Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Distracted Ruler Loses Focus, Faithfulness, and Fear of the Lord


King David displayed wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, for he was a Godly man of faith, a wise father to Solomon, and a good ruler to God’s people. Yet the Bible shows us that even such a man is not immune to distraction, temptation and ultimately sin (Romans 3:23). One of the proofs that Scripture is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) is that it does not sugar coat the truth, portraying its heroes as picture perfect, but rather shows us man’s weaknesses and failures as well as his virtues.

King David had just scored a great victory over Syria (2 Samuel 10) and was enjoying a well-deserved respite in his home at Jerusalem. Certainly there is nothing wrong in rest (Matthew 11:2; Psalm 127:2), renewal (Isaiah 40:31), and refreshment (Exodus 23:12) after triumph in a hard battle, whether it be physicalspiritual, or political warfare. God Himself rested after His work in the six days of creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

But overindulgence in rest (Proverbs 6:9-11) can become distraction (Hebrews 12:1) from God’s purpose for our life, leading to idleness (Ecclesiastes 10:18; Ezekiel 16:49), and slothfulness (Proverbs 19:15). In David’s case, his year of rest should have been over, for it was time for the warring kings to return to battle, and for him to lead his troops. Instead, he sent his commander Joab, his servants, and all of Israel to destroy the children of Ammon and besiege Rabbah, while he lingered behind in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). 

This sin of idleness soon put him in a position where he could be tempted by the lust of the eyes, which if uncontrolled soon leads to the lust of the flesh and pride of life (1 John 2:16). Pride is evident in David’s belief that fulfilling his desires was more important than not hurting others or disobeying God.

When born-again believers, meaning those who are saved by our faith in the deathburial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), are not doing God’s work, we get restless. The new man within us longs to yield to the Holy Spirit, to serve God, and to be in the center of His perfect will (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

Yet our sin nature rebels against God (Romans 7:7-25) and tries to convince us that we deserve time off, or that we should be directing our efforts toward improving our position in the world, or just “following our heart.” All of these are euphemisms for sin and lies from the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22), causing us to grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

So David, who should have been fulfilling God’s plan for him as faithful servantbenevolent ruler, and heroic warrior, instead lost his focuslingered in temptation, and fell into sin. One evening he was so restless that he arose from bedwalked out on his roof to enjoy the cool breeze, and spotted a beautiful woman bathing (2 Samuel 11:2).

Billy Graham once wrote that if a young man notices a beautiful woman who crosses his path, that is only temptation, but if he stares at her, that is sin. God always provides a way out of temptation if we choose it (1 Corinthians 10:13). David could simply have averted his eyeswalked back inside, and prayed to God to create a clean heart within him (Psalm 51:10).

Instead, he allowed his temptation to grow into lust (a sin in thought) which soon gave way to sinful acts toward the family of Bathsheba, described as the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. He discovered who she was, sent messengers to bring her to him, and had sexual relations with her (2 Samuel 11:3-4).

Jesus said that if we even look at another person with lustful thoughts toward them, it is as if we have committed adultery in our heart (Matthew 5:28). David went beyond that to commit fornication in the flesh, and adultery by sleeping with a woman who was already married, setting up a love triangle between himselfBathsheba, and her husband Uriah.

This was particularly shameful as David had many wives and concubines, yet he defiled Uriah’s only wife. David’s sins began to snowball out of control, as idleness gave way to lustcoveting another man’s wife, and adultery. God’s anger over adultery is so intense that the laws He gave Moses demanded that both partners in adultery be put to death (Deuteronomy 22:22)

The apostle Paul writes that sexually immoral personsidolaters and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), making it clear that sexual sins are a form of idolatry, because they separate the sinner from fellowship with God and they elevate one’s own desires over the good of others. Thus, committing adultery becomes a form of apostasy, or rebellion against God Who imposes laws against fulfilling the desires of our sin nature.

We see this clearly with David, whose sin of adultery led not only to deception, but ultimately to murder, all of which are transgressions against God’s laws in the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-17-21). When Bathsheba got pregnant, David plotted to make Uriah think he was the father. He had his commander Joab send Uriah to David, and he asked Uriah to report on the progress of the battle (to cover his true motive for bring him home), and then ordered Uriah to go home to his wife while he was in town (2 Samuel 11:5-8).

