Setting the Record Straight

Joseph is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love reading and studying about him, and after hearing many sermons and theories preached about him and his brothers’ betrayal, I want to set the record straight, because too many preachers and teachers are giving Joseph a bad rap.  Let’s examine the scriptures in Genesis 37, and talk about what really happened between Joseph and his brothers.

These are the records of the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:2-4 NASB)

Now, I have heard many preachers and teachers claim that because Joseph tattled on his brothers, and because his father loved him more, he somehow brought his brothers’ hatred and betrayal on himself.  Yet, I submit to you that it wasn’t Joseph’s fault that his father loved him more.  That was his father’s choice.  Further, I have heard it taught that in tattling on his brothers, Joseph earned their enmity.  However, there is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that Joseph lied, when he reported his brothers’ bad actions to his father.  Indeed, if his brothers had not been guilty of wrongdoing, Joseph would have given no bad report to his father.  Finally, look at verse 4 in this scripture passage.

His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:4 NASB)

It is wrong to blame Joseph for his brothers’ hatred…  As a child and even as an adult, I felt that my sister was the favored child in our home, and I was very jealous of her.  Was it her fault that I was jealous? No.  That sin was mine alone, not hers.  And though she was loved more, that wasn’t her fault either, any more than it was my fault that I was loved less.  The choice to favor one child over another belonged to my mother and stepfather.

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  (James 3:16 NASB)

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s love for him, and that jealousy led to hatred, which, in turn, led to murderous intentions.  How is it that many church leaders are guilty of blaming the victim of their evil acts?

One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. “Listen to this dream,” he said. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.  (Genesis 37:5-10 NLT)

Now, I have also heard many preachers and teachers claim that Joseph was a braggart, and that is why his brothers attacked him.  Yet, again, this is not what I read in the scriptures.  Joseph simply shared his dreams with his brothers and his father.  He didn’t interpret the dreams to them.  They interpreted the dreams.  Did Joseph sin by sharing his dreams with his family?  No.  Not once do we read that God told him not to share his dreams, so he wasn’t being disobedient to the One who gave him the dreams.

Indeed, because they already hated him, his brothers only hated him more, because of his relationship with God and his father.  Joseph’s brothers hated him in the same way that Cain hated his brother, Abel.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but He did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”  (Genesis 4:3-7 NLT)

Cain’s jealousy of Abel led to hatred, which led him to murder his brother.  In the same way, Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy of him led to hatred, which led them to murder him in their hearts.  Indeed, only Reuben, Joseph’s oldest brother, stopped the rest of his brothers from murdering him.  Then, while Reuben was gone, they sold their younger brother into slavery, and lied to their father, telling him that his beloved son was dead.

Heed these words.  If you harbor jealousy in your heart, sooner or later, it will lead to hatred, which can lead to murder.  Are you jealous of someone?  Repent and confess your sin to God.  Ask Him to change your heart, and fill you with His love.  Jealousy and hatred will only lead to your death.  And don’t blame the one of whom you are jealous for your hatred.  Only you and I can choose whether to hate someone or not.

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Are You Salty Enough?

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NLT)

Can pure salt (sodium chloride) lose its flavor?  The answer to that question is no. However, take note of the question I asked.  I asked if pure salt could lose its flavor, and the answer is that in its purest form, it cannot.

However, in ancient times, before and when Jesus walked the earth, the salt collected was not always in its purest form. Indeed, many times it was contaminated with other minerals, and full of impurities.  Therefore, when eating of this contaminated salt, the partakers of that salt may have tasted the minerals and other contaminants, which would have given the salt an “off” flavor.

Also, salt is water soluble.  Therefore, in a humid climate, salt that has been exposed to condensation and water could be dissolved, leaving only whatever contaminants were mixed in with the salt, again, causing the salt to lose its flavor.

Dead-Sea-Israel

In Jesus’ area, salt would have been obtained from salt marshes nearby, or from the Dead Sea, and these would have been full of the contaminants I’m talking about.  For in those days, we didn’t have the factories or the ability to extract other unwanted chemicals from the salt.  Therefore, it wasn’t uncommon for someone’s salt to be flavorless or to taste “off.”

Indeed, it was fairly common, and when that happened, people would throw the useless salt out into the road, where it would be trampled into the ground.  It’s important to note that the unwanted salt was not thrown into the field or someone’s yard, otherwise, it could kill someone’s crops.  Therefore, it was safer, to throw it onto the roadways, where nothing was planted, and where it would be crushed by people and animals into the ground.

