Thanksgiving

Know what it’s like for someone to be jealous of you?

Know what it’s like for that person to try to harm you either emotionally, socially, or physically?

Know what it’s like to be worried sick about your family’s welfare? Continue reading

Take That Thing Back! I Don’t Want It!

Have you ever gotten something you thought you wanted to find out you didn’t really want it?  That was the case with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 5.

Throughout the Books of 1 and 2 Samuel, the Israelites were constantly at war with the Philistines, a pagan group of people who lived along the eastern coastal plains of the Mediterranean.  In a battle recorded in 1 Samuel 4-6 the Philistines slaughtered the Israelites and captured the Ark of the Covenant, a chest that symbolized the presence of the LORD.

Convinced that their victory meant that their god, Dagon, was superior to Israel’s God, the Philistines began to celebrate.   They placed the Ark, their newly acquired war trophy, in the temple of Dagon at Ashdod.

However, when the people of Ashdod went into the temple the next morning, they found Dagon face down in the dirt before the Ark.  Thinking it was only a coincidence, they dusted their god off, stood him back up, and put him back in place.  But, the following morning they found Dagon face down in the dirt again only this time his head and hands had broken off.

Their sense of accomplishment turned to dread after the LORD humiliated not only their god but the people in three Philistine cities.  1 Samuel 5:6 explains what was going on—“The LORD’s hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors.”  Scholars think that the devastation may have been the bubonic plague or possibly severe diarrhea, and the tumors may have been hemorrhoids. I’m serious.  Can you imagine a whole town suffering from diarrhea and hemorrhoids?

Certain that the Ark was causing their problems, the people in Ashdod sent the Ark to the neighboring city of Gath.  Same results. The people of Gath feared that Israel’s god was punishing them for taking the Ark.  Therefore, they decided to send the Ark to the Philistine city of Ekron.  However, as soon as the people of Ekron saw it coming, they threw a fit!  They had heard about the Ark.  They cried, “Send that thing back home where it belongs or else we’re all going to die!”

After seven months of misery the Philistines had had enough!  Conferring with their spiritual advisors they concluded that the Ark must be returned and accompanied by a guilt offering in hopes that it would appease Israel’s god.  So now that the decision was made to send the Ark home with an offering to absolve them of any guilt, the only question was what the offering should be.

The advisors agreed that five gold tumors (hemorrhoids) and five gold rats (representative of the cause of the plague) would be appropriate.  After fashioning the gifts, they placed them in a chest.  Next, they loaded both the chest and the Ark on a new cart drawn by two mama cows that had just given birth.  Then they sent the cow-drawn cart toward Israel wondering if the mama cows would try to turn back to their young or if they would compliantly make their way eastward toward Israel. Time would tell whether or not the rulers had done the right thing.

The cows headed straight for Israel.  The Philistine rulers watching from afar were greatly relieved now that the Ark was out of their hands and no longer a part of their lives.  As the cows drew nearer to Israelite territory, the rulers assumed Israel’s god was appeased and their problems would subside.

What the Philistines considered a prized trophy at the outset, proved to be the very thing that wreaked havoc in their lives.  And sadly, it took seven months to figure out that what they thought they wanted, they really didn’t want.  Instead it proved to be something they regretted ever bringing into their lives.  It was by choice that the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant home with them.  It was not forced upon them.

Let’s take a look at what we have recently deliberately or even by default invited into our lives–a  possession, a habit, a lifestyle, a slang expression, a leisure or recreational activity, a relationship.

Perhaps it’s a website we’ve given permission to send us promotional material.  For example, every morning when I pick up my cell phone, there are at least one and sometimes multiple emails in my inbox waiting to tempt me to buy clothing which I either don’t need or wouldn’t consider appropriate for a Christian woman to wear.  In blinking lights the ads try to entice me to “save thirty percent on my entire purchase.” They are designed to create in me an insatiable desire for more and more, and all it requires is just one simple click.

In hindsight the Philistines would tell us that possessing the Ark was a huge mistake.  They willfully brought it to Philistia thinking it was something they wanted, but it proved to be a decision they lived to regret.

choices

photo credit: Daveography.ca via photopin cc

What have you allowed to come into your life either by invitation or by default that has proven to be detrimental to your life?  Do an inventory quickly before too much damage has been done.

Let’s refuse to be people who rely on hindsight to determine when we’ve made a bad decision. Instead, let’s resolve to ask up front—”Will I really want this after I have invited it into my life?”

