Archive for November, 2008

VerticalMoralityScaleGIFHow good are you? Let’s draw a scale to represent “goodness.” We’ll put God at the top of the scale. Scripture says that He is perfect in all His ways and that His goodness knows no bounds. He is the pinnacle of goodness.

Now where would you put yourself on the scale? Well, before you try to figure that out, let’s pick an easier one. Where would you put Mother Theresa on the scale? I’m guessing pretty close to the top. How about Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer and cannibal? Pretty close to the bottom I’d guess. Think of some other people you know and imagine where they would be on the scale. Now, where would you put yourself on the scale?

I’d put myself a little above the half way mark. I’m a little more good than bad, but I have a long way to go before I even approach God’s goodness. And that’s the point of the scale. Everyone on the scale, whether they are Mother Theresa, Hitler or you or me, experiences a gap between God’s perfect goodness and where they live.  That gap is what the Bible calls sin – the word actually means “missing the mark” of God’s standard.

Let’s look at a verse from the Bible:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
            Romans 6:23

This verse tells us a lot about that gap between us and God’s moral standard. Let’s look at some key words:

Wages — What we earn for something we do.
Sin — As I said above, it’s missing the mark of God’s standard. In this verse it’s what we’ve done to earn our wages.
Death — That’s what our wages are!

…in other words, we’ve earned death by sinning. Not a great wage, I’d say, but then it wasn’t a great work we did to earn it!

Gift — It’s something we receive for doing nothing – the exact opposite of wages!
God — The gift comes from God, it isn’t the result of our own actions.
Life — God’s gift is life, both now and throughout eternity. It is the exact opposite of death!

…in other words, the gift God offers to us is eternal life. It’s a pretty great gift that we cannot earn but we can surely accept.

Through Christ Jesus — Hmmm…God gives the gift, but it had to be paid for by someone. It’s a gift to us, so we don’t pay for it. This verse tells us that Jesus paid for it. We’ve already seen that the price, the wages, is death. So when Christ died on the cross, He was paying the price for our sins.

Our Lord — These two words explain how we receive God’s gift – by making Jesus Christ our Lord, by choosing to let Him be the leader of our lives.

 MoralityScaleWithSin

The gap on our scale between where God is and where we are represents our sin.  Turn the scale on it’s side and you’ll see us on one side and God on the other. The gap between us and God represents our sin and the wages we’ve earned for that sin is our death. Praise God that He sent Christ, who willingly accepted those wages on our behalf! The free gift God offers to bridge the gap between us is the death of Christ. When we accept that gift by recognizing His leadership in our lives, we are reconciled to God – give life now and throughout eternity.

 MoralityScaleWithBridgeLarge

Are you reconciled to God? Or are you choosing to live your life your own way, earning the wages of death? Accepting God’s gift of eternal life is easy. It means agreeing with God – that you don’t meet His standards – that you have sinned and therefore earned death, and then choosing to accept His free gift of eternal life by following Jesus – by living your life and making your decisions based on His leadership.

It’s that easy…and that hard. Easy because all that’s required is talking to God conversationally and asking him to forgive you for choosing sin and telling Him that you want to choose life by following Jesus. Hard because it means choosing to let God be the Lord of your life. Fortunately, it’s a process. You won’t totally change overnight, but your thoughts and desires will begin to change and that change will increase exponentially you spend time with God by praying more and beginning to read the Bible. Try it! It means life…now and forever.

If you’ve made this decision for the first time, please e-mail me at sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com. I’ll help you get off to a good start in your new life with Christ.

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Psalm 136 reviews Israel’s history and recognizes at the end of each sentence “His faithful love endures forever.” Verses 1 through 7, 10, 13, 16, 17, and 26 all begin with the phrase “Give thanks to” followed a name or description of God. So in 26 verses, 12 of them specifically say “give thanks” and all 26 of them remind us that God’s “faithful love endures forever.”

Has the writer made his point? When I look at society around me, and truly when I look at my own attitudes sometimes, I don’t think he has! How sad!

