A Man After God’s Own Heart (2)

Psalm 51:1-4 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Last time we did a deep dive into David’s WHIP (Worship, Humility, Integrity and Prayer), and how these powerful character traits made him known as a Man After God’s Own Heart. Today we will dig a little deeper into what causes David to stand out, by comparing the Man made in God’s own image to the one chasing His heart. In a unique way, it becomes the perfect way to practically understand the difference in what God is looking for from us.

Adam was God’s first man, created in perfection, by perfection, honestly for perfection. He was given everything we need to succeed; relationship with God, provisions from the Father, living in an environment of blessings. However, temptation shaded Adam’s heart with doubt about God’s best for him. This caused Adam to eat of the tree that God explicitly told him not to. Disobedience was the same sin that caused Saul to lose his Kingdom prior to David taking over. Let’s see how this played out.

Adam

1. Sinned & Exposed His Wife: Eve ate and gave to Adam Gen 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Here Adam ate the fruit, knowing it was wrong. Maybe he saw that after Eve ate the fruit, she did not immediately drop dead and it caused more doubt since the serpent had already planted the seed. But here he failed his wife by not obeying God despite his own thoughts. It was clear what God said, and regardless of how we feel, think or even doubt, God’s Word is always true. This failure would cause them unnecessary exposure; Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  They were naked and free before eating the fruit, but now that they know they are naked, they are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear.  They’d never been exposed to any of this before.

2. Adam Hid From Confrontation: Gen 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. God knew they had sinned and when He came to speak with them, Adam hid from the confrontation, because Truth always confronts a lie; therefor God’s mere presence was confrontation to the sin they’d just committed. Like many of us, rather than deal with our failure or mistakes we (like Adam) look to hide.

3. He blamed Eve: Gen 3:12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”  Adam provided an example that I have (and many men have) used at times when failing as a husband/father/man. His actions failed God, his family and himself. Ultimately, his blame removed his ability to demonstrate leadership.  When given the chance to step up, he blamed his wife; the very one God gave him to complete him. 

4. Adam Attempted to Cover His Exposure (Nakedness): Adam’s sin exposed he and Eve to their nakedness, which led them to cover themselves with fig leaves (and insufficient covering). Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  We know what this is like, we cover our exposure, embarrassment, shame and hurt with insufficient coverings all the time. We don’t use fig leaves, but we do use alcohol, drugs, food, clothes or other material things. All can distract from the real issue, but they have never truly been able to cover any of the pain or embarrassment.  We know today that we are covered by the Blood of Jesus, and His blood is the only thing that is a sufficient covering.

5. His Actions Negatively Impacted His Lineage: It was from this point on that every man would be born into sin. His actions sentenced his offspring into eternal condemnation, any father would have to consider that failure (Gen 3:22-24).

To the contrary; David’s life and decisions provided substance that gives us an insight to God’s heart.  David was far from perfect, but the way he responded to God was with honor and worship are as close to perfect as we might get. 

David:

1. Sinned & Exposed Uriah’s Wife: 2nd Sam 11:3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. David’s sin did not just impact his family, but it also exposed Uriah’s family and caused significant consequences.  David’s lust and subjection to what many consider to be the first pornographic viewing (watching Bathsheba bathing atop the house).  Pornography has exposed many men, their families as well as other families to the world of lust and more.  The damage that has been done to so many families has impacted generations.  When your sin impacts other’s you become a parasite to be around and harmful to others. In the case of David, it would cost Uriah his life.

2. When Confronted by God He Took Accountability: God sent Nathan to David with the assignment of confronting his sin and bloodshed. It was interesting, God had different relationships with Adam and David. Adam only knew God’s voice; David had many others, but Nathan’s voice was the authority that David heeded. When Nathan confronted David, his response differed from Adam’s response to God; he acknowledged (2nd Sam 12:13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”) and then he repented (Ps 51: 1-4 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge).  Contrary to Adam’s confrontation, David stood up and took accountability; he did not point to others for blame but acknowledge that it was his failure and his responsibility alone.   

3. David Comforted the Wife He Failed:  (2nd Sam 12:24 Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife…).  David’s sin impacted not just Bathsheba the wife of Uriah but also their newborn son.  The loss of a child is every parents nightmare and here as a result of David’s sin, their son died.  But after this failure, David did not do what Adam did, blame his wife; but he comforted Bathsheba.  That word comforted is powerful; David consoled his wife, he empathized and sympathized with her.  A husband comforting his wife is not as simple as it might seem.  Comforting a wife must be learned for many men, it takes something that many men don’t strengthen.  Now imagine consoling your wife while feeling guilty and being in pain yourself.  This is a valuable lesson David is teaching.  Why?  Practically speaking, 80% of marriages end in divorce following the loss of a child.  David’s heart was to comfort his wife, the remained together during this devastating time and eventually had another son (one that would eventually follow David as King).   

