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Paul’s Purposeful Praises

Many of us struggle, whether from health issues, emotional issues or mental issues. Some of us struggle with addictions and some with issues of being persecuted by family and strangers. And one of the ways we cope is by telling ourselves, “God doesn’t give me more than I can handle.”

Let me say that again, “God doesn’t give me more than I can handle.” Hmm, what a nice thought, however, it is biblically inaccurate. I am not saying that God doesn’t love you. Or that He doesn’t move supernaturally to help you, all I am saying is the statement above is inaccurate.

Many people from the Bible have had much more than they could handle on their own. People like Job and Paul. There where even times in the life of David, Daniel and Joseph that were filled with struggles. How about the lady that bled for 12 year and spend all her money on physicians, who at the passing of Jesus was delivered from her hopelessness. All of these people are prime examples of this saying being untrue. God loved all of these people.

I love what Paul tells Timothy when he says, “My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”
(2 Timothy 3:11)

I want to refer you to another chapter in scripture that illuminates Paul’s struggles. In Acts 14 while at Iconium and Antioch Paul was mistreated but escaped right before being stoned. (vs. 5) And if that was not enough the people from Antioch and Iconium followed Paul to Lystra and poisoned the Lystrian’s minds about Paul so much so that they stoned him and left him for dead.

People die from being stoned. Stephen died, the guy who cursed his parents from the Leviticus 24:23 died and the guy who was caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath from Numbers 15 also died. Yet Paul miraculously lived. He lived because he was divinely rescued.

I know that there are times (maybe you are in the midst of one right now) where your struggles seem to be bringing you to an end, lean into God. Wait on God. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.

David penned in Psalm 18 after being rescued from King Saul, ” The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalms 18:2

So now when we read pieces of scripture where Paul is boasting about his struggles like in 2 Corinthians 11. We can understand his joy or where his joy comes from. Like he states above it comes from his Rescuer.

I struggle with waiting, Abraham struggled with waiting. Job struggled with waiting. Loads of people struggle with waiting, but if we wait on the LORD he will renew our strength.

Prayer

ABBA, Father help me in my struggles. Your Word tells us that if we ask for wisdom, you will give it. So LORD please give me wisdom and patience to wait on you. I need you!

In Jesus Name, Amen

I am not a Back-handed Honor Seeker, or am I

I think for the most part all of us in one way or another desire to be honored. We want our spouses to honor us, our children, our families, we even want co-workers and strangers to show us honor.

To seek honor is a good thing; it is a wise thing. Solomon penned in Proverbs 3 that the wise inherit honor whereas the fool disgrace. However, there are people (and if I am honest I have drunk from that man-made cistern) that put receiving honor above other people and relationships. To make this a bit easier to digest, some people make success in receiving honor more important than actually being honorable.

Let me ask you a question; Do you believe that while being wise you can be completely foolish about things you yearn for? I think that for the most part, we are all good-willed people, none of us truly seek out being evil. That being said, how is it that we allow ourselves to become so blinded by our fleshly desires?

This posting is about a man (or us) in the Bible that did just that. He wasn’t super-evil he just allowed his quest for honor and power to unravel him. His name is Haman and we can find him in the book of Esther. Haman was wise and hard working. We know this because King Ahasuerus promoted him above all the other nobles in his court (3:1). The King trusted Haman in making decisions concerning his Kingdom (3:9-11). The King also sought counsel from Haman concerning everyday things; like giving honor where honor was due (6:6-9).

Haman himself even loved to boast about his stature in the Kingdom to his wife and friends (5:11-12). But all of this honor wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more. All the honor that the king, the queen, the governors, and the other officials gave him just wasn’t enough. Everyone in the kingdom was showing him honor but one person. ( on a side note this was a big kingdom, it stretched from India to Ethiopia, and contained 127 provinces)

Haman allowed this one person who refused to bow down to him to effect his own decision making. He allowed one small thing to fester which ultimately showed his foolishness and brought death. But even worse than death Haman’s disgraceful story would be told and read for all of eternity because God’s word is eternal.

