Our Responsibility

Today’s reading is Psalm 78.

Here in verses 9 through 66 the psalmist recalls the history of God rescuing the Israelites from slavery and then providing for them in the desert as they traveled towards the Promised Land. Yet despite this, they continued to doubt God’s greatness and provision and continued to sin against Him. I could not help but read this and think of the parallels between the Israelites and our country today.

Our American ancestors moaned that they were not free from British rule and rightly so, yet after fighting for freedom they did not give the same freedom and rights to Black Americans or women…keeping Black Americans as slaves for nearly 100 more years and not allowing women to vote for about 150 more. Nearly 250 years later, we still see racism and sexism present in our country. And although we should continue to pray and take action to end both, I fear we can only improve but that neither will end fully as long as there is sin in this world until Jesus comes again. Our country also continues to glorify lifestyles that the Bible clearly states are not what God wants by normalizing these ways of living in movies, TV shows, and even commercials. Christians who stand firmly on the Bible’s word are then alternatively demonized.

Not only do we as a country continue to move away from God’s will for our lives, but we also continue to question God’s greatness and provision similar to the Israelites (see Psalm 78:10-20). Suicide rates, depression, and anxiety continue to increase. We fear the next virus or economic crash and despite our lack of trust and faith, God continues to richly bless us in similar ways to the Israelites. It may not be parting of the Red Sea, manna and quail falling from the sky, or water spewing from a rock, but God continues to provide for us and improve our lives…even if we don’t attribute to Him because we are not viewing things through the correct lens.

For example, in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected President, 50% of the world lived in extreme poverty, now it’s about 10% with even less in the US. Despite the recent pandemic, US households have the highest inflation adjusted incomes in history and paid down record amounts of debt in 2020, as well as hold two times the amount in checking accounts as they did at the end of 2019. Many are still struggling yes, but the data shows most people’s lives are improving financially and poverty and hunger are becoming closer and closer to being eradicated each and every year. Most junior high students have a phone in their backpack with more computing power than was used to power the first Apollo mission to the moon. Yet we continue as a country to doubt God’s provision and separate ourselves more from Him and His biblical values and instruction. See the parallels when it comes to the Israelites and us now?

With even public schools now removing prayer and God from nearly everything and forcing the teaching of other worldly, non-Biblical views at very young ages, what are parents and grandparents to do? How do we change this trajectory our country is on currently to move further and further away from God and His teachings? Psalm 78:1-8 tells us.

Give ear, O my people to my

teaching;

incline your ears to the words

Of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable.

I will utter dark saying from

of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers told us.

We will not hide them from

their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord,

and his might,

and the wonders that he has

done.

He established a testimony in

Jacob

and appointed a law in

Israel,

which He commanded our

fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might

Know them,

The children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their

children,

so that they should set their

hope in God,

but keep His commandments;

and that they should not be like

their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious

generation,

a generation whose heart was

not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.

 

We as believers and followers of God’s Word must teach it and tell of His great works and provision in our lives to our children and grandchildren. We cannot merely leave it up to attending church and Sunday school and think that the next generations will believe and follow God’s will based on that alone. The Bible has always taught us it’s our responsibility in our homes. However, it is even more necessary in today’s world where God’s teachings are merely not just excluded, but again demonized as hate and discrimination while other ungodly views are forced upon our children in media and schools.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

God knew the teaching of His Word was needed at home and that we needed consistent exposure…even before the outside influences of Hollywood entertainment and social media of today.

Think of the impact we can have by teaching our children. God has blessed my wife and I with three children and a fourth on the way. If our four children have four children who they teach God’s Word who have four children who do the same and so on and so forth…in 10 generations that would be 1,048,576 who have believed and followed the will and Word of God. And think of the impact each of them would have telling others about God who might believe and teach His Word and the Gospel to their families to not only follow God’s will but have eternal life?!

I would encourage each of to reflect today and pray for wisdom on how we can improve in the frequency of teaching God’s Word, telling of his provision, and of course speaking about His saving grace on the cross to our children and grandchildren. Imagine the difference this will have on them and their lives and generations to come!

Which Side of the Coin Do You See?

 

 

Psalm77

I don’t know the circumstances that caused Asaph to pen this psalm but they sound dire!

-I was deep in trouble

-I prayed but my soul was not comforted

-I am longing for His help

-I can’t sleep

-I can’t even pray

-Has the Lord rejected me?

-Will He never again be kind to me?

-Is His unfailing love gone forever?

-Have His promises permanently failed?

-Has God forgotten to be gracious?

-Has He slammed the door on His compassion?

 

For 10 verses Asaph cries and shouts out to God in fear, brokenness, hurt and despair. He feels abandon by God. He is wondering what has changed in his relationship with God that makes him feel this way. All seems lost… fear and pain rule his thoughts. And then verse 11 says, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.”

 

-Your wonderful deeds are constantly in my thoughts

-I can’t stop thinking about your mighty works

-Your ways are holy

-Is there any God as mighty as You?

-You are the God of wonders!

-You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations

-By your strong arm, you redeem your people

 

Asaph is in terrible circumstances. He is gripped by despair and fear because his circumstances have grown bigger, more awful and all consuming. He isn’t able to see or feel anything but abandonment by God. And then… Asaph remembers. His mind is suddenly redirected. Asaph begins to think on past experiences with God that remind him of God’s faithfulness and goodness.  For Asaph, the coin has flipped. His thoughts make a 180 degree turn.  His mindset is completely changed from wallowing in his negative circumstances to concentrating on God’s power and might. Remembering truths about God, and setting your mind on those truths is powerful! It doesn’t appear that Asaph’s circumstances changed at all. His problems weren’t suddenly solved. Asaph’s outlook changed because he quit looking at his mess and started looking at God. G. Campbell Morgan said “The message of this Psalm is that to brood on sorrow is to be broken and disheartened, while to see God is to sing on the darkest day. Once we come to know that our years are of His right hand, there is light everywhere.”

 

I experienced this for myself last week. A friend invited me out to the country to take a walk with her. As we walked, we talked and each shared some things that we had been struggling with. As I was sharing my struggle, I was telling her every angle of my issue to help her understand that there was no human way out of this issue. No one can see the future and the only way to solve my “problem” was to know the exact circumstances I would face seven months from now. I knew there were no answers because I had been stewing over the issue for the past five months and I kept landing in helplessness. When I finally took a breath, she stopped walking and said, “Do you mind if we stop right now and pray together over this issue?” Amazing wisdom from a dear friend at the right time stopped me in my tracks and refocused my weary and frustrated mind on God instead of my problem. As we stood in the woods with the sun shining on our cheeks, we dropped my issue in God’s hands. For me, the relief was palpable. Let’s be clear. I still don’t know the future. I don’t have any idea how my issue is going to shake out in real time seven months from now, but I got my mind off of the problem and on to my God who cares about this issue as much as I do. I can look back over His faithfulness in the last forty years of my relationship with Him and know that He will not abandon me when this “issue” takes place. He will be there, and He will work. I don’t know what those days will look like and I don’t know exactly how He will work, but I know He is trustworthy. Getting my mind off of my problem and on to Him completely changed my outlook. What is filling your mind today with fear, worry or dread? Can you stop, right now and recall His holy ways, His wonderful deeds, His awesome power and His mighty works?

Victory Again

Psalm 76

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things “ (Philippians 4:8).

I caught myself thinking of this verse today as I read through Psalm 76.  You see, all too often, I focus on the things gone wrong and my circumstances unrelenting. This continued focus on things gone wrong takes its toll.  It ruins just about everything.  There must be something to break the pattern.  Something to restore hope and peace.

Philippians 4:8 does that for me.  In fact, when I finally find the quiet place where I allow my head and my heart to return to God, I hear him.  I hear that still soft voice that is ever so refreshing.  With his reassurance, I am reminded of the good things he has done.  I also become aware of the good things he is doing.

When I see them, there is no containment.  My joy overflows.  In these moments, God’s majesty is revealed and I must celebrate it.  His power is portrayed, and I stand in awe of it.  In this place, with his power, everything is right.

God’s Righteous Judgment

Faith in Jesus Christ requires humility and reservation, which are not always traits that I possess.

As we go about life, we witness many around us who appear to “get ahead” without sacrifice.  Perhaps their business ventures take off with grand results.  Perhaps their family goes on lavish vacations.  Perhaps their social media posts profess happy times without what appears to be much sacrifice.  Every time you hear from them, their kids are going to great colleges and schools, their spouse just got promoted, and they just finished remodeling or buying a new home.  Life is good for them no matter what happens.

On the contrary, you struggle.  Your life seems to take two steps forward and one step back.  You do the right things.  You pray the “right” prayers.  You are kind and non-judgmental.  You tithe or give back to your church, charities, or those around you in need.  You do not wish for material things, but you don’t seem to accomplish or succeed at advancing comfort or solace in your life.  You lost your job.  Your family member is sick. Your children are struggling, and you cannot seem to get a break in your life.

