06-22-08

I know that Thanksgiving is a holiday we celebrate in the fall, but it really ought to be something we celebrate every day.  Psalm 107 is a song that reminds us that we need to remember to give thanks to God because God is really good to us and He is oh so merciful.

The song writer tells four stories about people going through hard times.  Sometimes it’s a hard time caused by their own rebellion.  Sometimes it’s just the ordinary difficulty of life.  In each case, when that person realizes their need for God, God graciously helps them.  First the Psalmist talks about people wandering in desert places, crying out, and finding God’s help (Ps. 107:4-9).  Then he talks about people who are bound in a dark prison because of their own rebellion, but when they cry out to God for help, He delivers them (Ps. 107:10-16).  Even the fool who is going through affliction due to his own stupidity cries out to God, and God responds (Ps. 107:17-22).  When sailors out on the ocean get caught on a storm and cry out to God, He calms the storm (Ps. 107:23-32).  In the end, the Psalmist instructs us that if we are wise, we will pay attention to these things and learn from them.

What should we learn?  We should learn that God is kind and merciful.  If He allows us to go through difficulty, it’s only for our good.  He loves to hear from His children.  He especially loves when His children realize just how good He is and they respond with thanks. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107:8,15,21,31)

06-15-08

The Psalmist was struggling.  It would seem that he was faced with some unfair things in life.  He was wrestling with issues of right and wrong, justice and vengeance, and feeling like he was getting a raw deal in life.  And as many of the authors in the Psalms describe, when he turned to God he found help and relief.  He writes, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Psa 94:19).  What’s going on inside your heart?  Are you overwhelmed with anxieties? God wants to bring you comfort.  How does God comfort us?

God will use His word, the Bible, to comfort us.  The Psalmist wrote, “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life” (Psa 119:50).  Paul writes about the “comfort of the scriptures” (Rom. 15:4).  Take time to read God’s word.  Take time to listen.  Take time to think and chew on the things you are reading.

God Himself wants to comfort us.  Paul calls God the “God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3) who comforts us in all our afflictions.  The Father Himself says, “As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isa 66:13).  Jesus was the one who cried out “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28).  One of the most cherished jobs of the Holy Spirit is that of the “Comforter” (John 14:16).  The Bible says you should be “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7 NASB).

Are you, like the Psalmist, overwhelmed with the multitude of your anxieties? God has comfort for you.  Pour out your heart to Him.

06-08-08

Elisha led a life that was filled with miracles.  Some of the ways that God worked in Elisha’s life were pretty cool.  But in one instance, God didn’t work at all, at least not until Elisha did his part.

The story involved a family that had supported Elisha’s ministry (2Kings 4:8-37).  Elisha had seen God do a miracle in giving them a baby boy.  But when the wife showed up at Elisha’s door, Elisha was a little caught off guard.  It was not uncommon for God to tell Elisha about important things ahead of time.  But this time Elisha had no warning about what was ahead.  Elisha didn’t know what was wrong until he heard her tell him herself.  When Elisha found out that her son had died, Elisha sent his servant to heal the boy by putting Elisha’s staff on the child.  But God didn’t respond with Elisha’s shortcut.  It wasn’t until Elisha got to the house and lay on top of the dead boy that God did the greatest miracle.  The boy was raised from the dead.

There are times when we need to learn to delegate.  It’s not wrong to ask others to help you out.  There are times when it is important to take advantage of ways to save time or money.  Sometimes forwarding that email to your friends is okay.  But sometimes God isn’t going to work until you get up close and personal.  Some people need you to listen to them.  Others need you to take the time to go over to their house.  There might even be some “dead” people God may want you to spend time with.  Beloved, God wants to use you.  Don’t settle for the shortcut when it’s you they need.

06-01-08

Sometimes it’s the thing that catches you off guard.  Sometimes it’s something you are well aware of and you have seen it coming for a long time.  Sometimes it’s an issue inside you (like your heart). While sometimes it’s something outside of you that causes it.  What am I talking about?  I’m talking about the things that can turn our heart away from God.

For Solomon, it was his “wives”.  Solomon himself wrote that if you find a wife you find a “good thing”. Though they say you can never have too much of a good thing, Solomon proved that you can.  “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Ki 11:4).

So what is it for you?  It doesn’t hurt to have your guard up for these kinds of things.  Solomon himself also wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23).

We serve a God whom we ought to be drawing closer to, not pulling away from.  Have you been pulling away from God?  Is it something that isn’t going the way you expected?  Is it bitterness that you’ve stored up in your heart against a person that let you down?  Maybe it’s an area of temptation you need to be avoiding.  Solomon should have known better about the “wives” thing.  If anyone was smart enough to see it coming, it should have been him.  But our hearts can be pretty full of self-deceit.  Don’t fool yourself.  If you are pulling away from God, turn around.  Come to your senses.  You have a loving heavenly Father who is waiting for you (Luke 15:20).

05-25-08

If you’re not careful, the story can give you the wrong impression about God. It all started with a drought and famine.  Apparently David thought there might be a reason for the famine, so he asked God about it. God replied, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites” (2 Sam 21:1).  When David went to the Gibeonites, they replied that Saul had broken the covenant that Israel had with Gibeon (Josh. 9), and had slaughtered many of the Gibeonites.  David asked how he could fix the situation, seven of Saul’s descendants are killed, and God responded by sending rain, ending the famine.  The story can make me think that the difficulties in my life might be caused by some unrelated event.  Or maybe God demands human sacrifice before sending rain.  But is this the case?

When you pay attention to the story, you realize that God was not the one demanding that Saul’s relatives be killed.  It was the Gibeonites who made that demand.  God’s concern was that Israel learn to honor their promises and make things right with the people they offend.

God desires that we be lights in this world.  God desires that His children represent Him properly.  God keeps His promises, we ought to keep ours.  God’s desire is that people see Jesus in us and not just that we’re jerks. I wonder if sometimes we don’t let ourselves off the hook when we excuse our offenses with statements like, “Well I just have a little temper problem” or “I got too busy to keep my promise.”  Let your witness to those around you be the right one.  Make things right with the people you’ve offended (Rom. 12:18).

 

05-18-08

Sometimes you just don’t see it coming.  Out of nowhere someone starts attacking you.  Maybe it’s simple criticism.  Maybe they start rumors.  Sometimes it’s in your face.  Sometimes it’s behind your back.  David experienced that kind of stuff all the time.  You read about it in his songs.  He writes, “Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, And plan deception all the day long” (Psa 38:12).

How do you handle that kind of stuff?  What do you do when it looks like someone is out to get you?  David tells us what he did.  “But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth. Thus I am like a man who does not hear, And in whose mouth is no response. For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God” (Psa 38:13-15) 
The first thing David did was to stop listening to the threats.  He became “deaf” to the things that were causing him injury.  This doesn’t mean that we become people who aren’t open to honest criticism.  But there are some things that just aren’t honest and they aren’t healthy.  To those things we need to learn to shut off the garbage. Along with growing “deaf”, David learned to curb his own tongue.  Peter calls it “not returning evil for evil” (1Pet. 3:9).  In other words, David got out of the arguing business.

The last thing David did was clarify who he was counting on.  David was placing his hope in God.  He wasn’t sure how he was going to get out of his situation, but he knew he could trust God to help.  Are you facing unexpected attacks?  Follow David’s example.

05-11-08

It’s so hard to know what to do sometimes.  We want to do what’s right, but sometimes it gets a little unclear as to which decision is the right one.  David faced a time like that. David had problems with his boss.  King Saul was crazy jealous of his best warrior.  Instead of appreciating David, Saul kept trying to kill David. Several times David narrowly escaped the death squads of Saul.

The day came when David found himself hiding in a cave with his friends.  And guess who comes into the cave to take a nap?  As Saul settled down for a siesta, David faced one of those difficult decisions.  Should he end his problems right then and there and kill Saul?  The circumstance was certainly right – his enemy was sleeping right in front of him.  The council also seemed to indicate the time was right – all of David’s men encouraged David to take the opportunity and kill Saul.  But David had another factor playing into the decision he would make.  He had a principle to follow. David recognized that God had put Saul into the position as king, and David was real reluctant to be the one to challenge God’s choice as king.  In the end, David’s conscience would not allow him to kill Saul.

