Lessons from a Warrior -Part 4

Who would have thought that so many life lessons could be gleaned from one story in the life of an ancient, Israelite warrior? My disclaimer here is that I have no personal military experience, nor am I close to anyone that does. But I do claim allegiance to the One True God who guided this young man for His glory. He still does the same today. 

Part 3 of these lessons I concluded with the fact that God rewards those who give in secret and commands that we are to treat all people with mercy. David received the knowledge of his enemies’ exact location after caring for the abandoned, sick slave of the Amalekites. He and his men were able to defeat the raiders and regain all that was stolen from them. Don’t miss that detail. There was nothing missing! God’s protective hand was on their families and their belongings. Who wouldn’t want that kind of reward?!

After a victorious battle, David, his men and their families headed towards home, stopping off at the Besor Valley where they joined the one third of his men who had stayed behind due to exhaustion. Wouldn’t you know, the joy and excitement wouldn’t last. There was trouble in the camp. We discover that there were “evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers (1 Samuel 30:22).” Not only were they bringing back their people and belongings, but they picked up the spoils of greed on the way! 

The four hundred men who fought the battle didn’t want to share the plunder with the two hundred men who stayed with the supplies. David had to talk them out of their selfish ways and declared that all would share alike. (David had to put on the hat of kindergarten teacher here). At first reading this just doesn’t sound fair. Remember when you were in school or college and the teacher assigned group projects? There were always some who did none of the work and still received the same grade as those who did all the work. This is exactly like that. It would seem these men did nothing and deserved no rewards, but David was a giving leader and knew how to take care of his men. You may be thinking why God allowed this when David was a man after God’s own heart. We must remember that we have all fallen short and no one is perfect. It may be that these men had suppressed their evil intentions until this very moment. David’s actions are a picture of how Jesus gives even when we don’t deserve it. That’s called grace. 

How about you? Would you be willing to share in the rewards with others who seemingly did nothing to deserve them? 

David told the fighting men that no one would listen to what they had to say if they were selfish in this matter. He reminded them that it was God who delivered them and gave them the plunder. He felt so strongly about this that he made it the rule in Israel from that day forward. We may not have plunder from a battle, but if you are reading this post, you like, me are greatly blessed by God. If we are stingy with His blessings that will over shadow what we say to others about our giving Father. We must show God’s love in tangible ways before someone will listen to us about Him. 

David wasn’t stopping with just the two hundred men who didn’t actively fight in the battle. He also sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah who were his friends and to the people of over a dozen towns and other places where he and his men had roamed. David probably taught this proverb to his son Solomon who later wrote, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great (Proverbs 18:16)” David was bonding with the people who would later make him king.

Are you willing to send gifts to others outside your inner circle? Are you helping other believers around the world with their needs? Who knows, God sees your generous heart and may have even greater things in store for you. Solomon also wrote, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).” 

This story proves that God’s word is still relevant today. Just in this one narrative of David and his men we identified that when the enemy is attacking, we should go directly for God for guidance and when God does answer in His way, we obey even if we don’t have all the details. David showed us how to take care of others even when it’s inconvenient or we will gain nothing in return. He also exemplified a caring person who knew the benefits of sharing all the blessings from the Lord. The key is not just in the discovery of these life lessons, but in the application of them in our daily lives.

So get out there and become the man or woman after God’s own heart!

Lessons From a Warrior- Part 3

Please read my last two posts to catch up on this particular story involving David, the warrior, anointed to be King of Israel. Of course you can find it in the book of 1 Samuel Chapter 30 of the Bible.

When we left David’s story last time, we found that he succeeded in defeating his enemies and taking back what they had stolen- wives, children and all their belongings. This triumph came only because David followed God’s ways, one of which was to tend to a sick slave found left to die in a field.    

Notice that David’s men found the slave and brought him to David. They did this because they knew the character of their leader. Even though David was on a mission, he stopped to help the helpless. He could have thought or even said aloud to his men, “We don’t have time to play nursemaid. We have to find our families!” Once hearing that he was an Egyptian and a slave of an Amalekite, David could have left him. After all, the Egyptians and the Amalekites were enemies of Israel. Hearing the man say, “We burned Ziklag” could have been the justification the men needed for also leaving him to die, but that was not David’s heart.

