God’s Redemptive Love Part VI: David

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

1 Samuel 8:4-5 (NIV)

But now your (Saul) kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man (David) after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV) [my emphasis]

As we open up to the book of Psalms and read through the prayers of David we can see what it is like to have a true heart after God. He was the man that God would use to unify and strengthen the nation of Israel. David was by no means a perfect man but his heart was often in the right place. He was humble and repentant before God. Two of the most important characteristics required of a child of God.

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, or I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.

Psalm 86:1-6 (NIV)

Towards the end of the time of the Judges, the people had longed for a king and no longer wanted a judge over them. They wanted to be like the nations around them, even though God had called them to be separate. However, the Lord gave them what they wanted. He rose up and anointed Saul. But Saul had a problem with following through completely with what God asked of him. In ways, he served the people before he served God. So God raised up another in his place.

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Acts 13:22 (NIV)

David was chosen to be the seed of the Messiah of God’s children. The Lord brought the nation together and empowered them over their enemies. God gave them a leader, ultimately, in order to bring the nation back to Himself. God wanted them to recognize Him as their King and Judge. But the people lost sight. Even so, God used people, like the Judges, prophets, and certain kings, as part of His plan of redeeming a wayward people.

It’s incredible to see how God will redirect our lives after we make demands of Him. We, at times, will take a path that we think is best for us. Only an awesome God would allow us free will, knowing full well He can restore us and He can make us new. Just as He did for Israel, God has brought people into all of our lives to help guide us on the right path. Maybe we’ve embraced it, maybe we haven’t. But as the Good Shepherd, the Lord is constantly trying to reach us and lead us in the path of life. He doesn’t abandon us to our own despair. He doesn’t walk away from us even when we walk away from Him. Just as the father of the prodigal son God is waiting with open arms to embrace His wayward children. That is redemptive love.

Celebrate your redemption brothers and sisters. There is no greater gift.

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God’s Redemptive Love Part VI: The Judges

Courtesy https://bibleproject.com/

But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them…

Judges 3:9 (ESV)

This verse from chapter three appears several times throughout the book of Judges and contains the main idea of the entire book. God’s people rebel, they are given over to what holds them captive, they are in misery and cry out for God’s help, and God is faithful and true to deliver them…again and again. It became very predictable and quite frankly sad. However, it serves as a mirror for our own stories. We have all refused to lay things down, whether it’s a vice or a character flaw. Anyone who has followed Jesus for a long time knows all too well, what it is like to repent for the same thing time and time again. God’s patience endured then, just as it does now.

In the previous book, Joshua had successfully led the people of Israel in capturing the promised land, divided the land, and called them to serve the Lord as he and His family were resolved to do (Joshua 24:15). In Joshua’s last days and especially after his passing, the people of Israel walked away from God. They walked in such a way that the world around them said was good and ended up in misery. They compromised their faith and pursuit of God and traded it in for the corruption of the world.

Throughout the book, God raises up 12 judges to guide the people back to His love, yet they fall away each time one of the judges is gone. God’s loving kindness is so amazing. His patience in our lives is unmistakable and undeserved, yet He remains true to us. It breaks my heart to know the times I have acted like the Israelites in the book of Judges, yet I press forward attempting to surrender my whole heart completely to Him.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9 NIV

While Jesus is the full embodiment of God’s redemptive love, the book of Judges tells a story of a patient God who forgives and who saves, regardless of whether we deserve it or not. In that, we can have peace. In the next post for this series, we’ll be looking at the life and experiences of King David and how that reflects God’s redemptive plan. If you want to look at the first five posts on this topic click on the following links: God’s Redemptive Love Part V: Moses, God’s Redemptive Love Part IV: Joseph, God’s Redeeming Love Part III: Abraham, God’s Redemptive Love Part II: Noah, and God’s Redemptive Love Part I: Adam and Eve.

God bless you brothers and sisters.

