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Easily Pleased

DaddyBecause you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:6-7)

We all know people who seem difficult to please. If this was our experience with a parent, it’s easy to enter adulthood with a belief that “I just need to try harder.” Ultimately, however, the compelling drive to please others at all costs is destructive.

For one, the “try harder” mentality can wreak havoc in our relationship with God. Cognitively, we may understand God’s accepting nature, but core beliefs that were formed in childhood keep telling us otherwise. Somehow the free gift of grace or the idea that God can be happy with us does not compute. After all, aren’t we always messing up and inviting his displeasure?

God Does Not Relate Like Sinful Human Parents

Here is the good news. God is not one who is “impossible to please.” He is not irrational nor capricious in his dealings with us. Nor is he needing to play manipulative head games out of insecurity. And he is not into guilt tripping. He is forthright. We can always know where we stand with him. When we sin, his Spirit convicts us so that we might confess and be forgiven. Immediately. Groveling or renewed efforts do not earn the right to enter his good graces again. We are invited to draw near because the Father’s arms are always wide open to his children.

Can it really be true that the Father is that easily pleased? What good parent, despite how many times discipline was necessary that day, would not joyfully respond to his child’s overtures—showing a drawing, asking to be pushed on the swing, raising little arms indicating he wants to be held?

The Father’s Joy in His Children

Imagine the enormity of this beautiful thought: Every small turning to our Father, every brief uplifting of your face to his, every questioning glance his way, lifts his heart. Why? Simply because you are his child.

I want to ask, “But don’t you have standards, God? I never seem to measure up. How can you possibly be pleased with me?”

He seems to answer, “Don’t worry. Relax and let yourself enjoy our relationship. This is what it means to be my daughter.”

Drawing Near

My Father is easily pleased. What a most astounding thought. He who is holy and would have every right to be continually angry with me has set aside condemnation and tells me to draw near (Hebrews 10:22). I can practice keeping short accounts. I don’t have to worry that there are hidden things that displease my Father. I can trust the Holy Spirit to reveal what needs to be confessed. In the meantime, I can go on rejoicing in his gracious Presence.

Let’s say this together: “I am my Father’s daughter (or son), and he is easily pleased.”

Let’s say it again, “My Father is easily pleased by me.”

Say it again and again until it permeates every part of your soul.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (I John 3:1a)

Temptation or Test?

desertJesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. ~ Luke 4:1-2a

First we see that Jesus was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness. Why, if Jesus is God, was this necessary? If he was God, wasn’t it a done deal that he would triumph? We don’t know all the reasons, but Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way just as we are.” God chose to subject Jesus in his humanity to the same kinds of temptations we face. Also, Jesus grew and developed and the season of intense temptation may have been somehow needed, in his humanity, for future tests.

Does God Tempt?

Second, we must note that Jesus was led by God to this place. Now we think God wouldn’t lead us into a desert of deprivation, but here we see that He certainly may. Does this mean that God tempts us? James 1:1-14 says that When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

Helpful Word Distinctions

How does this work? At times, God clearly places people in situations where they will be tempted by Satan. In addition to Jesus, consider Job and Peter who was sifted like wheat. I find it helpful to make a distinction between temptation and test. Satan tempts; God tests. And their motives could not be further apart. Satan’s whole purpose is to destroy, to ruin, to defeat. There is not one shred of good that he desires for us. God’s purpose is to establish and strengthen, to build up, to see us triumph. Every intent and purpose of his heart towards us is for our highest good.

Our Choices

James says that God does not tempt, but what about the Lord’s prayer that says, “and do not lead us into temptation”? Here seems a contradiction. However, in light of James 1:14, The Lord’s prayer could read, “and lead us not into a place where we are enticed by our own evil desire, but deliver us from those evil desires.” Every challenging situation presents both testing and temptation. Our choices reveal whether it was a test (we stayed true to God) or a temptation (we succumbed to the enemy).

Language Helps Attitude

The words temptation and test may be a matter of semantics, but next time you are struggling, try using the word test and see if it doesn’t help your attitude and strengthen your ability to overcome. Using this language is a great reminder that God is for us, not against us. This confident belief is exactly what Satan continually seeks to undermine.

