May 13; The Truth Hurts

Psalms 64, 70, 84, 141, 143; 2 Samuel 18:19-19:43

Absalom is dead. The son who did everything in his power to steal the throne from his father, David, was killed in a battle he was fighting with the intent to destroy David. David wished he’d been the one to have died instead.

Now, I dealt with a lot of middle school parents who thought their precious children could do no wrong, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. But David takes the cake.

David went into a very public, very agonized mourning over the death of his son. I’m not saying he was wrong to be sad. He was a father. But David’s mourning went to the point his own soldiers – those who had been loyal to him when his own son betrayed him – were ashamed to have fought the battle. The solders went into mourning.

So Joab, the leader of the army, went to the king and shook some sense into him. We, of course, can’t hear Joab’s tone of voice. But we can read his words. And it doesn’t appear that he was joking. These are some harsh words. Truthful words. But Joab doesn’t seem to be worried about hurting the king’s feelings.

David was wrong. David acted badly. And he had to be told in no uncertain terms.

I’m not a very good Joab. Confrontation is not my strong suit. Oh, I can write a script in my head. I can imagine what I would say to someone I think needs to hear the truth. But actually saying those words out loud is not something I do.

God is convicting me about that today.

Joab realized that what David was doing was hurting other people, and jeopardizing David’s kingship. I can watch a loved one making similar choices, choices that perhaps hurt others, or worse – jeopardize their relationship with God and eternity.

David needed Joab’s firm honesty. My loved ones need mine. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t want to lose a relationship with them by making them upset with me. But God is asking me if their liking me in this lifetime is worth their eternity without Him?

Man! I do NOT like what God is saying to me today. But He speaks the truth.

And the truth hurts.

May 12; You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty

Psalms 55, 58, 61-63; 2 Samuel 17:24-18:18; I Chronicles 2:17

I’m going to be honest. Mother’s Day is not my favorite holiday. My own mother has lived with Jesus since 1996, and I miss her. I am glad that after all these years of only memories of her, those memories no longer hurt. In fact, I take great joy in remembering this sweet, gentle spirit who I was blessed to call, “Mom.”

I will admit to a hint of jealousy toward those of you who are able to hug your mother today, even those of you whose moms can’t remember who you are. I’d love to wrap my arms around my mother today.

Mother’s Day is also a reminder to me that I’m not one. I’ve never been, “Mom,” to anyone, and most days I’ve come to grips with it.  But ever since Mom died, I chose to make this one day a year my personal pity part. I did not go to church on the second Sunday in May for decades. I reserved this holiday as one day to feel the hurt and disappointment, and to wallow in my sadness. (Poor me.)

Now I have responsibilities at church that make playing hooky difficult. So I’ll go to church today, a bit reluctantly. And wait until I get home to feel sorry for myself. Or maybe I’ll decide to not feel sorry for myself at all.

I know that many women hurt worse than me on Mother’s Day. I’ve never buried a child. I don’t have a child living with addiction, or running from God. I don’t have a child in jail, or refusing to speak to me. Those situations must magnify the hurt of being a mother whose heart is broken on a day when motherhood is celebrated.

It might be easy for those of us who hurt to be resentful of those of you who have your children around you today. But let me say this:

Happy Mother’s Day!

This day is not about “womanhood.” This is a day to celebrate you who have the blessing and responsibility to raise babies to adults, to nurture and care, to discipline and hold children who God knit together inside you. It’s also for you women who love and raise children not your own, step moms, grandmas, adoptive moms.

We celebrate you. Don’t think you have to throw out how important we childless women are. This day is not about us. And don’t feel guilty if some of us can’t hide our disappointment, and sadness. You are certainly not responsible for how we feel.

You are being honored today for your position as Mother, as you should be. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. You are blessed. And not allowing yourself to celebrate for fear of hurting someone’s feelings might be diminishing what God has done for you. Don’t worry about us. Most of us can say we are blessed in so many other ways.

David says this in Psalm 62:

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

Today is a day to celebrate Moms. And you will be rewarded accordingly for loving and raising the children God gave you. What an honor! What an awesome reason to celebrate!

The rest of us will be rewarded according to what we do, too. May God find us faithful.

So, again I say, Happy Mothers’ Day, Moms! Enjoy your day to feel pampered, spoiled, appreciated, loved. May God bless you and make you a blessing to those who call you “Mom.”

May 11; Is Quitting An Option?

