Tag Archives: Christianity

Fixing the Mess

“I’m pregnant!”

This was the message that came to David. Ordinarily, these are exciting words, but for David, they are frightening words. It is going to be clear he committed adultery. It is going to be clear he slept with another man’s wife. It is going to be clear he sinned.

So, David tries to fix it himself.

2 Samuel 11 records David sending for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, and having Uriah come home from the battlefield. If Uriah sleeps with Bathsheba, then everyone will assume Uriah is the father of the child. This doesn’t work though; Uriah is so loyal to his comrades that he refused to go home.

David tried getting Uriah drunk. If a sober Uriah wouldn’t go home, maybe a drunken Uriah would desire his wife’s company over loyalty, but Uriah still did not go home.

Another failure didn’t stop David. 2 Samuel 11 records his next move:

14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

The Lord was displeased.

2 Samuel 11 tells us the Lord was displeased with David’s actions, and he summoned Nathan, a prophet, to pay David a visit. This was an unwelcomed visit filled with bad news. It thrust David’s sin with Bathsheba right in front of his face; he could not ignore it. It also served as a reminder of the Lord’s grace.

Not our actions, but God’s grace.

After chatting with Nathan, David wrote the words of Psalm 51. This is a great reminder of the Lord’s gracious response to us. Notice verse 1:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.

David wasn’t appealing for mercy and forgiveness based on his own actions. His request had nothing to do with what he had done; it had everything to do with the Lord’s character. David’s hope was in God’s unfailing love and great compassion. Left alone David made a bigger mess, but with the Lord, David found true forgiveness.

The same unfailing love and great compassion David saw in the Lord is there for us. Perhaps we’ve tried fixing our mistakes only to make a bigger mess, but the Lord can wash away our guilt just like he did David’s.

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Grace and Mercy

The Bible tells us a great deal about God’s character. He is an all-powerful, awesome Creator, who can begin and end events with a single word. He is a God with whom nothing is impossible. He is also a God of mercy and grace, worthy of praise. Notice what David writes in the Psalms.

Psalm 103:1-6 says:

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The Lord gives righteousness
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

Think about the picture these words paint of God. Dwell on his forgiveness and mercy. This Psalm goes on to remind us the Lord can take away our guilt, so challenge yourself to allow the God described above to be the Lord of life today.

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Getting Rid of Guilt

Darkness engulfed New York in 1977, and guilt and fear overwhelmed a young boy. It took some time, but the boy’s parents finally discovered why he was so upset. Just as the lights went out, the boy had kicked a utility pole, so he was convinced he caused the great black out. Guilt paralyzed him until he realized the truth.

Guilt is something we all experience. A Psychology Today post reports, “We experience 5 hours a week of guilty feelings. One study found that if you add up all the moments you spend feeling mildly or moderately guilty, it adds up to a pretty significant chunk of time.” 

It is not that we experience Guilt which causes a problem. It is our handling of the guilty feelings which makes a difference. Guilt is a trigger that can lead us to action, and it can be used by the Lord to help us discover true peace.

Guilt can be the tool which drives us to the Lord. Our guilt can push us to fully accept the Lord’s grace. Those mistakes, those failures of the past can create much guilt, but we can be set free in God’s grace.

Psalm 103:7-14 says:

He revealed his character to Moses
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.

This Psalm is a reminder of God’s grace. We do not get what we deserve; we get far more! In his grace, we can find freedom in Christ. The Lord removes our guilt and replaces it with his peace. He removes the guilt from past mistakes and replaces it with a hope for a better future. When you think of your past, do you concentrate on the guilt of past mistakes or the peace of Christ’s forgiveness?

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Valley of Broken Promises

“I will always love you.”

“Till death do us part.”

“I’ve got your back; you don’t have to worry about this round of layoffs.”

These are promises many of us have heard only to find out they have been broken. Many of us have found ourselves walking through the valley of broken promises on more than one occasion. We were given a promise, but the promise wasn’t kept. Words were flowing freely, but the commitment was not behind them. Many may break promises, but there is One who will not send us to the valley of broken promises.