If you are in a hard place, remember God’s encouragement:

No temptation [test] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [tested] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [tested], he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

Humor Piece

medical scrubs

Saga of the Three Chest Hairs

At our last family reunion, my brother-in-law revealed that by the time he reached adulthood, he had only managed to grow three chest hairs. However, these three he had treasured all his livelong days. He went on to say that with such manhood intact, life was good until recently.

My brother-in-law works at a hospital, and one day he was wearing his scrubs which are loosely tied at the neck. A co-worker walked by, glanced at his chest and said, “Oh, you’ve got a thread hanging . . . Here, let me take care of that . . . ” And, good grief, she just plucked that baby right out of there.

“Ahhhh!” he yelped, eyes popping wide open, and taking shallow breaths.

Well, of course he cried out!!! How could a guy be expected to maintain manly composure after something like that?

I personally think the following ditty will support recovery:

Chest bereft
But two are left!

Now here’s a bit of advice. If ever a family member comes to you with a similar tale, retain a sober demeanor, hold your loved one’s hand, and offer sincere condolences because we utterly failed in that respect.

Praying for Your Adult Children

praying handsMemories . . . Kissing “ow-ies,” bedtime snuggles, and being suckered into making yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich—”Son, how about this time you make your own?” “But Mom,” his voice all syrupy, “no one can make them like you!” Sigh. Those were simpler times, weren’t they? When we could spread our feathers and still tuck the chicks carefully under our wings.

One Last Legacy

We miss them. We see them struggle and agonize over how to help. Sometimes we groan, “If only I had done this or that better. . . ”

One thing remains. We can pray.

Our Privilege

Praying for our adult children is a privilege. Matthew 19:13-14 says, Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

After my sons reached adulthood I came across these verses and found myself reacting, “Oh Lord, these parents brought you their children; is it too late to ask for a special blessing on my adult sons?” Well, of course not! How wonderful that with our prayers, we can still place our adult children in Jesus’ lap and ask for blessing.

An Inspirational Model

One example we find in scripture of a godly parent who kept spiritual watch over his children is Job. Look what he did:

Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice (Job 1:4-5, NIV).

Job’s Habits

Here we see that Job’s adult children enjoyed partying, much like young adults today! They were not doing anything wrong necessarily, but Job’s actions addressed potential dangers. First, we see that he got up early and offered burnt sacrifices. Keeping prayerful watch over our children means a willingness to invest time and effort. It will cost us something. Second, Job placed his children under the blood sacrifice that God had ordained for Old Testament times. In essence he was asking God to forgive them in the event they had sinned. In a similar way, we can plead the blood of Jesus over our children and their overt and covert sins. This is a plea for forgiveness and mercy.

Third, Job prayed because he was concerned about his sons’ and daughters’ relationship with God. With adult children, there is the seen and the unseen. It is often the unseen, the unknown, that keep us parents awake at night, isn’t it? Job prayed over the unseen, over the state of his children’s hearts. We can, too.

The Protection of Jesus’ Name

In John 17:11-12, Jesus prays for believers, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” The name of Jesus is powerful. The name of Jesus protects. I believe that it is always appropriate to request that Jesus protect our child by the power of his name.

Praying Scripture

One of the best ways to pray for our children is to use scripture. We can be certain we are praying God’s will when we quote his Word back to Him! Here are some of my favorites. I like to paraphrase them to include my children’s names.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done in my children’s lives as it is in heaven . . . Forgive my children their debt as they forgive their debtors . . . and lead my children not into temptation, but deliver them from the evil one . . . ” (Matthew 6:9-13).

“Give my children an undivided heart that they may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).

“How can my sons keep their way pure? By living according to your word. May they seek you with all their hearts; do not let them stray from your commands. Let them hide your word in their hearts that they might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-10).

“Lord, help my child flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on You out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:22).

“Fulfill your purposes for my children; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalm 138:8).

Lord, I thank you that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate my children from your love . . . (Romans 8:38).

More Help

The Word provides countless ways to pray. And we have the help of the Holy Spirit as well. How often I find myself unable to express what my heart seems to know, but this is when I find comfort in Romans 8:26-27, In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Prayer and Spiritual Battle

Ezekiel 22:30 talks about standing in the gap on behalf of the land. We can do this for our children, too. Where there may be a breach, where there is no advocate, through our prayers we stand guard.

Praying for our adult children means entering into battle. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul admonishes believers to “put on the full armor of God” so that we can ” take our stand against the devil’s schemes (vs. 11). He tells us to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and sandals of readiness to share the gospel. We are to take in hand the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. Being fully equipped is certainly important as we pray.

Communication—Critical for Soldiers

Then Paul adds, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (vs. 18). If Paul had lived in our technological times, he might have been inspired to continue metaphors. Perhaps he would have described prayer as the communications system between us and our Commander at headquarters. Prayer is a way for believers to relay their need in the trenches, but more importantly, to receive their Commander’s orders. Will we stay alert to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in matters pertaining to our children?

Hope

The spiritual battle going on in heavenly realms for our children’s souls is real. The question is, will you and I engage in the fight for our sons and daughters by committing time to prayer? Will we place a stake in heavenly ground on their behalf? Sometimes we look at circumstances and despair. But remember, the Good Shepherd is more than able to snatch your little lamb out of the lion’s mouth. Jesus tells us, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26).

And ultimately, isn’t that why we pray?

Aging Gracefully

birthday cakeThe righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

There’s nothing like birthdays to remind us that time is passing quickly. In April I celebrated the beginning of my final-year-reprieve before turning 60. This is cause for reflection!

The Challenges

One of the things we need at every age is meaning and purpose. However, as we age, we often struggle with existential challenges. Our children no longer need us the way they did when we were raising them, health challenges may limit functioning, and we may wonder, “Why am I still here?” Old age is a time of remembering and evaluating how we lived our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in “what could have been and will never be” or “what I wish I had done differently.” Rather than wasting precious time in regret or worries about the future, we need ways to move forward.

Role Model

The scripture quoted above has been a real encouragement to me because it speaks of hope. Hope that even in old age I can be fruitful. And good role models inspire us. One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Caleb who at age 85 still wanted to tackle great challenges in God’s strength. After Israel had taken over the promised land, this is what he said to Joshua, their leader:

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:10-12

Staying the Course

Talk about confidence! What inspires me more than anything is that Caleb, in all those years, did not wane in his absolute faith and trust in God. At age 85, he was still leaning on God wholeheartedly for strength as he did at age 40 when he was sent as a spy into Kadesh Barnea. If we, too, keep the spark of wholehearted devotion alive over the years, who knows what adventures with God may yet still lie ahead?

Scriptures for Reflection

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4)

If God Fears Not, Why Should I?

leap“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Sometimes when we look at an issue from an unusual point of view it sheds light on the all-too-familiar. As believers, we know that God tells us to trust Him and not fear. But I, for one, struggle to grasp what this really means. However, let’s look at fear for a moment from God’s point of view. He fears nothing. After all, He is God. He would have to fear Himself if there were something to fear because there is no greater power than Himself in all of existence.

Many Emotions

In scripture we never see God express fear, though He expresses other emotions:
love, tenderness, kindness, disappointment, anger, wrath, displeasure, frustration, jealousy

God does not live in fear which is why He is:

  • in control
  • confident
  • bold
  • says what He wants (without fear of what others think)
  • acts how He wants with no fear of resistance, for what could intimidate Him or what could stop Him?

Why God Does Not Fear

Love is one of the reasons fear has no place in God. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . . The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18). God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in a climate of perfect trust with one another. There is no hint of fear between them.

God’s sinless nature is another reason He is free of fear. Fear originated in the Garden of Eden after man sinned. I John 4:18 says, “. . . fear has to do with punishment.”

The Ideal

Imagine what it would be like to be as fearless and free as God?

  • To be free of fear of punishment
  • To be free of fearing what others think
  • To be free of doubting ourselves
  • To be free of fear of the future

Borrowed Fearlessness

It’s not so impossible to live closer to this ideal. Think about all the scriptures that reassure us to “not be afraid.” Why? Because if we have God, we are allowed to share in His fearlessness. We are invited to trust Him who has no reason to fear. And if He fears not, why should we? It comes down to whether we believe He is trustworthy or not.

King David’s Parenting—Triumph Despite Tragic Failure

mentorKing David had many children by various wives and concubines. According to the following two passages, he had 19 sons, and the accounts do not list daughters.

II Samuel 3:2 lists the sons born to David in Hebron: “his firstborn was Amnon . . . his second, Kileab, the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel, the third, Absalom. . . the fourth, Adonijah. . . the fifth, Shephatiah, the sixth, Ithream.

I Chronicles 14:4-7 states that in Jerusalem more sons and daughters were born to David. “These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Beeliada, and Eliphelet.”

David as a Father

Though David does not have a good reputation as a father, we can perhaps view him a bit more kindly considering the challenge of parenting so many children while also firmly establishing Israel as a nation. Not much is known about most of his sons, however, the eldest, the third, the fourth, and the tenth—Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah, and Solomon—feature prominently in the biblical accounts. We see a glimpse of David’s parenting style when the biblical account describes Adonijah who, like Absalom, conspired to be king: His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” (I Kings 1:6a) David was a permissive parent.

David’s Failures

After David sinned with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan told him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” (II Samuel 12:11-12)

Lesson #1

Here is the first important lesson: Our secret sins can come with serious consequences. Anyone in close proximity to adultery will attest to the far-reaching ripple effect infidelity can have for years to come. However, the Lord did not leave David in this mess without hope. When Solomon was born, Nathan the prophet brought word that “the Lord loved him.” (II Samuel 14:24-25) Another passage states that the Lord chose Solomon to be David’s successor.

Calamity

The first family calamity to strike David came through Amnon, the first born. Amnon pined after Absalom’s beautiful sister, and taking the advice of a devious cousin, pretended to be sick and asked her to come tend him, whereupon he raped her though she pleaded with him, “Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” To make matters even worse, he then called his personal servant to forcibly remove her from the premises even though she protested saying, “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.” Heartlessly, he had her put out and the door bolted after her. Then “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went” (II Samuel 13:16, 19). Absalom tried to comfort her and took her in. The Bible says that Tamar “lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” (II Samuel 13:20b)

When Kind David heard about this scandal he was furious but did nothing. Absalom, however, “never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.” (II Samuel 13:22)

Lesson #2

Why did David do nothing? Did his own guilt with Bathsheba somehow weaken him, keep him from the inner fortitude needed to discipline? Why did he not force Amnon to marry Tamar? According to Deuteronomy 22:28-29 the law stated, “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” David may not have had the heart to place his daughter in what he knew would be an intolerably abusive situation. He does not confront Amnon in any way however. David’s own past indiscretions and his permissive parenting style must certainly have played a role in his passivity. Sin weakens moral confidence and strength to act appropriately.

Calamity Breeding More Calamity

Imagine what it was like for Absalom to live with his inconsolable sister, whom he appeared to love deeply. II Samuel 14:27 mentioned the children born to Absalom which included a daughter, Tamar (presumably after his sister), who grew up to be a beautiful woman. The inclusion of this detail shows how deeply Absalom was impacted by his sister’s violation. His controlled rage demanded revenge. Two years later, Absalom devised a scheme to kill Amnon which succeeded. On that day, King David lost two sons—Amnon, because he was dead and Absalom because he had to flee and was never truly restored to the king again. The Bible says that “After Absalom fled and went to Geshur [the king of Geshur was his maternal grandfather], he stayed there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” (II Samuel 13:38-39) Absalom was exiled for three years in Geshur, but even after Joab, David’s general, brokered a return to Jerusalem, David refused to see his son for two years and only after Absalom pushed the issue. Was David’s refusal to give his son an audience an attempt at punishment?

Consequences of Inaction

I Chronicles 18:17 tells us that “David’s sons were chief officials at the king’s side.” Without being allowed access to his father, Absalom was most likely in Jerusalem with no job and no place. It’s easy to see how this bred more resentment and rebellion. Absalom soon began a popularity campaign designed to wrest the kingdom out of his father’s hands. And then came the greatest calamity: Absalom stages a coup forcing David and those loyal to him to flee. David was devastated that “my son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life.” (II Samuel 16: 11). We know how the story ended. During the battle, Absalom’s hair catches in a tree, and he is struck down and killed. Despite the fact that Absalom wanted to take his life, David is so overcome by grief when his son is killed that he can hardly go on.

