What David Did: Today’s Mission

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)

We’re going to spend the next week or two looking at the story of David and Bathsheba — and David’s prayer of confession and repentances in Psalm 51. It’s a gruesome story in which the hero becomes the villain. We watch uneasily as he quickly slides from lust to adultery to murder.

whatdavid_350But it starts here, in this verse. David was king of Israel. He was famous and wealthy and powerful and already tremendously successful. He had honored God in his heart and in his kingdom, and God had blessed him in huge ways.

So what happened? It started when David decided he didn’t need to do what kings do — go to war with his men. He stayed home. He sat this one out. And that set him up for the fall. Anytime we are not participating in what God has called us to do, we are more likely to do what He’s called us not to do.

Think: Can you remember a time in your life when you your choice to sin followed a choice to stop doing what God called you to do (e.g., going to work, participating in church, encouraging your family, etc.)?

Pray: Ask God to help you to know what He has called you to do today. Then ask Him to help you take those things seriously.

Do: Make a quick list of the things God has called you to do today. It might include school, homework, prayer, reading the Bible, your job, being kind to friends and family, etc.

Counter Culture: Forgive as Forgiven

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

The final items on Paul’s list of specific ways in which Christians should look unnormal from everyone else have to do with how we treat each other.

ctc_350“Be kind and compassionate.” Think about how everyone else is seeing the world and step in when you can to make it easier for them. Act like you care about them. I love this quote from Philo of Alexandria (whoever he is): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Then the hardest, least normal action of all: Forgive everyone in the same way that God has forgiven you. Forgive as forgiven. You cannot do this until A) you know that you have been forgiven for great and ugly crimes against God and B) someone does something hurtful and ugly to you. Then you can practice. It’s harder than it looks — but it’s also entirely possible in Christ.

Think: Do you think it’s unfair that Paul links God’s forgiveness of our sin with our forgiveness of others? Do you need to adjust the way you think about your sin against God or other people’s sins against you?

Pray: Ask God to make your heart more compassionate toward others and more honest about how much you’ve been forgiven by God.

Do: Write two numbers: On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being very little and 10 being the equivalent to an axe murderer), how much sin has God forgiven you for? On that same scale, how much sin has been committed against you?

Counter Culture: Junk Drawer Backpack

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)

Confession: I kind of love my backpack. Is that weird? My current one is way better than anything I had when I was in school. Not only do I use it to lug around my ever faithful notebook computer, but it’s got all these big and small pockets and compartments to toss stuff in I might need later — or stuff I pick up along the way. Now I know why women get so attached to their purses.

ctc_350After a few weeks, though, my pack becomes kind of a walking junk drawer. It’s full of half-read magazines, food wrappers, receipts, books, electronic gadgets, old batteries, various cords and headphones. I’ve got to completely clean it out and repack it to keep from pulling a muscle in my neck hauling it around.

If your life was a backpack, what are you hauling around in there (along with the Holy Spirit)? Paul said it’s time to clean it out before you hurt yourself (and grieve Him). Get rid of the bitterness (old anger), wrath (hot anger), anger (anger), clamor (angry fighting and yelling), slander (saying bad things about people because you’re mad at them), and malice (wanting to hurt someone).

Get the idea? Anger should never be a to-go item. You’ll never need it later. Dump it out of your pack and move on. You’ll travel lighter.

Think: Why do you think it’s so natural for some of us to hold on to our anger and carry it around with us? Why is that such a waste of time and energy? Why is it so hard to let it go?

Pray: Ask God for the courage to dump all the anger you can find out of your life and to trust Him to take care of you.

Do: Inventory your pack. Put these 5 things on a list: bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, malice. Next to each, put a “yes” or “no” if you’re carrying any of that around with you. Then ask God again to help you let those specific things go for today.

Counter Culture: Making God Sad?

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

For the last few days, we’ve been looking at how Christians should behave differently from everyone else — how you should be able to tell on the outside that we’re not normal. But the huge idea is that we’re really different on the inside.

ctc_350At the moment you were saved, God placed His Spirit inside of you permanently. This verse says you were sealed with the Spirit until the day when you will stand face to face with God. In chapter one of this letter, Paul called the Spirit God’s deposit — a guarantee of our future in-person relationship with Him. The Spirit will not leave, even when we sin.

We don’t think about this reality much, but it’s an awesome (and sometimes scary) idea. God’s Spirit is with you every moment of every day — and He’s a person with God’s love for you. He cares so deeply that He’s sad (grieved!) when you start following yourself or the world away from the path of Jesus. He feels a sense of hurt when you choose to lie, steal, say rotten things, or let anger become bitterness.

Think: Is this a new idea to you, that God’s Spirit in us can become emotionally sad when we sin? Why do you think He would be grieved by our choices to not act like Jesus?

Pray: Ask God for the willingness and the ability not to grieve the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for sealing you with His Spirit until the day when you will be with Him in person forever.

Do: Read Ephesians 1:13-15.

Counter Culture: Who’s Guarding Your Word Door?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Ever been to a concert or an event where they had a big, burly guard at a door to the backstage area? He wouldn’t let you in if you didn’t have the right badge, and you could tell by his size and that no-nonsense look on his face that he was willing to hurt you to keep you out.

ctc_350You need one of those guys guarding the door out of your mouth. You need to tell him not to let any “talk” get past him that isn’t helpful for building people up. He needs to check the badge and see if the words are intended to “give grace” to that person you’re talking to.

He should be ready to put the hurt on those other kinds of words. “Unwholesome” in this verse means “rotten” or “corrupting.” Worthless words. Hurtful words. Words meant to tear someone down or give glory to sinful things. Lousy words. Tell your big, ugly guard not to let those words see the light of day.

Think: Of course, you’re the only one capable of guarding your “words door.” Are you willing to get ugly with yourself to keep from saying rotten, hurtful words?

Pray: Ask God to give you the self-control to think before you speak and to look for ways to use words to make other people stronger, smarter, and happier.

Do: Set the alarm in your brain to go off loudly every time you say (or start to say) a worthless word today.

Counter Culture: Christian Thieves

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” (Ephesians 4:28)

Paul continues to add detail to his portrait of an un-normal Jesus-follower. We should be known in our schools and neighborhoods and jobs as people who just don’t steal. Period. Even when times are rough.

ctc_350Instead, we Christians should build reputations as people ready and willing to work to meet our own needs. Buried in that big idea is a smaller one: We should also be ready to learn to live on whatever money our work brings in.

Finally, in planning how much to spend on ourselves out of the cash our work generates, we should plan to leave some unspent to give away to people who don’t have enough. Then they’ll be less likely to steal, also.

Think: It seems like a no-brainer that Christians shouldn’t steal. Does it seem as obvious that we should also be hard working? Which is harder for you: not stealing, working hard, or sharing with others?

Pray: Ask God to convict you deeply if you are ever tempted to steal. If you’ve already been stealing, ask Him for courage to make it right and turn around.

Do: If you have a group of Christian friends, see if this question will make them argue: Is downloading music or movies or software for free when it is intended to be sold elsewhere stealing? Should Christians ever do so?

Counter Culture: Angry Christians

” ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

After breaking down why and how Christians should not fit in so well with the world around us, Paul gets specific. First: Don’t lie. Second: Control yourself when angry and learn to chase it off quickly.

ctc_350Notice first, he doesn’t say Christians should never get angry. God assumes you will get angry. Everyone does. That’s not a sin. But the normal thing is to use anger as fuel for sin. Paul quotes David in saying, “Don’t be normal.”

Make two choices when you get angry: A) “I won’t use this emotion as an excuse to sin.” B) “I won’t let this emotion stay the night.” Why? Because aging anger gives the enemy something to grab on to in our lives.

Think: How hard is it for you to let go of anger? What could you do to set it aside more quickly?

Pray: Ask God to help you to know when you’re feeling angry and to be able to control yourself to avoid using anger to launch into sin. Then ask Him to make you more efficient at letting go of your anger.

Do: Watch the people in your life this week to see what kinds of sin they’re more likely to jump into when they’re angry.