Cussed Out. Stoned. Flung Dust.

(2 Samuel 16:5-14 ESV) 5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” 9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 13 So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. 14 And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.

Well, this is just uncomfortable. No, really. David was in a very difficult place. His son, Absalom was trying to wrestle the kingdom from his hands. If that wasn’t enough, a foul-mouthed descendant of Saul had showed up and was taking out his frustrations on the king. We are told that Shimei was cursing at David, throwing stones at him, and flinging dirt in his direction. Sounds like a crazy man doesn’t it? (Shimei actually had some valid reasons that we won’t get into today)

In reading this, I thought about times I’ve had people just “go off” on me. I know that you’ve experienced the same thing in your life. I remember one lady screaming, “Preacher, one of these days I’m gonna split hell wide open, and it’s gonna be your fault.” That was a bit difficult to take! Another time, I had a church member tell me, “Preacher, if you can’t live on $150 per week, you don’t deserve to live.” Trust me, I could tell you some doozies…

Leaders tend to have targets painted on their backs. Whatever, or wherever you lead, there will be people who resent your position, and disagree with your decisions.

Parents get disrespected all the time. It’s unsettling when a child you have raised disrespects you to your face. It’s devastating. Just ask David about Absalom.

David’s response to Shimei was gracious. He was surrounded by his personal bodyguards and could have had him killed with a hand gesture. In fact, Abishai offered to take him out. A nod from the head of David would have sealed his fate.

David was fully aware of his own sins. He had recently been confronted by Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba and the planned assassination of her husband, Uriah. He was guilty. If not for the grace of God, he could have been under judgment himself. It may be that his own forgiveness allowed him to extend some patience to Shimei.

I’m reminded of the New Testament Scripture that instructs, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

This story had a happy ending. Although it was a troubling incident, we are told, “The king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.” (Verse 14)

So, the next time someone curses you, hurls stones your direction, and flings dirt in your face… take a step back, breathe deeply, and extend grace… for there was a time when the Lord extended His hand of grace to you. Refresh yourself in that knowledge and move on to a calmer environment.

PRAYER: Realizing my imperfections, I thank You today for grace. I certainly don’t deserve it. Help me to extend that grace to others who may have valid reasons to be upset and frustrated with me. Bring peace. And let it start with me. Amen.

Secret Sin

(Psalm 90:8 ESV) 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

I struggle everyday with the temptation to sin. Even though I’m a follower of Christ, washed by His blood, forgiven through His grace–I still find myself engaged in a battle against the enemy of my soul.

Some days my sinful actions and attitudes are obvious to everyone. My shortcomings are evident to my family, friends, work associates, and the general public. Though I try my best to avoid doing so, I frequently find myself saying with Paul, “The things I would do, I do not; the things I would not, I do.” He goes on to say, (Romans 7:18-20, 24-25 ESV) 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. … 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Other days, my sin is less evident. I think I’ve hidden the evil desires and inappropriate attitudes I deal with. And, to some degree, I succeed because no one knows what I’m thinking except me. Well, and God… That’s the point of Psalm 90:8. God has examined our iniquities closely. He has set them before His eyes. He has put His light upon my secret sins so they may be revealed. And covered!

I used to be so afraid of God finding me out. I was certain that if He knew everything I had done He could never forgive me, much less love me. But, that is why grace is so amazing! God examines our sin and issues new mercy EVERYDAY! I’m so thankful that He loves me in spite of my imperfection.

PRAYER: (Romans 8:35-39 ESV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Sin is Messy…Grace is Amazing!

(Leviticus 9:6-7 ESV) 6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.”

Like many people, I’m on a quest to read the Bible in its entirety this year. I’m not doing it to get another notch on my belt. Nor, am I doing it because I feel some sense of obligation to do so. Rather, I’m enjoying the discipline of committing myself to a plan that will take me to passages I might otherwise avoid. Leviticus is a section of Scripture that can be laborious to read and difficult to understand without in-depth study. However, it does contain some very important and descriptive information.

One such topic has to do with the various offerings that were to be brought to the priests for the forgiveness of sins. The way the animals were to be killed, the processing of the body parts, where the blood was to be placed; these descriptions are very bloody and gory. It’s really not very enjoyable to be subjected to this graphic detail. And yet, reading it reminds me of how messy sin can be.

Our culture’s concept of sin has become entangled in legalistic arguments over right and wrong. When we ask, “What is sin?” we often think of violating of the Ten Commandments. We tend to categorize and rate the seriousness of differnet types of sin. For instance, murder and adultery might be considered “major” sins when compared to lying, cursing, or idolatry.

The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” The mark, in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus. Viewed in that light, it is clear that we are all sinners.

Instead of getting caught up in the messiness of sin, I’d rather concentrate on the provisions of grace which allow us to be forgiven and freed from its power. Right in the middle of the various gory stories of animal disections the writer of Leviticus reminds us why the shedding of blood was necessary. He says, “that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”

The glory of the Lord appears to us through what Moses called atonement. Theologically and historically, the word “atonement” does not mean gratification as in common usage, but rather “to make restitution”: mending what has been broken, or paying back what was taken.

So, when reading these passages of Scripture in Leviticus, remember that while sin is messy, God’s grace is amazing!

PRAYER: Thank you Father for forgiveness of my sin. The blood of goats and rams, pigeons and grain, could never do for me what the shedding of your blood has done for all of mankind. I’m forever indebted to You! Let Your glory be visible in our repentant hearts. Amen.