Now, armed with this knowledge, what could Jesus have meant, when He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NLT)

In what ways could a man or woman of God, the salt of the earth, lose his/her flavor?  One way that we could lose our flavor and become like useless salt, is if the Word within us is watered down or diluted.  For instance, there are many preachers, teachers, evangelists and prophets, who preach a watered down version of God’s word.

They refuse to speak of sin and the need for repentance, because they don’t want to offend anyone.  Some don’t believe the devil and his demons really exist.  Some believe in psychology and psychiatry, yet turn a blind eye to demonic possession and oppression.  Their gospel is so watered down that it is entirely flavorless.  Is it really any wonder that so many want nothing to do with the church?  After all, how is this any different than living in the world?  These people have lost their saltiness, and as Jesus said, they should be cast out.  Yet, instead, many of us embrace them!

Then, there are those who, like the salt that we discussed earlier, are filled with many impurities.  They sow seeds of discord among believers.  We all know some of them.  The Apostle Paul described these people in 2 Timothy 3:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

These flavorless preachers, teachers and prophets include many teachings that are the antithesis of scripture.  You’ve seen it.  There are so-called clergy, who believe and teach that homosexuality is of God.  They not only condone it, they even practice it and encourage others to do so!

Beloved reader, how many televangelists have you seen, who couldn’t care less about your souls? All they want is more money and power.  You’ve seen the preachers, the deacons, the elders in the church, who have no love for Jesus.  They are in these positions for the power and prestige it brings them.  You’ve seen the Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, who, though some may love youth and children, care more about making sure youth and children have fun, rather than being concerned about their relationship with Christ, not to mention those who are there as predators, and seek their own pleasure by destroying our children and youth.  You’ve also seen people in the church, who are content where they are, as long as they aren’t forced to confront their own sin.

Whether these people are flavorless because of impurities or watered down versions of the gospel, if they don’t repent and change, they will be cast out and trampled, just as Jesus said.  Beloved reader, if any of this describes you, I urge you to repent before it is too late!  Jesus makes it very clear that we are to be the salt of the earth.  We are to bring a good and rich flavor to this decaying world.

Have you ever eaten a cake that has no salt?  It is one of the most disgusting things you’ve ever tasted, because even sweet things need the savory flavor of salt.  Otherwise, it just tastes like something rotten.  If we only believe, teach and preach the scriptures that say God is love, but refuse to believe, teach and preach those scriptures that show He is also a just God, who will avenge injustice, it is like eating a sickening sweet cake that has no salt.  It is disgusting.

How can we expect our children to do what is good and right, if we don’t teach them the pure, incorrupt truth?  How can we expect anyone to do what is right and good, if we don’t show them?  As a wise person once said, we, Christians, are the only bible most of the world will ever see.  If we have lost our flavor, they will simply taste and see what it is in everyone who is without Christ… unbelief… hatred… bitterness… envy… strife… adultery…  Don’t you want others to come and do as David did in Psalm 34:8?

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Beloved reader, have you lost your flavor?  If so, I urge you to repent.  Seek the Lord, while He may be found.  He is not only a just God, but also a merciful One.

Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
(Isaiah 1:18 NKJV)

Cast away any flavorless, worldly teachings you have been exposed to.  Seek the Truth of God’s Word, so that you may be able to walk in His power and strength.  I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ, do not become like flavorless salt, lest you be cast away and trampled.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Does Persecution Still Exist?

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV)

For the last few days, I’ve pondered about what to write about persecution.  Lord, what would You have me write?  Many of us, who have been blessed to live in the United States, are often ignorant of the persecution and crimes committed against Christians.  We often, mistakenly think that the persecution of Christians and Jews is a thing of the past, but that is terribly foolish and wrong, for many of our brothers and sisters around the world are being persecuted, even now, as you read this message.

Indeed, I believe that there is coming a day, when even U.S. citizens will be persecuted for their faith in Christ.  In fact, that day has already begun.

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  (Mark 13:9-13 NKJV)  

We are living in dangerous times.  You don’t have to look far to see how children have turned against their parents, and parents have turned against their children.  In other countries, we’ve seen how families from other beliefs, (Hindu, Buddhist, and Islam for example) have turned against their own loved ones, by disinheriting them, beating and torturing them, and even killing them, simply because they believe in Jesus.  

