Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

2 Samuel 23:1-7
David’s Last Words

To hear people call me Pastor Mark these days is just a testament to the grace of God. When I look back at my past, I think how can this be? I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I was at church every time the doors were open. But accepting Christ as my Savior was not part of the deal for me, then. I was numb to the church. I was there all the time. The majesty and wonder of church, of Jesus Christ, of the things of God is was all just part of the “family business” to me. Then, after getting married at age 18, I was in a little family church made of three main families of which my first wife was a part. The church was more of a social club than a church. There was no discipleship. No challenges to be more than just a good person making good choices. I was never confronted with who I am in Christ. Then, in college, at a liberal arts university, all my beliefs were challenged, especially about the existence of God, who Jesus was, and what the Bible was. My faith was so shallow that it blew me away.

Then after college, life happened. My life revolved around not so much about pleasing God but pleasing the women in my life and living the rollercoaster that such a world is. I made poor choices. I bent my morality to the breaking point whenever it was convenient. Life was a series of two marriages, divorces, seeking value in sex and alcohol and never truly finding it. When I look back on the man that I was before I finally came to Christ as my Savior at age 39, it sickens me. What I could have done differently if I had just met Jesus when I was younger. I envy those who accepted Christ as a child or even as a teenager or early 20s. The pastors that I work with are career pastors who have been in Christ since they were teens. Then there’s me. When I think about the mess that my life was before Christ and even in the maturation process in Christ since the cross, it saddens me deeply at the man that I was.

To hear someone call me Pastor Mark is surreal. This is something that I have been aiming for in some way, shape or form since the day of my salvation in December 2001 but specifically since 2011 when I entered seminary. The road from who I was at age 18 when I married the first until that point is a testament to the loving nature of God – how he guided me to the cross, how he guided me toward preparing for ministry, and how he guided me to this day where I am a pastor. But to think of the depths of my sinfulness and to now be a pastor with a desire to go wherever, and do whatever God desires of me is a testament to Holy Spirit sanctification.

To think of the man that I was, the sins that I committed, and to think of how God redeemed all of that and has made me His child and His child who is serving Him full-time is evidence that the Holy Spirit does indeed change us from the inside out. To me, I do not want to ever lose the memories of the man that I was. I want to continually look back and be revolted by the pre-salvation Mark. It will keep me humble. Grace is a wonderful thing but if I ever forget that I was the worst of sinners then I will become prideful and think that I have arrived. It is through my past littered with sins, broken relationships, poor choices, situational ethics, etc. that it keeps me humble.

So, when people at my church lovingly call me Pastor Mark, it almost makes me cry when I think of it. To know that God reclaimed me, a dreadful sinner, and cleaned me up and set me on a high place just makes me well up with emotion. To know that He sees enough usable materials in me to allow me to become a pastor is just, well, an indescribable miracle gift. Now, the thing is to move forward and use my past to help others see the cross and accept Christ as their Savior. Now, the thing is to help Christ followers deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, I have a past that makes me want to throw up but God will make it useful in the kingdom. Yes, I have a past but God has washed me clean and set me free from the penalties of my sins. Yes, I have a past but God makes us useful to Him. Each one of us who is a Christ follower most likely has a past that we are not proud of. Let it keep us humble. The only difference between us and the non-believer is salvation in Christ. We are all sinners granted grace. None of us have a right to be proud. We are sinners who have been granted a reprieve from the penalty of our sins and have been made clean and useful. So, that on our final days on this earth, we can say that we are forgiven, we have been useful and that the Lord sees us as pure and spotless.

I hope that I never get any less emotional to the point of tears when I hear someone call me Pastor Mark. That is just an amazing testimony of what God can do. That idea of how we are made clean in Christ is what I thought of when I read this passage, 2 Samuel 23:1-7, this morning and how David can sincerely make these claims in this passage even though he was a dreadful sinner as king of Israel. Let’s read it now together:

Chapter 23
1 These are the last words of David:

“David, the son of Jesse, speaks—
David, the man who was raised up so high,
David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel.[a]

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me;
his words are upon my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke.
The Rock of Israel said to me:
‘The one who rules righteously,
who rules in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning at sunrise,
like a morning without clouds,
like the gleaming of the sun
on new grass after rain.’

“Is it not my family God has chosen?
Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me.
His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.
He will ensure my safety and success.
But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away,
for they tear the hand that touches them.
One must use iron tools to chop them down;
they will be totally consumed by fire.”
Our text says, “Now these are the last words of David” (v. 1). However, 1 Kings 2:2-9 give us David’s real last words—David’s instructions from his deathbed to Solomon, who will succeed David as king. Those words are quite different from the lofty words of our text from 2 Samuel. In 1 Kings 2, David instructs Solomon to be faithful to God. Then he instructs Solomon to deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai, who had supported David in his hour of need. He instructs Solomon to deal harshly with Joab and Shimei. So, maybe, this is David’s last public words or last written words. Regardless, the words here are pretty lofty when you think about all that has transpired in David’s house since he became king.

Is David’s house really like this? David’s house, where Amnon raped Tamar? David’s house, where Absalom killed Amnon and raised an army against his father? David’s house, where the royal line will proceed through the child of Bathsheba, a woman whom David “took” both before and after killing her husband? David’s house, under which the people have suffered civil war already and under which they will come to suffer conquest? David may be the beloved of God, but is his house really like the sun? However it was intended, the identification of David’s house with the righteous sun in verse 5 includes both an affirmation and a question.

