Love or injustice

Tamar was a beautiful submissive and obedient princess, the daughter of Israel’s greatest hero King David. Unfortunately her evil and spoiled half brother, Amnon, lusted after her and set a diabolical plan to trap her. He pretended to be sick and had his father, King David, send his sister to tend to him. When they were alone he raped her. How can this story get any worse? King David did absolutely nothing. (2 Samuel 13:1-15)

Obviously David loved his first born son and did not want to do him any harm. However is true love injustice? David appeared to have confused the two. Love should never be an excuse for injustice or it will surely lead to greater destruction and evil.

Since David stood idly by, the brother of Tamar, Absalom, took the law in to his hands and had Amnon killed. (2 Samuel 13:28-29) Did David stand idle by again? He certainly did. It appeared that David had way too much “love” to do anything.

Absalom, also David’s son, must have realized his father’s powerlessness when it came to acting against his sons. He grew more bold and daring. Some might say he was affected by delusions of grandeur. Absalom began a rebellion in hopes of seizing his father’s thrown.(2 Samuel 15:10-12)

David would win the war and preserve his kingdom but not before he would see the death of a second son, Absalom. David’s inability to exact justice led to war and the lost of many lives.(2 Samuel 19:19)

For Christians love is a major theme in our lives but should never be confused with injustice. Justice though painful at times is an expression of love for the victim and the perpetrator. Perpetrators should learn that their acts are unacceptable. They too must be taught right from wrong and encouraged to do what is right for their own benefit. This is love as surely as a loving parent disciplines their children in the hope that they will be better for it.

 

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When tragedy strikes!

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noemi was a woman who had run out of faith and was not very happy with her God. Many years ago her husband had died.  However that was not enough grief. Now her only sons lay dead.  With no money, property or foreseeable source of income, she made the best decision she could. She turned to the only family she had left, her two daughters in law, Ruth and Orpha, and said “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” (Ruth 1:8) Noemi kissed her daughters-in–law and believed she would never see them again.

Then they both began to cry and nobody was leaving. They both declared that they weren’t going anywhere. Noemi was not too happy.  Her best plan to save her daughter-in-laws was not working. She explained that she had nothing to offer them and finally convinced Orpha to leave, Ruth would be more challenging. Ruth displayed great courage, stubbornness and faith in God as she declared “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17) Ruth was determined to be loyal to both Noemi and God.  Noemi must have thrown her hands up in defeat. Both women with nothing in this world to call their own would return to Bethlehem or as Noemi would say, ” the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21)

It’s easy to understand Noemi’s bitterness. We’re supposed to raise our children and then help them raise their children. Hard work and proper planning is also supposed to provide us with a healthy income deep into our old age. It’s the plan for a whole lot of folks, including me. Then tragedy strikes. God is so merciful He can see us through the most desperate situations.

Although Ruth was a foreigner she found favor in the eyes of one of the most powerful men in Bethlehem, Boaz. He had heard the most improbable story of the foreign girl who had given up her family and homeland to stay loyal to her penniless mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:11-12)He allowed her to work his land and everything Ruth could gather was hers to keep. What would happen next would be a true shocker. Boaz fell in love with this penniless, Moabite woman, and married her. (Ruth 4:13)Noemi became the adopted grandmother of their son Obed, King David’s grandfather, and they all lived happily ever after.

God can take the worst situation and turn it completely around. Although Noemi was bitter and perhaps angry with God, He had a plan and had never forsaken her. God incorporated Ruth, the foreigner into not only David’s blood lines, but Jesus himself, also a descendant of Ruth. In this manner both Jew and Gentile were already included in the plan of salvation. Before we grow bitter consider that God knows what is best, has us in his hands and will surely fulfill his purpose in our lives.

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Stay the Course

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. 1 kings 11:4

Staying the course, especially if it’s a long one, can be a difficult challenge. Preparing for a competition, seeking a new career, sticking to a weight loss program, starting a business or just getting a degree; there is an endless list of long term goals that can start with a fury of commitment but end with a quiet fizzle, like the air coming out of a balloon.

Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings, the same Solomon famous for his wisdom, was given a lifelong course. He was to remain faithful to God, so that God would bless his descendants. Solomon started out great. He asked God for wisdom and used it to make his kingdom great. He enlarged the kingdom, built a larger army and navy. Increased his wealth and gained famed throughout the world. But he also married quite a bit. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That’s 1000 women to keep happy and listen to. In the end it was too much for even the wisest and richest man Israel ever saw. The bible relates that Solomon in his old age worshiped the gods of his foreign wives. God was angry and punished Solomon. Most of his kingdom was torn from his son, coming under the rule of another family, tarnishing the greatness of Solomon.

Our Christian life is a lifelong course as well with many challenges. There are many forces seeking to take us in different directions. Temptations that would cause us to sin and commit acts that do not please God, tops the list for sure. However quiet innocently we can relegate our walk with Christ to low priority without even knowing it. We can fill our lives with many wonderful and productive activities. Too many activities, like Solomon’s wives, can act to squeeze God out. We must be attentive to where God is fitting in our schedule. If there isn’t much time for Him we risk an even greater danger of failing God, as Solomon did.

Consider the time we spent on God, once upon a time, when we were on fire for Christ. There was time for Sunday school, prayer services and even a chorus rehearsal. Bible reading and prayer was a daily routine. Whenever a special program or service was announced we were glad to be there. No sacrifice was too great for our God.

Perhaps some of us are still on fire. We must stay the course and be aware of the forces working against our commitment. However if we are within the group that has grown a little cold don’t wait another second to seek God earnestly. Make a re-commitment to serve God fully.

A closer walk with God

…he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Daniel 6:10

The windows were opened and you could see Daniel praying as he always did. He prayed three times a day without fail, just as David had mentioned in his Psalms. Problem was praying to God was illegal in Babylon. Daniel wasn’t concerned. The punishment for praying to God was you would become cat food, in particular cuisine for hungry lions. Well they had to get fed somehow.

Daniel had been captured by the Babylonians and had been forced to serve the King. (Daniel 1:1-7) He had proven himself to be wiser than all of the King’s servants and was even in line for a major promotion before the illegal prayer incident. (Daniel 6:3) His secret was a close relationship with God. Prayer was vital to this relationship and nothing would stop him from his private personal time with God. It was God who had blessed Daniel with incredible success, wisdom and protection in this foreign land. God spoke with Daniel and watched over him. He provided him with guidance, peace and comfort, so necessary under his circumstances.

A close walk with God is essential in these times as well. Economic challenges, war and threats of war, dwindling natural resources, decline in educational success , a rise in crime, unemployment especially among young college graduates, drug abuse, threats to family unity and prosperity, decaying faith across society and countless other challenges necessitates a genuine relationship with God, a relationship that begins and is sustained with prayer.

Jesus challenged his disciples to pray at least an hour (Matthew 26:40-41), and Paul encouraged us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This does not mean we spend our entire lives on our knees or with our eyes closed. No need to walk into walls. It means that we communicate with God throughout the entire day, asking for guidance, strength, peace and offering our gratitude and praise. David mentioned praying morning, noon and evening. (Psalm 55:17) Daniel was known to pray three times a day as well. (Daniel 6:10)

Daniel was arrested and thrown into the Lion’s Den. However wherever Daniel was, there was God. That’s what happens when you have a close relationship with God. Daniel was not harmed and was released the next day. (Daniel 6:21)

We all want God to work just as miraculously in our lives. But we cannot ignore the relationship Daniel had with God. We can all have a closer walk with God. Like any relationship it starts with regular and sincere communication. We only need to speak to Him and He will hear us where we are. He is anxious for us to reap the eternal blessings that come from truly knowing Him.

They clamored for a King

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us… 1 Samuel 8:19

The people clamored for a king and Samuel, the great and wise, but aging prophet turned to God. Samuel’s revelation was, to put it simply, scary. He goes on to explain that the king will take their land, their children, their profits and use them for his own purpose. He explains that they would all become servants to the king. Loss of freedom, property, income and even your children does not seem like an attractive offer. However, the people clamored even more. Why? They were scared. They wanted to place their trust in a king. Someone who could organize them, build up their armies and protect them against their enemies. Fear can cause people to do some very strange things.

