“I will give thanks to You, O Lord among the heavens,
I will sing praises to You among the nations,
For your steadfast love is great,
Is great to the heavens,
And Your faithfulness, Your faithfulness, to the clouds!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!”
We would probably refer to this praise song as “an oldie.” The funny thing is until many of us read Psalm 57 this week; we may not have grasped just how much of “an oldie” it is! It is not just a song that was written in 1977 – the Holy Spirit through His servant David gave it to us. What may tend to astound us a little is the music studio in which it was written.
There he sat in a dark cave, wondering what possibly could be next. What had it been – 4 or 5 years he had been on the run? A fugitive from justice – at least the royal excuse for justice at the present moment. He could hear his own breathing – as well as the breathing of a small band of men who were with him in the place where light would not betray their presence.
What would today bring? Another close call with death – another sprint up the side of a mountain with our pursuers barely out of sight? It was a lonely existence and often a frustrating one. But before his thoughts could turn to another thing there was a noise at the entrance of their hideout. Silence – absolute silence had to be observed. Did someone see them come in? Did they not cover their tracks well enough? Even worse – were these their final moments before a flood of battle-hardened warriors would begin what would be literally the fight of his life?
No it was only one person – wait – it was one very recognizable person from his attire. The king was entering the cave – and remarkably – he was alone. It was soon evident that he was there to relieve himself. A lone soldier silently came to his side and whispered in his ear. “David – this is it – you can end all this now. God has led your enemy right to you where you can strike him down.”
The stealthy voice was hushed as David took only a moment (but it felt like a year) to know what he should do.
“This is God’s anointed!” He thought, “How can I stretch out my hand and kill him without guilt? He moved as if a small wisp of wind and cut just the corner of Saul’s garment off of the robe. Soon Saul was finished and began to depart from the cave.
David waited a few minutes and then followed him. His men crept behind him to see what would happen. David called out to Saul and apologized.
APOLOGIZED! What was he doing, his men thought!
He isn’t going to kill him?
He’s apologizing – and he’s giving away our position!
We’re all dead men now!
But soon after they heard Saul weep and apologize to him!
What an amazing thing to see and hear.
What a strange day it was.
That night they sat around the fire and David pulled out his lyre. They loved when he did this – for few if any could write and sing like their captain. What prayer would he weave with his music and words tonight? This was a new one – and from what he said – it about today’s events in the cave.
“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.”
Sounds right – sounds like what we’ve been going through – that is for sure! But David continued with more.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me.
Our captain is so good at telling the story! We were praying too! It is truly amazing how he turns to God in every situation. It is amazing that he looks to Jehovah to deliver him – and – us! Reproach? Yeah – Jehovah needs to do a little reproaching and rebuking! We are being trampled. The thoughts of what he just sang ran wild in their heads as he went through a little break from singing and the music played by itself.
A flourish of music seemed to be leading to some kind of revelation.
“God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.”
Send love and truth? What we need to be asking for is a few more soldiers – no – a lot more soldiers! Maybe even a batch of angels!
“My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.”
As I turned and elbowed a buddy next to me – we both had that look in our eyes. Yeah – David – tell it like it is!
Lions – yep – they’re like lions – fire breathing lions – with teeth like spears and arrows! Absolutely David – their tongue is like a sword – a very sharp one! We braced ourselves longing for a little more judgment talk! We wondered how God was going to deal with our persecutors? This was going to be good!
“Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.’
Looked at my buddy and shrugged. Where did THAT come from? He’s started praising God.
We were kind of used to this. It was like one moment he is concerned – maybe even a little mad. Then – boom – it’s like God does something to his heart and his tone changes.
You know - It’s like he sees something we don’t. Almost like God was in the midst of all this mess. Kind of like – no matter what God is still in control of it all? Whatever the case – it may be disturbing – but it sure is amazing and enlightening!
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it.
YESSIR David! It was like they were hunting us with a net and a pit!
Right again! Our souls were bowed down too! And its about time for someone to knock them into their own pit.
Then – there is was again – that flourish in the music that meant a conclusion – or maybe some kind of insight. Oh how we loved how he did this!
