Do Not Fret Because of Evil Men

There is no doubt that our nation is becoming ever more accepting of sin and wickedness.  Over the past several decades, we have legalized the murdering of unborn children, accepted adultery and other forms of sexual immorality as the norm, and determined that everyone should do what is right in his or her own eyes.  As a person who strives to honor and glorify the Lord in my life, I find it is easy to become discouraged.  Our nation is pulling further and further from God and Christian are becoming persecuted for standing up for our beliefs.

As I read God’s word, however, I realize that this is nothing new.  Sinners have always done evil and tried to persecute those who serve the Lord.  David wrote often about his sufferings in the years between being anointed to be the next king of Israel and the fulfillment of that promise.

Psalm 36 opens with these words from David, “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:  There is no fear of God before his eyes.  For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”  (Psalm 36:  1,2)  Wow!  Interesting choice of words, for sure:  “in his own eyes, he flatters himself.”   I have never thought of those who are leading our nation deeper into sins as flatters of themselves, but it does make senses.  Those who support the killing of innocent, unborn children have convinced themselves that they are ‘protecting the rights of women.’  This is certainly an example of self-flattery.  Not only have they convinced themselves that abortion is not a sin, but they congratulate themselves on doing something good and noble.

David continues, “The words of his [the wicked] mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.  Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.”  (Psalm 36: 3, 4)

It truly is discouraging to witness politicians and political activists leading our nation to even greater depths of sin.  Yet, I know that God is on the throne.  He allows mankind to run the show for a while, but He is never far away and He will not allow this evil to continue indefinitely.  In Psalm 37:7 – 9 David reminds us of this.  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  for evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

 

An Open Letter to Target: Regarding your New Restroom Policy

This is a well-written blog in protest of Target’s policy to allow men in ladies’ restrooms and women in men’s restroom. We need to protect our children’s innocence and privacy.

Mary From Martha

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a woman. I am a frequent shopper in your stores. I am first and foremost a mother. Your recent change in policy of who you allow to use each restroom concerns me. You stated in your blog post, “We believe that everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination and treated equally.” and “…you’ll always be accepted, respected, and welcomed at Target.” As a business owner, I do understand your right to make a stance as a company. As a parent, I will never understand why you would trade the safety of our women and children for the sake of not hurting  feelings.

I realize that everyone needs to feel accepted, loved, and wanted. I know the struggles of a person struggling to find their identity. I also know that as of September 2012, a Gallup poll showed that approximately 3.4% of Americans identify as

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Saying Goodbye

Within minutes of posting my last blog, I received word that my mother had passed away, quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  She was going about her routine of getting ready for bed when she just dropped dead.  It was quite a shock and hard for me as I was out of town at a conference.  I was able to get back home in less than 2 hours and join my family in the emergency room as we comforted one another and spent a final few minutes with Mom before her body was taken away.

It was amazing how very evident it was that we were saying good bye to an empty shell.  It was her body, but Mom was not in it.  Her soul and all that made her Mom was gone.  Fortunately, we have the comfort of knowing that she is in Heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Paul told the Corinthians that this earth is not our home. While we are on earth, we are away from the Lord and when we leave the earth, we go home to the Lord.  “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  (2 Corinthians 5: 6-8)

About 50 years ago, my mother accepted Jesus’ free gift of the forgiveness of her sins. In the intervening years, she yearned for the day she would go the Heaven and be in Christ’s presence.  She is there now, and I have no doubt that Jesus is far more wonderful and glorious than we can image.  My mother lived her life to honor the One who saved her and set her free from the bondage of sin.  She took every opportunity to share His love and her faith with anyone who would listen.

It is hard to let her go.  I miss her far more than I imagined possible.  Every day there are things that I want to share with her.  Yet, I wouldn’t bring her back even if I could.  She is where she wants to be and where I will go someday.  She can say as Paul said, “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

Good bye, Mom.  You will be missed and remembered every day of my life.  And following your example, I will honor Christ in all that I do and share His love with those He puts in my path.

Called Children of God

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!…Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  1 John 3:1, 2

tumblr_inline_n6nv3igi311sfx920I have recently begun reading Beth Grant’s book, Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice in God’s Way.  It is a challenging and heart-wrenching expose on the injustices committed against the most vulnerable members of society in countries around the world.  Beth and her husband David have committed their lives to serve as missionaries in India.  This commitment led them to reach out to prostituted women and children and help them to see the possibility of being freed from a life of slavery into a life as a child of God.  While the book is focused on the social injustice of sexual slavery, the principals are applicable to any ministry of compassion.