So back up to what Solomon wrote: the wise inherit honor whereas the fool disgrace. I can sympathize with Haman because I have been him. From time to time I have said that the honor or the privileges that the King of King’s has set before me are not enough. I have been foolish. LORD change me!

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for revealing these things to me and thank you for sending your son to me. Please continue to change me, to transform me into a likeness like your own.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Depressingly, Depressed!

Last week, my blog was about the person with whom I believe is the poster boy from the Bible for Bi-Polar disorder. This week I would like to attempt to take the person that I believe is the best representative from the Bible that suffers from depression.

I have heard people refer to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. We have read about the hard spots that Joseph continually found himself in; which could make anyone depressed. In the book of Job, he says that his afflictions lasted months [ (7:3, 29:2) and I can sympathize having myself suffered from pain for years and it is depressing.] In 2 Kings, King Zedekiah watched as his sons were killed and then his eyes were poked out. Can you imagine having that horrific sight stuck in your head until death? That has to be depressing.

However, when I think about depression there is one person that stands out more than the rest. Hannah! You know Samuel’s mom. We find her story in 1 Samuel 1-2. Hannah was barren and at that time not being able to have children was detrimental to life. If a wife outlived her husband and did not have children she was doomed. Without a son, she would be a beggar or bound for prostitution. That is why in the book of Ruth, Naomi said call me Mara (1:20).

Elkanah, Hannah’s husband also had another wife. A wife that bore him children and as if being barren was not enough, she also had to compete for her husband’s love. And all of these things I am sure brought her self esteem down into the mud.

The Mayo Clinic has a website that is pretty cool and on it is a list of the symptoms of depression. Let me state that if you feel that you suffer from depression you need to consult a doctor (if you have not already done so). Now here are a few of the symptoms that Hannah displayed.

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-image

One of the symptoms of depression is loss of appetite and we see this in 1 Samuel 1:5 when seeing that Elkanah would give her a double portion of the meat from his offering, and in lines 7 and 8, we see that her eating problems lasted for years.

Another symptom that Hannah displayed
was feelings of sadness and tearfulness. We see her crying in lines 7, 8, and 10.

We also know from lines 6 and 7 that Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah would taunt Hannah year after year for being barren. Which I am sure made Hannah feel even more worthless and brought about even more frustration and more anxiety. Not to mention bringing up all the painful thoughts of past failures at conceiving a child.

Let’s face it Hannah is the poster girl from the Bible for depression. But in all of this God was faithful, and blessed Hannah with Samuel and then with three other sons and two daughters (2:21).

I am a man writing this and it is hard for me to completely wrap my head around what Hannah was going through. But what I can say is that I sympathize and empathize with it. I have had the awesome opportunity to pray with a couple going through this exact same thing. And it has changed the way I look at Hannah’s story

I know many people suffer from depression, so I am writing this in the hopes that seeing someone struggling with something that you struggle with from the bible will give you hope. God promises never to leave you and never to forsake you. His love is eternal!

Sources

Mayo Clinic website for depression

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Disobedient Follower

I wanted to label this posting the Lazy Follower but seeing how laziness is a form of disobedience this title will work better.

One passage that sticks out in God’s Word about being a lazy follower is, “By slothfulness the roof sinketh in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaketh (Ecclesiastes 10:18 RV).”

I believe this statement to be true and there are examples from my life that echo this fact. Think about it, when do we stumble and backslide the most? When is it hardest to display love, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and especially self- control and faithfulness? The answer is, when we are lazy.

To put this Bible verse into perspective I would like to use the illustration of a barn’s roof. Most people unless you live in the city have seen barns with roofs that are either showing signs of collapsing or have collapsed. Barns that have healthy roofs belong to diligent farmers whom are constantly inspecting their barns roof beams. They go over them with a fine tooth comb, constantly looking for cracks or wet marks or other signs of distress. They do this because those barns house their crops, their equipment or their livestock. They house something very important to their way of life and being lazy with the upcare of the roof could destroy what they and their families have been doing to support themselves.