Lesson #3
David’s parenting played a role in his son’s deaths, however, they made choices as adults that cannot be blamed on their father. In the end, Amnon and Absalom did not have a heart after God and showed poor character. We, as parents, must take responsibility for our sins and weaknesses; however, we must recognize our adult children’s free moral agency and be careful to not blame ourselves for everything.

What David Did Right

How can a parent go on after losing a child? Attending to responsibilities is helpful in the grief process. David had a kingdom to rule and was not allowed to give way to grief as a hard word from Joab reminded him, “I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.” So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. (II Samuel 6b-8a). Doing the right thing under such circumstances must have required enormous inner strength.

David’s relationship with the Lord must have surely helped him to go on. By old age he thrives. He must have found much consolation in his project to prepare for the temple Solomon was to build.

In I Chronicles 22:5 David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death.

Preparations

King David determined the building site, drew up plans, ordered materials and appointed stone cutters. He organized and prepared for everything such as the division of priests and their duties as well as the responsibilities of “the singers.” He even organized a fundraiser for the temple (I Chronicles 29). He threw himself into preparing for everything so that Solomon would have a good beginning. By that time he had a large, organized army and had secured Israel’s borders.

Another Disaster Brewing

Rather than choose the eldest living son for a successor, David obeyed the Lord who had promised, “Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever . . . (I Chronicles 28:6-7) It must have been well known that Solomon was to be David’s successor because when Adonijah (by now very likely the eldest surviving son) followed in Absalom’s footsteps and tried to make himself king, he excluded Solomon from the guest list for the celebration banquet. When Nathan the prophet heard about the conspiracy, he enlisted Bathsheba to alert the king and so save herself, her son and the king.

Decisive Action

This time David acted immediately. He appeared to have learned from his previous hesitations when it came to his children, and he was not about to fall into that trap again. He outwitted Adonijah by proclaiming Solomon’s kingship to the whole city before Adonijah’s party ended, and the bloodshed of a civil war was avoided. We may wonder why David had not crowned Solomon earlier. I believe it was because Solomon was still young and inexperienced (remember he was son #10), and David wanted to give him as much time to mature as possible. Also, it may not have been customary to do so because in none of the accounts of kings do we see a son succeeding his father until after his father’s death.

Finishing Well

David’s preparations for Solomon were far-reaching. We even see him lobbying for his successor during the temple fundraiser: He says to the assembly, “. . . My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God.” I Chronicles 22:17-18 says, “Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. He said to them, “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people.”

Mentoring

David appeared to have invested extensively in Solomon. Much of his encouragement to his son sounds like Moses encouraging Joshua. “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished (I Chronicles 28:20). David passes on the spiritual legacy as well. “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever (I Chronicles 28:9).

Triumph

By the time Solomon was acknowledged as king a second time with the official anointing by the priest before the whole assembly, David had succeeded in securing everyone’s support. I Chronicles 29:23-24 states, “So Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king in place of his father David. He prospered and all Israel obeyed him. All the officers and warriors, as well as all of King David’s sons, pledged their submission to King Solomon.”

Lessons From What David Did Right

  • Despite overwhelming tragedies, King David did not become stuck in grief. Instead, he found strength in the Lord and eventually channeled his energies into preparations for Solomon. This gave him purpose and meaning. What can we learn from this? Even in deep disappointment, tragedy, and loss, we too can draw our strength from the Lord, trusting that he will help us find a way to go on.
  • David did not let failure cause him to give up. No matter how we may have failed as parents, the question to ask is, “What can I do that would make a difference now?
  • Despite his failures, David remained devoted to the Lord. We, too, must not let failure drive a wedge between us and the Lord. We have a gracious God. The Lord chose Solomon as a sign of forgiveness and redemption of past sins. He promises beauty from ashes for us, too.

The Last Words of David
It is astounding that at the end of his life David could say, “Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?” (II Samuel 23:5)

Isn’t this encouraging? If God could bring David through all those tragedies and failures to a “fruition of salvation,” is there not hope for you and me, too?

The Road to Emmaus

The Walk to Emmaus by Gemaelde von Robert ZuendWhen he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30-32)

I’ve always loved this painting depicting the road to Emmaus and can easily imagine myself in this intimate scene. Jesus had been crucified, and the two disciples were mourning the loss of their beloved teacher as they embarked on the seven mile walk to the village. Their grief included deep discouragement because they did not see any victory in the death or believe the bewildering messages about an empty tomb and appearances of Jesus. All they could see was that Jesus had failed in his mission and that perhaps they had been badly deceived.

