Adultery, Conspiracy, and Murder

I kind of had to laugh a little when I typed out the title for this post.  Not because I condone those actions, but because they could easily describe a number of movies or primetime dramas currently on television.  Sad isn’t it?  Sad that we as a society celebrate, or at the least, enjoy being entertained by such filth and debauchery.  Also sad because many people who claim the title of “Christian” watch such shows as well.  But I digress.

Well, this post is still going to discuss adultery, conspiracy, and murder, and it’s a story we are all too familiar with.  If you will, grab your Bible and open up to the book of 2 Samuel, the 11th chapter so you can follow along with our study.

It’s springtime.  The time of year when armies go out to battle and apparently beautiful women bathe naked in full view of others.  We have David, the rugged and good-looking King of Israel gawking at the very married wife of Uriah, Bathsheba.  He sends for her.  She willingly comes.  The result?  A shameful example of adultery and an unwanted pregnancy (2 Samuel 11:2-5).

But the story doesn’t end there.  After unsuccessfully trying to convince Uriah to lie with his wife to cover up his indiscretion (2 Samuel 11:6-13), our honorable King David then conspires to have Uriah killed on the battlefield.  It wasn’t bad enough that he was attempting to commit murder.  He even convinced Joab to go along with the plan (2 Samuel 11:14-21).  Maybe Joab was afraid to disobey the king.  Maybe he was a willing coconspirator.  Regardless of the circumstances, a marriage was ruined, sin was rampantly spread, and a innocent man was killed, all because David couldn’t control his wandering eyes on that rooftop.

Then along comes Nathan.  Not just any man, but a prophet from God.  He brings to David the story of a wicked rich man who steals from his poor servant.  The man in the story?  It’s meant to be David himself (2 Samuel 12:1-7)!  Nathan fearlessly tells the king that because of his sin, the sword will never depart from his house.  Because of his sin, evil will rise against him and his neighbors will plunder him (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  And David’s response?  He immediately confesses his sin (2 Samuel 12:13).

Were it so with all who claim to be Christians. Just take a look at David’s own words as he laments over his poor choices with a penitent heart:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:1-4)

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:9-17)

What an amazing treat it is to read the 51st psalm and witness the outpouring grief over committed sin.  I think my favorite verse in the passage is verse 17.  One of the most genuine ways to worship God is to offer him a ‘broken and contrite heart.”  It’s a heart that God has promised to forgive and restore.  Also take a look at the blessings David offers at receiving forgiveness:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:1-5)

When we don’t seek the forgiveness of God, we can literally waste away from our guilt.  We all know the feeling full well, for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  And yet David can confidently say that the iniquity of his sin has been forgiven because he had confessed his transgressions to the Lord (vs. 5).

Finally, read the words of Psalm 139 and see that David realizes God sees all.  David invites him to know his heart and to lead David into righteousness:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

These actions and this attitude should be the aim of all wish to be followers of God.  When sin occurs in our life, we should grieve over that sin to the point where we pour out our confession to God in the most transparent way possible (Psalm 51).  Next, we should rejoice that God offers us forgiveness, even to the most wicked of sinners (Psalm 32).  There is no sin bad enough that God has not offered to forgive and forget.  But we must let God have our heart and fully yield to his will for our life (Psalm 139).  We must invite him to guide us in the way we should go, and most importantly, submit to his divine leadership and wisdom.

Do you have king-sized sin in your life?  Rather, do you have ANY sin in your life?  Like David, go to God with a penitent heart and ask for his mercy and forgiveness because “blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2).

-Joe Butler

 

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Compelled By the Love of God

It’s a busy time right now at school for us teachers.  The end of the nine week grading period is upon us and it’s always a hectic time.  Kids are scrambling to get assignments completed, and I’m working to get grades posted in the grade book.  This is also the time of year where I try giving some extra motivation to my students, to encourage them to work harder for the next nine weeks and see if they can make any improvements.

It’s always interesting watching students react to their grades.  They always know what their grade is throughout their time in school, but when report card time hits, it becomes much more real for them.  The ones who have an A or B are usually pretty happy and proud and are looking forward to showing their parents how they did.  The students who scored a D or F usually begin to panic and worry about how their parents will react.  For an 8-year-old, the idea that they may punished for a bad grade is, in most occasions, enough motivation for them to try harder.