It is tragic, but we do this in our spiritual lives. We get lazy. I know I do. In fact I am just coming out of a season where I felt there was this huge distance between God and myself. What happened? Well I have been lazy! I have just been going through the movements.

I don’t know if many of you follow my page but I had this plan. A posting a week, but that hasn’t been going very well. Why….laziness. I also was committed to reading the bible everyday and praying everyday but what happened? Laziness. How about finding a brother where we could mutually disciple one another or how about this one: leading my family in the ways of the LORD. Again, LAZINESS!!

There is a cure for this pandemic going on in my life and maybe in yours. We can choose to be like those farmers who have the barns with the strong roofs. We can choose to live by the Spirit. We can choose to live like Christ.

Paul knew that laziness was a problem in the church when it came to spiritual disciplines. He wrote things like:

  • I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

(2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

  • Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.

(1 Corinthians 9:24 )

  • So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

(1 Corinthians 9:26 )

And the author of the book of Hebrews wrote:

  • Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

To inspire His readers of the importance of the war against spiritual laziness ( which is really a war against the flesh, a war against Satan!) GOD stated through these authors the importance of having spiritual disciplines.

I mean who ever ran a race or boxed while being lazy. You can’t! You will lose! Satan wants us to lose, he wants us to feel like we are far from the Father. Satan doesn’t want us to succeed in leading our families in the way of righteousness. He wants our marriages to fail. And he wants our character to be spoiled not only before God but also with man.

In Galatians 5 Paul states the fruits of the flesh, but curious enough laziness is not there. I believe it should be and my reason for this is all of the fruits of the Spirit require action. Love is an action. So is gentleness and kindness. Patience is the outcome of enduring and self-control is enduring through struggles. Action, action, action.

I believe that if we walk according to the Spirit there will be no room for laziness. God has set up some tools to help us with walking in His Spirit. First He has given us a portion of his Spirit, I mean the Spirit is even called the Helper (John 14:26). He has also given us His Word (2 Tim 3:16), but not to be underestimated He has also given us brothers and sisters to help us along the way (Hebrews 10:25 & Gala. 6:1-2).

Prayer:

Father, I know I have lived in the flesh way to often. But I also know that you have and are and will help me to be more intentional in how I walk with you. You are the divine Potter please continue to smooth all of my short comings out of me. In Jesus name, Amen.

I would love you comment, so if you feel inclined please leave some.

GOD bless.

Compare and Contrast

Often times while reading my Bible I come upon people in the pages that God put there for me (not only for me but for you as well) to come across. I always compare these people and their walks to my own. Without judgement of course. I compare them to see how I am doing; the bad or lawless people and the people that show some righteousness.

I never sit here saying to myself well I am better than this group or that group; instead I examine myself to see what things I have in common with them. Afterall, in 2 Corinthians 13 Paul tells us to,”Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.(v5.).”

So God has directed me to the book of Jeremiah. While reading this book I am saying to myself,” Wow there are aspects of my life that match the people of Judah.” However I would also like to think that if you soberly examine your walk that this might be true for you as well.

In chapter 35 we encounter two groups of people, the tribe of Judah and the Rechabites

JUDAH

Some of the sins that the people of Judah were committing are: idol worship (but not just like; Hey, I am on team Molech or team Baal but they would sacrifice their own children to these idols), the murdering of the prophets of Yahwah, lying, not honoring their parents, and the list goes on and on. They have broken all 10 of the commandments. Wow I have been there! If you were honest so have you.

James says,”For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.(James 2:10‭-‬11)

How many of us hate someone in their lives? Well Jesus says that is murder (Matt 5:22) . How many of us have looked at someone of the opposite sex and said wow that is really nice? Again according to Jesus that is adultery (Matt 5:28). All of us in one way or another have something in common with Judah.

RECHABITES

GOD decided that he is going to test the Rechabites by having them come into the one of the chambers of the temple of the LORD and to have them drink wine.

Two things here: God is always testing us and this piece of scripture is not condemning the drinking of alcohol but is rather about obedience.