This elaborate scheme was intended for Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba, so that when her pregnancy became obvious, everyone would assume Uriah was the father, and David would not be held responsible. But Uriah had far more honorloyalty, and valor than David, for he could not choose the comforts of home while his fellow soldiers were camped out in the field.

When David questioned why Uriah did not go to his house, he replied “The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing (2 Samuel 11: 9-11).

So David tried again to lure Uriah into Bathsheba’s arms, plying him with liquor in hopes of making Uriah abandon his principles (Proverbs 20:1), but he could not. When Uriah had been in Jerusalem for three days, David wrote a letter to Joab, sent it with Uriah, and in it ordered Joab to position Uriah on the front lines of the hottest battle, withdraw support, and allow him to be fatally wounded  (2 Samuel 11:13-15).

Consequencesjudgment and heartache always follow sin, but no sin is too great for God to forgive. Lest we follow David’s path, may we gird up the loins of [our] mindbe sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Love and Death


Photo of Michelangelo's Pieta by Torbjorn Toby Jorgensen

For the first time in decades, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fell on the same date this year. One holiday celebrates love, while the other reflects on death. The Catholic ritual of wearing ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead symbolizes the human condition as sinners doomed to eternal death in hell, were it not for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross (Romans 6:23).

Ash Wednesday thus marks the beginning of Lent, a time of reflection on Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 19:30) and on sinners’ unworthiness (Romans 3:12), based on their own merit (Ephesians 2:8-9), to receive His freely given gift of eternal life. Lent ends on Easter Sunday, commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the triumph of God, Who is Love (1 John 4:8), over death. Praise God that through the righteousness of Christ credited to the account of all believers (Romans 4:16-24), He no longer remembers our sin and frees us from its penalty of death (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).

The perfect, sinless, Lamb of God (John 1:29) – God the Son – came to earth in human form (John 1:14) specifically to die. His death was excruciating, marked by the physical suffering of crucifixion, the emotional isolation from His friends and disciples who betrayed (Luke 22:3-4;34) and abandoned Him, and the humiliation of being rejected, mocked, and mistreated by His people whom he came to save (John 1:11; Luke 23:20-23).

Worst of all, He had to be momentarily separated from the God the Father (Matthew 27:46), with Whom He had been present in close fellowship and love since before the beginning of time (John 1:1-2), as holy God could not look on our sin, which Christ became to save us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yet this horrific death was motivated by self-sacrificing love. There is no greater love than to die for others (John 15:13). Christ’s death was the very definition of love, for it was the perfect sacrifice to appease the anger of holy God and to reconcile sinful man to Him (1 John 4:10).

Christ died for us while we were not only sinners (Romans 5:8), but children of the devil (John 8:44) and His enemies, rebelling against Him in anger and hatred. His inspiration to endure this agony was the joy that came from knowing that all who trusted in His sacrifice and resurrection would live forever with Him in Heaven (Hebrews 12:2).

God the Father loved the world so much that He was willing to submit His precious Son to this torturous death (John 3:16). God’s love is unfathomable by our mere human minds. We might be willing to take a bullet for our spouse or child, and our brave troops and first responders daily risk their lives to protect our country and communities. We might sacrifice ourselves for a good person, but for an evil, hateful one? (John 8:44)

So how can we begin to comprehend how the Divine Godhead, in need of nothing (Psalm 50:10-12), Creator of all (Genesis 1:1), with infinite power (Jeremiah 27:5), riches and wisdom (Psalm 139:1-6), could love us infinitely? We who are vile, lowly sinners, made from dust and destined to return to ashes? (Genesis 2:7;3:19).

Appropriately enough, the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from palm fronds burned after the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. It is a sad reminder to be careful lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12), for the very people who loudly praised Jesus, crying Hosanna and waving palm branches on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, were the same who cried out for His death on the cross a few days later.

Through His supreme sacrifice He changed all who would believe in Him into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). By trusting Christ we are transformed from His enemies to His friends (Proverbs 18:24), from children of the devil to God’s children, becoming joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17) in eternal life, peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), joy in His salvation (Psalm 35:9), wisdom through the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and all the blessings of Heaven.

Beyond that, His death allowed His love to make us His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), given the unique privilege, honor and blessing of being able to share the Good News of His love, death, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-5) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven. At the moment we trust Him, we become part of His church, or beautiful bride that one day will unite with Him in sinless, holy perfection (Revelation 21:2).