Significant snow has fallen early this year. I was watching a friend go out to his car after the first big snow the other day and he first had to brush snow off the doors before he could open them, then he had to scrape all the snow off his windows before he could drive away. As I watched him (from the cozy warmth of my house), I thought “I bet he’s annoyed about this.” That thought was quickly followed by “He’s going to spend the next five or six months in a cranky mood if he lets himself get annoyed by the snow on his car at the beginning of each day.” And that thought was even more quickly followed by the Lord whispering “so will you.” Yep. I don’t like having to go outside and scrape snow off my car in the morning, especially if I’m dressed for a meeting and not wearing proper “snow” clothes. I like to stay inside in the warmth and look at the beautiful snow outside!

‘Tis the season for crankiness, it would seem. As if the weather turning cold and snowy isn’t enough, it’s also the season for too many cars in the store parking lots, too many people pushing overflowing shopping carts in the stores, and too many people to have to wait in line behind at the check-out counter.

God has been speaking to me gently about attitude lately. The truth is He probably needs to be hitting me on the side of the head with a frying pan about my attitude because it hasn’t been very good lately. But He’s been dealing with me gently about it. (And for that I’m thankful.)

His faithful love endures forever…despite my tendency to focus on the negative sometimes.
His faithful love endures forever…despite the wrong choices I make.
His faithful love endures forever…despite…all that is my life that is not what it should be.

I am convinced that the change in attitude that I need, is one of increased thankfulness. And in order to increase my thankfulness, I must change my focus. That’s the example set by Psalm 136. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! He created all that has been created. And He did it really well! Give thanks to the Lord for He has repeatedly rescued us – even though we didn’t deserve to be rescued! Give thanks to the Lord for He provides for ALL my needs! Give thanks to the Lord because He is not like me…He is not prone to crankiness when He has to practice patience. (If He was, He would surely be cranky all the time because He shows incredible patience with me.)

For God so loved the world…He didn’t complain bitterly about it. For God so loved the world…He didn’t scold us or beat us up. For God so loved the world…that He loved us more! He loved us in a way that cost Him a great deal and in a way that we could identify with. He sent His son to make up for the difference between our behavior and attitudes and God’s standard of perfect righteousness.

‘Tis the season to set aside ourselves and to focus on the God whose faithful love endures forever. From eternity past when He created the world through eternity future when those who trust Him will live with Him forever. I hope you’re one of those people! Watch for my next blog series about what it means to be a Christian – what it means to trust God.

In the meantime, be thankful! Because God’s faithful love endures forever!

And have a blessed Thanksgiving day.

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Many people love the book of John. It has never been my favorite. Today, the first chapter of John came alive to me as I read it. Other Scriptures flooded my mind to amplify each paragraph. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope you enjoy this amplification of John 1 through other Scriptures. All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

John 1:1-5
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. 4Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Genesis 1:1-3
1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. 3Then God said [spoke the words], “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

John 1:6-9
6God sent John the Baptist 7to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8John himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light. 9The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.

John 8:12
12Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 1:10-13
10But although the world was made through him, the world didn’t recognize him when he came. 11Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. 12But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan-this rebirth comes from God.

John 3:1-8
1After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, 2came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”

3Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”

4“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

5Jesus replied, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. 7So don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again. 8Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 1:14a
14So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us…

Luke 1:26-37
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30“Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you! 31You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”

35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

Luke 2:6-7
6And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.

John 1:14b
14He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. …

John 15:9-17 (Jesus is speaking)
9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. 13And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. 14You are my friends if you obey me. 15I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17I command you to love each other.

John 1:14c-15
14…And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.

15John pointed him out to the people. He shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘someone is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.'”

John 1:1-2
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 

John 1:16-18 
16We have all benefited from the rich blessings he brought to us – one gracious blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; he has told us about him.

John 14:1-11a
1“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. 2There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. 3When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4And you know where I am going and how to get there.”

5“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!”

8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

9Jesus replied, “Philip, don’t you even yet know who I am, even after all the time I have been with you? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking to see him? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.

Romans 5:6-11
6When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. 10For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. 11So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God-all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.

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      For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
                        Isaiah 9:6  (NIV)

I’ve been meditating on the titles given to Jesus in the above passage for the last few days: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

We are so blessed to serve a God worthy of these paradoxical titles. I say paradoxical, because I wouldn’t expect the “Mighty God” to also be a “Wonderful Counselor.” The Mighty God upholds me with his strength and power. The Mighty God goes to battle on my behalf. The Mighty God rides in on a white horse as a “conqueror bent on conquest” (Rev 6:2). Read what Revelation 19:11-16 says about my Mighty God, Jesus:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Are you pumped? I am! Not because I desire war and bloodshed, but because my God is MIGHTY – He is POWERFUL – and He will some day bring justice to this world. Praise God that He has made a way for me to escape His wrath. It’s what Christmas is all about.

Here’s the paradox – that the mighty God described in Revelation is also a Wonderful Counselor! It boggles my mind a bit to think that someone with the mighty power of God is also compassionate enough to be the Prince of Peace. Yet Jesus gave us the following invitation and description of himself in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now that’s the Prince of Peace – One who lifts my burdens, who enables me to rest when I am weary, and One who gives not just physical rest, but rest for my soul. He takes the bits and pieces that are at war within me and brings peace to them. I am so grateful.

The Mighty God is also gentle and humble in heart. He was born to humble beginnings – wrapped in clothes and placed in a manger, visited by shepherds. Of course He was also born to fanfare fitting for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – An angel announced His birth to the shepherds and then “a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel” to sing praises to God (Luke 2:12).

Isaiah 9 also calls Him Wonderful Counselor and Everlasting Father. The word used for counselor means to advise well or reflexively deliberate or resolve – more like a legal counselor than a psychological counselor. Jesus is our true advocate and gives wisdom that is beyond what we can know from this world. And He is our forever God, not our “here today, gone tomorrow” God. Not only is the wisdom He gives appropriate for us today, but is wisdom for all time. It is the wisdom of a father who sees, understands and knows all things. Our earthly fathers may have tried to impart wisdom in us, but it was wisdom that came from their limited life and understanding of life. That didn’t make it bad. It just didn’t make it infallible – without error. God’s advice has no errors and He will never die. He is our everlasting father.

As I contemplated these many aspects of Jesus, the question that formed in my mind was this: Do I allow God to be these things for me? He is these things, but do I let Him be those things for me?

Do I allow Jesus to be my Mighty God when I need a defender of justice, or do I push for my own justice?

Do I seek Jesus’ face when my burden is heavy and my soul needs rest or do I push on to other things or escape into television or computer games?

Do I seek and follow God’s counsel or do I rely on my own wisdom or the opinions of others?

When I need a father – whether for protection, provision, advice, relationship or comfort – do I turn to my heavenly Father or do I try to find a substitute here on earth?

Ultimately the question that God asked me was this: Am I sufficient? Do you allow Me to meet all your needs?

May I encourage you to be challenged by the same questions? Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is he that in your life? Are you allowing Jesus to meet all your needs? He has the power, the time, the ability, and the desire. Let Him in today.

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Writing about Christmas being 6 weeks away has really gotten me thinking.

I truly believe that busyness causes me to lose so much in life. Busyness is good – when it is being busy with the right things and when it is balanced with regular times of rest. With the Christmas season coming upon us, may I challenge you to be sure your life is busy with the right things and balanced with regular times of rest? If it is not, the season will rush past you in a blur and you will not enjoy it’s wonder. You will miss what God has for you.

Busy with the Right Things
Do you know what God has called you to? Some things are a given.

  • You are called to have a deep relationship with God.
  • You are called to meet your family obligations.
  • If you are married, you have a responsibility to continually strengthen your marriage relationship.
    • If you have children, you are called to love them, care for them and teach them God’s ways.
    • You have a responsibility to honor your parents. If they are alive, that means your schedule will probably include spending time with them.
  • You are called to serve God in some way. That’s a very broad calling. If you are married and/or have children, part of your service to God is your service to your family. If your family requires much time, you will have little additional time to serve God in other ways. Don’t allow any internal or external pressure to cause you to serve God outside your family if it means sacrificing your relationship with Him or your family.
  • You are called to be an active part of the local Body of Christ. That means setting aside time to join with other believers to worship and serve God.

All other activities are secondary. Some secondary activities are important. Some just seem important. Ask God for wisdom to be able to tell which is which.

