Tag Archives: hard times

2 Chronicles 25-28; It’s None Of Your Business

Have you ever been obviously blessed by God, and thought, “Wow. I don’t deserve that”? First of all, that should be our response every day. Every breath we breathe, every beat of our hearts, are blessings we don’t deserve.

But I trust you have enjoyed the direct blessings of obedience, too. Maybe God lays on your heart to give sacrificially to your church, then your boss gives you a raise. Or you visit that cranky neighbor when God nudges you, and you have the privilege of leading that person to the Lord. The Bible is full of examples when obedience results in great blessing.

But before you get too satisfied with yourself because of the amazing ways God has blessed you, read 2 Chronicles 28. Israel had just had victory over their brothers in Judah. 120,000 soldiers in Judah were killed, hostages and plunder taken. But the Israeli army, on their way home after God had blessed them so dramatically, were met by the prophet Obed. Listen to what he said to them:

Because the Lord, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand… But aren’t you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God? (verses 9-10)

In other words, listen up boys. You aren’t “all that.” You were blessed because God was disciplining Judah. Don’t get too comfortable. You are just as guilty as they. And God always punishes disobedience.

Sometimes we might be tempted to be jealous when some jerk seems to get all the breaks, while you struggle. And you’re so much better than he.

What God reminded me today is that I don’t know the whole story like He does. How God is dealing with someone is none of my business. God draws people to Himself through good times, and bad times. And He never lets me in on His methods of the heart.

If I am focused on someone else’s fortune, or if I become too prideful with God’s blessings in my own life, I need to brace myself. Sin is knocking at the door. I’d better confess it, ask God to forgive it, and be the person He wants ME to be. Anything else is none of my business.

 

 

2 Chronicles 17-20; Praise Changes Things

When I read Jehoshaphat’s story I am always struck by the unusual battle plan God laid out for Judah. A vast army was approaching, and the kingdom was in big trouble. The people fasted and prayed, then God told them to go toward the battle, but they would win the war without fighting.

So Judah’s army marched down into the valley to face their enemy. But the army wasn’t lead by fierce warriors on sturdy horses. The army was lead by…

the choir.

The singers lead the soldiers armed for battle, singing praises to God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

Read for yourself what happens next. God is amazing.

Is praising God so important? I bet most of you in the US took a moment last week to thank God for something. It’s what we do once a year before we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuff.

But what about praising God today? The cancer diagnosis hasn’t changed. Your loved one is still dead. Your job is still frustrating. Your marriage is still unhappy. You might tell yourself you have nothing to praise God for.

Praise Him anyway.

Jehoshaphat’s choir didn’t sing about the war, they sang about God. They took their eyes off the seemingly impossible situation, and looked instead toward God. And that’s what I think God would have us consider today.

When those thoughts begin to creep in and tell us how hard our lives are, how unhappy we are, how things are just not fair, we need to quote a psalm, sing a praise song or hymn that points us to our Heavenly Father.

There is no room for self-pity when we are praising God.

Let’s face it. Some of us hate this time of year. Loneliness is more pronounced. Shattered families are more hurtful. Some people feel the hopelessness of their situation more deeply this time of year, when everyone seems to smile and wish us “Happy Holidays.”

Praise God. Not just a quick, Thanks, but a sincere, heartfelt praise to the One who loves you more than you know, the One who is the giver of all good things, who wants to comfort you, strengthen you, hold you up, and forgive you. He is worthy of our praise.

If you read Jehoshaphat’s story, you’ll find out the Jews enjoyed a decisive victory that day without lifting a finger. They were blessed beyond what they could have imagined, when they started the day praising God.

Praise God, dear one. Your circumstances might not change. But you will. And you will be blessed beyond what you can imagine.

Ruth 1-4; The Master Weaver

This book is a beautiful picture of how God can use the circumstances of life to weave a tapestry more glorious than we can imagine. I was thinking about that as I read Ruth’s story and began to see some of the individual stitches that combine to make her tapestry, or the picture of her life:

Because of a famine, Ruth met and married her Jewish husband. She accepted, and was accepted by, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and their love for one another is legendary. The deaths of her husband and father-in-law led her to leave her home and family, and move to a country where people of her nationality were not welcome. Ruth thought that caring for her mother-in-law was more important than what people might think about her.

Through Naomi’s influence, Ruth turned from the pretend gods she was raised worshiping, and accepted the God of Israel for her own. A poor woman with nothing she could call her own, she immediately went to work to support herself and Naomi, and ended up working in the fields of the one man who could redeem her and Naomi, who would marry her, love her, and give her children.

And the finishing touch on Ruth’s story is the fact that Jesus Himself is a direct descendant of this Moabite woman and her kinsman redeemer.

I love how God presented opportunities for Ruth, and how she followed His lead. I love how God was able to take tragedy and weave that into a life that effects me here in 2017. Are you as blown away by that as I am?

We can’t always see how God is working to bring good out of things Satan might intend for evil. We might not see how a choice we make leads to another and another that ends up effecting people down the road.

But I am reminded, as I read the book of Ruth, that God is working in my life today, weaving a tapestry of my life, giving me opportunities to obey Him that will result in something really beautiful. Someone has said that we are only allowed to see the underside of the tapestries of our lives. But I think occasionally God gives us a glimpse at the final product.

Like when someone comes to the Lord because of our influence. Or when we hold that newborn baby in our arms, or realize we were in the right place at the right time to represent Jesus to someone. It’s when we are told that, at the lowest point of our lives, our example spoke to someone about God’s love, or His strength, or His assurance.

We see a glimpse at the final product when we can see that God uses even the most difficult circumstances to produce something beautiful in us.

I want to recognize Gods leading and, like Ruth, take those steps in faith. I want to be obedient to the Master Weaver, and one day lay the tapestry of my life at His feet. I believe, when at last I take a look at the entirety of my life, I will praise my God who made something beautiful out of even me.

Numbers 10-11; Is The Lord’s Arm Too Short?

Moses was overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel. It wasn’t like he ran for office, or even applied for the position. God called, Moses answered (though somewhat reluctantly). Now in the desert with a million whining Jews, he probably wished he’d ignored God’s call.

Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease You that You put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them?… If this is how You are going to treat me, put me to death right now… (11:11-15)

Yep. Moses is wound a little tight here.

The problem with the Jews this time was about the manna. Not that they weren’t grateful. They were just sick of it. How many ways can you cook a wafer before you want to gag at the sight of it? They missed eating meat. They wanted meat.

God told Moses He’d give them meat, and plenty of it. Now here’s what happens when your nerves are shot, and you are hanging by a thread: You lash out at the first person who dares speak to you.

In Moses’ case, that person just happened to be God.

Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them? (11:21-22)

Moses is like, Seriously Lord? There aren’t enough animals in our flocks or fish in the sea to feed these people for a month. Are you kidding me? Just kill me now.

I’m often amazed at the relationship Moses had with God. Because, isn’t it true that most of the time when we are at wit’s end, we tend to lash out at the people closest to us, the people we love and trust the most? I love God’s response to Moses’ outburst:

Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.

Yes, dear one, when circumstances are overwhelming, God reveals Himself. When burdens are too heavy to bear, you see how big God’s shoulders are. When problems seem impossible to solve, God provides the solution. When you feel like you can’t go on, God carries you.

How? For myself, it’s when I shut myself away and read His love letter to me. I spend time reading the Bible. I use my concordance and read verses about God’s faithfulness, His character, His provision, love, Presence, and promises. I crawl up into my Father’s lap and whisper in His ear about all the things that have me frustrated, or frightened.  I pray, and I listen. Then I trust Him, even if I can’t see what’s ahead.

So no, Moses. God’s arm isn’t too short. He is able. Sometimes we need to just step back a second and watch what He can do.

December 29 – Trust

Revelation 6-11

Today as I read these chapters in Revelation the Lord seemed to be asking me a question. Do I trust Him? The events of John’s vision are frightening. War, sickness, storms, earthquakes, devastation.

Satan.

Do I trust God with the events of my life? All of them?

A W Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan only things we can do by ourselves.”

Life is hard. And sometimes God wants to do great things in and through us during our darkest moments. Sometimes He wants to reveal Himself through our storms, our diseases, and our wars. But He can’t if we hold on to control, not believing He really can do the impossible.

As John is telling the horrible things that occur in his vision, one thing stood out to me.

God.

At the end of it all, God will still be standing in all His holiness, power and majesty. And not just at the end of time. At the end of my battles in this life, God is still on the throne.

I think of my nephew, encouraging his four-year-old son to jump into the pool and into his waiting arms. I see the little one, frightened and cold, shivering poolside. But then I see determination in those young eyes as he fixes his gaze on his daddy’s face, and jumps.

Do I trust God? Absolutely.

Now to take that leap.