Or worse yet, you see people perform terrible acts and seemingly never suffer the consequences.  A criminal is acquitted of a crime. A thief gets away with taking valuable items.  A murderer is never caught or forced to “pay the price” of their crime.

Where is justice for the believers?  Why are the trials and struggles a part of the lives of true believers in Jesus Christ?  Shouldn’t the “bad people” and the sinners suffer on earth?

True belief and faith require us to give all of our trials and tribulations to God.  Our Lord says in Psalms 75 titled “Thanksgiving for God’s Righteous Judgement” says the following:

4“I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully, And to the wicked, Do not lift up the horn. Do not lift up your horn high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.’”

Scripture tells us that our reward for faith and loyalty to our God do not come on earth.  No matter the sacrifice and cost of our time on earth, our true reward will come in heaven when we stand before our Lord and hopefully hear, “well done, true and faithful servant.”

As an example of the ultimate humility and sacrifice, Jesus came to earth and lived His life as a man.  He endured pain, heartbreak, temptation, ridicule, betrayal, lies, and ultimately, He was put to death for no viable reason.   I ask you, does our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ understand our trials and sacrifices?  Can he relate to our hateful co-workers, negative neighbors, and spiteful relatives who always seems to outdo us?

As we approach Easter, let us recognize the significant and meaningful turn of events Jesus endured the week of His death.  On Palm Sunday (yesterday), He came to Jerusalem with the Jews waving palms and throwing their cloaks on the ground as he entered the city.  Four days later, the same Jews were screaming, spitting, and hitting Him asking for Him to be killed.  Yes, our Lord, knows what it feels like to be betrayed and the “bad people” get away with “bad things.”

Let us study the Easter story this week and hear the counsel of Jesus as he prepares us for the greatest, most unselfish sacrifice of any human, ever known to mankind.  Our Lord sacrificed every ounce of His being so that you and I don’t have to suffer, for eternity.

From Pleading to Praise

Grief. Lament. Agony. Anger.

Maybe you’ve had life experiences with similar emotions. Maybe even recently you’ve cried out to the Lord with your deep hurts, walking him through the timeline of your pain. Like a reminder for the all-knowing God. But there’s something about talking through it all line by line, and saying it out loud to him that helps us process. I know it does for me.

In Psalms 74, the first half of the chapter is a lament of the destruction against the temple of Jerusalem and their city being conquered. It’s almost as if rehearsing the litany of grievances will rile up the Lord to action – revenge even. Revenge that we like to call “justice”. And when we are wronged, isn’t that what we want? Recognition and validation from God that this just isn’t okay, and he will do something about it.

Whether I am crying out to him from a place in my heart with pure intentions, or a place with ugliness and self-righteousness – either one, the Lord can handle it. He doesn’t want us to wait and come to him when our hearts are perfectly “right” and aligned… He wants us to come to him when we are still in the middle of the grief and the mess. When the emotions are raw and rambling, and filled with “oh, and another thing”!!  I love this real example of Asaph in verses 1-11, crying out and processing his grief and anger WITH God. Can you see some of your own pleas in these verses?

And then when you continue through this chapter, you see a turning of his heart. In verses 12-23 you see the focus moving from the wrongs committed against Jerusalem and God, and instead the focus is all about God’s power. What God can do and what he has done in the past. Asaph concludes this psalm by resting in his hope that God has the power and track record to wisely handle their enemies, in the way and timing that’s best.

God can use our lamenting and pleading and turn it into a remembrance and time of praise. He wants us to come wherever we are and cast our cares on Him. He’s big enough, wise enough, patient enough, to handle our sorrow and grief.

Whether your situation is 5 minutes old or from 5 decades ago, go through your heart’s play-by-play with the Lord.

Psalm 73 & a great interview.

Have you ever been in one of those job interviews where the tone is dull, energy is low, mood is somber, stress is in the air, and it seems like the interviewer’s main goal is to find out how horrible you are? Or worse, have you been this type of interviewer? If your answer is “no” to both, then good for you.

My perception is that type of interview was a technique from the pre-2000s and Hopefully most organizations do not interview like this anymore. Unfortunately that was that type of environment I’ve experienced as a candidate in the 1990s and thought that was how it was supposed to be.

Excuses are lies. – Jocko Willink

I’m surely guilty of perpetuating the tradition. It would be easy to blame the environment I learned from, but “excuses are lies”. I’m to blame. I’m a selfish human and no matter how hard I try, if I’m at the center, everything is off.

Then something changed.

Praise God for His mercy and wisdom (and perhaps His sense of humor) because today a major part of my job is assessing potential employees, consultants, vendor partners, etc. In the past two years I’ve interviewed approximately 200 candidates and this process has become one of the greatest joys in my career.

The difference: From an inward “me first” focus to outward, “Jesus and others” focus. Setting an environment where people feel relaxed, valued, respected and dare I say, loved. Ultimately, the leadership model in the organization where I work is that of a servant: Leaders do not exist to be served, they exist to serve.

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

In a recent interview, a candidate said “I am thankful to God” and from this moment I felt the joy of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. As the gentleman spoke, I prayed silently and briefly for the right words; for God’s will to be done. We both shared some faith statements and I explained our servant leadership model, paraphrasing Matthew 20:28. Jesus was in the conversation and what a difference it made.

Today’s chapter is Psalm 73 and throughout most of the chapter the Psalmist talks about how the wicked prosper; even appearing jealous of the wicked. Then in the end the author acknowledges his own sin and turns bitterness into joy and praise. That’s the pattern in nearly every story of my life and probably yours as well.

Whatever your current challenge, illness, battle, argument, jealousy, take a step back and consider the pattern. We sin. We are guilty. If we choose to repent, we draw nearer to God and the joy is indescribable.

It is good to be near God.

Psalm 72 – A Perfect King

Psalm 72 describes a perfect King and/or ruler as someone who:

  • Judges people in the right way, and treats the poor fairly (verse 2)
  • Does what is right (verse 3)
  • Helps to defend the poor, rescues the children of the needy and crushes their opponents (verse 4)
  • Rescues the poor and helps the oppressed (verse 12)
  • Feels pity for, and rescues the weak and needy (verse 13)
  • Saves the weak and needy from oppression and violence (verse 14)

Would this be a leader you’d want to follow?  Do these traits describe someone for whom you would vote?  I suspect they do, as this Psalm was King Solomon’s prayer asking God to help him to lead the nation with wisdom and justice.  How different would things be if our world leaders displayed these qualities?

Honestly, it is somewhat discouraging that I don’t recall many (or any) recent candidates who’s platform was to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  Even so, I am called by God to obey our elected officials even when my views don’t align with many of theirs.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1).

Instead of just complaining that I must follow leaders that don’t exemplify these characteristics and/or don’t follow Jesus, this Psalm has helped remind me I have another responsibility.  As Christfollowers, 1 Timothy instructs us to pray for elected officials.

Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:2).

This is tough for me.  My natural approach is to turn off the 24 hour news channels and completely disengage in the political spin.  So, I can pray for our leaders simply out of obedience to 1 Timothy 2:2, or I can pray for our leaders expecting it will really make a difference.  At first blush, this may seem a little naive.  But I know –

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

God may change the hearts and/or actions of our world leaders as a result of my prayers, or he may simply change my heart.  Either way is a win!

Psalm 71

 

Psalm 71 “Forsake me not when my strength is spent.”

I spent the summer of 1997 as a camp counselor. I was a nursing student and I stumbled across a camp for kids with disabilities that needed cabin counselors. Summer camp was a big part of growing up for me and I needed something to do for a summer so I said yes. I had no idea how exhausting and impactful it would be. Each week we welcomed kids with similar abilities. Campers included those with diabetes, sickle cell anemia, Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, cancer and more. These kids were given the opportunity to camp with campers like themselves and they were provided whatever they needed to make it in a cabin in the woods for a week.  I recall hiking with electric wheelchairs, feeding kids smores, swimming, helping with showers, brushing teeth, and learning so much.  Some of the campers required one to one care for their basic daily needs. Night time seemed to be just as busy as the daytime with trips to the bathroom for those who needed help or those that needed an extra hug. This was the first time in my life that I was taking care of someone other than myself and sacrificing my needs for another. Their needs were great and I didn’t sleep much. I don’t think I showered much either. The exhaustion I felt at the end of a week was comparable to the feeling of being a parent. I only realized this when I became a parent and recognized the same foggy haze of sleeplessness brought on by putting someone else’s needs above my own. The exhaustion was worth it, but I recall praying for strength…. A lot! And I can say, without a doubt, that God carried me through. I look back on that experience through the eyes of a parent now and I know how important that week was to the parents behind the camper. It was a gift that I didn’t even know I was giving.

