God’s Love Is Unchanging Even When We Can’t Hear His Voice

Do you ever struggle to hear God’s voice or know his will for your situation? I struggled with the idea that God spoke clearly to others but not me. By faith, I knew he unconditionally adored me, but at times it seemed like I was getting the silent treatment.  I recall in college, one of my dearest friends took offense at something I said and stopped speaking to me. With all the emotional intensity that college girls living together can generate, our mutual friends ran between us. They carried confusion from me to her, “What in the world did I do?”  They returned with, “She knows what she did.” Ugh. I really didn’t. We eventually worked it out, but that wall of silence created some high drama amidst our circle of friends.

Silly as it sounds, I behaved as if God pulled the same thing sometimes, but God is not petulant or vague. He’s not waiting for me to do or say the perfect thing. In fact, sin often inspires God to speak loudly, as he must penetrate worldly wax stuck in our spiritual ears. No, the truth is, God chooses silence at times.

The Israelite’s felt his holy silence for a painful period between the book of Malachi, and the gospel stories of Christ’s birth. Four hundred years passed after Malachi, before God spoke to his people again. During that time, they moved from the humiliation of Babylonian captivity to the crushing boot of the Roman empire.

This last prophet’s words burn in my heart today for several reasons. First, Malachi contains the final words of God before the gospel writers. Second, they precede Christ’s birth, so December seems timely to me now, but I didn’t think of that a year ago when I made up this schedule. I simply wrote about the minor prophets in their Old Testament order. This is where it gets interesting in a Holy Spirit way.

Last week I studied Malachi to prepare for this moment of writing on Monday morning. I took notes and wrote down key ideas. Yesterday, my pastor, during a sermon series from Haggai, asked us to turn to Malachi for companion passages. He then preached some of the exact concepts I wrote down a few days earlier. This is a pattern with God and me. Whenever he highlights the same passage from multiple sources, I know that he is trying to communicate important stuff.

So, what are these critical last words before God’s long silence? Today, I’m extracting key ideas from chapter one that will lay groundwork for improving our spiritual hearing and ability to discern God’s methods and plans.

  • Israel questioned God’s love for them. (verses 1-5) God reminds them that he chose Jacob, their forefather, over his brother Esau, a gigantic message of love. Israel became recipients of God’s promises while Esau’s descendants struggled to find God, if they chose. He also spoke his love to them through his prophets.

In the same way, I remind myself that God chose me to be his child. He gifted me with a supernatural book through which he communicates directly to me. Additionally, He sent me the Holy Spirit and other anointed believers to teach and train my heart and mind. Thinking that God was giving me the silent treatment, says I don’t understand his love.

 

I believe God started this last book, reminding Israel of his passionate love for them, because he knew there would be a long silence. When I struggle to hear from God, I go to verses like I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us,” and others in that vein. God is a perfect father who is not playing games with me.  I’ve learned to trust that love when I can’t hear his voice plainly. He will let me know what I need to know when I need to know it because he loves me and wants me to join him in his work.

 

  • Israel became complacent and careless with their worship and this provoked God’s anger. (verses 6-14)

Huge chunks of the book of Leviticus are devoted to the specifics of Israel’s worship of God. The concept of first fruits worship is established in chapter 23. The big idea is that God is given the very best of their livestock and crops. By the time of Malachi, Israel slipped far from that standard.  “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he accept you?” (Malachi 1:7-8)

 

There are times when God’s constant mercies become a sharp contrast to my spiritual laziness. I don’t always offer him my first and best. Some days it’s getting sidetracking housework or social media before I hunker down in my quiet time. Other times I spend too much time watching TV or reading mysteries rather than balancing that by reading and pondering the scriptures or godly nonfiction.

 

I’ve met other believers that struggle with faithful church attendance or tithing or serving in ministry. Any time I offer God my leftovers, I presume upon his grace. He deserves my best efforts, whatever that looks like for you. This week, offering him your first fruits might be by hosting Thanksgiving dinner, serving turkey at a homeless shelter or doing some Christmas shopping for an aging parent. First fruits can take many forms all through our days.

 

As we enter the holiday season, let’s establish two firm footholds. First, his love for us is boundless and unconditional. He will creatively speak to us in many ways because we are his children whom he dearly loves. Second, he deserves our best. I’m challenging myself to use my finest resources for his agenda these next five weeks when I’m typically tempted to prioritize other fun stuff. Let’s be certain our time and energies demonstrate that we worship the Ancient of Days, not the holidays.

