I LOVE HOW SCRIPTURE is so honest with its “heroes” ~ we see their flaws as well as their faith, as in the case of King David. David wasn’t perfect, but he was quick to repent. David didn’t run from God in his sin, he would receive and yield to the rebuke of God’s Word and turn and run TO God for grace and forgiveness. A man guilty of adultery and murder, he was also a man who loved God and knew God’s covenantal lovingkindness, who poured out his soul to God in worship, who longed to build God’s temple…and instead God told him HE would build DAVID’S “house,” promising an everlasting throne for one of his descendants (Jesus), the Anointed One of God. David was “a man after God’s own heart,” flawed yet faithful, zealous for God’s glory. THIS is a godly man.
(We meet David in 1 Samuel 16 when he is first anointed to be king, and follow his story through the rest of this book and 2nd Samuel, and the first part of 1 Kings. David also authored the majority of the Psalms and was known as a musician before the Lord. A few key chapters to read: 1 Samuel 17 David and Goliath, 2nd Samuel 7 God’s covenant with David, 2 Sam. 9 David’s grace toward Mephibosheth, a picture of God’s grace towards us, 2 Sam. 11-12 his sin with Bathsheba, Ps. 51 David’s repentance over that sin, Acts 13:20-25 God says David is “a man after my own heart.”)
Listening to the radio on the way back from Dr. appt ~ talk show reflecting on nature of Heaven according to Scripture, and the very “physical” (in contrast to misconception of “ghostly”) experience we will have there. I was SO blessed to be reminded of the truths laid out in Revelation 21 and 22, and where we will be together forever with our Lord! …
“Then he who is seated upon the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new!’ … Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the thirsty water without price from the fountain of life. The victorious shall inherit these things, and I will be God to him and he will be son to me….‘ … Then he carried me away in spirit to the top of a vast mountain, and pointed out to me the city, the holy Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, radiant with the glory of God. Her brilliance sparkled like a very precious jewel with the clear light of crystal.
“…I could see no Temple in the city, for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb are themselves its Temple. The city has no need for the light of sun or moon, for the splendour of God fills it with light and its radiance is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. The city’s gates shall stand open day after day—and there will be no night there. Into the city they will bring the splendours and honours of the nations. But nothing unclean, no one who deals in filthiness and lies, shall ever at any time enter it—only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the city and on either bank of the river grew the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, a different kind for each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
“Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. Night shall be no more; they have no more need for either lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will shed his light upon them and they shall reign as kings for timeless ages.
“Then the angel said to me, ‘These words are true and to be trusted, for the Lord God, who inspired the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must shortly happen.’
“‘See, I come quickly! Happy [Blessed!] is the man who pays heed to the words of the prophecy in this book.’ … ‘See, I come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Beginning and the End. Happy [Blessed!] are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city. Shut out from the city shall be the depraved, the sorcerers, the impure, the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises a lie!
“‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the Churches. I am both the root and stock of David, and the bright star of the morning!’
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let everyone who hears this also say, ‘Come!’ Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift….
“He, who is witness to all this, says, ‘Yes, I am coming very quickly!’
“Amen, come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all his people.”
(from JBPhillips NT)
some recent reflections:
@Grace2Grow: The real maturing of the Christian doesn’t occur in seminaries as if by mere intellectual education ~ it occurs by living w/in the community of a flawed but redeemed church Body, loving &patiently forbearing, &laying down ur life for another.
@Grace2Grow: GOSPEL life isn’t mere rigorous doctrinal study; rather, it’s COMMUNION w/God, worshipping in Spirit &Truth, necessarily communing w/others who r also united w/God by his Spirit, together growing 2loathe what God loathes, love what he loves, & live as he lives.
@Grace2Grow: We hv 2long cultivated a sloppy acceptance of “truth” as that which is handed to us as tasty, sugary morsels prepared by others. We cannot now expect to have the necessary capacity to examine and test and discern having so long left these thoughtful disciplines to atrophy. And how can we then complain if we discover we have been deceived?
@Grace2Grow: GOSPEL life isn’t merely loving one another as Christ has loved us, though that might arguably be the fullest expression of it. The TRUTH that undergirds it is the very GOSPEL work of Jesus, itself. Had he not pursued us when we were yet his enemies, &died as a ransom 4our souls 2reconcile us 2God, &were we 2remain ignorant of &cut off from this ROOT, there could be no FRUITFUL Love.