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
There he goes again – praising and worshipping God. Was hoping for fire and judgment – but he turns to God and wants to awaken the morning.
Boy - how he views things so very differently than us! Oh – and there it is again – that same chorus.
Be exalted above the heavens – Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Not exactly what I was expecting after that harrowing experience! Then it was done – the song was over. Like all of his songs – this one left us thinking – wondering – considering things.
“You know – there is something about these songs,” I thought. Strange – but the more I hear them – the more I trust in God. The more any situation becomes Jehovah’s situation. The more I see God ultimately in control – no matter how bad or how good it gets.
Then there is also that steady drum beat of everything being for God’s glory.
I looked over at my buddy one last time before I lay down to sleep. “Eh – pretty good song,” I said. “And weird as it may seem – it makes me want to trust God right along with him.”
As I turned my head and lay on the ground I thought of the words of the song I just heard – and drifted off into a restful night’s sleep. My last conscious thoughts were – “With a God like that – doesn’t matter what your situation is – a man can sleep peacefully at night.”
Why is it so difficult for a Christian to decide whom to vote for in this upcoming election? It seems that the more I talk with fellow believers about the presidential election that looms before us in the first week of November the more I hear of people who just don't know what to do. Here are a few things I hope will comfort your heart on this matter if you are one of these people.
First of all politics is not exactly the most godly arena in our culture today. We are watching a race between two people who are on the lowest end of the moral scale in our society. Mrs. Clinton has obviously broken laws in her email scandal. She has also been less than forthright about what happened in Benghazi and her role (or lack thereof). But when we look on the other side we see Donald Trump, a serial adulterer and a man who has gained much of his fortune as a result of the gambling industry. We also see someone who is a braggart and whose Twitter account and speeches are filled with far too much insulting of the other candidates involved - first in the primary and now in the general election. When we are faced with this kind of choice between candidates at the bottom of the moral barrel, it is difficult to say you are FOR either of them.
Second, we are once again choosing the lesser of two evils. I've actually heard it described this political season as a choice between the evil we know and the possible evil we hope won't materialize in the end. This is not the kind of choice we are used to as believers. Jesus told us to, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . “ The focus in our lives is on seeking what is right, good, holy, and godly. There is not an area in our relationship with God in which we are encouraged to choose the lesser evil. We are consistently taught to strive for the right and the best. Therefore such choices as the ones we've had to make over the last couple of decades are difficult for us - if not downright odious.
There is a third reason voting is becoming more difficult for the Christian. Both parties have been far from cordial or gracious to the Christian conservative candidates who represent the kind of moral views we would like to see advanced in our Republic. To be honest - the Democrats don't even try in this area. But the way that conservative Christians and their views are being treated in the Republican primaries makes us wonder if we are even a part of that party any longer. Watching these things unfold - and being told that this is just the way that politics works - in once again something many Christians don't have a stomach for every four years. Especially when we are told after a candidate is chosen, who has had to change their views to stand for abortion from public statements they've made in the past, that we now have to come together and support them (even though we are very wary of them - because of how they've treated us just 6-10 months ago).
The fourth and final reason I'll put in this article has to do with the direction of our nation. My personal feeling is that the choices we have this fall are between watching our Republic and its Constitution being quickly dismantled by one candidate - or - seeing the same thing happen with the other - just more slowly. Neither candidate even wants to address sexual morality - or gender issues for that matter. This leaves me with the horrific choice between a fast or a slow decline and destruction in our nation. One can grasp with this (as well as the other three reasons before it) why we struggle to know whom to vote for this fall.
BUT - and please hear me in this - we live in a rare time in history where we can influence who will lead our nation. It may not be ideal. It may not involve having the perfect candidate - or maybe honestly - not even a decent one. The fact remains we need to look at biblical issues (as Christians) and decide where we can vote to advance godliness and the ability to function as Christians with as little interference as possible (see 1 Timothy 2:2-4). Our goal is to be able to, “ . . . lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." This passage refers to us praying for our leaders - but I honestly believe it can also b taken to mean, in our culture, to pray as to WHO are leaders should be as well. I know that it is not an easy or joyful task, saints. But I believe it is one we should not abandon.