2 Samuel 16:16-7:23; Psalms 28, 39, 41-43

Remember David, while ignoring Absalom’s sin, welcomed his murderous son back home with open arms? We’re reading today what occurred as a result. Dad’s acceptance, love, positive parenting resulted in the son’s takeover and attempt to kill his father. Absalom moved into the palace, and had sex with David’s concubines in a very public way.

Now David is running for his life. Running from the son he had neglected to discipline. Absalom showed no fear, no respect, only contempt for his indulgent father.

I believe this is something all parents need to hear. Yes, I know not all indulgent parents are disrespected and held in contempt by their children. But as a middle school counselor, I saw way too many that were. I’m praying for parents today.

There is something else in this story that got my attention. A man named Ahithophel was in Absalom’s inner circle. In fact, he was the one who advised Absalom to have sex with David’s concubines as a show of power. Absalom took that advice. Must have made Ahithophel feel pretty powerful himself.

But not for long. He gives Absalom another bit of advice. This time Absalom goes another route, rejecting Ahithophel’s advice. Ahithophel’s reaction to this rejection is drastic. He goes home, writes his will, and kills himself.

Have you ever had an idea, then come to find out you were the only person that thought it was a good idea? Have you ever wanted your family, or your workplace, or your church to do something, only to have them go another direction? Most of us have been disappointed, frustrated, maybe even angry when things don’t go like we think they should, especially when we know ours was the “right” way.

What do you do? Do you quit, pack up your things and hit the road? Or do you put your efforts into the plan and help it succeed, believing the goal is more important than your ego? “It’s the principle of the thing,” often masks an “I’ll show them,” mentality. Because if they crash and burn, someone might recognize how superior your way would have been. People might think yours was the right plan after all. Told you so!

I’ve heard of people walking away from family over how an inheritance was spent, others who bounce from job to job because they can’t work with “idiots” who don’t listen to their ideas. I’ve heard of people leaving their churches over silly things like carpet selection. “I want green. They chose blue. See ya.”

God is asking me to look at my commitment. Is my service to Him based on feelings, motivated by what I gain? If I always make everything about me, I’ll continue to be disappointed, frustrated, and angry.

If serving God is the most important thing, if my focus is truly on Jesus, what does it matter if Johnny spends his inheritance on fancy cars instead of investing it like I told him to? Isn’t Johnny more important than my advice?

Maybe that project at work really needed that other person’s suggestion, and maybe your support of it will be noticed by your bosses much more than if you’d gotten your way. Or not. But if the project is a success, isn’t that good for the company and your job, too? Why would you want it to fail?

If I am serving God out of a grateful heart for what He has done for me, why should the color of the church carpet be a deal breaker? Is the church serving me or God? Besides, if I’m looking down at the carpet, can I be looking toward heaven, too? Where are my priorities?

Ahithophel quit. His pride prevented him from serving after his suggestion was rejected. Seems he over-reacted. But so have I sometimes. Not, of course, to the extent Ahithophel went. But there have been times I’ve let my pride get in the way of my service. God forgive me.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s understand that our opinions are opinions that others might not share. But let’s not quit just because we get our feelings hurt. Instead, let’s dive in and work shoulder to shoulder with others who share the same goal – serving God.

Is quitting an option? I hope not.

May 10; One Thing I Ask Of The Lord

Psalms 9, 10, 27, 37; 2 Samuel 15:37, 16:15

I read a few of these psalms a couple of times this morning because I found myself thinking about the state of the world instead of the condition of my heart. I found myself identifying the “wicked” as those who are fighting against the Truth, people who are killing Christians, others who blatantly sin and then condemn those of us who speak against it.

Yes, there are evil people in the world. And yes, God wants His Church to defeat Satan in the worst of them. But I’m reminded God can’t change the world until He changes my heart.

The “wicked” David wrote about were flesh and blood people to him. To me, the “wicked” is Satan, my own inclination to sin, anything that keeps me from having the best relationship with God. David says this is Psalm 37:4:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

He continues to tell us what that looks like; Commit your way to the Lord. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath. In Psalm 9 David tells us to praise the Lord with all our hearts, to be glad, rejoice, and sing praises.

Warning: if you think Psalm 37:4 is the magic formula to getting something you want, think again. This verse is absolutely not saying that if you do this, this, and this you can rub the magic genie lamp and have that windfall show up on your doorstep. I have little patience with people, including preachers, who say if you praise the Lord, raise your hands, shout your praises it will somehow result in you getting a material blessing.

For me, the key is found in Psalm 27:4:

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Notice David doesn’t say, “One thing I ask of the Lord is that my enemies drop dead around my feet.” Or “that I will win the lottery, or beat a physical illness, or that my political party controls the nation.”

