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It Should Have Been Me

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 17:1-29; John 19:23-42; Psalm 119:129-152; Proverbs 16:12-13

Ahithophel gives Absalom some very good advice (2 Samuel 17:1-4). He proposes a quick attack against David that would likely have worked considering David’s weakened physical and emotional state. But notice that Ahithophel is leading the attack in this plan.

But God moves Absalom to seek a second opinion form Hushai, who we know is acting as a double-agent and spy for David (2 Samuel 17:5). Hushai’s plan is different. It requires more time as he suggests that David is a mighty warrior with an organized following. But that is the old David. The current David is nothing like this.

Notice too that in Hushai’s plan it is Absalom who is going to lead the fighting and who will, therefore, get the glory (2 Samuel 17:11-14). Absalom accepts Hushai’s plan because it appeals to his vanity. But in reality it is an inferior plan because it doesn’t capitalize on David’s present vulnerability.

Here we see that God has answered David’s prayer from 2 Samuel 15:31. God was with David even though at this moment it may have seemed that He wasn’t. God had chosen David to be king of Israel and He wasn’t going to go back on that promise. It was David’s own behavior that caused all this trouble. God wasn’t going to take the kingdom from him, but He was going to allow this difficulty in order to humble David and correct him.

As Christians, when difficult times come in our lives we have to realize that God isn’t trying to get us back. He is trying to win us back. Most likely the difficulty is the result of our own on-going sin.

In 2 Samuel 17:28 we see God bringing some people into David’s life to help him. Even when we are being disciplined God will take care of us and will bless us. God’s mercy and blessings during these times is proof that He isn’t trying to punish but to correct.

Crucifixion victims were nailed to the cross naked to further humiliate them as they hung there for hours. The soldiers divided Jesus’ clothes and cast lots for His seamless robe (John 19:23) – worn by high priests (Exodus 28:31-32). This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22:18.

While hanging on the cross in intense physical pain and mental anguish, Jesus did not think of Himself (John 19:25). Jesus (who was God in a human body) came to serve. And He served right up until the end. Its amazing to realize that the God of the universe came to earth to serve an ungrateful, sinful bunch of people.

Jesus’ last words, “It is finished!” indicate that His work was done (John 19:30). He had completed what He was sent to earth to do. On the cross Jesus not only experienced physical and emotional anguish but He also took on spiritual punishment as He took the judgement from God that we deserve. It should have been me, and you, and everyone on that cross.

We have seen that Jesus willingly went to the cross. Even when He died His life was not taken from Him – He freely gave it up (John 19:30). Jesus had control over His own life and death. Clearly He was no ordinary human being. He was God in human flesh.

By not breaking Jesus’ bones (John 19:33) and by piercing His side (John 19:34) the soldiers fulfill more Old Testament prophecy (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, Psalm 34:20, Isaiah 53:5, Zechariah 12:10). Obviously these men had no idea what the Hebrew Scriptures said. Those people who claim that the prophecies of Jesus were manipulated by Him are wrong.

I think a lot of people believe that the Bible is some mystical writing that is open for interpretation because it is so hard to fathom. I used to think that. That was before I read it. But the message of the Bible is simple – anyone can understand it (Psalm 119:130).

Christians should be saddened by the reality that so many people disregard all that God is trying to teach them through the Bible (Psalm 119:136). We tend to spend our time like the world – watching TV, working too much, chasing after things that, compared to eternity, are temporary. We’d be better off spending our time teaching others how much God loves them.

A while back I read a comment by Billy Graham that the “secret” to the Christian life is total dependence on God. I think that is true. Every morning we should wake up and before we do anything else we should acknowledge our need for God’s help for that day. We should put our trust and hope in Him one day at a time, every day of our lives (Psalm 119:147).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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The Last Laugh

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 15:23-16:23; John 18:25-19:22; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 16:10-11

In our reading in 2 Samuel today David once again has to flee for his life. Previously he fled from Saul. This time he flees from his own son who is intent on taking over as king. This time, though, David is a much older man with a sinful past.

David is very repentant as he cries on his journey (2 Samuel 15:30). He seems to know that this upcoming season in his life is from God so he puts his life in God’s hands, not in the presence of the Ark (2 Samuel 15;24). Its best to not fight God when He brings a difficult season into our lives. His motive is love and His purpose is to remove our sin.

We can see God’s plan already taking effect in 2 Samuel 15:31 as David takes the time to worship God. David’s recent life had been disobedient to God. Now he correctly takes the time to restore fellowship with his creator. When we are being disciplined by God we should not run from Him but embrace Him.

We see the old David in 2 Samuel 16 when he is cursed by Shimei, a relative of Saul. Just like when his men tempted him to take Saul’s life, his advisor tempts David into taking Shimei’s life (2 Samuel 16:9). But David does not do it. He knows that this situation is from God and he leaves his life entirely in God’s hands.