 

 

Dancing With Your Critics

Special note: This is a chapter excerpted from a book I’m working on entitled, “Mountains and Minefields- Survival Stories from Veterans of the Trenches of Ministry.”  I thought my blog followers might also enjoy reading it.

Dancing with Your Critics

My Test

Early in our ministry, elders from a church we served called my husband, Ken, in for a special meeting. They presented him with a list of “observations” brought to them by disgruntled church members. The anonymous items ranged from petty criticisms to character attacks. Ken did not dress appropriately, speak correctly, preach the “right” books of the Bible (are there wrong ones?) and so on.

When Ken asked for specifics, none were given. Asking about the people behind the complaints generated a solemn declaration. “It doesn’t matter who they are. You need to make changes.” Ken came home stunned and decided he did not hear correctly from the Lord concerning his ministry call.

There are different ways of dancing with your critics. The scriptural pattern in Matthew 18, is that you work through forgiveness and reconciliation and move forward together like ballroom dancing partners. My reaction to the meeting more closely resembled two boxers in a ring. Not only did I want to toss a few left hooks at the elders, I verbally punched Ken a few times, disappointed that he hadn’t stood up for himself. Today, we are united on how to handle such things Biblically. Back then, we lost our footing. Ken disappeared into a re-tooling of himself to meet other’s expectations, becoming withdrawn and cautious. I thought about the elder’s behavior and started a list of my own, about them.

Did these elders and church members handle this in the wrong way? Absolutely. Did I respond rightly? No. God tested me, and I flunked. From then on, I nurtured bitterness towards anyone I imagined to be list contributors or any other critic. Every interaction with church members, I tried to determine if they were part of the merry band of character assassins. I knew that refusing to forgive is sin, but I justified my emotions as righteous indignation. I nurtured sin in my heart, no differently than Ken’s critics.

Some items on the list contained sharp words that slashed deep wounds into us. A few folks found everything about me and Ken to be wrong. Neither of us understood that all leaders encounter critics, sometimes haters. My rage lasered into a single point; people assaulted my man’s ministry. Simmering anger felt reasonable.

My bitter spirit became entrenched. I kept a mental “A” list and a “B” list, of supporters and detractors. Faultfinders received polite treatment when I couldn’t avoid them. Growing up in a confrontive culture, I applauded my self-control. The fact that I didn’t behave outwardly ugly toward certain members, I deemed a victory.

The irony is that during this time, we experienced successes and growth in our ministry. Most of our congregation supported Ken’s leadership. Many worked tirelessly, side by side with us. Despite that, I dedicated too much mental real estate to the opposition. Since we knew little about scriptural conflict and resolution, this emboldened sinful behavior amongst a few.

I mulled over every hurtful word and deed and carried on imaginary conversations with their perpetrators.  Thank God, he kept me from speaking any of that nonsense out loud.

My Training

Without God’s grace, I might still maintain lists. Eventually, I became aware of a heaviness around me. It haunted my dreams at night. Daily, I carried the weight in my soul and sometimes it felt like a physical sensation.  After attempts to ignore it for several months, I knew I needed help. I called a seasoned pastor that we’d recently met at a conference.

He listened while I described the situation.  After I spilled it all, in his Texas drawl, he said, “Well, darlin’……… let me just ask you this. Is there anyone you need to forgive or anyone that you maybe hate, even just a little?”

“Yes, there’s a list,” I said.

“A list?  Like a hit list?”

I assured him I lacked mafia connections. “I keep a running tally in my head,” I mumbled.

“What did these rascals do?” he questioned. I shared.

“So, if I hear you rightly,” he reasoned, “There’s a list of injustices in your head, and you keep that information handy.  Honey, you done opened a door of unforgiveness and put out a welcome mat of bitterness for Satan to mess with your life. You need to repent and forgive.”

After he prayed for me, he shared key verses and assured me that all leaders encounter conflict. I chuckled when he said in closing, “Every church has some fruits and nuts. I know mine surely does.”

The sorrow I felt for harboring sin, made verses like 1 John 1:9 fresh. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). Other verses prodded my guilty conscience. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:1 NLT).  I understood I’d grieved God deeply.