David says to God, “The only think I want is just to be with You, to gaze upon Your beauty, to seek You in Truth.”

Is that the one thing I ask of God? Is that the desire of my heart? Is that the thing that is my focus, my goal, my joy – just to have God near me? Why wouldn’t it be? There is love in His Presence. There is strength, comfort, rest, protection, joy, peace. No material blessing, no amount of money can buy what God can – and wants – to give His people who are delighting in Him, to those who are His through the blood of Jesus.

And it is from there that God and I can change the world – one redeemed soul at a time.

May 9; Parenting For Heaven

Psalm 3, 4, 11, 12, 23, 26, 36; 2 Samuel 16:1-14

Recently I read an article about how we need to be raising our children – and especially our daughters – to be “empowered.” It said we should be telling them they are strong, special, perfect, capable, and beautiful every day. On the surface that sounds right. We certainly shouldn’t be telling them they are ugly, worthless, and useless, right?

But is training our children to be self-aggrandizing how God wants us to train them? Psalm 12 starts out by saying there are no godly people out there. The faithful, David says, have vanished. Everyone lies. Everyone flatters. They say, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Empowerment.

Psalm 36 continues with this thought concerning the “sinfulness of the wicked.” They do not fear God. And then verse 2:

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin.”

Is that how we are teaching our children? Parents and Grandparents, you have got to raise your children to understand their sin problem. And they all have a sin problem. Let’s face it, even your child is not “all that.” There are times even your child disobeys you. Your child has lied to you, kicked the dog or bitten the neighbor kid. And sometimes the tantrums your child throws drives you up a wall. Be honest.

I believe it is at those moments your children need to know who really has the power.

If we don’t teach our children to be sorry for – ashamed of – disobedience, or selfishness, or meanness, we are teaching them they don’t need to detect or hate their own sin. If they don’t fear you, how do you think they are going to realize their need to fear God?

It saddens me when I hear Christian parents say they don’t spank their children, or raise their voices to their children, or show anger toward their children. I want to tell those well-meaning parents to put down the psycho-babble and open their Bibles. Do you think Dr. Spock and the “positive parenting” gurus have a better handle on child-rearing than God?

Ask yourself how your child’s Heavenly Father reacts to disobedience. I’ll tell you right now, when the Jewish people obeyed God, they obeyed because they were afraid not to. Can your children say they obey you for the same reason? They should. Fear is not the opposite of love. Fear is a good thing. Fear is the loving thing. It’s Scriptural.

The Bible tell us God hates sin. Hates it. He considers sinners His enemy. But He died for those enemies, He died for your child. But your child will have to make a decision to repent of sin, to ask for forgiveness, to accept what Jesus died to give him or her while they were yet sinners. How do you expect them to do that if they don’t even recognize sin in themselves? It’s your responsibility as a parent to teach them what that means.

And that means teaching them that their disobedience is sin, that dumping the food on the floor is a sin, that taking a toy another child has is a sin, that slapping you is a sin. That there are consequences for sin. It means teaching them that there is forgiveness for sin when they ask for it, and not before. It also means that they can count on your love, and that your love is why you discipline.

Please raise your children to recognize their need of God. Help them to understand they are vile sinners before a Holy God. Raise your children to want to ask God for forgiveness as soon as they understand they are sinners. Raise your children to go to heaven. The alternative is unthinkable.

 

May 8; The Last Word

2 Samuel 24:1-25, 15:7-36; 1 Chronicles 21:1-30

Recently I have been challenged, I believe by God, to read His Word and try not to assume facts that aren’t written there, or to tweak my own interpretation of His Words to fit what I’ve always heard it meant. It’s been a difficult, and exciting journey.

But then I come across verses like 2 Samuel 24:1. I read what it says, but how do I reconcile that with other verses in the Bible that clearly say God does not tempt us to sin? That nothing bad exists in God?

Then to complicate matters, the same account recorded in I Chronicles puts the temptation to sin squarely on Satan’s shoulders. So which is it? Did God incite David to sin or did Satan?

I don’t know about you, but I can confidently say it wasn’t God. (James 1:13; I John 1:5) The “he” is 2 Samuel 24:1 has to refer to Satan, as is seen in I Chronicles 21:1.

In my resolve to read God’s Word for what it says, I am reminded it will never contradict itself. When I come to a verse that doesn’t seem to fit, I need to look at it as part of a whole.

For example, the Old Testament Jews were instructed to mete out an eye for an eye kind of justice. Letting that verse stand on its own would seem to support a physical maiming of people guilty of a crime. But is there any evidence in the rest of Scripture that a person lost a tooth for knocking out another person’s tooth, or lost an eye for injuring someone else’s eye? I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m just saying God doesn’t record that they did.