Once we experience the transformation His love and death allow, love and death take on a new meaning for us. We love Him because He first loved us, and He is love itself (1 John 4:8,19). His love is infinite, while ours is still tainted by the curse of sin, stained with selfishness and pride. Yet as He daily molds us into His image (Romans 8:29), often through suffering (Philippians 3:10), our love can also begin to reflect His self-sacrificial agape love, which we can share with others to bring them closer to Him.

For the Christian, death loses its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55), for it no longer represents eternal punishment in hell, but a momentary transition from the burden of this aging and infirm body to the freedom and joy of being in the presence of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). When we lose loved ones in Him, we have the sure hope that we will one day be reunited. Yet while we are still on earth, we must die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31) to our sin nature, to the corruption of the world (Romans 12:1-2), to the temptations of the flesh (Romans 8:6-7), and to the traps set for us by Satan (Ephesians 6:11).

I chose the Pieta, the renowned sculpture by Michelangelo, to illustrate this post, as it so poignantly communicates the love of a mother for her dying Son, of a sinner for her Savior, of the Son to die for the sins of the world, of the Father to give His Son, and of the Spirit to raise the Son from the dead, that all who trust Him would have everlasting life.

As we reflect on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection this Easter season, may we let His love shine through us to bring others closer to Him!   

© 2024 Laurie Collett

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Oil of Gladness: Triplets of Royal Perfume


Photo by Raul654 On May 1, 2005.

As couples all over the world prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day, many will wear a special fragrance or perfume on that special occasion honoring love. Some may  exchange cards proclaiming their love, and  gifts such as candy, flowers, jewelry and perfume. But whether or not we follow these customs or even have a spouse or special someone, those who have trusted Christ have the best gift of all -- His love that is eternal, infinite, and self-sacrificing. Wishing my readers a Happy Valentine's Day -- may we be anointed with the oil of gladness, to impart Christ's sweet fragrance to others!

Fragrance is a gateway to worship, as the sweet scents evoke memories of God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) and emotions of thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18), love for God and one another (Luke 10:27), and joy in the Lord (Psalm.32:11; Isaiah 61:10; Matthew 25:21,23; Philippians 4:4).

Jesus, the MessiahKing of Israel is not only described in terms of beautiful flowersvalued spices and majestic plants, but He even has His own royal perfume made of three botanicals. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only righteous or holy One Who hates evil. God the Father therefore gave Him a special royal perfume, similar to the anointing oil used only for the King or High Priest (Exodus 30:23-24), but described as the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:7).

That perfume contains the triple fragrance of myrrhaloes and cassia (Psalm 45:7-8), all rich in symbolism reflecting His divinity (John 17:5), His sacrifice, and His substitution (I John 2:2to save us by wrapping Himself in human fleshliving a completely holy and sinless life, and suffering to pay our sin debt in full (Philippians 2:6-9)

Cassia refers to dried flowers or inner bark from a tree resembling the cinnamon tree, with a similar warm, sweet-spicy aroma, but more pungent. The Hebrew word for cassia is “ketzi'oth” or ”kiddah,” which means "split," just as His body was broken on the cross for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). It also means to contract or bend the body or neck in a position of submission and reverence, as we should bow our heads to Him and as the Lamb of God meekly submitted to His captors (Romans 14:11; Philippians. 2:10; Isaiah. 53:7). When confronted with His final ordeal, Jesus did not talk back (Isaiah. 53:7; Matthew 26:62-63), resist arrest or punishment, or call on angels to deliver Him (Matthew 26:53).

The strips of bark may also represent humility, as in being stripped of pride, just as the Son of God had the royal robe removed from Him, was stripped naked (Matthew 27:28,31), and whipped until His flesh became ragged, bleeding strips (John 19:1; Isaiah 53:5).

There are exactly three references to cassia in Scripture, including Psalm 45. It was one of three spices contained in the holy anointing oil, along with myrrh and calamus (and cinnamon, related to cassia; Exodus 30:23-24). It is also one of three valuable commodities used in trade, along with bright iron and calamus (Ezekiel 27:19).

