Fear of those against you

There is a lot of conflict in this world.  It’s impossible not to be drawn into  it at some time in your life.  People will come up against you especially if you do the right thing.  In a world of political correctness, expediency and compromise – the right thing is the worst thing you can do.  People will go after you for it and you will have to engage in conflict in self-defense.  But self-defense has limits and in a protracted battle you reach it when you start to fear.  Fear paralyzes and slowly sucks life’s joy out of you.  How do you deal with it?john3 19

The Psalmist knew what to do; “Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.” (Psalm 64:1) He recognizes the danger to the quality of his life – and knows God is the best defense against fear. Sadly, there are people who use lies as their weapon of choice to attack those who are innocent; “Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, And bend their bows to shoot their arrows–bitter words, That they may shoot in secret at the blameless . . . “(v.2-4) The Bible denounces these kinds of liars; “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)

Liars like all cowards prefer to run in packs and plot in secret; “They encourage themselves in an evil matter; They talk of laying snares secretly; They say, ‘Who will see them?’ They devise iniquities: ‘We have perfected a shrewd scheme.’ Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep.” (Psalm 64:5,6) They have no fear of God rather they hate His light and reject God because it shows them up for what they are! (John 3:19) Liars love darkness and belong to the prince of this world. Jesus denounces them; “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) A lie and the truth is the only real dividing line between people.

How does God deal with liars?  The truth always overcomes and even makes lies  work against those who utter them; “But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; Suddenly they shall be wounded. So He will make them stumble over their own tongue; All who see them shall flee away.” (Psalm 64:7,8) Don’t flinch when attacked by liars. Speak the truth and stand firm. God will prevail; “All men shall fear, And shall declare the work of God; For they shall wisely consider His doing. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory.” (v. 9,10) The truth always comes out strong and bright just when things seem very dark and dreadful.

Stand and speak the truth.

Amen!

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God is there if you really want Him . . .

Everybody likes to window shop.  You go out for a tour of the mall just to look but not buy.  You spend an entire day or afternoon, enjoying looking over the merchandise but have no intention of buying anything because you don’t really feel  any pressing need. It’s just fun to look.  Sadly this is all too common in our churches.  People are just there to look.  They have no pressing need.window shopping

The Psalmist’s need was urgent and desperate; “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) He searched for God in the sanctuary; “So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” (v. 2) And he was satisfied; “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.” (v. 5) The Psalmist’s faith was his constant companion and his way of life; “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” (v. 6-8) God was always before him and his source of strength.

If you’re looking for God, don’t window shop.  God comes to people who desperately search for Him by letting go of all other priorities; “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) There is much self-deception and wickedness in all that we hold more important than God.

The Kingdom of Heaven is real and can be found on this side of eternity but it does come with a cost. Jesus teaches us; “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”(Matthew 13:45,46) The merchant wasn’t window shopping. He was serious and willing to pay the cost.

And what is that cost? Our pride of self. God says it all starts with humbling ourselves. This is costly in a world where ‘self’ has become the centre of all things for so many; the one place God can’t be found.

If your pride is slowly killing you, you’re paying too high a price for your pride.

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Each according to his work . . .

Good intentions are good but that’s all they are.  Often, we may want to do the right thing but then don’t follow through for a lot of reasons – the cost is too high, fear of the consequences or doing something just isn’t a priority.  A person’s real values show up in the gap between their ‘good’ intentions and actions.  And God’s judgement is in that gap.people-with-good-intentions11

There are some people who are masters at presenting themselves as people of ‘good’ intentions towards others as a cover for their animosity.  The Psalmist nailed them; “They only consult to cast him down from his high position; They delight in lies; They bless with their mouth, But they curse inwardly.” (Psalm 62:4) How do you respond to such ‘double dealers?’ It’s hard to challenge ‘good’ intentions when they are presented as a screen by liars. Frustration and anger with the lies build up until you’re the one that does something stupid in exasperation.

The Psalmist has a better approach; “Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” (Psalm 62:1,2) Sometimes the hardest thing to do is wait patiently for the truth to be revealed. God always reveals the gap between ‘good’ intentions and actions if you trust Him enough to let Him work in whatever situation you’re in. The Psalmist advises; “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (v. 8) Take refuge, talk openly with God (that’s called real prayer) and stand firm.

In time all things are revealed for what they are; “Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales, They are altogether lighter than vapor. Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.” (Psalm 62:9,10) The real power of justice and mercy belong to God and He will follow through; “God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work.” (v. 11,12) Faith is the strength needed to hold on while God works.

Jesus’ great sermon on the mount starts out by assuring people who are struggling that God will follow through; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-6) God’s good intentions always line up with His actions.

This is God’s work.

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The heritage of the faithful

We all live with our heritage whether we know it or not.  The dictionary defines ‘heritage’ as “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor.”   Some ‘heritages’ are a blessing.  Some are not. It doesn’t take to many generations of faithless people to create a society of lost individuals with no moral compass.generation

People are becoming aware of the terrible impact negative heritages have upon society.  Psychology Today reports; “‘The crisis of fatherhood, then is ultimately a cultural crisis, a sharp decline in the traditional sense of communal responsibly,’ contends Popenoe; ‘It therefore follows that to rescue the rescue the endangered institution of fatherhood, we must regain our sense of community.'” Finding the way back to family and community becomes almost impossible in the absence of the heritage that nurtures those same positive social conditions.

