers?

Old soldier:  He was no weakling. Nor was he a great leader.

Young soldier:  Then what, good sir? What was the greatness of David?

Old soldier:  The clearest memory I have of my king, when we lived in the caves, is that his was a life of submission. Yes, David showed me submission, not authority. He taught me no the quick cure of rules and laws, but the art of patience.

Men who speak endlessly on authority only prove they have none. And kings who make speeches about submission only betray twin fears in their hearts: They are not certain they are really true leaders, sent of God. And they live in mortal fear of a rebellion.

My king spoke not of submitting to him. He feared no rebellion…because he did not mind if he was dethroned!

No, authority from God is not afraid of challengers, makes no defense, and cares not one whit if it must be dethroned.

As far as David’s having authority: Men who don’t have it talk about it all the time. David had authority, but I don’t think that fact ever occurred to him.

Scripture to consider:

… Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NET

Final Thoughts:

If we need power and authority, we are probably not ready or suited for it!

To borrow from John Piper, God’s design is to make us a showcase for His power…not by getting rid of all our weaknesses; but by giving us strength to endure and even rejoice in tribulation.

Although David did not know it, his heart and attitude was a reflection of the One, king of kings, who would follow about a millennia later; the One that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 12:9 >> So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 16

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Sixteen

So, you find yourself questioning the decisions and behaviors coming down from the one who is in charge; how can you tell if the one you have to answer to is a King Saul or a David? If you could figure that out, would it change the way you respond to them? And….what if you got it wrong?

Most of us know at least one man in the lineage of David who was damned and crucified by other men. By men who were absolutely positive that the one they were crucifying was not a David! It happens all too often that men go after the Sauls but mistakenly end up crucifying the Davids among us.

“Are you so certain your king is a Saul and not a David that you are willing to take the position of God and go to war against your Saul?”

What, then, should you do? Perhaps you should follow David’s lead and wait for God to move.

By waiting on God, a lot may be revealed over time by the behavior of your leader.  More importantly, the passing of time and the way you react to that leader – be he David or Saul – reveals a great deal about you!

A few scriptures to consider:

…then listen from your heavenly dwelling place, forgive their sin, and act favorably toward each one based on your evaluation of his motives. (Indeed you are the only one who can correctly evaluate the motives of all people.) – 1 Kings 8:39 NET

For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:11 NET

make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,  so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. – I Thessalonians 4:11-12 NET

Final Thoughts:

Instead of spending time trying to discern the Sauls from the Davids, (which were both anointed by God), we would do better to turn our attentions to the development of our own hearts and minds.

We don’t always see everything as clearly or fully as we think we do.

Often God keeps knowledge veiled so that His purposes will be accomplished.


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 15

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

 Chapter Fifteen

“We desperately need God, but we don’t necessarily need Him for what we think we need Him for. We need Him to show us what we need Him for!”

What kind of man was Saul? Who was this one who made himself David’s enemy?

He was a farm boy, a country kid who made good. He was tall, good-looking, and well-liked. He came from a good family. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses were his ancestors. He was anointed of God.

It was Saul who took the Israelites and welded them into a united kingdom. He created an army out of thin air. He won battles in the power of God, defeating the enemy again and again. He was a prophet. The Spirit of God came on him in power and authority. He did and said unprecedented things. A leader, chosen by God with power from God.

Saul was also eaten with jealousy, filled with self-importance, and willing to live in spiritual darkness. He “needed” power to maintain his position and authority as king.

Is there a moral in these contradictions? What made Saul’s failures different from David’s? To quote Gene Edwards, “There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life.”

All people begin life with the same problem…a heart that is self-centered.  As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” In those who are merely clothed with the Spirit’s power, the hidden man of the heart may remain unchanged. But for those filled with the Spirit, the deceitful heart is dealt with.

When God gave Saul power, it revealed Saul’s heart to elevate himself. When God gave David power, it revealed a heart that desired to know more of God in His glory and excellence.

God gives people power…even unworthy people – not because He wants us to be powerful, but because there is a greater agenda He wants to accomplish. For some like Saul, it will be their undoing. For others like David, it will be a part of the ongoing process of revealing and transforming the heart.

Application:

Are you asking God for the power to do what you think you need to do or are you asking Him first to reveal to you what you actually need?

