Our Responses Reveal our Hearts

Ps 69-70 Psalm 69 is the third most quoted psalm in the NT.  (e.g., those who hate me without cause [Jn 15:25], Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine (some translations use vinegar) and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink… [Matt 27:48].

David begins his psalm with an analogy of physical drowning as he tries to cope with the criticism of others and finds himself in a pit with no way out. David’s loneliness reminds us of the story of Joseph and his cry. Later the brothers would recall his cries: “We saw how distressed he was when he cried to us for mercy, but we refused to listen.”

When we hear the cries of others in distress, do we also refuse to listen?

David’s tone changes as he reminds himself of God’s lovingkindness and compassion, his saving truth, the fact that God alone is one’s redeemer. He pleads with God, “pour out your judgment upon them, do not vindicate them, may their names be deleted from the scroll of the living.” These are harsh words!  In the NT, we see the higher way to seek justice as Jesus becomes our example “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34]

Today may we choose the higher path, the path of our Savior, our True Messiah.

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“Grace Abundantly Flowing”

Unsplash Grace by Priscilla du Preez

2Samuel 9 Ever watched Mission Impossible? Those are fake, but this story is real! A bit of history here: for centuries, when a new king arose, he executed the remaining family members of the former king. David could have followed the pattern of others, but he is not like others. David had made a pretty significant promise to his best friend Jonathan, now dead, to care for any of his remaining family members. Imagine yourself as the one remaining son of Jonathan. What will the new king do? 

Enter in the spy named Ziba, who happens to know that disabled Jonathan’s son, whose name you can hardly pronounce, Mephibosheth, was in hiding. This is where grace enters the equation. In fear and trembling, Mephibosheth is called to the palace expecting the worst but hearing the best news ever. He will be given the land of his father and will be seated (said four times) at the king’s table for the rest of his life.

Mephibosheth is like us as unbelievers hiding from the king. We know as the family of the former king; our head is on the chopping block. However, Jesus is the true king, and like David, he extends his grace. King Jesus sends, Ziba, a.k.a the Holy Spirit, to find us and bring us home to his palace.  We fear the worst, but hear you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. Do we deserve it? No, but God’s grace is poured out on us called salvation, and now we can be in His presence forever. 

Are you a Mephibosheth? King Jesus is sending the Holy Spirit to rescue you if you accept his invite.

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No Excuses!

1Samuel 15 How often do we begin our explanation for doing wrong with the word “but” just like King Saul? We try to save face by not admitting wrong. “BUT I have obeyed the Lord”! I went on the campaign the Lord sent me on.” But when pressed by Samuel, he admits, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded and what you said as well.” 

Saul would have been wiser to stop there, but instead, he compounds his sin with a second excuse. I was fearful of the army. To be fearful of man, more than God is anathema! Pro 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 

Saul, like many of us, just want our sins to be covered and forgiven. “Now, please forgive my sin and go back with me so I can worship the Lord.” Saul was essentially saying; just forgive me and let’s get on with our life. We do not want to lose face. Listen to Saul: “I have sinned, BUT please honor me before the elders of my people and Israel”. It was all outward repentance but not inward repentance. Psa 51:17 The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit —O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. 

Fear and Pride moved Saul to disobey. What is your reason for disobedience? How can you conquer these two foes spiritually and practically?

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How to Handle Misunderstandings

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Joshua 22 It has been seven long years since the tribes who had received land on the east of the Jordan. These tribes made a promise, and they kept it to.the.letter.! Joshua reminded them that their faithfulness is worthy of reward.  As they neared the crossing of the Jordan, they stopped and built an impressive altar. God didn’t require it; Joshua didn’t require it. It was something they decided to do on their own. It wasn’t wrong to do it, but soon rumors flew ‘back home,’ and it became a stumbling block. How often do others misunderstand our motives and emotions lead rather than the head?

They jumped to the only conclusion before them; they were apostatizing! They needed discipline! That happens to us as well, and it is then that a level headed person is necessary to quell the outcry. Phinehas wisely said wait a minute; let’s go to find out about this altar.

