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.”

 

Meditations of My Heart

Psalm 19: 14 says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” 

This verse is an oft-quoted one.  I have used it numerous times in teaching children that it is important to watch what we put into our heart and what comes out of our mouths.  In particular, I have used it to teach that God is displeased when we speak words that are angry, hurtful, vulgar, or lies.  In conjunction, I teach them that these displeasing words will be in our hearts and come out of our mouths, if we feed our minds with similar thoughts through the shows and movies we watch and the books we read.

As I read this verse recently, however, the Lord opened my eyes to see that all words and thoughts that are self-focused are unacceptable to Him.  When I dwell on my problems and the challenges I face in life, then the meditations of my heart are not acceptable to Him.  I turn my focus from Him to the world.  My thoughts can easily become dark and depressing, because we live in a troubled, fallen world.

We will all face times of enormous challenge in life, such as the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job, and struggles with our health.  In these times, we will naturally focus more on ourselves than on others.  But, we should never take our eyes off Jesus.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

The psalmist David cried out to the Lord in a time of trouble, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2, NIV)  Then he reminded himself, “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6, NIV)

The way out of the pits of despair we dig for ourselves is to turn our eyes upon Jesus and to remember His unfailing love.  When the meditations of my heart are not pleasing to the Lord, I need to turn my eyes back to Him and rejoice in His salvation and sing to Him.  For indeed, the Lord has been good to me.

 

 

 

When God Sends Hardships Our Way

Hardships are a fact of life that we prefer to avoid.  We ask God to send blessings our way and to keep hardships far from us.  When hardships do come, we tend to blame them on the devil.  But, have you ever stopped to think the God might have sent hardship your way?

This reality hit home recently as I read Genesis 15.  This is the chapter where God promises Abram that He will make him a great nation and that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  Yet, in the same breath, God tells Abram that the his children will be enslaved in Egypt.

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.'”  Genesis 15:5

“Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  Genesis 15:13, 14

“But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:16

Stop and think about this for a minute.  Is that the kind of promise you want for your unborn children:  They will be enslaved for 400 years.  I might have been tempted to tell God that I was just fine without children.  But, Abraham didn’t.  He believed God would supply him with many descendants and that God would bless them through the hardships that would come their way.

In Exodus, we see this promise fulfilled.  When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand His people be set free, Pharaoh made life harder for the Israelites.  As Pharaoh continued to ignore Moses’ warnings, God encouraged Moses that He was in control and that these things were happening so that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7:5)

Later Moses tells Pharaoh that the plagues are being sent so “that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:10).  In Exodus 10:1- 2, God encourages Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Through the hardships of enslavement that the Israelites endured, God showed His mighty power and instilled in them that He is the Lord God almighty.  The Israelites grew to be a mighty nation and left Egypt with great wealth. When they left Egypt, there was no doubt in the minds of the Egyptians that the God of Israel is the one true God.

God allowed the hardship of slavery to come to the Israelites to bring glory to Himself and to spread His fame throughout the world.  God’s fame was still being talked about forty years later when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land and spies were sent out Jericho. Rahab told the spies, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt….And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”  (Joshua 2: 10, 11)

As God has revealed to me that He uses hardships for His glory and His purposes, I have become more willing to pray that God bring into my life whatever circumstances will glorify Him and draw my unsaved loved ones to Him.

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.

Showing Up One’s Enemies

Have you ever been in a situation where you were hurt or embarrassed and you said to yourself, “I’ll show them.”?  I have on many occasions.  I can remember thinking something along the lines of, “If I win the award, that will teach them.”  Or “People will take me seriously if ….”  It’s seems odd to me that as I write this, I cannot remember any of the offenses that caused me to have those thoughts, but I clearly recall thinking them.  I hope, and pray, that my lack of recall stems from truly forgiving those who hurt me.

As I read Psalm 109 this morning, I felt like David was expressing this same basic sentiment.  He begins Psalm 109 by calling on the Lord to come to his defense.  “O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent.”  (Psalm 109:1).  David spend the next several verses laying out his complaint to the Lord:

  • “they have spoken against me with lying tongues” (v. 2)
  • “they attack me without cause” (v. 3)
  • “they accuse me” (v. 4)
  • “they repay me evil for good, and hatred for friendship” (v. 5)

David then clearly and specifically asked God to destroy his enemies.  He asks that God cut his enemy’s life short, leaving his wife and children with no means of support, so that they have to take to the streets as beggars.  He furthers requests that no one show kindness to this family and that the family name be blotted out.

David then reminds the Lord that David was not the only one his enemy treated badly.  “For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted.” (v. 16)

Does David’s complaint sound familiar?  If we are honest, we all have to admit that we have made, or at least thought, similar statements.  “He’s the meanest man I have ever met.”  “She never has a nice word to say about anyone.”  “He would step on his own mother if it would help his reach his goal.”

heaping coals

There will always be mean people in this world, and when we encounter them, we often wish evil on them, as David did.  Or we hope to show them up.  If we can play fair and still win, that will really show them.  Or if God blesses us mightily, they will wish they had been nicer, fairer, kinder.  This sentiment is expressed by David near the end of this psalm.

