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A Man After God’s Own Heart

 

David the man from whose root sprung the sinless Lamb of God was a “bloody man”. He had killed so many people in war and plotted the murder of an innocent man, therefore, God would not allow him to build the temple, although he requested to do so. Instead, God chose his son Solomon to carry out the task because he brought it to David’s attention that “[You] have shed much blood and have fought many wars” (1 Chronicles 1-15).

However, despite his spotty past, God dubbed David as “a man after his own heart” (Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14). Why would a righteous and holy God describe a mere mortal in such terms? The answer is clear when he we read David’s history – he was always willing to confess his fault and turn away from his sin. Case in point -when God rejected David’s offer to build the temple, he did not throw a tantrum, but set his to provide materials and instructions for his son to do the task. Who can forget how he lusted after Uriah’s wife, impregnated her, and then plotted her husband’s death to cover his wickedness. Nevertheless, when confronted with his sin, he admitted his wrong and repented (2 Samuel 11:5-27).

God showed that he loved David in all the ups and downs of his life, but God never winked at his sins. He punished David for the wrongs he did while showing mercy to him because he knew David’s heart. He saw that David was a man of humility, righteousness, and honesty. David understood that God despised lying and dishonesty, and like God he hated them too. There are many scriptures in the Bible that expresses God’s distaste for liars and two that stand out are Proverbs 12: 22 ESV: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” and Proverbs 6:16-19:

      There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
 a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
      and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

 

David himself states in Psalm 63:11 (NIV) that:

 

But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

 

It is therefore a sin to lie continually and support those who lie because God hates deception. Lying has become a pervasive thing in our society because it appears to be the lifestyle of influential people – even the most powerful. It is the norm not to admit that one has done wrong, but to cover up one deception with another deception. Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Where will it end if the “righteous” remain silent or continue to approve of the lies of those in high places? What are we teaching our children? Let’s teach them a memory gem I learned as a child in school:

 

Speak the truth,

And speak it ever,

Cost it what it will

He who hides the wrong he did – does the wrong thing still. (Writer unknown)

 

Be after God’s own heart. He will forgive us if we choose to confess our faults.

 

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CELEBRATE LIFE

 

I have been baffling over this anomaly for some time: Why do people come to a church to celebrate death rather than life? Despite the efforts of Christian witnesses in telling people that Jesus loves them and inviting them to church, many have never darkened the doors of a church. They will never celebrate when a family member tells them that they are saved from sin and are getting baptized. In some cases, they will avoid the person or pass them off as a nutcase, fanatic, hypocrite or an enemy. However, they will turn up in droves to honor the deceased, even they ignore them in life.

 

Pastors will often report that congregants that they haven’t seen for years, and some they don’t even know, will call them at the oddest time of the day to ask them to eulogize a family member even if the deceased showed contempt for the church during their lifetime. Families want to save face at the wrong time. However, pastors will honor their requests in order not to add to their grief and to take the opportunity to preach the word of God to the living. Recently, Pastor Chris McNairy of Decision Point Ministries, opened a funeral service with his sermon and not at the end, as is customary. It made a difference because about twenty-two people responded to his message. I mention him not because he is my pastor, but because his focus was on the salvation of souls and not on death.  

 

 He was in lock-step with what Jesus demonstrated to his disciples in Luke 9 that it was more important to preach the gospel than to bury the dead. Jesus asked a man to follow Him who made the excuse that he had to bury his father before obeying the request therefore: Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God”(v. 60. NIV).

 

 How often are funerals taken up with eulogizing the dead than with exhorting the living to think about eternity? We must think about what we are doing when we attend a funeral. If the deceased is a follower of Christ, surely, we are celebrating a life well spent because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  On the other hand, if the deceased has not accepted Jesus Christ into their heart, we are essentially celebrating their passage into hell. Morbid as it may sound, that’s the reality. No one wants to think that hell is a real place and that people we love can go there. However, it is true that good people can go there if they do not accept Jesus into their lives.

 

Talk about the “dead burying the dead!” That’s exactly who we are when we do not know Jesus and we go to bury the physically dead. Saying all the wonderful things about your dead loved one , a friend, or celebrity will not influence where they spend eternity – their life with or without Christ is the deciding factor. Why don’t you accept Jesus into your heart today or encourage someone that you love to do so? There’s nothing to lose. If you do, someone can genuinely rejoice when you die, and you can do the same for someone else. You may weep because you may miss their touch, smile, or their word – but you’ll weep with hope.

                                                             

Think about it. If God did not know that hell was a terrible place, he would not have sacrificed His only Son. In the first place, hell was not created for us. It was created for Satan and his minions. God created man in his resemblance because He wanted us to be a part of us and not unlike Him. Sin separated us from Him, but God did not want us to languish in it and die without hope. Therefore, He sent His Son to give us life and life more abundantly.  Let’s choose life now!

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Be Watchful

via Daily Prompt: Observe

A lion can teach us many things about being observant or watchful. It can also teach us about patience. Moreover, it reminds us that we must be always vigilant. The lion may lack the speed and agility of a jaguar, but it did not get the title “King of the beasts” for no reason. What it lacks in speed, it makes up in strength and cunning. Because of the latter, it has been able to kill animals like elephants that are much larger than its size.

It is interesting to note that a lion’s heart and lungs are very small so it rarely try to overtake its prey and prefer to stalk them. Observers have noted that the lion does most of its hunting under the cover of night and watches its prey for a very long time before attacking. Usually, they travel undetected in groups, stealthily encircling their  prey until they have an opening, and then they pounce. The prey may be able to smell the predator and escape death. However,  if it is alone, it may become food for the lion who immediately suffocates its victim.

Lions look for areas of vulnerability in a group and will invariably attack the weak and young. Satan, like the lion is a predator -the only difference is that the devil does not rest from his pursuit. He and his minions are sizing us up 24/7 to find a weakness in us that the can use to destroy us.  The Bible warns us to be on guard against the Evil one: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).

Our only protection against him is the armor of God. We cannot ward him off or overcome him in our strength because he is a wily creature. Therefore, make yourself Satan-proof by:

Finally, [being] strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18).

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God’s Plumb line

We live in an age of relativism, moral humanism and alternative truths. There is a tacit acceptance, even among the religious, of the erratic opinions and shifting viewpoints of every pundit and fool alike whose claim to fame is shaped by a media that caters to the human penchant for salacious news. It is understatement to say that the world of communications is big business because it is more than that – it is a mighty conglomerate, crisscrossing worldwide geographical, political, social, cultural, and religious boundaries and exerting phenomenal influence on the many peoples of this planet.

 

Humans communicate, and the media satisfies that need. We are wired to find out knowledge and use it to make decisions that enhance our survival. We receive and give information. However, as societies have evolved, communication has taken on other dimensions. The more we know is the more we want to know; and it is mainly the extraordinary that catches our attention whether it be good or bad. Unfortunately, it is the latter that attracts us more. So why blame the media when they splash provocative imagery on television and the glossy pages of magazines to whet the appetites of information gluttons? They are only employing the tools that will appeal to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” of carnal man (John 2:16). After all, they are in business and they will increase what sells. And what mostly sells in the 21st century is not truth, but versions of it. The reason is that many believe that man is the center of his world and he has the right to view it as he sees fit.

 

This notion is rooted in the humanist belief that human beings are essentially good and can harness critical thinking and evidence to make decisions without reliance on religion. Such philosophy does not appear in contradiction to God’s word because God has given us free will. However, a completely autonomous or self-governing human being is like a piece of paper tossed to and from in the wind without a moral compass. Therefore, although having granted us the ability to exercise free will, God retains sovereignty over His creation and expects that we will admit our limitations and recognize that He is the only absolute authority.

 

God leaves no room for error with his subjects. Just as a carpenter or builder makes sure that His foundation is laid out perfectly, God does the same. He uses the metaphor of the plumb line to talk about the accuracy of his word. A plumb line or plumb is a cord weighted with lead or a non-magnetic object at one end to determine verticality. Builders and painters apply the law of gravity to find right angles and to keep work straight simply because there is no place for error or guesswork in the middle of a job. A mason cannot correct lines and angles in the middle of erecting a building, therefore he trusts the precision of the plumb line to enable him to produce visually and structurally sound work. I have seen buildings that did not line up with a plumb line and the results were not good.

The word of God is the plumb line for righteousness, hope and justice. The building term appears in several scriptures in the Bible.  Jesus Christ is the builder who establishes his kingdom with exactness and truth as we see in Isaiah 28:16 -17:

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
      I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line…

 

He will always continue to keep it intact as the chief cornerstone, though he was rejected) Mark 12:10, Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:6). After the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon and they were rebuilding the temple, God sent his word to Zechariah to give them hope: “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (Zechariah 4:10, ESV). Allusion to the latter tool serves as the most effective image to remind the Jews of God’s invariableness.

James pinpoints characteristics that support God’s immutability: “…with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Builders have learned to trust the mathematical accuracy of the plumb line because it is not constrained by the whims or moods of its users. In Amos 7:7-8 (NIV), God draws the prophet’s attention to the plumb to illustrate how far away the Israelites had swerved from His standard of righteousness and holiness:

 This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb,[a] with a plumb line[b] in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”

“A plumb line,” I replied.

Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

 

It is the practice of some Christians in our society to cover up wrongdoing by the roles they perform each day; they show loyalty to charismatic figures, jobs, family, political affiliations; culture; and other associations that they become attached to as an excuse for their disjointed lifestyle. Whenever their consciences are pricked, they concoct a ton of excuses to justify their infidelity to God’s word. They will glibly justify the wrongdoing of themselves and others by the cliché, “Everyone sins”.  However, what they fail to realize is that God’s word is constant like a plumb does when its lines are found, and even more so, because: “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89, KJV).  The word will not conform to the white lies of spinmeisters who do wrong and profess to be Christians: application of God’s word is the same in all situations.

 

If we use any other standard than the Word of God to evaluate our conduct as Christians, we are out of line with God’s word.  An engineer, surveyor or builder knows that a slight error in measurement could cause a bridge to crumble, land to be wrongly divided and a shaky foundation in a home – if they work without a plumb.  A little straying from the word makes us crooked and an enemy of God. Too many times Christians choose allegiance to race, politics, money, and other things over God because they do not fear the Lord.  Unfortunately, they fear people who can destroy their bodies and not the One who can destroy both body and soul. They will lie to cover up wrong although they know it is against the teaching of God. They will ditch their faith to support an ideology, to be loyal to their race, a political party, to get a promotion and for various other reasons. Our total loyalty must be to Christ and no other because He alone is faithful. Jeremiah 17:5, NIV warns that:

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

 

 What good is it to us if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?

When troubles hit…

In the past few days, God has brought me back to my childhood by reminding me about the tools that the builders used to erect structures whether for life or for death. Morbid as it may sound, the measurements for a coffin had to be no less accurate than that for a house so the builder employed these three tools extensively in his craft: the plumb line, the level, and the square. It seemed as if they were worth more than gold to carpenters and masons who lived in the small community where I grew up in Jamaica.  I learned later that they were very expensive and without them, a builder was unable to do his work well.

My father was not a carpenter, although he was always building something. How can I ever forget the bright chalk line on the cords that he and other carpenters used on the plumb and the mercury that settled in the middle of a level that he kept out of the reach of my siblings and me when it was not in use?  He would always talk about the importance of “correctness” each time he used a measuring tool.  “If you don’t use the level, it’s going to be off”, he would say to us.  Our family always had this inside joke about a mason in our district who built a leaning house because his measurements were off and so I am always particular about symmetry.

I have little or no knowledge of carpentry and I’m not mathematically inclined as my husband. However, I have lived long enough to know that everything must be exact and correct in constructing a building. The builder cannot fight gravity, his tools are what he uses to erect the most majestic Taj Mahal to the humblest cottage that will stand up to the forces of nature and the wear and tear of human activities. In the same way that the builder allows his tools to harness gravity, we must engage the word of God to stand in the face of temptation, trials, and tribulation. When Job heard one terrible news after another, there was nothing he could do but to hold on to his faith in God. He reminded himself about the surety of God although he was surrounded by friends who tried to make him lose hope because he knew something that we must also know: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV).

If you have the chance to watch a carpenter, you will notice that as soon as the plumb that he holds in his hands find a vertical line, it becomes taut and the object at the end of it stops moving.  Likewise, the liquid in the middle of a level settles in the same way when used to check for the alignment of lines and the square checks that when the plumbed object intersects with the level object they create a 90-degree angle.  That is what Christians must do in challenging situations, stop moving and intersect with God:

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13, KJV).