In the context in which it was written concerning a judicial system, those words might indicate that the penalty should equal the crime. (Speculation on my part.) Then Jesus in Matthew 5, uses the “eye for an eye” to tell us to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who are bad to us.

I always try to personalize what God has said in His Word because I believe He wrote those things to me. I do have opinions, and interpretations. But I am not an authority. I don’t have the last word. And I can be wrong.

But God can’t. That’s why I am challenged to let God’s Word speak for itself. All of it. That’s why when I read something I question, I look to God’s Word for the answers. I don’t know. This post today seems to be me thinking out loud. I’m not sure why I’m even going to post it.

Except maybe someone today needs to be encouraged to put aside their assumptions or maybe even their commentaries, and let God speak for Himself. These words we read in the Bible are God-breathed for our benefit. Maybe it’s time we get back to basics and just let God have the last word.

May 7; First Things First

2 Samuel 5:13-16, 13:1-5:6; I Chronicles 145:3-7, 3:4-9

Amnon committed a sexual sin with his sister Tamar. What he did to her was vile and inexcusable. There should have been severe consequences for his behavior. But we don’t read that David, his father (and Tamar’s), said or did anything to Amnon.

Did David remember his own sexual sin he had committed with Bathsheba? Did the fact that the king had taken many women into his own bed prevent him from taking a stand against the sin Amnon committed?

Years ago I had a friend whose 18 year old daughter moved in with her boyfriend. My friend was not happy about it, but she threw up her hands and said to me, “How can I say anything? I did the same thing when I was 18.”

I wonder if she was giving her daughter permission to commit EVERY sin she herself ever committed, or just that one? I’ve come to believe that having committed sins in our past, then repenting and experiencing God’s forgiveness for those sins, gives us every right to speak up. I’d go so far as to say it gives us the responsibility to speak up. David took the easy, the comfortable way out and kept silent.

It angers me that Amnon was allowed to go on with life as though nothing had happened. Yet Tamar, the victim, ended up living in her brother Absalom’s house, “a desolate woman.” For whatever reason, Amnon’s sin was never addressed by David, and Amnon never repented.

Well it angered Absalom, too. Because two years later, Absalom had his brother Amnon killed. Yet another example of someone committing a sin to pay back a sin. When will we learn? What we see is another sin that is never addressed.

Absalom takes off and hides in Geshur. Good riddance, right? I mean the guy murdered his brother. Nope. Scripture tells us David “mourned for his son every day.” But even mourning his son’s absence didn’t prompt David to confront the sin. I believe that’s why, when the woman from Tekoa came to David, she could easily convince David to take Absalom back.

I mean, she invoked the name of God, so what she said must be true, right? “Send for poor Absolom, Bring him home. Accept him. You’re like an angel of God, David. You’ll do the right thing,”

So David, without asking God what he should do, invites Absalom home. Sounds like the Christian thing to do. I mean, who are we to judge?

What is glaringly missing from this account is any repentance on the part of Amnon or Absalom. Amnon died without asking for forgiveness. And Absalom doesn’t admit guilt, doesn’t ask for forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

Yet we read that eventually, David welcomes Absolom with open arms and kisses anyway. We will read more of this story, and see how embracing an unrepentant sinner will effect David and his entire kingdom.

Folks, welcoming sinners into the Church body is as destructive as David welcoming Absalom into his home. I believe Scripture is clear that repentance HAS to come first. The church that embraces sinners (who in reality are God’s enemies), the church that accepts sin, and refuses to keep the fellowship holy, is doomed for destruction. I know this is contrary to what most of us believe because it sounds so harsh, so unloving. But in reality, it’s the only loving thing to do.

I believe with all my heart that churches aren’t dying because of the hymns they sing on Sunday morning, or the lack of fancy technology, or a foyer with no coffee shop. Churches are dying because of sin in our midst. God will not bless sin. God cannot be present where sin is allowed to exist. Making our churches a comfortable place for sinners to come is counterproductive. That has never been what church was intended to be.

I think the account we see here of David’s life is an example of what happens when sin is allowed to exist without being addressed. I see Scripture telling us we need to keep the Church holy, undefiled, an exclusive organization for believers only. But I also believe Scripture is clear that we who are members of God’s Church need to be out there loving on people who haven’t dealt with their sin, spreading the Gospel, leading people to the Savior, making disciples, THEN inviting them to church.

First things first. And repentance has to be the first thing.