I asked God to teach me, change me. During times of honest prayer, he reminded me of occasions when I’d judged people, with no thought to grace. I needed to confess and renounce my critical spirit. This I did, many times. Some criticism I experienced, probably came as a harvest from nasty seed I’d sown in my own fields. Undoing a negative habit is a process. I devoured teachings about forgiveness and became desperate to learn the nuts and bolts of how to go forward in truth and grace (John 1:14) when people attacked my character and motives.

Ken and I continued to experience divisive behavior in our churches, as all leaders do, but with diligence and time, I learned to respond to criticism instead of reacting to it. Here are some strategies I learned.

My Toolbox

  1. Be prepared

People will oppose and criticize. Memorize pertinent scripture. Satan will be nearby to entice you to sin. Resist him with the Word. Here are two of my favorites:

– “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:1 NIV).

– “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23 NIV).

 

  1. Feel what you’re feeling.

Don’t pretend words can’t hurt. They possess the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). A wise pastor once told me, “Feelings are what they are, it’s what we do with them that matters.” Acknowledge emotions and deal with them so you can move on.

 

  1. Turn to God first.

We tend to run to others when we feel besieged. Sympathy doesn’t mature us. In fact, it can handicap us and cause us to develop a victim mentality. I recall retreating to closets or restrooms to be alone with God and recover from verbal attacks that occurred between worship services. Those quiet moments empowered me far more than a friend saying, “You poor thing.”

We should only share specifics about a conflict with someone who possesses the authority or skill to be part of reconciliation. Sharing the ugliness with anyone else is gossip. Let your circle of folks know you are struggling and ask them to pray for wisdom, grace and resolution. No more detail is necessary.  God is the only One who will think no less of someone because of your words.

 

  1. Ask God for truth.

Once you are past the initial shock, it’s time to consider whether there’s any validity in your critic’s words, regardless of attitude behind them. Under assault, we instinctively give our attackers zero credibility. Writing folks off as contrary sheep is easier than examining ourselves. We need to own our failings and missteps. God may use a mouthy sheep to get a shepherd’s attention.

Sometimes, there is no truth in criticism. One couple accused Ken of stealing. Although it was false, we needed to know the truth behind this accusation. This couple did not want our church to grow. The influx of new members rankled them, and they blamed Ken for “ruining their church.”  Their goal was to run Ken and me off.

I recall other times when someone launched on me due to stress in their personal lives. When life goes sideways, people might misdirect their anger. However, what’s in our hearts comes out of our mouth. Even though someone may apologize and explain their backstory, it’s wise to investigate whether there is a seed of negativity there.

 

  1. Work for reconciliation.

When a fellow believer attacks you, it creates brokenness in the body of Christ.  Matthew 18: 15-17 is clear as to our responsibility. We need to go to that person and initiate reconciliation. If your critic agrees to meet, use “I” language. Avoid starting sentences with “You.” They will feel attacked and defensive. Try phrases like, “I feel hurt and confused by what happened between us recently.  If I’ve offended you or hurt you, I want to make that right.”

Often, this attitude opens doors, sometimes not. Occasionally, critics lack interest in reconciliation and will instead use the conversation to chew us out further without taking any ownership of their own behavior. If this occurs, I suggest step six.

Sometimes people explode because they feel powerless. Restoring a relationship with them doesn’t mean that you abandon your God-given vision for ministry. Ask the Lord for insight as to how to bring this person on board with the leadership’s vision. Can you turn an adversary into an advocate?  As a high school teacher and as a ministry director, I watched people change from opponents in the ring to partners on the dance floor, when I used this approach.

Be honest. Ask forgiveness for ways you caused pain for the other person, even if they don’t initially ask you to forgive them. You cannot make someone be at peace with you.  All you can do is obey God’s Word and offer an olive branch.

Sadly, some people will use the branch to smack you on the head.  They don’t want peace; they want you gone. So, what is to be done when people refuse reconciliation?

  1. Seek out higher authority.

That will vary according to your situation.  In ours, it involved our denomination’s ruling body. Chronic sin cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Paul uses yeast, as an illustration, in Galatians 5:9, of what can happen when we don’t deal with situations forthrightly and Biblically. Sin becomes a poison in the bloodstream of a ministry. Ultimately, people who simply opposed Ken and me at every turn received instruction from higher authorities, to reconcile with us. When they refused, they were asked to leave our church and find one where they could support the pastor.  Sadly, they left, and carried their pain along to the next church.