The chart listed above, shows the statistics for 2018, for persecuted Christians around the world.  It is eye opening, and if you are a child of God, then this should concern you, because those persecuted Christians are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  I got this information from the following website:

www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ 

According to these statistics, approximately 8 Christians die daily, for their faith, which totals 255 Christians monthly.  For those who live in the U.S., can you imagine waking up each day, not knowing whether this is the day that someone will betray you for your faith in Christ?  Can you imagine wondering, throughout the day, whether you may be murdered because you are a follower of Christ?  The statistics tell us that 104 people each month, which is a little more than 3 people daily, are abducted for their faith.  Imagine, being snatched from your home, your place of employment, or from the streets, because you are a Christian.  As if this isn’t bad enough, 180 women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into unwanted marriages every month.  That’s 6 women who are raped, forced into unwanted, mostly abusive marriages and sexually harassed every day, just because they love Jesus.  Imagine the fear, shame and pain that these women endure!  66 churches every month are attacked, and 160 Christians are arrested and imprisoned for their faith, without benefit of a trial.

Beloved reader, don’t just sigh and shake your head.  Do you know that if you are a believer, you, too, may one day suffer persecution?  I don’t share this with you to frighten you, but so that you won’t be caught unaware.  Do you know that here, in the U.S., Christians are being sued for standing up for their faith, which is our first amendment right?

You don’t often hear about these things on broadcast news media outlets, or in most newspapers, because defending the rights of Christians is not part of their agenda.  Instead, many are trying to silence Christians, because true believers refuse to embrace sinful lifestyles, such as abortion, adultery, fornication and homosexuality, to name just a few.  Christians, such as our Vice-President, Mike Pence, are mocked and ridiculed for our beliefs.

Nonbelievers claim that Christians are narrow-minded and intolerant, and yet, they are the ones who are trying to silence us.  All too often, debates end in name calling and false accusations.  They do this because, All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.”  (John 3:20 NLT)  

Beloved, in these last days, don’t be shocked by the things that are happening in the world around you, and in your world.  For Jesus warned us about this…

12 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are My followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about Me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you.17 And everyone will hate you because you are My followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.”  (Luke 21:12-19 NLT)

Indeed, my friend, I suggest that we shouldn’t be surprised that people hate us because of our faith.  We should instead, be surprised by the ones who don’t hate us.  So, what can we do about this persecution of God’s people?  There is one thing that every one of us can do, no matter where we live, or what our circumstances are.  We can pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are suffering. The Apostle Paul even let us know what to pray for our brothers and sisters, and so did the writer of Hebrews… 

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  

19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should.  (Ephesians 6:18-20 NLT)

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.  (Hebrews 13:3 NLT)

Jesus promised that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for His name’s sake, and that they will receive a great reward.  Beloved, let’s be active in our prayers for our persecuted brethren, and remember, you or I could very well be the next one to be persecuted for our faith.  And if, you or I do suffer from persecution one day, hold tight to Jesus’ promise, and may we have the same attitude that Peter had…  

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.  (1 Peter 4:12-19  NKJV)

Links to sites about Christian persecution:

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

What in the World is a Peacemaker?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NASB)

What in the world is a peacemaker? Jesus said that the peacemakers shall be called sons of God, and as the only begotten Son of God, and the Prince of Peace, He must have been a peacemaker, right? For the commands He gave to us, and the lessons He taught, He demonstrated in His own life. Let us therefore examine Jesus’ life and discover how we, too, can become sons of God.

Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace. Throughout the scriptures, we see that He repeatedly spoke of peace, and yet He had many enemies, who wanted nothing more than to destroy Him, from the time of His birth. So the peace He was speaking of, obviously had nothing to do with whether or not we have enemies.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27 NASB)

Indeed, Jesus warned us in Matthew 10:34-42, that He didn’t come to bring peace on earth, but a sword. He said that He came to set families against one another. That doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it?

I remember when I was first saved as a child of around eleven or twelve years old. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents the good news. I was sure they would be proud and happy for me. As soon as I jumped off the church bus, I hit the ground at a run, delighted to share the wonderful news of my salvation with my mommy and daddy.

Yet, their response to this good news wasn’t what I expected. Instead of rejoicing, they were angry at me and at the church bus captains that they sent me to church with every week. I was told that if I was going to turn into a holy roller, like my church bus leaders, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to church with them anymore, did I understand? I didn’t understand, but I promised to obey them. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being allowed to go to church anymore. So, I began to read my bible in secret, and I didn’t talk to them about my relationship with Jesus for many years.

