OUR GOD CAN DELIVER US FROM ALL FEAR

September 12, 2016

“Simple” is good. Although I love to make homemade pizza, when my schedule is complicated, there’s a simple way to enjoy our Friday night pizza. I speed dial our favorite local pizzeria. Simple!

The Psalmist David also understood that “simple” is good. Take the example of fear. By his own admission, there were times when David was afraid. His antidote for fear was simple: “I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) Simple!

All my fears” included fighting a lion and a bear as a young shepherd, facing the giant Goliath, being on King Saul’s hit list. (That’s when he was being pursued by 3,000 of the King’s choice men. ) As Israel’s king, David also faced innumerable enemies – including his own son Absalom, who’s evil plan was to dethrone David. Even in those hair-raising situations, David knew that when he sought God, God would deliver him from all his fears. Simple!

When complicated unknown situations fill you with paralyzing fear, follow David’s example: go simple. Seek God, trusting Him to deliver you. If He delivered David from all his fears, he can deliver you from all your fears, because that’s what God does. Simple!

(Join me every Monday of 2016 in my quest to know God better.)


WELL, YOU LOOK LIKE YOU COULD BE A GRANDMA!

August 13, 2013

A conversation with a four-year old a few years ago reminded me that people aren’t always what they seem to be. Little Vanesa’s enormous, questioning brown eyes looked me over and she inquired, “Whose Grandma are you?” I was in my mid-40’s then, and taken aback by her spontaneous, innocent question. I replied “I’m not a Grandma.” And the conversation continued. “Why aren’t you a Grandma?” I was sure that  “Because I’m not old enough” would satisfy her curiosity, but it didn’t. Vanesa had the last word, frankly expressing her observation, “Well, you look like you could be a Grandma.”

People aren’t always what they seem to be. The ruddy, bright-eyed, youngest son of Jesse didn’t look like he would be the one to sit on Israel’s throne one day; at least his dad didn’t think so. A keeper of Jesse’s sheep, David was chosen by God not only to lead His people, but to be the direct ancestral line through whom the Savior of the world would be born! (Matthew 1:6) God saw in David what neither his own dad nor the prophet Samuel could see. God knew David’s heart, and told Samuel that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Like Jesse and Samuel, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that people really are as we see them. It’s easy to hold someone in low esteem, or to be judgmental and even feel a little “holier than thou” when others don’t line up with our personal set of standards. It just takes a wacky neighbor, an obnoxious co-worker, a grumpy cashier at the store, or someone who outwardly expresses their inner creativity…and the trap is set. We tend to immediately assess them. Instead of thinking that’s who the person is, let’s ask God to see what HE wants us to see in them. A cry for help? A longing to be accepted? A compassionate bent? A future friend? Loneliness?

People aren’t always what they seem to be. Let’s look beyond “Well, you look like you could be a ….” (you can fill in the blank) and discover the “real” person. Let’s allow them to enrich us in their unique way, and see how we can bless them with the love of God that has been poured out in our hearts!


IN A DRY AND THIRSTY LAND

March 24, 2013

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied…
and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips
.”
Psalm 63:3-5

When he wrote this, the Psalmist David was not peacefully strumming on his harp, gazing on his satisfied sheep in lush green pastures. Nor was he reigning from his throne, oblivious to pain and suffering of the masses. In fact, when David made the declarations of Psalm 63, he was running for his life. King Saul’s plan was to kill David for fear that this young, popular warrior would take his throne.

This Psalm finds David in the desert, after he escaped from hiding in a cave. Even in this wilderness of Judah, David did not let his seemingly hopeless situation eclipse his worship. Here’s how David worshiped in that “dry and thirsty land

Your lovingkindness is better than life” … even life in this dry and thirsty land.
My lips shall praise You” …even though they are parched in this dry and thirsty land.
Thus I will bless You while I live”…even in this dry and thirsty land, You are worthy.
I will lift up my hands in Your name”….trusting You in this dry and thirsty land.
My soul shall be satisfied”…because I know You are with me in this dry and thirsty land.
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips”…You created me to praise You, even in this dry and thirsty land.

