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For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11

Small stuff 2.9.2016One time I was being my father’s chauffeur to a speaking engagement. We decided to stop for lunch at a favorite chain restaurant of ours. Rather than order my ‘usual’ I decided to try something different. It was close to Thanksgiving and I decided to try the daily special, a Turkey Omelet. I’ve always been an omelet fan and I like turkey. Seemed like a winning combination. It wasn’t. While the picture looked good and the presentation was good, something in the recipe made it virtually inedible for my taste buds.

I’m sure we’ve all run into situations like that. It may be food, a different route, a new piece of clothing, a relationship or any number of other things. From a distance it looks good to us but once we’ve made the commitment we realize we’ve made a mistake.

David had that experience on night when he was relaxing on the roof of his castle when his eyes wandered to the house next door and a woman bathing. His mind wandered and his feet followed. What seemed like a good idea in a moment of carelessness, led to a series of actions that nearly destroyed his kingdom, badly tarnished his kingdom and caused life-long problems to his family.

The Psalmist writes “For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.”(Psalm 84:11)

The sun offers us warmth, guidance, life and encouragement. A shield gives us security and protection from the enemy. David learned the secret to holy living in a human realm wasn’t perfection but confession and repentance

While our perception of what is good is finite; God’s perception of what is good is eternal. Like David, we make mistakes in life. Some of those mistakes lead to harsh consequences. Regardless of what we have done the warmth of the SON gives us new life through forgiveness. The SHIELD of the Holy Spirit protects us from the enemy, and sometimes the biggest enemy we face is ourselves.

God always gives us the way out. He always gives us something that we can use to get through the struggle we are in. He’s our strength and our shield when life gets hard. When we learn to give him all our secrets we find him more than faithful to bless us.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you for the forgiveness we have in you through Jesus. So many times I find myself focusing on things that look good to me but aren’t best for me. Help me to see things through the light of your Son. Protect me from the schemes of the enemy. Amen.

When the Lord saw their change of heart, he gave this message to Shemaiah: “Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief. I will not use Shishak to pour out my anger on Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 12:7

“I know it’s wrong but God will forgive me and I’ll be okay.”

I freely admit, I’m guilty of it myself at times. Somehow though, when I hear other people say it, it’s more ominous than when I say it myself. Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty shabby defense. Somehow, those of us who call ourselves believers buy into the lie however. We give our allegiance to Jesus. We proclaim his love, grace and mercy. We ‘take a stand against evil’ in our world, yet think nothing of doing little, unimportant  sins on a daily basis. You know the ones I mean. Our cursing, swearing, judgmental attitudes, the harboring of anger, bitterness or guilt and our greed are all displeasing to our heavenly Father.

Sometimes we assume that God’s forgiveness will remove us from the consequences of that sin, but nowhere in scripture is that the case. Israel, God’s chosen people, constantly strayed from his law and suffered the consequences for it. The story in 2 Chronicles is an example of that. King Rehoboam lived a sinful life and the people followed his example shamelessly right up until the Egyptian army was knocking on their door.

When the leadership saw that God’s punishment was imminent the repented of their sin. The Bible says they did more than ‘pray about it’. It was a change of heart. As a result God saved the nation from extinction. However, he didn’t completely remove the consequences of their behavior.

2 Chronicles 12:8 tells us that although God held back total destruction “… they will become his subjects, so they will know the difference between serving me and serving earthly rulers.”

God promises to forgive our guilt but sometimes He lets us endure consequences to teach us to rely on him. While we are blessed with the promise of forgiveness and eternity with Jesus, we should never take sin of any kind be taken lightly. Remember, the ground may be level under the cross, but there are no ‘little‘ sins. All sin should be taken very seriously in our lives.

PRAYER: Father God. My own words convict me as I’m aware of my tendency to diminish my sin in view of the sin of others. Forgive me for taking sin lightly and help me live in holiness before you by the power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus name, Amen.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (NIV)

Conflict is inevitable. You probably didn’t need to have someone tell you that! From the beginning of time conflict has been a part of human existence. It’s not ‘IF’ you will experience conflict but when you experience conflict and how you deal with it that matters.

Conflict is defined as, “The competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; an antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons).”

From a human perspective, conflict had its origins in the Garden of Eden. The first person to experience conflict was Eve. The serpent (Satan) not only questioned her regarding God’s commands, he brought conflict into her mind.  For perhaps the first time she was faced with opposing viewpoints. Up to this time we can only surmise that obedience (based on a passionate love relationship with her creator) was unquestioned. When you begin to question God, you leave room for conflict.

The next significant act of conflict wasn’t with God, but with fellow man. In an act of jealous rage, Cain killed his brother Abel. The rest is, as they say, history. Conflict, whether between men or men with God really has the same motivating force: the desire for peace within our soul. We may be led to believe the lie that the hunger for peace in our soul can be quenched by new relationships, new career paths or a bigger bank account. We may try to drown the pain of that hole by chemicals or religious experience, but until our hearts are right with God, nothing will work.

Now for the good news. Your heavenly Father wants to restore the lost relationship.  Colossians 1:19-20 states, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

What this means is that through Jesus Christ, God wants to restore the relationship we lost in the garden. Furthermore, Philippians 4:7 reminds us that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus Christ opens the path to a new, vibrant relationship with God. When that happens and we grow to completeness through Christ, his peace will guard our soul, our emotions, or feelings. It will work towards conquering the fear, worry, anger, hate and frustration of human conflict.