One last thing I need to say in an article like this. The choice of our national leaders often reflects the nation itself. One of the reasons why we are faced with such choices is that the church has not been the evangelical force it should be in leading people to Christ - and then seeing those believers become effective disciples. The ungodliness of our leadership choices only reflects the ungodliness of our nation - and it is with a broken and sad heart I have to say - our churches as well. Let's vote saints. Let's take the time to examine that vote in light of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But - let's pray! If we just vote - and don't get very serious about prayer - we've made a horrific mistake. The need of our nation is revival in God's church and spiritual awakening among the lost of our nation. Without that our nation will continue to slide toward the abyss of ungodliness that we are moving toward currently. As badly as our nation needs good leaders - it is even more imperative that our nation has good churches filled with godly men and women who are laboring in the gospel to see many in it saved. May God bless us with godly leaders - but in light of our current spiritual malaise - it may be even more important that God bless our nation and His church with godly, broken, praying people.
On Sunday night, July 10th, a protest involving thousands of people from Memphis flooded onto the Hernando Desoto Bridge which spans the Mississippi River. That protest was organized by those who felt something had to be done to address the loss of black lives in confrontations with the police. The group that marched that night was frustrated, angry, and outraged over what they perceived to be the injustice they see and have experienced over the years. It was a situation that could have easily escalated into violence, which most likely would have spread throughout the city of Memphis. But that night we were reminded what true leadership looks like – and how a godly leader can both de-escalate a dangerous situation, offer hope to those who feel so misunderstood, and even lead with strength and restraint when such leadership is needed.
Police Director Mike Rallings showed us, by example, what we needs to be done to step up in the crisis that is growing in regard to racial relations. At great risk to himself he walked out on that bridge and sought to be a “bridge” himself. He chose to have a conversation with the protestors. He chose not to become angry and frustrated when he was disrespected. He chose to speak peace and act peacefully to help diffuse a very difficult situation. But what truly impressed me was that this police Director was involved in looking for answers long before this protest started. In an effort to present something we can DO in this crisis, I would like to write a little about what Police Director Mike Rallings said at a meeting called, “Healing the Broken Village” back at the beginning of 2016. He suggested that if more of the 2,000 churches in Memphis focused on their neighborhoods, it could make a significant dent in the number of arrests in the city. He offered the suggestion that churches help provide ministry that offers alternatives to kids after school hours, which is the time of day when they are the most likely to get into trouble. Another public servant at that conference said this, “Take back that corner. What if every church drew a 1,000 yard radius around itself and took the time to get to know every child in that circle?” What an amazing thing to consider in the midst of this crisis. These men, along with other men and women who were at the conference, reached a consensus and said as a group, “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”
They were right - law enforcement alone will not solve these problems. There must be a choice made by the church at this critical juncture to be the light, Instead of raging at the darkness. We are called by our Lord to shine the light of the gospel by our actions and with our words. Like our Lord we must be willing to enter into our world and build sacrificial, loving, gospel-sharing relationships. We have opportunities to step out and get to know our neighbors BEFORE a protest begins. We have the opportunity to build trust with them by caring before a crisis. There are random groups of young men who play basketball on our outdoor court almost every day, with whom we could build relationships. We could foster better understanding with these guys in an effort to genuinely love them – and eventually to share the gospel of Jesus with them. We can be involved in the life of a few young men or women – and seek to see their lives head in a different direction. We can endeavor to make disciples in our surrounding area so that the gospel can turn our community upside down – or maybe better said in our current crisis – right side up.
The fact of the matter is that I do not live in Dallas, Louisiana, or Minneapolis/St. Paul. I live in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Few if any of us will be able to have a direct affect on the areas of our country where tensions are running the highest. But we CAN do something to address the tension in our own community. We can get involved in ministering to those in our neighborhood – in our city who feel disenfranchised, who feel frustrated, who feel angry at what is happening. The way we do this is by building a relationship with one person who is not like us. We can do this by choosing to love and reach out – rather than give in to frustration and anger and put up a wall towards those around us who say that black lives matter. We can SHOW we know that they matter by taking back our own corner through the love of Christ. We can show we know they matter by befriending one person – listening to one person – loving one person. We can show they matter by listening to them – even when they are angry and frustrated.
