Nothing More Than Just That

Proverbs 1:1-7: “for gaining wisdom and instruction;  for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

When I was in the 7th grade a popular song on the radio was called “Feelings” by Morris Albert. “Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Trying to forget my, feelings of love.” Of course, the lyrics were about a lost love and the pain and misery that accompanies such; but, it always made me think of these verses. I had a Sunday School teacher who put “feelings” into a context of which I never forgot. As an illustration, she brought a huge back of stuff to our classroom. Candy bars, cotton balls, colors, shoes, jewelry, pictures of cars and boats – you name it – it was in the bag! She asked us to write down as she held the items up, “I love it! or I like it! or I don’t like it! or I hate it!” It didn’t take long to realize we love snicker bars, pizza, our Moms, corvettes; it was almost comical what we valued and loved and expressed as such equally.

My teacher expounded on feelings. She talked out feeling some days like we didn’t want to go to school or make-up our bed or be nice to someone or go to church. She talked about feeling grumpy one day and happy the next; feeling angry in the morning and content in the afternoon; feeling tired in church and energized at the baseball game only a few hours afterwards.

What was her point? She wanted us to realize that many of us dictate our decisions by our feelings. We are mad at a friend and allow the first thoughts in our minds out of our mouths. We don’t feel like going to church, we stay home. We equate our love for a new car with our love for our family. But feelings cannot be the gauge for which we base our actions and decisions. Respect for the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, meaning, we must go to Him for direction and guidance.

When I am overwhelmed by emotion, I pray. I tell God that this is what I am feeling. I do not live by my feelings because my feelings are very fickle. Then, I ask Him to fill me with His knowledge to do what is right and not what I “feel” like doing. I pray He will guide me to His Word so that I might read first hand what He expects from me. When we are disciplined and self-controlled, we are rational and able to see clearly what God says for us to do; when we are raw with emotions, we make errors which can cause severe consequences. Always, seek God first. Put your emotions on the back burner. Feelings are nothing more than just that – feelings. Don’t base your life on them.


The Only Just Judge

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Hebrew word for fool in this context, and in other places in the Old Testament, is a word which means morally defiant. The fool Solomon describes here is very much like a snake, deaf and unable to charm. Until the fool is willing to know God, he despises Godly instruction.

According to the psalmist in Psalm 58, unredeemed people are seen as wicked in the eyes of God, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer however skillful the enchanter may be.”

Some of the psalmist’s words are hard to understand. The important part to remember is, when David wrote these words, he is asking God to punish the wicked; he is not asking God to allow him to punish them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, anti-Nazi, and one of the greatest martyrs for Jesus Christ wrote a small book called Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Bonhoeffer lived his life according to the richness of the Book of Psalm. He understood from his prison cell in Nazi Germany what it was like to be tormented by the wicked. He felt the depth of evil, as David is describing in Psalm 58. He knew well of the existence of the ungodly.

Many times in the Book of Psalm, the authors cry out to God to punish the wicked; to declare judgment upon them: “The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” The words are very sombering when we consider our God to be of love and light. David meant here simply the wicked will die and the righteous will not.

So what do we do with Psalm 58 and others like it? First, the important words to remember are, David was asking God to handle those who harmed him. It is no different from what we pray when we turn people over to God; those who sin against us or are cruel to us; those we believe are unjust and unfair. We lay them at the foot of the cross; we place them in the hands of God. It is not for us to handle but for God to handle in His time.

Secondly, we were all wicked before the redemption of Christ; before we were reborn in Him. Whether we want to accept such a thought or not, until we drenched the blood covering protection of Jesus Christ over us, we were/are considered lost among the wicked. That is why the battle for souls is so important to God and so important to Satan. Every soul counts.

Because Jesus was human on earth, He understands what it feels like to be treated cruelly and unjustly at the hands of mean and hateful people. The Psalms are the prayers and cries of human beings to God; humans in desperate situations; humans who believe in a God who protects and defends them against evil.

Bonhoeffer writes, “It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God, and who stands in our place and prays for us.” Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, page 20-21.

Most of us will not experience the depth of evilness as David, Bonhoeffer, and many others tortured for their beliefs; but, some of us understand what it is like to face unfairness, hatefulness, and cruelty. Some of us know the deep emotions of betrayal and heartache at the hands of another. As David, we must turn those feelings over to God to handle. Only He can punish fairly. He is the only just Judge.

Today, as you pray, ask God to help you find peace with your enemies. Put them in the hands of God. Let Him deal with them. Remember who stands in your place and prays for you.


Keep on keeping on!

Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Today, I do not know what your “them” is…

It could be health issues; relationships which are breaking your heart; or someone’s stupid choices which are impacting you. I do not know…only you do. But I want to encourage you.

Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you.”

I remember a time when I faced some horrific news. As is normal, I took a deep breath, wondering why such had to happen. Then, this verse resonated in my mind. Not stoically but with great comfort as if God were saying, “Remember…” And even though the news was still real and painful, I knew I did not have to be terrified because God was with me. He is also with you.

David writes in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.”