Remember, too, that David was just a lowly shepherd boy. He had no great lineage as the son of Jesse. Much earlier, while Saul was king, God sent Samuel to anoint David as Saul’s successor (1 Samuel 16). We remember how Jesse marched one tall, good looking son after another before Samuel, but God rejected each of them. After Jesse had marched seven sons before Samuel, Samuel had to ask if Jesse might have another son. Then Jesse remembered that he did, indeed, have one more son—David, his youngest son, who was tending sheep in the wilderness. Jesse hadn’t thought of David sooner, because Jesse had so many other sons who seemed better candidates than young David. But God chose David, the least of Jesse’s sons, to become the greatest of Israel’s kings. God often chooses the least likely candidates for the greatest tasks, because that makes it clear that the resultant successes are due to God’s power—not the person’s strength or wisdom.

What we might be inclined to forget is that Jesse was as unlikely a candidate to become the father of Israel’s great king as David was to be that king. Jesse was just an ordinary man—common—undistinguished. God didn’t choose Jesse because he was great, but because he was not great. When our text says that David was “the son of Jesse,” it reminds us that David came from undistinguished stock. Not that Jesse and David would remain undistinguished! Not at all! But Jesse and David became great because God chose them—not because they were inherently great. God exalted David, anointed him, and made him his favorite. As a result, David enjoyed great success as Israel’s king. Now David shows that he realizes that his success was God’s gift. It was God who chose him. It was God who gave him the victory over Goliath. It was God who gave him victory over his enemies. It was God who gave the city of Jerusalem into his hands.

When we look back at our lives and all the stuff that we did prior to accepting Christ as our Savior, it makes us look as though we are unlikely candidates to be the favored ones of God. In my own life, I know, like David, there is so much that I am ashamed of. There is so much in my past that I wish that I could change. There is so much back there that curdles my stomach to know now that I did those things with impunity back then. It was either outright rebellious sin (the “I don’t care if this is a sin” attitude) or sins committed under the influence of others or sins that I committed because I thought of me and God having a deal to suspend His laws in this one area for me alone (because of all I had been through). It sickens me to think of those things. I am sure that David felt the same way about his past as he draws near to the end of his life.

However, true repentance in Jesus Christ washes away our sins and makes us clean and whole and as bright as the noonday sun. Our salvation in Jesus Christ changes us from the inside out such that we become more and more like Him each day until we are made perfect on that day that we meet Jesus in heaven. We still sin along the way but those sins revolt us in our gut as we mature in Christ such that the Holy Spirit moves us away from one sin type after another through the sanctification process. We are made fresh and new like the dew on newly cut grass on a summer morning. Our house is made clean. Our house is made clean through the gift of grace that is an everlasting covenant between us and God. He doesn’t need to give us this gift. We are dead to rights in our sins. But He loves us so much that He gave us Jesus Christ.

So, at the end of his life, David was able to speak with a clear conscience. Though there had been many consequences to his sins over the years that made his reign seem like a couple years in the storyline of your favorite soap opera, he has sought repentance and was granted forgiveness. Just as David was made clean through repentance and forgiveness, so too can we find forgiveness in Jesus Christ through repentance over our sins. That does not change the past and the horrible things that we did and we should feel revulsion and shame each and every time we reflect on our sins but through Jesus Christ we can be made clean and whole again in the presence of God.

May we come to tears when we think of this fact. May we stay humble because of it. May we be brought to the point of tears when someone calls us a Christ follower. What greater compliment can be paid to us knowing what Jesus reclaimed us from than for someone to note that we are a Christ follower.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 10:1-19
David Defeats Ammonites

Have you ever reacted hastily to something and then defended the decision even though it was the wrong decision when you should have just admitted you were wrong and sought peace? When I went through my divorce from my first wife, her intentions were clear – to punish and humiliate me to the point that I would come home like a beaten puppy dog that had run away from home. Because she knew of my love for my children, that was one of her main weapons was to withhold the children from me on my designated visitation times. It came to the point as time progressed that she would no longer allow me to pick up the kids at all. It got to the point that I to take legal action filing a contempt of court request with the family court that had jurisdiction over our separation and divorce proceedings. That started a firestorm of the highest order.

Instead of admitting that she had been wrong to withhold my children from me as a weapon to drive me into submission, she continued to try to justify her behavior. Instead of righting a wrong, she added another wrong to it to help justify her first actions. She went as far as to claim that I had molested my oldest daughter when I had her last. Talk about knocking you for a loop. My girls were the reason that I got up in the mornings during the darkest days of the last years of my marriage to their mom. I adored those girls so to make this claim she knew that would be a dagger to the heart to me. It was just plain out mean and hateful. The weird thing in her mind was that if she humiliated and punished me enough I would give in and come home to her. Strange way to show love, huh? If I had done such a thing, why did she not call the cops immediately when this supposedly happened? She waits til the court hearing on the contempt request. Convenient cover for her behavior.

I had to endure police interviews. I had to take a lie detector test (which of course I passed). I had to endure DSS interviews and numerous court hearings. During the course of DSS’s involvement in our lives, it became apparent to the all the principals in our case that my first wife was coming loose at the hinges and had become so preoccupied with destroying me that she was failing to properly take care of the girls. The girls were removed from her care and placed with my parents for a while and then ultimately with me after an arduous three year period in which DSS and family court hearings were a part of our weekly and monthly life. It was not until my first wife remarried some 3 ½ years after our split and all the ugliness in between that she began to settle down. She never lost her hatred for me and was always filling the kids heads with misinformation about me over the years but she was no longer as public about her hatred for me after her remarriage.

