Monthly Archives: January 2013

And the winner is…

I read a note the other day, an aside to a scripture from Judges, which stated, “But the winner is always the one who is on God’s side.”

As with many words I hear throughout the day, the wheels of my mind began to turn as I pondered the meaning of this statement. It is simple enough in theory. And when evil versus good, yes! it is even easier to see. But what happens when both parties feel they are on the side of God? What happens when both people, who oppose one another, seek God, pray to God, listen for His word, read the scriptures. Then who wins?

Can you imagine being the parents of Eli Manning, quarterback for the New York Giants, and Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Denver Broncos? How do you handle when your boys play each other, particularly when it is a big game? When Connie watched our son Daniel play for the University of Oklahoma, there wasn’t enough Sooner attire out there to satisfy her. From clip-on shoe gear to hair attachments to pocket books, Connie was his biggest cheerleader. Did the Manning boys’ mom wear half Bronco and half Giant’s attire? Change during quarters? Switch purses?

I do not pretend to know how God handles it when His children oppose one another, but I do believe His promises. Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Those promises tell me, even when the outcome does not appear to be a victory for me, it is according to God’s will for my life. Perhaps we need to learn a new lesson.  When opposing a Christian brother, we should pray for the outcome that is right for both of us. God is for you, and He is for your Christian brother or sister. While tough to understand, God has the ability to give both of you victory in His own time.


The Palm of Deborah

Deborah was known as one of the wisest people of Israel. She called herself “a mother in Israel.” Deborah, a prophetess of God, held court under a palm tree to help the Israelites settle disputes. The Canaanites’ commander, Sisera, was a cruel man under the reign of Jabin, king of Canaan, and for 20+ years, the Israelites suffered because of him.

One day, Deborah called for Barak and says to him, “…The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” – Judges 4:6-7.

Whether Barak believed her or not is unknown, but he insists that she come with him. Deborah went with Barak and ten thousand men to Kedesh. She realized that Barak was not following God’s words exactly and she stated, “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

The interesting part of this passage is Deborah’s willingness to do whatever God asked of her. Not only was she stepping outside the cultural norms being a judge for the Israelites, but she was willing to go into battle. The scriptures do not indicate that she argued about going. When God directed, Deborah followed.

Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you!'”

Every man in Sisera’s army was killed, and Sisera fled on foot! Later, Sisera was killed by a female named Jael while trying to hide in her tent. Talk about a victory!

Do you know that the words ‘the Lord has gone ahead of you’ are not just for Deborah and Barak? Do you realize those words are for you and me too? In every situation God’s children face, He has gone ahead of us to work out the details for our good. Sometimes we know God is leading us but we want that assurance, like Barak, to ask Deborah to come along. Oh that we could  have the faith of Deborah and simply obey!

Listen for the word of God and follow His command. Even when you face the cruelest of giants, God has gone ahead of you. Rely on Him today!


A Mighty Warrior is our God!

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. ” – Zephaniah 3:17

John Paul Jones, a Scottish sailor who fought during the American Revolution, uttered the words when taunted to surrender by the British, “I have not yet begun to fight.” His statement rallied the troops to victory.

There are times in life when taunting causes us to want to doubt our abilities. The pounding from life’s struggles brings confusion and at times, makes us wonder where God is in all that is going on. I know very few people who have not experienced despair at some point in life. We allow our minds to tell us to surrender, to lower the colors, to give in to what is trying to consume us.

But, what if we shouted into the storm? What if we like David when facing Goliath announced, “…You come against me with sword and spear and
javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” – 1 Samuel 17:45? What if we stood firm and with the boldness of John Paul Jones and professed, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

God has not forsaken you. He is not in turmoil, knotting his hands together, and rocking back and forth wondering what you are going to do. God is a Mighty Warrior. He is ready for battle. He knows the strategy and He knows victory is at hand. And all He needs is for you to listen and obey Him.

Today, know that He is with you, and He is with me.


Only the outer fringe

Job 26:14, “And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him!”

The beautiful sunsets with hues of pink, red and orange; the speckled coloring of the Lilly growing in a field; thunderstorms that pound and shake our homes;the bright sparkles of light which form the constellations; the mouse who busies himself in the tall grass; the hawk who soars above; giraffes reaching high in the trees of Africa, extending their long necks; snowflakes falling quietly to the ground; the feel of wind on my face; the roaring sound of a waterfall; all of these come from God, and these are but the outer fringe of what He can do.

A bird flew directly into the window of my home as I sat studying for a sermon one Saturday afternoon. The bobwhite quail, stunned by the error of his flight, fell to the ground. I quickly went to my front yard and scooped the creation of God into my hands. The splendor of his color floored me – different hues of brown, black, grey, and white accented his head. As I stroked him, his eyes opened. His weight was nothing in my hand and with one squeeze of a fist, I could have destroyed him.

Connie got a shoe box and a soft cloth. We sat it on our front porch and just admired the little bird who fed from our feeder earlier that morning. The detail of his design amazed me; I couldn’t help but extend my hands in praise of our Creator. The bird began to stir and within 10 minutes flew from the box and out into the world, a mere “whisper of what God can do.”