Will making our relationship with God cure our human conflicts? Unfortunately not. But having a right relationship with God opens the door to healthier relationships as we learn to lean on him and trust him with our hearts.

Let the peace of Jesus calm you as you grow in relationship to him. Daily give him control of your relationships so he can protect your soul from the attacks of conflict. May the following prayer empower you to peace in the midst of conflict.

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you for the restoration of a love relationship I can have with you through Jesus Christ. Empower me to rest on you in the midst of the human conflict I am facing. May the peace only Jesus can offer strengthen me. Amen.

Just admit that you rebelled and worshiped foreign gods under large trees everywhere. Jeremiah 3:13 (CEV)

Admitting guilt.

Not an easy thing to do is it? It’s so much easier to explain our actions than just to say, “I was wrong.” It’s even harder to say, “I was wrong and I knew I was wrong when I did it but I wanted to do it anyway…so I did.”

A friend of mine tells about how frustrating his daughter can be a times. She’s a sweet girl. Compassionate, kind, smart…but rebellious. On several occasions she’s been caught doing something that she knows is wrong, but has gone ahead and done it anyway. When confronted about these things her classic response is: “But I want to.”

Translation? I knew it was wrong when I did it. I knew I’d get in trouble when I was doing it. I know I’m busted now and even though I’m being punished, I’m glad I did it because I liked it.

Before you pass judgment on my friend’s daughter or question his parenting skills, ask yourself this question. Isn’t that what we do when we choose our own way and not God’s way? We know we shouldn’t’ think that way, but…; we know we shouldn’t say this, but…’; we know it’s wrong but…’.

God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to a stubborn rebellious people. He tells them, I know you’ve been unfaithful. You know you’ve been unfaithful. There’s no question about guilt here, not implication that you didn’t know better. I’m not asking for explanations. I’m not asking for promises [because frankly, you never keep them anyway!]. All I’m asking is admission of your guilt.

God doesn’t ask us to admit our guilt to prove we are wrong. He doesn’t ask us to admit our guilt so he is sure we are guilty. He simply wants us to admit our weakness. Why? Because his desire is to free us from the guilt, not condemn us; his desire is to forgive us, not criticize us; his desire is to lift us up, not burden us.

God likens Israel to a prostitute with more lovers than he can count! Not a very kind assessment of them. Yet his desire isn’t to expose their rebellion and failure, his desire is to cleanse them. Confession of sin is hard, but living in guilt is harder. Confession frees us to live, but guilt burdens us with baggage that follows us through life.

It’s interesting that God only asks one thing of the Israelites, confession. He’s already decided he’ll take them back. He’s already committed to loving them and forgiving them and welcoming them back into his arms. All they have to do is admit they were wrong.

The same is true for us today. Your Heavenly Father knows you are weak. He knows you are rebellious. He knows that even if he forgives you, you’ll do it again. But…He loves you and wants a relationship with you. All you have to do is admit it’s your fault. Hard to do? Yes, but essential to live freely in God’s grace.

PRAYER: Father, my failures are constantly before me. Still I find it hard to admit my weakness, even though I know you love me. Give me the strength to confess my weakness so that I can live in your freedom. Amen.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Can you imagine the excitement David must have felt when he was called down from the mountain to meet with the great prophet Samuel? Add to that the stunning announcement that someday, he, David, a mere shepherd boy would be King of Israel? Amazing!

He couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17 at the time. Life was ahead of him and even though he must have loved the shepherding and farming life his father instilled in him, the intrigue of the city and fame and fortune had to have had the same allure then as it does now. I imagine David walked just a little taller among the sheep when he returned to his post in the fields.

Then add in the whole incident with that giant, Goliath. There are lots of reasons stated out there for why David slew Goliath; the precision of his shot, the trust in God, Goliath not taking him (or his God) seriously. But I think there was probably a good measure of adrenaline behind that stone that day. After all, he was David, the future King!

But then life came crashing down for David. Psalm 34 was written when he ‘escaped’ from his own homeland to enemy territory. The very Philistines that produced Goliath; the very nation he hated so much; the one place in the world he would never want to find himself, became his sanctuary.

The once proud, confident David became an actor, pretending to be a lunatic in enemy territory so he’d be protected from Saul, and pitied by the Philistines. I can’t help but imagine the despondency, the fear, the disappointment in his heart.

Have you been there? Have you found yourself in a place you never thought you’d be in? Dealing with guilt for an affair you never thought you’d put yourself in? Struggling with credit card debt and other financial woes that you vowed you’d never get your family into…again? Struggling with the pain of broken relationships or failing health?

David likens it to a crushed spirit. The original languages give the word picture of being smashed by a hammer. Obliterated. Destroyed. Nothing left that resembles your heart. No use picking up the pieces. They are to shattered, to broken, to be of any value.

But listen to David’s words. God comes close to those who are broken. As an omnipresent God, he is always near of course. But during those times of grief; during those times when life is beyond disappointing, it’s dreadfully painful, your Heavenly Father, the God of the universe, bends low to hear your cry; to feel your pain; to comfort you.

Life doesn’t always take us where we thought we’d be, but it never takes us away from a God who is passionately in love with you.

PRAYER: Father God, I pray today for those who are hurting; for those who’s hearts have been smashed by the hammer of life. May they sense your presence and feel your comforting love. Amen.

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