Just thinking about those years back in the mid-90s makes me relive those deep down sorrows of the heart as if they just happened yesterday. Intense emotional pain and sorrow can come back to your mind in an instant when you let yourself pull those videotapes out of the mental storage lockers that we have for our past memories. And the sad thing about it was that my first wife never ever admitted that she was wrong about any of these things. She simply compounded one error with another. One lie with another. One meanness with another meanness. Those who all things that I can relive the hurt but I it is with an eye now that it did not have to be that way rather than boiling anger toward her. I can relive the hurt but I chose to move on and forgive her a long time ago. It is a lesson that we all must learn. There will be people who hurt you and then will compound the original problem with justifications instead of seeking true reconciliation. There will be people filled so with pride that they will never admit a wrong to you but will simply add to it to justify their behavior as being right.

That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through 2 Samuel 10:1-19 this morning. Let’s read the passage now to see why:

Chapter 10
1 Some time after this, King Nahash[a] of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun became king. 2 David said, “I am going to show loyalty to Hanun just as his father, Nahash, was always loyal to me.” So David sent ambassadors to express sympathy to Hanun about his father’s death.

But when David’s ambassadors arrived in the land of Ammon, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, their master, “Do you really think these men are coming here to honor your father? No! David has sent them to spy out the city so they can come in and conquer it!” 4 So Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame.

5 When David heard what had happened, he sent messengers to tell the men, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow out, and then come back.” For they felt deep shame because of their appearance.

6 When the people of Ammon realized how seriously they had angered David, they sent and hired 20,000 Aramean foot soldiers from the lands of Beth-rehob and Zobah, 1,000 from the king of Maacah, and 12,000 from the land of Tob. 7 When David heard about this, he sent Joab and all his warriors to fight them. 8 The Ammonite troops came out and drew up their battle lines at the entrance of the city gate, while the Arameans from Zobah and Rehob and the men from Tob and Maacah positioned themselves to fight in the open fields.

9 When Joab saw that he would have to fight on both the front and the rear, he chose some of Israel’s elite troops and placed them under his personal command to fight the Arameans in the fields. 10 He left the rest of the army under the command of his brother Abishai, who was to attack the Ammonites. 11 “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me,” Joab told his brother. “And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I will come and help you. 12 Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”

13 When Joab and his troops attacked, the Arameans began to run away. 14 And when the Ammonites saw the Arameans running, they ran from Abishai and retreated into the city. After the battle was over, Joab returned to Jerusalem.

15 The Arameans now realized that they were no match for Israel. So when they regrouped, 16 they were joined by additional Aramean troops summoned by Hadadezer from the other side of the Euphrates River.[b] These troops arrived at Helam under the command of Shobach, the commander of Hadadezer’s forces.

17 When David heard what was happening, he mobilized all Israel, crossed the Jordan River, and led the army to Helam. The Arameans positioned themselves in battle formation and fought against David. 18 But again the Arameans fled from the Israelites. This time David’s forces killed 700 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers,[c] including Shobach, the commander of their army. 19 When all the kings allied with Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they surrendered to Israel and became their subjects. After that, the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites.

In this passage, we see that Hanun listened to the wrong advice. He suspected the motives of the ambassadors and humiliated them. Then he realized that he made David angry by his actions and then began to marshal his forces to go to battle. Hanun should have thought through the advice more carefully. But even if he had not reviewed the situation more carefully, he should have tried to negotiate with David. Instead, he refused to admit any fault and got ready for war. Often, we respond angrily and defensively rather than admitting our mistakes, apologizing, and try to defuse the situation. Instead of blazing forward with war, we should seek peace. Instead of harboring pride, let us think of what is best for the situation even if that means that we do not get our way.

Father, help to see that pride is such deceitful emotion that blinds us to the things that we need to change about ourselves. Help us to see that pride will cause us to compound one hurt with another just so that we do not have to admit wrongdoing to another person. Help us to admit when we have hurt another person and seek to make things better in humility. Help us to seek peace rather than seeking in pride to continue to a war. Help us Oh Lord. Help us!

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 6:17-23
David Returns Home

One of the things that was so sad, now looking back, about the aftermath of my first marriage was how hatred and bitterness consumed the life of my first wife. She became so obsessed with getting even with me for ending the marriage (which was filled with the serious issues of her drug abuse, her possessive nature, her inability to maintain a job, and then the escalating terrorism of violence between us as I sought to end the marriage). After we separated, there were the constant harassing phone calls, the stalking, the love then hate all in the same conversation, it was her obsession to brow-beat me into submission and coming back to her. It was a time in which I lived in a “def-con 3” (to use the military term) mentality, always aware, senses heightened, always ready for a confrontation. She became so obsessed with destroying me that she lost friends over it. She ended up living with her second husband in their own secluded world in which they were right and everybody else was wrong. It was sad to watch bitterness take control of her life. I think the bitterness in her life which, in effect, became her god is what led her to die at the early of 55 almost 3 years ago now.

So, when I read about Michal’s reaction to David here in this passage, I thought of my first wife. If I was having too much fun after our separation and divorce, she would find something wrong with it and work whatever it was around to the fact that I had destroyed the family. No matter what it was, she could work that trail of anything that I did back to me destroying the family. In this passage, I see that same type of bitterness in Michal. What had changed since we saw when she met David in 1 Samuel to now. There had been a lot of water under the bridge I guess. But the bitterness over David dancing is just a tip of the iceberg. There must have been this smoldering bitterness within Michal where she got to the point that anything David did was wrong. No wonder he did not want to be with her as the end of the passage indicates. The bitterness of Michal drove David away. Let us read this passage, 2 Samuel 6:17-23, now together:

17 They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 18 When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 19 Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates,[g] and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

21 David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. 22 Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” 23 So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.