While rumors are flying, the two and a half tribes were rejoicing! So Phinehas and ten leaders presented their conclusion while the altar builder’s hearts fell into the pit of their stomachs. But in quietness and humility, they began to explain that they built a memorial not an altar of sacrifice.

How do you respond when you are right before God but others see it differently?  Matthew 18 tells us to go one on one to determine what the truth is. Before you are gearing for war, hear the other side out.

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“Falling Face Down”

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Joshua 7 Joshua fell flat on his face seeking answers as to the reason they had victory in Jericho but defeat in Ai.  Surely this small city could be taken with a small force. Joshua failed to consult God first, and behind the scenes, we find that our archenemy had been busy.  The result was that 36 men died in that battle, and the residents of Ai had a victory party.

Joshua and the leaders fell on their faces before God and asked: “why?”  The Lord responded to his prayer: “Get up! Why are you lying there face down?” Like us, Joshua failed to consider that behind every failed circumstance, Satan is busy blinding us. We begin by asking “why” instead of seeking the wise counsel of the Holy Spirit. Why did Joshua not consider sin? We do the same. We want to blame God when God is not responsible. It takes a listening heart to hear God when we are wailing and asking why.

Even though the Israelites had heard of God’s directive of the ban on all things in Jericho, Achan had casually dismissed it. Like us, we know what God desires but fail to consider the consequences of disobedience. Do you dismiss sin? Do you think, “God will understand?”  Unlike us, God does not dismiss sin but demands purity and righteousness. We foolishly believe our sin only affects us. Be forewarned; “be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num 32:23]

Keep short accounts with God. Go to Him as Joshua did; locate the sin, and seek cleansing.

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It is all about holiness before a holy God

 

Lev 5 GodLev 5 holiness wants us to handle sin when it is revealed to us and more so: “even if we didn’t realize we sinned…”  This is not talking about intentional rebellion, but those sins that we unintentionally commit and then realize. Sin brings guilt. You can ignore it OR confess it to God seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.

These Leviticus chapters were written to the Israelites to demonstrate the love and mercy of God upon these unintentional sins and how men can seek God’s forgiveness. In the OT, people had to do it over and over and over. But, Jesus paid it all on the cross, so we are forgiven once and for all. But, just as they did, so we also must seek God’s mercy the OT, people had to do it over and over and over. But, Jesus paid it all on the cross, so we are forgiven once and for all and his compassion. The lesson is that we all must fall upon our knees, seeking cleansing. God wanted them to realize that their sin was not just against a fellow citizen, but God Himself. God is right to condemn our sin because He is holy, and He calls us to be holy. We stand guilty before God.

We now have the indwelling Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. We no longer need to take an animal’s blood to cover our sin for Jesus paid the price. What is required now is the same as it was then; confess our sin and seek forgiveness, trusting that He is faithful and righteous and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Do you need this today? Do not delay but listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

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Time is Short—Eternity is Long

Gen 48 inheritanceaGen 48 The psalmist wrote that we are to prepare the next generation to praise Him and then, in turn, tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, his strength and the amazing things he has done. The reason is so that they will place their confidence in God and not forget the works of Him and obey His commands. [Psalm 78 paraphrase] How often do we fail to do just that and our children wonder what God did in our lives? We prepare our wills and leave it to lawyers to share our meager wealth but what about our testimony of what God has done in our lives?

When Joseph was told Jacob was on his deathbed he made it a point for Jacob to bless his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. There had been 17 yrs. since Jacob came to Egypt and now it was Joseph’s opportunity to have his boys receive the blessing of their grandfather. Jacob prayed that these would be blessed by the God of Abraham and Isaac and grow into a multitude on the earth.

There are some lessons here for us. We need to first take time for our children and grandchildren to know their grandparents. Are you adrift from them? Take time to introduce them so they have a lasting legacy. Notice that Jacob told them that God had been his shepherd all his life. He told them how the angel of God protected him from all harm. What wisdom have you prepared to share with your children and grandchildren? Take time to sit down with your children and grandchildren and testify to God’s faithfulness. Consider practical ways to share what God has done.