David’s compassion to care for this sick man should remind us that we are to care for others no matter if they can do nothing for us in return even if it is inconvenient to our plans and even if they are our enemy.

As I was reflecting on occasions I had helped someone that could give me nothing in return, I had two voices vying for my attention. Unfortunately, Satan jumped at the chance to remind me of times I had helped someone and they didn’t thank me or even acknowledge my help after they recovered from whatever hard circumstances they were experiencing. But the voice I chose to listen to was the voice of the Holy Spirit. He reminded me of Jesus’ words about giving to the needy. He said, “Don’t announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:2-4).” Basically, for us today, we are not to post our benevolent giving to the poor on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform so that we can rack up numerous likes and have people comment on how wonderful we are. Even if someone you help doesn’t thank you or acknowledge your help, God knows, and he is the only one that ultimately matters because his reward is so much greater than praise of men.

So, with that in mind, I’ve chosen a story that Jesus told to an expert in the Law (the Old Testament scriptures) during a discussion about what one must do to inherit eternal life. After stating one must love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself, the expert asked, “Who is my neighbor?” According to this story, the neighbor’s name could very well have been David.

This story is well known as the story of the Good Samaritan, but if you don’t know the background found in the Old Testament of who a Samaritan was, you won’t fully grasp the point Jesus was making. Remember he was telling this story to a man who spent his entire life studying the Scriptures. There’s no doubt that he would have known exactly who a Samaritan was.

Old Testament history tells us that Israel had an evil king named Omri who reigned for twelve years beginning around 885 BC. He bought a hill, built a city on it and named it Samaria. From this place he and every evil king after him ruled the nation of Israel. Finally, because of all the wickedness, the Lord had the Assyrians take the city and all the Israelites were sent into exile in Assyria. Then the Assyrian king deported people from Babylon, and other pagan cities into Samaria. Because these people knew nothing about worshipping the one true God of Israel, he had one of the Israelite priests sent back to teach these people how to worship the Lord. He did not do this out of reverence for God but to stop the lions that God sent from annihilating the people. Samaria soon embraced a cafeteria style of worship. The menu included worshiping the Lord along with all other sorts of pagan gods from the nations the people came from. 

Fast track over nine hundred years when Jesus walked the earth. The relationship between the Jews and Samaritans had become one of utter hatred for each other. And don’t think for a second that Jesus didn’t know this when he told the following story. 

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw he man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. The he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out to two denarii (two days’ wages) and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” Jesus then asked the expert of the law,” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (Luke 10:30-36).

What would you do if you came upon an injured person lying in the street? Would you just keep on walking or would you stop to help? What if this person was from a group of people who did not think like you, dress like you, talk like you, worship like you or even worship the same God? Would you go so far as to take him to the hospital emergency room and leave your credit card to cover his medical expenses? Or what if you hear of someone close by who has contracted the Corona virus and needs assistance? Would you put your own fears and schedule aside and help this person? It’s clear that David did not let anything stop him from helping the sick man nor did any excuse stop the Samaritan from caring for the injured man. 

Remember what Jesus said about giving in secret? God would see and reward those who give in secret. David did what was right as well as the Samaritan. We don’t read anywhere that they made public announcements of their good deeds. God rewarded David with knowledge of the enemy’s whereabouts and the Samaritan received honor and fame through out history as “The Good Samaritan” written in the number one bestselling book of all time! 

Once the expert of the law stated that the injured man’s neighbor was the one who had mercy on him, Jesus commanded, “Go and do likewise.” 

We have the same marching orders!

Lessons from a Warrior – Part 2

In my last post I introduced you to the concept of learning from the life of David the Israelite warrior before he became King of Israel. The ultimate goal in doing so is to become a woman or man after God’s own heart. We learned that like David, we should seek God’s will before going to anyone else when we need guidance in all areas of our lives. Let’s continue the story of David and his mighty men pursuing the Amalikites who had burned their town and kidnapped their families (found in 1 Samuel 30).

Once David heard from God that they would be successful in their pursuit, he and his men set out to look for the raiding party. We’re not sure that they even knew who they were chasing at this point. Did the Amalikites leave a ransom note or some type of clue identifying them as the culprits? Even if David and his men were at a loss as to who did this, they had to trust in the Lord. They had to trust that God would take care of the details and all of their questions. This is so difficult for me because I’m a planner and I love details! 