This is the way we are to walk on a daily basis – open to any communication from God. God can work in our lives through believers or non believers.

Absalom arrives in Jerusalem and, in an act that would be considered treason, has sex with his father’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:21-22). This despicable act would essentially prevent any reconciliation between David and his son.

Interestingly, this is exactly what God told David would happen back in 2 Samuel 12:11-12 as a consequence of his sin with Bathsheba.

Notice too that David’s former advisor, Ahithophel, who was now Absalom’s advisor, was Bathsheba’s grandfather. His advice to Absalom to have sex with David’s concubines seems to be payback for David’s having sex with Bathsheba, who did not belong to him. That one event in David’s life has caused so many bad feelings and so many ramifications. If David could have just controlled himself that night none of this would have happened.

Jesus appears before Pilate in John 18 today. Notice that Jesus’ accusers were willing to send an innocent man to His death, yet were careful not to break the Sabbath law that would would have defiled them before the Passover (John 18:28). Hypocrites.

We previously saw that the Jews were ready to execute Jesus themselves by stoning. But if Jesus died this way it would not have fulfilled prophecy which said He must be crucified. This could only be fulfilled if the Romans executed Him for crucifixion was their method of capital punishment (John 18:31-32).

Earthly kingdoms are ruled by force and by fear. Pilate wants to make sure that Jesus is not a threat to Rome. Based on His appearance He clearly isn’t. Even His responses indicate that He is no threat to the political establishment of Rome or Israel (John 18:36-37).

Jesus is declared “not guilty” by Pilate (John 18:38). Jesus became a perfect sacrifice – unblemished by sin and guilty of no crime. This is exactly what we sinful human beings needed in order to enter heaven. Only a perfect human being who had no sin debt of His own to pay could pay the debt that we owe.

After having Jesus scourged Pilate once again tries to free Him but the crowd is now in a frenzy. They want death. (John 19:4-6). Pilate eventually relents. He doesn’t want any trouble. What is one man’s life to him? Nothing. It was more important for him to keep his job by keeping the peace. If one man had to die to prevent a riot, that was fine with him.

God has the last laugh, so to speak, in any case. When people were crucified a sign was nailed to the cross above their head which stated their crime. In Jesus’ case it read “King of the Jews”, which was not a crime at all because He really was (and is) King of the Jews (and all people). The Romans mis-wrote the sign so that it spoke the truth. Isn’t God cool?

Those who reject God’s word are only hurting themselves (Psalm 119:118). The world thinks that the Bible is out of date and useless. They think it is “progress” when we reject what the Bible has to say on topics like abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. They don’t realize it but these decisions are not progress. These decisions are only distancing people from God. And that is going to cause them to end up in hell.

Those of us who know the truth need to continue to speak out – not in an arrogant, self-righteous way. But in a loving way so that these people will realize the eternal ramifications of the errors they are making.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Hating It

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 14-15:22; John 18:1-24; Psalm 119:97-112; Proverbs 16:8-9

The dysfunction of David’s family continues today. Approached by a strage woman with a false story, David demonstrates that he is willing to offer forgiveness to a man (her son) that he does not even know while being unwilling to reconcile with his own son, Absalom.

David clearly had leadership issues. He seems to either be too soft or too hard with his children. He did not punish Amnon for raping Tamar And he seems to be punishing Absalom too harshly for taking vengeance into his own hands.

2 Samuel 14:14 is a great verse about the salvation that God offers all people. God does not ignore those who are separated from Him. This is all of us. We are all born separated from God because of our sin. Instead God came up with a plan to reconcile us to Him. That plan was the work of Jesus dying on the cross, spending 3 days in hell to pay for our sins, and rising to life again as demonstration that our sins had indeed been paid for.

Absalom returns to Jerusalem but King David refuses to see him (2 Samuel 14:23-24). Again we see David not behaving like a leader. His childish behavior will only create more problems. It is important to take an active role in solving the problems in our relationships. A pastor I once knew used to say “if you bury pain you bury it alive” meaning that pain not dealt with will come back at some point in the future. Sure enough, David’s problems with Absalom are not over.

The woman from Tekoa implied that the people of Israel were upset because of Absalom’s exile (2 Samuel 14:13). With Amnon dead (and no mention of David’s second son), Absalom was the crown prince of Israel. Additionally, he was very good-looking (2 Samuel 14:25) just like Saul was. The people of Israel are still choosing their leaders based on superficialities., much like we do in the U.S. today.