I didn’t understand their reaction back then. I was heartbroken, and sure I had done something wrong. Maybe they reacted like that because I didn’t know enough to share the good news about Jesus. There was one thing I was certain of though. I knew that Jesus was and is the Son of God, and though it would have made my parents cringe, I knew that I wanted to be like my church bus captains, who loved the Lord and served Him so joyfully. They truly lived according to His ways, and I wanted to live like that too.

Beloved reader, my relationship with Jesus did not bring me peace with my family. It drove a wedge between us. There was much conflict between me and my parents throughout the years, and they often seemed to hate my faith.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ (Matthew 10:34-36 NLT)

So, if Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the One who blessed the peacemakers and said that these would be called the sons of God, didn’t come to bring peace on earth, what kind of peace was He talking about? I know without doubt that Jesus walked the walk He proclaimed, so there must be an answer to this, right? Why did He come?

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for usBecause of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:1-11 NLT)

Beloved reader, rejoice with me, for the answer to our question is found in this scripture passage. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace on earth. He came to bring us peace with God! Do you want to be a son of God? Then work to bring others to peace with God. It is both as difficult and simple as that.

Don’t get it twisted. Even though you may be attacked at every side, and even though you are surrounded by enemies, our goal is not to be at peace with the world. Our goal is to love our enemies, even though it goes against everything we’ve been taught by the world, and seek to help them make peace with God. Keep your mind fixed on God, and don’t allow the troubles of this world to cause you to lose focus…

You will keep in perfect peace
   all who trust in You,
   all whose thoughts are fixed on You! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

Do you want to be called a son of God? Then beloved, stop seeking your peace in this world. True peace comes from knowing and loving God. True peacemakers share the peace that God has given them, with others. True peacemakers don’t lose focus of this goal…

Do you long for peace? Seek the Lord with all your heart. Trust in Him, and no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, don’t lose focus of the One who loves you with an everlasting love. While you may never have peace even in your own household, true peace comes from your relationship with God.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

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

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Please, Help Me to See God!

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.  (Matthew 5:8 NKJV)

Does this seem like an impossibility to you?  Do you feel as though you’ve seen too much, done too much and had too much done to you to ever have a pure heart?  God knows that I have felt this way for most of my life.  Though you don’t know my heart, and though I can’t know yours, God knows.  Indeed, it was God who described the condition of everyone’s heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.  (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV)

So, knowing this, how could Jesus, bless those with a pure heart?  Do they really exist?  And, knowing this, how could He make it seem possible for anyone to achieve this?  I’ve been dreaming about this message all night, as the Lord placed scripture after scripture into my heart, and if you’ve longed to see God, but despaired of it ever happening, because of the things you’ve done in life, have I got good news for you!  For, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  

Let’s look at King David.  King David had it all.  He loved the Lord, and God had blessed him with the kingdom of Israel, and the love of his people.  He walked uprightly before God, and was seen on many occasions singing and dancing before the Lord.  And yet, like you and me, King David’s heart was just as deceitful as our hearts are.  Do you remember what happened? 

During the time of year, when kings went to war, we discover that King David stayed behind, in Jerusalem.  For whatever reason, David chose not to be where he should have been, and after waking from a nap, he walked out onto the roof and looked around.  And while he was standing there, he saw a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 

Now, instead of averting his eyes from her and leaving his perch on the roof, David he sent a servant to find out who she was.  After discovering that she was married, you would have thought that this man of God would have forgotten about her, but instead, he summoned her to his presence and committed adultery with her.  Before too long, Bathsheba (the woman) informed David that she was pregnant. 

It never occurred to David that he should repent, and ask for her husband’s (Uriah) or God’s forgiveness.  Instead, he began to plot, to cover his sin.  Have you ever been there?  When you’ve sinned against God and man, have you tried to cover it up?  Though it shames me, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never tried to hide my sins. 

David sent a message for Uriah to come home, hoping that he and his wife would have sex, and then Bathsheba could claim that their child was Uriah’s.  However, it turns out that Uriah was a much more honorable man than David was, and he refused to enjoy the comfort and pleasure of sleeping with his wife, while his fellow soldiers were suffering in the midst of the war.  David didn’t give up, though.  He invited Uriah to dinner that evening, and got him drunk, hoping to get him to sleep with his wife, while under the influence, but even then, Uriah refused to betray his duty to his fellow soldiers.   

