When Godly Leaders Fall

When Godly Leaders Fall

Christians around the world have been grieving the news of sexual misconduct by yet another highly respected Christian speaker and writer. Although he has now passed away some may feel he escaped punishment for his double -life. I am sure he fell on his knees in shame when he met our Savior face to face. My goal in my writing is not to dissect individual lives of fallen leaders but to examine how sin has repercussions that are far reaching. Pastors and church leaders are human too but we tend to put them on a holy pedestal and expect them to have somehow obtained a kind of spiritually impenetrable shield around them. In reality, they need our prayers more than anyone because when they fall from grace many are affected. Shock, a sense of betrayal, anger and a loss of trust in them or the institution they lead are some responses.

King David was a simple shepherd boy turned great warrior because God blessed, protected and made King. In his personal life David was a failure as a husband and father. By the time he was 30 he had seven wives and later added more wives and concubines (at least ten) to his harem. He turned a blind eye when his daughter was raped by a half brother, Amnon. Her brother Absalom took justice into his own hands, killed him and fled. Later Absalom rebelled against David’s authority as king and defiled his fathers concubines. David did nothing to make restitution or reconciliation with his children which almost split the Kingdom. His family was a mess.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Bathsheba. David was home when he should have been fighting with his men. Viewing his kingdom from a rooftop he spied a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of averting his eyes he sent for her and slept with her. Finding out she was pregnant he tried to get her faithful husband to sleep with her as a cover up. When that didn’t work he put Uriah in the midst of battle to die. The prophet Nathan confronted David with his great sin but despite his repentance the baby died. There are consequences to sin.

How many people were affected by this great sin? His trusted guards knew what he did, he was not with his men fighting, he betrayed his wives, had an innocent man killed – Uriah’s family suffered loss – the new baby died and his children had more division. The whole kingdom suffered. Wow – not such a great guy after all.

Why is he called “a man after God’s own heart”? Because David never forgot where he came from and had a deep desire to obey God. He loved God’s Law and had absolute faith in God’s power and protection. No matter what the circumstance were he was always grateful even when on the run from Saul. David pours out his heart in the book of Psalms for us and we can identify with his raw emotion. He truly repented of his sin and accepted the consequences. He was called a man after God’s own heart , not because he was perfect, but because he knew where to turn when he messed up.

That is why we love David. We love his stories of great bravery in fighting the giant Goliath. Do we have “Goliath’s” in our lives and need to depend on God’s deliverance? We admire his ability to soothe Saul with his harp and his great friendship with Jonathon. Are we looking towards God for peace of mind? We learn a great lesson from his sin with Bathsheba….God sees everything and there is no hiding from Him. We live in a broken world with the same flaws, fears and failures as then and there are many life lessons in his story. We love the Psalms that were recorded for us: songs of gratefulness, wonder and praise; prayer for help and courage; psalms of brokenness and repentance. David’s great sin did not diminish God’s love for him or keep God from fulfilling His promises. David’s sin did not take away all the great things he had accomplished either.

So when we hear of a godly man’s (woman’s) fall we should pray for all those affected especially the people working for their ministry. Their sin damages their personal character but not necessarily their message. We need to realize that we all fall short of God’s glory and need to be surrounded by godly people to lift us up. Will your daily prayer be to live a life for God’s glory and be called a man/woman after God’s own heart?

Where is the Love?

Where is the Love?

Music in its many forms is an international language of its own accord that can span many years but “Pop” music reflects the current issues of today. That might be why we get nostalgic when we hear a popular song from our teen or young adult years. Most of our “love songs” are happy or funny – except maybe Country music because it often portrays the lonely broken heart. And everyday most of our news is full of anger, conflict and fear I began thinking, where is the love?

In a song by the Black-Eyed Peas , “Where is the Love?” speaks loudly to our current world situation of anger, self-centeredness, prejudice and racism. Printed here is only a small part, read the whole thing when you get a chance.