Another ingredient in the oil of gladness is myrrh, which at first seems contradictory given its association with death. Myrrh is a gum extracted from a shrub, used in Bible times to anoint a dead body in preparation for burial (John 19:39), as well as being a component of the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-24) and an oil of purification for women (Esther 2:12). Like cassia and other precious spices, myrrh was a valuable commodity, used in trade (Genesis 37:25), as a peace offering (Genesis 43:11), and even as an enticement by a woman of ill repute (Proverbs 7:17).

Myrrh was one of the three gifts the wise men gave Jesus (Matthew 2:11), along with gold and frankincense, with myrrh representing the fact that Jesus was born to die. Despite the physical agonyhumiliation, and spiritual suffering of His death on the cross, Jesus endured it with joy (Hebrews 12:2), Only through the cross would He have victory over sinconquering death, and salvation for all who placed their trust in His deathburial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6). Therefore, the Bridegroom in Song of Solomon is fragrant with myrrh (1:13; 3:6; 4:6,13, 5:1,5,13) as well as with rose and lily (2:1), for the joy we have in Him is possible only through His sacrifice in death.

Despite the sweet fragrance of myrrh, it has a bitter taste, and in Hebrew, the word means “bitter.” The same Hebrew root word is in “Mara,” the name Naomi asked her friends to call her when she felt that God had dealt very bitterly with her by taking her two sons.(Ruth 1:20). Myrrh was a pain killer, offered dissolved in wine to Jesus on the cross, yet He refused it (Mark 15:23). In so doing, He would be fully aware of His suffering and its significance, not diminishing it one iota.

Aloe, the remaining component of the oil of gladness, is a succulent desert plant, like cactus, storing water in its fleshy leaves. It is referenced in Song of Solomon (4:14) as one of three valued plants, along with frankincense and myrrh. Like myrrh, it is used to anoint a body for burial (John 19:39), and the resin and oil are used as a base for perfume. Medicinal uses include laxativerelief of digestive discomfort, and healing of skin conditions.

I think of aloe as the balm in Gilead (Jeremiah.8:22), for I have used this cure-all many times to soothe burns, poison ivy, sunburn, and even joint pain! The healing properties of aloe remind us that Jesus is the Great Physician, healing us not only physically but spiritually (Matthew 4:23). Only Jesus can cure us of our worst disease – our spiritual condition of sin, which deserves eternal punishment in hell (Romans 6:23; John 3:18. He alone is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world ( John 1:29).

Aloe leaves are arranged in an endless spiral reflecting the perfect Fibonacci sequence and its relationship to the Golden Ratio, examples of God’s perfection in the nature He created. When viewed from above, the aloe plant appears as a rosette or starburst, reminding me of Christ as the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1), as the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), and as a many-faceted precious Jewel shining in rainbow brilliance from His throne, described as jaspersardinius and emerald (Revelation 4:3).

If you have an aloe plant, you know that even if you have two black thumbs, you just can’t kill it! You can neglect it, hide it from the sun, let it dry up, and yet it flourishes with new life! So to me, it is fitting that the aloe is contained in the Saviour’s perfume, reminding me of His triumph over deathHis resurrection, and the eternal life we have through faith in Him as the only Way to Heaven! (John 3:16; 14:6; 11:25).

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Sunlight, Moonlight



Photo by Michael Clarke Stuff 2012

In April of this year, a total solar eclipse will be visible from many parts of the US, Mexico, and Canada. As this and other "signs in the sky" herald Christ's imminent return, it is a good reminder for Christians to reflect His light in all we say and do. May you enjoy this repost from the archives.

About 18 months ago my husband Richard and I were featured performers at the Coliseum, the beautiful ballroom in St. Petersburg, Florida, in which the dance scenes in the movie “Cocoon” were filmed. Because of a scheduling mixup, we arrived at the venue about two hours earlier than we needed to be there. After we had admired the recent renovations and dramatic new lighting, chatted with the event organizers, laid out our costumes and props, warmed up, and prayed, I grew restless and impatient to perform. Patience is not one of my virtues!

I found myself wondering, “God, why did you bring us here so early? Surely I could have put this time to better use working on my medical writing assignments, paying bills, or preparing next week’s blog or Sunday school lesson. We know that the time is short, and you don’t want us to waste it!”

Just then I recognized a song playing over the loudspeaker as patrons took the floor for general dancing. I hadn’t heard it for years -- it was an instrumental version of “Sun and Moon,” from the musical “Miss Saigon.” I felt God gently prompting me, “This is why you are here early. Write Christian lyrics to this song, and choreograph to it for your next dance ministry piece.”