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. – 2 Peter 1:2-3


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 14

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Fourteen

He came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave. Saul went into it to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day about which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you can do to him whatever seems appropriate to you.’” So David got up and quietly cut off an edge of Saul’s robe.Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “May the Lord keep me far away from doing such a thing to my lord, who is the Lord’s chosen one, by extending my hand against him. After all, he is the Lord’s chosen one.” David restrained his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. Then Saul left the cave and started down the road. – I Samuel 24:3-7 NET

 

Today in our book, A Tale of Three Kings, we discussed David’s great restraint from doing harm to King Saul when given the opportunity. King Saul had been aggressively hunting David to kill him. In Saul’s madness, his jealousy over David had driven him to all kinds of irrational thoughts and actions.

David had presented no threat or harm to King Saul and in fact had willingly served the King on the battlefield and in the King’s court. But, Saul was being tormented by an evil spirit and knew that the Spirit of God was with David. Saul also knew that God had chosen David to be his successor to the throne, but without the Spirit of God upon him, Saul was subject to insecurity, fear, and paranoia over when the throne would be taken from him.

Humanly speaking, David was blameless towards Saul. He had been a model citizen and employee of the King. He was in no hurry to take over the throne. He was best friends with Saul’s son and married to one of Saul’s daughters. Everyone liked him.

King Saul had killed people who gave David assistance, and David’s present companions were at risk from Saul’s wrath as well. In fact, they begged David to take the shot…declaring that the Lord was giving him this opportunity. If David had killed Saul in the cave, it would likely have been seen as self-defense….fully justified.

So why didn’t David follow his companions’ advice? When all the evidence was in his favor and he knew he was destined to be the next king anyway, why did he not seize the opportunity to make things “right?” One answer may be found in I Samuel 24:15,

15 May the Lord be our judge and arbiter. May he see and arbitrate my case and deliver me from your hands!”

David was fully committed to the sovereignty and leading of the Lord. The Lord had anointed and made Saul King. He had not yet given word or sign that Saul’s reign was done. David had a profound reverence for God and HIS plan. Therefore, he refused to take matters into his own hands; he allowed the will of God to unfold in God’s time.

In closing, read through I Peter 2:13-24. In this passage, we are told how we should relate to those in authority and we are reminded of the ultimate example when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself submitted to the unfolding of God’s will.

Consider This: How would it look for us to have this same mindset in our everyday day circumstances?

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 13

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Thirteen

So David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of his father’s family learned about it, they went down there to him. All those who were in trouble or owed someone money or were discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. He had about four hundred men with him.                   – I Samuel 22:1-2

A very strange thing happened to David as he was running from King Saul. He became a leader.

David had not taken any men with him when he fled Saul’s court. Nor was he looking to build an army or a following. In fact, it is probably easier to hide without an entourage. But, followers found him.

The verses from I Samuel tell us they were fellow fugitives… likely thieves, liars, complainers, fault-finders, and rebellious men with rebellious hearts and attitudes. They probably had no love for kings or authority, yet they subjected themselves to David’s leadership.

This prompted two questions for discussion. 1) Why did these men desire to follow anyone? 2) Why did these men decide to follow David?

In answer to question No. 1, scripture stated that these men were discontented. Discontentment often comes from seeing the world is off track and our desire for things to be made right. We want the world as it was meant to be, as it was in the beginning… blessed; not cursed and broken as it became when sin entered the world. In order to get things back on track, you need a leader…with a vision….and a plan. Continue reading


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 12

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Twelve

“He (David) ran – through soggy fields and down slimy riverbeds. Sometimes the dogs came close; sometimes they even found him. But swift feet, rivers, and watery pits hid him. He took his food from the fields, dug roots from the roadside, slept in trees, hid in ditches, crawled through briars and mud.”

The author of our book once again uses poetic license to spark our imagination so that we might gain a greater understanding and appreciation for David’s experiences in running from King Saul. Often when we read the accounts of the ancient scriptures, we check off the sequence of events without giving adequate thought to the physical actions that played out or the amount of time it took.

In A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards is helping us relate to David by painting a plausible picture of the kinds of details we would be subject to if we were on the lam with David. There are also a few details the author didn’t include which may give you even greater sympathy for this young anointed one.