So right from the start we find another valuable lesson. When God answers your prayers for guidance, start walking on the obedience path no matter if you don’t have all of the details and answers to your questions. The longer you delay obedience, the easier it will be to start second guessing that you heard from the Lord. When God sees that you are stepping out in faith to obey, he will give you signs of confirmation along the way. 

David stepped out in faith in their pursuit of those who had caused havoc and grief in their lives and so God was ready with the help they needed. They arrived at the Besor Valley where two hundred of the men stayed behind with the supplies due to exhaustion. Some may say that what happened next was a coincidence or they got lucky, but there are no coincidences nor luck with a sovereign God. As the four hundred men with David crossed the valley, they came upon an Egyptian in a field who was obviously ill. Once they revived him with water and food, they discovered he was the slave of an Amalikite, the very one who had burned Ziklag, David’s town.  God ordained this meeting so David and his men would know exactly who they were chasing. Not only did this slave give them the intel, but he led them right to the raiders! David found them celebrating the results of their wicked escapades and was able to defeat them in an all night and day battle. If David had not obeyed God in pursuing the raiders without all of the details first in place he would have missed out on getting the help he needed from the Egyptian. 

One example of stepping out in faith in my own life was obeying God’s call to leave a church we had served in for several years. God made it very obvious that we were to leave, but he didn’t give us specifics on which church to attend. I remember feeling like Abram, called to leave, but no idea where we were to go. We took the step of faith and finally landed at a Spirit-filled church where we served for many years. This also happened in my job situation. God told me to quit my teaching job when my son was two years old and be a stay at home mom. I had no idea how we would pay bills, especially since we had just purchased a new car, but God was faithful and worked out all the details of our finances. 

God does this for his children not only individually but corporately as well. The local church my husband and I are part of has worshipped in a temporary building for over a decade. While other campuses of our church around our state were getting permanent homes, we were beginning to wonder if it would ever happen to our campus in our city. But God. He was working it all out in ways we never would have imagined. Today we worshipped for the first time in our new debt free, permanent home. The praise song Waymaker that so many Christian churches are singing these days has a chorus that says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. Even when I don’t feel it You’re working. You never stop. You never stop working.” I have witnessed this many times over and over! 

So, how about you? Do you have a hard time trusting God when he doesn’t provide all the specifics for a particular circumstance? There are numerous stories in the Bible of when God didn’t reveal all of his plan. Basically, that’s what faith is all about. You can choose to trust the God who created you, loves you and only wants what’s best for you, or you can go your own way. If you’ve been doing the latter, I pray you will realize that it’s not been working and you need to turn to the only one who can work it all out for the good of those who love him. His name is Jesus!

Lessons From A Warrior

The story of David and Goliath is well known by many people, even non-church goers. Numerous lessons, story books and even movies have been produced about the courageous, young man who killed the Philistine Giant and would later become Israel’s greatest king. I have watched a few of the movies for entertainment purposes, but when I want to know just how this warrior became “a man after God’s own heart,” I go to the one true source, the Word of God. Recently, the Lord has revealed to me how David’s words and actions in a particular circumstance can be mirrored today by Christ- followers, of which I am one. I hope you will join me on this journey to become a woman or man after God’s own heart as you read what the Holy Spirit has shown me in his Word.

As a female living in the Western world several thousands of years after David lived and reigned, it’s difficult for me to put myself in his sandals. David was a shepherd as a young boy from the Judean town of Bethlehem. I’m a suburban girl, so I really have no idea how shepherds live, then or now. I did watch the entire series of McLeod’s Daughters about women who owned and worked a modern day sheep and cattle ranch in Australia, but I still have no real life experience with sheep. I had never even heard the baa of a sheep before I attended an event in which my husband’s young niece and nephew were showing sheep. Who knew there was such a thing! I wonder how David would have faired at a sheep show. 

It was during those shepherd days that David learned to trust God and he was able to defeat the Philistine giant Goliath. After this victory David became a warrior, and for at least the next fifteen years he and his band of mighty men were roaming the countryside fighting battles. Again, I have never fought in physical combat, but I know without a doubt there is a spiritual war all around us. We as believers in Jesus Christ are commanded to put on the full armor of God so we will be prepared to stand our ground when the when the enemy approaches. So I guess this means I am a warrior. Our only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, so reading, meditating and applying how God interacted with men and women in his Word (both Old and New Testament) is the best place to train for battle.  

