Unspeakable Sorrow, Spoken Compassion

Luke 6_27_28_Unspeakable Sorrow_Spoken Compassion

Their son had been killed in a car accident less than a month earlier.  As I sat in the living room of this precious couple, I was amazed by their strength and their compassion.  There were still signs of heartache, grief, and suffering.  But there were no hints of bitterness or anger.  And folks, they had reasons to be bitter and angry.

It had been a typical Thursday.  Their son was on his way to his church to lend a loving hand to someone.  But he didn’t make it there.  Instead, his vehicle was slammed by another.  That other car was driven by a young man who had developed an impressively-long rap sheet in a mere 23 years.  At the time of the accident, he was fleeing from officers who were attempting to arrest him on a parole violation.

A man who was remembered as a devoted father, husband, son, and brother was killed by a man who appeared to be none of these things – but needed to be.  And that was this woman’s prayer for the young man who killed her son – that he would one day become what her son had been.  She was clear, “That young man needs our prayers as much, or more than our son did.”  They wanted justice, but harbored no ill-will.  They were so loving and compassionate toward the one in the wrong that for a few minutes, I thought I was listening to Jesus.

Could I do the same in a similar situation?  Honestly, I hope to never find out.  But if this couple could love in their situation, shouldn’t we be loving in the lesser ordeals we endure? Remember, true love cares for those who do us wrong. –Dave

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)

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Our Maker and Our Helper

Sunday_Psalm 124_8_Help is from the Lord

The One who made it all can help us through it all!


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Writing on the Wall

Daniel 5_5_The Writing on the Wall

“The writing is on the wall.” 

It’s another common phrase with roots in Scripture.  Webster says the phrase means, “to be aware that something bad will probably happen soon.”  Generally, it’s used when the final outcome has not yet been clearly communicated, but all the evidence suggests it’s looming.  For example, “He hadn’t been told his job was being eliminated, but he could see the writing on the wall.”

This one comes out of the Book of Daniel.  To fully understand it, we need the surrounding context.  Belshazzar was the ruling king in Babylon.  As was his custom, he threw a “great banquet” for all his nobles, wives, and concubines.  Historians tell us this was an annual event that amounted to not much more than a drunken orgy.  

In his drunken pride, Belshazzar asked his waiters to bring out some special glasses from which he and his guests could drink their wine.  What he requested were the holy, golden vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.  While Belshazzar and the others carried on in their revelry,

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall… (Daniel 5:5)

Later in the chapter, Daniel told Belshazzar what the hand had written and what it meant.  In short, the hand of God wrote that Belshazzar had been weighed in the scales (of justice) and found guilty of violating the ways of God.  As a result he would face justice (vv.25-28).

The tale ends with these chilling words, “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom…” (vv. 30-31).

When “the writing on the wall” comes up in conversation there’s a natural opportunity to retell Belshazzar’s story – a story about a holy God who sees everything and holds everyone accountable.  Yet through faith in Christ, their outcome need not be like that of Belshazzar.  –Dave

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Morning Cup of Hope

Lamentations 3_22_23_Morning Cup of Hope

A cup of coffee and a selection from the Word of God – it’s been a great way to start my day for several years.  However, like most things done routinely, it can become “routine.”  The last thing I want is for my time spent in God’s Word to become as rote as drinking my morning cup of Joe.

Recently I ran across a prayer that I believe will help renew the meaning of my morning routine.  It’s from Douglas McKelvey’s collection of prayers called Every Moment Holy.  May it add as much meaning to your time with the Lord as it has to mine.

Meet me, O Christ, in this stillness of morning. 

Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart.

Mend me, O Father, from yesterday’s harms.

From the discords of yesterday, resurrect my peace.

From the discouragements of yesterday, resurrect my hope.

From the weariness of yesterday, resurrect my strength.

From the doubts of yesterday, resurrect my faith.

From the wounds of yesterday, resurrect my love.

Let me enter this new day, aware of my need, and awake to your grace, O Lord.  Amen.

