God’s regrets

1 Samuel 15:10-11,”Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.”

Regret is painful. I do not know anyone who does not have regrets in some form or another. “If I had just taken a different path…if I had not spoken those words…if I had studied harder…if I had not gone that day.” Regret for humans is a belief that if we had not done something, the outcome would be different. Regret for God is not the same.

In this scripture it appears the all-knowing, supreme being of God made an error or a bad decision. We all know that God knows the beginning and the end. He holds our future in His hands. Nothing surprises God; but by our definition of regret, this scripture might make us wonder.

God’s decisions are made perfectly and righteously; however, it doesn’t say He enjoys seeing the trials and struggles we have because of those decisions. It was probably disheartening for God, to see the actions of Saul; even though He knew those actions before Saul ever made them.

Remember, when Jesus faced Pilot, He had no doubts as to what would happen. He knew the pain He would endure. He knew the anguish; but, He went through it anyway because of His deep love for us.

God, knowing how Saul would turn-out, chose him to be king anyway. 1 Samuel 15:29, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

God, the Glory of Israel, does not change his mind – He isn’t like us in that regard. What is difficult for Him is seeing the result of the decisions that He made; because of His great love for us, it is hard to watch us mess up. It’s hard to view our choices.

There’s also more to glean from this scripture. When we are disobedient to God, as Saul was, we hurt Him. Many times we don’t think about that. We are caught in the middle of sin and are either trying to hide it from God (impossible) or repenting of it. Either way, we are so self-absorb in our doings, we fail to realize what we are doing to our Savior.

Today, take some time to thank Him for the love He has for you. Apologize for hurting Him with your sin. Rejoice in knowing the depth of love God has for you. Spread that love to those you encounter today.

Knocked down but never out

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

When I lived in Mississippi as a boy, every year in a nearby town a contest was held to find “the toughest guy”. In a makeshift boxing arena set up by a team of traveling professional boxers, the locals would fight one another in elimination rounds for the chance on the final night to duke it out with one of the professionals. At the end of three consecutive nights, the local left standing would fight for prize money and the title. I wasn’t old enough to enter; but if I were, I knew facing my mama when I got home would be worse than anybody they put in that ring with me.

One year a big ol boy named Rodney Chapman had beat every fighter put in the ring with him. He was one of the local favorites and everyone wanted him to beat the professional fighter on the last night. Rodney had a punch like Sugar Ray but was the size of Mohammed Ali. On the final night it was standing room only. We couldn’t wait to see who Rodney would be facing. To our surprise a guy twice his size entered the ring.  The room fell silent and the cigar smoke hung in the air like a thick cover of dust. My friend’s dad had taken his son and me to watch the fight. We were close enough to feel the moisture from the overheated men in the ring. And the excitement and anxiety of the audience made my heart pound. I really wanted Rodney to win. His challenger’s name was Goliath.

Sometimes in life we are hard pressed on all sides. Paul knew what it was like when he wrote the scripture in Corinthians. There are times when we can catch it from all sides: trouble, heartache, pain, sickness, worry. We might feel the pressure mounting from all directions; but, we will never be hemmed in or crushed.

Sometimes we do not know which way to turn. Nothing makes sense and there seems no real answer. Confusion surrounds us and no one can help. The best part is, although we don’t know what to do, God does. We may not be able to see the big picture of the plan, but God can.

Sometimes we are struck down – that “coming out of nowhere” blow which knocks us to our knees. The tornadoes of life which wipe us out. Leave us wondering where it all came from and where we go from here.

Rodney went 10 rounds with Goliath. Time after time, he hit the ground, but somehow found his feet before the final count down. Time after time, Rodney seemed boxed into a corner with no way out. His face bloodied from the fight, his breath shallow, sweat pouring from his body; and yet, he hadn’t been knocked out.

Finally, in the last round of the fight, Rodney caught Goliath with a left hook in just the right spot on the chin, to knock that big guy to the ground. The crowd erupted. As he turned to greet the cheers with clenched fists of victory, I noticed a tatoo on the back of his neck, 2 Corinthians 4:8&9.

I wish God promised us an easy life, a life filled with more wins than losses; but He doesn’t. On the contrary, God says we will be surrounded by troubles but it will not overcome us. While we may be confused, we will not lose heart. And there will be times we are knocked down but never out.