Here are a few necessary facts to set the stage for this one particular story of David and his relationship with the Lord. Like today, there were ongoing conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. The Philistines were one of the constant sources of hostility towards the Israelites. Israel’s King Saul failed to keep his fighting champion David close by due to his own insecurity and extreme jealousy of the young hero. Also, because Saul had made his intentions of killing David very clear, David eventually settled his six hundred fighting men and their families in the distant town of Ziklag. This was a town allotted to Israel’s tribe of Judah years before but was under Philistine control at this time. Shockingly, David even had the blessing of one of the Philistine’s leaders, King Achish of Gath. And guess who was from Gath? None other than the giant Goliath that David had slain! 

At the beginning of Chapter 30 in the book of 1 Samuel, we find that David and his men joined King Achish and the other four Philistine kings’ armies to wage war against Israel, but the other rulers were totally opposed to David’s presence. They believed he would turn on them in battle. Even they knew the songs that the Israelite women sang about David and his victories, so King Achish sent him and his men back to Ziklag the next morning. It seems odd that David would switch allegiances and go to war against his own people. God does not spell out in his Word why David did this, but once he did, Israel’s King Saul quit looking for him.   

Three days later the story turns tragic. When David and his men returned home they discovered the entire town had been raided by another long time enemy of Israel, the Amelikites. The city was burned and all the inhabitants had been kidnapped. David and his army were filled with enormous grief. Unfortunately, the men’s grief turned to anger against David and they talked of killing him. David was not only grieving; he was totally stressed out!

OK, let’s try to imagine how this might play out today. You have been on a long, tiresome business trip with your employees and you can’t wait to see your family when you get home. When your plane lands at the airport in the city nearest your small town, you discover there’s no phone service and all internet has been shut down as well. Somehow you all are able to catch a cab (can’t call Uber) for the thirty-minute ride home, while anxiety is creeping in. As you pass the “Welcome” sign to your town, all of you notice that something’s not right. The town is eerily silent and no one is moving about. Anxiety has now turned to fear. One by one you discover that your houses have been looted and your families have been kidnapped! Your first reaction would be to ask, “Where are my people and who did this?” But now this situation goes from bad to worse. Your employees are blaming you and are plotting to kill you! What do you do?

Let’s look at what David did in his horrible situation. He was in great distress like his men, but he found strength in the Lord, his God. David needed advice, but he didn’t turn to another person, but to the only one who knew how to defeat his enemy. He inquired of the Lord, asking if he should go after the enemy and would he be successful in overtaking them. The Lord answered yes for both questions. 

So here’s a lesson in the form of a question for all of us. When the enemy is attacking, do we rely on the counsel of men or do we go directly to the Lord? Let that sink in.

Just as the Amalekites were Israel’s enemy, we too have a God-defying enemy. His name is Satan. Jesus said Satan is a murderer and the father of lies who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to kill your dreams, steal your joy and destroy all that God has given you. He may not physically kidnap your family or burn your house, but never think that he doesn’t have some plan to destroy you, especially if you are a Christ follower. Many of us pray about a situation, but still go to people for their advice. Godly counsel is not wrong, but make sure we aren’t bypassing God and his Word first, giving him time to speak directly to your spirit about his plans. Believe me, many times I, too wish God would just audibly speak when I am in dire need of help, but He has chosen to speak through his Word and Spirit.

Take time to meditate on that question. Ask God to show you where you are doing life on your own and to remind you that He wants you to seek Him first in every area of your life.

There’s more to learn from David, the warrior. Who says the Bible is boring?!

Light of the World

Christmas lights can be infuriating at times. Just ask anyone who has wrapped numerous strands around a tree only to discover once plugged in that the one strand in the middle doesn’t work! I totally get why Clark Griswold in the movie “Christmas Vacation” went crazy when he was decorating his house. My husband has retired from that job now that we are empty nesters. We just don’t decorate the outside so much anymore.