So, rather than repenting and confessing his sin to Uriah and to God, David plotted another plan… one that involved Uriah’s murder.  David sent Uriah back to the front lines, where the battle was the fiercest, and ordered the other men to be pulled back, so that Uriah would be killed in battle. 

When Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, learned that Uriah had been killed in battle, she mourned for him.  Then, once her period of mourning was over, David married her, and she became one of his wives.  Before long, she gave birth to a son.  But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.  (1 Samuel 11 NLT)

Indeed, God was so unhappy about what David had done, that he sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront him with his sin.  When he realized that Nathan speaking of his sin, David confessed and repented of it, and God forgave him.  However, the consequences for David’s sin were great.  (1 Samuel 12 NLT)  Still, knowing the consequences of his sin, David prostrated himself before God, confessed his sin and repented.

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.  (Psalm 51 NKJV)

Beloved, oftentimes, we think that because our sins are forgiven, we shouldn’t suffer the consequences for those sins, but this isn’t true.  Though Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, in this world, we still suffer sin’s consequences.  Yet, if we truly repent, as David did, though we pay the consequences of our sin, we can still be washed clean, even as David was.  Do you wonder if David will ever get to see God, because of his sin?  I believe he will, for even in the New Testament, David is referred to as a man after God’s own heart.  

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’  (Acts 13:22 NKJV) 

Even after these terrible sins against God and man, David remained a man after God’s own heart.  Doesn’t that give you hope?  It gives me great hope.  Yet, if what Jesus said is true, then how can our heart be made pure, so that we, too, can see God?  We must do as David did, and repent and confess our sin to God…

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9 NKJV) 

Do you want to see God?  Then you must have a pure heart.  How can you have a pure heart?  Confess your sins to God, repent from them, and ask Him to cleanse your heart, just as David did, and your heart, beloved reader, will be made pure, and you will see God.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Lord Have Mercy!

In a world filled with bitterness and injustice, it’s no accident that after sharing the beatitude about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus followed it up with the beatitude on mercy…

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.  (Matthew 5:6-7 NKJV)

In this world, where mothers and fathers mourn the lives of their children, murdered by men full of violence, we need mercy as well as justice.  In this world, where men, women and children are raped and tortured, we need both mercy and justice.  In this world, where governments lie, cheat and steal from their citizens, we need mercy to go hand in hand with justice.

What is mercy anyway?  For much of my life, I’ve confused mercy with forgiveness, but in this study, I was moved to seek out the biblical definition, as well as the world’s definition, and I was surprised to discover that mercy and forgiveness are two different things.  Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is as essential to our walk with Christ as mercy is, but Jesus addresses that elsewhere.  So, for now, we are going to talk about mercy…

This is dictionary.com’s definition of mercy:

[mur-see]

noun, plural mer·cies for 4, 5.

  1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offenderan enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassionpity, or benevolence:  Have mercy on thpoor sinner.
  2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
  3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty. 
  4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor: She has performed countless small mercies for her friends and neighbors.
  5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing: It was just mercy we had our seat belts on when it happened.

According to Strong’s Lexicon, this is the Greek word translated as mercy in this scripture, and its definition:

eleeō

[e-le-e’-ō]

verb

to be compassionate (by word or deed, specially, by divine grace):—have compassion (pity on), have (obtain, receive, shew) mercy (on).

Beloved reader, in this world that often shows little to no compassion for those who are hurt and afflicted, Jesus commands us to be merciful.  In this world of unrighteousness, we are to show mercy to our enemies, to our friends, to our family, to the poor and forgotten… Indeed, we are to show mercy to everyone we come in contact with.

Do you want to receive mercy?  Be merciful.  Show compassion on those who are less fortunate than you are.  Show compassion to those who are more fortunate than you.  Show compassion to all you come in contact with.

Think about it, even as He was suffering, hanging, naked and dying on the cross, Jesus looked down and saw those who had tortured and hung Him gambling over His clothing, and instead of calling on God to strike them dead (which justice surely demanded), He was moved with pity for them.  Can you imagine feeling pity for your tormentors, in the midst of your suffering?  Jesus did, and He cried out to His Father, not to condemn them, but to have mercy on them…

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

Beloved, if Jesus, who was and is wholly righteous, could have mercy enough on those, who yet tortured Him, to forgive them, how can we do any less?  “But He is God,” you might say.  “It’s harder for me to forgive, because I’m not God.”  If you are truly a child of God, then His Spirit lives within you, and enables you to show mercy.