…One of the books I am currently reading is E.Metaxas’s biography of BONHOEFFER. It is … touching me DEEPLY. I’ve always admired Bonhoeffer from afar, but now find him as admirable a man as I have never known, and one whose story is very fit for our own time. The above reflections spring from some of the real-life lessons he learned and would teach on. This book captures well these themes, and works them out in a way that I feel is having a very formative effect on the trajectory of my own life. If you can manage the time, I highly recommend the read ~ you may find it easier to tackle in “audiobook” format. 😉
Remembering and celebrating God’s active, pursuing us, even though we are by nature – because of sin – objects of his wrath, he intervened and came by human flesh yet w/o sin, so he could die in our place, and rise again to secure our Eternal Life!
Because of HIS eternal, unfailing LOVE! To prepare a place for us WITH him enjoying the presence of the very God by whom and for whom we were made, forever!
Manger -> Cross -> Throne …
I pray, for your joy and his glory, that you embrace the Christ of Christmas, now and forever!! ❤
Overwhelmed, today, with the news of the tragedy in Connecticut ~ another mass murder in the form of a school shooting. This time, most of the victims were kindergarten students ~ same age as my 5 yr old nephew. Horror and travesty, a nation in shock ~ seemingly even moreso with this event that even other mass shootings in recent history, perhaps because so very many of the victims were so very young.
Our confidence in the goodness of God ~ his kindness, his presence in all circumstances, his mourning with those who mourn, his comfort ~ does not waver. He will ultimately bring justice to bear, he will exercise redemptive victory and all the powers of darkness that presently seek to steal, kill and destroy (see John 10, Ephesians 6, Revelation 19) will themselves be destroyed, and Christ will reign as victorious, sovereign King. There will come a day when ALL death with die. (Even so, come quickly Lord!)
Until then? I pray he weeps with those who are weeping, tonight, that he manifest his presence and comfort with all who are experiencing grief inexpressible, and that he will show himself mighty to save, and gentle of heart, loving Father, and the one who will ultimately bring GOOD even out of evil purposes.
Hear our prayers, O God.
~ as our President also, today, quoted from Psalm 147, here it is in its entirety (NKJV) ~
Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4 He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. 5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God, 8 Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. 9 He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry.
10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy.
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! 13 For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. 14 He makes peace in your borders, And fills you with the finest wheat.
15 He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. 16 He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; 17 He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? 18 He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His judgments, they have not known them.
Praise the Lord!
God of grace, your LOVE amazes me. Your relentless pursuit of the wayward sons astonishes me. The assurance you give to your children – even when we are afraid to ask – blesses my soul.
Oh my Father, how you pour out of your Spirit, how you make us aware of your presence – you are ALWAYS with us!
If you have given us your own Son as a ransom for sinners, how much MORE, now that we have by faith in Jesus the “right to be called the sons of God,” will you not freely give us ALL things?
Oh your grace, your grace, your grace….How you give, oh my God!!
A recent Devotional Post at WONDERSWORD:
Have you ever wrestled with a story in Scripture, chewing on it, really sinking your teeth into it to try to get all the meaning out of it, only to come up scratching your head?
When I was younger, one of those stories for me was that of Samson and Delilah, in the book of Judges. I just couldn’t understand why this so-called man of God would give away his greatest secret?! Was he really that unintelligent? Could it be his love for the woman Delilah really was “blind”?
The book of Judges covers a period in Israel’s history before the kings, describing a cyclical pattern that may in fact be all too familiar, as the people of God would go through extreme swings of the pendulum from “doing what was right in their own eyes” which results in idolatry/slavery/oppression/destruction, to times of crying out to God for deliverance, when God would, then, in his mercy, raise up a “Judge” to lead the people of Israel out of their bondage; and for a time there would be peace, and the people of God would be faithful. Faithful, that is, until the Judge would die, and the swing from one extreme to the other would begin again. (see summary in Judges 2:11-19)
Samson was one such Judge during this time. His birth was announced to his parents in a miraculous way, and God revealed that Samson would be set apart for God’s service even from his mother’s womb, taking what’s referred to as a “Nazarite vow” (much like John the Baptist who comes on the scene just before Jesus in the New Testament), which included among other things that he would never drink wine nor cut his hair. But as he became a man, Samson also grew to be known for being reckless, and self-indulgent, and lustful; that is, he was hardly the picture of success in faithfulness to God!