The Lord Jesus said to us that we are to let our light shine in such a way that those around us may see our good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven. At the risk of sounding too trite I want to suggest that those of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ – and who know that the ultimate answer is the gospel consider a hash tag of our own. The hash tag I am suggesting is this, #shininglightmatters. Maybe it will remind US what to DO in these difficult days. Maybe it will turn us from being caught up in the midst of the anger, frustration, and growing misunderstanding of one another. Maybe it will help us turn to love in action – to active deeds where we allow our light to shine so that God is glorified. Maybe it will help us to remember that we have hope – and that hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe it will remind us that the church needs to rise up and be the source of ultimate hope, healing, and restoration as we seek to touch lives one at a time through the love of God. This is what that brave police director showed us by his actions. This is what our Lord lived as He came and dwelt among us when we were far from God. This is what Jesus modeled as He even loved those who hated Him and died for their sins. This is what we can do. This is who we should be. This is who God, who gave us life through the new birth, made us to be.
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord remind us that our words affect people - no matter how they are shared. May we then speak words that build up rather than tear down.
First of all, my heart goes out to those in Oregon at the community college that was the site of the recent rampage that killed 9 students. As was the case with every shooting like this, I have a special place of empathy and sympathy for those involved. Having been one of the pastors who helped pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the Westside school shooting, I know what it is like to be a community living in the aftermath of these kind of horrors. Long after the news trucks and politicians have milked what they can from the situation, those locally are the ones who put things back together for months and years afterward. No knee-jerk reaction by either those on the political or journalistic right or left solves anything. And after thinking about this for the past several days - ANY knee-jerk reaction in the midst of the pain and horror will probably do more harm than good. It is better for wiser, less power-motivated people to think through things and come up with truly wise decisions. That being said - I do want to weigh in on a matter that currently is breaking my heart as I read about this event.
I read several articles online about this wickedness, and in seeking to be informed, was shocked at the kind of rhetoric that is dominating the conversation. There was one news report that tried its best to stick to the facts on the incident - but the others quickly descended into pejorative and incendiary remarks that broke my heart. You can actually look at the source of the articles and pretty much predict whether it is going to be a rant from the right of the left before you even read the article. One rants about gun violence - the other gun control. Some rant about this being a hate crime - others that it is senseless violence. But if you truly want to be shocked, read the comments below the articles. The pure unadulterated vitriol and verbal poison spewed there blows my mind. It is as if we are unable to react to the tragedy and horror of what the people in Oregon are going through without immediately indicting the political right or left for what has happened. If you read enough of it - you will find yourself inexorably drawn into it - with the subsequent raising of your blood pressure and temptation to join in the verbal barrage from one vantage point or the other. After reading all this and thinking about it, I’d like to take a great risk and seek to insert some Scripture into our understanding of Oregon, Charleston, Fort Hood, Ferguson, Columbine, and even Westside.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
I’ve actually walked up to a school that was shot up and smelled of death. I have sat and talked with people who were in shock after they endured an attack like this. They need comfort, prayer, and a shoulder to cry on. They need “edifying” words spoken - words which give them grace as they hear them. They do NOT need anyone from either side of the political aisle to politicize their suffering and grief. Paul said it best when he said we need to be kind and tender-hearted - steering clear of bitter, angry, clamoring, slanderous words that try to assign blame to someone other than the evil man who murdered 9 people at the community college where this happened. It is unconscionable in any of these horrific situations to take the pain or others and turn it into a platform for political action - and to do so before the sun even goes down on the blood of those who have lost their lives. What we did at Westside for days was sit and listen and cry and pray and comfort real, living, hurting people.
Where are we as a nation when even our most tragic moments cannot elicit from us comfort and compassion without it degenerating to a political shouting match within hours? I was in shock as I read how people posted online the most horrible statements about each other and about various groups that either support or oppose gun control. Both sides should be ashamed of themselves for using this event for their own ends. Before we have even buried one of the dead - the rhetorical “long-knives” have come out and the battle has ensued for who can claim the moral high ground. The truth is both sides are patently immoral for their words and actions that seek to use this situation for their own benefit - rather than respond with grief, compassion for those killed and their families, and prayer and support for the community that needs it right now.