Make your yourself against sin like the vertically straight line of a plumb line: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). A plumb line does not fight gravity so do not fight the devil. God will fight for you. Do what the writer tells us in Proverbs 3:5 NIV:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

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I am guilty, but…

via Daily Prompt: Mercy

stock photo of mercy - Gods hand reaching out - JPG
The urge for leniency comes from the understanding that we are fallible creatures and that we are susceptible every vice, known and unknown. The lust for power, wealth, and fame has brought otherwise morally upright men to the basest levels of human corruption. Often have wise men through the centuries lost their heads over an alluring woman and even destroyed kingdoms because of a few careless moments of dalliance with the opposite sex. Wars have been fought and friendships severed because of foolish words said in anger or jest.

We know the pitfalls and we have precedents for every act done under the sun. However, we continue to err and mercy has to be applied. Mercy is not tacit approval of an egregious act, but an act of mercy at the right time is for the greater good. Christ showed us mercy on the cross while we yet sinners because He loved us so much that He wanted to give us a way of escape from the sins that held us down. He was aware that because one man sinned and separated us from His Father; one man could unite us with Him. He was the only one who was eligible and He gave Himself as a ransom for us. He had committed no sin, yet He took our sins on His back so we could receive the gift of salvation. O what unsurpassable mercy and grace!

 

The Joy of the Lord

        

  • Image result for bored pictures of people

I’ve noticed that when I’ve had a rough week and I don’t pray enough, I feel more tired than even when I’ve done physical labor. The reverse is also true for me that I still experience a special energy when I ‘m filled up with prayer and the word of God even while being physically exhausted.

We are expected to feel tired when we do hard work, but our mind remains intact. In fact, we feel a sense of accomplishment when we complete a task. That is because our bodies produce neurochemicals to help us absorb and mitigate some of the pain that is a natural consequence of daily living. Dr. Christopher Bergland calls them the 7 molecules of happiness. These neurochemicals are neuro chemicals are endocannabinoids, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphin, serotonin, GABA and adrenaline.

While they all have distinct characteristics, they can be triggered or slowed down by each other.  For the sake of this article, I will only concentrate on four of the seven that Dr. Christopher Bergland has described: Dopamine: the reward-molecule; oxytocin: “the bonding molecule”, GABA, “The anti-anxiety molecule” and serotonin: “the confidence molecule.” He notes that purpose driven activities increase the level of dopamine in our brains and gives us the sense of satisfaction for setting and executing goals. Oxytocin is the molecule that fosters trust, loyalty, and intimacy. In our society where we have high divorce rates, people are overly tense about spatial proximity and suspicious about each other, it would come as no surprise that most of us produce this neurochemical in low quantities. Many tragedies and things outside of our control occur every day so the Creator has placed GABA molecules in us, the anti-anxiety molecule to help us survive the harsh realities of life. When we learn to meditate on the word of God and pray, we unconsciously trigger anti-anxiety molecules because we gain confidence. As we turn over situations into competent hands we have a quiet trust because God gives us peace. We, therefore, become great beneficiaries of serotonin, the confidence producing molecule.

 

I’ve mentioned all of the above to make one statement that “The joy of the Lord is [our] strength (Jeremiah 8:10, KJV).  Let’s face the truth: Sin drains us. Why? Because it separates us from our source, who is God, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Not knowing God gives us spiritual ennui. We are living without the right motivation and therefore dead because the wages of sin is death.

The motivation for a robust, full life has to come from God. He has placed in us natural happiness boosters that are activated and maintained by our living in Him and vice versa. Unfortunately, some people have rejected Him and they are continually trying to chase dreams and engage in pursuits to make them happy.  Yes, they are goal-oriented and they achieve many things, but their lives still remain empty because they have placed too much burden on themselves when God is there to take the stress off their backs.  He has already given us more than enough assurance:

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalms 55:22, KJV).

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7, KJV).

Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10 , KJV).

Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, KJV).

Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:6-7. KJV).

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33, KJV).

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7, KJV) .

Trust in him at all times; [ye] people, pour out your heart before him: God [is] a refuge for us. Selah (Psalms 62:8, KJV).
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose (Romans 8:28, KJV).

 

The psalmist David also speaks about the advantages of trusting in God:

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore, my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

If we follow his lead, we will not have to depend on outside influences to enjoy living. We will be guaranteed complete joy regardless of our circumstances.

 

References

Bergland, Christopher (2012). The Neurochemicals of Happiness. Retrieved frompsychologytoday.com.