The inside of the house is a different story. It’s still lit up, most of the time. I have a particular decoration that has played games with me since I first plugged it in. The first several days the lights on a small, delicate tree next to the manger scene shone brightly, but then the bulbs went to sleep and refused to shine for days! So my husband checked all the bulbs and found the culprit, so we thought. It decided (as if it has a mind of it’s own!) to glimmer once more. After about a week of working properly, I awoke to find it’s nap time had materialized once again. I realize it’s probably the wiring of this fragile decoration made in China (first problem), but God showed me something profound this morning while sitting across the room from this scene.

As I stared at the table I heard his voice in my spirit saying, “The two miniature trees that surround the scene of our Lord’s humble birth are like our divided nation in this horrific year of 2020.” The United States was founded on the truths found in God’s word and for centuries we were the light on the hill that shone brightly for all of the rest of the world. But as the Casting Crowns song reminds us, the sins many accept as normal today are a result of the “slow fade” away from the light that is Jesus. We have become the Divided Nation of America.

Both symbolic trees are connected to the same source of power, but it’s interesting that the decoration that burned out is on the left of my table. This reminds me that although all people are invited to share in the abundant life that Jesus died to give mankind, the liberal left in our nation have slowly faded into the darkness and will stop at nothing to extinguish the light that is still shining on the right.  

We who are in Christ Jesus must not give in to those who are of this world who live like the unconstrained toddler who says, “I can do it all by myself!” and believe that God should just stay out of their lives. We must pray that they too will hear God’s call and come to him. We must not look to any human, man or woman, to save us, only to Jesus Christ, the Son of God; for he is the only one who can save. We also must believe that God is on the throne and is in control and his plan is for our ultimate good. If we think that just because the “left” has placed a man of questionable character in the White House that all hope is lost, then we have abandoned the only true hope that is in Jesus. 

Yes, stand up for what’s right, but do it in the name of the only one who can save, the one who is the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. His name is Jesus! Emmanuel! Never forget what his name means, Savior and God with us. 

Merry Christmas!

Love and the Green-eyed Monster

Envy is not a new emotion invented by our self-centered, materialistic society.  It has existed since before the creation of man (and social media). Satan, who was not content with his position as the perfectly beautiful guardian cherub, envied God’s sovereign position as Lord of the Universe. He was thrown out of heaven down to the earth. Misery loves company, so he schemed with doubt and deception hoping Adam and Eve would want what God had and what they were not to possess, the knowledge of good and evil. They did not disappoint. This led them to disobey God and eventually led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The very first children born of Adam and Eve were not exempt from this sin. Their firstborn son Cain killed his very own brother Abel out of envy of God’s acceptance of his offering, and the downward spiral of the sin of envy continues to this day.

Shakespeare may have been the first to refer to envy as “the green-eyed monster,” but he was not the first to write about it.  The Old Testament of the Bible not only tells of the horrific results of envy on the first family, but also contains numerous teachings on the subject. Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite wrote, “envy slays the simple (Job 5:2).” King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30 that “envy rots the bones” and in Proverbs 27:4 he states, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” He even went so far as to say that “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

Not even God’s chosen people were immune to envy. It was jealousy of their younger brother Joseph that drove Jacob’s older sons to first try to kill Joseph then sell him to merchants heading to Egypt.  In Warren Weirsbe’s commentary book on Genesis he quotes an author of a fourteenth-century preacher’s manual which said that envy was “the most precious daughter of the devil because it follows his footsteps by hindering good and promoting evil.” These sons of Jacob acted like the daughter of the devil in their envious relationship with Joseph.

When Jesus walked this earth he was not immune to the affects of the envy of others. The Pharisees who were jealous of Jesus were always trying to trip him up by asking ridiculous questions concerning man-made laws.  On one such occasion Jesus called them hypocrites and then taught the crowd that it’s what comes out of someone that defiles them not what they put into their body. He was speaking of the heart where evil thoughts originate (Mark 7:1-23). He then listed the evils that come from within a person:

sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, ENVY, slander, arrogance, folly

Whew! What a list!  Did you catch the one four-letter word tucked toward the end of the list?  (I kind of made it obvious!) We don’t often think of envy in this way. We think and sometimes out of ignorance say, “After all it’s not one of the BIG sins like murder.” But Jesus called it evil, so that’s what it is!