But Absalom is not a man of character. He is bitter and quick to anger (2 Samuel 14:30). True, David has not acted properly towards him. But we should never let someone else’s bad behavior affect our own. Absalom should not have killed Amnon. And he should not have burned Joab’s barley. Our behavior is always being watched by God who wants us to act just like Jesus did – when we are wronged we should take the high road.

This reminds me of my favorite verse in the Bible: “Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:27 NIV)

Even though Absalom and David are reunited (2 Samuel 14:33) the relationship is irrevocably broken. In 2 Samuel 15 Absalom plots to overthrow his father. He creates an image of himself as exciting, hard-working, a man of the people, and sympathetic while at the same implying (but not directly stating) that David was not (2 Samuel 15:1-6).

Jesus is arrested in John 18. Notice how He identifies Himself to the arresting officers: by saying “I AM” (John 18:5, 6, 8). This word that Jesus used is the same word God used for Himself at the burning bush (Exodus 3). It was a highly revered word in Israel – the name of God Himself – which is why the men fell to the ground upon hearing it. Jesus is saying that He is God.

So many of Christians are quick to get angry when we see Jesus being attacked by our society. Yet we don’t profess Him enough to others. We see Peter behaving similarly. He is all to quick to slice of the soldier’s ear but he will deny even knowing Jesus 3 times in the next couple of hours (John 18:11, 17). God isn’t asking us to fight for Him. He is asking us to tell others about Him so they can be saved.

Notice that Jesus corrects Peter (John 18:11). Going to the cross was God’s plan. Peter (and the other disciples) still didn’t understand that even though Jesus had told them repeatedly.

Nothing Jesus ever did was done in secret (John 18:20). All His teachings and miracles were done publicly for all to see. There was no insurrection going on. Jesus was God and His life simply demonstrated that through words and actions.

Psalm 119 continues today with more praise of God’s commandments which make us wise (Psalm 119:98). Anyone who reads and follows God’s instruction is wiser than those who don’t.

God’s commandments help us understand life (Psalm 119:104) and change us from loving sin to hating it. One of the main reasons why the world loves sin so much is that they ignore God’s word. The Bible has the power to change hearts. It has changed mine.

Finally the Bible is a light to guide our life (Psalm 119:105). The world is off course because it has chosen to go its own way rather than to follow the way that God has designed. I can’t even imagine what God originally intended this world be. When I get to heaven I’ll finally find out.

I often find myself wanting more money, or a bigger place to live, or a better job. But in reality I’m better off as I am because I have God. Its better to have little than to have more without Him (Proverbs 16:8).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Ridiculous Statements

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 13:1-39; John 17:1-26; Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 16:6-7

The effects of David’s many wives and children begin to be manifested today. None of the problems that we will read about in the coming days had to happen. If David has just learned to control his lust and if he has obeyed God and had only one wife, all the trouble would have been avoided.

Amnon, David’s son, lusts after his half-sister, Tamar. He calls it love, but as we will see it is really lust. She was available for marriage (2 Samuel 2:3) but was off-limits to Amnon because she was related to him.

Amnon knows that his feelings are wrong. We see this when he refused to call Tamar his own sister, which she was. He instead justifies his feelings by referring to her as his brother Absalom’s sister (2 Samuel 13:4). Instead of rejecting sinful thoughts that come into our head (whether it be lust or some other sin), we tend to find ways to justify them.

Its interesting how Amnon obeys the evil advice of his cousin, Jonadab (2 Samuel 13:5-6). If only we would obey God’s advice so easily.

David seems to be a weak father. Perhaps he had too many wives and children to manage. Or maybe he felt guilty about having so many wives and children that he indulged them. But he clearly should have said “no” to Amnon’s childish request (2 Samuel 13:7). One of the reasons David’s children will cause so many problems is due to his lack of paternal leadership. Children who are not disciplined grow up to be troubled teens and adults.

Amnon rapes Tamar and then turns on her (2 Samuel 13:15). Sexual desires often mislead us. Once they are fulfilled and our mind is cleared, our true feelings return. Amnon never loved Tamar. She was just a way for him to release sexual tension that he had allowed to build up in his mind over time.

David hears about this and although he becomes angry he does nothing (2 Samuel 13:21). David knew better than anyone how uncontrolled sexual feelings can lead to problems. He was in a prime position to discuss this with his son. But he chose not to. Fathers need to discuss these issues with their sons, especially in our sex-crazed society, so they grow up knowing that they don’t need to be controlled by their hormones.

Two years later Absalom gets revenge by killing Amnon (2 Samuel 13:29). David seems to know what is going to happen but again does nothing to stop it (2 Samuel 13:26). If David had punished Amnon to begin with it is likely that Absalom would not have taken revenge. Here we see that weak leadership and a lack of justice and consequences can only lead to more trouble.

