Archives For Faith and Life

There is a passage in 2 Samuel that I see differently than probably any explanation you’ve heard before. I am curious what you think and hope my understanding helps you in your marriage.

It is the story of David and Michal. Michal was David’s first wife—Saul’s daughter. She was given to him for the foreskins of 100 Philistines. Pretty gross, right! Saul’s hope, by setting such an unusual and difficult bride-price, was that David would be in killed in the effort. (1 Sam. 18:25)

Michal was in love with David—and why not! He was the hero of Israel. He was rugged and handsome and the fiercest fighter—back when fighting was cool. Today, coolis more like pajama-boy from the Obamacare ad. But David was more of a “Duck Dynasty” kind of Jew. 

Not long after their marriage, David had to flee for his life. Saul was trying to kill him. After more than a decade, Saul dies and David is made king. When he comes back, he finds that his wife had been given to another—Paltiel, son of Laish. He tells General Avner to bring him his wife, and Paltiel (who is more of a spiced-latte type of guy) follows her, weeping. 

The Ark and the Ephod

Sometime later, the Ark of the Covenant is brought to Jerusalem. This is a jubilant day! All Israel is rejoicing. 

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Sam. 6:14-15)

Meanwhile, his wife, Michal, was none too impressed. 

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. (2 Sam. 6:16) 

When she sees King David, she mocks him:

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (1 Sam. 6:20)

Naked? Really?

Let me just clear up one thing. David was not naked. The NIV, my preferred version, uses the words “half-naked.” I don’t believe the King of Israel was exposing himself to the nation.  The Bible says he was wearing a linen ephod. This is what a priest would wear. My best guess is that he was wearing this ephod and little else. NOT half-naked, but not, in Michal’s eyes, dignified for a king. And she would know; she grew up in royalty.

She was also probably judging David for acting as if he were a priest. He is making sacrifices (v. 13). David is not a Levite. He is from the tribe of Judah. Where does he get off dressing like a priest and making sacrifices? What Michal could not understand is that, prophetically, David, the father of Yeshua, is a priest, “in the order of Melchizedek.” (Ps. 110:4)

David Responds

But here is where it gets interesting. Look at David’s defensive response to his wife. 

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (2 Sam. 6:21-22)

While these words have been celebrated, I don’t think they were from the Spirit. He criticizes her father and even speaks boastfully over his best friend Jonathan, essentially saying, “The Lord chose me over your brothers!” It was verbal bodyslam!

As a “zealous” type, I can really relate to David’s response. It hurts to be accused of evil when you are doing the right thing—especially from your wife. But why is Michal responding this way? Why is she so jealous?

Mercy for Michal

Look at what this poor girl has been through. Let’s go point by point. 

  1. She was raised by a psychopath, Saul.
  2. Saul gave her to David in hopes that, “she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” (1 Samuel 18:21).
  3. Her husband has to abandon her, to run for his life. 
  4. She is given to another man while she is still married to David. And seeing that this man ran after her weeping, when she was given back to David, tells me she grew into a decent person. 
  5. She is taken from her second husband forcefully and given back to David. Maybe she grew out of her puppy love for David and grew to love her second husband? Maybe she resented being taken away? Maybe she had to leave children behind? It seems it was a traumatic experience for her. 
  6. When David returns from exile, he has got a bunch of new wives and then takes even more wives in Jerusalem (2 Kings 5:13).

My point is that she had been through the emotional mill. She had suffered trauma. She was abused. She was a broken woman and in need of therapy. But David, the zealot, could only see in the natural—she was criticizing him. He couldn’t see how much she simply was crying out for love and stability. 

Hear Beyond the Words 

What a lesson for us leaders! We can be anointed and powerful in the pulpit, and then completely in the flesh when it comes to loving our wives. If I have learned anything from 30 years of marriage—it’s to ignore the words, and figure what’s going on inside. Michal was being passive aggressive: a type of behavior characterized by an avoidance of direct confrontation.

I have a secret for the wives. When you respond with passive aggressiveness instead of being direct, and you assume that your husband will figure it out, you are going to be disappointed most of the time. We’re just not that sharp

Michal was using criticism to try and communicate what she was really feeling. 