God wants us to forgive, release and bless the people who sin against us.  (Luke 6:28) Ultimately, I began to view critics as God’s refining tools. Qualities like humility, patience and compassion, can grow in a trial, if you handle it rightly. I learned to see the pain behind harsh words. I developed tougher skin and stopped feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach every time someone opposed me.

To be a faithful Christ-follower, involves rejection and sorrow. Jesus knows, intimately, the pain of false accusations. He sees your pain, and he cares deeply.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find Strength for Hard Situations by Partnering With the Holy Spirit

Do you ever feel helpless and weak in certain situations? Whether you’re up against a life-threatening disease, served divorce papers, contending with an unreasonable boss or agonizing over rebellious children, nobody likes to feel powerless. What if I told you those are precisely the places where God loves to demonstrate his strength?

Teaching in an inner-city school, I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit strengthen me to do and say right things boldly, even though my jelly knees and icy hands told a different story. One time, the Spirit empowered me to stand fast when a student hurled a chair towards me, screaming obscenities and challenging my authority. In the silence that followed the crash of the chair on the linoleum, something supernatural happened. I remained unmoved, looked at the student sadly, handed her a detention slip then asked her to remove herself to the hall. She did. Quietly, in fact.

I experienced many incidents like this with troubled students from families living on the edges of society. Each encounter tested my reliance on God and ultimately demonstrated his strength in my weakness. One of the greatest displays of the Holy Spirit’s partnering power I ever witnessed at this school though, occurred with my husband, after a choir concert.

Some of the students’ family members belonged to local gangs. Before the concert, I noticed some disturbing body language exchanged between two groups of folks seated across the aisle from one another. I suspected that rival gang members unwittingly sat too close to one another or wore the wrong colors, or who knows.

I prayed for Christ’s peace to fill the auditorium and allow the choir to present the music we worked so hard to prepare. After the concert, I became caught up talking with various parents, completely forgetting about my uneasy feelings of earlier until a student’s voice rang out, “Mrs. Stults, Mrs. Stults you better come see what your man is up to!” Simultaneously, I noticed much of the remaining crowd running over to the auditorium windows which overlooked a parking lot.

Two groups of men clustered in opposite corners of the lot, clearly hostile and gearing up for a brawl. Worse yet, my husband, stood alone in the middle of the two groups of Goliath-sized, angry men. Three stories up, I watched, amazed, as it appeared that average-sized Ken spoke to both groups. Within a few minutes, the men dispersed and left the lot.

I asked Ken why he went out there and what in the world he said. “I saw what was about to happen and felt like I was supposed to intervene and share a few facts, he said. “I pointed out the working security cameras in the parking lot and the group of witnesses up in the windows. I guess they decided it wasn’t worth it,” he finished.

That, friends, is what it looks like when our weakness partners with the Holy Spirit’s power. Ken was smaller than most of the men. They didn’t know him, nor did he possess any authority as a teacher or administrator. There was no good reason they allowed him to walk into the middle of their conflict, but they did, because the Holy Spirit partnered with Ken and brought peace into strife.

In Zechariah 4:6, Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, feels weak in his God-ordered task to rebuild the temple. His small group of laborers are overwhelmed by the massive piles of rubble and chaos created when invaders destroyed the building. When Zechariah prophesied, these guys had been working for twenty years and yet, tons and tons of broken stone and metal sat on the temple site. When God saw Zerubbabel’s discouragement, he spoke these beautiful words through the prophet,

“Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain” Zechariah 4:6-7.

In other words, God said to Zerubbabel, “This temple isn’t going to rise because of the strength of your workforce. The power will come from my Holy Spirit who is so strong, these mountains of wreckage will become like flat plains.” As Dr. Thomas Constable says in his expository notes on Zechariah, “If success is to be gained in the achievements of the people of God it will not be secured by what man can do but by the Spirit’s work.”

The prophet Hosea echoes this same thought.

“But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God.  I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen” Hosea 1:7.

Paul the Apostle says it this way.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak then I am strong,” 2 Corinthians 12:10. 

Dear brother and sister, whatever the situation is that’s confronting you, making you feel defeated and kicked down, it will not be overcome by your willpower or determination. What does partnering with the Holy Spirit to become an overcomer look like?