In this passage, we must take particular notice that here, even though it has been established in both 1 and 2 Samuel that Michal was David’s wife, she is noted as being the daughter of Saul. Is that not an interesting literary twist? Is it possible that the author was pointing out to the reader how similar her attitude in this passage is to that of her father, Saul? I think so. Her contempt for David could not have simply been set off by David’s grand entrance into Jerusalem with the ark. It must have been already smoldering. By the way David reacts to her, this may have been just the most recent confrontation between the two. Who knows? Scripture is not clear on this point. Perhaps, she thought it was undignified to be so concerned with public worship at a time when David needed to be working to ensure the stability of his now united kingdom. Maybe, she thought it was undignified for a king to display such emotion in front of his subjects. Or, even, she may have resented David taking her away from Palti. Further, this resentment may have been the result of seeing that during her time with Palti that David had taken other wives and concubines. Whatever the reason, this contempt she felt toward her husband escalated into a difficult confrontation. As a result of this confrontation, it appears that she fell out of favor with David and he did not have intimate relations with her for the rest of her life. Feelings of bitterness and resentment that go unchecked will destroy a relationship. Deal with your feelings before they escalate into open confrontation.

Sure, David probably contributed to Michal’s bitterness. No one gets bitter toward another person for no reason. But we must deal with bitterness in constructive ways. We cannot let our bitterness become our god and let it consume us to the point that it is all we can focus on. Once we make bitterness our god, it doesn’t matter if a person is contrite and humble before us and tries to make things right, the bitter person will still hold the original offense in front of the other person forever. There is no forgiveness in the bitter person. To forgive would mean to release the bitterness. Often people like having the pain of bitterness because it is the only thing that they have left. Bitterness has caused them to isolate themselves from others. Bitterness has taken over their life.

Thus, I think the takeaway from my own experience with my first wife and with the example of Michal here is that we must learn to forgive others or bitterness will become our god. Bitterness is never satisfied with any type of compensation or acts of contriteness by the offending person. Bitterness is always hungry. Bitterness consumes everything you feed it. Help us to be a people that forgives those who have offended us – even if they never apologize, but especially if they do. Help us to release the persons who have hurt us to you, oh Lord. Help us to not stay in the state of bitterness but to release it to you and move across the bridge into the state of living beyond bitterness. Help us also to see when we have hurt others and try to make things right with that person. Help us to try to reconcile such relationships. Help us to also love that person even if they refuse to forgive us for the things that we have done to hurt them. Help us to pray for those who have hurt us and for those that we have hurt. Help us to release these things to you and leave them there at your altar.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 15:24-31
Saul Pleads for Forgiveness

Recently, I found out some dear friends of mine that live in another state have separated and are living apart now. That kind of blew me away. This couple was oh so very important in the process of my wife and I going deeper in our respective relationships with Jesus Christ. If it were not for this couple, we might have fallen away from church again when we moved to back home to South Carolina back in 2010. But, they instilled in us a hunger for a relationship with Jesus and instilled in us a hunger for the fellowship of other Christ followers. It is because of that hunger that they nurtured in us that we were ready for LifeSong Church when LifeSong Church came into our path in August 2010. They were our spiritual parents even though they were both 10-12 years younger than us. Without their one-on-one nurturing discipleship in that small but growing little church in California, we would not have been ready to take off and fly and grow in our walk with Jesus nor been ready for positions of leadership there nor been ready for where we are today – about to embark into full-time ministry when we move to Illinois in two weeks. To say the least, these two people were like the most pivotal people in our lives.

Yes, my senior pastor and my discipleship pastor, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim, here at LifeSong have been incredibly impactful in our lives and wow, where would we be without their influence. These two guys are spiritual giants in our lives. But this couple while we lived in California set the stage for what Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim have done in our lives. They are like the parents that raised us up and then sent us off to school, ya know, and Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim took what these spiritual parents had done and challenged us to deeper and deeper depths. So, the fact that this couple is separated now just profoundly saddens me. It demonstrates that sin can come into even the most ardent of Christ followers and devour and destroy a marriage. These guys were Christ followers since they were little kids. They fell in love as teenagers and had been together ever since. Then, ministry in Young Life. Then, seminary at the prestigious Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. He is an incredibly brilliant man with an eidetic memory. She is a brilliantly creative artist and about the most creative person you would ever want to meet. Her art and photography is amazing. He was an awesome pastor who could inspire you with his words. He could play the guitar with the best of them. An awesome athlete. They were like this super couple. Young. Good looking. Talented. You loved them and were jealous of how cool they were all at the same time.

The thing that saddens me the most about our spiritual parents is how this deterioration of what was once an awesome pastoral couple happened. Each one sins against their marriage have been made public to one another by the fact that each spouse caught the other in the midst of their sin. For him, it was a pornography addiction and for her it was infidelity. However, where they are at now is that they seem to be remorseful that they got caught in their sin. They are remorseful over the consequences that they sin has wrought. But neither are remorseful over the sins themselves. They say they are in counseling with a Christian couple that goes to the same church that they do (they got out of the ministry themselves several years ago as their marriage began to crumble toward where it is today). The trouble is that each one is blaming the other for the state of their marriage. She blames him for how his addiction and his controlling behavior drove her to her sin. And he blames his addiction and controlling behavior her because of his insecurities related to her flirtatiousness and infidelities. It is a sad sad downward spiral that has been going on now for 5 or so years. I covet your prayers for them. I beg your prayers for them. This is a situation similar to when you as an adult who has been living on your own for about a decade and have a life of your own now find out that your parents back home are split up. It just blows you away even though you are not living at home anymore. Then you talk to your parents and find out the skinny on the situation and you realize that your parents are each maximizing the sins of the other parent while using that to justify their own sins.
These spiritual parent of ours is what I thought of this morning as I read through Saul’s pleadings in this passage. The impression that I got from this passage is that Saul is more concerned with the consequences of his sin and how to minimize that rather than being truly repentant for having sinned at all. That’s the feeling that I get from my spiritual parents is that they are trying to minimize, justify, and deflect the impacts of their sin rather than being truly and humbly repentant for their sin. The only way to save the marriage will be when they reach that low place where they are on their face before the Lord and are truly repentant for their own sins. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Samuel 15:24-31:

24 Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”

27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

30 Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel finally agreed and went back with him, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Saul was more concerned about what others would think of him than he was about the status of his relationship with God (1 Samuel 15:24). He begged Samuel to go with him to worship as public demonstration that Samuel still supported him. Even in this scene where Saul is admitting that he disobeyed the Lord, he demonstrates that he is more concerned about his public persona and preserving his position than he is with any real repentance for having sinned. That’s the difference for us to when we often are simply remorseful that we got caught in some sin than we are remorseful about having committed the sin itself.

Are you in the same situation as my spiritual parents? Are you remorseful that you got busted in your sins or are you truly and humbly seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for the sin itself. We must get to the place where we see the sin for what it is – a wrongful and willful rebellion against God. We must get to the place that we are not justifying our sins because someone else hurt us. We must get to the place that we are not blaming others for the way we act and the things we do. We must stand before the Lord and make no excuses for our sin. We must see our sin as sin. We must not try to minimize it or justify it. We must not try to save face in front of others. We must be prostrate before the Lord and say Lord, I just royally screwed up. I have no excuse before you. All my excuses are just to save face in front of others or to gain pity from others. All my excuses are meaningless before you. Cover me in your grace even though I do not deserve it and I would not blame you if you condemned me to hell right now because I have no excuse. Cover me in your grace and please forgive me. I know I have wronged you and you are Lord. I fall at your mercy Lord.

That’s where we need to be. That’s where my spiritual parents need to be. That’s in a state of humble repentance wrapped in the grace of the Lord.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 15:1-20 (Part 1 of 2)
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

In the movie, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, released in 1982, Khan uttered what he called an old Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” It is actually earthly in origin and it means that revenge that is delayed, and executed well after the heat of anger has dissipated, is more satisfying than revenge taken as an immediate act of rage. It was first used by French author Eugène Sue in his novel, Memoirs of Matilda, which was translated into English by D. G. Osbourne and published in 1846 but did not gain traction in popular American culture until the movie, The Godfather, was released in 1972.

The idea of revenge is at the very nature of man. It is an emotion of pride. I must be avenged of a wrong done to me, whether it be perceived or real. There is a saying about revenge too is that when we seek revenge, we are allowing another person to “live rent free in our heads.” Revenge can consume us and destroy us and often the revenge that we seek does not satisfy us. We can get so wrapped up in revenge and hatred of another person that we end up consuming and destroying ourselves in the process. One of my favorite movies on the subject is the Kevin Costner movie, The War, with Elijah Wood as the central child character in the movie. Kevin Costner who plays Stephen Simmons in the movie is the returning Vietnam War vet who is dealing with what happened over there and detests anything to do with war, hatred, killing, etc. Elijah Woods plays his son in the movie and his character’s name is Stu. As the movie plays out, Kevin’s character’s kids are out to build the ultimate tree fort during their summer break from school back in the 1960s Vietnam Era. But, there are these other set of brothers, the Lipnickis, the low-life junkyard owner’s kids, are the antagonists in the movie. The action between these two families of kids escalates throughout the movie because Kevin Costner’s kids stole some things from the junkyard for their fort and it escalates into an all out “war” by the end of the movie. The fight becomes so great that during the final “battle” scene between the two families of kids that the tree house that the Simmons kids and their neighborhood buddies had worked so hard to build all summer long is set on fire. But the war goes on that day and the fight does not end until the tree house is completely consumed by the fire – and there is nothing left to fight for. It is good movie that is worth a watch on a Friday night. The points out that ever-escalating revenge always results in all out war and war consumes everything in its path and nobody wins.

I am reminded of that morality tale of a movie about kids and the fort and of my ex-wife when I think of how revenge can consume us and destroy us. She allowed her desire for revenge against me consume and destroy her to the point that she ended up lonely and alone with only her second husband as a person who would have anything to do with her. Revenge itself can become our god to the point that we worship the pain that another person caused us and it can lead us to burn up our treehouse in the process. Let’s read about Samson’s consuming desire for revenge in this passage, Judges 15:1-20:
15 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He said, “I’m going into my wife’s room to sleep with her,” but her father wouldn’t let him in.

2 “I truly thought you must hate her,” her father explained, “so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her younger sister is even more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.”

3 Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” 4 Then he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.

6 “Who did this?” the Philistines demanded.

“Samson,” was the reply, “because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson’s wife to be married to his best man.” So the Philistines went and got the woman and her father and burned them to death.

7 “Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!” 8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, “Why are you attacking us?”

The Philistines replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson. We’ve come to pay him back for what he did to us.”

11 So 3,000 men of Judah went down to get Samson at the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines rule over us? What are you doing to us?”

But Samson replied, “I only did to them what they did to me.”

12 But the men of Judah told him, “We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

“All right,” Samson said. “But promise that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

13 “We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines,” they replied. “We won’t kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. 15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. 16 Then Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve killed a thousand men!”