David’s final choice may not have been the easier one, but it was the right one.  David came out of the situation as a man of integrity.  When David eventually became king, it wasn’t because of his conniving and scheming, but because of God’s work.  Are you faced with a difficult decision?  Circumstance and council may not always be good indicators.  Don’t settle for convenience, settle for what’s right.

05-04-08

The search was on for a king (1Sam. 9).  Israel had never had a king before, at least not a legitimate one.  Who would it be?  While the people waited for God’s choice of king, the donkeys of Kish decided to run off.  Meanwhile God was whispering into the ear of Samuel that he would soon have a visitor, a man that God would choose as king.  When Saul went looking for his dad’s donkeys, he didn’t find the donkeys, but he did find that he was going to be king.  It might have seemed like a lot of coincidental circumstances, but it was all by design.

Who was this king?  Yes he might have been tall and handsome, but he was also from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the immoral and rebellious tribe (Judg. 19).  They were the tribe that had almost been wiped out because of their sin (Judg. 20).  Saul himself couldn’t figure out why God would pick him. And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?” (1 Sam 9:21 NKJV).  I would imagine that the leaders of the bigger tribes were thinking the same thing.  Wouldn’t they make a better choice for king?

It seems that God likes to pick the “least” likely people.  God doesn’t want people impressed by your good looks and brains, He wants people impressed by Him.  I need to get “me” out of the way. This doesn’t mean I can hide behind the excuse of saying “God could never use me”, and then never serve God.  God wants humility and a willing heart.

Be humble.  Be useful.

04-27-08

It is one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible.  It starts off with a religious man, a Levite, whose wife runs away to become a prostitute (Judges. 19).  The man goes after her and as they are making their way home, they spend the night in the city of Gibeah, a town from the tribe of Benjamin.  At this point the story turns incredibly dark, kind of like those cheap horror movies with the creepy music and where everybody in town has a red glow in their eyes.  Though people in that day often would invite strangers into their homes (hospitality), this town ignores the couple.  Finally one old fellow takes pity on them and invites them into his house. While they are having dinner the night of horror begins.  There’s a knock at the door.  The men of the city ask for the man so they can rape him.  And the Levite … gives them his concubine.  The men rape the woman all night and leave her dead on the doorstep. The story doesn’t end there.  The next morning the Levite cuts the woman into pieces and has her body parts shipped to all the tribes of Israel.  When the nation gathers to find out what has happened, they decide that these men of Gibeah need to be arrested and punished.  But instead of bringing justice, the tribe of Benjamin unites and wants to defend the rapist-murderers.  Sounds like a made-for-TV plot, doesn’t it?

The Bible says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21:25).  It might sound like the most horrific story ever imagined, but it’s simply what happens when a person or a nation chooses to ignore God. It’s where we would be without the Lord.  Honor God beloved.  Read His Word.  Do what God says.

04-20-08

Paul came to the city of Ephesus and found some fellows called “disciples”.  I don’t know what tipped Paul off, but something made Paul curious and he asked them a question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)

It’s hard to know exactly just what these fellows knew and didn’t know and why Luke feels he has to call them “disciples”.  But one thing is clear, they were lacking something.  Luke goes on to record that after Paul shared with them and baptized them, he laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit isn’t an impersonal force, He is God.  His desire is to empower our lives and help us live for God.  He helps us tell others about Jesus.  He gives us the strength to live in purity.  He comforts, guides, and teaches us.

The Bible tells us that it is God’s will that we be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).  The Bible also tells us that if we ask God for something according to His will, that God will grant our request (1Jn. 5:14-15).  In other words, if you ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit, He will do it.

Are you lacking something in your life?  Do you wish you were more bold when it comes to sharing your faith?  Are you struggling with doing the right things?  Are you looking for direction?  Are you struggling with emptiness or pain in your life?  Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and trust God to fill you.  It’s one of the things I ask for every day.  Yield yourself to God.  He’s here to help.