What a wonderful reminder that each day is an opportunity to start anew with our God.  May we drink of His love, mercy, and hope as we drink our morning coffee.  –Dave

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

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Try Again

Luke 5_4 to 6_Confusing and Inconvenient

At the end of most days, my dad would say two things.  “I’m going to bed, sleep well,” and “We’ll try again tomorrow.”  I never asked him what he meant by the second statement, yet somehow I understood.

Tomorrow, we’ll try to correct any wrongs we created today.  Tomorrow, we’ll try to complete whatever tasks that remained undone.  Tomorrow, we’ll try to live out our faith a little better than we did today.  Tomorrow, we’ll love others more.  No matter how today went, tomorrow we were to simply try again. 

Trying again was what Jesus asked of Peter when He called him to follow.  Peter had just finished a long night of fishing and had caught NOTHING.  As Peter unloaded his boat, Jesus crawled into it and began teaching.  At the end of His lesson, Christ told Peter:

“Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  (Luke 5:4)

At that point, Peter had a pillow on his mind, not more fishing.  He was weary from his previous work and didn’t mind telling the Lord so.  This scene gets repeated daily – our weariness and discouragement from previous efforts – and the Lord’s command to try again.  Peter faced a crucial fork in the road.  Would he give in to his fatigue and frustration?  Or would he give in to his Lord?

Peter didn’t always get it right, but in that instant he set an excellent example.  Listen carefully to his response:

“But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (5:5)

“Because you say so.”  That’s always the reason for our obedience.  The commands of God should always trump our feelings, our frustration, and our fatigue.  Friends, courageous faith is rarely obvious to the world – more often it’s quietly repeating Peter’s words, “Because you say so, Lord, I will _______.”  –Dave

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Planned Resolve

Daniel 1_8_Planned Resolve

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. (Daniel 1:8)

Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk about Daniel’s diet today!  Instead, we’re going to look at HOW Daniel successfully fulfilled his good intentions.  There are several steps Daniel took in his situation that we can carry over into our own.

First, Daniel started with a firm resolution; he determined in advance not to compromise his relationship with God.  The wording meant to firmly set the whole person (mind, will, and emotions) either for or against something.  Some translations say Daniel, “determined, made up his mind, or purposed in his heart.” 

But having good intentions is not enough.  Such intentions require action.  And while we don’t have space to discuss the actions Daniel took in detail, we can at least mention them.

Immediately after making up his mind, Daniel made that decision known to others.  Undoubtedly Daniel spoke to his fellow Jewish captives, but he also declared his intentions to his Babylonian captors. 

Next, Daniel devised a plan.  Since not eating wasn’t an option, he came up with an alternative diet.  We too need a plan which enables us to follow through on our resolve.  Failing to plan alternatives is planning to fail. 

Lastly, Daniel and his friends persisted.  When the chief official heard Daniel’s request, he refused to allow it (fearing for his own life).  But instead of throwing in the towel, Daniel took his request to someone else (v.11).  It was to that person Daniel pitched his idea for a 10-day test run with the special diet.

If you wish to live a life of holiness, make that resolve known – to fellow believers and others.  That’s accountability.  Next, make specific plans which allow you to accomplish your goal while still respecting others.  Persist; don’t give up when roadblocks are placed before you.  Lastly, pray at every juncture.  –Dave

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Rubber and Glue

Psalm 69_9_Rubber and Glue

“I’m rubber, you’re glue.  Whatever you say bounces off me, and sticks to you.”

Most children have heard these words used by someone to protect themselves from the mean words of others.  Sadly, many people don’t outgrow their use of hateful, hurtful speech.  Consequently, as adults we still need a response which provides us a bit of protection.  Hopefully one that isn’t as childish as the one above.

Today, I want to focus on the hurtful words which come our way specifically because of our decision to follow Christ.  Sadly, children of God have been targets for thousands of years.  Listen to King David:

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9, ESV)

David conveyed two important truths in this verse.  First, if we maintain any real passion in our pursuit of God, we will bear the reproach of men.  “Reproach” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “the taunt of an enemy; shame; disgrace.”  If we’re going to follow God, we’re going to hear from those who disagree.