John 17 is a prayer from Jesus, who is about to go to the cross. Notice that He prays for God to be glorified through what He (Jesus) is about to go through. The cross was defeat and humiliation in the eyes of the world. But for God it will be a display of His power over death and His love for all human beings.

Jesus claims that He has authority over everyone and that He gives eternal life  (John 17:2). This is clearly another statement by Jesus that He and God are one in the same. Otherwise, these are the ridiculous statements of a madman.

Notice that Jesus already brought God glory by doing the work He was sent to do (John 17:4). Whenever we do what God asks us to do, we are worshiping and glorifying Him.

For those of us who have been born-again, when we stand before Jesus to be judged He will declare us righteous – perfect – as if we never sinned. This is exactly how He judges His disciples in John 17:6. The disciples were often afraid, often whiny, often clueless, often selfish – yet Jesus says they have kept God’s word. We don’t become perfect when we believe in Jesus. But we are viewed as without sin. Theologically this is called “imputed righteousness”. We don’t have a righteousness of our own. But Christ’s righteousness is assigned (i.e. imputed) to us.

Jesus freely offered His life as a sacrifice for those who will believe (John 17:19). This sets Him apart from every other man (or woman) who claims to have been sent by God. None of these other pretenders ever willingly laid down their life. The religions they created were meant to be nothing more than self-aggrandizing.

Psalm 119:81 is very true. I have been experiencing this first hand over the past week or so. Things have been quite hectic and confusing for me lately. But when I do my Bible reading and blogging everyday I find comfort and hope in God’s word.

It is by God’s commands that we have life (Psalm 119:93). This is no referring to physical life but a life filled with joy and peace. God doesn’t tell us what to do and not to do for selfish reasons. He gives us instructions so that we can experience life the way He meant it to be.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Not Immune To Trouble

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-31; John 16:1-33; Psalm 119:65-80; Proverbs 16:4-5

God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin in 2 Samuel 12. Whenever we sin God will attempt to convict us through the Holy Spirit so we come to repentance on our own. But if that doesn’t work God will send other people in our lives to confront our sin.

Nathan tells the story of a wealthy man stealing from a poor man (2 Samuel 12:1-5). This is exactly what David had done. David “stole” Bathsheba from her husband Uriah. A wife belongs to her husband (and a husband belongs to his wife). Adultery is a form of theft. It is also a form of ingratitude because it shows dissatisfaction with what we already have.

Our level of spiritual maturity can be measured by how long it takes us to admit our sin and ask for forgiveness. The less time it takes the more mature. After being confronted by Nathan, David sees his sin and immediately confesses (2 Samuel 12:13).

Nevertheless, sin has consequences and David will not be spared (2 Samuel 12:14). From this point forward we never read of David committing adultery again. The sin that seems to have been in him all his life has finally been dealt with. But it took a radical series of events to bring David to this point. I’m sure he had a guilty conscience at times over the years regarding his lust. I’m sure he had many opportunities to deal with it on his own. But he didn’t. So God dealt with it. But by this time the sin was so deep that God had to do some major surgery to remove it from David’s life.

The fact that the child dies (2 Samuel 12:18) shows us that the innocent often have to pay for the sins of the guilty. Its sad but true. We are all sinners who cause others to suffer. At the same time we are all victims of other people’s sin.

Despite his flaws David is still a strong man of God. Even in the midst of such difficulty he goes to the Tabernacle and worships (2 Samuel 12:20). Its very tempting to ignore God when things are going poorly in life. That is exactly what Satan wants us to do. But what we need to do is to keep communicating with God throughout the difficult times. He is always with us. And worship is a great healer. It causes us to focus on the goodness of God rather than our present circumstances.

2 Samuel 12:23 seems to imply that babies (and maybe children of a certain age) who die go to heaven. God is not an ogre. He is reasonable and loving and will make provision for those who die too young to have been born-again.

When we remove prayer from schools or legalize abortion or (soon) legalize same-sex marriage there is much celebrating. People who fought for these things think they have made society better. But they haven’t. Someday Christians will be killed for what they believe by people who think they are making the world a better place. While that does happen today in other parts of the world, during the Tribulation it will happen world-wide (John 16:2).

God is a straight-shooter. He will tell us things that are difficult for us to hear but which we need to know (John 16:6-7). This includes informing us about our sin as we saw with David. Everything God does is for our benefit.

There are many sins… lying, stealing, murder, etc. But the “sin of the world” is its refusal to believe in Jesus (John 16:9). All other sins stem from this one.