Dust in the Wind

Waiting for an appointment the other day, a lady’s cell phone began to ring to the tune, “Dust in the Wind.” A popular song by Kansas during my high school years, I started to hum the lyrics as she took her call. “Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.” The words stung my mind as I thought of their meaning. Are we just dust in the wind?

Isaiah 43:1-2
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.'”

Dust? Would God call out with such a degree of importance, “You are mine,” if we were just aimlessly floating along, driven by the whims of the wind? Unequivocably no! We are created by God who knew us before we were even conceived. We are His. He calls us by name.

Jeremiah 1:5,”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

There are times in life when we might feel like dust in the wind, wondering of our significance; wishing we mattered to someone; trying to find a reason for existence. But what a lie to even consider such.

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

God is telling us not only are we significant to Him, He had a plan and purpose for us before we were even formed. Before our days even began, He had them fashioned just for me and just for you. We can’t even begin to realize the importance we are to Him.

I stopped humming that tune; in fact, I’ve vowed never to sing it again. Not only am I not dust in wind, I wanted to stand and shout in the waiting room, “I am the son of the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords! I am heir to His throne.”

Realize who you are in Christ and never doubt the unconditional, overwhelming love He has for you. Shout it to the mountains, “I am the glorious creation of God!”

Who is it?

Genesis 4:6, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

One of my childhood friends, Riley, went to a different church from me. Despite the fact my dad was a pastor, he and my mom always allowed me to go to Riley’s church when I spent the night with him. And I loved it. His church had breakfast before Sunday School, and we couldn’t wait to get to the cinnamon rolls – homemade, warm, and gooey. As disgusting as it might sound, we’d tuck one or two in our pockets to eat later before church.

I remember vividly a Sunday School lesson with a cartoon picture of sin knocking at the door. It was a drawing of a demonic looking creature standing outside a child’s door. The image bothered me. I had always envisioned Jesus knocking at the door, and the two outside my door didn’t blend.

The reality is we are constantly being pulled. What is right and what is wrong? Should I say this or should I keep my mouth shut? Am I being helpful or am I hurting? Sometimes it can feel like a ping-pong game in our conscience, and the batting back and forth can be overwhelming.

God warns us many times throughout the Bible of the evil lurking around us.

Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Who is knocking at your door? Who are you letting in?

…it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Everyone of us have decisions to make on a daily basis. We like to keep our godliness at church, and during the week, do what is necessary to have our way. Sin is sin whether it is committed on Monday morning or Saturday evening. If you are letting it into your home, your car, your workplace, or your heart, you will pay the consequences for it and possibly destroy those around you because of it.

Listen to the voice of God. Read His word. Ask Him for guidance. Commit to God each day. Know who is at your door so you do not let someone in who doesn’t need to be there.

It’s all about the tree…

I once heard a sermon entitled, “It’s all about the tree.” He was staged surrounded by Christmas trees, and he tied the Christmas tree to the Cross. For several weeks I thought about what the speaker meant when he said, “It’s all about the tree” and its significance in my life. What was God trying to say through him to me?

One evening I took out my Bible and began in Genesis. The symbolism of the tree filled my soul.

Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

Why the tree? Why stir the pot? Rock the boat? Why the temptation?

One of the very first steps Connie and I took before our first child was born was to ‘child-proof’ the home: outlet covers, gates, removal of poisonous plants, locked cabinets, covered corners and all medicines and cleaning products up high. We did those things so that our sweet baby would not be harmed. Why didn’t God just man-proof the garden? Why the test?

It’s all about the tree…even at the beginning of mankind, it was all about the tree. God expects faithfulness and devotion from us. He expects obedience and full reliance upon Him from us. He’s not interested in man-proofing our lives. He wants us to God-proof our own lives, by choice, through loyalty and committment. He wants fidelity.

What is your tree? What is pulling you from God, making you disloyal and disobedient? I suggest you take a chainsaw and cut that thing up. Allow nothing to come between you and God. Remove it from your life for good.

It is ALL about the tree.

Where he wasn’t.

The Shrek movies make me laugh. Meant for children, the adult humor intertwined within is incredible and quite entertaining. One of my favorite parts is when Prince Charming interrogates Pinocchio as to where Shrek is.

Prince Charming: “You…you can’t lie! So tell me puppet, where is Shrek?”

Pinocchio: “Uh, Hmm…well, I don’t know where he’s not.”

Prince Charming: “So you don’t know where he is?”

Pinocchio: “That’d mean I’d really have to know where he wasn’t.”