As I am reading this, God is reaffirming in me that we need to view every person through God’s eyes–as someone He created and loves; as someone God wants to set free from sin; as someone for whom God has a plan and a purpose.  In Beth’s words,

“If one believes a loving God created each human life in His image with a divine purpose, and that it is His will for that life to be lived with dignity and wholeness, that shapes how one views and relates to exploited teenage girls in Moldova.”
 

This viewpoint should also shape how one views the homeless person walking down any street in America carrying all his belongings on his back, the drug addicted mother who doesn’t take proper care of her children, the disabled person who needs help with the most basic functions of life, and the mentally ill person struggling to make sense of life.

If we truly believe that each of us is created in God’s image, we must treat each person we encounter with dignity and compassion. We must share God’s Word and God’s love with them.  We must help them to believe that no one can fall so far that God cannot pick her up and transform her into His child.  God looks at each of us and see us as He intends us to be, His children whom He loves and whom He wants to transform to fulfill His divine purpose for our lives.

My prayer is that I will look at the most vulnerable members of our society with eyes full of compassion and love. May I will allow God to teach me how to treat each one with dignity and grace., so that they too will know the blessing of being called a child of God.

Will you allow God to use you to share His love with those in need of love and compassion?

Overcoming Despair

There has been much talk in the media about depression and suicide over the past few weeks. The shock of Robin William’s self-inflicted death has spurred this conversation. Looking from the outside, Robin seemed to have everything that most of us aspire to in life–career success, financial security, and a loving family. We have a difficult time accepting that this man who had brought us so much joy and laughter was not laughing along with us. Depression is a serious condition and far too many people struggle to overcome it.

Most people will never face know the depth of depression that would lead them to consider ending their lives. However, we all experience seasons of sadness and despair. These periods may result from the death of a loved one, illness, failure of a marriage or relationship, loss of employment, or any of a number of other causes. Some times it is difficult to accept our loss and move forward with live.

Recently a number of pressures have weighed heavily on me. I found myself thinking constantly about these pressures. I wasn’t worried about them–I recognized that there was nothing I could do about these situations except to pray. Yet, I had a difficult time letting go and enjoying life. The refrain of the old Peter, Paul, and Mary song Old Coat rang in my head frequently. It goes “Take off your old coat and roll up your sleeves, Life is a hard road to travel, I believe.”

Life is often difficult. None of us will escape hard times. Many of us recall that Jesus himself told his disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) However, that is only a portion of the verse. The complete verse reads, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The key to having true peace and joy in life is to remember that Jesus has overcome the world. When we fix our eyes upon Jesus instead of focusing on our problem, we can “be of good cheer.” Today another chorus has been my anthem. It is from the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. The chorus says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

If you are struggling with sadness and despair, I urge you to fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him you will find true peace and hope.

Am I the Only One?

A Facebook friend recently started a post with the question, “Why do I feel like the only person left in this country who…?” The rest of the question dealt with an issue of morality and modesty. She sparked a highly opinionated discussion. One side argued the rights of adults to do whatever they want without concern about what others think. The other side argued for the right to be protected from a constant barrage of nudity and immorality in very public places. I whole-heartedly agree with the questioner and her supporters; our country is far too liberal and immoral and it is becoming increasingly difficult to raise children to be modest and moral in our society. However, continuing that Facebook argument is not the point of this post.

I want to address her opening phrase, “Why do I feel like I’m the only one?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question. The writer is fully aware that many others agree with her opinion. She is also fully aware, however, that she is in the minority in our society. Everywhere we look, we can see evidence that our society is increasing moving away from God and towards a more liberal, sinful society. It is easy to blame Hollywood, and certainly much of the blame rest of on the shoulders of Hollywood producers who have ‘pushed the boundaries’ of morality and acceptability since it’s inception. Hollywood claims to reflect society, but many of us recognize that Hollywood is, and has been for decades, a highly influential molder of society’s values. Christians and others who desire a more moral society are losing the battle.

In the Old Testament, we read a statement similar to the question in the Facebook post. Elijah was facing a desperate situation. The Jewish nation had turned its back on God and chosen instead to worship Baal. Elijah alone stood up to the 400 prophets of Baal and defeated them. Afterwards, Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah felt like he was fighting the battle alone and ran for his life. God sent an angel to care for him. Later God questioned him about why he ran away. Elijah replied,

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 1 Kings 19:10.

God responded that Elijah needed to go back and continue the fight and that God would supply others to help him in the battle. In fact, God told him that there were 7,000 others in Israel who had refused to bow to Baal and were serving the Lord God.