Let me ask a few questions as I close this article. Rather than get caught up in the political rhetorical barrages that are being loosed by both sides, can we consider the following course of action instead? Will we use our words to build up others according to the NEED of this moment? Will we consider how to insert GRACE (especially the grace of God in the gospel) into the conversation? Will we make a decided choice NOT to respond with bitter statements and anger toward the wrong people or groups? Will we choose to reject what the Scriptures call “clamor”? (the word here is “krauge” and it spoke of a public outcry or public controversy - think seriously about the political people using this for THEIR advantage right now) Will we reject the temptation to slander others by stating that this shooting is their fault because they did or didn’t support “insert your issue of choice”. The fact is that this shooting is the fault of the lawless, ungodly actions of one man who chose to act wickedly! Here is the truth folks! We can use our words right now to build up or to tear down. The choice is ours. May God so work in the hearts of His saints, that especially in this situation, we look and talk radically different than the rest of the world.
This morning I was enjoying a cup of coffee and some time with the Lord in His Word. I was in the book of Lamentations in my daily Bible reading. This book is the sad, broken-hearted song of Jeremiah as he considers the wreckage brought on by the rebellion of God's people and their unwillingness to repent. God sent Jeremiah, as well as other prophets, to warn His people to repent and return, and yet they continued in their ways. No one truly took to heart that what Jeremiah was saying would actually come to pass. In the end the destruction God had promised overtook His people. What we see in Lamentations is the heart of God, broken over the destruction that had to come upon His people to bring them back to Himself. You see, He is committed to our best. Our best is that we turn from futile, sinful ways and return to Him with all our hearts. His preference is that we would hear His Word, be convicted by it and repent. But, when we will not listen to Him or His prophets, a process begins. At first the judgments are smaller (and mercifully so - were He to act in full accord with His wrath we would be instantly consumed) but in time they will become more and more devastating. If we do not turn - they will intensify until we do repent. Our stubbornness can result in judgments that would destroy an entire nation and people. Such is the love of God for us - and His commitment to His purposes being fulfilled in our lives. To leave us in our sin without discipline would be to act unlovingly and contrary to His nature.
There are two reasons I write such things. The first is simply to help us grasp the Scriptures - the revelation of God to us - and the call from God to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is consistent in the Scriptures - and it is something we should study and know in order to know our Father better and love Him more. When I came upon these verses this morning they made me tremble. The verses I read grabbed my attention - and honestly - made me fear God and what is surely coming upon our nation. This may be coming sooner rather than later. Let me begin by sharing the verses - then explaining them a little further - then offering an admonition to all of us in light of them.
"The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any inhabitants of the world, that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem. Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who have shed in her midst the blood of the righteous; they wandered blind in the streets; they were defiled with blood so that no one could touch their garments. Depart! Unclean! they cried of themselves. Depart, depart, do not touch! So they fled and wandered; men among the nations said, "They shall not continue to dwell with us." The presence of the LORD has scattered them, He will not continue to regard them . . . " Lamentations 4:12-16
First, they speak of a FALSE SECURITY. The kings and inhabitants of the world saw Israel and Jerusalem as a strong people militarily. No one thought that they could "enter the gates of Jerusalem." The gates and walls of a city represented the defense of that city. When the city was strong no enemy could break down those defenses. This is how the United States has been viewed for decades. We were among a couple of super powers since the 1950's - and became the lone super power after the fall of the Soviet Union. At the close of the 1980's we stood stronger than any nation on earth. BUT . . . such power did not make us grateful - it made us proud. We did not seek God with greater passion - but departed from Him - embracing more and more the sins that eventually destroy nations. Greed abounded in the late 80's and through most of the 90's. Sexual sin has contiued without pause as we embraced the sexual immorality that began in the 1960's with little or no public outcry. We did nothing to a president who openly forsook his marriage vows and had sex in the White House with one of the interns who worked there. What began as a movement to stop same sex marriage - with overwhelming voting victories in every state - has deteriorated into a nation who is about to embrace this practice nationwide. Abortion still kills close to a million babies a year - and racism continues to rise up as cities are embroiled in controversy. In the midst of all this - we have grown to be a people who no longer understand that, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." We think our powerful military is the key to security, not grasping that God has shattered great military powers again and again throughout history. Security - true security is found only in the blessing of God upon a nation or people.