Then this stranger joined them and appeared clueless about recent events. There is some humor here as Cleophas says to him in essence, “Where have you been?” But Jesus begins quoting scriptures helping them understand that a suffering Messiah was foretold, and their hearts caught fire. All things must have seemed possible. Maybe Jesus was alive!

Who Were They?

The disciple named in Luke’s account was Cleophas. Tradition provides various conjectures about the other disciple. One resource* states the following:

An ancient Christian tradition says Cleophas was the brother of St Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary, and that he was later stoned to death outside his own house for declaring that his nephew Jesus was the Messiah foretold by the prophets. It is believed that the “Mary of Cleophas” who stood by the cross with Jesus’ mother was the wife of the Emmaus disciple. The same tradition says the other unnamed disciple was the youngest son of Cleophas, called Simeon — who later served for 43 years as head of the Judaeo-Christian Church in Palestine and was martyred at the age of 120. Several other candidates for the companion of Cleophas have been suggested, including his wife Mary.

Whoever Cleophas and the other disciple were, they embarked on the way to Emmaus heartsick, discouraged, and unsure about the future. When they finally recognized Jesus, their joy knew no bounds.

Application

Do you relate to these disciples? They did not believe the women’s account that Jesus was alive. They were confused and did not know what to think. We find ourselves struggling with belief, too, when perhaps we should know better. However, we must remember that what has opened other people’s eyes will not necessarily open ours and vice versa. After the resurrection, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples in various ways. He comes to us individually as well, according to each person’s unique faith needs.

Like Cleophas and his companion, we can be so focused on how we think the way things should have gone, that we are unable to recognize Jesus when he comes to us in discouraged places. Like the disciples, in those times we desperately need the truth of scripture. And like the disciples, even if Jesus still appears to be a stranger, let’s joyously invite him in, eager to learn what he wants us to see.

*http://www.seetheholyland.net/emmaus/

Musician’s Cafe—Julia Gannon

juliagannonDear Comfort Cafe Readers,

Latin and Cool Jazz Christian Artist Julia Gannon has a new album out! Read a little about her and sample her music here or by clicking on the titles of the songs.

Artist

I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to share the gift of music God has given me with the world. The songs I write are birthed out of my relationship with Him and the experiences I go through: the tests, trials and joys of everyday life. Music is a vehicle that helps me to express what’s on my heart.

My prayer is that people out there, going through similar experiences (tests or trials, joys or victories) will be able to relate to the message in my music…and that the Holy Spirit will use it to touch their lives in a real and tangible way.

Listen and Reflect

All About You

You are so
Beautiful
There’s no one like You
It’s so good
To trust in You
I couldn’t live this life without You
I realize now it’s all about You

chorus:
It’s all about You, Lord
Focusing on You
It’s all about You, Lord
Being close enough to
Feel the beating of Your heart
And know the sound of Your voice
That’s what it’s all about

I need You
More and more
You fill my empty soul
In Your arms
I’m safe and sound
You’re my anchor, my foundation
My sweet reward
And my salvation

(chorus)

No one else, no one else
But You

(chorus)

No one else, no one else
But You

No More, No Less
(By Julia Gannon)

To love You more deeply
To follow completely
Lord, now I see
That’s all I need
To gaze on Your beauty
And hear Your voice sweetly
Whisper to me
Your love so free

chorus 1:
Let Your presence flood my soul
Won’t You captivate me now
Let my will be lost in Yours
Overshadow all my flaws

chorus 2:
Your heart beat instead of mine
Till with Christ I am crucified
What was gain now I count but loss
As I cling to the blood-stained cross

To sit at Your feet
And to hear You speak
Lord, now I choose
‘Cause Your Word is truth
For me to come closer
Is what I need most now
Your presence is here
So precious, so rare

(chorus 1, chorus 2)

That’s what I need
And that is all I seek
No more, no less
Than a very real experience of You

(chorus 2)

That’s what I need
And that is what I seek
No more, no less
Than a very real experience of You, You, You