4. David Exposed Himself and Worshiped: Like Adam, David’s sin left him exposed before God, Nathan, Bathsheba and even his servants.  2nd Sam 12:16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them.  David exposed himself to everyone around as he laid before the Lord in prayer and fasting on behalf of his sick child.  Historically, when David and others fasted, they tore their garments; the tearing of clothes occurs in sorrowful occasions but typically a King would not conduct himself in that manner.  However, it was the cloth David was cut from, as demonstrated when bringing the arc of the covenant back to Jerusalem where he praised the Lord right out of his clothes.  Here David was at his most desperate, yet when he knew his son had died; he got up; he cleaned up and he Worshiped (2 Sam 12:20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped..).  David did not hide during this time of exposure; and sometimes when a King is willing to go through his failure and pain openly many are able to learn from it. 

5. His Actions Produce Kings From His Lineage: 2nd Sam 12:24 Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him.  Although David failed God, his family and potentially his kingdom; his response was endearing to God.  While his sin resulted in the death of his son; God eventually blessed him with an heir to his throne.  Solomon would become a king and God would give him honor and riches so that there would not be anyone like him among all kings.  God would also make the promise to David that there would always be a king from his lineage on the throne (2nd Sam 7).  That lineage would also include Jesus; enough said. 

David was truly a Man after God’s own heart and this was displayed in the great times like killing the giant Goliath as well as in the darkest times like this death of, he and Bathsheba’s son.  So, we looked at a comparison of the responses of Adam and David, when they failed.  We see that it lines up perfectly with David’s WHIP (Worship, Humility, Integrity and Prayer), that we discussed last time.  David demonstrated more character than the man that was created in the very image of God; and demonstrating yet another reason why he was known as A Man After God’s Own Heart.

A Man After God’s Own Heart

Acts 13:20 After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior–Jesus

I truly believe every man wants to be great, and while being great means so many different things to different people, I believe it would be wise to hear the statement “A Man After God’s Own Heart,” and want to model your life after such a man.  David, the son of Jesse was the FIRST man which God selected to be king of Israel.  You are saying, that is not true; Saul was the first King.   I would agree with you that Saul was the first King, but he was not God’s choice.  You see God, himself wanted to be our one and only King (we’ll dig into that more later), however the children of Israel where not satisfied with His Kingship.  In 1 Samuel 8 we learn that the children of Israel desired to be “like all other nations,” when they requested that Samuel (who was the current Judge of Israel, a position given to the one God selected to be High Priest) give them a King to reign over them as his replacement.  This was displeasing to Samuel and God, so He let them have what they wanted in Saul.  It was literally only 5 chapters later that Samuel would inform Saul of his firing and soon replacement.  1 Samuel 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Let’s dig into this a little bit more.  There are two Truths we should know about God’s leadership: 