In verse 21, David writes “But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.”  He goes on to say, “Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it.  They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack, they will be put to shame, but your servant will rejoice.  My accusers will be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. (Psalm 109: 27 – 29)

If David, a man after God’s own heart, wanted to show up his enemies and disgrace them, we cannot hope to feel less animosity toward our enemies.  The desire to show up one’s enemies and force them to realize that God is blessing you is a natural one.  However, like David, we need to remember that if God answers our prayer as we desire, it is for His sake and for His glory that He does so.  David reminded God that since David is his servant, God is glorified when David prospers.

We should also remember that David’s son Solomon advised treating our enemies with kindness.  “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  (Proverbs 25:22)  Solomon is reminding us that although we may pray for God to embarrass our enemies and show them up by blessing us, we are still to treat our enemies fairly.   And Jesus taught us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)   Justice is to be left to the Lord. 

love your enemies

So, the next time you feel like showing up your enemy, maybe you should stop and pray for him.  Ask God what kindnesses He would have you show him.  You may be heaping burning coals on his head, but you may also open his eyes to the love of the Lord, and in doing so,  your enemy may become your brother in Christ.

What situations have occurred in your life where you really wanted God to honor you in a way that would show up your enemies and make them take notice that God had blessed you?

How have you ‘heaped burning coals’ on your enemy’s head?

Preparing for the Storm

I got an unexpected day off today as the Eastern seaboard prepares for Hurricane Sandy, the latest storm to head our way.  At a minimum, Sandy will bring with it a lot of rain and high winds, which is what we expect in the greater Washington, DC, area.  Power outages are also likely.  Those more directly in Sandy’s path will experience stronger winds, more rain, and flooding.  As the path of a hurricane is never certain, a wide region must prepare for a possible onslaught.

Although our area doesn’t expect to experience the worst of Sandy, most of us have prepared by stocking up on bottled water, nonperishable food, and flashlight batteries.  We’ve made sure our pets are safe and protected.  We’ve cleared debris from around our sump pumps and secured outdoor furniture that might become projectiles in strong winds.  Most government agencies and many business have closed for the day and most likely will remain closed tomorrow.

If the storm does not come our way, we will feel a great deal of relief and thankfulness.  Thanks to oft-maligned weathermen, we have had many days warning that Hurricane Sandy might head our way and those caught unprepared will have no one to blame but themselves.

Unlike storms of nature, storms of life hit us with no advanced warning.  We are going happily about our life when suddenly we are hit with a storm that wrecks havoc in our life.  It might be the unexpected death of a loved one or a diagnosis of cancer after a routine medical screening.  It could be the loss of a job or the loss of a dream.  We typically don’t have an advanced warning of these types of storms, but we know that we will all face them from time to time. 

How can we prepare for these storms?  I prepare by putting my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and guide us through life’s storms.  “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16, NIV)  As we call on the Holy Spirit, He comforts us and guides us through the trials, or storms, or life.

I awoke this morning with the old hymn The Solid Rock running through my mind and I’ve been singing it all morning.  The chorus says, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”

I am truly thankful today that no matter what punch Hurricane Sandy throws at us, my feet are firmly planted on solid ground.  With Jesus Christ as my Savior, I have nothing to fear.

Are your feet planted on a firm foundation today?  If not, I pray that you will look to Jesus as your solid rock.

 

The Solid Rock
Lyrics by Edward Mote, 1797 – 1874
Music by William B. Bradbury, 1816- 1868
 
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the vale.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Applauding Moms Who “Can’t Afford to Work”

CNN Money recently ran an article entitled ‘Moms:  I can’t afford to work.’ http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/18/pf/moms-work/index.htm?iid=SF_PF_Highlight  The story explains that after subtracting child care and all the other normal expenses associated with working, many moms are finding that it doesn’t pay for them to work. This is true even among college-educated mothers making above average salaries.

Several women were interviewed for the article.  One woman, Sunah Hwang, calculated that after paying child care expenses, she would bring home $18,000 and in her words, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  I applaud Ms. Hwang and other mothers like her who are making the choice to give up some extra family income to stay home and raise their children. Ms. Hwang explained that the family has made some sacrifices, including family vacations, to get by on one income. It’s not easy, but they are making it work. 

I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children when they were young and to work part-time in their schools when they were school-aged.  Giving up my job to stay home with my children was a sacrifice I was happy to make, despite the years I had spent in college and graduate school.  And in some ways the sacrifices continue even today.  After being out of the job market for many years, I don’t have as much work experience as most women my age.  I don’t make the salary I would be making if I had been working continuously for the past 30 years.  However, I would not trade a higher salary, a more impressive job title, or all the material possessions in the world for the time I spent at home with my children.

Since I was at home full-time, I was able to take care of many of the family chores while Steve worked.  This allowed him to spend more time with the boys in the evenings.  Steve protected his weekends and evenings to have as much time as possible with our sons.  We will reap those benefits for the rest of our lives.  Our sons have been raised with our Christian beliefs and strong family values.  We have a close relationship with each of them and enjoy spending as much time we can with them.  They, in turn, are devoted to their families and are committed to making the sacrifices to allow their wives to stay home with our grandchildren.

I would encourage parents to consider the joys and blessings of having one parent committed to raising the children, even if it makes sense financially for both to work.  You will give up some income if one of you quits your job, but the benefits you gain will more than make up for it.