Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bumped Tea Cups

We rented a video recently called “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The main character is, of course, Alexander who is about to turn 12. Every single day seems like a bad day for him. His family thinks he’s being silly or perhaps just dramatic with his claims of having bad days, because they’ve never had a bad day. At midnight of his 12th birthday he wishes that the rest of his family could just have a bad day too… just so they can understand.

The next morning everyone sleeps in, mom’s car breaks down so everyone has to ride together in the mini-van, his sister gets a cold and almost misses her debut as Peter Pan in the 8th grade musical, his older brother fails his driving test (after being suspended for breaking school property) and essentially ruins the minivan, Dad has a job interview and has to take the toddler with him and, before it’s all done, the toddler has a green face from a marker and Dad’s shirt has caught fire, Mom, a part of a publishing firm ends up with a misprint that no longer suggests that children jump in the pool but rather “dump” in the pool, and there’s an alligator in the house when they all get home. Even Dad, the eternal optimist, agrees that this has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. In the midst of everything, when everyone is complaining and arguing, and blaming each other, Alexander interrupts and says: “Some days are just bad. You just can’t fix them. I think you’ve got to have the bad days, so you can love the good days even more.”

It reminds me of a guy in the Bible named, not Alexander, but rather Job. He’s not 12, but rather grown with 10 grown children to boot. The Bible says he has 500 pair of oxen (I’m sure that’s like owning 500 pieces of farm equipment today, so you KNOW he was rich!), 500 donkeys and 3,000 camels (which is quite a fleet of transportation!), 7,000 sheep, and “a vast number of servants.” The Bible says that he was greater than all the people of the east where he lived in the land of Uz.

But after God and Satan have a conversation where Satan is convinced he could tempt Job to turn his back on God, Job has one of Alexander’s kind of days. In Job 1:14-19, Job learns that the Sabeans have raided and taken all the oxen and killed the servants with them, a raging fire from the sky has burned up the sheep and the shepherds, Chaldeans took the camels and killed the servants, and a strong wind from the desert (my son thinks this one was a tornado) has demolished the house where Job’s seven sons and three daughters were staying and they are all killed.

Job’s response, according to chapter one, verse 20, was to mourn and then worship God. (It actually says he tore his clothes and shaved his head… but that was how his society expressed grief, like we often wear black when we grieve). His exact words? “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” And despite the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that he had, the Bible closes that chapter with this amazing summary: “In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” —Job 1:22 (NLT)

Before I became a pastor, my pastor was Rev. David Bunnell, and he often spoke of how each of us has a tea-cup that is our heart. It can be beautiful and even ornate, but until our cup is bumped, other people really have no idea what’s in our cup… and quite often we don’t really know the contents of our own cup until our cup gets bumped.

We’re going to have those crazy bad days sometimes… how we respond reveals who we really are inside. Maybe we again need to give our hearts to Christ and ask him to create a “new heart” in us and fill us with His Holy Spirit… and “clean out our cups.”

–adapted from my Pastor’s article in the monthly newsletter of the Clarks Mills United Methodist Church, April 2015.

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A Man After God’s Own Heart

“I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”  –God, in Acts 13:22b (NKJV)

When I sat down to read the Bible this morning, I stumbled onto a devotional in the Spirit Filled Life Bible titled “A Teachable Spirit.” It is the account of Paul, before the synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia, sharing how Jesus is a continuation, and fulfillment, of the Jewish people’s encounters with their God. After sharing about Egypt, the wilderness, the conquest of Canaan, and the judges, he recounts the way Saul became, and then was removed as, king.

Which brings us to David.

Let me quote from the “Kingdom Dynamics” devotional note found at Acts 13:22…

Only one man in the Bible enjoys the designation of being a man after God’s own heart–David. To outward appearance, David is more readily remembered as a gross sinner. He committed adultery, murdered, lied, betrayed his nation, made severe mistakes in judgment, was a poor manager, and finally was unable to manage his home. Yet God said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (v.22). Almost every time we read about David, he was doing something wrong, yet God commended the heart of his leadership. How do we explain it? The answer is in the fact that with every mistake, David repented; and of equal importance, he learned from his mistakes. Not only was he humble and teachable, but he listened to his critics and his enemies as well; and, foremost of all, he heeded the prophets of God. This teachable spirit is the trait that caused God to classify him as Israel’s finest leader. (Spirit Filled Life Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, page 1651)

Two parts of that JUMPED out at me. First, “Almost every time we read about David, he was doing something wrong.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am my own biggest critic. I end many (or perhaps even most) days mentally reviewing and replaying the mess-ups and mistakes I’ve made in that day… and the day before… and the week before…

There are many days when I feel like God’s never going to really be able to use me as much as He wanted to because I blow it so often. So this sentence about reading how David, “almost every time,” messed up is eye-opening. Because God still loved David, still used David, and still had a future filled with hope for David despite the mess-ups.

That means there is hope for me too! (And every one of us, by the way…)

So how did David journey from mess-ups and mistakes to being recommended by God as an example? That’s the second quote that caught me: “with every mistake, David repented” and then “learned from his mistakes.”

Part of our national sin sickness in our day and age is the fact that we don’t believe there are sins. We have a message from God (the Bible) that explicitly identifies the behaviors God considers to be “sin.” That is to say, those behaviors are against what God wants and disappoint God and in many cases, actually are detrimental to us as human beings. But we now-a-days try to rationalize away the sins listed or discount those passages of Scripture.

Recently, in a Bible study group on the Gospel of Mark, we came to Mark 3:20-30, where the Jewish leaders opposed to Jesus start to claim that Jesus is casting out demons by tapping into the power of Satan. Jesus’ response (in verses 28-30) is to start talking about an unpardonable sin. For years that made no sense to me. Why didn’t he just tell them how they were wrong? Or at least call down lightning or something?

But the passage is clear that the reason he talks about an unforgiveable sin is “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.'”

Jesus was using the power of God’s Holy Spirit to heal, to cast out demons, and more. They were claiming Jesus was empowered by Satan or at least by a demonic (“unclean”) spirit. They were claiming that something good and godly (the Holy Spirit) was evil. The flipside then  would be to claim that something God says is evil (like sin) and then call it good and godly and blessed.

Even if the Bible calls a certain behavior sinful, there’s NO forgiveness available for us if you and I don’t really believe it’s a sin!

In my life, it’s usually the sin of gluttony that I’m struggling with. I LIKE food, and  I’ve had too much through the years. And while addicts can sometimes lick their addictions by going cold turkey, I can’t, I HAVE TO eat. (and the cold turkey is part of the problem!)

Does that mean there is no forgiveness for me? No. First John 1:9 explains that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The problem is if we claim we’re not sinning, then there is no way to confess and repent… so no forgiveness either.

That’s where we return to David and this devotional. Even though he messed up A LOT, “with every mistake, David repented.”

If we are willing to admit our sin, repent (you know… turn away from doing that sin), then there IS hope for us as well… even though we mess up again later. And, like David, as we repent, we get the chance to learn from our mistakes.

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