Dear Lord, we are bombarded with media and by a culture that entices us to invite possessions, behaviors, habits, websites, and relationships into our lives without counting the cost. Help us to lean on You for guidance up front so we won’t have to live with regret.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 5-6

Facing My Giant with a Rock in My Pocket

It was a tense morning on the battlefield as the Israelites continued their forty-day standoff with the Philistines. The battle lines were drawn–the Philistines on one hill, the Israelites on the other.  The only thing that separated the two was a wadi—a dry riverbed.

A 9’9″ giant named Goliath had challenged Israel to send a warrior to fight him one-on-one. He was very intimidating. His coat of armor weighed 125 pounds, and he was armed with a spearhead weighing 15 pounds.

The stakes were high. The loser’s people would be enslaved to the victor. “This day I defy the ranks of Israel.  Give me a man and let us fight each other,” Goliath had taunted each morning and evening for forty days.

Israel was terrified. No takers—not even Saul who was a head and shoulders taller than any other Israelite.

It just so happened that on day forty a young shepherd named David arrived at the Israelite camp bringing rations to his brothers. As both sides had taken their positions for battle, he heard Goliath shout his usual defiance, belittling Israel and their God.  David observed how the Israelites cowered in fear.

Appalled that Goliath would dare defy the armies of the Living God, David volunteered to take on the big man. The soldiers thought it was ludicrous.  His brothers were irate. They scolded him and told him to go home.

However, David would not let it go. He kept on asking questions.  Finally, King Saul sent for him.  David confidently stated, “Let no one lose heart because of this Philistine.  I will go out and fight him!”

Thinking David’s idea was preposterous, Saul replied, “You can’t fight that Philistine.  You’re just a boy! He’s a seasoned veteran.”

“Oh, yes I can! I can take on this giant who has defied the armies of the Living God just like I have taken on wild animals which have attacked my sheep,” David argued.  “I’ve been keeping sheep and protecting them with my bare hands for years, and I can do the same with this uncircumcised Philistine.  He has defied the armies of the Living God.  The same God who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Cowardly, Saul gave in. “Go and the LORD be with you,” he said offering David his armor.  David refused it because he was used to doing his job unencumbered.

Instead, David chose five smooth stones—probably the size of a tennis ball—and stepped out with his staff to meet Goliath.

Highly offended and responding with contempt, Goliath scoffed, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick? Come here and I’ll feed your dead body to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.”

david quoteUnwilling to back down David replied, “You come against me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.  Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s and He will give all of you into our hands.”

As Goliath moved closer, David with pinpoint accuracy flung one stone that struck Goliath on the forehead.  With the stone embedded in his skull, the giant fell face down in the dirt.  David quickly ran, took Goliath’s sword, stabbed him, and decapitated him.

When the Philistines saw their headless leader lying on the ground, they retreated to Philistia. The Israelites pursued them leaving casualties all along the way–food for “the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” Talk about irony!

“So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:50).

Everyone, even nonbelievers, loves this story and understands the general meaning even if they’ve never read the Bible. Unfortunately, Christians often relegate it merely for children encouraging our little ones to be brave.  But it’s not a children’s story.  It’s for big girls and boys because life is filled with giants.  Oh, they may not be 9’9” but they are giants just the same.  Your giant this morning may be less than two feet tall.  He may be a child who thinks that the answer to every question is ,”NO!”  Or a smart-mouthed teenager who knows everything.  Or an abusive spouse threatening to destroy you.  Or a devastating financial or health issue.  Life is filled with seemingly insurmountable situations and impossible people.

So, if giants are inevitable what do we do? Well, we have two choices:  (1) We can face our giants with fear like the Israelites did.  In their minds Goliath grew in stature every day.  Consequently, their fear paralyzed them causing them to do nothing but worry.  That’s what fear does.

But fear is not the only option when dealing with our giants. We can (2) chose to face our giants with faith like David.  Think about it—what would ever make a shepherd boy take on a 9’9” bully in one-on-one combat?  Foolishness?  Grandiosity?  Belief that he is invincible and bullet-proof?

While that may be the case with many youth, it was not with David.  It was his faith and relationship with the LORD that compelled him to go up against Goliath. His faith was based on the LORD’s name—the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel.  But it was more.  Because of God’s faithfulness in the past David was assured he would not face the giant in his own strength.  “For the battle is the LORD’s,” David proclaimed as he faced Goliath.

Recently, when we studied this story in our Wednesday Ladies’ Bible study, I gave each woman a crude stone that came from a riverbed. “Fear” was written on one side of the stone and  “Faith” on the other side.