  • Admit that we are powerless to change people or situations with human strength alone and stop making ourselves crazy trying to do that.
  • Yield to the Holy Spirit and ask him for understanding and insight as to what our role is. Just, as he did with Ken, he will tell the listening heart what to do or say. Sometimes he wants us to do or say nothing and leave things be for a bit so he can work on moving some mountains and softening some hearts.
  • Obey whatever he tells you to do, even if it seems goofy.
  • Trust God for results remembering his timeline is usually different from ours.
  • Study and memorize Scripture. When I faced tough financial strain, I memorized verses about God’s provision and goodness and spoke them out loud every time I felt powerless about money. God’s Word changes environments and brings hope into hopeless situations.

Let feelings of weakness be a trigger reminder going forward, like the Apostle Paul. Recognize those times as opportunities for God to manifest his glory and power through you and around you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What To Do When You’re Struggling To Feel Relevant and Purposeful

Are you struggling to feel relevant and purposeful in some area of your life? This can be any place where we think we don’t matter as much as we’d like to or used to. Christ followers know that we are of great value to God but when humans don’t echo that, well, it stings and can be discouraging.

Many years ago, when God called my husband Ken and I out of ministry into the marketplace for a while, I transitioned from being a worship arts director, leading three different services a week, to one of 35 sopranos in our new church’s large choir. The first two rows seated the brightest and best of the sopranos. I started in the third row.

The abrupt change from lead dog to follower, created weird sensations inside me. I felt unnecessary. Eventually, God restored me to leadership ministry but first taught me some deeper lessons about humility. That time in God’s waiting room, stirred up junk I didn’t know was inside me and provided the opportunity for God to cleanse me and change me.

There are so many circumstances that can make people feel like a rotary dial phone surrounded by smart phones.

  • All your kids fly the coop, and you’re left with a house of deafening silence and recipes for six.
  • Someone else got the promotion you deserved at work while you’re still slogging it out in your cubicle.
  • Your last preschooler climbed onto the kindergarten bus. You stare at jelly hand prints on the walls with tears in your eyes.
  • Your spouse died and your couple friends don’t know quite what

to do with you.

  • Retirement isn’t quite as meaningful as you imagined. Your adult children don’t have as much time for you as you expected, and you feel purposeless and unproductive.
  • You’ve been trying to have a baby for years and the pain of that is hard enough, but most of your friends are knee deep in diapers and Legos and conversations have become awkward.

Whatever set of circumstances is conspiring to make you feel less-than, in any way, take heart. The great news is that you are strategically located in a place where God often looks for candidates for his next great story. Think with me for just a moment, about the people God likes to partner with to accomplish miraculous stuff.

  • The Israelite’s were slaves, treated like animals, when God pulled them out of Egypt and chose them to be a light for the nations of the world. The rest of ancient civilization knew little about them, except for their brick making skills.
  • Gideon was one of the smallest men of his tribe and by his own words, lacked courage.
  • Noah was a faithful man of God but clearly, the people around him didn’t think he was anything special since no one else believed God through his testimony and joined his family on the ark
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a nobody teenager from nowheresville.
  • David’s brothers and father deliberately minimized him when the prophet Samuel came looking for God’s next anointed King. They still didn’t recognize God’s favor on him when he showed up on the battlefield volunteering to fight Goliath.

 

If you feel like the unused coffee cup at the back of the cupboard, I’m telling you, that’s where God will hunt for a useful mug. As I’ve noticed the way God directs the changing seasons of my life, I’ve learned to relax in the truth that my life is a treasure, masking as a jar, or mug of clay. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Ceramic ware becomes stained, cracked and worn out and eventually useless when it’s heavily used non-stop. So too would we, if God didn’t provide resting places between our seasons of life. Thus, sometimes we feel back shelved and unconnected.

When God moves us into a back row or simply a different row, it’s often because he wants to do some interior work in us. He needs to remove the coffee stains that the acid of trials left inside of us. We may need cracks repaired from our hearts, minds or bodies being broken. Sometimes he breaks us up entirely and does a completely different work, setting us into new relationships, careers or opportunities, just like those recycled mosaics that are made of broken ceramic dishware. My husband Ken attended seminary to become a pastor. Never did he dream that God would make him a successful business owner for several years.

In Zechariah 4:10, I found this precious verse that encourages me when I’m feeling like the unused mug. “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”  Zerubbabel was the governor of Judea, overseeing the rebuilding of the temple during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The construction lagged and workers sagged for twenty, discouraging years of “small things,” progress-wise.  I love what the Enduring Word commentary says about this verse.