I was naive and ignorant going into that summer, but God was present and carried me through. It wasn’t a camp for kids with disabilities. It was a camp for kids made in the image of God. They were delightful and funny and I am so honored to have been a part of their camp experience. Little do they know how much they impacted me. 

Psalm 71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

I love that we can continually come to God with our needs. He is available day and night and is never exhausted by our requests. 

Shelly

 

O Lord, Do not Delay

Today’s Reading: Psalm 70

Humor me for a second with these questions. Have you ever felt under pressure? Can you think of a day where you were pressed for time to where you allowed yourself to be stressed?   These moments have happened more than I would like to admit.  Hopefully, today you will have some peace as you focus on His Word and the truth of His will for your life today.

I have a gift that allows me to save things until the last minute and not get stressed. It is a gift I’m working on avoiding, unlike today as I seek His wisdom. David’s prayer in Psalm 70 reminds me of His answers even in our haste.

These last couple of weeks have been eventful. As a principal, our schools’ COVID impact has meant constantly changing, requiring the on-going need to pivot and try to communicate the best we can. Our children have been involved in some travel sports that require scheduled practices and games at various times and places.  On the home front, we try our best to make time to connect with family, friends, and neighbors.

As this last week approached, we juggled preparing for a family getaway! Exciting!  Still, the rush that followed up until today captured many moments where I could sense the anxiety of the time crunch creep in.

Psalm 70:1 Make haste, O God, to deliver me! o Lord, make haste to help me! 5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are help and my deliverer, O Lord, do not delay!

We seem to all live in the confines of time. God lives outside time. God is never rushed. He created time! David uses these 5 verses to show the urgency of prayer and the answer we will receive. These verses remind me to go to God with all I got.  That instead of trying to do it all myself and attempt to be everything to everyone all the time, I can submit to Him.  Cry out to God and say I need you! That when I am weak, He is strong. In the midst of these moments where the pressure of time is applying the squeeze. Pray, trust, have faith that our God knows what will happen.  He knows what we will face today, what we will face tomorrow.  He will be our help; He will be our deliverer.  

So whatever day your day brings.  No matter what is next on your agenda. Take a moment to give God all you got.  Ask him to release the stress that starts to creep in as we move throughout the day.  The answer to all we need today is in Him.

Have a blessed – less stressed day!

 

Why are there enemies?

Enemies.
We all have tried to erase or mitigate the things that are in opposition to us or our interest. It is natural to avoid conflict and come to resolution. In Psalms 69, we are presented with a real dire situation with David. He is being overwhelmed with so many adversaries that he is in complete desperation.
He does not have a friend or any person that can help him. Every where he looks he cannot find any assistance or aid. He then turns to God and acknowledges his weaknesses and sins and is aware of the consequences of these sins.
The themes that are echoed throughout these verses are:

Psalm 69: 4

More in number than the hairs of my head
    are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
    those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
    must I now restore?

  • When we are in relationship with God the world will be against us. The relationship with God stops us from having a true relationship with the things of this world: list, hate, greed, loss, frustration, etc. When the world recognizes that this relationship has been severed it then comes against us. The world has become our “enemy” since God has become our main focus. Psalm 23: 5 , in order to be blessed you have to have enemies.   Psalms 23:5 : You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

Psalm 69: 5; 19-20

O God, you know my folly;
    the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
 Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.

  • After David tells his situation, he acknowledges his own sins. He recognized that God is the supreme judge and justifier. He knows that man would only give him grace when it is appropriate and good for the other. In the light of God’s eye, the justification is genuine and permanent. No matter how many issues that we face, when we believe in God and the price that Christ paid for us, we will be able to acknowledge all that is wrong in us and have the peace that God can cover all of our transgressions and downfalls .

Psalms 69: 30-31

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

 This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs

  • God wants your heart, not the sacrifice. So many times we attempt to do things and make sacrifices to gain better standing with God. But God doesn’t want our deeds, he wants our heart. He wants us to have the relationship with Him and not the objects of sacrifice. Sometimes we get into the “doing” of the things and try to check them off. But we forget why we are doing these “things”. God wants us to remember why we are doing the things for him. What is the mission behind the journey? How will this sacrifice bring God glory?
How can we see the blessings in the midst of our enemies? How can we acknowledge our downfalls to God? How can we bring back the mission to our sacrifices?
Be blessed.