I closed our lesson with this challenge and I extend the same to you:

Name your giant. Choose your weapon—fear or faith.

photo 2Fear is an ineffective weapon.  It won’t help you deal with your giant.  It will only increase the size of your giant and make you paralyzed.  I know from personal experience.

Even a stone in the hands of a person without faith is worthless.

Without a doubt, David’s experience as a shepherd where he skillfully used a sling was beneficial, but that’s not what made him victorious.  It was his faith.

photo 1My prayer for you and me is that we will be empowered to face our giants with confident faith saying, “I have a rock in my pocket, and I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty–the God of the armies of Israel.  For the battle is the LORD’s!”

Thank You, Lord, for reminding us that we don’t have to face our giants in our own strength. Help us remember what You have done in our lives in the past so we can be empowered to face today with confidence in You—the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. In the Powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 17

Don’t Kiss My Bad Mood

dkmbm“No! Don’t kiss my bad mood!” was my two year old grandson’s response when his mommy tried to encourage an attitude adjustment early that morning. Luke had awakened grumpy.  Everything was an issue resulting in a meltdown.  Finally, after getting upset over something silly, his mommy Emily asked, “Luke, are you in a bad mood?  I’m going to kiss that bad mood right out of you!”

As she proceeded to do just that, Luke exclaimed, “No! Don’t kiss my bad mood!”

When I asked Emily what she thought Luke meant, she said, “I think he was saying, ‘I’m in a bad mood, so leave me alone!’”

Do you ever wake up all grumpy daring anyone to kiss your bad mood? I do occasionally.  Sometimes I even have a meltdown over something silly or just plain aggravating. For example, last Saturday morning we awoke to no phone service and no hot water.  Since we had “bundled” recently, Waylon called Charter and service was restored rather quickly.  However, the issue with the hot water was not so easily solved.  After a trek into the attic to check out the hot water heater and discovering the pilot light was out, we were greatly relieved.  However, Waylon couldn’t get it to light after repeated attempts.

We were back to square one with no explanation—that is until a painter doing some work for us that morning told us the gas company had once turned off his gas without giving any notice which prompted us to check our meter.  Sure enough, it had been turned off and a lock put on it.  Then I was REALLY in a bad mood because not only did we not have hot water but we also would have no heat.  You may recall that the forecast was for freezing temps for Saturday night.

To make a long story short, the gas company had changed the meter and locked it on Wednesday but failed to notify us. Thanks to a good friend who had connections, we finally got the gas turned back on at TEN PM SATURDAY!

It was a stressful day–from the moment I opened my eyes.  I was out of sorts all day and the last thing I wanted was for someone to trivialize what had happened. I was like Luke—I didn’t want anyone kissing my bad mood.

Being in a bad mood occasionally is understandable even if you’re a bit over two years old, but being in a bad mood perpetually is not.  In 1 Samuel 25 we read about a man named Nabal. He was a jerk.  Everyone who knew him would agree–even his wife, Abigail.  She acknowledged it when she learned how Nabal had mistreated David’s men after they asked him to return a favor.

Fearing David would retaliate, Nabal’s servants urged Abigail to take action. Hoping to intercede for her family and servants before it was too late she immediately departed carrying the provisions David’s men had requested.

Along the way Abigail met David.  Seeing that he was very angry and bent on retaliation, she hurriedly dismounted her donkey, bowed down to him, and said, “Nabal is a fool just like his name says.  But please don’t judge the rest of us because of his nasty attitude and bad behavior.  Don’t follow through with your plans to seek revenge.  You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”   She was reminding David of the Torah’s admonition in Deuteronomy 32:35 when the LORD said, “It is mine to avenge.  I will repay.”

To his credit, David quickly acknowledged that Abigail had just saved him from one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He knew that in his anger he had lost sight of the LORD’s command and was on his way to commit a heinous sin.

David accepted the provisions Abigail had brought and assured her all was well.  No revenge would be taken.

When Abigail returned home she found Nabal in a drunken stupor, so she waited until morning to discuss the matter with him. Upon hearing what the consequences could have been for his foolish actions, Nabal either had a heart attack or a stroke and died ten days later.

What’s the spiritual application? It’s this—there is a grave difference between being a two year old and acting like a two year old.  Being in an occasional bad mood for a short duration or having a meltdown every now and then over something silly or aggravating may be inevitable due to the stresses of life.  However, for an adult to perpetually be out of sorts is abnormal–actually ungodly.

While we may not want someone to “kiss our bad moods away” initially, let’s resolve to make the necessary adjustments whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually to get rid of them quickly. Let’s take charge of our thoughts, assume responsibility for our behavior, and choose to focus on the good things the Lord has in store for us today.

psalm169The psalmist said, “My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:9, 11). 