Lately, a great deal of the devotions I have read deal with this very evil.  I believe God is trying to get my attention.  I am always telling myself and even God that I am content with every part of my life.  After all, I have all I need – a loving husband, an adult son who still calls, a part time job I love, food in the pantry, a house, cars, and a boat that we own, not the bank.  So why does the green-eyed monster show up at my door uninvited? God’s been showing me ways I’m envious that have nothing to do with material possessions. I can’t fool God. He knows my heart better than I do.

Do you remember the story of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him (John 21:15-23)?  Once Peter answered affirmatively, Jesus told him to feed his lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep. Then he gave Peter a look into the future by revealing in a round about way that he was to die in his old age a martyr’s death, possibly by crucifixion.  Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” You may be asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with envy?  Stay with me.

Right then Peter turned and saw John following them and he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” He told Peter “If I want John to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Basically Jesus was telling Peter to mind his own business and don’t worry about his plans for John. It’s just possible that Jesus knew that Peter would be envious of his plans for John. If I were Peter I would have said, “But Lord, why can’t I die of old age, naturally? That’s not fair.” Oh, Peter… (Oh, Cindy…)

Here’s where God has been speaking to me about envy.

I see and hear of godly women working in ministry, writing for and speaking to women in amazing ways and it dawned on me (or Satan put this thought into my head) that they all seem to have had some horrendous tragedy in their life such as rape, sexual abuse, abortion, divorce, debilitating disease or even the death of a child. Then I start questioning whether or not God has really called me to write since my life experiences have not been so tragic. The green-eyed monster rears it’s head again! I realize that I envy the fact that these women have awesome God-delivering personal stories to reach others. Let me make it clear that I am not asking God to give me a tragedy!

Then…

The Lord spoke to me through a sweet friend when I shared my doubts about writing.  She said that there are many women out there who like me have not had terrible life experiences, but they may think they are saved because their life has sailed along smoothly and they don’t realize that they need Jesus. Wow! What a revelation!  Just like Jesus had a different plan for John, he has a different plan for me.  These are the women I can reach for Christ! So when I ask God, “What about all those other writers?” He says, “What is that to you? You must follow me.”

One last thought about envy to really shake us up (as if Jesus’ words are not enough)! Not only does the apostle Paul include envy as one of the traits love is NOT (1 Corinthians 13:4), but he also includes it in the list of the sins of those who did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. The result was that God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28-31). Depravity is not my life goal, therefore, I do not want to give God any reason to ever do this to me!

Love does not envy and through my daily prayers asking for the Lord’s help, I will not either!

What Are You Waiting For?

In my last post I wrote about why Jesus waited to go to his sick friend Lazarus who was at death’s door. One reason was so the disciples and others present would believe, but there was another purpose in the waiting. Jesus was preparing his disciples for the day they would be on their own and would have to wait for the next best thing.

These men had no problem believing that Jesus was the Messiah as long as he was physically with them, and especially seeing with their own eyes the many miracles he performed. But soon he would be back in heaven and they would have to believe without him. Faith would now come into play. Have you ever wished that Jesus was physically present with us today? I know I have! But then we would be living by sight and not by faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that without faith, it’s impossible to please God and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus even said that those who have not seen him and believe are blessed (John 20:29). These words should encourage us that God still blesses those who believe today. 

If there was a club for members who excel in waiting I would be denied membership along with most of our society. Many of us have childhood memories of our parents telling us to wait to eat dessert after dinner. We didn’t like this command, but it was for our good so we would first get the nutrition we needed to grow into healthy adults. It was like this for the disciples who fed on the words of Jesus for three years while they lived alongside of him. They grew spiritually, but had not fully matured. They would need help and God had just the “dessert” they needed, but they had to wait just a little longer. 

After his resurrection, Jesus had appeared to the apostles over a period of forty days on the earth. On one occasion he told them to wait for the gift his Father had promised (Acts 1:3-5). He told them that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but based on their question of whether this was the time he would restore the kingdom of Israel, it’s safe to say they still didn’t understand. Let’s face it, we probably wouldn’t have grasped the idea of being baptized in the Spirit either. I mean all they knew about baptism was what John had done right before Jesus arrived on the scene. He immersed them in water after they repented of their sins and accepted forgiveness from God. Jesus had previously told his disciples about the Holy Spirit (Advocate, Spirit of truth) who would live in them, teach them all things and remind them of everything Jesus had said to them (John 14:17, 26). Before we start to judge these guys, consider how many of us could remember every word Jesus said over a period of three years or even write them down. Most people today can’t remember a thirty-minute sermon, much less take notes!  