Your “dry and thirsty land” isn’t a wilderness; neither is mine. You are not running from the authorities to save your life; neither am I. But our “dry and thirsty land” might look like pain, disappointment, grief, uncertainty, fear, loneliness, loss. When we have to deal with those issues, like David, we must focus on the fact that God’s “lovingkindness is better than life.” Believing that, we will be motivated to worship Him…even in a dry and thirsty land!


FROM PREDICAMENT TO PRAISE

January 3, 2013

Predicament: “an unpleasantly difficult, perplexing or dangerous situation.”  (www.dictionary.com)

Were you ever in a predicament? The Psalmist David was. In Psalm 57, he journaled one of the most intense situations he ever faced. King Saul and 3,000 of his chosen men were chasing David; they were out to kill him. (1st Samuel chapters 22-24) Hiding in the cave of En Gedi, David poured his heart out to God, and ended up with a beautiful exclamation of praise.  For our benefit, God allowed David’s chronicled journey from predicament to praise to be recorded for us! Let’s look at Psalm 57.

David’s predicament: Running from King Saul and 3,000 men, he was hiding in a cave. He wrote: “My soul is among the lions…they have prepared a net for my steps.” (v.4,6)

David’s plea: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!” (v.1)

David’s perspective: Trust! “…for my soul trusts in You.” (v.1)

David’s position: In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by.”  (v.1)

David’s promise: “I will cry out to God Most High…” (v.2)

David’s peace: “He shall send from heaven and save me…God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.” (v. 3)

David’s persistence: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and give praise.” (v.7)

David’s praise: “Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth.”

David’s predicament didn’t immediately improve; but his heart was in the right place and God was glorified, even in the cave! When we face predicaments of our own, let’s challenge ourselves to follow David’s steps from predicament to praise!


EPITAPHS – Capturing the Essence

August 25, 2011

Reading biographies is an excellent learning experience. We can always learn something from someone else, even if that happens to be a “good example of how not to be”, a phrase I heard my mother frequently declare. A book I enjoy reading is a compilation of brief biographies of hymn writers entitled “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan. Finishing the biography of a certain hymn writer, a simple phrase caught my attention. The author simply stated: “Eliza died in 1920, and her grave at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia reads simply: ‘Eliza Edmunds Hewitt, Hymn Writer, Author of Sunshine in My Soul’ “. In the story of Eliza’s life, the author related that she was a woman who had a very full and meaningful life. She was a teenager during the Civil War, and because of her love for children, she became a teacher. She suffered severe injuries in an accident, an as a result, became an invalid and had to give up that vocation that she so loved. Even though her life was replete with pain and disappointment, Eliza chose not to let her circumstances take away her joy, and became a creator of poems and hymns. No doubt she could have had written volumes about her own life, yet it was summed up in seven short, simple words that live on: “Hymn writer, Author of Sunshine in My Soul”. Through the epitaph her loved ones had inscribed, the essence of all that really mattered in her life was captured.

A parade of well-known biblical figures marched across the screen of my mind, and I wondered what their epitaph would say, if they had them. Although there isn’t much evidence to prove the validity of it, I recently read that the tomb of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, was found and his epitaph says something to the effect of “Here Lies Lazarus. He Was Dead Three Days.” My mind wandered as I pondered on the Apostle John. Would his epitaph have said “John, the Beloved Disciple”? The inscription on the Apostle Paul’s tombstone could well have read “Here Lies Paul, Chief of Sinners, Saved by Grace”. We can imagine what would be fitting for David: “A Man After God’s Own Heart”, or Abraham, “Friend of God”. Can we envision Joseph’s tombstone saying: “Forgiving Brother, Showed Mercy”? Queen Esther could have had inscribed: “Beautiful, Courageous, She Saved Her People” on her grave. The essence of the most important character trait or accomplishment of these people could have been recorded to give the world a glimpse into their lives for millenniums after their departure. Curiously reading interesting epitaphs, I found that the words inscribed on the tombstones of both famous and common people reflect the spirit of what that person was or did. Some of the interesting ones read: “Jefferson Davis – At Rest – An American Soldier and Defender of the Constitution”. On the tombstone of someone whose name we don’t know, a loved one read: “Loving you, Mick, Has Made My Life Richer”. A gentleman named John Dryden (1631-1700) had the following inscribed on his wife’s tombstone: “Here Lies My Wife: Here Let Her Lie! Now She’s at Rest, and So Am I”. Alexander the Great is buried under the heading: “A Tomb Now Suffices Him For Whom The World Was Not Enough”, and Al Capone’s has three simple words: “My Jesus Mercy”. The list is unending; the inscriptions may be moving, joyous or humorous. They may be a fitting eulogy, or a prejudiced opinion of a “loved” one who perhaps finally got a chance to express what was left unexpressed in life; but in all cases, the epitaph attempts to accomplish the same purpose: to concisely reflect who the departed person was, or what was accomplished in the life that was snuffed out.

How could anyone ever even attempt to encapsulate 62, 94, 25 or even 10 years of achievements, struggles, gains, losses, joys and suffering into less than 10 words to display to the world? Where can the precise words be found that would portray a life that was lived to the fullest? I look down the road and see my own loving spouse and adult children after my passing. Will it be difficult for them to formulate seven, or 10 or even 5 words to inscribe on my tombstone? What words will they choose? How I’ve lived my life will determine that. Because of the uncertainty of life, I don’t want to make it complicated for them in the event that they be faced with this task sooner than we all think. How should I live my life from now on so that the epitaph they write for me speaks clearly and accurately of my values, my goals and my relationships? How should I live every day to reflect my faith in my Heavenly Father whose mercy is new every morning, and by whose grace I will be welcomed into His presence? Would the epitaph I prepare for myself contain essentially the same message that they would choose to inscribe for me? Regardless of how many minutes, days, years or decades I have left on this earth, I want to live what’s left of my life purposefully. I want to live it in such a way that my loved ones who remain when I’m gone have no doubts as to that purpose and my character, and that they might encapsulate the essence of my life in a few short, meaningful words that would be a testimony of God’s unending love and faithfulness to future generations. My desire is that God be exalted in my life, AND through my epitaph!


ALL – Not Just SOME!

October 19, 2010

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and ALL that is within me, bless His holy name! 
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not ALL His benefits.” Psalm 103:1,2

“I will bless the Lord at ALL times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34: 1

                David committed himself to praising the Lord at ALL times, with ALL his being. David lived a life of extremes: he experienced abundant blessings and the most horrific situations; he rejoiced with dancing in times of victory and anguished in the lowest pits of despair. Suffering the consequences of sin, David had times of family disasters and times of national catastrophe; he went through periods of discouragement, a season of trying to hide his sin, but later praised God for His forgiveness and wholeness. When he worshiped God, he did it with ALL of his heart. How could David have composed many of the Psalms under the most despairing circumstances? How could he choose to worship God at ALL times, and praise Him with ALL his being?

                The secret lies in the personal relationship that David cultivated with God in the good times. Knowing God with the degree of intimacy that he did gave David the assurance that God always takes care of ALL our troublesome situations. In Psalm 34 we can read that bad times will come in our lives, but God will see us through them ALL – not just some of them!

v. 4 “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from ALL my fears.” (Not just SOME!)

v. 6 “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of ALL his troubles” (Not just SOME!)

v. 17 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of ALL their troubles.” (Not just SOME!)

v. 19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them ALL.” (Not just SOME!)

                While it’s true that God is able to deliver me from ALL my fears and troubles, it’s also true that Like David, I must choose to strengthen my relationship with Him in the good times. When I choose to bless Him at ALL times, with ALL that is within me, I will also seek Him in times of distress. In the measure that ALL that is within me blesses His holy name when life is good, my natural response in difficulties will be to cry out to Him and keep praising Him with the assurance  that He hears me and will deliver me from ALL my fears, ALL my troubles and ALL my afflictions – not just SOME!


INTERVIEWS FROM THE PAST: “One Thing” (Part 1)

October 2, 2010

Imagine a news reporter conducting a series of interviews for a special program titled “ONE THING”. This reporter has the privilege of travelling back in time to meet with any person in history.  I’m thinking that one of the interviews might look like this:

The reporter interviewed KING DAVID – Known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel”. (2nd Samuel 23:1) Not only King, David was also a musician, singer, songwriter and composer of poems. He was described by God as “a man after My own heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22)

REPORTER:  “King David, what is the ONE THING you have desired and pursued in your life?

KING DAVID: “Interesting that you should ask that, because there really is “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

REPORTER: “Let’s see if I understand that. You insistently ask God to be in His presence as long as you live, just to gaze on His beauty and meditate on Him?

KING DAVID: “That is correct. There is nothing more important in life than knowing Him and cultivating a close relationship with Him. Nothing! That’s the ONE THING I desire and am pursuing every day!”

REPORTER: “Hummmmmm….”

Tomorrow, in Part 2 of “Interviews From the Past”,  our reporter will look at another aspect of ONE THING. Log on to read the next interview.


What’s Your “Sleep Number”?

August 26, 2010

Like a magnet, that question drew me to the TV. My ears perked up when I heard “sleep number” and I dropped everything I was doing in another room to learn about the product being offered: an innovative mattress that is supposedly far superior to all others. Among other facts, the announcer assured the public that 87% of the users of this mattress testify to sleeping more soundly.

It’s indisputable that a good mattress contributes to a night of comfortable sleep; but that isn’t the sole factor. That 87% stat can be improved to 100%, regardless of the mattress that sustains our weary body if our “sleep number” is 33:27…or 3:4-5….or 4:8. Allow me to explain:

At the end of his life, God’s servant Moses, who spent countless days and long nights wandering in the desert – without a “sleep number” – wrote in Deuteronomy 33:27:The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms.” Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. (Deut. 34:7) Apparently, his “sleep number” was 33:27, the comfort of knowing that God’s everlasting arms were underneath him, sustaining him no matter what!

Many years later, King David revealed his “sleep number”. It was 3:4-5. David’s rebel son Absalom was attempting to overthrow the kingdom when David, fleeing from him wrote in Psalm 3:4-5: “I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me…I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.” Under unbearable emotional pain and untold stress, David was assured that God heard his cries, and he rested peacefully in God’s sustaining power!

On another occasion, David again testified to getting peaceful rest even in the most troubling times of his life. “Sleep number” 4:8 attests to that. “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

Those are my “sleep numbers”. If you toss and turn, not being able to get a good night’s sleep, don’t invest in a “sleep number” mattress just yet! Write down these eternal truths, put them on your nightstand and read them often. Memorize them. Thank God for them. Most of all, commit your entire life to Him, and rest in His peace…with HIS “sleep number”!!


TRUSTING IN GOD’S MERCY

June 30, 2010

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,  Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

How long?…How long?…How long?….How long?….” Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 13 paint a picture of discouragement and potential defeat as David poured his heart out before the Lord, yet there is a turning point in verse 5 as he declared “But I have trusted in Your mercy.”

At this point in his journey, David learned that in every life situation, even the most difficult times, he could trust in God’s mercy. Even though he was being tracked and persecuted by King Saul and his armies, David trusted in God’s mercy. When his life was in danger, causing him to spend long, dark nights in hiding, he trusted in God’s mercy. Because God forgave his horrendous sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, He trusted in God’s mercy. His own beloved son Absalom rose up against him, plotting to take over the kingdom and still David chose to trust in God’s mercy. If we study every event in David’s life, we will get a clear picture of why, as he poured out his heart to the Lord in despair in Psalm 13, he chose to declare But I have trusted in Your mercy.” (verse 5) He realized that it was only God’s mercy that pulled him through his circumstances.

So…remembering how bountifully God had dealt with him produced a response in David, even as he was crying out to God. His response? He chose to rejoice in God’s salvation and to sing praises to Him. Wait…maybe I don’t understand this Psalm… David is lamenting that God is silent, is distant, and wonders if he’s been forgotten. He fears the enemy will overtake him. Maybe I don’t get it. In this very situation David chose to rejoice and sing to God?…to keep trusting in His mercy? How could he do that?? Ahh…David looked back and remembered God’s mercy and His goodness towards him in every situation in the past. That gave him peace in the present and hope for the future. He knew he could trust God’s mercyALWAYS!

 So I look at my own life: There are times when I don’t like or understand the situation; when I can’t see because of the darkness; when pain, like a belligerent intruder, won’t budge. At times the long-awaited answer doesn’t come, and occasions when the answer isn’t the one I had expected. Like David, there are times when I have more questions than answers, and I wonder if God is even working on my case. There are times when I also ask “How long?…”

How do I respond in those situations? Like David? As I cry out to God, I want to remember how good God has been to me in the past, in spite of my present circumstances. I can clearly see how God has shown me His goodness and mercy, often unexpectedly and undeservedly. It was only His mercy that brought me through. So today I want to respond by choosing to trust in His mercy for my actual, present situation. The turning point comes in my life, too, when I chose to trust in God’s mercy and I declare with David: 

“But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5,6)

                                                                                               

 


THE FATHER’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

June 19, 2010

 2ND Samuel chapters 13-19

Thinking of fathers throughout history, we can learn from their lives. King David as a father is an example of unconditional love towards a rebellious son.  One of the consequences of David’s shameful sin with Bathseba was that God would raise up adversity against him from his own house. (2 Sam. 12:11). Being warned that someone from his own family would turn against him, that severe adversity came through his son, Absalom. 

Absalom grew to be a cunning, vengeful man. Because of his evil lifestyle, David “wept very bitterly” (13:36) and “he mourned for his son every day…” (13:39). Finally after several years, they were reconciled. Absalom “bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom”. (14:33). It seemed to be the end of a long, dreadful chapter, but the seeds of hate and bitterness below the surface of Absalom’s heart were about to bring even more anguish to David.

Absalom was working behind the scenes, scheming another plot. This time he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” We know that Absalom had a plan, but he wasn’t going to rush into it. He waited another forty years before he got enough followers to rise up against his Father, the king, and attempt to overtake the throne. He enlisted conspirators and spies to join him in the uprising. His followers increased. (15:12) Realizing that Absalom was after him, David and all of his followers fled from Jerusalem to the wilderness. David wept as he left; some of his trusted friends turned against him. During the time of this upheaval, David wrote Psalm 3 in which he laments, confesses his trust in God, commits to continued trust, and keeps crying out to God.

David, having his troops organized for the battle against his own son, did the unthinkable: within earshot of all the people, he commanded his military leaders to “deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” Confusion must have overtaken them all: deal gently with the enemy?…deal gently with the sinister being who wants to overthrow your throne?…deal gently with the person who is plotting your death?…what are we fighting for?…deal gently…what are you thinking???

Despite David’s request for mercy on his rebellious son, God, who is always  in control, executed His perfect judgment on Absalom, allowing his hair to get tangled in a tree, leaving him hanging as his mule continued on. David’s warriors then killed and buried Absalom.

How did David react in all of this national turmoil, rebellion and wicked scheming by his own son? When word reached David that he had been delivered from: “the men who raised their hand against my lord the king” (18:28), David’s first reaction was: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:29) The second messenger brought news of the victory, and again David inquired: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:32) We see the deep love that David had for his rebellious son who intended such evil against him. Realizing that Absalom had died, David was very, very deeply sorrowed, and “went up to the chamber over the gate and wept…o my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son.” (18:33) Setting aside the fact that David was king of Israel, and seeing him in his role as father, we see how deeply he loved his son Absalom in spite of a lifetime of scheming rebellion. That father love was evident although the son didn’t realize it, and didn’t even care that he was causing his father unspeakable distress and pain.

There is a strong parallel between this story of David’s love for his son and God’s love for us. I’m reminded of how much God the Father loves each one of us His children, even though we turn from Him, cause Him pain and rebel against Him. David himself often wrote about God’s mercy and everlasting love. Perhaps David understood that love because he experienced it, and that’s what motivated him to love Absalom to the end.

God doesn’t give up on us. He loves us, and will love us “to the end”. God’s love doesn’t hinge on what we do or don’t do. It is rooted in the very nature of His love, which is unconditional and unchangeable! He will always love His children!

How do these truths affect my life? They give me a greater appreciation for His everlasting love to me, while also showing me that I must love others the way He loves me: unconditionally. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God…In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” (1st John 4:7,10)…Yes, my Father God loved me first, He loves me no matter what, and I can live with the assurance that He always will love me! THAT’S the Father’s unconditional love!


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