Dear Lord, we don’t always know why we are out of sorts. When we find ourselves in a bad mood remind us to make the necessary adjustments whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually to change our mindset quickly. Help us take charge of our thoughts, assume responsibility for our behavior, and choose to focus on the good You have in store for us today. May we allow You to “fill us with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 25:2-38

Morning Person

Are you a morning person?  I mean one of those people who can’t wait to get out of bed to start singing or whistling?  If the answer is yes, let me give you a heads up on something—you drive those of us who are not morning people crazy!  While I am not necessarily grouchy in the morning, I am a woman of few words and would prefer those around me to follow suit. When I first awake, all I want is a cup of coffee and solitude.  I don’t need to know what has happened in the world or what the weather will be like.

​Unfortunately, I am married to a morning person who can’t wait to get his day started.  But, desiring to be the total woman, I had tried not to make this a point of contention—that is until I noticed that as our girls got older they shared the same opinion of morning people that I had.

​It all came to light after Waylon decided to take a sabbatical from his teaching position at the seminary and stay home to write a Hebrew grammar textbook.  One morning shortly after his time off began, the girls and I were in the kitchen trying to eat our cereal in peace when Mr. Sunshine waltzed into the room.  He was whistling and had turned on every TV he passed.

I looked at one of the girls—someone to commiserate with who like me longed for the good old days when dad used to leave for work in the morning as we were getting up. Commiserate she did, not with words but with a look. Without making a sound, she communicated, “Tell him!”  I then turned to her sister and she concurred, “Yes, by all means, tell him!”

Knowing I had allies, I said, “So Waylon, you are going to be home on your sabbatical.”

“Yep, a whole year!” he said with glee.

“Oh dear,” I thought, “how will we ever survive this intrusion into our peaceful morning paradise?”  Determined not to let the opportunity to deal with this issue slip away, I continued, “Well, if you are going to be home this YEAR, that means you are going to be on our turf, and the number one rule is  you don’t get up getting happy all over everyone.  We have five acres here, and you have a study.  You have a choice.  You can go outside with all God’s creatures and whistle and sing with them, or you can go into your study and be as happy as you want to be.”

​I was on a roll, but before I finished expressing all my pent up emotions, Waylon interrupted and said, “Martha, you’re serious, aren’t you?”

​“As a heart attack!” I replied without blinking an eye while glancing at the girls to make sure my support had not defected.  “You are driving the girls and me crazy with all this morning chitchat!”

​Even though it was obvious Waylon couldn’t completely understand our grievance, he was a repentant Tigger temporarily. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before he reverted to his usual Tigger personality—bouncing all over the place.  Since it was apparent we weren’t going to change him, we decided to love him anyway—at least after nine a.m.!

blog imgIn Philippians 4 when the apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!”  Paul was not saying we all should be Suzie Sunshine from the moment we wake.  Rejoicing has nothing to do with whether you are a morning person or not.  Let’s face it; some days just stink from the getgo.  From the moment we wake it seems the day is already going downhill.

​Do you know Paul’s circumstances when he penned those famous words?  He was under house arrest in Rome knowing full well he was suffering unjustly for a crime he did not commit.  Although he lived in hopes of being acquitted, he knew there was a great possibility he would spend the rest of his life incarcerated in a Roman prison.

So, what did Paul mean when he commanded his beloved friends at Philippi to rejoice? I think we find the answer in the next verse when he said, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”  You see, Paul knew that while he was a prisoner whose destiny was seemingly in the hands of a pagan government, his ultimate destiny was in the hands of a sovereign God.  Not only that—his God was near.

When he awoke every morning Paul had the consolation of knowing the Lord was with him, and He wouldn’t ever have to face anything alone.  He, just like Jeremiah who lived hundreds of years before, knew that, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your [His] faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

​So whether you’re a morning person and have gotten off to a bouncy start like Tigger or a slow starter like me I hope your day is a “10.”   But even if it isn’t, I pray you’ll take heart in knowing the Lord is near.  There is nothing you will face today you and the Lord can’t make it through together.​

Dear Heavenly Father, we know You gave each one of us a unique personality.  Some of us are naturally bubbly while others of us are not.  We’re so thankful all of us can rejoice not because of who we are but because of who You are—Emmanuel—God With Us.  Thank You for being our faithful God.  We can always count on You to be near.  “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV).  In the Loving Name of Jesus, Amen.

From It Hurts but I’m Okay by Martha Bailey (Insight Press, 2012)

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:4-9