“I’m hurt! I’m broken. I don’t know who I am. I don’t feel that you love me. I can’t rejoice like you. I’m mad at you! My father and my brothers are dead! I need someone to hold me!”

I am actually tearing up while writing. This poor girl was crying out for love. And, instead, David rebuked her by saying that he would go even further in his zeal for the Lord. 

But imagine if he walked over to her. Put his arms around her and said: 

“Sweetheart, I can’t imagine what you are feeling. I know you are hurting and broken, but I want you to know, even your criticism will not keep me from loving you. You are not just the Queen of Israel. You are my queen. I will never leave you again…”

I don’t know, but something tells me that if he had been the man he was supposed to be, and loved her like she needed to be loved, she would have repented of her judgment and she would have been mother to the next King of Israel, not Bathsheba. 

They both acted childishly. If she could have simply been honest and shared what she was really feeling and if he could have been there to love her, instead of reacting to the verbal attack, the story would have ended differently. 

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Trey gets born again. He finds glorious salvation in Yeshua.His sins are forgiven—every last one of them, gone! He is delighted—he is free. He tells everyone how gracious God has been to him. Over the next months and years, he grows in his faith. He even begins to teach in his congregation. And then, one day, he bumps into Rick, an old acquaintance. They were friends in college.  That is, until Rick hit Trey’s car with his. To make matters worse, he fled. Some bystanders saw it and told Trey. But Rick denied it. It was never resolved and Trey had not seen Rick since college.

Trey could feel the tension building up. He had never gotten over it. Trey could sense his heart begin to tighten. Rick owes me!At the same time, he could feel his joy begin to dissipate. Trey has made his choice: He will not forgive Rick.

20,000 Years vs. 3 Months!

Yeshua, Himself, tells a story similar to the one above. In Matthew 18, He speaks of a king who was owed a great sum of money—1,000 talents or 20,000 years worth of wages! When the servant who owed him could not pay, the king threatened to sell him and his family. The man begged for mercy. The king was moved with compassion and forgave him.

Delighted, he leaves the king, only to run into a fellow that owed him about three months wages. He seized the man and had him thrown into prison.

When the king was made aware of this, he was incredulous. He took the man who owed him 1,000 talents and had him thrown into jail. Yeshua closes with these words:

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35)

Do the Math

Why is unforgiveness the most hideous sin? It is really quite simple. How many sins has God forgiven in your life? It could be compared to 20,000 years of wages. And, then, add up how many times any one person has sinned against you—maximum three months of wages. When we focus on how much we have been forgiven—of every sin, every day (in my case for 53 years)—it is hard to hold something against someone else. Their sin against me is small, in comparison to my sin against God.

One of the reasons that we tend, in spite of being forgiven, to not forgive others, is that we don’t believe that our sin hurts God the way that we are hurt when others sin against us. Indeed, God doesn’t sit around personally offended, feeling sorry for HImself and angry over someone’s sin. And no one can abuse God. I am thinking of those who have suffered sexual or verbal abuse. But make no mistake, our sin bothers God. Our sin hurts God. It is sin, that has separated us from God. (Is. 59:2) Just think, because of our sin, Yeshua had to leave the courts of heaven, humble Himself as a man, and then allow sinful men to torture and crucify Him. Our sin caused Yeshua—who had never known separation from the Father, to be separated from him. Our sin cost God something!

Severe Penalty

And God absolutely expects us to forgive. There are consequences for believers who receive forgiveness but refuse to extend it. It is a central tenet in the Lord’s Prayer.

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12)

Before Yeshua finishes teaching us how to pray, He adds this:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15)

And then there are Yeshua’s closing words from the parable in Matthew 18:

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35)

Whoa! God seems to make forgivinga prerequisite to being born again. It only makes sense—how can we receive 20,000 years wagesworth of forgiveness and not be willing to grant three months wages worth of forgiveness to others? At the very least, this passage means that, even if we are saved, we will not be able to enjoy the gladness of salvation or the joy of being forgiven, unless we forgive others. How can we rejoice in being forgiven while we hold others in prison?

In the end, when we don’t forgive, it is only us that remain stuck in prison.

Big Deal to God!

This issue is so important to God, that He includes in the six-part prayer that we are to pray every day (Matt. 6:9-13). Every morning we should be confessing forgiveness over those who have sinned against us and even over those who will in the future.

Footnote: I know that for those who’ve suffered chronic abuse—especially sexual abuse—the journey to forgiveness is not so simple as reading a blog. It may take a professional counselor to help you work through the hurt and pain or supernatural deliverance. If that is you, please take the step to get help so you can be fully whole. Once you can forgive, then you can be healed and your tormentor will no longer have any power over you.

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One of the most ignored or tolerated sins of the church is the sin of SCHISMThe formal separation of a church into two churches, caused by differences in opinion or belief. I have been a part of splits and, let me tell you, they are messy. No, messy is too nice a word. They are downright destructive—demonic. And, sadly, both sides usually are convinced they are on God’s side.

Too often a disgruntled assistant pastor or lay leader feels he can do a better job than the pastor. He promotes his cause through gossip. Once his movement has enough steam he leads a coup against the senior pastor or starts a new congregation. Paul calls this “building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20) It is also called rebellion, divisiveness, self-promotion, pride, gossip and more.

The fruit of schism is broken relationships. I have seen families split into two over congregational divides. I have seen lifelong friendships come to a halt. That is the demonic part. A spirit of division disguises itself as righteousness or godly boldness. It feels right. You’re taking a stand. But rarely does the fruit of the split justify the pain it causes.

Yes, there are times to take a stand against a pastor or leader of a congregation. Sometimes, you might even need to warn people to leave:

  1. Sexual immortality or other chronic sins (theft, habitual dishonesty).
  2. False doctrine (to be clear, that means it goes against what mainstream evangelicalism considers broad orthodoxy, not just against your opinion).
  3. Cult-like tendencies of control over the lives of the members.
  4. Gross ineffectiveness—and, in this case, I would expect that you would have a group of elders who had already appealed to the ineffective senior leader.

Jesus Loves Unity

God puts a high price on unity. It was the thing that Yeshua asked the Father to establish in the body in John 17.

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.(John 17:11)

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for establishing cliques, and equates division to destroying the temple of God! And then, he warns them about what God does to the person who destroys His temple (i.e. causes division):

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

What if two leaders simply can’t work together? It happens, as we will see with two of our heroes. Sometimes, it is even God’s way of moving someone out in a new direction. The question is: do you have the humility and love for the body to do it in a way that causes the least damage to the congregation. If you are the junior in the relationship, then it is incumbent upon you to walk away. When we seek to take others with us, it is often because we don’t trust God to lead us in a new direction. We take people with us, so we can still have a congregation. We can easily disguise it, even to ourselves, as taking a stand.

Even Paul was Part of a Split

Leaders are, by nature, a little strong-willed (read: hardheaded). We tend to think we are right. Even Paul and Barnabas had sharp disputes that put an end to their ministry relationship.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

The issue was simple. John Mark left the team in the middle of their mission. Barnabas, who is more of a pastor in his gifting, has mercy on Mark and wants him to join them. Paul, who seems more prophetic in his calling, takes a hard line. If he abandoned us once, how do we know that he will not abandon us again?

This is such a big deal that they go their separate ways. It does seem that Paul and Mark worked out their differences, as Paul refers to him later in life. Through this example, though, we can learn from Paul and Barnabas how to disagree and, even separate, in a godly way. They did not let their split affect the churches they had planted or the people in them.

Who has the Spiritual Authority?

When they first started out, Barnabas was the lead apostle. But, very shortly thereafter, Paul became the primary leader. When they separate, Barnabas goes to Cyprus with Mark to minister to the believers there. Cyprus recognized Barnabas as their spiritual father, as it was one of the first places they visited. Paul takes Silas and visits the churches they had planted after Paul was the lead apostle.

They respected each other’s apostolic fathership. You’ll notice, there is no book of Cyprus from Paul. He had no authority to write it, as Barnabas was the father. Paul only wrote to churches that he planted (except for Romans and there was a reason!). Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you have to break with another leader, the easiest way to know who needs to walk, is to ask, ‘Who has the authority here?’

I Almost Caused a Split!

I almost made this mistake after I first moved to Israel. I had a disagreement with my pastor—and there did not appear to be a solution—and wanted to start another congregation. Of course, if I did it in the same city, people from my former congregation might be tempted to follow. Some had already expressed interest. I felt completely justified (We always do!); even though it went against everything I had learned and had taught. But I was deceived! I was completely unjustified. So, we had a disagreement. It didn’t come anywhere close to the four reasons I stated above. In the end, thanks to godly counsel, we shut down our little group. A few years later, I reconciled with the pastor and, today, we have a great working ministry relationship.

And what is interesting is that by humbling myself—not what I wanted to do—God opened an amazing door in another city with far more influence than I had before. But it didn’t happen until I committed to not start a competing ministry.

But, sadly, all over the world, splits are winked at when, in fact, the historic church looked at the sin of schism as a serious violation. We would do well to take it more seriously as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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I love the morning. There is something new, fresh and amazing about a new day. It is a gift from God. I want to share with you three awesome things about morning.

1. Fresh Manna

Yeshua, when He taught His disciples to pray, said that we are to ask God for our daily bread. Surely this means provision. God has promised to meet our needs. After many years of seeing the faithfulness of God, I rarely panic over provision. I used to…for sure. But that is for the immature. When your relationship with someone grows, so does the trust factor. If someone has been faithful to you for ten years, you know he can be trusted. It is the same with our Father.

But, this is more than just filling our stomachs. God wants us to ask him for spiritual bread,as well. We get a picture of this from our ancient examples, the Israelites. When God introduces manna, He starts by saying this: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”

Wow! God will rain down bread for us. What a promise! But did you notice that the Israelites were expected to collect the manna every morning? Moses told them that “no one is to keep any of it until morning.”When they did, it was gross, full of maggots, and inedible. The point is that we cannot live on yesterday’s manna. We need to seek God daily for our spiritual sustenance.

2. Mercies are New

Each morning the mercies, or compassions, of the Lord are new. This is what we are told in Lamentations. This entire book is about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. It is a sad book. God has judged His people. But the author doesn’t leave us hopeless. God will not judge us forever—His mercy, love and compassion is renewed to us each morning.

It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Maybe you did something stupid. Maybe you sinned. You didn’t want to, but, perhaps, you gave into temptation. Yes, it was wrong. Sin is gross; hideous in the eyes of the Lord. But, as Peter says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”(1 Peter 4:8) While we don’t make light of sin, neither do we limit the ability of the blood of Yeshua to forgive us.

Lift up your head this morning. Confess your sin and receive the cleansing of the Lord. John gives a great promise:

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

3. Joy Comes in the Morning

There is no question that God gets angry. Sometimes He is angry at us. Hebrews tells us that His discipline is an extension of His great love for us. What kind of good father doesn’t discipline his child?

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Heb. 12:7-8)

Don’t let His discipline get you down. If He disciplines you, He loves you! And there is more good news.

For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)

His anger is quick, but His blessing, favor and smile over your life lasts forever! Yes, you may spend a night weeping, but that weeping will lead to sweet victory in the morning.

In this context, David is under attack. His enemies want to kill him and it looks like they might succeed. In addition, it appears he is suffering from an ailment (v. 2-3). When I think of weeping through the night,it is not only because of the Lord’s discipline. It can be for many reasons. You might be under spiritual attack and need to intercede through the night. Maybe you are praying for healing from a sickness. David was – God heard him and healed him.

Maybe you are fighting a temptation. Often temptation comes at night. Most sexual sins are committed at night. Partying happens mostly in the evening. I remember being at a sales convention when I was a car-phone salesman in the late 1980s. At night, there were cocktail parties. Everyone was having fun. I was in my room trying to figure out how I would provide for my new wife and baby. Depression and oppression attacked me. I wanted to go to the parties and drink with everyone else. I wanted to fit in. But I sought the Lord. The next day, I had a great spiritual breakthrough that lasted for many months and I learned how to fight off the lies of the enemy. Had I given in I would not have learned and joy would not have come in the morning!

So, there you have it! Three reasons that mornings are awesome!

Bonus: Yeshua always got up early in the morning to spend time with His father. If He needed that time, then surely I do!

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the difference between the Pope’s inner circle and the typical “spin team” of a politician? Sadly, not much.In what I can only label as clueless, tone-deaf and heartless, Cardinal Blaise Cupich, head of the Archdiocese of Chicago,says the Pope doesn’t have time to focus on priests raping little boys, because he has more importantthingsto deal with, like the environment and immigration.

To be clear, the issue he was indirectly referring to was the raping, or molesting, of more than 1,000 children and those studying for the ministry.  His remark was directly connected to the accusation from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that “Pope Francis not only disregarded sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but promoted McCarrick and sought his counsel.” (Daily Wire)

Here is “Father” Cupich’s exact quote:

“[The Pope has] got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Sadly, the mainstream media has been mostly silent. This Washington Postarticle focused almost entirely on the accusation that the accuser of Pope Francis has a hidden agenda, and ignored the most important issue: The Pope may have known about the perversion of Cardinal McCarrick and, not only did he do nothing to stop him, he promoted him.Whatever Archbishop Vigano’s motives are, the accusation is stunning and must be investigated.

However, Cupich has other plans: Stone the messenger and ignore the message. If they can discredit Archbishop Vigano, then they will not have to answer allegations against the Pope.

Taking a page right out of the ‘Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi handbook’, Cupich pulled out the racism card, claiming, “Quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s Latino.” The Pope is 100% Italian, not Latino!But why let the truth get in the way of a good smear?

Growing up Jewish, I didn’t have a great understanding of the Catholic Church. But I always had great reverence for the Pope. He transcended politics. He was sort of super-humanin my eyes. It is stunning for me to see how much things have changed. I am not sure what is more shocking: The Pope covering for a pedophile or the discovering that he has a team of henchmen to spin the accusation. It seems that the Pope’s inner circle is no different than the inner circle of any two-bit politician.

The press is complicit in protecting their beloved pontiff. The Daily Wire’sBen Shapiro has sought to shine the light on this cover-up:

It’s pretty astonishing. So several years ago, obviously, when the media started to delve into all of the sex abuse allegations against the Catholic Church, there was a great deal of enthusiasm, I think rightly so, in the press, for investigating all of that. But now that Pope Francis is at the head of the church and they like Pope Francis more than they liked Pope Benedict, in the left-wing press, suddenly they have to rush to Pope Francis’ defense over these allegations. And The New York Times ran one of the worst headlines I’ve ever seen today, talking about how as the allegations against Pope Francis mount, conservatives pounce. Conservatives pounce? How is conservatives pouncing on sex abuse allegations the story?

Yes, the story is not that the Pope may have aided and abetted a pedophile, but that conservatives are upset about it (insert incredulous look here). Leftist media outlets appear less than enthusiastic to attack their favorite pope. He is soft on homosexuality, concerned about global warming and for open borders. They love him! He is not your daddy’s pope.

The Pope seems to embrace liberation theology, where Jesus is not seen as a savior in the sense that He died for our sins, but He is a savior in that He leads a rebellion against oppression. Except that He didn’t. He actually rebuked His followers who wanted to rebel against the Romans, to focus on the more important issue of sin and redemption.

Liberation theology, espoused by Louis Farrakhan, Palestinian Protestants and left-wing socialists, finds inspiration in the ancient Israelites, as they stood up against Pharaoh. (It is ironic that anti-Semitism and liberation theology go hand-in-hand.) Jesus is their Che Guevara, leading the fight against oppression.

Progressives see Pope Francis as an ally. But now that it appears he may have covered for a serial rapist, the left-wing media is in a quandary—investigate to find the truth or ignore and crucify the accuser? Instead of shining a light on the papacy, they are attacking the Archbishop Vigano. Sadly, the Pope’s inner circle is nothing more than a bunch of politicians with funny hats. Oh that we would have more heroes like Vigano. How wretched to be one of the Pope’s intimidators, tasked with spinning his gross misconduct.

 

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