The disciples and those who followed Christ when he walked on this earth had to wait on the promised Holy Spirit. The good news is that today we don’t have to wait for that gift! Besides receiving forgiveness for all of our sins and eternal life in heaven, the next best gift a person could ever receive is Christ’s Spirit living inside of them. Jesus loves us so much, he not only paid for our sins, but he gave us exactly what we need to live the life here on earth that glorifies the Father. These gifts are free and available to anyone who believes that Jesus died in their place and rose to life and now lives in heaven preparing a place for us. 

What are you waiting for?!

Wait

In the last post, we learned that Jesus’ very close friend Lazarus had fallen ill and his sisters sent word to Jesus about the sickness (John 11). Jesus then sent his own word saying, “This sickness would not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  

When he waited two more days to begin the twenty-mile journey, he wasn’t just hanging out with his disciples because he didn’t feel like making the trip that day nor was was he lacking in the compassion department. He was waiting for his Father to tell him when to go. Now, that’s obedience! How many of us would be able to stay put for two more days if a spouse, parent, child or other loved one was close to death and God said. “Wait?” 

As a matter of fact, he told his disciples that for their sake he was glad he wasn’t there so they would believe (John 11:15). Did you get that? He was glad! You mean he let poor ole Lazarus die just so the disciples would believe? Yes, not just the disciples, but many other people as well who would see what Jesus was planning to do. 

Sometimes we’ve been praying for our loved ones who are physically, emotionally or even spiritually sick for what seems like forever and God says “Wait.” Our immediate response is usually, “Why?” Who likes to wait on anything? We live in a fast-food, microwave world and if we have to wait five minutes we get agitated and feel slighted. The Psalmist has the answer. He wrote “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5). He put his hope in God’s word, not the doctor’s word, the therapist’s word or the words of a well-meaning friend.  Jesus sent his word to Martha and Mary and that’s all they needed then and that’s all we need now. 

Some of you may be waiting for a child to be healed of a devastating disease or a marriage or relationship to be restored. Some of you may be waiting for an elderly parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s to return to the way they used to be. Or some of you may be longing for your prodigal children to come back home to the Lord. Whatever the sickness, Jesus isn’t waiting because he likes to watch us suffer. He has a plan that will glorify him and benefit all involved and even those who are watching. But it has to be done his way and in his time.

Life is hard, but God is good.

Wait for it!

Put your hope in His word!

It’s Not Over Yet

There’s a story in the Bible of when one of Jesus’ closest friends named Lazarus fell deathly ill. His sisters who lived with Lazarus sent word to Jesus who was staying about twenty miles away. Their message just said, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” As soon as Jesus heard this, he slipped on his sandals and started off for Lazarus’ house. 

NOT!

Jesus decided to stay where he was and sent the messenger back with these encouraging words, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified though it.”Wait a minute! I thought Jesus loved Lazarus. Why was he not going immediately to heal him or just speak a healing word right then? He did it for others, why not Lazarus?

Now, if you were Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, what would you think? I don’t know about you, but the Martha in me would be a little ticked off. I’m just being real! You see Martha couldn’t sit still and always had to be busy, so like her I wouldn’t be able to understand why Jesus didn’t send word that he was on the way. I would no doubt be confused once Lazarus died. I wonder if Mary was quietly praying and remembering all that Jesus had taught her while she sat at his feet? If so, would this have annoyed Martha? Jesus did eventually go to their village in Bethany, but not until Lazarus had been dead four days!  It’s interesting that the message from the sisters didn’t say, “Please come immediately.” Maybe they trusted Jesus’ timing after all. 

Is there someone in your life who is spiritually sick? They could be saved, but their lifestyle is grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit living inside them or worse, they do not have the Holy Spirit in them because they have never accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If you are impatient like me, you pray for these loved ones or friends and want God to do something YESTERDAY! Unlike Mary and Martha, we beg him to come immediately. But we must trust that God’s timing is perfect even if we don’t understand and sometimes he delays so that he will be glorified. And when we are praying and waiting, we should never lose hope that their sickness will not end in death. 

So don’t give up! Keep praying for your loved ones and friends who need a spiritual healing or even a resurrection from their dead life of sin. 