In less than 24 hours Jesus will be arrested, beaten, mocked, humiliated, nailed to a cross and, finally, dead. Yet in these passages He is comforting His disciples who will lose heart (John 16:16-24). Considering what He is about to go through, it should be the disciples that should be comforting Him. But Jesus is confident. He has stronger than anything the world can throw at Him (John 16:33)

These words were spoken by Jesus to believers (Judas is no longer around in this scene). Notice in John 16:33 Jesus offers peace (“may have peace”) but promises trouble (“will have many trials”). Christians are not immune to trouble in this life. We will have difficulty. But notice that we are not guaranteed peace throughout it. Peace does not come naturally nor is God going to supernaturally bestow peace on us. It is available if we want it.

It really takes a faithful heart to recognize that it needs to be disciplined (Psalm 119:75). I was very humbled when I read this verse today. I realized that I am nowhere near being able to say this. But I can see the beauty of having such an attitude.

Everything that exists was made by God for Himself (Proverbs 16:4). Everything in nature. Every possession that we have. Everything was made by God to be used by Him. Living this truth can bring humility.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

The Point Of Life

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 9-11:27; John 15:1-27; Psalm 119:49-64; Proverbs 16:1-3

When God is kind to us that kindness will overflow and we will want to demonstrate that same kindness to others. That is exactly what David does today in 2 Samuel 9. He wants to show God’s kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son (2 Samuel 9:3).

Mephibosheth is apparently in hiding, afraid of David. Back then incoming kings killed the possible heirs to the throne to secure their place. Mephibosheth is the first born son of the first born son of the previous king so he has a claim to be the current king.

But his fears are unfounded. David does not want to hurt him, he wants to bless him (2 Samuel 9:7). In the same way, we try to hide from God thinking He is looking for reasons to punish us. But He isn’t. God seeks us out so that He can bless us. God’s intentions are nothing but good.

Just as Mephibosheth has the privilege of eating at the king’s table, God offers us a daily relationship with Him. God wants to spend time with us. He wants to pour out His blessings on us each and every day.

In 2 Samuel 11 we read the famous story of David and Bathsheba. We’ve already seen that David has a problem controlling his passion and collected wives, going against God’s wishes. Today his lust gets the better of him leading to some very tragic consequences.

David should have been out fighting with his men, but for some reason is not (2 Samuel 11:1). David was not where God wanted him to be. This is one of the first steps towards committing sin. If we are not where God wants us to be in life we are more vulnerable to stumble.

He sees Bathseheba taking a bath on her roof (2 Samuel 11:2). This was not David’s fault. At this point he could have seen the temptation and walked away, just as Joseph did with Potiphar’s wife. But he didn’t.

He then finds out that Bathsheba is the daughter of one of his soldiers who is out at war. And not only that, she is married (2 Samuel 11:3). All these facts should have led David to go back inside and forget about her. But instead he summons her and sleeps with her.

David may have thought he could have a simple one-night-stand without anyone finding out. But when she becomes pregnant, the dominoes start to fall. Not only will there be an unwanted baby but there will also be a father/husband murdered, and all kinds of unrest among David’s siblings for years to come. What seemed like a good idea at the time will affect the lives of hundreds of people.

As if sin weren’t bad enough, we often try to cover it up with lies and deceit, which are in and of themselves more sin. Sin snowballs. The affect of all this sin is that innocent people get hurt and pay the price for our mistakes. That is why the world continues to get worse. Sin begets sin. It becomes more prevalent with no end in sight.

Jesus uses the metaphor of a grapevine to speak about Himself. He is the vine. Believers are the branches that extend from the vine. The branches are 100% dependent on the vine for life. Similarly, believers are 100% dependent on Jesus for life (John 15: 4).

If we abide in Jesus (i.e. maintain a relationship with Him) we will be productive (bear much fruit) and will demonstrate holy character such as is mentioned in Galatians 5:20. This glorifies God (John 15:8) which is the point of life.

Christians can expect to be treated poorly by this world because of the name of Jesus (John 15:21). Notice that the world hates Jesus because He has exposed their sin (John 15:22). They know they are sinful – they just don’t want to admit it. I can relate. I was the exact same way when I was an atheist. I didn’t want anyone telling me that I was not a good person – not even God.

Psalm 119:57 reminds us that the Lord is our source of security. If we follow His instructions, then our lives won’t be tossed to-and-fro by our emotions or by what is happening around us.

We may think the things we do are pure and innocent, but think again. God can examine our motives which may not be known by anyone – not even ourselves (Proverbs 16:2).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Love Is Action

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 7-8:18; John 14:15-31; Psalm 119:33-48; Proverbs 15:33

At the beginning of 2 Samuel 7 Israel is at peace and King David is living in a beautiful house. But his thoughts are not on himself. He wants to build a permanent home for God. Despite some setbacks and detours, David was a man after God’s own heart. He was focused on doing something for God. We need to be the same way. We don’t need big houses or expensive cars or the latest iPhone. We should chase after bringing glory to God.

But God had other plans. He did not want David to build such a Temple (2 Samuel 7:13). Sometimes God says “no” to our ideas. That is fine. We need not despair or feel rejected. God simply has better plans.

Notice how God let David down easy. He reminds David of what He had done for him thus far (2 Samuel 7:8-9a). When we might be prone to being discouraged a great antidote is to think back on all the great things God has already done for us. God then promises David two things: 1) David’s name will become very famous and 2) He will create a house for David (2 Samuel 7:10-11).

David’s response is one of humility and praise (2 Samuel 7:18-29). He could easily have been down at having God reject his offer. But He believes what God has promised and realizes that he is not worthy of such gifts. What a great example David is here. None of us are worthy of all that God has done for us. Our attitude should be similar to David – humbly accept what God offers to do for us.

In 2 Samuel 8 we read of several of David’s military conquests. Although Israel knew peace for a while, that peace never seemed to last. The same thing is true today. Israel’s history has been one long struggle occasionally interrupted by brief periods of peace.

Notice that David dedicated all the gold, silver, and bronze he captured to God (2 Samuel 8:11). He did not use it to glorify himself. All that God gives us – our money, our talents, etc – should be used for Him.

God promised David he would become famous and we see God keeping that promise in 2 Samuel 8:13.

2 Samuel 8:16-18 are interesting verses. Everything that God does requires organization and structure. God appoints leaders (e.g. David) but that leader needs others to accomplish God’s work. No one can go it alone.

Human beings think of love as an emotional experience. But once again Jesus redefines our world in John 14:15. Love is action. It is proven by obedience. When we obey someone we are acknowledging their worth and demonstrating respect for who they are. If we love Jesus, then we will obey Him. If we disobey we are essentially saying that we love ourselves more.

Some people don’t believe in the Trinity but we see the Trinity clearly in John 14:16-17. Jesus (the Son) prays to the Father who sends the Holy Spirit. There are some groups such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses that reject the idea of the Trinity. This is one passage that can be used to help them understand.

Notice the Holy Spirit is only for believers (John 14:17). Only those who believe in Jesus can have God Himself living inside of us to guide us. Notice too that the Holy Spirit currently lives with the disciples (in the form of Jesus) and later (at Pentecost) will live inside them. Here, again, we see the equality of Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. They are one and the same.

Interestingly Jesus’ departure was the best thing that could happen to the disciples because that was the only way the Holy Spirit could come (John 14:28).

Notice that one of the reasons Jesus told His disciples all these things that were going to happen is so that, when they did happen, they would believe (John 14:29). Its hard not to believe in someone who can predict the future with 100% accuracy. God put prophecy in the Bible to prove that the Bible was authored by Him. Prophecy is the main reason we know without a doubt that the Bible is true. Only God can predict the future hundreds of times and be right every single time.

So many things in this world vie for our time. Very few of them are important. What matters most is God’s instruction. It is more valuable than money (Psalms 119:36). All the worthless things of this earth don’t give life or freedom. Life and freedom only come through God’s word (Psalms 119:37, 45).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Wise Advice

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 4-6:23; John 13:31-14:14; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 15:31-32

Abner had propped Ishbosheth up as a puppet king and when Abner died Ishbosheth had no support and lost his courage (2 Samuel 4:1). His faith was in man, not God. Anytime we trust in a human being to provide for us we will be lost when that person leaves our life. Better to trust in an eternal and loving God who never leaves us.

In 2 Samuel 4:12 David again demonstrates that he will not tolerate someone doing evil on his behalf. Sinning is never a valid means to a justified end.

David is made king over all of Israel in 2 Samuel 5:1. Prior to this only 1 tribe, Judah, recognized David as king. But once their other choices are removed (i.e. killed) the rest of Israel chooses David. In a similar way, people will often try other “gods” in their life and won’t come to Jesus until all their other options fail them. I sure wish I had come to Christ long before I did. My life would have been so much better.

The leaders of Israel had also apparently forgiven David for his defection to the Philistines. But they had seen David’s heart and leadership skills. They knew God was with him so it was right for them to forgive him. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It matters if we are repentant and are walking with God. If so, then we can be used by God to do great things.

David was 30 years old when he became king (2 Samuel 5:4). David was anointed at about age 15. God spent about 15 years preparing him for this day. All the delay and trouble in those years may have made David wonder at times if God was going to keep His promise to make him king. But God always keeps His promises. He just may not do it in a way that makes sense to us.

After hundreds of years of living in the Promised Land, the Jews had still failed to conquer Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6). But David takes care of that. Even in our own lives there are areas of sin that are not conquered either because we don’t try or because they seem too strong. But God wants us to remove all sin from our lives and He will help us do so.

The Ark is moved to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6, but it is moved inappropriately. God had commanded the Ark be carried, not put on a cart. Nor was it to be touched. We are not free to ignore God’s commands. Disobedience to God is a statement that we don’t trust Him or have faith in Him.

When the Ark is finally brought to Jerusalem a huge procession follows it, including King David who dances along the way (2 Samuel 6:14). There are many ways to worship God. What matters is our heart. Our manner of worship must be a demonstration of our love for God, not our love for ourself.

The rest of the words spoken by Jesus are without Judas present (John 13:31). When Judas left the room only believers remained (Judas was never a true believer). Hence, Jesus’ words from this point forward apply only to believers.

In the Bible Peter is portrayed as a rather spontaneous and emotional guy. He lives up to that billing in John 13:37. Peter didn’t understand who Jesus was at this point. His relationship with Jesus was based on emotion. But emotions can only carry us so far. They can’t carry us through difficult times because our emotions change. In the near future Peter will have nothing to fall back on when trouble comes and will deny Christ three times, just as Jesus predicted.

I think that is why Jesus’ very next statements (John 14:1) instruct His disciples not to be troubled, but to trust in Him. When difficult and confusing times arrive (and they will) we need to stay focused on Christ, who never changes. He always loves us. He is always there for us.

Jesus has already told His disciples that He is going away. In John 14:3 He tells them that He will come back to get them someday. That day has not yet arrived. We’ll read some very specific prophecies about Christ’s future return later this year.

In John 14:6 Jesus emphatically states that He is the only way to heaven. In the very next verse He equates Himself with God.

Psalm 119 has so many great truths. Verse 21 is one of them. Those who wander from God’s instructions are cursed. The only way to receive true blessings in life is to walk with God and obey Him. God’s instructions are given out of love – they are for our own good. If a person (or a nation) disregards them, they can only experience problems. As Psalm 119:24 says – God’s laws are, in fact, pleasing because they give wise advice.

One way to wisdom is to listen to constructive criticism. When I was younger I didn’t want to hear any advice. I wanted to figure life out on my own. That didn’t go so well. When I learned to respect and even seek out the advice of others, I began to grow and become a better person. As Joyce Meyer says, it’s better to endure a little discipline now than to experience a lot of regret later.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Ashamed

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 2:12-3:39; John 13:1-30; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 15:29-30

If David thought that he would have an easy time ruling Israel after Saul’s death, he was mistaken. We saw yesterday that Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, laid claim to the throne. Today we see the start of a “long war” between those allied with David and those allied with Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 3:1).

In 2 Samuel 2:28 Joab, one of David’s assistants, attempts to make peace with the enemy, Abner and his forces, rather than pursuing them and eradicating them. This only gives Abner time to regroup and build strength causing this conflict to drag out longer than it should.

Likewise, we often try to make peace with our old self rather than killing it off and putting on the entire new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). We want to keep our sinful nature around just a while longer with its commitment to selfishness and pride. But doing so only creates a war within us: a war that will drag on as long as we allow the old self to breathe. We must kill the old self so that the new self can live free.

In 2 Samuel 3:2 we read that David had six wives. This clearly was not how God wanted David to live. God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. David has sinned here and as we continue to read more about David’s life we’ll see that having all these wives, and all these children from different wives, created major problems for him.

David was a man after God’s own heart. But like everyone we meet in the Bible, he was flawed. God will still use flawed people (what choice does He have?) to achieve His purposes and God does use David to do many great things. But the less sin we have in our lives, the more blessings we will receive.

As if David didn’t have enough wives, he still wants his first wife, Michal, returned to him (2 Samuel 3:13). Kings in those days displayed power and wealth by having many wives. David seems to have fallen into this trap as well. Considering all the children he fathered it is also apparent that he is controlled by his sexual desires.

David shows one of his redeeming qualities by throwing a feast for Abner, who defected to David’s cause (2 Samuel 3:20). David is generous, not to mention wise, to throw this feast to welcome his former adversary. He certainly doesn’t want him to defect back.

Abner is killed by Joab and David rightfully mourns for his former enemy, much as he mourned for Saul (2 Samuel 3:31). David was a man of great character who, despite his flaws, respected that all life comes from God.

In John 13 Jesus knows that the time has come for His earthly ministry to end and for Him to return to the Father by way of the cross (John 13:1). Before doing so, He teaches His disciples an important lesson by washing their feet.

Washing someone’s feet was a lowly job that was administered by the lowest servant in the house to any guests who would arrive. Here Jesus is displaying His true character – that of a servant. He has come to serve others by dying on a cross so they (we) can have eternal life in heaven. This is the attitude that we, who have a relationship with Jesus, should display to others (John 13:14-15).