Humbled and ashamed that I had doubted Him, I quickly answered in my heart, “Yes, Lord.” My mind began to drift to possible lyrics, theme and choreography, when I felt His firm suggestion: “One more thing – use a hoop.”

“A hoop??? You mean a hoop skirt?”

“No, a hoop.” This final thought was so emphatic that I could not dare to disagree, only to ponder how a hoop could possibly be incorporated into a dance by two people doing lifts that are challenging enough on their own, let alone while trying to balance a hoop or pass it back and forth.

I told Richard and he just laughed – nervously, though, for he knew from experience that I would not be easily dissuaded.

With much prayer, trial and error, a few minor injuries, and many bruises and scrapes, the new dance began to take shape, hoop and all, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit inspiration. The theme would be that Jesus Christ is the Light of Heaven, reflecting His light on the believer, who in turn radiates it to the world. To express this theme, the dance would use the symbolism of the sun being the source of light on this planet, and the moon passively reflecting the sun’s rays to illuminate the earth during the darkness of night (Genesis 1:3-5; 14-18).

God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). He saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) through our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), freeing us from the darkness of our sins (Jeremiah 13:16) to the holy light of His perfect righteousness (Isaiah 50:10; John 3:21; Acts 26:18).

Once we are clothed in His holiness (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10), His light can reflect from Him to us, radiating from us so that others can see Him through us. He is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9; 12:46), and by this process, we are also the light of the world (Matthew 5:14Philippians 2:15), reflecting His love, truth and holiness to the lost, dark world (John 3:19).

We have no source of light on our own merits, for our self-righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Rather, we are like an empty vessel or unlit candle (Psalm 18:28through which His light can burn brightly and illuminate others with His truth (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). If we cease to revolve around Him, and block His light from reaching us because of sins and weights (Hebrews 12:1) that deflect His radiance, we can no longer light the world.

Based on the lyrics and choreography of our dance, the hoop, which in our first practices was a hula hoop, would at times represent the sun, the moon, the light, or the orbit of the moon around the sun. We soon realized it would be far more effective if we could use the hoop as a connection between us and to bear my weight in some of the lifts, rather than just gesturing with it or handing it back and forth.

But we learned quickly that a standard hula hoop is not strong enough for that (even reinforced with duct tape!) and that most sturdier hoops would be too heavy to carry in one outstretched arm.

In His faithfulness and foresight, God had prearranged the solution to these problems. It turned out that a specialty studio involved in hoop design was located right in our neighborhood – who knew?? Clearly God did! I also began weight lifting so that I could more gracefully handle the modified hoop, which weighs about seven pounds.

Despite my training since childhood as a ballet dancer, and our joint experience in ballroom and adagio dancing, neither of us had any acrobatic or gymnastic experience involving any type of apparatus. This is not the sort of experiment one ordinarily attempts for the first time at older ages! But God in His faithfulness (Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9) guided us through all of that as well. Since we have added this dance to our repertoire, I have often joked that now I want to run away and join the circus!

When God calls us to a particular assignment, we need not question our lack of ability, experience, or resources needed to complete the task, for if we obey, He will provide! (Philippians 4:19) He used Moses, a stammerer, to deliver eloquent oratory to Pharaoh to let God’s people go (Exodus 4:10-12). He used David, a shepherd boy who had never been to battle, to slay the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:39-50). He used Noah, whose preaching skills won no converts beyond his own family (Genesis 7:7), to repopulate the earth and his descendants to give rise to different races (Genesis 9:1, 18-19).

Joshua realized that age was no barrier when God promised him a great land even though He had just reminded him that he was “old and stricken in years” (Joshua 13:1). God answered Abraham and Sarah’s prayers for a child when they were both ancient, and after more than a two decade wait since He had first promised (Genesis 18:10-12) that their child would give rise to a great nation!

God does not look for our ability, but our availability to fulfill His perfect plan for our lives. May we listen for His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), quickly obey, and trust Him to equip us for His battle and make a way to complete His mission! May we be His light in the world until that day when neither sun nor moon are needed, for His glory alone (Isaiah 60:19; Revelation 21:23; 22:5) will illuminate the new heavens and new earth!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives