Low Spots

When driving on the roads of Kansas, there is often quite a bit of time to kill between one town and another. During this time, I will often call my wife or make other calls that need to be done. Without fail, however, a hill or valley obstructs my signal and I start to lose reception. “I’ll call you back,” I’ll say. “I’m in a low spot.”

Low spots with a cell phone are merely an irritating inconvenience. Low spots in life, on the other hand, can seem overwhelming. And no matter how great your faith, they will come. Before David became king, Saul sought his life. During this low spot, David wrote “Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me” (Psalms 142:6 ESV)!

God will not prevent you from going through life’s low spots, but He will see you through them. You may even feel that your reception is obstructed and it’s hard to hear God’s voice. Unlike a cell phone conversation, though, God still hears your cry loudly and clearly. You never have to ask “Can you hear me now?”

Your feelings may tell you differently, but God has not forgotten you. Rather, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15 NIV).

An Undivided Family

When accused of casting out demons by demonic forces, Jesus replied that “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25 ESV). This same truth applies to the Kingdom of God. When we are united, we stand. When we are divided, we fall.

Such unity, of course, takes work. We will have misunderstandings and disagreements. Or viewpoints and outlooks can differ tremendously. Through it all, it is vital that we work toward unity and peace. Differences between members of the family of God are just that- differences. In the end, every believer’s goal must be unity, love, and glory to the name of Jesus. Don’t get confused- your brother, your sister, they are not the enemy. They are family.

Jesus tells us this very truth in the same chapter of Matthew: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 50, ESV). We can disagree on what direction to take or even on what God’s will is, but in the end we all must either come into agreement, our at least agree to disagree, maintaining a spirit of love, kindness, and grace for one another through it all. Our work for the Lord is too important to have it any other way. Our family in Christ is too important for us to act any differently.

Lord, help me to maintain the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace. Help me to always keep Your Kingdom in my view and to love in the midst of differences or disagreements. Help me always to remember the importance of what binds us over the temporary things that divide us. Amen.

Strong and Courageous

As God called Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, He spoke words that have been quoted again and again, encouraging generation after generation to boldly pursue what God has laid before them: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

Be strong. You may feel weak, but you have an untapped wellspring of infinite strength, because Almighty God is your strength, and His power is made perfect in weakness.

Be courageous. It is normal to fear change, the unusual, the unknown, but this is where God has called you, and His perfect love will drive out fear.

Finally, remember that He is with you. You are not alone. Child of God, your Heavenly Father goes with you to watch over you, prosper you, and make your paths straight.

Be strong. Be courageous. Do not fear, for God is with you.

Twisted Words

In 1 Samuel 18:3-4, we read about the deep friendship between David and Jonathan. And this scripture is a great example of the deep and meaningful relationships that Christian men should have with one another. However, that is not why I am sharing this scripture today.

You may not realize it, but many have used this scripture to promote the idea that a homosexual relationship is biblical, trying to read sexual connotations into this scripture. But I am not writing this to discuss homosexual relationships specifically, either.

Instead, I want to address how we read the Bible. Specifically, are you reading out of God’s Word, or into it? Are you seeking to understand the Bible for what it says, or for what you want it to say? Does God’s Word shape your perception and challenge you to change, or do you interpret what it says according to what you already feel and believe?

We can read the Bible the wrong way! Any words- even God’s- can be made to say something they don’t mean. Using “sound bytes” from scripture, much like media outlets use snippets of words to report whatever they wish, the Word of God has been incorrectly interpreted to justify all manners of sin.

The truth of God’s Word is this: an honest look should have uncomfortable moments. Moments that challenge and change us. If all you find is self affirmation in the Bible, you need to take a closer look. God loves you as you are, but has plans for you to be something a little better, something a little more. Look deep into God’s Word- deep enough that it causes discomfort- and embrace the better you that God is changing you to become.

Lord, I appreciate your words of affirmation, but I thank you now for your words of correction. Thank you for caring enough not to leave me as I am. Though it may be uncomfortable, I look expectantly to the greener pastures ahead. Amen.

Trained for Battle

War is ugly. Battle is not beautiful and can be highly traumatic for the soldier. And yet, it is necessary. You have nothing with living for unless you have something worth dying for. In this imperfect world, we have to fight to defend what matters.

As believers, we fight a battle every waking moment. We have chosen to follow Jesus and he leads us to war against the evil one who imprisons the masses, who steals, kills, and destroys.

In the midst of this battle for the souls of mankind, we are blessed, and we blessed the name of the Lord because of it. The Psalmist writes “Blessed be the Lord , my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Psalms 144:1 ESV).

The battles we face will not be enjoyable, but our God trains our hands for war. There is nothing you will face that He will not equip you and assist you to overcome.

Our great God and Savior trains our hands for war, leads us into battle, and conquers the enemy. Life will always be a struggle, but through Christ we will have the victory.

Was that Obedience?

When Saul was commanded to attack the Amalekites and devote all they had to destruction because of their sin, he obeyed God… sort of. He destroyed everything that was not desirable, but he and the people kept the good spoils of war for themselves.

After God spoke to him, Samuel came and confronted Saul with his disobedience. At this point, Saul began to make excuses.

First, he insisted that he had obeyed the word of the Lord. However, this was clearly not true. Samuel asked him “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”

Clearly found out, Saul tried to excuse his disobedience. He replied “the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” While this sounds honorable at first glance, it was not what the Lord had commanded.

Many churches attend to good things- worship, community, even service- but have we replaced the great commission with something that seems more comfortable?

Are we exchanging God’s command for something less? Are we usurping His direction with something that sounds good to us? God, help us to follow Your direction, and not ours.

Humble

When Samuel meet Saul and began to reveal that God had chosen him to be king, Saul said, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” (1 Samuel 9:21 ESV)

Undoubtedly, one of the reasons God chose Saul was his humble attitude. He didn’t consider himself to be someone great. God values humility and reviles pride.

Likewise, when we come from a posture of humility, God sees the opportunity to accomplish something great in our lives. God uses the humble to do great things.

We must be careful, however, that we work to maintain an attitude of humble service. Later in Saul’s life, his pridefulness caused Saul to lose the throne to David, who God raised up to take his place.

Keep me humble,
Lord I pray,
So I won’t stumble
In Your way.
By the side
Of He who’s true,
My only pride
Shall be in You.

Prayer Therapy

In 1 Samuel, we read how Hannah anxiously desired to have a child. Her husband loved her, but she yearned to bear children, yet remained barren. In distress, she came to the temple and prayed to God for His provision. Here is what happened:

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” As she continued praying before the Lord , Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my Lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord . Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:10‭-‬18 ESV)

After Hannah had prayed, before she ever received an answer to prayer, we read that “the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” We have often proclaimed how prayer changes things, and it’s true. But we sometimes forget that prayer changes us!

In our moments of distress, prayer changes our perspective. In the absence of an answer, we still find peace, comfort, and strength. There is a song with the lyrics “sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes he calms His child.”

In the midst of your storm, before an answer ever materializes, remember that when you entreat your Heavenly Father, Her wraps you in His arms of love. He is the God of all comfort. Prayer is the best therapy!

Dare!

In the story Ruth, Boaz is a wonderful example of a man of kindness and integrity. And after Ruth asks him to redeem her husband’s inheritance and take her as his wife, we see another virtue that scripture holds in high esteem: he was a man of action.

Concerning Boaz, Naomi told Ruth that “the man will not rest but will settle the matter today” (Ruth 3:18 ESV). There are two ways to respond to life’s situations: we can let things happen our we can make things happen. We can grumble and complain, or we can be a force for change.

Remember that the Spirit of God dwells within you and the hand of God moves on your behalf. God values steps taken in faith and has called us to God works. He desires you to be a person of action and empowers you to affect change. Dare to dream, dare to believe, dare to act, just dare!

Cloudy Vision

In Judges 20 and 21, we see some examples of very sinful actions, the worst of which being a gang rape committed by the people of Benjamin. At the end of chapter 21, the scripture explains why these things were happening: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV).

While the world has always been about doing what’s “right for me,” we have clouded vision and can seldom see with moral clarity. In our quest to do what is right for us, it is gauranteed that we will do wrong to others. Such a self-centered outlook will most certainly result in heinous actions.

Scripture says the problem was that Israel had no king- not one that they recognized, anyway. God reigns on the throne of Heaven, but the people of Israel continually turned their backs on God and did not heed His Word.

The solution then to evil is listening to your righteous King. Do not do what pleases you, which, like a house of cards, will cause everything to fall apart. Like a row of dominoes, your first self-centered actions will continually lead to more, leaving a path of destruction in your wake. Instead, the righteous Judge is the only One who had the clarity and insight to declare sin and righteousness.

Is Jesus reigning on the throne of your heart today? Are you heeding the righteous edicts of your Heavenly King?