The Psalmist knew that value of a faithful heritage; “For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.” (Psalm 61:5) As a recipient of this positive heritage he knew where to turn in times of crisis; “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (v. 1,2) A faithless heritage produces individuals who become self-centered in times of crisis. Self-centered people rarely have the capacity to look for higher ground when wandering in a swamp of distress. And so generations of wandering lost souls become the norm.

The Bible tells us how important being faithful to God is for the generations to follow; “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9) And the Bible tells us how quickly this heritage can be squandered; “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers . . . ” (Judges 2:10-12) When this happens the blessings of a good heritage is lost and very hard to regain.

Jesus explains the key to prosperity and building up a good heritage to pass on to our children.  It’s about priorities; “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:31-33)

The priorities and choices we make today become our legacy to our children.

Make wise choices.

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The wine of confusion

Confusion is a popular drink today.  Many prefer to not know what’s going on rather than face hard truths about themselves and the world around them.  Hard truths don’t go away and they are not easily ignored.  You need to drink a lot of the wine of confusion for reality to recede into the background.  And people do by indulging in retail therapy, mindless fun, empty entertainment and spectator sports. We don’t live in a post-truth era, most of us are just totally ‘befuddled.’Lost and Confused Signpost

The wine of confusion was a drink that the Psalmist and his people had to drink; “You have shown Your people hard things; You have made us drink the wine of confusion.” (Psalm 60:3) When people refuse to look at the ‘hard things’ in life, often they think God is the one that serves them ‘the wine of confusion.’ In some bars there are large mirrors behind the bar tender so if people wish to they can see themselves getting drunk but most prefer to concentrate on the glass of booze as they reach for it.

What God offers in times of confusion is sobriety; “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. That Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and hear me.” (Psalm 60:4,5) That banner for us is Jesus. He is the way out of confusion and back to God; “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Sadly, many prefer the wine of confusion.

The Psalmist knows that without God there is only confusion and wandering; “Who will bring me to the strong city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God, who cast us off? And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.” (Psalm 60:9-11) Worldly philosophies and fake religions don’t help nor does the best of secular humanistic legislation and leadership. The feelings of being ‘cast off’ are a result of our self-imposed isolation from God – our own abandonment of His ways.

The apostle Paul describes the response to hard truths and the difficulties of life for those who walk under the Banner of Truth; “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . ” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Our faith is our resilience.

Praise the Lord!

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Work it out as many times as you have to

The Book of Psalms is a profound collection of meditations by  people working out their emotions and finding the spiritual truth that centers and lifts them out of dark pits of despair and anger.  Emotions are of the soul, of the mind; and there’s nothing that can convince you to run in circles more than your own mind.  Worry and resentment  circle back on each other and keeps us spinning.   We repeat our mental scripts living them out over and over again until we break out of them.715215

The Psalmist knew this mental ‘merry-go-round’ all to well.  He had his troubles. People were after him; “For look, they lie in wait for my life; The mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.” (Psalm 59:3,4) In anger and frustration he calls on God for their destruction; “Awake to help me, and behold! You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors.” (v. 4,5) Yet they come back again; “At evening they return, They growl like a dog,and go all around the city.” (v. 6) In anger and frustration we can call on God to do crazy stuff. It doesn’t help.

God patiently shows us the futility of our soulish desire for vengeance; “My God of mercy shall come to meet me; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.” (Psalm 59:10) And like the Psalmist we temper our cries for help; “Do not slay them, lest my people forget; Scatter them by Your power, and bring them down, O Lord our shield.” (v. 11) But hot desire for vengeance comes back; “Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be; And let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth.” (v.13) And so around we go; “And at evening they return, they growl like a dog, and go all around the city.” (v. 14) Soulish outrage and an appetite for revenge will not clear away your opposition.

Finally the psalmist finds his way to peace. He gets it; “But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.” (Psalm 59:16) The God of Mercy isn’t an offensive weapon. Our God of Mercy is a refuge and there is peace for all who find Him. Jesus commands; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

The apostle Peter reminds us; “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Amen!

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Breaking their teeth

When I was a young man I was asked to do a reading in church.  I came upon the line; “Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!” (Psalm 58:6) Being an angry young man working through a lot of childhood bullying trauma, this line resonated with me. I remember stopping my reading in front of the congregation and saying; ‘I like that line so much I’m going to read it again!’ And I did, with gusto. I’m not that man anymore but I still understand the feeling.cross serious

When we have been hurt deeply, we get angry and want somebody to ‘break some teeth.’ The Bible tells us it’s OK to get angry; it’s what you with your anger that counts; “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26,27) Don’t let anger grow into a grudge and take root into the devil’s bitterness in your soul. We must acknowledge our feelings and our hurt. Pick up that hard rock of anger and look underneath it to the wound. Only then can healing begin to take place.

The Psalmist works through his feelings; “Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones? Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men? No, in heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.” (Psalm 58:1,2) He calls out the silent indifference of the world to injustice. His anger against those who have gone after him expresses itself with extreme prejudice; “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” (v. 3) And like all prejudice it is only half-true with the other half applicable to all. Babies can’t speak when they are born and the Bible tells us we are all born in iniquity; “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)  We all deserve to  have our ‘teeth broken’; those who  injure as well as those who are injured because any honest person will admit to having hurt others as well as being hurt by others.

A desire for vengeance is natural in us and the Psalmist expresses it so vividly; “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,. . . ” (Psalm 58:10) The spiritual truth behind this scripture is that we are indeed washed in the blood of sin; “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) We are washed in the blood of Jesus; “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

Our salvation is freely available to all the wicked, even those who hurt us and even us. As we forgive and as they forgive, we are set free and given new life.

Is this not true justice!

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