Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Week Twenty-Seven - Enemies

We tend to use the book of Psalms for encouragement and memorizing positive verses. But there is nearly an equal number of negative verses on persecution, vengeance, and enemies that we prefer to overlook. We avoid them because they remind us of serious truths: God is angry with the wicked every day, we will give an account of every word, or that God is an all-consuming fire and judgment is coming, etc. We want things sweet, but we live in the nasty now and now. We can’t bury our heads in the sand or think bad or sad things will ever happen.


God has never hidden the harsh reality of life. He is forthright when He says, “Yea, all that will live godly will suffer persecution.” Will…meaning there is no way to avoid it.


I’m not promoting an attitude of dejection or resignation, but one of acceptance that comes with a resolve that says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). We need not fear afflictions and enemies, but continue armed by faith.


Having said that, it still catches us off guard and hurts to the core when wounded by a friend or attacked by an enemy. Forgive me when I say, “That’s fine. It should hurt.” Hurting means we care. Hurting alerts us to action and places us on-point to make godly decisions.


To be honest, very few of us wield our spiritual sword first when we are attacked by an enemy. We usually let our hearts fall to our sleeve and sputter out some feeble response, or lash back with an equally verbal lunge and wind up in tears with a situation heightened and us rocking on our heels.


But it need not be that way. If we take off our rose-colored glasses, dawn our spiritual armor, and walk daily in the Spirit, we will most usually see the enemy’s advance. If he jumps out of the bushes, we are already prepared, and our responses will be purposeful and directed.


God is not afraid of our enemies. His word assures us of His understanding of their tactics, motivations, and goals. Armed with that knowledge, He uses the enemy’s efforts for His own purpose. He knows their end, and He’s already shared it with us.


God also knows our responses. He knows when we cry, when we hate, when we whine and complain, when we fear, and even when we fight back. As in every trial, God uses the enemy’s purpose to better equip us, help us grow, and learn to stand bringing glory to Himself. 

God is our shield and buckler, our defense, our strong tower. He is the lifter up of our heads, our safety, and our sure rock in the face of any enemy.


King David faced many enemies. He made many mistakes, but God still delivered him. Let’s list a few of his enemies.


1.     Enemies within the family – his brothers laughed at him

2.     Enemies out of proportion – The giant, Goliath

3.     Enemies in the workplace – King Saul

4.     Enemies from circumstances – Michal, his unhappy first wife

5.     Enemies in society – Shimei, the guy who publically taunted him

6.     Enemies in culture – the Philistines

7.     Enemies from within – his own sinful desires

8.     Enemies in politics – his son, Absalom

9.     Enemies in old age – his son, Adonijah


Enemies act the same way today, and God’s prescription for handling them still works.


In each instance, David kept himself before the Lord and behaved himself wisely. I love that phrase. It describes so many aspects, reactions, thoughts, decisions, awareness, alertness, consideration, and manners. David was aware of his surroundings and conscious that his responses influenced situations and people. He walked circumspectly. Because of that, he was able to navigate enemies and remain a man after God’s own heart.


So next time we face an enemy, let’s be aware of their tactics, motivations, and goals.  2 Corinthians 2:11, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." 

Let’s examine our responses and behave ourselves wisely. As we look at the situation through the lens of God’s word, we know He will deliver us!


Finally, let’s grab hold of God’s promises, tighten the belts of our armor, and go out prepared to stand in the battle for the Lord.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Week Twenty-Six - Equality

Equality is a rather dynamite word, but it’s a subject we can’t avoid.  God doesn’t avoid it either.  He has plenty to say, and we might be surprised about what He says.


First, let’s admit that inequality is throughout the Bible. People were sold, enslaved, mistreated, and abused. God doesn’t try to hide the results of sin. 


But I don’t want to talk about that today.  I want us to try to get a truly biblical perspective on this idea of equality.  When we do, I think it will significantly affect our attitudes and actions.  It’s an elementary lesson, but one we too often try to complicate.


Are we all equal? That is the question.  And the answer is, yes.  That answer does not negate the roles within which we work, i.e., positions in the home or at work.  Equality does not mean we are all free to do as we wish or thwart authority.


I believe God’s word teaches we are all equal in three equally specific ways.


First, we all have equal access to God.  God waits to hear from all of us in prayer.  He knocks at the door of our hearts wanting access and fellowship.  All any of us have to do is call upon Him.  For the sinner, He wants to hear the call for forgiveness.  For the Christian, He wants the daily and moment by moment fellowship.  God does not turn us away.  We might refuse to come, but He always stands ready to hear and answer.  The only barrier to anyone’s access to Him is sin which is unforgiven, and the sin that pulls us away from Him.  But He is always near, always there, always willing.  We all have equal access.


Then, we all have an equal value to God.  He is no respecter of persons.  To Him, there is no Jew or Greek, no male nor female; all are the same.  He sees us as valuable because He is our Creator.  Everything He created was good. 