“In many of God’s choice workers He uses a powerful season of small things. Those days are not a mistake nor are they punishment; they are days of priceless shaping and preparation. They are not days to despise. When Satan tempts us to despise the day of small things, he shines as an outstanding liar because Satan does not despise the day of small things. Satan fears the day of small things in our life because he sees what great things God does in them and brings out of them.”

 

If you are currently in a back-row spot in some area of your life that does not mean you are no longer relevant, and your life is not purposeful. Often, process matters much more to God than product. I encourage you to relax and submit to God’s methods. If you remain humble and obedient, he will use this time to prepare you for the next part of your unique destiny. Don’t despise your “day of small things.”

 

#purposefullife #relevantlife #Godswill #Godspurpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apple of God’s Eye

I remember the wonderful sensation of being the apple of someone’s eye, how safe and loved I felt. During my pre-school years, my parents and I lived with my mother’s parents, Charles and Alice Robins. “Robbie,” as many called him, was saved out of a life of gambling, boxing and hustling pool to become a Baptist minister. My grandmother, Alice, served beautifully alongside him and reigned him in whenever she felt he looked or sounded too much like the old Robbie.

On Friday nights, my parents usually went out. My grandmother cared for my baby brother and Grandpa and I watched the Friday night fights. He kept a small television in his bedroom as Alice couldn’t bear the sights and sounds of boxing anymore and refused to watch with him. She wasn’t thrilled with a young child watching either but magically understood that I loved this time with him so reluctantly allowed me to join him.

I don’t remember the fights themselves, but I remember how I loved watching him, watching them. I usually started on his lap, but inevitably, he’d become disgusted with a call or a boxer’s performance and put me down while he did his own instant replay of jabs, hooks, punches and fancy footwork while explaining the poor call or the boxer’s failures. I felt special because he included me in this world. After he resettled into his Lazy Boy, he’d pull me back on his lap with a large grin and say, “That’s my girl.”

For all her failings and grievous sins, through the prophet, Zechariah, God still calls Israel the “apple of his eye” in chapter two verse eight. Zechariah was one of the last prophets before God’s 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew. This means that God endured numerous cycles of rebellion and repentance with his chosen people, before Zechariah wrote these words. God’s unfailing lovingkindness endured for centuries with contentious, disobedient and often grossly immoral Israelites.

Through Christ, the door of God’s kingdom swings wide to anyone, not just Jews, who names Jesus as savior and lord. The apostle John, said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd” John 10:16. Thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, we Gentile believers are now also the apple of God’s eye. So, it occurred to me, what does it look like to sit on God’s lap and watch the Friday night fights with Him?

Whatever discouragement, setback, disappointment or heartbreak I might experience, I can always climb up into Father God’s lap while he “contends with those who contend against me and fights against those who fight against me” as David described it in Psalm 35:1. My God does not passively sit by and watch while life comes at me, sometimes fierce and destructive. In Deuteronomy 20:4, Moses declares to the newly formed Israelite nation, “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

The book of Zechariah is filled with eight visions that describe what God did in the past for his people, what he was doing in the present and what was to come. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the coming Messiah and the impending destruction of the enemies of God’s kingdom and people. Look at this example in Zechariah 2:8-11:

For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them.[b] Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.

10 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. 11 “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” 

Verse eight refers to the past when God rose up in anger against evil nations that attacked or conquered Israel. Just as the Hebrew slaves plundered the Egyptian slave masters, God allowed this same scenario to repeat itself in other nations, for the sake of the Israelites reputation as his people.

In verse 10, we see a reference to the birth and life of Christ. Verse 11 makes clear that Christ’s ministry would bring together people of many nations all under the heading of God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Just as he defended the Jews for centuries, so does he stand as a warrior against anything that comes after one of his children of the new covenant. Whatever circumstances are coming at you to steal, kill or destroy, climb up on Father God’s lap, in prayer and humility, and let him fight for you and with you. You ­are the apple of his eye.

Here’s some verses that are meaningful to me whenever I consider the many ways God is intervening and fighting on my behalf even when it feels or looks like nothing is happening in the natural. Let them renew your mind and bury deep in your soul, handily located for the next battle.

Deuteronomy 3:22 

You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.’