The other reason, and highly connected to the first reason, was a lack of faith in God. They were choosing to place their trust in a government and not God. It was God who had freed Israel from slavery in Egypt. It was God who had protected and provided for them while they journeyed through the desert. It was God who had given them countless victories against their enemies, both during the conquest of the promise land and its defense in the many years that followed. Throughout all those centuries He gave them freedom instead of an all-powerful monarch as stated in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

In our time we have seen a growing influence of government in the lives of its citizens throughout the world. This is not an American phenomenon; the entire world is desperately seeking to be rescued. Just like in the time of the prophet Samuel we clamor more and more for our government to take charge, even though we know that for the government to be the solution it will have to grow, in power and in budget and we will pay with both a loss of income and freedom. This is symptomatic of a society that no longer believes in God and would rather place its hope in fallen man. God calls those who would trust in man cursed. (Jeremiah 17:5) It seems that as our Government grows more powerful it grows more inept at solving the world’s problems. Inflation, poverty, debt and war are still on the rise, while the economy continues to fail.

Instead of surrendering more and more of our rights, our income and our privacy, perhaps it is time to let God be the solution and not a larger, more powerful government. It is time to practice some faith in the God who does not lie, cheat or cover up. He will not raise our taxes; seek personal gain, or other perks. Put Him in charge of our lives, that He may give us the strength and guidance we need every day to work through our own problems, and watch freedom reign!

Acting inappropriately

Then David danced before the Lord with all his might…2Samuel 6:14

Making a good impression is really important, we all have been told. We try our best to act and dress appropriately given the circumstances. Whether it’s wearing a nice suit for a wedding or wearing that power tie for the interview. The hair, the accessories and for the ladies the makeup, has to be just right. We do this even if it makes some of us t-shirt and jean guys, uncomfortable. We do all this to be appropriate. However, King David taught us something different, when to be inappropriate.

David had become King in Israel and had made Jerusalem his strong hold and capital. It was there that the temple of God would be built. David desired to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem and knew it would be a great blessing. The ark had been kept in obscurity in the house of a Levite, named Abinadab. The ark was not brought in a simple way, for the ark represented the presence of God, the provision of God and the liberation of God. Its importance was indescribable. It was brought to Jerusalem with music, dancing and singing. The bible says it was brought up with “all the house of Israel” (2Samuel 6:15). It’s as if the entire nation had come out to party.

David as king should have been leading the way. You could almost imagine the leaders of today dressed up in the finest clothes. They would have been placed in the finest cars and they would in a very dignified way, simply wave and smile. Perhaps the women in power would throw a kiss or two, but that would be all. The whole thing would have been proper and dignified. But David loved God. He really loved God! It’s the kind of Love that makes you run into the arms of someone, twirl around and kiss. You get the idea. David could not contain himself. When we worship God it can be exactly like that. When you truly love God it can be difficult to contain yourself. There can be crying and shouting and even dancing. David experienced this, thousands of years ago and nothing has changed. When you love the Lord you just have to let it show.

The bible relates that David was somewhat underdressed and began to dance. Perhaps he took off some of his kingly garments that inhibited him and then he got started. When his wife complained, David explained “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight….” (2Samuel 6:21-22).

David was not concerned if some thought him “undignified.” He was not concerned with making an impression as a king. He wanted to worship his God with all his might. He did all he could to express the gratitude and love he felt so strongly for his God. May we all remember to worship our God with the same sincerity and might. Even if others think it is a bit too much and inappropriate.

Try these Verses on worship

To go to church or not?

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Psalm 84:4

It was Wednesday evening, and after a long day of work I was tired. However, it was time to head over to rehearsal. Why was I going? Was it to please the chorus director, my sister? Was it so that I could be heard? Did the chorus need me? The answer to the last three questions were no, no, and no. Why was I going?

I was going to worship God! I fought with myself. “Sammy you can worship God at home. You don’t have to go to church.” There was just one problem with that argument. If I stood home I wasn’t going to worship God.

The distractions that we are bombarded with when we are home are tremendous. We have all sorts of entertainment, chores and of course the demands of other people. Perhaps our favorite distraction is the bed or sofa. Some place to just lay back and rest, a power nap that last 2 hours. But didn’t we say we would worship God.

In Hebrews 10:25, we are encouraged to go to church where the brethren can motivate each other. Psalm 84:4 mentions that those who dwell in God’s house are blessed because they are forever praising God. David counted it a blessing to be in God’s house forever (Psalm 23:6). It is in church where we can most freely worship God and put aside everything else this world has.

The next time we find ourselves in a battle with ourselves, as to whether we should go to church or not, we’ll just grab our car keys and head straight out the door. We won’t look back and we won’t stop until we have safely arrived at the temple, where we will praise our God and thank Him for the refuge that is our church.