Sacrifice and Peace

“Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm‬ ‭4‬:‭5‬-‭8‬ ‭ESV

Peace is one of those universally sought-after things. But there is a multitude of ways people try to achieve it. One thing is true, peace is not connected to our circumstances. If it is, then peace will always be elusive.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When Jesus spoke these words, it was on the brink of sending His followers out into a hostile world. Trials and hardships would be a nearly constant companion for them. But in spite of that, Jesus still says they can have peace. He can make that promise because He is the source of that peace. Notice He said that it was His peace that He gave to us. Any reading of the four gospel accounts reveals a life full of circumstances that would not give many of us peace. Jesus was born into poverty, hunted when He was a child, relocated multiple times, lost His father at some point as a child, lived as a wanted man for three years, mocked and ridiculed, abandoned by friends and family, persecuted, beaten, and executed. Even in light of all of that, Jesus (being the Prince of Peace) lived a life at peace and promised that we can have the same.

Our peace is based on Who He is. It’s based on the fact that our life has meaning and purpose. That we are loved and have immense value. We are pursued and fought for. We have grace even though we make mistakes every day. We are accepted in Christ and based on His perfection, not our brokenness. We have peace knowing our trials are temporary and our pain and loss will end one day in the happiest of happily ever afters.

Psalm 4 also says that it is the Lord who puts joy and peace in our hearts. It is in Him, through Him, and because of Him. But sacrifice is required on our part. Romans 12 talks about being a daily living sacrifice. We must lay down our plans for His, our desires for His, our pride for humility, our materialism for a life of service, and our self-centered love for selfless love. There is always sacrifice on the way to peace. He paid the ultimate price, now it’s our turn to surrender selfish ambition for a life spent in bringing joy, life, encouragement, and hope to others. At the end of ourselves, we find peace.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Ebenezer

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.””

1 Samuel 7:12 ESV

I’ve been reading a lot lately about God’s deliverance. The entire story of the Bible is a compilation of miraculous occurrences of God’s intervention to rescue and save His creation. He covered Adam and Eve after their sin and fall. He preserves Noah’s family and the animals through the flood. He rescued Lot and his family from wicked Sodom. He preserved Joseph in Egypt. He reached down to save Hagar and her child. He parted the sea for Israel. He tore down the walls if Jericho. He guided David’s stone to take down the giant Goliath. He gave victory to Gideon’s tiny forces against a large enemy. He reached down and struck the army set against Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah.

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 86:15 ESV

These are just a handful of the stories of God’s saving grace. If we take the time to stop and reflect, we will see our own story is also full of stories of God’s deliverance. I know mine is. And like the Prophet Samuel, we should set up a stone of remembrance. However that may look. But the greatest act of deliverance is not symbolized in a stone, but in a cross. Not in a mound of stones, but in one that was rolled away. Every Ebenezer points us to where our hope truly is, but none more so than cross of Christ and His empty tomb.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Ephesians 2:8 ESV

If you’re finding life just a little too heavy right now, like myself, join me in the soul searching experience of remembering and honoring God’s faithfulness. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Light

There are three major movements in scripture that highlight the power meaning of light. One, the creation of the world (Gen 1:1-3). Two, Christ’s incarnation (John 1:1-5). And three, the new Heavens a new Earth being formed (Rev 22:1-5).

Each of these movements were acts of creation to bring about something new. Movement one, the world is made. Movement two, the Word became flesh, which in itself is an act of creation, but also, what Jesus came to do was to create a whole new thing in the Church. The body of Christ is a creation. Those who put their faith in Jesus are called a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17. That new creation is not supposed to behave, think, or even feel like the old self, but like the new self. (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:12-14, Romans 6:6) At the end of time God is going to remake all things into a new heaven and a new earth. This act of creation is talked about in Isaiah 65:17, Hebrews 12:26-27, and Revelation 21:1).