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma……

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

There is such depth to these lyrics in stating the brokenness of the family, lack of boundaries, hatred and loss of control. Sin can twist and break every good thing and it’s not supposed to be this way. When God finished creating the world He said, “It is good”. But doubt in God’s goodness, mistrusting His word and disobedience began the downward spiral.

Facts about God’s love: God IS love. Perfect love casts out fear. God forgives and removes our sin as far as the east is to the west. He loves us with a never ending love. He gave His only Son to lay down his life for us so we can have eternal life with him. God promises to never leave us and offers us hope and a future. We can love because He first loved us— Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4)

Our whole world would be a better place if we followed some guidelines from the Apostle Paul about practicing true love.

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The Bible is a very practical book and tells us how we can make this work in real life. We don’t need to be so puffed up with pride or self- centeredness that our noses get bent out of shape at the slightest inconvenience or difficulty. Ask your self ; what’s my attitude when waiting in line or driving in traffic? If someone else is rude or hurtful we don’t have to retaliate or get the last word. Jesus said , “Turn the other cheek”. How we respond is a choice. Protect each others feelings because words can hurt! Try to hope for the best and give people a second chance – God has forgiven us over and over! We can be an agent of change and model God’s love starting in our homes.

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart

You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place

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Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.

Build Resilience in 2021

Build Resilience in 2021

There isn’t one civilized person on this planet that isn’t glad to see the end of 2020. From political unrest, natural disasters and a world wide pandemic, life is not going to be back to “normal” anytime soon enough. Although we have great hope in beating this virus with vaccines, we are still struggling. So how should we respond in 2021? We need to build resilience.

Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to use challenges to forge strength and prosperity. Having resilience does not mean that you don’t struggle, make mistakes, or need to ask for help. Resilient people keep plugging along even when the situation becomes ugly or exhausting.

There are many characters in the Bible who developed resilience through tough challenges. A favorite of mine is Joseph found in Genesis 37-47. If you have never read the whole story – please do ! Joseph was the youngest and favorite son of Jacob the Patriarch of Israel. From a young age God spoke to him in dreams which made his brothers even more jealous. The angry brothers sold Joseph into slavery and told their Dad he was dead. Joseph was bought as a household slave in Egypt and did well until the Masters’ wife lied about an assault putting him into prison. Joseph kept the faith and his dreams got him out of jail and placed him serving the Pharaoh himself. A life of extreme ups and downs yet Joseph never stopped believing and trusting in God because he understood that God has a purpose even in our suffering.

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor over Egypt. Gen 45:7-8 (NLT)

“A helpful way to exercise spiritual resilience is by cultivating gratitude and counting your blessings. Be thankful for what you do have rather than focusing on what you are missing. Build optimism and be positive. Accept the past and focus on the future.” American Psychological Assoc.

How we respond to our circumstances or developing good coping skills will help us maintain balance. We need to take care of our bodies and avoid negative outlets. Masking our pain with alcohol, drugs and even food is tempting but it’s like putting a bandaid on a deep wound. Find resources to manage stress, not avoid it. Don’t dwell on the news and Facebook but instead find uplifting music, scripture and supportive friends. We can be proactive in finding purpose by making goals, problem solving and helping others. We need to keep things in perspective and be realistic about change. Not all change is bad. Finally, resilience should give us a hopeful outlook because we have learned from our past. Resilient people have a survivor mentality.

Our situations may vary widely but the answer is the same – call on God, the Almighty Creator, Our Sustainer, Redeemer, Healer and Friend.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. 21  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! Psalms 107:19-22 (ESV)

 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Gal 6:9-10 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (resilience) 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

2020 started out as a promising year. and many were looking forward to milestone events when our hopes were dashed by a microscopic virus. The whole world came to a stop and a “new normal” slowly evolved. There were some very real losses – of loved ones, sports and awards, graduations – once in a lifetime events. We are all feeling the emotional weight of trying to adjust to this new reality and there is a lot of fear, sadness and stress. The Scriptures remind me to look back and remember His faithfulness and it encourages me to look forward in faith and with hope. God is Sovereign and in control. This pandemic knocked us off our feet but God was not surprised and He wants us to trust Him.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea……The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!….. Be still, and know that I am God! Psalms 46:1-2, 6, 10a (NLT)

When we are feeling disappointed or experience a great loss it is easy to focus on what we don’t have. Our sadness can over shadow our thinking and darken our hearts. We need to make ourselves still and focus on His promises.