Time is short—eternity is long. What will they remember?

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A True Romans 8:28 Story

Gen 44 hearts reunitedaGenesis 44 God has used the separation of several years to soften the heart of Judah. Judah brought great grief to his father Jacob and no amount of consoling brought him relief. Jacob gave up all hope so when Judah wanted to take Benjamin to get more grain in Egypt it was the last straw. While that scenario was happening back in Canaan Joseph had sat in the dark of the dungeon until one day God intervened and now he sat second in command.

In each case, we can see by reading these stories that God is the one who orchestrates our days and our times so that He will get the glory. He will move heaven and earth to get Judah to repent and to use the dreams He gave Joseph to show Himself true. As bystanders in all of this, we listen with the brothers as Judah now stands before Joseph unaware that he is fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. His repentance is forthcoming and we weep with Joseph as our hearts are broken for Judah. But we also see how Joseph’s faith has not only strengthened him but gave him hope all these years. Truly we see the graciousness of God and the kindness in his heart. Years may have separated them but God has been at work in both of their hearts.

Judah stands perplexed as Joseph honors God: God sent me ahead to preserve you. Imagine Judah listening to all of this!  The tears flow through the mind-boggling conversation. How could this be? Like Judah and Joseph, you may wonder how your present trial will turn out.  Hangest thou in there; Romans 8:28 is true! “all things work together for good to them that love God.”  God is patient and He will be honored in His time and place and through our circumstances.

ps Sometimes we see the end but sometimes only in eternity will see it. Give God praise for what He does reveal and do not hold bitterness in your heart for what He has not revealed. 

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Broken & Flawed No More

zechariah kintsugi repaired pottery2a

Zechariah 11 In Chapter 11, we find the true character of the shepherds. They did not pity the people and took them for granted. As a shepherd, Zechariah asked them how much he was worth to them. They mockingly said 30 pieces of silver. According to Ex 21:32, thirty pieces of silver was the amount paid for a slave gored by an ox. Fast forward to the NT and we see that Judas asked the Pharisees, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him up to you?” The thirty pieces of silver picture the price of rejection.

As broken and rejected in the potter’s field, we lay there until the Good Shepherd reached down and took us and repaired our brokenness. In Japan, Kintsukuroi is the art of Japanese mending broken pottery. They cover each flaw in lacquer resin laced with gold or silver; each golden seam becoming part of the new design. Our flaws become symbols of events in our life that He has broken and repaired.

The world only sees our flaws, but the Shepherd sees each as part of His beautiful craftsmanship. He may have been only worth thirty pieces of silver to the religious leaders but to us, He is worth more than all the silver or gold this world has to offer. He purchased us, mended our flaws and gave us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading and reserved it in heaven for you.

Where are your golden seams that Christ has mended? Use them to tell your story of redemption from the pottery field. 

Photo: ©tsugui.de

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Guilty or Forgiven?

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Zechariah 3 “How Do You Stand; Guilty as Charged or Forgiven?”

Picture a courtroom scene with the accuser and the defender and you in the middle. You stand before the righteous judge who listens to both sides of the argument. One says you are guilty and provides the evidence. Heads turn and you as the criminal listen and wonder.  Will I be convicted? Is there hope?  Yet, you also know that your very presence in prison garb hardly is a testimony of any innocence but in fact your guilt. As the accuser cries out your crimes we hear from the bench: May the Lord rebuke you –not once but twice. And at that moment you see the accuser and the courtroom silenced. 

How strategically God has placed this vision before Zechariah as a picture of us in all of our iniquities and prison clothing. We stand guilty but the Lord of Heaven’s Armies cries out: I was in the fire with him, but I snatched him out. Instantly, t the smoke and smell of fire were extinguished and you hear: remove his filthy clothes! What the accuser meant evil; God meant for good that His plan of redemption could be seen by all.

Gently and with love you hear; Follow my ways, keep my requirements and you will come and go with others. You will be a picture of my love, my forgiveness, and my blessing.

You have been forgiven and given a robe of righteousness. Go forth as God’s forgiven child.

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