How much harder was it for Jesus, who knew no sin, to suffer at the hands of sinful man?  How much harder was it for Him to have mercy on me, knowing how many times I have let Him down in the past, present and future?  And yet, He continues to pour His mercies on us…

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.  (Psalm 103:11-18 NKJV)

Beloved, this walk with Christ is not an easy one.  We are tested and tried at every turn, just as Jesus said we would be.  And yet, by His grace, and in His strength, we can run this race, for He will give us the endurance to see it through.  It’s time for us to stop seeing everything through the eyes of the world, and start seeing things through the eyes of Christ.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Then you will be filled, as you show mercy to others.  And as you show mercy to others, rejoice!  For you are blessed, and you will receive that same mercy from the God of all mercy, and let’s not forget:

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”  (Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Do You Want to Be Free?

Who knows how long he had lived this way?  Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him?  Have you ever been in that position?

His life was completely out of control.  He had no hope.  Filled with pain, fear, anger and bitterness, life was totally meaningless.  His thoughts were a jumbled mess, and most of the time, he was unable to put a sentence together in his mind, much less speak coherently.  And throughout it all, there was the constant barrage of noise coming from the voices in his head.

No one else could hear the voices, but it didn’t make them any less real, because he heard them.  Night and day, they whispered and shouted at him, constantly accusing him, telling him what a failure he was.  There was no peace.  There was no quiet.  He couldn’t escape the voices that taunted him constantly.

They were vile and evil, yet he was powerless to fight them, so he tried to escape them by cutting himself, hoping to die, but always, to no avail.  Day and night, he howled in pain and outrage, and breaking all restraints that were placed on him, he would run into the wilderness, screaming at his tormentors, which no one else could see.

Family and friends had long since given up on him.  He had no one to care about him.  He was all alone with his demons, living in a graveyard outside of town.  He was what we might call a zombie today.  Indeed, he was a dead man walking.

Do you know any walking dead men or women, boys or girls?  Do you know any like this man, filled with violence, rage, fear and animosity?  Do you know any who suffer as this man did – hearing those tormenting voices constantly attacking him?  Do you suffer as this man did?  Is there any hope?

Today, doctors use medications to quiet the voices, but those medications often leave you in a fog, with many side-effects, and though the voices are quieted, they are still there…  So, what can be done to help people?  What can be done to help you or your loved one?

schizophrenia_by_valeriobefani-d5r4unj

From a distance away, the man saw Someone step out of a boat, and he ran toward Him.  Did he somehow recognize that this One could help him?  I’ve thought about this, and I can’t imagine why the demons who tormented the man would want to run up to Jesus, because they recognized Him immediately, and they knew what would happen to them if they entered His presence.  Therefore, I can only conclude that this poor, desperate man must have felt the fear in his demonic tormentors, or perhaps he somehow knew that this was his one chance, and he made a beeline for Jesus, bowing low before Him…

Fearfully, the demons screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg You, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28)

Jesus spoke to this demon, called Legion, for there were many in the man, and commanded the demons to go, casting them into a herd of pigs, who then ran off the side of a cliff, drowning in the lake below.  The keepers of the herd, upon seeing this, fled to the nearby village, fearfully telling the villagers what had happened.  When they and the villagers returned, they saw the once naked and wretched man fully clothed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, conversing with Him, and they were terribly frightened.  In their fear, they begged Jesus to leave them.  (Matthew 8:28-34 NLT)  (Luke 8:26-39 NLT)  (Mark 5:1-20 NLT)

I’ve never understood that.  Wouldn’t you think they would have rejoiced to see that poor man restored to sanity?  Wouldn’t you think they would be relieved that they no longer had to worry about him attacking them or their loved ones?  I would have thought they would have thrown a great celebration, and sought to know the One who had set this captive free…

And yet, that’s not what happened.  Just as the people of Israel didn’t want to hear the voice of God or know His ways, so these people rejected His Son.  Is it possible that they were afraid He would change their lives?  Were they afraid of the sin and the demons He might expose within them?

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s Light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the Light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the Light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the Light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  (John 3:18-21 NLT)

What about you, beloved reader?  Will you run to Him and let Him set you free?  Or will you beg Him to leave, as the villagers in Gadarenes did?

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

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