Dear God, I do trust You. But I have to confess there are times when a little doubt creeps in, or I tell myself I should be able to handle things on my own. Forgive me. Help me to pray like Jesus prayed, Not my will but Thine, and mean it. I want to face whatever life hands me firmly holding Your hand, completely trusting You, and obeying You. And, God, accomplish the impossible in me today if You want to. I’ve got my eyes on You. And I’m diving in.

December 4 – Momentary, Light Affliction

2 Corinthians 1-4

Paul talked a lot about the sufferings he was enduring. He used words like affliction, excessive burden to the extent he wanted to die, a peril of death, anguish of the heart, and in 4:7-10 he said:

… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Verse 11 says he was constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. Then in verse 17 he said:

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

Momentary? Light? He just got done listing a bunch of affliction that doesn’t sound momentary or light to me. How could he say that?

I think it’s perspective. And it’s a perspective I’d like to adopt.

Everything that happens in our lives happens for one reason only. That is to point us and everyone around us to Jesus. From an irritating hangnail, to this cold I’ve been fighting, to my sister’s cancer, and the tragic death of her son, everything that happens is an opportunity to reveal my Savior to myself, and to people I come in contact with.

That’s why I think Paul could describe his life as having momentary and light affliction. He wasn’t focusing on the pain. His only focus was on Jesus. He didn’t let the circumstances sideline him. He kept on sharing the Gospel.

We all go through hard times, personal pain and difficulties. Life is hard. But Paul’s example tells me that the worst this life can throw at me won’t last forever. And if Satan thinks he can use my suffering to cause me to doubt God, or to be angry at Him, or to steal my joy, he’s wrong.

Don’t miss what Paul said at the end of verse 17. The hardships we go through in this life are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

A weight of glory. That’s what’s ahead for those of us who keep our eyes on Jesus.

Dear God, I pray for those who are going through valleys today. I pray for those who are looking at the toughest battle of their lives, or who despair of life itself. God, may we look to Jesus. May we trust Him to be exactly what we need, to give us exactly what it takes to get through. Help us to keep our eyes facing forward instead of inward. Give us Paul’s perspective, that what we face, as hard as it is, as painful as it is, can produce something more wonderful than we can imagine. Thank You for being exactly what we need in the darkest hours of our lives. May Jesus be glorified.

Jan 27 – A Great Deliverance

Genesis 43-45

We don’t always get to see the answers to our “why” questions. But Joseph and his brothers did. I imagine there were times Joseph might have wondered why God allowed him to be enslaved, imprisoned, then exalted. It must have been confusing for the young man.

But Joseph knew the evil that had come upon him at the hands of his brothers came from Satan. Satan wanted the outcome of Joseph’s captivity to end badly. Instead, God used it to preserve the whole nation of Israel. Joseph called it a great deliverance.

Do you have the same confidence in God that Joseph had when circumstances are confusing, and seem unfair in your own life? Remember what Joseph said to his brothers, then apply it to your situation.

Because God is in control. God can bring about good out of the evil Satan throws our way. Because God loves you way more than Satan hates you.

Dear God, I pray for those reading these chapters in Genesis today who are facing circumstances that are confusing and difficult. I pray that they will trust You to bring about good. I pray that Your will will be accomplished in each life, and that those who don’t know You will find You through the examples shown in Your trusting children. Give strength where strength is needed. Give patience or boldness if either is needed. I pray for a great deliverance. May we trust You with every detail. And thank you for being in charge of the outcome.

I Know Whom I’ve Believed

I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He has made known. Nor why, when I was so unworthy, Christ, in love, redeemed me for His own. “But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

If you went to church before the “contemporary” movement decided the old hymns are irrelevant, I bet you have a tune running through your head about now. I find myself singing Daniel W. Whittle’s hymn every time I read 2 Timothy 1:12. If you get a chance I hope you take the time to read all five verses. It is a wonderful hymn of complete confidence in God.

That’s what Paul was talking about to Timothy in his second letter to the young preacher. Paul was in jail, had suffered quite a bit for Jesus’ sake, and he was encouraging Timothy to see Jesus ONLY in every circumstance of life. Paul says, I’ve had a tough time sharing the Gospel, but I’m not ashamed of any of it.

The Apostle wanted Timothy – and me – to have the same attitude. Don’t ever be ashamed of standing up for the Truth of Scripture, of wearing the name Christian according to God’s Word. It might not be a popular or comfortable stand, but knowing Jesus makes everything else dim in comparison.