  1. God Will Never Force His Leadership on Man:  God provided leadership for the children of Israel for nearly 500 years, which included His desired leadership structure (Judges) and method of selection (God).  However, Israel determined that they wanted new leadership and they wanted to be like other countries.  This was because their current leader, Samuel, whom God placed in charge, was getting old and he was allowing his sons to lead the people.  Samuel’s sons were dishonest, they did not follow their father’s example, taking bribes and perverting justice.  Now my intentions today were not to find any correlation between our current administration (2020) and Samuel’s corrupted sons, so I will not (even if it certainly seems like there are definite similarities).  Anyway, God knew that His leadership was the best for Israel, but since they did not want it, He allowed them to choose something different.  The same thing is true for us today, we need God’s leadership and following Him is the best thing for us.  However, when we desire to do something different or when our way seems better than His; God is willing to allow us to make that decision. 
    As a parent, there have been many of times when my kids did not agree with my leadership and desired something else, but I was not willing to oblige them, yet God is so gracious that He does not hold our ignorance against us.  God is Omnipotent (all powerful) and Omniscient (all knowing), so unlike me as a parent, He knows the future and has the power to change it.  Because of that His ways will always be better than ours, even if He will not force us to follow Him. 
  2. God’s Criteria is Vastly Different Than Man’s:  There was a vast difference between Man’s selection for King and God’s.  The Lord sought for Himself a man after His own heart.  God allowed Saul to be King, but God sought for Himself, a man to hold this important office.  The word sought, in Hebrew the meaning of this term is to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer).  We look at resumes, credentials and letters of recommendations when filling a position, God searches the heart; and what he found in David was a man after His own heart.  So, what did God see in David’s heart that so moved Him to make David King?  Here is the amazing thing about God; we’ve talked about is Omniscience and it was prevalent in this story.  Samuel is informing Saul about God’s decision, even though his replacement was not anointed for some time after this declaration.  Saul did not meet God’s criteria, but he satisfied man’s desires, he looked the part.  Yet, the entire time God had already selected who His first King would ultimately be. 
    We would later learn that it was David’s WHIP that made such an awesome impact of God.  Of course, it would seem that I’m trying to be “Cool Dad” a little bit, using an old term to seem cool (my kids would call me out for it). A WHIP is a term that in politics refers to an official of a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature.  So, this is a leader who is tagged with the responsibility of ensuring that everyone is following the same rules/laws.  But it has also simply come to represent a car. It has been said that it was used a long time ago when a whip would be used to steer the horse-drawn carriages.  Yet even more than a car, more of a status symbol, the coolness or expense of your car speaks of how one sees themselves or others.  Well what would I use that here, because it was the status of David’s heart that attracted God to him.  What then is David’s WHIP, and is it something that we should all desire?
    • Worship: David truly understood worship; the act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God.  He acknowledged all of God’s wonderful attributes, he received God’s love and told God how special he was.  If you don’t believe me, check out the numerous psalms that David drafted probably just after he’d sang them to the Lord; many we are familiar with and others are still to be explored.  David found out through worship, that it moved the heart of God, He is always on the lookout for it “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23).” 
    • Humility: The definition for humility is “freedom from pride or arrogance.”  That really captured David to a tee, he was willing to defer from pride even when he knew God had anointed him King.  Whether it was serving and honoring a father that did not deem him valuable or serving a King that he knew he would soon replace.  He was able to detach from pride and even when he was arrogant he was able to (95% of the time) immediately acknowledge his wrongs and be transparent with God (Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight). 
    • Integrity: David’s character was at times impeccable; he trusted and served God with the utmost distinction.  He responded to God given authority with such humility and professionalism; so much so, that while Saul attempted to kill him every time, he had an opportunity to harm, he refrained because of God’s word.  David did the right thing even when nobody was around.  David knew that continual assessment to maintain his integrity (Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting). Allowing God to challenge him and share with him those areas we typically try to hide, that takes courage and David demonstrated this constantly. I wish we all had David’s Integrity.
    • Prayer:  One thing David understood was where his help came from, (Psalm 121… I will lift up my eyes to the hills– From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the Lord).  The key to this understanding, however, was David knew how to access this help, he communicated with God more than anyone besides Jesus.  David was constantly in conversation with God, whether seeking guidance, giving praise or even cursing his current situation.  David consistently talked to God; he believed that he moved the heart of God with his worship, and moved the hand of God with his praise, yet his prayer life made it all possible.  David models the value of a powerful prayer life, the consistent communication with God opened his heart to receive direction and favor for the people he was charged to lead. 

We cannot be David, but we can use David’s example to help us move to the next level of relationship with God.  If we want to be men after God’s heart, we need to inspect our WHIP. How is your Worship, Humility, Integrity and Prayer??

Happy Birthday Princess

Eleven years ago today, God gave us Grace.  Literally!!   My Daughter (named for God’s Grace) was born and has blessed our family’s life tremendously.  Her first decade has been filled with loving us greatly, filled with compassion for others and a heart to treat people better than she herself is often treated.  It is an amazing trait, characteristic, gift that only Jesus could give.  She has been the epitome of God’s Unmerited Favor; Grace.
While she is certainly not perfect, when she is flowing in the love of Christ, she’s given His perfect love to us all…and we are grateful!!  In celebration of her Special Day; I want her to know how special she is and just how much her Daddy Loves her….. Happy Birthday Princess.  

Get Thee Behind Me 2020

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been brutal.  Do you remember Watch Night Services all over the country on New Year’s Eve 2019?  I do, 2020 Vision; 2020 Provisions; Moving into the Land of Plenty in 2020; Reaching My Destiny in 2020.  Most could not wait until 2020; but I tell you that it has been difficult to see any of those through what we’ve witnessed in the first 8 months of the year. An unseen virus (COVID 19) that has taken more than 183,000 lives in this country. It decimated a dynamic US economy and record number of people now unemployed. Schools shutdown; businesses closed; the whole world went into quarantine. For days, weeks, and even months families remained inside relegated to maybe a grocery store. How could this be a prosperous year when all these things are happening??

If you are Black in America, this has been a devastatingly tragic year.  Black people have been dying at 3 times the amount of everyone else.  Young black men being gunned down both by Police and vigilantes attempting to take the law into their own hands.  Thankfully these acts were captured on video and shown globally; which has led to outrage and protest all over the world for social injustice, rivaling only what was seen back in the 60’s.  For the first time in history the condemning and disgust of racism and inequality has been shared by more people than ever before.  As if that was not enough, we’ve seen the deaths of very prominent Black Icons in Congress, Sports and Entertainment; the great John Lewis, a trailblazer for civil rights; the relentless Kobe Bryant, a role model for so many; Big John Thompson Jr., Legendary Coach (First Black Coach to Win a NCAA Championship opening the door for all of the Black Head Coaches today) and most recently the incomparable Chadwick Boseman who portrayed Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown and of course King T’Challa of Black Panther fame.  With all the death in the Black Community I can personally tell you I’m so ready for this period to end. 