God is not color-blind.  He created variety, individuality, and uniqueness. Every one of His creations is special, unique, and valuable. To be valuable means having worth.  So much worth, that God sent His Son to redeem us. 


When Adam went astray, God sought to win him back because Adam was valuable to God.  We are valuable; therefore, God will seek us out. He will offer the call to forgiveness and

like that Good Shepherd, go out looking for us when we go astray.  God doesn’t leave His valuables unattended!  Every life is precious to God—every life.


So, we all have equal access. We all have equal value, and then, we all have equal – get ready for it – equal accountability.


It’s so nice to say we have equal access and equal value, but equal accountability puts a different spin on the whole thing.


Equal accountability.  God will judge each of us according to His word.  That tells me that I need to be applying the idea of equality to my relationships and actions.  If every man is equal, then I am accountable for how I treat God’s creation.  It doesn’t matter if I am the employee or the employer; God holds me responsible for my treatment of the other person.  It leaves me with no excuse when I misuse my power or allow pride to be my driver; there is no room for power or pride in accountability. I can’t hide behind excuses or claim ignorance.  God says every one of us will give an account of ourselves before Him.


We are all equal.  We all stand at the foot of the cross and make our decision like the two thieves on either side of Jesus.  They had equal access – the God of all creation was right beside them.  They had equal value – He was there dying for the sins of both.  And, they had equal accountability. What were they going to do with their opportunity?  One decided to humbly kneel his heart; the other chose to rebel and reject.


Today, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our view on equality.  I think if you take time to look through this lens, your opinion will be considerably changed.  Instead of seeing masses of people with whom you are not involved, you will understand that you are a part of the creation, with access to God, valuable, and accountable, as are they all.


I find this truly humbling because I understand we are all on a level playing field.  And it challenges me because I know there are times when I have not treated my fellow human beings with the value they deserve, and pride has been in my heart.  It creates zeal.  I want them to know God’s love and acceptance. It makes me fearful as well, because I know I must give account to God of my life.


So, while people scream for equality, let’s see them for what they are.  Poor and needy, but the Lord is there for them.  They are precious in His sight and accountable to a holy God.


All lives matter because all lives have equal—


A – Access   V – Value    A— Accountability

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Week Twenty-Five - Respect is Earned

Respect is earned, not demanded. I hope I’m not the only mother who tried to teach this principle to their children. I’m sure I’m not!


When little ones stomp their feet or scream because they can’t get their way, that is not the time for parents to cowl under. It is time to teach them respect for authority. It doesn’t have to be heavy-handed, but it needs to be in a way that brings them back into control of themselves, and into submission to the situation.


When the teen starts howling and hurling language and attitude, that is also a time for parents to stand up and teach the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Sadly, if this lesson is not learned in the home, it becomes a hurdle for young adults as they try to navigate jobs, relationships, and society.


Respect is like wings; it takes us further than you can imagine. But it must be earned. You can’t stomp your feet, and demand people respect you. It will not happen. The minute you stomp your feet, you have lost the respect you demand.


Dr. Ben Carson put it simply, “People need to grow up.”


Earning your wings is vital. As I watched my teens get closer to leaving home, I began talking to them about earning the privilege of leaving home. As their parents, we needed to believe they knew how to act in public, handle money, take on responsibility, and become good citizens. We impressed upon them the importance of becoming a part of society and playing their role respectfully. Then, we could let them leave home.


Oh, they weren’t perfect, but they got out there and found their feet and earned the respect of their peers and us, as their parents. Such is the cycle of life, or as I believe it should be.


Respect is earned by keeping your word, showing responsibility, exhibiting good, honest character, and being the change—being the difference.


I believe it comes from two places. First of all, respect for authority—God’s authority first of all. Then, the authority of the various avenues of law, taxes, employers, etc. Many authorities in life are due our respect and cooperation. God says these authorities are there for our protection so we can live a peaceful life. 1 Timothy 1:9 tells us that law is given not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous—those that would defy authority.


If we disrespect authority, we can only expect to be judged by the law as lawbreakers. No amount of demanding or stomping our feet can change that.


The other place is learning respect for those around you. Some of us live in very multi-cultural communities. Others live in more singular cultural places. But one law of respect holds true throughout all cultures—treat each other as you would want to be treated. (The Golden Rule)


When we came to England, we had loads to learn about the culture. We got in and did our best to understand, and today, we are probably more British than American! When I married my husband, who is a Cherokee Indian, I had to learn about Indian culture. I wanted them to accept me and respect me as a person, so I had to do the same for them. In time, we have grown closer and closer. We have come to respect our differences and see the beauty of each.


I could not have entered either culture demanding they understand me first. I had to take time to watch, observe, talk, and try. That sort of sounds like growing up, doesn’t it? We grow in understanding when we try to understand! But when we stubbornly hang on to our ideas, we miss out and never gain the respect we desire.


I’m writing this today because I am concerned about the way things are going in society. It troubles me greatly to think that we have learned nothing from the riots in the 60s and all of the teaching schools have tried to do on ethnic acceptance. It bothers me that the screaming toddlers of a few years ago are now the screaming adults in the streets.


Parents, the onus is on us to teach our children to be respectful of themselves, of God, and others. Without that balance, humanity will continue stomping its feet and hurdling on its downward spiral.


Respect is earned, not demanded! Let’s teach our children how to earn it!


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What Are You Hanging On To?

Week Twenty-Four - Thou Art No Bird!

My friend gave me a little book to read by Amy Carmichael called His Thoughts Said…His Father Said. It’s a different sort of book than most; the disciple puts forward his question or thought in one paragraph; then, the Lord answers in another short couple of paragraphs. It makes for some interesting reading. I want to share one of them with you today.


“His thoughts said, ‘Arrows are shot, as it were, from darkness, from nowhere. I cannot see whence they come and I do not know why they are shot. I only know that I long to escape out of their reach.’


His Father said, ‘That is not a new temptation. Meet it as he did who wrote, ‘How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? They make ready their arrow upon the string that they may shoot in darkness.’ (Psalm 11:1-3 NASB) Arrows shot in open day can be seen and countered. Arrows shot in darkness test the temper and poise of the spirit. But do not flee as a bird. Thou art no bird.”


“Thou art no bird!” I love that! It doesn’t take much to cause a bird to fly, does it? One wave of the arms, one unexpected noise, and they take flight. But we are not birds! We should not be so easily moved or frightened.


Sometimes, circumstances happen in this world where to flee would seem the fair and natural thing to do, but the path of duty is plain. We are to remain where we are. We are to boldly face the danger and commit the whole matter to God.


The wicked want to scare us out of our faith, to intimidate us, or cause us to doubt God’s ability, but we know our calling. We are to trust in Him—come what may. We are to stand. We are to be found faithful, not flighty!


Take time to read the whole of Psalm 11, and you will see that though the enemy was trying to scare David, he knew where to place his trust. “In the Lord put I my trust,” he says.


I know these are perilous times. I know fear and sadness grip our hearts with the things that we see and read, but we have a calling, “be ye blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:15, 16).


Let’s not be birds. Let’s be light-bearers, standing confidently, and doing our duty!



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Week Twenty-Three - Dig Your Heels In

Stubbornness is a trait that runs in my family.  My grandfather even had a sign on the wall above his place at the table that read, “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up.”  And he meant it!  Once he set himself on something, he dug his heels in. You weren’t going to dislodge him by debate.  It was better to let him come to it himself.


I don’t want to talk about stubbornness today, but I do want to talk about digging our heels in.  If you look at Ephesians 6, you will read about the armor of God.  If we fit ourselves with the whole armor, we will be able to withstand the evil day.  Boy, do we need that kind of armor right now!


We have truth to protect our loins, righteousness to guard our heart, peace for our feet, faith against the devil’s fiery darts, salvation as a constant for our mind, and our sword is the Word of God. Every day we need to don our armor because the war is real.


I want us to look at two ideas here.  One is our feet, and the other is the promise.  I don’t know where I heard it, but someone was explaining about the phrase, “feet shod.”  Apparently, Roman soldiers had special sandals for war.  They were equipped with cleats to help them stand their ground in battle.  This idea of digging in our heels applies here.  We are to stand fast, stand securely, and having done all, the Bible says, to stand.


It reminds me of the reply of the Three Hebrew Children in Daniel 3:16-18. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

These boys stood for what they believed.  They dug their heels in, and God honored them.

They weren’t just being stubborn for no reason; they were standing for truth.  Their feet were shod.  They were prepared.  Are we prepared to stand for truth?  Standing for truth should bring peace because it gives a clear line of right and wrong.


Let’s look now at the promise.  This blesses my heart.  Ephesians 6:16 says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”  Do you see it?  It is there in that simple word, shall.  Ye SHALL be able.  The fiery darts are quenched by faith.  We are assured of victory.


1 John 4:4 and 5:4 say we overcome.  Not will or may, but overcome.  Matter of fact, 1 John 4:4 says, “have overcome.”  So, our victory is secure.  We can plant our feet in this promise.


We “shall be able.”  It is an emphatic statement—an absolute.  Satan’s darts will fall cold and lifeless as we stand prepared and defended by total faith.  Isn’t that amazing?  And standing is what we are to do.  To stand with the standard waving, ready to answer for the hope that lies within us, and to point others to that solid truth where they can stand as well.


So, here’s the thing.  Are our feet shod?  Are we standing in truth?  If worry, fear, hate, or anxiety are ruling in our hearts, we are unshod.  We are without cleats. 


Let’s dig our heels in a little deeper into the solid truth of God’s word and stand against Satan' darts by fervent prayer and in absolute faith.  We are assured of this promise—"ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”