Cry of Repentance

chorus 1:
Fill me with Your presence, Lord
I need Your anointing more and more
Place Your hand upon me
Breathe new life into me
Please fill me with Your presence, Lord

chorus 2:
Fill me with your Spirit now
Let Your cleansing rain come pouring down
Lead me please, and show me
All that’s pure and holy
Please fill me with Your Spirit now

Little by little I let You go
Tried to make it on my own
Only to discover
The path I chose could never
Bring me back to you
Where I know I belong

chorus 3:
Fill me with Your power, Lord
Then on wings like eagles I will soar
Perfected in my weakness
You’ll be more and I less
Please fill me with Your power, Lord

My eyes are fixed on You again
Looking, longing, here I wait
Purify and cleanse me
And take over completely
My heart, my soul
The deepest parts of me

Fill me with Your presence, Lord
I need Your anointing more and more and more
Place Your hand upon me
Breathe new life into me
Fill me with Your presence, Lord
Fill me with Your Spirit
Fill me with Your presence

Lord I need a true heart
Oh, Lord I need a true heart
Lord I need a true heart
Please give me a new start
And fill me with Your presence, Lord

New Year’s Resolution: Jesus First

repentYou have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. ~ Revelations 2:3-5

As I sit and write, a rare, blue-sky-sunny winter afternoon brightens the view outside my window. What a great way to start the New Year! All seems well with the world. And . . . ahead lie new horizons to conquer! As my mind turns towards 2016, I keep thinking about an Oswald Chambers quote, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” We are to always “seek first the kingdom of God.” How? The Revelations passage above steers us in the right direction.

Mature but Passionless

The church of Ephesus did everything right. They persevered, endured hardships for Christ, had not grown weary and hated the practices of the Nicolatians. Their theology and their hard work was commendable. They were as steady as a faithful, mature wife of many years. As Christians we believe in marriage for a lifetime, but we doubt it’s possible to retain the passion we had at first, to continue “being in love.” We expect the hardships of life and a “deeper, more mature love” to replace the ardor we had at first. Yet our Heavenly Bridegroom apparently has higher expectations. He chastised the church of Ephesus because they had lost their first love. They were faithful and mature but passionless. Now isn’t that convicting?

Lost Love

Jesus’ complaint echoes similar grievances between spouses.

You used to have eyes only for me; now you can’t seem to get your eyes off your cell phone.
You used to listen with rapt attention to all I had to say; now I seem to bore you.
You used to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to spend time together, now all you offer is excuses when I ask you to go do something with me.

Don’t Change

It’s said that women go into marriage hoping to change their man, while men go into marriage hoping their bride will stay the same. Jesus wants our affections and ardor towards him to stay intensely vibrant and alive. And certainly, because he is a perfect bridegroom, he is entitled to this expectation. He does not wane in his love, so why should we? I am afraid, however, that I resort to typical wife behavior when I try to change my Heavenly Husband into what I want him to be instead of accepting him fully for who he is. For example, I might camp on the scriptures that speak about his love and ignore those that speak of his wrath. Or I might choose to follow the commands that come easily to me and dismiss others that make me uncomfortable.

At the Beginning

If Jesus calls us to return to our first love, what does this mean? Let’s consider what it would look like for a couple to “do the things you did at first”?

Couples in love are affectionate with one another.
They are lavish in their praise and revel in their delight.
They are eager to serve and please the beloved.
When apart, they can’t wait to be together again.
They spend as much time together as possible.
They think about one another continuously.

A High Standard

This, then, is the height from which we fall when Jesus is no longer our first love. But Jesus won’t settle for “parallel lives” or a worn out, wrung out, disillusioned love. I am thankful that he is all about a vibrant love. In John 17:25-26, he prayed, “Father of goodness and truth . . . I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts—and that I may be there also” (Phillips).

Eager Obedience

John 14:21b says, “Every man who knows my commandments and obeys them is the man who really loves me . . . ” Returning to our first love with Jesus is not about trying to conjure up schmaltzy feelings. Instead, it’s about resetting our hearts to right priorities; it’s about being eager to obey his Word, it’s about simply loving our Lord for himself as opposed to being focused on what his power or riches can do for us.

I can’t think of a better New Year’s Resolution than to renew my efforts to put Jesus first.

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