The reason I selected this scripture though is because Peter while hearing what Jesus said to all His disciples, but Peter could only see the negative and its impact on him; while not being able to see God’s purpose filled plan for the redemption of the world.  22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”  Peter cracks me up because I see a lot of his Sanguine in myself.  I can see how he brazenly pulled Jesus to the side to tell him that he knew better than the Christ.  I know that I’ve been that arrogant before, how about you? 

Anyway, it is Jesus’ response that I want to focus on today.  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.He ordered Peter behind him, not physically but Peter’s influence.  He could not be moved by what Peter was saying because it would negatively impact His purpose.  Which would have ultimately impacted all our futures.  Jesus call Peter an offense; the term means a snare or a stumbling block.  I believe that if we are not careful, we will allow the death, injustice and economic downfall to hinder us from the purpose of God during this time.  What is the purpose of all this you ask?  I do not know, but what I do know is that there has been some incredible growth that has happened during this year. 

Whether it be the time I’ve had to spend with my family, certainly seeing them more due to working from home as opposed to being gone and traveling often; or getting to know my teenagers a bit better especially at a time when they are in high school soon to be out of the house, or my little person who is no longer little but going into middle school.  Even the time spent with my wife being able to appreciate much of what she does every day and also dealing with the areas of improvement need in order for us to continue growing together.  Probably the most import has been me being as my son’s latest album (found on all platforms) is titled, “True to Myself.”  Dealing with the issues that I have been able to ignore because of the business of life and ability to mask when so many others are around.  Yet, when you’re in isolation, they must be dealt with.  These are all positive things that have come out of this tumultuous time we find ourselves in. 

I’m pretty sure that because we have not been mindful of the things of God, we’ve been exposed to the may ugly truths that our country and world have been experiencing.  I will be honest 2020 has made me sad, furious, empathetic, emotional, helpless and even rageful.  But as much as I am ready for it to leave, to just go and be over, I’ve learned that what I want most out of the is to learn what are in God’s plan for me, as well as what things God wants to purge from me.  I hope that you to will at some point be able to look beyond the hurt and the pain to see God.  Just as God was not in all the chaos when taking to Elijah; “1 Kings 19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice,” He was in the still small voice.  Are you able to hear the still small voice over the hurt and pain of 2020?

It’s Time to Lose Your Mind

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God

We’ve been living thru a pandemic for the past 5 months now.  For most of that time, if you’re like me and my family, you’ve spent it in quarantine.  A quarantine as many now know, is a state, period, or place of isolation in which people that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.  This strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease; however, it has produced tremendous challenges for everyone. 

Some people have used the time to thrive, to be creative and find new things to do themselves or with family.  Many people have attempted to do just that, but after 5 months (some after one month) have just about gone crazy.  They feel like the famous DMX song “I’m About to Lose My Mind; Up in Here.”  I contend that we need to all be of that mindset.  But before we allow the pandemic and other chaos around us right now cause us to feel like we are losing our minds; why not go all in?  We need to lose our natural minds and take on the Mind of Christ.  After all; “1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 

In order to have the mind of Christ, we need our minds renewed, at least according to Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church.  If not renewed, our minds will conform to the mindset of the world; or a mixture of many differing worldly mindsets.  And when left to exercise our own thoughts, Paul said “Romans 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened,” we go dark.  Let’s look at the three steps to having the mind of Christ, laid out in Romans 12.

  1. Stop, You’re Going the Wrong Way: And do not be conformed to this world.  Paul beseeches (an urgent and fervent request) the reader in the first verse to take heed of what he had to say.  What was so important?  Stop, You’re Going the Wrong Way!!!  The word he uses is conform, which means to comply with rules, standards, or laws; goes further to state behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards.  Most people don’t know this, but we did not always have cell phones.  There was once a time when traveling in a car, you had to actually look at a map, prior to leaving or having a passenger in the car follow along with a map to ensure the driver was actually moving in the right direction.  We’ve become so accustom to our readily accessible phone GPS that tells is moment by moment directions, which quickly inform us if we go off the corresponding track to our destination.  Previously, we could plan and plan but if the navigator (passenger in charge of the map) took his eye of the map for a few moments too long; the drive might loudly hear “Stop, You’re Going the Wrong Way!!!”  Paul was acting as the Navigator for Christians both then and now.  He is yelling Stop; because many followers of Christ were complying to the wrong rules, they were behaving as was accepted by everyone else, but they were going in wrong direction, away from Christ.  Though they thought they were doing the write thing or at least the thing that would get the most approval from everyone around them.  Jesus did not conform, as a matter of fact He and His Disciples were easy to target, because the did not do what everyone else was doing.  It is time to turn around; be different stop following the trends.  Stand Out   
  2. Re-Newbut be transformed by the renewing of your mind:  The way to Stand Out; to turn and go in the right direction, is to transform.  The driver would have to pull over and re address the map to figure out what they now needed to do in order to get back on the correct path.  This would require a new route.  That is what renewal is; Webster’s defines renew as “to resume (an activity) after an interruption.”  Conforming to the ways of the world, is the interruption, to having a mind of Christ.  When we find our walk interrupted, we must make a transformation, by the renewing of your mind: I like to take the simple meaning out of a word and to renew, or Re-New, means to continually re-new or making new.  Every day, reading God’s Word, spending time with Jesus and walking in obedience to God’s direction.  This must happen continually, because the natural mind needs help to submit to the mind of Christ in us a believer.  However, there is an outstanding benefit to renewing our minds. 
  3. Live in the GAP: that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God: When we renew our minds and take on the Mind of Christ, we are able to live in the GAP.  The Good, Acceptable and Perfect Will of God.  What does that look like?  It will often result in living in a peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7); when chaos is all around and you should go crazy, but God gives you a calm that makes no sense to the people around you.  It can also look like God’s grace given at the perfect time; providing for a need without any notice (Phil 4:19).  Or maybe it is just God speaking a Word that may not change your situation immediately, but it changes the way you view the situation (Luke 5:5).  As we renew our minds, our lives become transformed and we live, see and hear God in a new way.  We dwell in the perfect will of God, and that is the BEST place to be.

When the Truth Hurts

John 8:32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Here we have one of the more famous scriptures in the Bible; yet today I’m seeing it so much differently, almost as if I’d never heard it before. I’m used to seeing this as evangelistic verse that explains the process of a non believer coming to know the truth of Christ for the first time. Or when a true believer learns a new understanding of God’s promise to us. Then that understanding becomes a transformational point in their life.

However, today what I see is how knowing the truth can set you free; and yet that very freedom can reveal hurt and pain you’ve inflicted on others. So the first Truth that is hopefully learned today is that regardless of where we are in our walk, we can still come to know The Truth.

Secondly, we need to keep (continuously; sustained) believing in and abiding in Jesus. The text tells us that Jesus was talking to the Jews, but not just any Jews but only the ones that were believers. Does this mean that God does not talk to non-believers, of course not He speaks to everyone. But He certainly chooses to have a more regular dialogue with those of us who believe (we call it prayer). Jesus explained that those who dwell on God or keep their mind’s on the Word (meditate); are disciples and know The Truth.

Lastly, Jesus tells us that once the Truth is known, it will make us Free. In my case recently the Truth was made known and what it revealed was my failure as a husband. Now while I knew I was not the perfect husband, I never realized the level of hurt and pain I’d been causing my wife for years, because I failed to “Put Her First; Above Myself,” like Christ Loved the Church (Eph 5:25).

You know how the buzz words for so many people these days is live your truth. The problem with that is, if everyone has a different truth then we’ve got billions of truths to figure out. However, only by knowing The Truth, can we be set Free. In my mind, I was not great but I was doing OK; in reality I was causing significant hurt/pain and resentment.

Now I titled this “When the Truth Hurts,” because The Truth; Jesus Christ (John 14:6), made me free by by revealing the Truth to me. Because He set me free I now need to deal with the Hurt I caused. We were recently, attending a virtual marriage conference, and a Kevin Plank quote was used; “trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.” I will have to be like Nehemiah and begin rebuilding our trust. So when the truth hurts, it’s time to rebuild and since it takes a heck of a lot of drops to fill the knocked over buckets. There’s a Ton of Work to Do; and I cannot do it myself…..But God is Able; actually More Than Able (Eph 3:20)!!

A Son

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given
.

Today I have the pleasure of celebrating the 15th year I’ve had with my youngest Son. He was made in the image of God, but looks a lot like my Father in Law. He’s outgoing like me but deep feeling and motivated like my wife. For the last 15 years he has made me laugh, smile, cry and even throw things. Yet, just the mention of his name sparks joy in my heart. I love being a father because it gives me a chance to attempt to show him a portion of the Love that God always shows me. This day is still sweetly bitter because as I celebrate his birth, it is a year closer to the day he leaves to begin his own trek towards Fatherhood. On August 2nd, 2005 unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given.

Happy Birthday Son!!

God Doesn’t Remember; So We Can Be Restored

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

I was recently watching a TV Show where the main character found herself locked in the back seat of a car, or at least she thought she was locked in.  The problem was not that she could not get out of the car, but that the experience triggered in her a memory of a time in her past when she nearly drowned in a vehicle, it was the worst moment of her life.  It was amazing that everything was fine then suddenly, in one moment, her entire perspective of life changed.  It was an obvious case of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder); a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.  The bottom line is that regardless of how bad or great life is, a trigger can bring back a memory which completely paralyzes you.  The thing is we do this quite often, as Christians, we often remember our worst days, our worst actions or our worst sin.  Those memories alone can’t harm us, but what the enemy will do is play those memories against our personal insecurities.  Which is why Hebrews reminds us that God knows all our “sins and their lawless deeds” and loves us anyway.  He goes further than that though, He not only forgives us of our sin and shows us mercy, He also refuses to remember them.  Let’s dig into that……

  1. God Wills: For I will.
    Two times in this verse, God declares that “I will.” This is powerful because so often we wonder if God is willing to step into our lives; or willing to change our situation. Here God is letting us know that He is willing to show us mercy, He is willing to go beyond our poor choices and extend Grace. God knows everything about us, but He is still willing to enter our circumstances, our issues, our problems. Most times the people who want to get all up in our business, cannot do anything about what you’re going through. Yet, the one who can change everything is Willing to be on your side, He is willing to take action for your benefit. Before you give up the fight, know that God is willing to go to battle for you; He’s willing to disregard the things He knows about you or about what you’ve done in order to take up your cause.  God is willing, now are you willing to believe Him? 
  2. God Covers: I will remember no more.
    The writer of Hebrews wants to let Israel know that the covenant that they’ve been taught about and have memorized since childhood has changed. The church must also know that God has changed His process/procedure of redemption after Jesus’ loving sacrifice. Our policy has changed. Have you noticed that every time your health care or insurance policy changes anything? The company is required to tell you when and if anything, to do with your coverage changes. God is using the New Testament to show believers the changes in our coverages. What is it that this new policy covers? What are the stipulations that cause us to lose our coverage? Sometimes our policy only covers us up to a certain amount or if there are preexisting conditions. You need to know today is that because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are now covered; our coverage actually increased. We are no longer penalized for our past; the conditions of our lives before we got saved.  God’s love covers our sin “1 Peter 4: 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins;” “Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.”  God’s Sprit Care Policy covers everything we’ve done, will you file your claim?
  3. God Restores: I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.
    Webster’s defines restoration as “the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.”  They even use the example of restoring power to a king or politician who had it taken away. In that same way, man was made in the image of God, given Dominion and Authority over all the earth; yet when Adam sinned that was take away. Throughout the old covenant law, in an effort to atone for the sin every man carried, a series of sacrifices and ceremonies were executed. Sacrifices of bulls, goats, lamb and birds would temporarily make all of the sin, poor choices and actions go away. The animals would exchange places with us, they would become sinful man. Now God says, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,” why is He saying that? Because Jesus would make the ultimate exchange; becoming all sin for every man; replacing Adam and his failure with the Perfect Love of God represented in Jesus Christ.  Jesus restored us to God!  It was Jesus who replaced Adam and it was His sacrifice on the Cross that allows us to become the Righteous of God, “2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Man’s power and authority was restored, when Jesus replaced Adam.  His original sin, which caused each one of us to be born into sin, now has been replaced with Christ’s perfect love.  Just as Jesus restored the body of leapers when He healed them; Luke 6:10 And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.  Jesus has restored us by His Grace via forgiveness of sin, because “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  He has forgiven us of our past, then intentionally forgot everything He forgave so that it will never be able to show itself again to derail our walk.  We have been restored to be the image of God, with Dominion and Authority.  Will you receive it.   

We can walk boldly in our relationship with God, because the things that trigger our past can no longer paralyze us.  For we now know that God Wills to extend His Grace on our behalf; God Covers all sin and the acts that we’ve ever done; finally, God Restores us from sinfulness to God’s Righteousness.  Now when the enemy brings up our past to flare up our PTSD, we can resist (James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you) because Jesus replaced us on thru the Cross.

Loving You!!

John 15:9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

In 1974 Minnie Riperton, pinned one of the greatest love songs known to man.  The lyrics start so simple and to the point, “Lovin’ you is easy cause you’re beautiful.”  I believe that she just may have taken those lyrics from Solomon; because in the 4th chapter of Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), God speaks to us these words: “vs 7 You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”  Regardless of the origin of those words the power remains clear; Loving You is easy because You are beautiful.  My question for us today is two-fold:  What if loving me is not easy?  What if I’m not Beautiful?  Then can I not be loved? So Let’s Dive In…. 

I’m on my computer a great deal of the day and while working at home during this quarantine it becomes most of the day.  I’m not sure if you’re like me, every time I open a new browser on Microsoft Edge, it sends me to a news page that rifles thru the day’s top stories.  This is meant to be informative but is often more distracting than anything.  It allows me to stay up on current events but can also take you down in the weeds of useless data.  Like a couple of days ago when on the news feed a story popped up about a very well-known actress, acknowledging that she’s had an affair while her and her enormously famous husband were separated while trying to work on their marriage.  My inquiring mind wanted to know what happened and, in the video, attached to the article the actress said something that resonated and caused me to question Minnie Riperton’s 1974 declaration.  She said that she “could not find happiness outside of herself.”  Which she later stated that she wanted to feel good and thought it could get it from that relationship. 

This paralleled with a recent conversation with my wife; where she reminded me about how in rejecting your help, you reject yourself.  Which is why I have conjectured that John, Minnie and Jada were on to something, Love is easy when you abide in the Lord’s Love and first learn to love yourself.  There are three quick things I believe that we must all understand if we are going to be able to love ourselves and others the way Jesus shared in John chapter 15.  We must:

  1. RESEARCH: Just How Much God Loves Jesus (As the Father loved Me).  Research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.  Therefore, we’d need develop a strategy on how we will determine God’s love for His Son.  If we walk thru each book of the bible, we can see powerful ways in which God demonstrates His love for Jesus.  We can see in Genesis thru the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, or Jacob and his Son’s Joseph & Benjamin witnessing their deep and passionate love for their sons.  Or we could go to Exodus and see how God navigated the life of Moses (a type or symbol of Christ’s Leadership of the Church) to spare his life under tremendous attacks including rescuing him and all of the Israel from imminent death.  Or how Leviticus meticulously detailed the designs and construction of the tabernacle, which provided a conduit for God to have a meeting place for the people He created to praise Him.  That location was the physical representation of the position Jesus would one day to bring God to His people.  This could go on and on; book by book; nearly chapter by chapter; of the Great Love God demonstrates toward Jesus (Love, Leadership & Location).  Do your research, and you will know for sure that God has a great Love for Jesus.   
     
  2. RECEIVE: The Love Christ Has Us (I also have loved you).  Every Christmas many of us ensure that we exchange gifts with our loved ones, friends and colleagues.  During the gift exchange you give a present to someone and you hope that they appreciate it.  You see we are so excited about the gift we never for once think about whether or not the person is going to receive that gift.  Of course, they are going to receive this gift, I gave it to them.  Funny enough Jesus Loves us the same what God Loves Him.  However, just because Jesus loves us, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will receive it.   I know that so many times, I look at how much Jesus loves me, and I just don’t feel worthy of His love.  How can someone so perfect, love someone so imperfect.  The fact is, if I give my wife a gift, regardless of how wonderful it is, if she does not receive it, she could never enjoy it, be blessed by it, or receive the benefits from it.  Likewise, if we do not receive Jesus’ love; we cannot be filled (Eph 3); have our fear cast out (1 John 4); sins covered (1 Peter 4); nor would we know how to love anyone else (John 13).  Unless we receive Jesus “gift” of Love we cannot access any of the benefits.  It is the benefits of Love that become our key to loving other people.    
  3. REMAIN: In the Love of God (abide in My love).  Now once we’ve done our research and received the precious love God has for us, it is imperative that we Remain in that Love.  I truly believe that definitions almost always hammer home the understanding of a word or concept.  The word remain is defined as “continuing to possess a particular quality or fulfill a particular role.”  We need to possess (own, take, have) the Love of Jesus and the benefits (that come with that love) in order to have the ability to love ourselves.  If we cannot love ourselves, we lack the tools to properly love others.  In same video reference earlier, Jada talks about how she did not have the capacity to lover her husband until she dealt with herself. 
    One of the areas I find difficult is when stress robs me of my joy and I’m feeling low; then I bring my misery with me wherever I go.  If I don’t receive Jesus’s Love and get filled with His fullness (Eph 3) I will make all around me just as miserable.  Or when I fall short by sinning, rather than spiraling downward because I failed, I must be reminded of His love, which has already COVERED all of my sin (1 John 4).  Or when I’m afraid things are not going to work out; I have to received Jesus’ “Perfect Love.”  The only way I can love someone else is to Love Me like, Jesus loves me, which is how God loves HIM. 

The truth is simple when I do the research to see how beautiful God’s love is for Jesus, I am then able to receive that same love.  Once I receive love, I have the benefits that make it possible for me to say “Lovin’ Me is easy cause His Love is beautiful.  La la la la la la la… do do do do do.”  Ms. Minnie would be very proud to know that her song remains universally loved and can also serve as a love learning tool for understanding God’s Perfect Love for Me.

It’s Time to Teach

Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things

There is a phrase in this text that has always intrigued me, it says that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them.”  He was moved with compassion, because he saw a group of people that needed something; they need to be reached.  What is even more intriguing to me is all that lead up to His moment of compassion.  Jesus had been teaching in multiple synagogues, the Jews were being schooled on the repentance of sin and belief in God.  Yet while Jesus was powerfully teaching all over, the very people from his hometown rejected His gift because they knew Him as a child.  Also, His cousin, John the Baptist was being beheaded by King Herod; an unjust and unlawful murder of an innocent man.  Jesus was preaching, healing and serving till exhaustion; he was being rejected by many including those closest to Him; and His family and closest connections were being unfairly prosecuted.  This would discourage most people; but not Jesus. 