I love their response to Jeremiah. “We will drink no wine, for Jehonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. We have obeyed the voice of Jehonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters,(Jeremiah 35:6‭, ‬8).

In these verses here we also see that Jehonadab commanded them to live in tents, not to own land or to not build houses for themselves. He also commanded them not to own seed, to plant it or to own vineyards. And at the end of it he quoted God from Exodus 20:12 by saying if you do these thing it will go well with you in the land that you are sojourning.

This group of people had two really excellent (at least in my opinion) men of God that were of their lineage. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and Elijah the Tishbite.

I remember the first time I read James 5:17 which states,” Elijah was a human being just like us. He prayed that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years! (NCV) And of course I was like I am nothing like Elijah. He is so perfect and I am so flawed. God used him in such mighty ways because of his obedience.

Now when I try to compare myself to people like this I fall short. But it gives me something to yearn for. Something that I know the Holy Spirit is going to complete in me one day.

In the end of this chapter Judah gets carried away by Nebuchadnezzar and God awards the Rechabites by saying, “Because you have obeyed the command of Jehonadab, your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Jehonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.” (v35:19)

Wow! I would love to have God say this to me if I were so faithful. How about you? I love how God uses His word to convict me of my short comings.

Prayer:

Oh Abba Father, please continue to use your Word to convict me of my sins. Please use your magnificent awesome power to change me. LORD, please create in me a new heart and a steadfast spirit for you. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Tempers Fly.

This week has been a tough week! I got into a spat with someone at work and put someone else down for coming up short with something they said they would do. As if I have never come up short or broken a promise!  Yet in the mix of all this week had to offer; I sat up straight and looked on as though I am better than these other two people. What audacity!

God however is still working on me and has shown me a couple of bible verses and some ways for me to apply them.

In the book of James, Jesus’s brother says,”For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”(James 3:7‭-‬10 ESV)

I love the book of James, he does a great job of simplifying things.  And God uses it so well in my life . In the past God has also pointed me to this nugget of truth in dealing with other choices I have made; “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”(James 4:17 ESV)

So the way I dealt with these two people was sin for me. I complained about both of them behind their backs and put them down. I was putting people down who were made in the image of my heavenly Father. 

God then showed me two instances in King David’s life. The first one is what not to do and as you will see God moved a person to redirect David’s anger. Where as the second instance we see how a more mature David deals with the person in a Godly manner. 

First we find King David about to kill Nabal for his rudeness to David and those whom were with him. This  bit of Bible history is worth reading and can be found at 1st Samuel 25. So in 1st Samuel 25 God uses a lady named Abigail to advert David’s anger and to save her husband. It says,”When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my Lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my Lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my Lord, whom you sent.”(1 Samuel 25:23‭-‬25 ESV)

My great wife has played Abigail a lot in my life and I praise God for her. See Abigail met King David;  and when she met him she did so in a  humble and meek way. She took the blame and also brought the food with her that David had asked Nabal her husband for. In the End David’s fierce anger was subdued and Nabal did not die by his hand. 

The second occurrence was between a man named Shimei  when David was fleeing from Absalom. It is found in the 16th chapter of 2 Samuel. Shimei came out cursing and throwing stones at King David and those whom were with him. And when  Abishai the head of David’s army wanted to behead Shimei for his actions King David replied,” If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so? And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.(2 Samuel 16:5-11. ESV )

Was this the case did God really telling Shimei to act the way he was acting or has David just learned how to holster his temper and tongue? 

I have never had something so bad as my son rise up to over throw my  position as father and spiritual leader of my household, but I have had people in the work place curse me and treat me as Shimei and Nabal were treating David and those whom were with him. And I have acted more like David against Nabal at those times(especially  this week) rather than reacting like David in dealing with Shimei. God has shown me this week and continues to shows me that his holiness is a pursuit that He will leads me through. After all He says,”Be holy for I am holy.” (Leviticus 20:7)

Prayer;

Oh Abba, Father, please continue to lead me, please continue to draw me closers to you; all the while transforming me more into your image. In Jesus name, Amen