Jesus does something else very interesting in John 13:26 when He dips bread and offers it to Judas. Doing this was a display of esteem — it was like giving a toast. Here Jesus is displaying love towards someone He knows is going to betray Him. He is living His command of loving one’s enemies.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible and it is one of my favorites. Haven’t we all wished that we were truly obedient to God (Psalm 119:5)? I can certainly envision myself being ashamed when I stand before Christ. I have fallen way short of what God wants me to be (Psalm 119:6).

Notice that living according to God’s commands is a way of thanking Him for all He has done (Psalm 119:7). The last thing I want is for God to give up on me (Psalm 119:8). Hint: He won’t.

The best way not to sin against God is for His word to be written on our hearts – for God’s commands to become an integral part of us such that everything we say, do, and think reflect God (Psalm 119:11). After all, everything we are flows from our heart (Proverbs 4:23).

Many non-believers wonder where God is. They don’t see any evidence of Him. That is because He is far from them (Proverbs 15:29). To see God we need to draw near to Him. Then He will draw near to us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Bitter or Better?

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Samuel 1-2:11; John 12:20-50; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 15:27-28

David receives the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:4) from an Amalekite who is lying about having killed Saul himself. This man expected a reward from David and he brings “proof” that he killed Saul in the form of Saul’s crown which he really just picked up from the battlefield.

Sadly this lie costs this man his life (2 Samuel 1:15) – more proof that sin doesn’t pay.

David had been running from Saul for years. His life was a mess. He could have easily rejoiced at the news of Saul’s death. But instead he mourned for Saul, Jonathan, and the entire nation of Israel (2 Samuel 1:12).

For the most part David handled these difficult years well. Whereas Saul chose to become bitter, David chose to become better. Here we see that we can choose how we are going to react to any given situation. David’s song of lament shows that he kept his heart from hating Saul (2 Samuel 1:19-27). As we learned in Proverbs 4:23, we must guard our heart above all else because everything we are flows from it.

David then does the right thing and seeks guidance from God (2 Samuel 2:1). Considering he had turned his back on Israel, this may not have been the best time to return home. So David seeks God’s direction. Here we see David being aware that this is a very vulnerable time for both him and Israel. He acts appropriately by being aware of the feelings of others.

In 2 Samuel 2:4 the people come to him and make him king over Judah. But there is a problem. Abner, Saul’s cousin, makes Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, king over the rest of Israel (2 Samuel 2:8-9).

David could easily have charged back into Israel and declared himself king. After all, God had anointed him future king of Israel some 20 years earlier. But instead he waits on God’s timing. God had made a promise. And David was spiritually strong enough to believe God and wait on His perfect timing.

It’s interesting how Jesus refers to His upcoming crucifixion as “being glorified” (John 12:23). The world would look at this event as a humiliating ending for Jesus. But He knew what it was really all about – bringing eternal life to those who believe (John 12:24).

If we love this world and the things it has to offer we will be blind to our need for Jesus and will therefore fail to obtain eternal life. The only way to eternal life is to disregard this life (John 12:25).

In John 12:27 we see a very human side of Jesus. The cross is rapidly approaching. He knows that and He is getting nervous about it. He thinks about asking God to stop it from happening. But He knows that the cross was the very reason He was sent to earth. He will choose to obey God.

The crowd can’t understand how the Messiah, which is who Jesus claimed to be, could die (John 12:34). Apparently they had not been taught well in the synagogue. Here we see the importance of 1) attending a good church that teaches the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and 2) studying the Bible for ourselves.

There are many churches that pick and choose which Biblical passages they will teach. They select the ones that already fit their pre-existing beliefs. Catholics choose passages that seem to imply we can earn our way to heaven. Others ignore passages that state that homosexuality is a sin. Any church that does not teach the entire Bible as being 100% true and 100% the word of God should be avoided.

Notice how “most” of the people did not believe in Jesus (John 12:37) but “many” did (John 12:42). But those who did were afraid to admit it because they were worried about retribution. I think the United States is the same way today. Jesus’ name is reviled by many, including our government. It is becoming more difficult to openly profess faith in Christ without some backlash. This can be intimidating. But we need to continue to tell others about Jesus so that they can believe and be saved. It’s not about us. It’s about them.

Jesus makes it very clear that He is accepting of all people – He did not come into the world to judge it but to save it (John 12:47). Jesus isn’t going to condemn anyone for being a sinner. He is going to welcome each and every one who believes.

Psalm 118:29 reminds us that we give thanks to God for one reason – because He is good. Everything God allows in our lives is for our own benefit. He loves us and always will.

One characteristic of a godly person is to think carefully before speaking (Proverbs 15:28). We are all tempted to repay evil words in kind. But its best to repay evil with love as both Paul (Romans 12:21) and Peter (1 Peter 3:9) remind us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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