And God promises to stand with us until we see Him face to face in our eternal home.

I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noonday fair. Or if I walk the vale with Him or meet Him in the air. But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day!

Hey! Don’t Take My Coat!

I had a slow drain in the tub of a mobile home I lived in for a while.  No matter what I tried, it would clog up regularly. So I started a new routine. Every Saturday morning I’d pour baking soda into that drain, then dump a cup of vinegar on it and watch it go to work. It fizzed, and popped, and bubbled while the chemicals reacted to one another. Then, I would pour some boiling water into the drain and listen for it to flow freely.

Solomon tells us, in Proverbs 25:20 that singing a happy song to someone who is sad is like pouring vinegar over baking soda. The reaction is anything but soothing. Telling someone to “cheer up” or to “get over it” doesn’t help a person who is mourning or depressed. In fact, it can cause more grief. It would be like doing your happy dance at a funeral.

Sometimes people need to be sad. And if I am overtly expressing my happiness without considering their feelings, I’m just being mean. Solomon says it’s like taking the coat away from someone standing in the middle of a snowstorm.

As a middle school counselor I learned that sometimes I needed to allow the person sitting in front of me to feel the feelings. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. I had to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, that any tidbit of advice I might throw out there could make matters worse. I learned to ask, even of eleven-year-olds, what it is they thought they needed. Did they want to talk about it? Or did they just want to sit next to me and cry? There would, undoubtedly, come a time when I would direct that person to finding solutions. But sometimes that didn’t happen for quite some time. They needed to feel the feelings first.

Life is hard. Everyone goes through difficult times. Grief is personal. Depression can be a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” cancer, would you?

God is telling me today to choose my words, my attitude toward the people in my life who are facing hardships. Sometimes well intended words are just mean, like exposing someone to freezing weather, or pouring vinegar over baking soda. I want to be sensitive to what it is they are going through at the moment, set myself aside, and allow them to grieve, or rant, or question.

Lord, forgive me when I’m so taken with good things in my life that I walk over someone who is hurting. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse than they already feel. Help me to notice the hurt in someone’s eyes or in the sound of their voice. Give me the words to say that will soothe and encourage. Or help me to keep my mouth shut and just be present. More than anything, Lord, I pray that they will be drawn to you as a result of my caring about their feelings.

Forgive

Jesus told us we should forgive as we have been forgiven. Yet Peter asked him how many times was he required to forgive someone who wronged him. Seven?

I mean, seven sound generous if that person continues to do things that hurt you. Jesus answered: No. Not seven. Seventy times seven. (Matt 18)

In other words, there should be no limit. Forgive as God forgives. I, for one, am thankful God didn’t reach his limit after the first seven times I did something that required his forgiveness.

Having an unforgiving heart, holding a grudge, wanting revenge, are feelings that destroy. I used to tell my students I’m too lazy to carry a grudge because it takes too much effort. And the longer you carry it, the heavier it gets.

To carry a grudge you have to feed it. You’ve got to think about that person who wronged you. You’ve got to keep replaying the memory of what they did. You find yourself talking about them. Or you purposefully ignore them. You plan your actions against them or spend time dreaming about a building falling on them.

The thing about unforgiveness is, it needs fed to stay alive. But the more you feed it, the bigger and angrier it becomes, and the harder it is to carry. Jesus knew that, and wants better for all of us.

Now don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness isn’t the same as permission. If you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, you need to take action. Get to safety. Report the abuse. Find other friends. Apply for another job.  Don’t just stand there and allow the abuse to continue.

Then after you have walked away, forgive. But, you say, he assaulted my child, she stole my husband, he abuses me verbally, she talks about me behind my back. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

Forgive.

You tell me I don’t understand, that it’s easy for me to say because I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced. But, my friend. I’m not the one telling you to forgive. Jesus is.

Forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as permission. And it’s not the same as allowing the evil to continue. What it is is a turning over to God that which hurts you. It’s trusting him to work things out for your good and his glory.

If you don’t forgive, you allow that person who hurt you to continue to hurt you. You do that. You give them control over you.

Forgive.

But, you say, she’s never asked me to forgive her.

Forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t only about the person who wronged you. It’s about you. It’s about your happiness, your health, your well-being. I personally think many emotional problems people face today have an element of unforgivness in them.

God wants us to walk with him in joy. He wants a clear path between us and him. Don’t let the actions of anyone keep you from that sweet fellowship.

Forgive.

God forgave you. Pass it on.