If only Eve had been as clever with Satan…

Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

If Satan had told her as it was, “Hey Eve! Want to do something really different today?”

“What serpent?”

“Let me help you mess-up all humanity. Let me help you destroy lives, cause pain, grief, suffering, and death. Let me help you curse life as you know it and forever change mankind. Let me make it where every woman on the planet wants to punch you during childbirth. You game?”

I dare to say, Eve would have turned on her heels and run quite swiftly in the opposite direction. But instead, he entices her, seductively, with “Did God really say? Let me get this straight, did He really say?”

Doubt. The emotion that clenches all others – that smothers, suffocates, stagnates, and squelches belief. It only takes one religion teacher in a liberal arts college to say, “The inconsistencies in the Bible leave me to wonder…” And that 19-year-old begins to doubt who God is. Did God really say that?

It only takes one ‘innocent’ lunch outside the office to make you feel young and important again… Did God really say?

It only takes one really cool guy to tell you this drug is the drug of choice and you will feel better than you’ve ever felt…Did God really say?

It only takes one ‘want-to-be’ theologian to tell you the Bible was written so long ago, it can’t apply to the here and now…Did God really say?

Who are we listening to and why do we believe them?

Pinocchio: “I undeniably do or do not know where he shouldn’t probably be, if that indeed wasn’t where he isn’t. Even if he wasn’t at where I knew he was…”

If you do not know what God says, doubt will at some point in your life overcome you. And it has the same destructive power of Eve’s mistake on your life, your family, your friends, your workplace, and your environment.

Know where God wasn’t. Tell Doubt to take a hike, for when we truly understand what God has for us and what Satan has for us – there is no Doubt of the route we’ll choose.

He knows what we need

I love the story of the creation: of the stars in the sky, the water, the trees, the animals, and man. What I like most about His creation of man is He knew exactly what Adam needed before Adam even asked.

The other day I had a coupon for a free coffee at Race Track. On my way to Atlanta to visit in the hospital, I stopped and grabbed a large cup of black coffee. We have had snow in our area the past few days, and nothing takes the chill off like a steaming cup.

As I exited the store, without much thought, I took a deep gulp and knew immediately, it was a mistake. My tongue, the roof of my mouth, even my nostrils felt the temperature. I was on fire and knew not to swallow it or I would burn my throat as well.

The toughness of my skin did not indicate the scorching temperature of the coffee. Yet, the sensory preceptors of my tongue, though intended to decipher all the wonderful flavors of food God has put at our disposal, alerted me quickly. How amazingly God has created us! Every intricate detail of our body and surroundings is of Him because He knew exactly what we would need.

Was Eve an afterthought? Some people believe that God looked at Adam and said, “Oh no! I’ve messed up. My man is lonely. I forgot to make him a partner.” But, God doesn’t forget.

Some people jokingly believe He created Eve because He saw all the mistakes He had made with Adam and wanted a second chance. But, God doesn’t make mistakes.

What I love about God is, in creating Adam, He took care of all the details. And when Adam became lonely, before he even knew what being lonely meant, God gave him Eve.

Genesis 2:18-23, “The Lord God said,’It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'”

Sometimes we do not know what we need; but God is always light years ahead of us. Trust Him to know exactly what you need, when you need it.


John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.”

Have you ever been rejected? Probably at some point or another, we all have. For some, rejection has occurred quite frequently. To be excluded, to be shunned, to be cast aside, to be made to feel of no value for whatever reason.  Those are the experiences and feelings no one wants to have. Imagine however if the very people who refused you were the ones you came to save? Imagine the people who treated you in such a manner were the people you were trying to rescue, the people you were willing to die for, the people you gave your all to love.

This verse in John tugs at my heart because it explains the intent of Christ and the manner in which humanity received him. He came as the light of the world, the answer to our imminent death, the Savior of mankind; yet, we had become so familiar with ‘darkness’ that we did not recognize what God was trying to do.

I often wonder what I would’ve done if I lived in Jesus’ time. Would I have readily accepted Him? Would I have known He was the King the prophets talked about? I’m not sure. And what about now, 2000 years since His birth? Do we accept Him fully or are there parts of us that still reject Him?