Stay tuned. This story is not over. 

Death does not win! 

Jesus does!

Water in Me

Today I heard a message by Pastor Tony Evans titled “Water in God’s House,” referencing the first twelve verses of Ezekiel 47. Ezekiel was a priest and prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah while they were living in captivity in Babylon. The main idea of Evans’ message was that the living water which is tied to life and the work of the Holy Spirit is in the Church (believers of the Lord, Jesus Christ), and if we want to see our culture change, the water has to flow out from the Church and into the community. 

I’ll admit that Ezekiel is one of those books of the Bible that many times has left me dumbfounded. There are all sorts of visions and prophecies that can confuse a simple lay person like myself. That is why we should listen to trusted Bible teachers and then read it, meditate on it and study it for ourselves. So that’s what I did.

The reason this story struck a chord with me is because I absolutely love being in the water! As a young girl growing up in the south, our above ground swimming pool was my go-to spot to beat the oppressive heat of most summer days. As I got old enough to drive, the coastal waters became my source of refreshing. Living over 200 miles from the coast for the past 28 years, I have adapted to another invigorating water source, the indoor pool. After my son began swimming on a neighborhood swim team, the familiar lure to immerse in the water again was stronger than ever. I joined the local YMCA and began swimming laps. That was almost twenty years ago and I still enjoy that time in the water. 

Ezekiel was privileged to see visions of the future where the temple was restored along with Israel and the priesthood. But the returning of the Lord’s glory to the temple had to have been the most magnificent of all the visions! After this in Chapter 47, he is shown the water that comes out from under the threshold of the temple which starts out as a trickle. As they move about 1700 feet from the temple, the depth of the water increases to ankle-deep water, then moving another 1700 feet it increases to knee-deep water. Once they move out another 1700 feet it becomes waist deep. But after the next 1700 feet, the water was too deep to walk through, one would have to swim. This water represented the work and life of the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to Tony Evans, I realized on a personal level I could chart the waters of the the Holy Spirit in my own spiritual walk. In my early childhood days of hearing the Bible stories in Sunday School, a trickle is all I received. Granted, as very young girl, I would not have been able to swim in the deep spiritual waters. As I grew and I learned more about Jesus, I accepted him as my Savior and the water rose a little more (ankle-deep). For several years I splashed around in his knee-deep waters at church and youth group, even venturing a little into the waist deep waters of God’s word. But then in my late teen years I refused to go near the water. I believed the lies of Satan that I didn’t need that water anymore. For over fifteen years my soul was as dry as the acreage in the California wildfires.               

Then one day my younger sister who lived in another city told me about a Bible study she was participating in that had groups meeting all around the world. She encouraged me to find out if there was a group in my area and I did. The first day I attended is when I put my toes back in the water!

This particular Bible study was not for those who needed floaties to get in the water! It was for the serious swimmer. We had daily homework in which we not only delved into God’s word, but learned how to apply it. My enthusiasm led me from ankle-deep water to water over my head in a matter of months, and I have been lap swimming in God’s word for over twenty years now. 

But there is more to Tony Evans’ message than just the developing of a personal relationship with the Lord. God wants more from us than just swimming in the word for our own spiritual revitalization. In Ezekiel’s vision, he was asked by his guide, “Son of man, do you see this?” It’s like God was saying, “Don’t you get it? I’m so glad you are enjoying my word, but it’s there for others, too. I want you to send it out to those who are the living dead.” God wants us to take his living waters, his Holy Spirit and the truth of His word to all those who are dead in their sins, lost. When we do this the those who were once spiritually dead will come alive!

This gradual flow of the living water in Ezekiel reminds me that God works in all of our lives in different ways and in different timing. I must be patient and let him do the work as others start their own spiritual water therapy. Some may take longer to move from ankle deep to knee-deep water than others. Some may get stuck in waist deep for awhile. That’s ok as long as there is forward progress. My job is to encourage them to stay afloat by trusting in God and his word. 

I may not know everything about God’s word or understand all the ways the Holy Spirit works, but I do know this. Jesus died for my sins and sent His Holy Spirit to keep me from drifting away from all that God has in store for me in this life and in the life to come with Him in heaven.

He will do the same for you.

All you have to do is get your toes wet!