First of all, do you know how long David had to hideout from the wrath of Saul? Try eight years! That is a long time to be hunted….a long time to be looking over your shoulder….wondering who, if anyone, you could trust.

As a result, David was constantly on the move; often to foreign places. One of those cities where he sought shelter and rest was Gath. Our book says, “Here, too, he was feared, hated, lied about, and plotted against.” Why would this be? Does it surprise you to know that Gath was a Philistine city and the hometown of Goliath, the very imposing man that David had killed in battle some years before!

King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David caused him to seek refuge even among his enemies. These were David’s darkest hours. David was surely a beaten and battered man. But, whenever he came to the end of himself and had nowhere else to turn, he turned to his God, who had proved Himself trustworthy to David, time after time.

Being beaten and battered by life is something that is common to us all. For some, these experiences yield brokenness resulting in the pursuit of God’s will and God’s way. For others, the tests and trials of life produce just the opposite; a rebellion against God, and a rejection of His way.

Consider the trials that you have gone through. Was your response to seek God’s help and follow His lead? Or, did you look for solutions and escapes routes of your own?

Consider these words written by David while in pursuit from Saul:

O taste and see that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man that trusts in Him. – Psalm 34: 8 (David)

The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers those who are discouraged. – Psalm 34:18 (David)

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. – Psalm 34:22 (David)


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 6

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

 

Chapter Six

Today’s devotional study delves into some of the issues at play behind the scenes in I Samuel 18. Saul becomes jealous and angry with David and throws a spear at him; David responds by ducking and running.

Our author suggests that David might have instead chosen to pull the spear out of the wall and return the favor. Didn’t David have the right to defend himself? Wouldn’t people have thought him justified, bold, even courageous to fight back? Especially since the motives of the King were unfounded. David had done nothing wrong!

The King was acting out of jealousy and of fear that his own reputation was waning among the people. But the issue here is that however irrational his motive, Saul was still the God-appointed King and David knew that. David knew that even though the prophet, Samuel had anointed him to be king someday, that day had not yet come. King Saul was still the sovereign ruler under God. And there was no directive in place for David to take the kingship from Saul, so the best course of action was just to do his job and stay out of the line of fire.

Chapter 6 deals largely with God’s divine establishment of authority. Read (as we did) Romans 13 and consider your reaction to this passage of scripture. What do you find hard to swallow? Do you think there are any exceptions to “the rule”?

You might also consider reading more about David’s actions throughout I Samuel 16, 17, 18. He showed courage time and again when carrying out the orders given him, both in taking care of his father’s business and in his battle assignments from the king. He also had no fear when standing up for the Lord’s reputation on the battlefield with Goliath. But, he showed great restraint and humility when dealing with the king himself. David knew his place and did not try to elevate or promote himself. He knew who was in charge of them all!

In closing, you may want to read Psalm 40, penned by David. Here is an excerpt:

I relied completely on the Lord,
and he turned toward me
and heard my cry for help.
 He lifted me out of the watery pit,
out of the slimy mud.
He placed my feet on a rock
and gave me secure footing.
 He gave me reason to sing a new song,
praising our God.
May many see what God has done,
so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the Lord!
 How blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord
and does not seek help from the proud or from liars!

Psalm 40:1-4 NET


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 3

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Three

Before he became the king, David served a king… King Saul. During this time, Saul often felt torment and David, being the experienced musician, would play his harp and sing many of the songs that he had penned while tending sheep and meditating on things of God.

David’s beautiful music soothed Saul’s spirit for a while, but at the same time, it was one more reason for Saul to be jealous of David. As Gene Edwards says in his book, “Saul felt threatened by David, as kings often do when there is a popular, promising young man beneath them. The king also knew, as did David, that this boy just might have his job some day.”

David was caught in an uncomfortable position! He had come to serve in the palace at the king’s request, yet he was increasingly aware of the king’s angst against him. Focusing on David’s part of this drama, we considered David’s obedience to serve in whatever situation God put him in, whether it was as a sheepherder, an errand boy or now, as a palace musician.

In Gene Edwards’ book, the author believes that David understood what God wanted. He wanted broken vessels – people who understand that brokenness comes with pain. People who will not run from it but instead, trust God to be their strength through the adversity. Continue reading