Each of these movements had the same centerpiece, which is Jesus. How did God create everything? He spoke it into existence. Colossians 1:15-17 states it was by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus that all things were created. How can this be that Jesus created all things when Genesis 1 doesn’t mention Jesus? Well it does actually. Pair Genesis 1 with John 1. The very words God spoke were Jesus. He is the word, which is also why Jesus can say that all scripture (God’s word) is about Him in John 5:39. In the final creation it will be the Lamb and the Almighty who serve as both the light and the temple. From beginning, middle, to end, we see Jesus at the center of it all.

Each of these movements had the same purpose which is to bring life. Often light and life are interwoven. We need light, plants need light, animals need light. According to healthline, light gives us well needed vitamin D, helps with mental health and focus, and improves our circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. Light is life-giving.

In John 1 Jesus is both the light and the life of men. In Colossians 3:4 Jesus is also referred to as our life. In John 8:12 Jesus is proclaimed as the light of the world. Those who follow Jesus are also called the light of the world. Just as Jesus brings life, we are supposed to be little life-givers ourselves. Our words and actions should inspire and encourage and strengthen the weak and downhearted. We should be serving, loving, sharing, and speaking truth and life to those around us. Where Jesus goes, life goes, therefore where followers of Jesus go, there life should be also. God created life in the beginning, but first had to make light. God created a new life in Jesus, but first the eternal light had to become flesh and enter the world. God will create a new glorious life in the age to come, but first He will become the light and life that shines through it all.

Waking Watchful

Have you ever found yourself waking up and your mind drifts, either subtlety or quickly, to thoughts of things you wish were different or things you have a problem with? I had this happen only to open up my Bible and read this:

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2 ESB

I was immediately convicted. The Lord had seen into my heart and spoke directly to it. What a good God He is. And what a difference it made to switch my mind to prayer with the focus on giving thanks.

We all have a choice to wake up and think on the ‘have nots’ and the ‘I wishes’ or to lift our hearts in gratitude and praise. One poisons our bodies and distorts our views while the other brings peace and helps us keep our eyes on the prize, that is Christ and a life lived in honor to His name.

Praying Christ’s peace over you brothers and sisters.

The Exact Imprint

Image from Mission Media

How do we know who God is and what God is like? Are those things knowable? Major religions throughout history have tried to answer those questions. Here’s what the current largest religions say:

  • Hinduism: Infinite number of gods and everyone can have their own that they define.
  • New age: their is a higher consciousness within themselves. Each person is developing as a spiritual deity.
  • Buddhism: there is no god only infinite rebirths and pursuit of perfection.
  • Islam: Allah as almighty but not personal. He is both strict and harsh, only showing mercy based on good works and he is ultimately unknowable.

How about for Christians? Is Yahweh knowable? Is he a personable God? Does He want to be known? All of those questions can be answered in the person of Jesus.

He is the image of the invisible God… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…

Colossians 1:15a&19a ESV

I and the Father are one.

John 10:30 ESV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…

Hebrews 1:3a ESV

In those passages, Jesus is described as being the image of God, the fullness of God, the radiance of God, that He and God are one, and the exact imprint of God. Is God knowable? Yes. He reveals Himself in many different ways: a burning bush, a pillar of smoke and fire, blinding light, and a voice on the wind. But nowhere does He reveal Himself better than in the person of Jesus. How did Jesus show us Who God is? I just want to propose four aspects of God that we can know based on the life of Jesus.

#1 He Pursued People – All of His disciples He sought out. He found them where they were, when they least expected it, and He invited them to follow Him. He traveled from town to town to share God’s love and message. He intersected with specific people at specific times in their life. The woman at the well is a prime example. Or how about the man who had been lame since childhood and spent his days at the pool of Bethesda. And then there was Paul. Whether in desperation or on the wrong path, Jesus pursued people. Then He invited them into something greater than themselves. I am witness to the unfailing pursuit of God.