It is easy to get discouraged when everywhere we look we see the decaying of our society. But, like Elijah, we must continue the fight. We must fight for a return to traditional values and standards of behavior that reflect the high value God places on each individual. But that is not enough. We must train our children to love the Lord God with all their hearts and souls and minds. God’s Word must be the foundation on which we base morality and standards of behavior.

Christians are in the minority in American society today. Yet, none of us are alone. There are millions of Christians fighting the battle against the darkness of this world everyday. And the Lord God fights with us, as He fought with the Israelites. Let us be inspired by the words Moses instructed the priests to use to send the Israelites off into battle:

Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:3, 4

No, my friend, you are not the only one.

Resilience Despite Mistakes and Adversity

I have just finished chapter 5 of Jodi Detrick’s book The Jesus-Hearted Woman.  The chapter is titled ‘Resilience.’  In it Detrick discusses the need to continue fulfilling the tasks God has called us to even when (1) we make mistakes, (2) others hurt us, or (3) life throws curve balls our way.  Detrick refers to these events as My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad.  Her discussion questions at the end of the chapter focused on Joseph and the resilience he needed in order to become the leader God desired him to be. Unfortunately, Joseph experienced a number of My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad moments along the way.

As a young man, Joseph had a dream that his brothers bowed down to him.  Unfortunately, sharing the first dream was one of Joseph’s ‘My Bad’ moments.  His brothers already were angry with him because he brought a bad report about them to his father, and they were jealous that their father loved Joseph more than his other sons. This dream added fuel to the fire.  Genesis 37:8 tells us, “So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”  If this wasn’t enough, Joseph had a second dream in which not only his brothers but also his parents bowed down to him.  And, of course, he shared this dream with his father and brothers–another ‘My Bad’ action. His brothers were angry and wanted revenge on Joseph.

Joseph experienced a ‘Their Bad’ moment when his brothers sold him as a slave to a company of Ishmaelites.  Joseph was bought by Potiphar, a captain of the guard in Pharaoh’s army.  God favored Joseph, and he rose to a position of prominence in Potiphar’s household. Apparently Joseph wasn’t yet ready for the leadership role God had in store for him, as he was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior toward his master’s wife and thrown in prison–another ‘Their Bad’ moment.

We don’t know how long Joseph was imprisoned, but we do know that thirteen years passed between the time his brothers sold him and when Pharaoh released him.  At least several of these years were spent in prison.  It must have been difficult for Joseph to sit in prison year and year waiting for God to deliver him.  I am sure that he recognized that he and his father bore some responsibility for his brothers’ hatred toward him, but he was completely innocent of the charges brought against him by Potiphar’s wife.  It would have been easy for Joseph to become bitter about the circumstances of his life.  He could have convinced himself that God was against him and that his life was over.  But Joseph didn’t get angry and he didn’t give up.  He persevered.  He was resilient despite all the adverse things that had happened to him.

Genesis 39: 21 – 22 tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing.”  Joseph’s rise in the prison to a position of leadership did not come overnight.  He had to prove to the keeper that he was reliable and responsible. As he did, his responsibilities increased until Joseph was running the prison.   After some time had passed, the king’s chief butler and chief baker were imprisoned.  Joseph interpreted dreams for each of them which came to pass just as he had foretold. Joseph had shared his plight with the butler and asked the butler to mention his situation to Pharaoh.  How he must have hoped that his release from prison would come soon.  Yet, we read in Genesis 41:1, that another two years passed before the chief butler remembered Joseph.  ‘Too Bad,’ but again Joseph was resilient and persevered.

Eventually, however, Pharaoh had a dream which his wise men could not interpret.  It was then that the butler remembered Joseph.  Joseph interpreted the dreams, being careful to give all the glory to God.  He shared with Pharaoh that God was giving him an opportunity to prepare Egypt for the coming famine.  Pharaoh appointed Joseph to a position of great power, second in command only to Pharaoh himself.  Joseph was used by God to save Egypt and Joseph’s own family from starvation.

We can only surmise as to why God delayed Joseph’s release from prison.  Certainly, in prison Joseph was developing the leadership skills he would need later as a leader over Egypt.  During those years, Joseph continued to serve the Lord and God’s favor was on him.  As the leader of Egypt, Joseph had grown and changed much from the arrogant teenager his brothers had sold into slavery.  When Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, he was humble and quick to give the glory to God.  God opened Pharaoh’s eyes to see that Joseph was the right person to lead Egypt through the coming famine.

Any one in leadership positions faces My Bad, Their Bad, and Too Bad situations on occasion.  The challenges Joseph faced prepared him for more leadership responsibilities. Like Joseph, we must be resilient and allow the adversities we face to help us develop as leaders.  As we do, we will be able to do more and accomplish more, until we complete the work God has called us to do.