Forever Forgiven

(Genesis 50:19-21 ESV) “19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Most Christians are fully aware of the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely imprisoned, forgotten by those he had helped; Joseph’s life had been made difficult primarily by other people. It would have been easy for him to allow a root of bitterness to develop in his soul. It’s one thing to be a victim of a single offense, but it is very hard to offer forgiveness when the offenses are stacked on top of each other. Such was the life of Joseph.

To his credit, Joseph was able to find a way to forgive, not once, but continually. In the case of his brothers, they were probably the ones responsible for his deepest pain. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to forgive family members who had inflicted such heinous abuse on multiple occasions?

In our passage of Scripture today, Joseph has to reassure his brothers of his commitment to “forever forgiveness.” Their father Jacob had just passed away and they were afraid that Joseph would now seek the revenge they felt he was entitled to. Instead of revenge, Joseph reminded his brothers of some very important facts.

  • Joseph realized he was not God and therefore was not authorized to impose any punishment upon his brothers. Even though he had the right legally, he did not have the right to refuse forgiveness spiritually. He was acknowledging God’s sovereignty by stating, “Am I in the place of God?”
  • He did not gloss over their wrong. He reminded them, “As for you, you meant evil against me…” We won’t help ourselves or our offenders by acting like it never happened. Freedom comes when we face the truth and apply Scriptural principles to guide us through the healing process.
  • God is always able to turn mourning into dancing! Joseph realized, “God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
  • Finally, he comforted them by speaking kindly and reminding them that he would take care of them and their families. Instead of treating them as he had been treated, he decided to be the bigger man and commit himself to forever forgiveness.

Who has wronged you? What offense needs to be forgiven? Don’t say, “I can’t forgive this individual.” Instead, boldly declare, “All things are possible to those who believe.”

PRAYER: I’m very grateful that you have offered forever forgiveness to me. Although I don’t deserve it, I gladly receive it. Help me to be willing to offer the same to those who may have wronged me. Amen.

Divine Defense

(Psalm 35:1-3 ESV) Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

“Hurt people hurt people.”

I recently read this statement on Facebook and realized the truth that resonates from it. It’s true. Most offenders have been offended by someone in the past. When someone has treated us badly, the pain is real and can be difficult to cover. It seems to leak into other relationships causing the cycle of hurt to continue on and on.

It is clear from the tone of this passage of Scripture that the writer had been the victim of some kind of mistreatment. He was angry, possibly bitter, and certainly expressed a desire for God to take revenge on his abusers.

David didn’t know it at the time, but his prayer contained wisdom beyond what he could comprehend. Here’s what I mean. When we are hurt, or angry, we tend to focus on revenge rather than grace. Such was the case here. A casual reading of David’s words reveal nothing but retribution for the crimes committed against him.

When He asked God to intervene, his desire was still about retribution. But God, always offers grace before judgment. Don’t get me wrong, God will deal speedily and with righteousness when it is necessary. But, I also know that God is just as concerned about redeeming our abusers as He is relieving our pain.

In reality, when David asked God to, “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me,” he was actually giving God the opportunity to deal graciously with his enemies. That may not have been David’s intent, but when he turned it over to God he had to take his hands off.

David takes it a step further by asking God to, “Say to my soul, I am your salvation.” We understand the soul to be the seat of our emotional being. It is where we feel emotional pain, hurt, frustration. It is where we struggle with the reality of personal disappointment. It is where the weight and the heaviness of betrayal live.

Some translators believe the wording here would be better translated, “Let me hear you say I will save your soul (emotions)!” One of the great challenges for anyone who has suffered hurt and betrayal is to be able to forgive the offender and move on in a positive way. That’s what David seems to be asking.

If you’ve been hurt, let me encourage you to turn the fight over to the Lord. Let Him contend with those who contend with you. Give up the fight. Put it in His hands and let Him decide whether or not grace or judgment is the appropriate response. Refuse to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in your soul. You’re bigger than your hurt!

PRAYER: I trust you, Lord, to take the pain of my hurt and turn it for my good, and for the good of those who hurt me. I release them of the offense, and I release You to provide grace or judgment as You see fit. Thank You for lifting the weight of the burden so that my mouth will be filled with praise rather than retribution. Amen.


(Matthew 18:21-22 ESV) Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love’s power to break nature’s rule. ~Lewis B. Smedes

You’ll be glad you read what I’m about to say because it is profound. Are you ready? Here it is… “Forgiving someone is hard to do.”

See? I told you. It’s tough. There are many reasons why forgiving someone is difficult. It’s unnatural. It feels bad. We feel entitled to be angry. Sometimes, we  feel justified in holding a grudge. I could go on.

In this conversation between Jesus and Peter, we are made aware of how very important it is to forgive someone. Peter makes a good faith effort to forgive by offering to do so 7 times. Jewish law required forgiveness to be given 3 times daily. So, Peter was being very generous by offering a 2x+1 deal. Jesus’ counter offer seemed ludicrous; 490 times! 490? Ok. I can do that.

But what about 491? Nope. Not in a million years. Ain’t gonna happen. Have you ever thought about the limits of forgiveness? I don’t believe that Jesus was trying to teach Peter to limit forgiveness. Instead, He was very clearly teaching “unlimited forgiveness.”

If we’re keeping count, then we probably haven’t really forgiven anyway.

If at 457, we’re counting up to 490, we’re more concerned about tracking the offense than releasing it. To be like Jesus, we must not only forgive 490 times, but we must also be willing to extend forgiveness at 491. If you can do that you are well on your way to being a mature disciple of Christ. And if you can’t, maybe you ought to ask Jesus to forgive you for not forgiving! Forgive me for saying so… 🙂

PRAYER: Father, thank you for forgiving me when I was so unworthy of it. Help me to be like You and extend forgiveness when it is needed. #forgiveness=freedom. Amen

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