#2 He Demonstrated Grace – Everyone Jesus chose to spend time with was an act of grace. The very fact that Jesus came to earth to tabernacled among us is an act of grace. But He also showed immense grace to individuals all of the time. Look at the woman caught in adultery, or Mary of Magdalene. Paul proclaimed that he was chief among sinners yet look how he used him. Peter denied Christ three times, yet Jesus took Him aside to encourage and build him up. All of the disciples abandoned Him when he was arrested yet He never abandoned them or shamed them. Forgiveness and mercy are the centerpiece of Jesus’ message. He displayed it in His treatment of those during his life, He displayed it in His death, and He displayed it in His resurrection.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV

#3 He Gave Extraordinarily – Jesus devoted His life in an all-consuming manor. He taught. He gave His wisdom so that we wouldn’t wander aimlessly in the dark. He cares that we knew truth. He wanted us to see it demonstrated and to understand the heart behind the law. He wanted to breakdown hypocrisy and destroy heartless worship and loveless rule keeping. He served. He served in every capacity. He fed people, he prayed for them, and listened to people, and He washed their feet. He showed that the greatest king is one who serves his followers and that nothing is below a servant with a pure heart. He healed. He healed people physically and emotionally. Any time and in any way we are made whole, it is a gift of grace. It’s an extraordinary act of love by the author of love. He gave His life. The ultimate act of giving was at the cost of His own life.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 NIV

#4 He Showed A Desire For Connection – One thing Jesus did a lot of was praying. He prayed so much that his disciples ask Him to teach them how. On multiple occasions, Jesus sought isolation to be in that connection. He prayed for hours at a time, sometimes all night long. He prayed to give thanks, he prayed to heal, he prayed in the good moments and in the desperate. Jesus showed us what it meant to pray without ceasing. That shows us something incredible about God’s character. He wants to be connected to you and me. He wants the intimacy that any great relationship requires. God is not distant. Even though He is Holy other, He still wants to have Holy Communion with us. God wants a relationship that is constant and connected.

In Matthew 11, Jesus says come to me. In Revelation 3, He says that He stands at the door at knocks. In John 15, Jesus says to abide in Him. In John 17, Jesus prays for that same connection for us that He has with God.

In all of these things, Jesus showed us the immense love of God. A love that pursues us. A love that constantly shows grace. A love that gives extraordinarily. And and A love that wants an intimate connection with us.

The original Greek word for Christian is “Christianos” which comes from the two Greek words “Christ and tian.” The word Christ means “anointed” and tian means “little.” So the word “Christian” literally means “little anointed ones.” If Jesus was anointed to display the character of God, so are we.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Making the Most

How often do you think about how long you have on this earth? I don’t mean to sound morbid, but I probably think about the length of my existence at least a few times a week if not almost every day. Death is something that we all will face. It’s a painful reality. However, I’m not speaking about dwelling on the end so much as how we use the time leading up to that end. Psalm 90 verse 12 is a prayer that suggests we should all be asking for a heightened awareness of the time we have. The New Living Translation says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.” It’s a good thing to know that we are temporary. That our lives won’t go on forever. That we aren’t invincible and that life could be over in a moment. That realization is meant to give us wisdom.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV (emphasis added)

Almost every night, without fail, my children try to get in some last minute play time when it’s actually time to be getting into bed. It seems like we have an identical discussion each time. I tell them that they need to be winding down and getting ready for bed and not making a mess (that they had just cleaned up not long before). They will respond with, “we didn’t get to play earlier so we really wanted to now.” I will do my best to show empathy while at the same time expressing to them that we don’t have time in a day to do everything that we would want to do. So we have to prioritize. That’s hard for kids. Many of us as adults are still learning that same skill. Our lives have only so much time allotted to them. Our years go by like a whirlwind. Before we know it, we are on to the next month. The days can be a blur. This is why it is so important to number our days. To walk carefully and thoughtfully. To be wise and to use our time the best way we can. And to do that, we need to know what the will of the Lord is for our lives.

There are many passages in the Bible that describe the brevity of life.