Not too long ago, I came across a wounded bird in the field. He appeared dazed and stunned either by hitting a tree or a car window. I didn’t know. As I carried him in my hand back to my house, I noticed his beautiful feathers and coloring. His breast was spotted with brush strokes and his wings were several shades of brown. The details alone on this bird blew my mind. I couldn’t fathom the time God had taken just on this particular bird. How much He must love His creations!  As I viewed that  bird, I couldn’t help but realize God’s grace in us.  As the Psalmist has said, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Like the bird, the intricacies of the human body mesmerize the careful observer.  I am amazed at the magnitude of God’s love for us.

Yet, by our lifestyles we reject Him.  Today I challenge you to listen to His voice.  Choose to embrace Him as Lord of your life.  Instead of choosing to reject Him and walk in darkness, allow the light of His voice and life to fill your daily experience.  He deserves to be accepted by us.

No Dogs Allowed

Luke 2:4-7 reads, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Growing up, I often enjoyed the cartoon Peanuts, the one with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and the gang. There is one particular episode where Snoopy is trying to visit his former owner in the hospital, but he can’t get in. The signs posted outside the hospital read, “NO DOGS ALLOWED!” As a boy, my insides would turn each time Snoopy attempted to get in the door. “Can’t they see what he is trying to do? What is wrong with these people?” I would shout at the television. The security guard kicked him out; the doctors and nurses threw him into the street; people visiting family members would toss him around; my heart would ache for poor Snoopy.

God came to earth in human form. There was a census and many people flooded to Bethlehem. In all the busyness of the event, Joseph and Mary found themselves with no where to go. All the rooms were taken and no one would open their home to allow Mary the comforts of giving birth in a house. But, do you think He was born in a stable because there was NO ROOM or was it His intentional selection? Is there a lesson even in His arrival?

The wonderful, beautiful, comfortable gifts in life are seen as God’s blessings in our minds, signs from above that God exists. We see God in butterflies, rainbows, $100.00 bills, angelic looking children; but, what about the ‘not so wonderful, beautiful, comfortable gifts’? What about circumstances when we are uncomfortable? What about times when we are ‘not allowed’ in a particular group? What about situations that are not beautiful? Is God’s existences any less?

Sometimes God’s gifts are not wrapped in the finest of packages. Sometimes God’s presence is in a stable, in a feed trough with smelly livestock.

In the cartoon, Snoopy eventually is allowed into the hospital. He dresses up like a human. Ironically, God had a similar plan for getting into our hearts: He came to earth in the form of a human to find access into our lives in order to save us from death.

Are you making room for Him today in your heart? Is He ALLOWED into your home? Your car? Your work place? Or have you posted a sign, “NO GOD ALLOWED”?

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Before time began

1 Peter 1:20 reads, “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

Can you imagine God, the author of life and creator of the universe, actually thinking through the process of our world? How did He do it? How did He lovingly create the beauty of a flower with all its intricate detail; the outline of the stars to light the night sky; the wings of doves; the muscular legs of a wild mustang? How did He speak it into being? What about the creation of man, formed in His own image;how much thought went into humanity’s formation?

Do you realize time as we know it did not exist until God spoke the universe and time into existence?  Simply put, there are two ways to understand “beginning”. As God, He infinitely existed prior to the structure of the universe. During the creation process, He first created TIME. As a result, He stands outside of time seeing tomorrow as today. Uniquely, the Creator sees all that has or will occur in His design. Even before God imagined light and darkness, He knew what would be ahead of Him. God knew Eve would sin. He knew Noah would need to build an ark. He knew Christ would suffer through the crucifixion. He knew the influence of Paul and his writings. He knew you, and He knew me. All before He uttered a word into being.

Such thoughts throw my mind into a spin; despite knowing all that would occur, He created the universe and us anyway. I can’t help but wonder why?

A woman came into my office for counseling. Her husband of 30 years had repeated affairs.  She felt lost and of little value. As we talked, she continually repeated, “if I could just do it over.” I finally asked her, “Okay. If you could do it over, what would it look like?”

Quietly, she thought. Her hands rolled over and over in her lap as if she were turning back time. Clearing her throat she uttered, “Funny, I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

“What do you mean?” I quizzed.

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same because I wouldn’t have my children’ and they are the joy of my life.”

We are the joy of the Lord. His creations. His children. Even knowing what was ahead, He created us anyway. Obviously, He loves us greatly.

Wherever you are in life, whatever mistakes you’ve made, He loves you. His love is enough to endure the torture of the Cross so that He might spend eternal life with you. Take the time today to relish the hand of God upon your life and the deep committed love He has for you.