Sweetarts in Life (2 Samuel 19:4-6)


Do you remember your childhood favorite candies. One of mine was Sweetarts. I remember when they came out. They were a two inch disk that packed the best of both worlds in candy: sweetness and tartness. This candy reminds me much about life: it is filled with sweet events and also events that are tart. Things have changed since then: both my tastes and also the size of the candy, but life is still the same.

For the believer, blessing and sorrow come in the same package, it is in times of deepest hurt and sorrow when God will be present to strengthen and comfort you. The problem for many is that because their focus is so much on the hurt and sorrow, they fail to recognize God’s presence or working in their lives. David experienced just such an event.

But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. 2 Samuel 19:4-6

He sorrowed so greatly over the loss of his son that he failed to see his victory blessing and the goodness of the Lord in the people that supported him.

As you face difficulties in your life such as financial strain, an unwanted diagnosis or any type of loss, remember that the event–as a two sided coin–has more that one aspect to it. Trials and struggles will come, but the Lord has promised always to be present with you even in the midst of the struggle and he promises to see that all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

What you can do as you face trials is to stop and pray to the Lord. Acknowledge that you know he allowed this event to occur and you believe that he wants to work and manifest his presence in the trial. Pray for him to guide you and to help you recognize his workings. Rest assured: although it may take time, he will answer your prayer.

Advertisements

Forget Karma: God is Watching (1 Samuel 26:23)


If the Lord gave you what you really deserved, would you be ready for it? Would you look forward to it with joy or does the thought frighten you? What we fail to recognize is that it is not just a hypothetical question. 

The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: (1 Samuel 26:23)

These were words spoken by David when he interacted with King Saul who sought to kill him. He knew that God was sovereign and would return upon men that which they have rendered to others. The same still holds true today. The New Testament describes the principle as sowing and reaping. What you sow, you will also reap. It may take some time before it arrives, but it is coming. Just like it takes all summer for apples to grow and ripen on a tree, it may take most of a person’s life before they reap what they sow, but be sure, they will reap.  

Much of this principle concerning sowing and reaping is in relation to how we treat other people. If we sow righteousness towards others, then we will get righteous treatment back, but if we sow wickedness then wickedness awaits us.

Some may ask, “What guideline could I follow that would aid me in sowing righteousness?” The answer would be to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39). If you allow your actions to be motivated by what is best for another person or make decisions that enable you to meet the needs of someone else instead of focusing on yourself, you will most consistently sow righteousness. This doesn’t require you to give all of your money to the poor or even to live a dejected life. It only requires you to start focusing on others instead of yourself. Give somebody recognition. Show patience and mercy, try looking at situations from the other person’s perspective or even take time to listen to people and their problems are opportunities that each of us have to sow righteousness. It will not cost you one penny, but it will be an investment worth millions of dollars.

For you, the world of people is a field ready for planting. What kind of seeds will you sow?

Be All That You Should Be


Have you ever lived in the shadow of a parent or an elder sibling? If so, you constantly strove to either be like them or to overcome their accomplishments. As you may have discovered, it is a very frustrating way to live. What you or those people need is to be yourselves. This problem happens with so many people in the world, but it also happens in the spiritual lives of many.

You are what you are because it is what God is making you to be. If You follow him and allow him to work his will, he will continue to work in your life to make you exactly as he planned. You should not allow others to force upon you what they think you should be, what they want you to be or even what they may need you to be. Your goal should be to dwell in Christ and allow God by grace to work in your life and produces fruit as he sees fit.

As always, sin can destroy you and God’s plan. You can escape it’s clutch by heeding to God’s word. (Psalm 119:9). You cannot do this in your own power, but as you recognize your weakness and look to God for strength, he will deliver you from the temptation.

Trials and difficulties will come, but you must recognize them as God’s instruments for pruning and cultivating you so as to grow and produce more fruit. Each day, you should grow more in his likeness and whatever that may be, it will make you be what you are and that will be according to his plan.

Religion Still Doesn’t Work

Since nearly the beginning, sin has separated man from God and with it has brought sorrow, sickness, and emptiness in the heart of man. Throughout time, man has sought to overcome these troubles in his life and to accomplish it created religious acts or rituals, which were intended to appease God of his wrath or at the least turn away the consequences of sin that he faced.

These acts involved offering to God everything from crops to human sacrifices, the punishment of sinners or the punishment of themselves. Always, the results were unsuccessful. David described it best when he spoke to the Lord concerning his own condition.

For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. (Psalms 38:4)

The load of sin that looms over the head of every man is so great that no religious act could ever remove the effect or its debt.

Several decades ago, a teenaged girl attended a local carnival. When she failed to return home, a search was made and eventually her lifeless body was found. For more than 30 years, law-enforcement searched for the suspected killer: who was eventually found. Should he be held for trial? Of course he should! Regardless of how long ago the event occurred, he should still be held accountable.

But what if he was found living a respectable life? What if he, for the last 20 years, had been doing a great humanitarian work? Should he still be held for trial? Should he still be charged even if he has been so sorry for his crime? The answer is a resounding, Yes! He committed a crime and the penalty for that crime must be paid.

For the last 6,000 years, man has been trying to avoid paying the penalty for his sin. But regardless of what he does, the holy righteous God still requires complete payment for sins committed. The only hope for all men would be for God to determine a way for someone else to pay the debt that man owed. God did and that person was himself. He came to earth as human. Born of a virgin, he live a lonely life and yet did not sin. Throughout his entire life he did not commit one sin. For the remaining three years of his life, he taught and performed miracles to declare who it was and the purpose for his coming to earth. Then as foretold by God, he was rejected by his people, judged by the government and punished on the cross.

However God’s purpose for allowing all this to occur was so that he could place all the sin of humanity upon himself as he hung on the cross. The beatings and torture done to Jesus were extremely grave, but nothing in comparison to the punishment that God, while still yet also in heaven, punished himself as he lived as a human hanging on the cross.

Only until Jesus cried, “It is finished!” was mankind given any hope. When Jesus finished, he was finished paying the wages for our sins – yours and mine.

For those, who continue striving to pay for their own sins or are relying on religious acts to appease God’s wrath for sin will continue to fall short and carry the burden of their sin debt. Those who call upon Christ to bear there sin, will find the relief that they need. No longer is the burden of sin going over their head or too much to bear, the burden has been removed and the payment has been made. None of their sins committed have gone unpunished. Instead of them paying the debt, someone else paid the debt for them.

In America, we have discovered that countless people have been falsely charged, found guilty and sentenced for crimes that they had never committed. Society, unknowing of their wrong, was still satisfied because the penalty of the crime was being paid.  

In your case, Jesus willingly took the charge, allowed himself to be found guilty and then paid your complete payment for sin. So that your salvation could take place when you call out to Jesus and trust that he will save you.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Is Depression a Sin?

Hurt and sorrow are not emotions that you can control and store away. When they are present, it is for reason. Some may suggest that you must turn yourself around or rise above the circumstances of your hurt and sorrow. This may seem correct and may be in part, but as a whole this thinking is in error.

God has given us a comforter and he is able to lift us out of hurt and sorrow or at the least give us joy intermingled with our hurt and sorrow. Sometimes our ability to rise out of sorrow or to experience his joy is limited by two conditions or circumstances. These conditions or circumstances are time and the ministering of truth by another person.

I have heard some say that we are to have joy in the midst of our circumstances. To this I somewhat agree, but recognize the joy may not be experienced right away, but only until after hurt and pain has followed its course.

To illustrate, imagine that a person is severely punched in the face leaving the victim wincing in extreme pain. Immediately afterwards, he was approached by a believer who points out the beautiful sunset and tries to get the victim to rejoice in the power and wonder of God. As you can guess, that most likely is not going to happen.

However after the initial pain begins to subside, the victim may be confused as to why he was rejected and wounded in such a manner and then as he looks to the sunset, lifts his heart to God and rejoices in the fact that he who created such beauty loves him and will always be with him. He eventually rejoiced in his hurt and sorrow, but only after hurt or sorrow followed its course. It is not that he would not rejoice in God, but that he could not at that time rejoice in God.

Another reason why some cannot rejoice in the midst of their hurt and sorrow is because the burden is greater than they can bear. The Lord has promised that he will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to bear because at the same time he will provide a way of escape. For these individuals, the way of escape is truth.

However while being crushed under the heavy load of hurt and sorrow, the believer may not know the necessary truth needed to overcome or they may not recognize it. It is in these circumstances that other believers are instructed to bear the burden of others. Just as the Holy Spirit (parakletos) comes along side us for comfort, we are to come alongside other believers and help them bear of their burden. We can do this with empathy, love, patience and the sharing of truth that will encourage their heart and point them to the Lord. It is not a truth of telling them what they need to do, but a truth of God upon which their faith can cling. When this occurs, the Holy Spirit can continue to do his work and lift her heart from hurt and sorrow. Rejoicing will follow, but it will only be able to occur as a result of at least one person ministering to another.

Remember how those at Thessalonica were sorrowing over loved ones who have passed away? Did not the apostle Paul come alongside the believers and comfort them with the truth that one day they would be reunited and be together with the Lord? (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Also, did not Paul recognize the man who was being swallowed up with excessive sorrow and experienced this because believers did not exercise the truth of forgiveness when he repented? (2 Corinthians 2:7)

Some may deem the person struggling in hurt and sorrow as being in sin and that their hurt and sorrow, which today we call depression is in fact sin. To say that the person struggling with deep hurt and sorrow is in sin could be a sin in itself. Instead of trying to label and identify people, let us first pray to God and ask him to use us to bring truth to those who for the time being are struggling with hurt and sorrow so that their faith may cling to this truth and bring the comfort in the midst of their hurt and sorrow.

Our Inheritance (1 Peter 1:4)

In 1993, my father passed away. There were a few items that he owned, which were special to me. One item was a jewelry box. I can remember it as far back as my memory can recall. In it, he kept his cufflinks and some small change. When you open the lid, a song played an a figurine popped up and spun around. Not long after his passing, it was given to me. Occasionally, I lift the lid and listen to the music. When I do this, my heart stirs as it remembers him. To me the inheritance is of great value. 

I have another inheritance that I received for my other father, the Lord God. This inheritance is so special and it isn’t anything like the jewelry box, which has painted that is faded and flaking away. This inheritance will not decay, fade, or change from its purest state. I am assured of this because God said that this inheritance is reserved or guarded for me in heaven. I father has big plans and he isn’t going to allow anything to change or defile my inheritance.

Times may change and the world may continue to slip away into greater corruption as they embrace every low form of morality and living. It may appear as if everything right is wrong and the wrong of this world is right. Times may be troublesome on the Earth, but not in Heaven. Remember, God has a plan for you and your inheritance in Heaven is guarded and remains the same. One day, we will experience all that he has for us and only then can we fully recognize that what we endured for him was worth it all.

Guaranteed! So instead of focusing on what is happening around you, focus on him and set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Begotten Us Again (1 Peter 1:3)

There was no hope for the natural man. When Adam fell, he plummeted mankind into sin and hopelessness. When he sinned, it was not merely an act, but instead a decision that would affect everyone in every aspect of their lives. When Adam took hold of sin, sin took hold of mankind and ravished it. There was no way to stop it and he could not be reformed. The only hope for man was for him to be made a new creature.

When a person trust Christ as Savior, God makes him a new creature or a new creation. This work of mercy does not change the physical creation of man, but instead man’s spiritual state. Man’s rebirth would give him a hope – a lively hope – one that would dwell within him every day.

Life can be crushing. In your life, how many tears of sorrow have you shed? How many times have you held the hand of a loved one is their heart burst with anguish and sorrow? Your past has not been great and your future will most likely contain just as much sorrow. But since the new birth, there is a hope that lives and dwells within you. That lively hope will enable you to look to your merciful God who will provide comfort, strength and direction. How did you get this lively hope? It came because of the mercy of God.

To illustrate this, imagine you are one of the crew on the ship. While on deck, you feel the tremble as an explosion occurs below deck. The event created a gaping hole in the side of the ship. Water comes rushing in taking lives of men as it advances through the ship. 

The blast of alarms sound around you and everyone begins to abandon ship. You fall into the water and begin swimming for your life. Terror fills the air and your heart is pounding as you try your best to continue to swim. You eventually fear that you cannot go on and you just want to give up and get this whole terrifying experience over. And then, a floatation device springs up out of the water. 

Quickly you make your way towards the object and grasp it with all of your might. Immediately your heart moves from fear to hope as you cling to the device and exclaimed, “I’m saved!”

In the distance, you hear people struggling and screaming. As you float in safety, others less fortunate succumb and become one more floating casually. 

This illustration depicts your life and mine. Lost in sin, we were without hope and regardless of how much struggling to overcome the result ended in failure. And then, the Savior came. Since the moment that we clung to him, we have been saved. Oh, we may still be floating in the sea of the world, but one day, the Savior will lift us out and deliver us from the presence of all that is around us. 

We have a hope and our hope is in Christ. It is not a dead hope, but a lively one. We can live each day and face the fear of all that is around us. We can do this because we know that we will be delivered. This is our lively hope.