As I read Lamentations I trembled because I could see in my mind's eye a day coming upon the United States. It is a day that will cause all of knees to shake. It will be a day where we feel an emptiness in the pits of our stomachs - as we react in shock and horror to what has happened. It will be a day of defeat - of shocking defeat - and horror as the gates of the United States fall and our wall is breached. Please understand that I do not like this. I am a patriot who loves this nation - warts and all. But to reject the Word on what God does to nations who depart from Him as horribly as ours has - is only to hide my head in the sand like a fool. As I read more though, the reason why such horrific tragedy happens made me tremble even more.
Second, these verses speak of FALSE PROPHETS AND PRIESTS. One of the safe guards that God has for any nation is His prophets and priests. In the United States this would be the pastor's of this nation. They are there to see the truth - and warn God's people about the devastating effects when they choose sin. The prophets are present there to warn. Their fundamental purpose is not to tell everyone that they were awesome and that only good things were coming to them. In fact there are multiple passages that warn against the false prophets of health, wealth, and prosperity. A nation filled with such false prophets was usually a nation about to fall. These false prophets will steer clear of actually warning a sinful people of the consequences of sinning against God. They will ignore sin and, in so doing, fill the streets with blood as they ignore what will come upon those who ignore God and walk in rebellion and disobedience. When God brings His judgment on that nation, He will single out these false prophets as both prophet, priest, and people fall together. I won't take a great deal of time on this point. Suffice it to say that our airwaves and pulpits are filled with those who promise continued prosperity. They do so not even mentioning the sins of the church and the sins of our nation. It is almost as if they think God does not see our sin. Some even denigrate anyone who speaks openly of sin in biblical terms. We also read that these false prophets have the "blood of the righteous" on them. You see, there will come a time soon when these false prophets and priests will join the wicked as they seek to silence those who embrace God's righteousness - even to the point of violence. But God promises that eventually judgment will come upon these false prophets and priests. The pastor's who refuse to stand on biblical righteousness - will fall - and will fall with the very followers who fund their message to the masses.
What are we to do in a situation like ours? Precious saints of God - we need to do what has been done by others before us who feared God. First, we need to look to our own hearts. Turn to God, seek His face, repent, and cry out to Him in humble prayer. The spiritual pollution that dominates our day - has risen even the point of flooding into the church. Begin with you - as I began with me this morning. Once we have cleansed the temple of our own hearts, cry out that God would then do corporately what he has done individually. Pray for the purifying and cleansing of His church. Peter instructs us that judgment begins at the house of God - it begins with His people returning to Him. When we have done that - join with others to pray for our nation. Begin by praying for those around you - family, friends, coworkers, associates - anyone who is in your sphere of influence. Pray for your neighborhood, then your city, then your state, and eventually our nation! Pray for mercy - and pray for revival and spiritual awakening in our city, state, and land.
I know that I've said this in the past - but this morning's warning from the Scriptures was sobering. It also had an urgency to it. I would like to tell you that God's patience will last a long time. But even though He is long-suffering, we should know that our nation's turn from Him and His ways has been going on for a long time. The last time we had a major revival was probably in the late 1800's. We are a people who do not seek God intensely. The trend has been away from two week long revival meetings (common in the 1940-s and 50's) and even away from week long ones (common in the 1960's and 70's). The trend moved to only a weekend of meetings - and now even that is a rarity. We prefer a conference where a self-help topic is discussed. Talk of repentance and revival is no longer in vogue in the church. Please understand that I am not hawking for extended meetings or some future revival meetings. What I would much prefer is an extended time of prayer meetings - followed by a genuine revival.
I know that this has been a tough read. I don't take any joy in having to say these things - and yet I know that to not say them would be far worse for us. It is my prayer that first by example and then by precept God will grant me mercy to lead us in this. May we be a people who turn to Him, cry out to Him, humble ourselves, and receive His gracious mercy.