The Lord is faithful, and he always keeps his promises.

  • Psalm 12:6 says, “The Lord’s promises are pure,
        like silver refined in a furnace,
        purified seven times over.”
  • Numbers 19:23 says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie.
        He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
    Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
        Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

Looking through history reveals God’s flawless record of keeping his promises. He promised Abraham he would become a great nation, and Abraham did. He promised Israel they would possess the land of Canaan and they did. The Lord promised Israel manna in the desert, and the manna showed up just as he said. The Lord is faithful in keeping his promises.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
  • Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

For you and I, this means the promises we find within Scripture are true. The promises we cling to in the middle of the night are true. The promises we rely on in rough times are true. The promises in which we place our hope for a better tomorrow will be fulfilled. The Lord’s promises are true.

Choose to claim the promises we find in Scripture about our family, finances, and future, and cling to them. They are true because God always keeps his promises!

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Beauty of Harmony

It was a beautiful sight. All of Israel coming together to anoint David their king. The Bible records the Elders of Israel telling David they knew the Lord had chosen him. So, David made a covenant with the leaders of Israel before the Lord, and they anointed him king. Israel was experiencing unity and harmony at this time.

It may have been this event that prompted David to write the words of Psalm 133, reflecting on the beauty of harmony:

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.

These words remind us of the beauty and peace harmony and unity bring. A harmonious and unified people of God have changed lives in the past, and can still change lives today. We may have our differences, but we also have common ground. We are all in need of the transforming work of the cross.

Max Lucado writes:

I spoke at each Good Friday service of a nearby Episcopal church for many years. On one occasion, I shared the responsibility with the bishop of the diocese of West Texas. He wore a robe and a large gold cross around his neck. My church background didn’t make me too keen on preachers wearing religious jewelry. So, I was less than impressed. And, I confess, even a bit judgmental.

But as he shared the story behind his gold cross, my attitude began to change. In order to assume his role as bishop, he had to leave behind St. Mark’s Episcopal, a church where he was loved dearly. The people tried to talk him into staying, but he felt it was God’s will to leave. The members, then, expressed their gratitude by making him this cross. Two hundred and forty-two households contributed gold pieces which were melted down and forged together. Some of the gold provided was from the wedding bands of widow and widowers. Three couples who had divorced and then reconciled each gave a set of wedding rings to the cross. One friend of the bishop was a bachelor who was rejected by “the love of his life” just days before the ceremony contributed her ring to the cross as a symbolic surrendering of the pain of his lost love. The cross includes a college ring as well as the bridge from a fellow bishop’s mouth. One mom donated some gold beads. When her son was four, he found them on a dresser, thought they were toys and damaged them. He died soon thereafter in an accident. She donated them on the day before what would have been his seventh birthday.

Two hundred and forty-two stories. Stories of celebration, stories of sorrow. Stories of peace, stories of pain. But when forged together they form the cross of Christ.

What happened literally with the bishop’s cross happens spiritually in every church that devotes itself to fellowship. When your story intermingles with mine, and our stories interweave with others, the cross is formed. When one hand holds another in a hospital, the cross is lifted up. When a conservative loves a liberal; when an Anglo seeks to understand a Hispanic; when the redneck and the tree-hugger stand side by side at the communion table, the cross is lifted up.

No matter our backgrounds, our socioeconomic status, or our political views, we have one thing in common. We’re all in need of grace, and when we share grace with one another, the cross is what is lifted up. How can you lift up the cross today?

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Is Love At The Core?

When you think of the church, Christianity, and followers of Christ, what comes to mind? Depending on your perspective, it could be any number of pictures.

Is one of those pictures’ devotion to one another; do you picture Christians loving the world?

The miracles recorded in the Bible are awesome and truly show us the power of our Lord, but the most attractive characteristic permeating from the Bible’s pages is love. Behind all the miracles and work the Lord does is love. Behind everything the Lord does is love. It is out of his great love for us, we find the ability to have a relationship with him. God is love, and it shows in all he does.