17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.[a]

18 Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?” 19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place “The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,”[b] and it is still in Lehi to this day.

20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.

Here, in this passage, we see Samson’s reply in Judges 15:11 tells the story of this chapter: “I only did to them what they did to me.” Revenge is an uncontrollable monster. Each act of retaliation brings another. The cycle of revenge can only be halted by forgiveness.

In the movie, The War, the only thing that broke the cycle of violence until Stu Simmons saves the youngest Lipnicki kid from drowning. In that situation, Stu saves the little boy’s life by not only drawing out of the water but also by performing CPR on him. It is only that act of kindness that changes everything. After that as the movie closes, the Lipnicki boys and the Simmons kids and their friends bury the hatchet. One person has to take the initiative to end the cycle of violence by either not retailiating or by some act of kindness. Revenge consumes and destroys. Revenge blinds us to normal decency. Revenge burns everything in its path and leaves nothing but charred, used up remains behind. The path of extinguished friendships of my ex-wife, God rest her soul (as she passed on back in 2015), is evidence of how hate can consume a person. When we let revenge consume us we end up with the charred remains of a tree fort that we call our life, but yet we won. We won but everything is destroyed. Forgiveness is the only thing that will end the battle and end the war. We must turn out perceived or actual wrongs over to the Lord and evict that person from living in our head rent free. We must not let revenge become the napalm of our lives. It consumes and burns up what was once a beautiful forest full of foliage and leaves only scorched earth in its wake.

Is there someone that you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to evict from their rent-free apartment in your head? Is there someone that you need to extend the same grace that you were given in Jesus Christ? Can you not offer the same grace that you have been given? How freeing will that day be when you offer the same grace that you have been given?

Amen and Amen.

Judges 10:6-18
The Ammonites Oppress Israel

How many times is too many times? That is the question that I struggle with today. As you may know, if you have been a consistent reader of my blog, my relationship with my youngest daughter has been, to say the least, strained over the past two years. Until this past Saturday, we had not spoken in six months even though I had tried to communicate with her on several occasions. The last time that she spoke to me before Saturday was in early February of this year. At that time, she asked me for help with her power bill and water bill since both services had been cut off. Because of my fear that she would blow the money on something other than what she asked it for, I told her that I would pay up her utilities. It cost me over a thousand dollars to do so (as she had not paid those bills in about six months). During the last two years, she rarely spoke to me after I cut her off from her car insurance, her cell phone, and any “daddy I need money” money. So that February experience, I was in hopes that she would renew her relationship with me and with her sister and my oldest daughter. During the past two years, she has missed every family event that you can name, including the birth of and first birthday of her niece and my granddaughter.

However, last Friday afternoon, she sent me this very lengthy email coming clean about what has been going on in her life for the last two years and asking that I forgive her. For once in one of her emails to me or phone calls to me over the last 15 years, she did not ask for money. She admitted to her addictions. She admitted that she has made bad choices and used the death of her mother, my ex-wife, two years ago as an excuse to fall deeper into her addictions. She apologized for all the rejection that she has shown over the past few years, and particularly the last two. She said she realized that everything that she blamed me for was really problems of her own making. She apologized for February where she just used me to get her utilities back on, even though she put on the water works and promised to do better and to find a job. She then proceeded to not talk to me again for another six months until her email Friday and our phone conversation on Saturday morning.

This time, with her honesty both in her email and her phone, things just seemed different. She seems to be different. She seemed less child-like and more mature. She did not seem like a child in a grown up body anymore. She did not ask for money even once in our conversation which was unusual (as the only time she would call me (instead of me calling her) was when she needed money for this or money for that and it was always an emergency). This time, she was just wanting to apologize for the past and ask for a chance to start our relationship over again. The crux of the matter was that she said that a car accident she had a month ago where she ended up inside her car upside down in a ditch that totaled her car that made her realize that she had to change. She admitted that she had an addiction problem that made itself the most important thing in her life. It included not caring for her car and tires and such which contributed to her car accident. So, this phone call had a different tenor than any previous conversation I had had with my youngest child in, well, ever.

After the conversation, it was apparent to my wife and I that Taylor, even though she seems to want to reclaim her life, was going to be in a catch-22 situation where she can’t find a job unless she has a car. The other side of that is that she can’t get a car unless she has a job. With her credit history and lack of a job, getting any kind of car was going to be impossible for her. My wife came up with the idea of giving Taylor her car (a 2008 Mazda 3) and then us buying her another car from a local used car dealer who goes to our church. We would get her a used by in good shape Mazda 6. Since our Mazda 3 was paid for, we could give it away without any problems. I will have to admit that without my wife coming up with this idea, I may have not done anything this major to help my daughter. But with her influence and the influence of the Holy Spirit, I was led to approve the plan. My wife spent all afternoon with Taylor day before yesterday getting the car insured in Taylor’s name, getting the taxes in Taylor’s name, and getting the title in Taylor’s name. Prior to that, on Wednesday morning, I had a long conversation with Taylor about what we were going to do for. Amazingly, at first, Taylor did not want to accept the car because, as she said, “I don’t want you to think that’s why I initiated contact with you again for the first time in six months! I told her that she needed this but I did not want her to think that this was the start of me giving her financial support all the time, again. I told her that the utilities at her home, the taxes that are due on it, everything about this car (taxes, insurance, and so on were on her). I am so in hopes that this time she is going to get her life turned around (and that this car will help that). I am also fearful that this is just another hose job where she really played it cool this time and worked an angle that she knew I would fall for – a Taylor who is honest about her mistakes and her willingness to get her life started over again.

How many times is too many times to help your child? I am so fearful that now that she has transportation again that she will fall off the face of the earth again. I am fearful that she will begin using again at some point. I am fearful that if that happens the next time I hear from her will be about her – from the coroner’s office. I am fearful of Taylor just continuing to exist and living in poverty and not fulfilling her God given potential. I am fearful. But the Lord is trying to comfort me that this gesture is hand up and not a hand out. He is saying to me that I can say no to her just as began two years ago and without this one gesture she may end up in the ditch dead because she had no way out of the cycle she was in no matter if she stopped using or not. Her sister and step-sister are less hopeful. They both warned us of what could be happening here. It is easier to write off a sibling than it is a child I guess. I don’t blame either one of them for their feelings. Each one, my oldest daughter and my stepdaughter, is a productive citizen and have good jobs. Each one has worked since their teen years. Whereas they have seen Taylor not really work but for about four years in her life (and she is now almost 27 years old and hasn’t worked in 2 years). I understand all that. There question is how many times is too many times. I get it. I have been asking that question myself even before telling my oldest daughter and my stepdaughter about what we were doing for their sister.

It was this idea of how many times is too many times when it comes to our kids that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Judges 10:6-18, this morning. Let’s read it together now:


6 Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him. 7 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon. 8 They [a]afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel [b]that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan [c]in Gilead in the land of the Amorites. 9 The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed.

10 Then the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.” 11 The Lord said to the sons of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? 12 Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. 13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” 15 The sons of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and [d]He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.

17 Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. 18 The people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon? He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

Here, in this passage, we see that the Israelites suffered for many years before they gave up their sinful ways and called out to the Lord for help. Notice that when they were at the end of their rope, they finally looked to the One who was really able to help, not their pagan gods. But despite being rejected by His own chosen people, God never failed to rescue them when they cried out to Him with repentant hearts. Likewise, God never fails to rescue us. We often act like the Israelites, when we put God on hold, put God outside our daily lives, go underground from him, avoid him, until we need Him for something or something bad happens. Just as a loving parent feels rejected when their child rebels, so God feels the same way when we ignore or reject Him. In His pursuit of us though, He so loves us that no matter what we have done, we can have relationship with Him through the grace offered to us through Jesus Christ. He loved us so much that He forgives us when we repent from our sins. He throws them as far as the east is from the west. Through accepting the sacrificial and atoning work of Jesus on the cross and making Him the Lord of our lives, we are made whole with our Father once again.

He wants us to be family with Him. No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have rejected Him, God still loves us and still pursues us. Are you awaking one morning foraging for husks of corn with the pigs when you realize that there has to be something better than the riotous life you are living? You realize that coming home to the Father is what you should do? He is waiting. He will run to you and put a robe of righteousness on you and accept you into the banquet hall for the feast at which He will seat you in the place of honor beside Him. But you first must come clean and come home. Once there, you will be made part of God’s family. No matter how many times you have rejected and abused God in the past, He is there waiting for you to realize how much He loves you. No matter how many times before. No matter. He will still pursue you. The only wait it is too late is if you go to your grave having not come home to Him. Only then is it too late. Come home, prodigal son. Come home prodigal daughter.

How many times is too many times? That is the question for me and my daughter. How many times is too many times? That is the question between you and God.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 10:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Israel Defeats the Southern Armies

You know that is an old saying that says, “Forgive and forget!” I think that forgiveness is really in the remembering but forgiving anyway. We cannot “forget” situations where we have been betrayed. It is simply impossible to un-remember or forget what someone has done to us. Forgiveness truly is the ability to forgive someone even though you have vivid memories of what they have done to you. That is real forgiveness. Forgiveness is still feeling the pain of the deception or betrayal when you think of it, but, yet, giving that person grace. By all rights we should be able to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. Or any of a number of clichés about ill will toward another person.


I remember this concept well when it came during the first separation that I had with my second wife. We had been separated for about 9 months at that point in our first separation. There were mutual reasons why we separated. I did some stupid things with money that put our lifestyle in jeopardy and she reacted to it by returning to the party lifestyle she had before we met and ended up having an affair at work (she had returned to work after having been a stay at home mom for the previous two and half years). She would stay out all night and when I would get angry about it she would withdraw further into her circle of single friends, which made me further insecure. It was a vicious circle from which we could not escape. We finally separated over these issues. Even though I still loved her, by nine months later, I had accepted the reality that she was seeing other people and was enjoying the single life and had no desire to be back with me. On the other hand, it had been difficult for me to recover from our separation. It was really, really tough because I was still pining away for her. However, one weekend in November 2000, when she had gone to the beach with her cousin and some of her single gal pals and this guy friend and some of his guy friends. It was to be this wild weekend where she celebrated her birthday at the beach (in November!). But in the middle of the night, like at 1am in the morning, she calls me on the house phone at the lake house of my parents in Anderson, SC where I had been living for the previous 9 months since the separation.


“Come get me!” were the first words she said to me over the phone. Not even a “hi” or a “hello”. Just “Come get me!”. I could have easily said “go to hell, bitch!” and hung up the phone. There had been so many times during that separation that I wanted us to get back together but was rebuffed to the point that I was actually, finally dating again after 6 months or more of sulking away. By all rights, I could have told her to go to that place of the gnashing of teeth and burning of flesh. But I didn’t. I knew all the pain that I felt over what had happened to our marriage but I got up and drove to the beach in 4 hours, including getting a speeding ticket on the way. Something had happened between her and the guy that she rode to the beach with and she was now stranded with no room and no way home. I set aside all the pain and went and rescued her. Because I rescued her from God know what (which I never asked about and she never told), she decided to ask me to come back to our marital home. I severed ties with anyone whom I had been dating and rushed back home. It was what I wanted. I was happier than a pig in slop at the notion of us getting back together.


But I think God’s reasoning for us getting back together was so that I could guide my second wife and her two youngest sons through the death of her oldest son. Three months after we got back together, her oldest son was killed in a car accident on the night of February 25, 2002. I think that my second wife and her kids would have come completely unglued and gone off the deep end if I had not been part of their lives in the aftermath of his death. But ultimately, the ungodly jealousies of my kids vs. your kids, one of the many undercurrents that were at play in our relationship undid the marital bliss than had been re-established that one night when I rescued her from that bad situation in Myrtle Beach. When my daughter went off to college, she though our obligations to my child had ended and wanted me “to cut the apron strings” as she said. I could not do that to my oldest child. That comment led to me hiding my financial support for my daughter from my second wife. It all came to light in August 2004 and our marriage ended again. All the old struggles and jealousies were just too much for it to survive. And she wasted no time meeting someone and was living with another guy within three months. Although I left the marriage initially because I chose my child over the second wife, I was able to get a divorce on the grounds of her adultery. This time the separation was permanent and I never looked back again. No more pining away for her. I knew this was the end. There was just too much that this marriage not centered on God, not established in God, could survive. I knew I was doing the right thing. My children were my priority and I should have never had to choose between my girls and my second wife. I knew this time it was final and it was for real.


Isn’t strange how this all worked out though when you look back at it? God brought us back together because he could see the tragedy that was going to happen. We were back together from November 2000 until our final separation in August 2004. Her oldest son’s death was almost perfectly right in the middle of that time frame. That’s the thing that I see as one of the two reasons for the reconciliation. One was for me to be there during the tragedy and the recovery time after it. The second was for me to see that nothing much had changed in our marriage (my kids vs. your kids) and to see my second wife with the rose colored glasses off. That had to be the purpose. There was a clarity about the future when the marriage ended for good. No longer was my second wife my god. I saw her with fresh eyes of clarity.

That idea of remembering betrayal but forgiving anyway so that we can reap God’s true blessings for us was what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 10:1-15 for the first of two times. Lets read it together now:


10 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed[a] it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. 2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. 3 So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”


5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.


6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”


7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”


9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.


12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:


“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,

    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”


So the sun stood still,

    and the moon stopped,

    till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,


as it is written in the Book of Jashar.


The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!


15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.


In this passage, we see that Joshua has integrity. After having been deceived by Gibeonites, Joshua and the leaders of Israel could have been slow to respond (or not at all) to the Gibeonites’ request for the armies of Israel to save them. Instead, they responded immediately to the call for help. How willing would you be to help someone who had deceived you even though you had forgiven that person? We should always take our word, our promises to others as seriously as Joshua did here.


When I look back on my own situation where I forgave despite remembering pain and deception, I wonder what if? What if I had not responded to her cry for help in November 2000? What if I had not jumped out of bed, not thinking of the hurt, the pain, the deceptions, the arguments, and drove all night to get her. I would not have been in the place where God needed me to be in February 2002 and I would not have learned the true nature of that relationship. Sometimes, we have to forget deception and pain and our pride to do what God calls us to do or what God wants us to learn. Sometimes God calls us to do things that will require us to forgive even though the pain and pride are painful. Sometimes, we must forgive even though we remember so that we can obtain what God has in store for us.


If I had been able to see what my second marriage was really made of by that getting back together in November 2000, where would I be today. I would not have the blessings that I have now. If I had not forgiven though I remembered, I would not have ever seen my second wife for her true nature and been able to set myself free from worshiping her as a god. I would not have ever grown up. I would been her puppet for years. I would have never opened my eyes to her without that reconciliation period. I would not be where I am today without saying yes to God’s plan that night in November.


Just as Joshua could have easily told the Gibeonites to go to hell because of their deception and the pain that it caused him. But he forgave, though remembering, and came to their defense. If he had not done that, he may have never had another opportunity to have the armies of all the hill country kings all together in one place at one time – ever again. Pride can cause us not to forgive. Pride can cause us to miss out on what God really has in store for us.


God could have pride if that were in His nature. He could have pride and literally tell us to go to hell. He remembers each and every betrayal we have committed against Him. He remembers every one of our sins and betrayals and deceptions against Him. He could forever hold it against us. God has a long memory. He does not forget our sins. But he loves us enough to not want to see us permanently separated from Him in hell. He gave up His Son on the cross as the permanent resolution to our sin problem. God forgives us through His Son’s sacrifice. He loves us that much. He loves us even though we have hurt Him so badly with our sins and our raising our fist in the air at Him. When we say to the Lord, even though we do not deserve His grave, “Come get me!” God comes to us through Jesus Christ. He remembers all our sins but comes to us regardless. What if God did not come to us and rescue us? He has every right not to! He is not God and we are sinners. He does not need us. He could just write us off and tell us to go to hell, literally. But he offers salvation to all those who call out to Him to come rescue them.


Joshua could have said go to hell to the Gibeonites, but He kept his word. He was able to reap great blessings from not being prideful and saying go to hell to the Gibeonites. Sometimes our inability to forgive others because of the pain they have caused us, prevents us from being freed from that pain and obtaining the real blessings that God has for us. Sometimes it’s hard I know. But by forgiving (even though we can never forget), we let loose the idol that the pain has become and only then can we find the path that God wants us to walk down.


Amen and Amen.