 He provides: And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others 2 Cor 9:8

He is faithful : The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lam 3:22-24 (NLT)

We can trust Him: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. John 14:1 (NLT)

He gives real peace: I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)

I grew up going to a small Baptist church that loved singing hymns. There is often a story behind the hymns and the words convey deep meaning. I remember feeling such joy when we would sing a peppy favorite like Count Your Blessings. These words ring true to our situations today.

Do you feel tossed around by life- Are you discouraged thinking all is lost- Are you burdened with your load of care – Do you look around you thinking life’s not fair –  If  this is true: “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you ‘til your journeys end.   Count your blessings, Name them one by one Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God has done!”    (song by Johnson Oatman Jr. & Edwin O Excell)

This holiday season will definitely be different! Gatherings will be smaller and you may even find yourself missing the familiar clamor and drama. God is not finished with you yet! This is not the end of your story because every day, week, season holds a new chapter. No matter what situation you are in these ending days of 2020, be grateful for the blessings.

Comfort From the Psalms

Comfort From the Psalms

King David is probably the most famous of all of Israel’s ancient kings. The youngest of his family he began life as a shepherd – a lowly occupation. David was a very talented musician, poet, leader and warrior. He was dependable, a loyal friend, kept his promises and was very zealous for God but in his personal life blew it big time.

The Psalms contain a collection of 150 poems and songs of which 75 are attributed to David. They are not compiled in chronological order but put together by themes. Davids’ poems are rich with emotion whether begging for protection and mercy or in praise to God. We can learn a lot from studying the life of David in these hard days and we can take great comfort reading about God’s faithfulness to him. David’s feelings are not sugar coated but sometimes raw and that is why we can identify with this “man after God’s own heart”.

Needing Assurance and Comfort – Psalm 23 – written by a former shepherd, David shares that God is the Good Shepherd who cares for, leads, heals and provides for His people in all circumstances. A favorite psalm in times of trouble or grief.

Dysfunctional Family – Psalm 2 was written when Absalom, one of his sons, amassed an army to kill him and take over the kingdom. David had 8 wives and 7 sons listed in 2 Samuel which was against God’s command and a pure recipe for jealousy and conflict. He showed favoritism, failed to discipline his children and did not show love or justice toward them.

When Life Isn’t Fair – Psalm 37 encourages us to stop looking at “the other guy” and comparing what seems unfair but tells us to keep doing the right thing. God sees our hearts and actions .

Praising God for Protection and Victory – God is our Rock of refuge in the most difficult circumstances – written after Saul dies and David secures the throne (see also Ps 27 – Our Confidence is in God)

Guilty as Charged A Prayer of Repentance – Psalm 51 – David really blew it! He was where he shouldn’t be, lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery, got her pregnant and then had the faithful warrior husband killed in battle. How low could he go? His sin greatly affected others. He pours out his heart asking forgiveness and restoration – and God granted his request but there were still consequences – the child died. Psalm 103 is praise for Forgiveness.

Feeling Alone – God’s Omnipresence – Psalm 139 – We cannot run from God or hide from Him. God is our Creator Who knew us before we were born. God cares about us and will bring comfort to our hearts.

These are only a few of the many passages that speak to our very own experience. The Bible is not a dead book but is living and powerful. No matter what circumstances you are facing today there is a message from God, a life lesson or a promise for you within the pages of His Book. Take a look for yourselves and see !