As Christians, the Bible encourages us to imitate this same level of love.

1 Peter 4:8 encourages:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Our love should be behind everything we do. We can do some great things, but if they are not rooted in love, they really aren’t accomplishing a great deal. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says:

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

1 Corinthians 13 goes on:

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Being shining examples of Christ’s love is how Christianity grows. If love is at the very heart of all of our actions, then our impact will be great. Jesus shows us love, so take a moment to reflect on how well you show love to others. What are some ways you could put your love into practice?

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Love Is…

Attend a wedding, and along with the decorations and beauty of love on display, you’ll probably hear this passage read, or at least, referenced.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 

This passage certainly describes the type of love a husband and wife should have for one another, but it goes farther. It truly describes the type of love Christians should strive to imitate in all of our relationships. This passage does a marvelous job describing it, and the Gospels give us explicit illustrations of how Jesus modeled it.

Jesus’ Patience

On one occasion, James and John came to Jesus desiring to be called the greatest. They wanted Jesus to promote them to places of honor. His response demonstrates his patience.

The NIV Jesus Bible remarks, “Consider the passage in the Gospel of Mark in which James and John asked Jesus to do whatever they asked of him. They boldly asked—maybe even with a hint of demand—to sit on either side of him in glory. However, rather than chiding them for such brashness, Jesus spoke to them patiently (Mk 10:35–40).”

Jesus’ Kindness

Jesus’ disciples felt Jesus was busy and would not have time to visit with some families who brought their children for Jesus to bless. Matthew records the disciples rebuking the parents and trying to send the families away, but Jesus showed them kindness. Matthew 19:13-15 says:

“13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.”

Jesus was not Proud

As he was approaching the time on the cross, Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room having a meal, but the disciples forgot to wash their feet. This was a dirty job, and it was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the home. Seeing the need, Jesus took it upon himself to wash the disciples’ feet. He was humble enough to perform this task. He did not consider himself to good to do it.

Jesus was not Easily Angered

According to the NIV Jesus Bible, “Jesus was not easily angered, either. The careful reader might immediately think of the Lord driving out the moneychangers in the temple. Clearly, these people angered the Lord. However, Jesus’ anger was not an easily triggered rage over something insignificant. Instead, love for his Father’s house consumed him (Jn 2:17).”

Jesus Delighted in the Truth

John 18:37 says, “37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

Jesus Never Gave Up and was Always Hopeful

Jesus continued following God’s path even though, for him, it became unimaginably hard. He knew the Father could raise him from the grave, so he laid his own interests aside to take up the interests of the world. He truly demonstrated love.

Jesus’ Perseverance

“Scorning the shame, he endured the cross for his people (Heb 12:2). This patient, kind, truth-rejoicing, protecting, trusting and persevering love kept no record of wrongs (1Co 13:5). Because of Jesus’ death, the amassed wrongs committed by the people of God were forgiven. The love demonstrated on the cross will forever remain unmatched (1Jn 4:10),” states the NIV Jesus Bible.

Is this the type of love you are imitating?

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A Living Hope

Their lives were hard. Day after day, they endured harsh labor as they made bricks. Their bosses overlooking every step, and their quota seeming unrealistic and never ending. They cried out for relief and hoped that one day it would come. Their hope fueled by a forefather, who by faith, requested his remains be carried with them to the promised land. Generation after generation heard this request and cherished the idea it would come true someday. Hope continued through the generations.

Hope, in many ways, is fuel for our soul. It is what drives us forward. Hope of something better coming pushes us through the rough and challenging times. When our bank account is empty or we’re being slaughtered in the gossip circles, it is our hope which propels us forward.

For the nation of Israel, their hope was in Joseph’s request to carry his remains with them as they left Egypt for the promised land. Hebrews 11:22 says it was Joseph’s faith which gave him this hope.

  • 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

Because of his faith, Joseph knew the Lord would bring Israel out of Egypt. He understood he would not see Israel’s deliverance, but he knew it would come when the time was right. So, Joseph gave instructions for his burial. It was Joseph’s instructions which gave the Israelites hope for generations. Basically, they were placing their hope in a dead man’s faithful instructions.