Nevertheless, not because Samson was “deserving,” but because God had graciously appointed him for God’s own purposes, time and again, the Spirit of the Lord would come upon Samson, and by virtue of his super-natural strength, he would be awesome and formiddable when encountering the enemies of God and God’speople – such as when he escaped capture by the Philistines, and single-handedly killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey!
You can read the whole story of Samson in Judges chapters 13-16. Of particular interest to me, here, though, was how he (famously) ends up in relationship with a woman named Delilah, who is conspiring with the Philistines – the enemies of Israel – to find a way to expose Samson’s strength, and put an end to it. Delilah is instructed to seduce Samson, and her methods are anything but subtle. She comes right out and asks Samson to tell her the secret to his great strength, how he could be bound and subdued. And Samson invents a story, if he is bound in thus and such a way, he’ll become weak. After which the Philistines try thus and such a way, and it fails, and Samson breaks free! And this wasn’t just one incident – this happens 2 more times!
…. But this isn’t yet the part that caused me to scratch my head.
Delilah, in now a fourth attempt to get Samson to reveal the secret to his strength, pulls out all the stops, and says to him, “How can you say that you love me when your heart is not with me?!” and she presses and effectively nags him in this same way for days, until “his soul was vexed to death.” So finally Samson caves in and tells her – no razor has ever touched his head; he tells her that he has been a Nazarite to the Lord from his birth, and if his hair is shaved, his strength will leave….
Now, in reflecting on this, I used to get stuck on this fourth and rather shocking scenario! After all, Samson has to know full well that the Philistines are going to do exactly the thing he has told Delilah – that’s how this has played out fully three times before! Why oh why did he tell her the truth? Even if she had worn him down with her nagging, he still had to know that they would attempt whatever it was he would describe!
It wasn’t until the Lord highlighted one verse in this text that I realized how significant Samson’s fall actually was….Yes, they cut his hair just as he’d described; and when Samson tried to defend himself, he found his strength was gone.
But here’s the revelation – the end of Judges 16:20 says, “…BUT HE DID NOT KNOW THAT THE LORD HAD LEFT HIM.”
The secret – that apparently even Samson, himself, didn’t get! was that his “strength” was never in his hair….
Or to put it another way, Samson’s relationship to and power from God wasn’t merely wrapped up in the external trappings of what it meant that he was keeping his Nazarite vow. Samson’s “strength” was in the SPIRIT OF THE LORD who would come upon him and empower him to bring about God’s deliverance for the people of God – as every other “Judge” before him.
Ultimately Samson was technically proved right, and he was captured, became a slave, bound, blind, and grinding a mill in a Philistine prison. That is, until he eventually repents to the Lord! (16:28) and acknowledges, FINALLY!, that his strength only comes from the LORD, thereafter the Lord gives him one last success which by itself was greater than the sum of all his previous successes.
For the people of God, “Believers” on this side of the cross of Jesus Christ, our relationship to God is a “New Covenant” relationship. Our experience of intimacy with God by his Spirit looks a bit different from that of the people of God who lived before the cross, and were looking forward to the coming of that one, final and decisive salvation.
The whole promise of the New Covenant that would be put into effect with Jesus is the giving of his Spirit to abide in the hearts of every one who believes, and he does indeed seal and keep and preserve his own, bringing to completion every good work he has begun (Phil. 1:6).
But could it be that we suffer from the same fixation as did Samson? Could it be that we are more caught up in the external trappings of what it means to “keep our vows” to God, that we may not even notice that we aren’t experiencing the presence of God in our midst anymore? This does not mean that he leaves us, for he has promised he will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5); but he also says that if we draw near to him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8); and the Apostle Paul thought it important enough to shake the Galations, and make us aware that it was to our great harm if we would again burden ourselves with a yoke of slavery (see Gal. 3:1-6 and 5:1), getting caught up in religious externals, as though that is the sum of our salvation!
Our “secret to success” is the same as Samson’s was….“It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord. (Zech. 4:6)
That is a story worth wrestling for! So draw near to the Lord, and entrust your whole heart to him!