Balanced with Regular Times of Rest
If you do not set aside regular times of rest, you will be unable to enjoy the wonder of God. The Christmas season is all about wonder. The wonder of a newborn child. The wonder of a God who would step down from the heavens to be with us. Even the wonder of nature as snow falls in large flakes against the dark sky (at least in this part of the country). If you rush through it, you will miss the wonder. And that’s missing a lot!

So look at your calendars for the next six weeks. Be sure it reflects times of busyness and times of rest – in the right proportion. Then enjoy the season!

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It is exactly six weeks until Christmas. Two weeks until Thanksgiving.

I know what you’re thinking…HOW did this happen? (Secretly – or not so secretly – my husband and I have decided that the holidays ought to come every other year! They just arrive too quickly when it’s every year.)

But this year I’m excited for the holiday season. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I started reading Isaiah a few weeks ago and came across this passage in chapter 9:

6    For unto us a Child is born,

    Unto us a Son is given;

    And the government will be upon His shoulder.

    And His name will be called

    Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7    Of the increase of His government and peace

    There will be no end,

    Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

    To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

    From that time forward, even forever.

    The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

 I’m reading through the Bible using the New Living Testament (NLT) this year – I like the change it provides from what I had been reading (New International Version, NIV). But what I quoted above is from the King James Version (KJV). I’m old enough to love the sound of this passage in the KJV. But let me quote it in NLT as well, for those who might not have the KJV voice in their head:

6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!

When that verse is quoted, people usually stop in the middle of verse 7. But look at the last line – I had never noticed it before –The Lord’s “zeal,” His “passionate commitment” will accomplish  it, will guarantee it. What will it accomplish? What’s written about in verse 6 and 7a – the birth of a Son, Jesus. What, then, is God zealous or passionate about? Can it be anything other than fellowship with us? If Christ came so that we might have life (John 10:10), so that we might know the Father (1 John 5:20) – if that was his purpose in coming, doesn’t that reveal the Lord’s passionate commitment to us? I think it does. God was passionately committed to giving His son to us so that we might have eternal life with Him (John 3:16-17). Wow!

 How very much God loves us! For unto us a child is born. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying that each Thursday between now and Christmas, God will give me a Christmas message to blog. Be sure to check back each week.

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On this, the morning after the election, I imagine that at least 46% of you are unhappy at the outcome of our national elections. Some are even afraid. Let me encourage you.

  • You know that God is not the author of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
  • You know that God remains firmly seated on His throne in heaven.
  • You know that He remains sovereign over all things.

Remember the summary from Sunday’s blog. I wrote it without thinking about the outcome of elections in just a few days, but it seems appropriate today. Let me reiterate it here:

David’s Secret
David’s secret, is that his focus was on the Lord, not on his trials…The words of David in Psalm 16 confirm that David’s joy came from focusing on the Lord instead of his own situation:

8      I have set the LORD always before me.
       Because he is at my right hand,
       I will not be shaken. 
9      Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
       my body also will rest secure, 
10    because you will not abandon me to the grave,
       nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 
11    You have made known to me the path of life;
       you will fill me with joy in your presence,
       with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

David’s joy came from his confidence in a God who held David firmly in His hand and who transcended time and space to enjoy being “present” with David during David’s life and through eternity.

Did you catch all three of those things? Let me reiterate them in the first person:

  1. God holds me firmly in His hand – I need not be shaken!
  2. God transcends time and space to come down to my level so that I can enjoy His presence – and what unspeakable joy those encounters bring!
  3. God transcends time and space to take me to His presence after my life on this earth is over – eternal pleasures!

(For the whole blog, click here.)

It doesn’t matter who the president is! God is still in charge. Put your hope in Him. I’m reminded of the words of an old hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

The hymn was written about 1834 by a man named Edward Mote. Here’s the history of the hymn. 

Be blessed, friend. God is good. He is faithful. He is strong. All the time.

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I’m looking for a cheap getaway for my husband and I in December. Seems like those three words don’t compute – cheap, getaway, and December. Oh well. In the process, I thought about going to Washington, DC. We’ve been several times, but never as a tourists and I’ve heard that you can get some reasonably priced rooms during the week. Well, in the process of computer searching, I ended up at the White House website. Did you know that you can get narrated tours of various rooms of the white house on line? It’s actually pretty cool!It is not my intent to be political in this blog, but I thought this quote from President Bush was appropriate for today.

Describing a painting on the wall in the Oval Office, President Bush said this:

“This is a Texas painting by a man named Tom Lee…He wrote this at one time:

‘Sara and I live on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side that is to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone.’

I love that quote because…a president must see a day that is coming, not the day that is gone, the president has got to see a better day for America. And I do see a better day for this country. This painting reminds me of the optimistic spirit I feel in my heart for my country.”

Lord, we pray for the future of our country. May we be lead by men and women of righteousness and integrity. May we remain under the protection of Your hand. May we lead the world in sharing Your love within and outside our borders.

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I went to a political rally today. My second in about 20 years. Well, actually my second in 52 years I guess! 🙂

I am thankful that I live in a country where freedom abounds. I was able to attend the political rally without fear of repercussions. There were protestors from the other party outside the rally area and they were free to be there without fear of repercussions.

Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to live in a free land.

Thank You, Lord, for the even greater freedom you provide through Jesus. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Knowing Christ sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). It sets us free from being held captive as a slave to sin. It sets us free from having to pleasing anyone but the Lord. While simultaneously enabling us to freely choose to be a servant of all. What an amazing God!

 Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the spirit.

Romans 6:17-18
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

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In 2 Samuel 22, David sings a long song of praise to God. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about David’s life.

David’s Life
As a young boy, David was anointed to be the king of Israel…then sent back to tend his father’s sheep. The youngest of many sons, as he grew older, he was treated as the annoying little brother.  After killing Goliath, he had three different responsibilities that seem a strange mix of talents: He became a warrior for King Saul, he tended to his father’s sheep, and he was taken into King Saul’s court to play the harp for him when Saul was anxious. During this time, he seemed to shuttle back and forth between the responsibilities. That seems like a pretty strange life to me: One day playing for the king, the next day tending sheep. It would have been easy for him to begin to resent the trips back and forth or the difference between sleeping in the king’s palace and sleeping near the sheep.

During that time, David developed a deep friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime friendships. But the friendship was torn from him when Saul became irrationally enraged at David and sought to kill him. Saul’s anger sent David on the run for many years, and he sometimes came within minutes of losing his life.

Eventually Saul died and David became king. There were some good years, but even the good years were filled with fighting wars. War is not pretty and it’s not good.

There was the dalliance with Bathsheba, and the death of David’s son as a result of it. David knew it was because of his sin that his son died. What a heavy burden to carry.

David had many sons and daughters. Tamar was one of his beautiful young daughters; she had an equally good looking brother Absalom. Life was good…until Tamar was raped by a half-brother, Amnon. Absalom killed Amnon then fled to live in exile. On that day, he lost two sons.

Eventually Absalom becomes bitter toward his father, David, and sought to kill him. David was again on the run for his life.

Eventually, Absalom was killed by David’s men, and David mourned the loss of another child.

Absalom’s death restored David to the throne of Israel, which carried with it the responsibility to fight more wars to protect the country. At one point, Scripture describes David as “weak and exhausted,” cornered by his enemy and about to be killed (2 Samuel 21:15-16). One of his soldiers came to his rescue.

David’s one desire was to build a temple for the Lord. The Lord said “thanks, but no thanks.” David was a man of war and the Lord would not give him permission to build the temple. He gave him permission to gather all the supplies so that his son, Solomon, could build the temple. While I imagine it would have been a blessing to know that his son would be able to build the temple, I can’t help but imagine that there was a bittersweetness to it because it was something David so longed to do.

Eventually David died and was buried.

David’s Song
My point in reiterating all of this is to say that this mighty man of God lived a pretty crappy life, by my standards. He was unappreciated by his family, his best friend was ripped from him by a crazy father and king. He spent years on the run because that king was to kill him, then years later he spent more time on the run because his own son was trying to kill him. (He’d done nothing to provoke the anger of either.) His son died and the responsibility for that death was laid at David’s feet. His daughter was raped, and two more sons were killed because of it. David’s burning desire was to build a temple for God and God only allowed him to collect supplies. Even during the good times, his life was full of the horrors of war and the separation from his family.

And yet, 2 Samuel 22 (as well as many of the Psalms) records David’s song of praise to the God.

The Source of David’s Song
As I reflected on David’s life and his reaction to it, I realized that it is not an easy life that puts a song of praise in our mouth. It is not money and the adulation of others. It is not being rich in family and friends. It is not even fulfilling the purpose for which God has created us. Those things might bring a measure of happiness, a measure of ease of living, but it is not from those things that our song of praise truly resonates. It is from the nearness of God in the midst of trial that our faith is built and our love for a Savior is forged.

In chapter 22 of 2 Samuel, David’s song of praise rings out. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior,” he sings. David knew God as the One who is faithful, strong and able to save. Had he not experienced the wars in his life, he would not have truly known God ability to rescue the one who needs to be rescued. David described his need for God’s help: “The waves of death surrounded me; the floods of destruction swept over me…But in my distress I cried out to the Lord…He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears.”

David knew that God heard his cry, and he then described God’s powerful response in the eleven verses that follow. His description illustrates a God that moved heaven and earth to rescue His servant. He sang of the quaking of the earth and the thundering of the Lord from heaven, and in verses 16 and 17 he summarized what happened: “Then at the command of the Lord…He reached down from heaven and rescued me.”

The lyrics of David’s song are strong and forceful and they leave no doubt that David had been in the dire straits and that God had delivered him. In fact, he concluded that portion of the song with verse 19: “They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me.”

David finished his song with 31 additional verses proclaiming God’s goodness, faithfulness, strength, and love. “The Lord lives!” David sang out. “Blessed by my rock! May God, the rock of my salvation, be exalted!…O Lord, I will praise You among the nations; I will sing joyfully to Your name.”

It is a powerful song written under the influence of the Holy Spirit to extol the power of a living, active God. (Click here to read the entire song.)

Let me reiterate, it was not the goodness of the Lord in good times that David sang about. It was God’s goodness when David was at his weakest.

My Secret
Want to know one of my dirty-little-secrets? Come close. Here it is: I’d like to have a cushy life. I’d like to not have to worry about having too many things to do or not enough money to pay the bills or the pain in my left knee. I’d like things to be easy. And sometimes I get frustrated and tired when they’re not.

Stories like David’s, a man described by God as “a man after my own heart,” remind me that my desires are still so unholy, so unsanctified, so untransformed. The word “holy” really means “set apart” or “totally other than.” To have a faith and love like David had, in the midst of the life David lived, would be “totally other than” anyone else I know.

I’ve taken some punches in the past few years. I bet you have, too. I have a book title in my head, but I know that I haven’t turned the corner enough to be able to write the book. The title is Dancing with a Broken Wing. It’s about dancing with joy out of a background of pain. David was a dancer.

David’s Secret
David’s secret, is that his focus was on the Lord, not on his trials. Read the song. Yes, he tells what dire trouble he was in, but it’s a necessary part of the story. Look at the number of verses given to the trouble compared to the number of verses gloriously given to the power of God. David’s focus is on the awesome power, faithfulness and goodness of His God. And it is that focus that enables Him to sing a song of praise instead of a lament of the troubles of life.

The words of David in Psalm 16 confirm that David’s joy came from focusing on the Lord instead of his own situation:

8      I have set the LORD always before me.
       Because he is at my right hand,
       I will not be shaken. 
9      Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
       my body also will rest secure, 
10    because you will not abandon me to the grave,
       nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 
11    You have made known to me the path of life;
       you will fill me with joy in your presence,
       with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

David’s joy came from his confidence in a God who held David firmly in His hand and who transcended time and space to enjoy being “present” with David during David’s life and through eternity.

Did you catch all three of those things? Let me reiterate them in the first person:

  1. God holds me firmly in His hand – I need not be shaken!
  2. God transcends time and space to come down to my level so that I can enjoy His presence – and what unspeakable joy those encounters bring!
  3. God transcends time and space to take me to His presence after my life on this earth is over – eternal pleasures!

It’s a word I use in almost every blog, but I have to say it again – Wow! My problems, no matter how big or small, truly are insignificant when I fix these three thoughts in my mind. God is so very good! Why would I want to focus on the problems of this life when I’ve got such a great God?

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