You see, my goal as a teacher is to try to teach students how to be intrinsically motivated.  It’s good to want to perform well for their parents or so they don’t get grounded, but it’s even better for them to take pride in their own hard work and have some ownership for how they did.  We’re all that way to some degree.  We work long hours at work to earn that paycheck.  We show love to our family and friends in hopes that they will reciprocate with actions of gratitude.  Athletes train consistently in order to win the game.  We’re all extrinsically motivated to some degree and need to find ways to be internally satisfied with our performance.

But it’s a little bit different in our relationship with God.  We don’t have to work ahead of time to earn his love and good favor.  In fact, he offers us more than we could ever want even before we realize who he is.  Does that mean there’s no response on our part to God’s love?  Absolutely not!  The love of God should compel us to react in a certain way.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Because of God’s love, we die to ourselves.  Because of God’s love, we decide to dedicate our lives in service to Christ.  Because of God’s love, we change our entire mindset to be God-focused instead of me-focused.  We do this, not for his love, but because of his love.  We do it because he deserves it.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 2:1-5a)

-Joe Butler

What Will You Be Remembered For?

Abraham Lincoln.

What did you think of when you read that name?  16th President.  The Gettysburg Address and the Civil War.  Assassinated.  For such a historical figure as Lincoln, it’s easy to think of the major impact he had on our nation and on history.

Or how about Thomas Edison?  Of course we know him as a famous inventor, but are you aware of all the things he created that made life better and easier for us all?  With such creations as the phonograph, the light bulb, and the motion picture camera, it’s easy to see why Edison’s name will be remembered as one of the greatest minds of all time.

Some people are remembered for their achievements, some for their athleticism, and others simply for shining brightly during their fifteen minutes of fame.  But what will you be remembered for?  When (insert your name here) is written down after your passing, what will people think of?  That’s quite a sobering thought isn’t it?  Most of us will just live our lives with thoughts of how something might affect us or our immediate friends and family.  But our impact, especially if you’re a Christian, is more far-reaching than that.

Now, I don’t personally know every reader of my blog.  You may have great influence in your career or your community.  You may do great things amongst your small circle of friends, but I want to look specifically at the things all Christians should be remembered for that have the biggest impact on the world around us.

  1. LOVE– You can’t say the name Christian without saying the word love.  At least that’s the way it should be.  Those words are synonymous with everything it means to follow Christ.  Everything that Jesus ever did on earth, even down to his death on the cross, exemplified the true meaning of love (Matthew 22:37-40).  We too, should be known for the love we show, not only to God, but to others.
  2. FAITH– Another word that is compatible with the idea of Christianity is faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), so if your life is not remembered as a life lived in faith, you are an oxymoron.  You can’t be a Christian without it.
  3. BOLDNESS– Any brief study of the life of the Apostle Paul, or any of the other apostles for that matter, would reveal a life of boldness.  That’s part of the reason why we remember these obscure disciples to this day.  Their boldness in delivering the gospel message in their time allows us to practice our Christian beliefs today.  The world continues to need bold Christians to get out of the church pews and preach the gospel to a lost and dying world.
  4. PERSEVERANCE– Every Christian should count themselves blessed, if at the end of their life, they can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  The Christian life, if lived according to the Bible, will be tough at times, and perseverance is needed to make it through.
  5. KINDNESS/ GENEROSITY– Sure, kindness and generosity are not only hallmarks of Christianity, but are highly sought after moral traits in the secular world as well.  Many people exemplify this kind of consideration to those around them.  But our ability to evangelize and bring people to Christ begins with kindness and generosity.  Meeting the physical and emotional needs of others is a stepping stone to meeting their spiritual needs as well (Ephesians 4:32, 1 John 3:17-18, Acts 20:35).

What will you be remembered for?  Let it not be about all the things of this world; the success, the money, the achievements.  Live a life wholly dedicated to the service of God and others.  Live a life, that by godly standards, really does matter now and for years to come.

-Joe Butler

Love Letter

I have two large shoeboxes in the top of my closet that, by all appearances, look old and worn out.  In fact, they are pretty old.  These two boxes hold all the letters and cards that my wife has given me over the years that we’ve known each other.  We met in our junior year of high school, and it’s pretty funny to go back and read of our innocent love for one another and how we longed to be in each other’s company.

Later, when I was in bootcamp with the United States Air Force, she would send me letters of love and encouragement that helped me get through our time of separation.  I keep those mementos to this day as a reminder of our feelings for one another and the bond of commitment that we share.  It reminds me to never take her for granted and to always recall the innocence and purity of when we first fell in love.

There’s another such love letter that we all have access to and its message has always stood the test of time.  The Bible is the most beautiful love letter ever written, and we have it preserved for us so that we may never forget that we are truly and wholly loved.  The story of God and his love for us is a remarkable one, one in which we see what real love and commitment look like.  All that he has done to redeem us to himself is, by far, the most amazing act of love of all time.  God himself, Christ in the flesh, bought us back, his adulterous bride, with his own blood, and the Bible is testament to that glorious gospel message.  We simply can’t miss it…God loves us more than we could ever imagine.

One of the best ways to understand this is by studying all of the analogies between human marriage and the marriage of Christ and the church that are spoken of in the Bible.  Books like Hosea and Ephesians tell of the sacrificial love that one should have for their spouse and it’s the same kind of love that Jesus has for us.  It’s a love that looks at the faults of the other and chooses to still love anyway.  It’s a love that strives for perfection for the one who is chosen.  And God tells us of this ideal union all throughout his word.  It’s a love letter that’s there for us to read and to relish every day.

God wants you to know him just as a husband and wife know each other physically (Ephesians 5:31-32).  But the intimacy of the sexual union between marriage partners pales in comparison to the closeness that God desires with each of his children.  He longs for you to fall into his arms, into his rest, into his grace and mercy.  He wishes for you to reciprocate that love and give yourself freely and completely to him.  He hopes that you will continually read his love letter to you and know, in the deepest part of your heart and soul, that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate you from his love (Romans 8:38-39).

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Calvary

“Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

(Isaiah 53:1-9)

Calvary.

Never forget the sacrifice that has saved you.

Never forget how gruesome and painful it was.

Never forget that it wasn’t forced or bought, but was freely given.

Never forget… Calvary is the real definition of love.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Grace

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:4-10)

God is rich in love and mercy.  So rich that he sent his only Son to be a sacrifice for us, making us alive for all of eternity.  That grace, that gift is far beyond what our feeble minds can imagine or dream of, and it’s that grace that should cause us to act.  God not only created us, he not only saved us, he has prepared for us good works that we should do in order to glorify him and his goodness.

What are doing today and the rest of this week to show gratitude to God for all that he’s done for you?

-Joe

It’s the Simple Things That Change the World

I love it when I’m able to brighten someone’s day.

A casual “good morning” to a stranger.

A favor granted for a friend in need.

A loving gesture for my wife that says, “I love you.”

All of these things and more bring me great joy when I’m able to lift the spirits of another, even if it’s only in some small way.

I’m not as good at it as I could be though.  There are many days when I count up missed opportunities, moments when I noticed someone down, someone in need, but I failed to act because I was focused too much on my own momentary agenda.  Sometimes I question or bemoan the state of society until I realize that I could be a small solution to that problem.  Christians, people like me, fret over how we can affect the world for Christ and the truth is, the solution is right in front of us every single day.  It’s not always a powerful sermon or an insightful commentary of God’s word that produces change in the world.  It’s also the simple things, the little acts of kindness and consideration and love that show the world what Christ is all about.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gets right to the point of this matter when he says that we should care for the simple needs of those around us if we are to call ourselves Christians.  This is feeding someone when they are hungry.  It’s visiting those who need encouragement.  It’s actually noticing the other souls around us who we share this earth with and acknowledging them and treating them the way we would want to be treated.  Jesus is even serious enough to say that our reward in heaven depends on our service to others.  Refuse to love when there are obvious needs around you, and you are basically turning your back on God as well.

And in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, we see that we can do amazing acts of righteousness like having tremendous faith or powerful spiritual gifts, and if we don’t show love, we are nothing.  All of our works are in vain if we fail to show love while doing them.

Do you want to change the world?  Do you want to live your life with purpose, to have an impact on those around you so that they can’t help but question who God is because of your love?  Well, it’s the simple things that change the world.  The opportunity to be an inspiration may literally be waiting right around the corner.  Take it and you’ll be changed as well.

-Joe