  • 1 Chronicles 29:15 says life is a shadow
  • Psalms 78:39 says life is a passing wind
  • James 4:14 says life is but a vapor
  • Job 9:25 says life is swifter than a runner
  • Job 14:2 says life is like a flower that comes forth and withers

How does God want us to make the most of our time? What does a life well-spent look like? I think that is a question that could take many blog posts to address. One that deserves serious contemplation and daily reflection. For now, lets look at one passage as a starting point.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17 ESV (emphasis added)

So much is in these six verses but imagine how our days might be different if we memorize and meditate on being: compassionate, thankful, forgiving, kind, humble, and patient. And we spent our time singing praises, teaching others, encouraging others, and helping carry the burdens of others. Imagine the peace of mind that we would experience if, at the end of the day, we could look back and say that our lives were well spent. Too often, my days are full of “getting things done” that I miss out on more important things. Too often, I’m doing good things and miss the greater things. But our lives don’t have to be devoid of responsibilities to reflect the words of Colossians. I believe we can be about our jobs, daily requirements, parenting, and being a spouse, and still reflect all the things God has called us to. In fact, it is in our relationships and responsibilities that we have the greatest opportunities to reflect Jesus. But it does require a switch in how we approach everything and everyone. Mostly, it requires a heart surrendered to Jesus to make the most of our lives.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Giving Big Thanks for Little Things

Why is it that it’s easiest to pray when we face struggles? Do you face that same predicament? I have felt guilty of late that I don’t pray as much when things are going well in my life. I lose a little fervor…a little zeal. But I am trying to change that. Or perhaps I should say, that I am asking God to change that in me.

My Nissan Xterra has had some issues over the last 18 months. It’s my work vehicle and I use it a lot. So there’s no surprise that it requires extra TLC. Around three weeks ago it decided to stall on me while driving to a job. In moments like that, it is easy to drift to worst-case scenarios that include repairs amounting to thousands of dollars. It has generally been the story of my life when it comes to auto repairs. However, this time around was different. After a trip to the parts store, and literally a dozen prayers, it turned out to be a sensor that I was personally able to fix myself. This repair only cost me $60 and a couple hours of my time. I couldn’t have been more relieved. I found myself praying every time I was in the Xterra. Asking God that the repair would be the final solution and that nothing else would go wrong. Many of my jobs are early in the morning, before most of the community is stirring. So a breakdown could be extremely problematic. I would praise the Lord every successful trip I made without the check engine light coming on or the car stalling out. That, however, only lasted a week or so. After I became confident that the car was fixed, my praise and prayer moments decreased somewhat. And then, I felt the conviction.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. How could I allow myself to be so distracted? Why did I lose touch with the reality that I have so many reasons to praise God every moment of every day? Why do I seek Him more in times of distress or need? Aren’t I always in need of His good graces? Why don’t I give thanks more often for the little things in my life, which after thinking about it, many of those little things are actually great big things. We come to expect that our cars will start. We don’t give it a second thought that our hearts are going to continue beating. We rarely wake up and praise God that we have been given one more day. There are so many beautiful mercies that we are given all day and every day. Why do we let so many of them go by without a single word of thanks to the one who gave them to us. We all owe Him a big thanks even for the little things in life. But, a lot of the time, the prayers don’t come until those little things become big things in our eyes.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Faith and Fruit

God will never allow our faithfulness to be fruitless. There is power in simply being available. We never know who we might notice when we aren’t busy looking at the to-do list for the day or hustling from one place to another.

It starts with making the next right choice; seeking to honor God in the mundane as well as in the extravagant. We also have to be willing to see the hurting people around us and then do what we can to meet their needs. It might be as simple as being a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. And because everyone is met with discouraging messages day in and day out, we should never underestimate the power of encouraging words.

If we love as followers of Christ are meant to, our world becomes a much bigger place. Full of life giving energy, empowered by the Holy Spirit. To have that we need to be open to dialogue, willing to pray for and over others, ready to share why we believe the things we believe, and looking for ways to lend a hand. We can know that every encouraging word, every prayer, every act of service, and every time we make time for others, will be used for other’s good and God’s glory.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…” Who do you know that needs to hear they’re loved? Who could use a helping hand? Who needs to be noticed? Who needs to see Jesus?