But the second important truth is that the real target of the opponents’ insults is God Himself.  If someone takes issue with what we believe, they’re really at odds with God, not us.  I think we’d do well to remember that.  Stepping back long enough to recognize that any anger that comes our way is really bounced off God and fallen on us helps us not take the insults personally.  Perhaps it will even help us to speak lovingly and kindly to the one giving us grief.

Friends, our sincere efforts to follow Christ will draw criticism.  But let’s remember that it’s really God at whom others are angry – don’t take it personally, and respond in love.  –Dave

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A Box Full of Darkness

Daniel 2_22_A Box of Darkness

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

– “The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver 

We tend to think of gifts as being things we enjoy.  A ticket to the symphony, a gift card to our favorite store, a week at the beach – now THOSE are gifts!  But darkness?  Can sorrow, heartache, confusion, discouragement, and disappointment really be gifts?

Ms. Oliver thought so.  So does God.  But to see them that way, we need to expand our definition of “gift” – we’ll have to include things that may not be enjoyable, but are beneficial. 

James tells us that the trials we face are working for our benefit (James 1:2-4), and are therefore gifts.  As parents, we give our children discipline not because they enjoy it, but for their good.  As unpleasant as it may be, it reaps a harvest of righteousness and peace down the road (Hebrews 12:11).  The hard moments won’t feel like gifts, but the fruit they’ll bring will be for our benefit.

Looking back, the situations which taught me the most – and led to the most personal growth – were dark, difficult things.  Patience doesn’t grow when we get our way.  Endurance isn’t developed in times of ease.  Faith isn’t perfected unless it’s tried.  Hope doesn’t appear unless we face hopeless situations.  Commitment doesn’t deepen until it’s tested. 

The beach is nice, but the only thing I learned there was my need to reapply sunscreen more frequently!  The best treasures in life are not often found during the times of ease.  No, some of the best gifts are the products of time spent in the box full of darkness.  Remember, God knows everything that happens in the darkness (Daniel 2:22), and He knows exactly how to use it.  Don’t rush out of the box prematurely and miss the gifts He has waiting for you.

What treasures have you received from time spent in the box of darkness?  –Dave

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Thankful Sheep

Sunday_Psalm 79_13_Thankful Sheep

Today is yet another good day to thank the Lord for all He’s done for us!


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Biblical DNA

Multiple_Biblical DNA

“Guard my mind against the old enticement to believe a lie simply because it is beautifully told.”  (Unknown)

Forensic science fascinates me.  I enjoy programs which highlight the various methods investigators use to catch “the bad guy.”  Why are things like fingerprints and DNA needed?  Because, as any prosecutor will tell you, defendants are often excellent liars.  Some lies are so beautifully told, that without unwavering foundations, it would be tough to filter fact from fiction.  So to get at the truth, they go back to the things that don’t lie. 

Sadly, we live in an age where many lies are beautifully told.  Whether it’s gender, sexuality, sex, marriage, pregnancy, abortion, gambling – take your pick – the father of lies uses things like the media and entertainment to beautifully package his deceptions.

As a result, it’s never been more important to return to the “DNA” of God’s Word.  For example, from Scripture we know God created us, male and female, in His image (Genesis 1:27) – there are not nearly 70 genders as some propose.  There may be thousands of opinions, and people may be genuinely confused, but every cell in every body declares male or female.  (Btw, we should always show loving compassion toward anyone struggling with gender issues).

Scripture also tells us that sex should be reserved for husband and wife (Hebrews 13:4), that children are His gift (Psalm 127:3), He knits them together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), and he who saves little by little makes his money grow (Proverbs 13:11). 

What lies have you been tempted to believe because they’ve been beautifully told?  What does Scripture have to say about those topics?  Beautiful lies come and go, but the truths of God’s Word remain forever.  –Dave

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