What could possibly concern us that God is not powerful enough to handle? He calls the stars by name! Isaiah 40:26, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

What could possibly come against us that God could not defend? Isaiah 50:9, “It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”

Where could we possibly go that God cannot reach us? Isaiah 50: 2, “Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? “

The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe loves us. Of all His creations, we are the most precious. How could we possibly doubt His ability to handle the struggles we face? Trust in Him.


Become an ant in God’s Kingdom

My ant farm arrived five days before the ants, and I could hardly stand the wait. Every day as I hurried to the mailbox, my family would snicker, “If I have to endure one more day of questions about his ants!” We ordered the plastic contraption from a catalog. I’d seen one in my science magazine, and knew I had to have one. I planned where I was going to set it up, and I saved money for weeks to buy it. All the way from Arizona, the Red Harvester Ants came. I had prepared the Pogonomyrmex barbatus (I’ll never forget that word), basically the dirt they live in, just as the instructions had suggested. I was going to become an Ant Farmer!

Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

When I poured them in and sealed the top, I noticed within an hour, they were working. No arguing. No meeting among ants as to how to build. No special blueprints. The tunnels began to form before my eyes – all day – all night. Making a way through the white substance, the ants mesmerized me with their know-how.

Have you ever watched ants work? I never saw them sleep, although I read in my instructional manual that they do. Always moving forward, diligent, and orderly. When I put food in, it was like an assembly line to get the food where it needed to go. Never wasteful, the ants knew what needed to be done and how to do it.

Maybe that’s why Solomon took the time to write about them. Have you ever felt sluggish or had to work beside a sluggard? A sluggard is a lazybones person, someone who could and should help out but doesn’t. There is no room for a sluggard in an ant farm. I never saw any of them on a lunch break.

Are you an ant for God’s Kingdom? I sure want to be. There are those who literally take up space, never offering to help another; never giving of their time or money; but instead, folding their hands and propping up their feet, waiting for someone else to do what God needs done. Waiting for someone else to pray for them. Waiting for someone else to inspire them to worship.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” – Proverbs 6:9.

Today, consider your place in God’s Kingdom. If you are taking up more space than you are making, you need to change. Become an ant in God’s Kingdom.


The Pay Back List

Proverbs 20:22, “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.”

“I’ll get you!”

“Just wait until you hear from my lawyer!”

“You better watch your back!”

“You have been added to my ‘pay back’ list.”

Ever said those words? Ever thought them? We probably all have at some point in our lives. No one is exempt from the injustices of life. From the school yard bully to the corporate pirate, our lives are exposed to people who treat us unfairly. The question is, how do we handle those who harm us? And really, why is it so wrong to seek revenge?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39.

There are several reasons taking justice into our own hands is wrong in Scriptures:

1) We spend a great deal of time focusing on the wrong instead of focusing on good. Bitterness eats at our insides like a festering boil. It affects the way we deal with our family, friends, co-workers, pets and even God. The wrong becomes an obsession and ‘getting even’ takes away the joy God wants us to have in our lives.

2) It is of little use. Realistically, it is an impossibility to execute justice without sinning ourselves. How can we truly pay back a wrong doing without doing a wrong ourselves? Does one sin balance out another? God makes it very clear that it is not our responsibility to avenge but His. Romans 12:19 reads, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

3) It shows disrespect to God. When we take matters into our own hands, aren’t we lacking faith in God’s ability to handle it? Do you realize that God is so insistent upon us forgiving others that He tells us, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” – Matthew 6:15? If you want God to forgive you, you have to forgive those who wrong you. Those words are a bit hard to swallow. By exercising judgement on those who wrong us, are we essentially setting ourselves up for God’s judgment upon us?

4) It prevents weight loss. Unforgiveness is like 20 pound, 30 pound, and 50 pound weights on our ankles and arms. We come to a point where we cannot move freely. The constant desire for revenge makes the anchor heavier and heavier as we drag it around. Our steps become fewer, and we simply cannot go forward. But when we turn it over to God, the ropes are cut and our feet become like wings.

Know that your God will act on your behalf to right the wrong in His time. Today, turn over your ‘pay back’ list to God and lovingly move on to what God has in store for your life.


Ventriloquist

When I was a young boy, I asked for one of those Charlie McCarthy dolls; the ones that sit on your lap and with a string the mouth is manipulated. I practiced not moving my lips and being able to transfer my voice to his. My mom and dad were my only audience. My jokes weren’t funny, even though they laughed. I must admit, I wasn’t any good at this new-found activity; but, I had a good time. My desire to be a ventriloquist extinguished about as quickly as it had been ignited in me – much to the pleasure of my parents, I am sure.

Luke 12:11, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Sometimes we need to be God’s Charlie McCarthy doll. Sometimes we need to stop saying what we want to say and let God use our tongues to say what needs to be said.

Have you ever had to defend yourself at a time when you had done nothing wrong? I know I have; what made the difference for me is the faith to know that when we face accusers, God will come to our rescue. There is no need to fear or worry about what we will say, the Holy Spirit will tell us at the exact moment.

Today, recognize God’s ability to speak in you and through you. Allow Him access to your tongue. Give Him control; for who is better to defend you in your time of need than God?