FOUR LESSONS FOR DIFFICULT TIMES
(This was taken from our weekly email newsletter - if you want to receive it regularly, you can sign up for it in the "sign-up" area of the website.)
May the Lord bless you and help you in every circumstance in life. May His grace abound in both difficult times as well as those that are easy. May you find Him infinitely adequate for every situation - even those where you feel infinitely inadequate . . . no - especially in those infinitely inadequate times.
Last week my mother had a stroke. At that time life moved from what I thought was a difficult time (due to my own myopic view of hard - that is one where I am thinking of my own struggles a little too much) to one that is more in line with what real difficulty probably looks like. But as I've taken time to meet with God and submit myself to what His viewpoint is - even that perspective is changing over time from difficulty to opportunity. If you don't mind - and I hope you don't - let me try to encourage you this week with what I am attempting to learn.
Lesson #1 - Embrace your inadequacy! For those of you who read that and wondered about my sanity in this midst of this situation . . . I am serious as I can be about this first lesson. Too often I spend too much time worrying about my inadequacy in a situation. Please understand I am not talking about those who feel they are inadequate - and therefore do absolutely nothing. That is not so much inadequacy as it is irresponsibility. But feelings of inadequacy creep in during every difficult situation we face. Rather than wrestle with feelings of inadequacy - I am seeing that I need to embrace truth - I am inadequate! At least I am inadequate to go through difficulty without God's wisdom, God's strength, and God's grace. My wrong response to inadequacy is to try to become adequate on my own. This is a dead-end street. Embracing my inadequacy - and then turning to God for the needed wisdom, strength, and grace to do what I need to do - is the proper way to handle difficulty. (Just a little note . . . Jesus said, ". . . apart from Me you can do nothing." Therefore your actual range of inadequacy is far larger than you may have ever thought.)
Lesson #2 - When the going gets tough - the tough turn to God's Word and to God in prayer! Scripture says, "If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited." (Proverbs 24:10) That may sound like a "university of duh" statement - but it is a very wise one. Here is a parallel to it - "If you are slack in the day of distress - guess whose strength you're relying upon to handle it? The word "slack" is telling here. It means to slump down, to sink, to become discouraged and eventually fall. Difficult times can overwhelm you - believe me - this set have led to several times that I've felt overwhelmed. That is a great time to turn to God's Word. If you don't have time to open a Bible - cry out to Him in prayer. The godly men and women of the Bible did exactly that! It doesn't matter that you don't know what to pray - just pray that to God and keep talking. It will come out as you turn to Him. Then when you can get a chance open your Bible and read it. Turn to Psalms and write down His promises and His comforting statements. A wise person would either memorize those - or at least have several on a 3X5 card - or on their cell phone.
Lesson #3 - When your difficulties have you down, don't cry, "Uncle," cry "Body of Christ!" I have said it numerous times in the past. I don't know what people do who do not have the church during their difficult times. If you want to see the church at her finest - go through troubling, difficult times. She tends to rise to the task in those moments. There were several times in all of this that I just wanted to cry, "Uncle!" and give in to the sense of being overwhelmed. God's grace kept me from it. Also remembering that all this got me in the past was a unhealthy dose of freaking out - depression - moments of anger - emotional paralysis - etc. These things pretty much stink if you've ever gone through them. In this situation, I've had to call on the church for help. James and Debbie have been indispensible at the office. The elders have been prayer warriors and those who have sought to encourage me. They also have tried to ease my concern about being away a long time. Plus all those who have either messaged me - emailed me - and facebooked me with promised prayers, support, and encouragement. Yeah - crying "body of Christ" rather than "uncle" is a much better way of dealing with all of this.
My present circumstances are far from over - and I know that. This will be a long-term time of difficulty. (Just a note: Let me say that when it comes to family and friends and the body of Christ - these times are guaranteed to come in one way or another. We were born for these moments - and true love rises to the top when they come.) My guess is that there will be many more lessons for me, and for all of us when we face them, to learn. In the midst of these - there are also probably times when all the feelings of being inadequate in myself, in need of prayer and promises, and just overwhelmed will surface again. That is when I will learn Lesson #4 - I need Endurance to run this race. I appreciate your prayers as I seek to run this part of my race well.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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