We, as Christ followers, have something better. Our hope is not in a forefather’s faith, but in a living Savior. 1 Peter 1:3-9 encourages:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Max Lucado writes:

Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does—to reconnect us to his power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what he’s talking about? The ultimate answer, according to his flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. “He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1Co 15:5–6).

Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with his own. We can trust him because he has been there.

He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rags and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudden change turn to Christ. Why?

Because he’s been there.

He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills. To Galilee, where he recruited direct reports and separated fighters. To Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics.

We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates.

Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with your challenges? Because he’s been there. To Nazareth, to Galilee, to Jerusalem.

But most of all, he’s been to the grave. Not as a visitor, but as a corpse. Buried amidst the cadavers. Numbered among the dead.

Heart silent and lungs vacant. Body wrapped and grave sealed.

The cemetery. He’s been buried there.

You haven’t yet. But you will be. And since you will, don’t you need someone who knows the way out?

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The Route

The shortest route between two places is a straight line; however, going straight from point A to point B does not always work. It is not always the best route; it sure wasn’t for the people of Israel.

The Lord delivered Israel from the Egyptian bondage they were suffering. He designed an exit strategy which had them leave in a hurry, but they did not go directly to the land of Canaan. Exodus 13:17 records:

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

Israel did not go directly to their destination because it wasn’t what was best for them. Though it may have seemed the Lord had the people wondering aimlessly in the wilderness, he had their best interests in mind and was always accomplishing his purpose. The Lord knew a direct route was not best in this situation.

Charles Stanley has commented, “Our God is practical, and He deals with us according to our nature. He will always lead us in the way that is most appropriate for us.”

Sometimes, the Lord may not take our lives on a direct route. It may seem there are many twists and turns to get to where we are going, but we can rest assured the Lord knows what he is doing. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that the Lord knows the plans he has for us. Those twists in turns of life are in our best interest. It may not seem like it at the time, but the Lord knows the best route to our destination.

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Guiding Through Adversity

Adversity. It is certainly not welcomed in anyone’s life, but it finds its way into all of our lives. As hard as we try to avoid it, it seems there are just times when we have to climb uphill. Joseph was no stranger to adversity. The Bible tells his story in Genesis 38-50.

He was loved by his father, and as a young man, Joseph’s brothers grew to hate him. Joseph was the favored child and his brothers didn’t care for that. When given the opportunity, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and Joseph was placed in Potiphar’s home.

He was in charge of Potiphar’s household and the Lord blessed Joseph’s work. He was also good looking, so Potiphar’s wife wanted to go to bed with him. Joseph refused so one day she tried to force him, but Joseph escaped. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. This accusation resulted in Joseph being sent to prison.

While in prison Joseph interpreted some dreams for fellow prisoners. These prisoners turned out to be some of Pharaoh’s officials, and Joseph’s relationship placed him in front of Pharaoh to interpret a dream.

Joseph told Pharaoh his dream was a warning that famine would strike Egypt. Joseph encouraged Pharaoh to prepare for the famine, and he was given the responsibility to prepare the nation. Joseph did and the Lord blessed his work. Joseph gained much power and pull with Pharaoh.

Eventually, everyone ran out of food and Joseph’s family was moved to Egypt. When Joseph’s dad dies, his brothers are fearful Joseph will seek revenge, but he doesn’t. Notice his response in Genesis 50:20:

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Joseph remembered the Lord had a plan as he went through all of the adversity his life brought him. It has been said the iron chains around Joseph’s hands and feet in prison led to gold chains around his neck in the palace. Joseph found his way to Pharaoh because of his time in prison. Joseph was in Egypt because he was sold into slavery. Even though he faced adversity, Joseph was still guided by the Lord to accomplish his purpose.

We will face adversity in our lives. It is inevitable; however, the Lord will guide us through those times. Like Joseph, the Lord guides us to accomplish our purpose. How has the Lord brought you through adversity in the past?

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