Whatever is bringing you anxiety today, whatever is bringing your heart pain, give it to God. He is right beside you and will never leave you or forsake you.

There was an elderly gentleman in our church who is no longer living on earth but whenever he was going through a rough time, he’d reach his hand back and pat himself on the shoulder. He’d whisper as a reminder, “Don’t forget WHO wins! Keep on keeping on.”

It was actually something he’d learned from his grandmother. Not too long ago I ran into his grandson. The family is going through a difficult season. We talked for awhile and he concluded with a pat on the his shoulder and in a gentle voice, “Don’t forget WHO wins! Keep on keeping on!”

The LORD your God goes with you.”

 


But Live…

Psalm 118:17, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

We all experience times in life when we wonder if we can put one foot in front of the other. Storms of life have tossed us to the point we truly do not know how much more we can take. An illness strikes a family member; we experience a job loss; foreclosure on a home; unfaithfulness of a spouse; divorce; death of a loved one; tragic, unbelievable events hit and leave us standing, trying to determine where to go. The Psalmist, David, wrote Psalm 118 as a result of going through hardship after hardship; but, he knew from where his help came. He knew Who was steering his ship. He knew the Lord was with him.

There is power in simply knowing Who is beside you. I learned this from watching my dad. As a boy, I witnessed the manner in which my dad handled the struggles of life. He wasn’t complacent about them, but he did keep moving, pushing through, and living because he knew he would see the goodness of God – in time.

Life isn’t easy for anyone. I cannot tell you why some people may suffer more than others. I do know, if trials have not entered your life, they will. It is inevitable because it is a part of life.

The important part is how you handle what comes your way. David writes, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

There are times when God will change the circumstances around us for a better solution, and there are times God will change our perspective on life. Sometimes, God will give us the comfort and strength we need to keep moving forward. And other times, God will come in with an a miraculous answer.

I can’t pretend to know how God will get you through what you are going through. But I can confidently say, “He WILL.” Our part is to stay close to His Word. Stay close to Him. Walk in His promises. Keep our eyes focused on Him and trust…”I will not die but live…” As hard as it is, LIVE… Move forward… Believe…

“…and (you) will proclaim what the LORD has done (for you)”


He already has the answer for you

Acts 12:14-16, “When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.  They said to her, “You are out of your mind !” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.”  But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.”

Back when I was a boy, a magician came to our hometown. I don’t know about you, but I love a good magic trick. The tougher for me to figure out – the better. A slip of hand, a twist of the wrist, and I am there! His name was The Amazing Monty, and for $2.50 my friends and I could sit under a tent on wooden benches and watch Monty’s performance. Before he began, he would announce as he waved his magic wand, “Prepare to be amazed!” His eyes would flash mysteriously, and we would find ourselves on the edge of the bench with anticipation.

In Acts 12, Peter has been arrested shortly after the execution of James, the brother of John. Herod intends to sentence Peter to death after the Passover, and he orders that Peter be placed in chains between two guards.

So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” – Acts 12:5.

An angel appears to Peter, tells him to get up quickly, escorts him out of the city gates, and Peter appears at the home of Mary, the mother of John, where all are gathered praying for Peter. A servant girl named Rhoda answers the door, runs to tell them that Peter is there, and the prayer warriors ask her, “Are you out of your mind?”

How often are we like them? How often do we pray, and pray, and pray, but when God delivers, we do not believe He’s delivered us? It’s as if God is saying to us, “Prepare to be amazed!” but we are looking for the trick, the magic, the explanation instead of the miracle.

Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

God honors faith. Pray fervently and continuously. Know your Father in Heaven, not only hears your prayers, but already has the answer for you. Prepare yourself to be amazed by HIS Holy hand.


Moving Mountains

Mark 2:5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”

Jesus was teaching in a house in Capernaum. The people wanted to hear him so much there was no room to get in and it appears the house was surrounded by people. Four friends of a paralytic man carried him on a stretcher to be healed by Jesus. When they got to the house, they realized there was no way they were going to get in through the front door because of the crowd.

Mark 2:4, “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.”

If you have ever cracked walnuts, you know how hard it is to get through the outer shell. We keep working at it because we know inside the hard shell is a wonderful tasting nut. We wouldn’t worry with it if we didn’t have the belief that the nut was inside.

This guy’s friends not only loved him and wanted for him to be healed, but they believed he could be healed. If I could make a YouTube video of the event, I would titled it “Faith in action.” When they realized they couldn’t get in the house, they climbed up on the roof and dug a hole large enough to then lower him down through the hole. Can you imagine what was involved in the doing so?

There are times when we have to carry the load. We have to have faith for our friends and family. Sometimes, a person cannot do it alone. Do you realize the faith of our friends can change our circumstances? Prayer is important – yes! But there are times when your friend needs more than your prayers, he needs to see your faith in action. Maybe he  needs you to fast for him. Maybe  she needs you to invest money in what she is trying to do. Whatever the situation, as Christians, we have a responsibility to show our faith for someone else’s need.

When Jesus sees our faith in action, He will move mountains for our friend.


To Right the Wrong

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.