Can I be honest with you; with the world on stay at home orders; regular people dying across the nation at record numbers by an invisible disease lingering around; a socially corrupt system exposing it’s inherent racism and generational abuse for many people who look like me; jobs being loss and many businesses feeling the impacts; while powerful people in charge of fixing the problems are worried more about elections than the people they should be serving; or even regular everyday people becoming more concerned about being pampered than keeping vulnerable people safe; during this time my heart has become harden towards many people. 

Even while much of this chaos going on in the world today has not negatively impacted me significantly; we’ve been extremely favored during this time, yet I’m lacking compassion for some people and need to know how to change that.  How is it that Jesus can find compassion, when personally being exhausted, rejected and prosecuted?  Here He is found having compassion on this group of people; merely because “they were like sheep not having a shepherd.”  Well it is because He saw the people and not his problems.  I truly believe if more of us could take this perspective in our own lives; we’d be much better people.  Jesus saw that the need of this large group of people (we would find out was more than 15,000 people; 5000 men not including women and children); required His immediate attention.  That need drowned out any of His personal issues at the time.  He saw that these people needed guidance, knowledge and sustenance.  Therefore, Jesus made a decision that he would do three things:  Teach, Organize and Feed the people.

  1. He Taught the People: “So He began to teach them many things.”  I was recently talking to one of my best friends about what it takes to teach something effectively.  He’s a professional that has become a subject matter expert in the area of training and shared that there are three steps which can be taken to ensure that the material is effectively taught. 
    People must be taught something new (something they don’t already know) or something familiar in a new way (a new perspective of an old topic); they must be give a choice in what they are being taught (there has to be a point of choice); and finally it must benefit them or have a good result.  Jesus obviously is the one who came up with this method, prior to it being taught at our major universities.  This was after all His M.O.  Jesus came onto the scene teaching repentance in a way that the Chief Priest and Synagogue Teachers had not be accustomed to hearing.  He used parables to help the people relate to and understand the truths of His teaching.  Jesus offered each person a choice, to believe and follow Him, the Son of God or remain in your sins and out of covenant with God.  The choice Jesus gave produced an abundant life.  A life of joy and eternal love, that was not all roses, but it provided a future and hope for those who chose it.  Jesus was indeed the perfect teacher, who’s compassion moved Him to ensure these lost people not only had the Truth but the opportunity to have a Father.  Jesus in His compassion for the people taught them “many things.”
  2. He Organized the People: “Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.”  A few of Jesus’ strengths was bringing people together from all over and providing order to any situation.  After teaching many things to this multitude of people, who had come from all over to see Jesus.  There was no structure or pattern taken to get to Him.  The people got in where they fit in.  Now, the teaching was done, and it was the compassion of Jesus to bring some structure to the chaos that this moment had left.  Between the COVID pandemic, the numerous amazing demonstrations across the world for social change and the push to get people back to work; the word chaos does not really do justice to the confusion that is hitting America during this time. 
    However just as God gave wisdom to the disciples to “make them all sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties,” He has also provided direction to many significant leaders to provide organization that has helped the people needing service today.  Churches and humanitarian groups across the world have banned together in money and manpower to get much needed resources (food, toiletries, testing, mask, gloves, money, whatever was need) to the people most impacted by COVID 19.  As people stepped up wanting to peacefully protest the police killings and overall social injustice, organizations like Black Lives Matter, Empact, Campaign Zero, Color of Change and many others jumped into action and organized march locations, times and protocols from all over country.  Even our Government attempted to organize locations for small business owners to apply for essential loans and funding to keep their business afloat during an unprecedented time for the economy.   Jesus in His compassion for the people, helped to organize them “in ranks,” so that they could effectively receive the assistance they needed.
  3. He Feed the People: “And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all.”  While the disciples realized the overwhelming task of trying to provide help to so many people; they saw the only answer as sending them away.  Not Jesus, His compassion for people is such that He must step in.  Especially when it means doing something miraculous.  In this text, Jesus knew how He would help but just as He helped to get people organized, He desired to use other people to feed this multitude.  One young boy had five loaves and the two fish, Jesus used that to feed over 15,000; when He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves.  Jesus will always feed us, whether it was nutritional, spiritual or emotional; And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Today, God is using the compassionate hearts of many to serve and feed millions of people without money to get something to eat; front line workers who don’t have the time to get something to eat and many people that because of death or loss now find themselves unable to even have the desire to eat.  This text demonstrates our Lord’s heart for us in that He has great compassion for us; because He knows that we all help navigating through our lives.  And in a transformative time, like the one we all find ourselves living in today.  Jesus shows us how to receive teaching, while also being able to teach others, help them organize so that they can receive the help that they need.