Isaiah 54:17 

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

Psalm 34:17 

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Romans 8:31 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Isaiah 41:10 

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Isaiah 45:2 

“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron,

Isaiah 43:2 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

For a much longer list of similar verses go to this link and memorize the ones that hit you especially, like I did.  https://www.openbible.info/topics/let_god_fight_my_battles

 

 

Holding Fast to God While the World Breaks Down

Holding Fast to God When the World is Breaking Apart

While I write this, in my peaceful writing space, in my cozy house, all around the world, people’s lives are unraveling. I’m thinking about our sister in Christ, Kayla Mueller, and her family, today. Kayla was on a humanitarian mission with Doctors Without Borders, when she was abducted by Isis in Syria in 2013.  Her death is still shrouded in confusion, but we know, from firsthand witnesses, that during her last months of captivity and torture, she was repeatedly raped by the terrorist, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who committed suicide over the weekend while fleeing from U.S. forces. The mission to capture him was named after Kayla, in honor of the courage she demonstrated during her eighteen months of captivity.

Through many means, death will claim loved ones, leaving shattered people in its wake. Terrorists will rage. Murderers will kill. The destructive power of death will touch lives in other ways too. Divorce papers will be served, termination notices delivered, and eviction notices posted. Dreams and hopes will perish today while some watch their loved ones leave a courtroom in shackles and others watch their homes swept away by natural disaster.

In this world, it shall always be this way until Christ’s return. Once death planted its flag in the Garden of Eden, destruction and decay became our norm until God banishes evil to eternal damnation. Just like you, I’ve faced losses and crushing blows where it seems that wickedness is kicking righteousness to the curb. By faith, I know that may be temporarily true but never ever eternally true. Nevertheless, my soul and emotions need to be reminded that although Jesus died a brutal death, he rose victorious and triumphant over death, hell and the grave.

The first chapter of Habakkuk resonates with me whenever I feel as if horrible things are happening around the world and to people I know, and God doesn’t intervene.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help” But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere,’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery: Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted” Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT).

“Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? Are we only fish to be caught and killed?” Habakkuk 1:13-14 (NLT).

In the same way Isis once roamed all over Syria, the Babylonians terrorized the Jews of Habakkuk’s time. We don’t need to look far to imagine what Habakkuk might have been feeling to write such complaints to God. Worldwide, many inner cities are brutalized by gangs and justice and political systems are too often under the control of the wicked. The prophet struggled to understand God’s apparent silence in the face of his country being overrun by godless barbarians.

So, what should be my posture and attitude be when wickedness seems to be winning? Let me turn back to Kayla Mueller’s life for a beautiful example of Christ-like behavior in the face of the worst of evils and to suggest some things for us to think about.

  • Obeying God fervently will put you in the enemy’s line of fire. Kayla was traveling in war-torn areas, bringing comfort and healing to victims of violence. If we choose to obey God in every way, we must expect resistance and trust him for courage to face it and keep going. He sometimes leads his children into dangerous situations.
  • The measure of our character will be revealed through pain. At the bottom of this post are two stories that share the details of Kayla’s imprisonment but also tell us about her remarkable fortitude and compassion for others despite her own pain. Witnesses, held captive with her in various locations, testify to her kindness and concern for their well-being. In fact, at one point, 25-year-old Kayla chose not to escape with two younger girls as she told them that without her, they stood a much better chance of eluding recapture.

I am deeply moved by this young girl’s example when I consider my behavior during dark times. Too often I can trend towards a self-centered response to my trials and become oblivious to others in pain around me.

  • God will not always rescue us from disasters, dangers, heartbreaks and problems but he will deliver us through them.

Witnesses report that Kayla refused to deny her Christian faith to the end. Although she pretended sympathy towards the Muslim faith with a couple captors, those who lived in the prison cells with her said she never denied Christ. In a letter to her parents she said,

 

“I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else.+ by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall…I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.”

 

The apostle, Paul, also knew the secret of being free in prison. He suffered numerous beatings, was shipwrecked three times and imprisoned repeatedly, yet he never stopped sharing the gospel news. He said, “For me to live is Christ, for me to die is gain” Philippians 1:21 (NLT). God sent earthquakes to remove his shackles and open prison doors, plucked him out of the ocean and neutralized a snake’s venom to keep Paul’s ministry going. In the end, though, the time came when God did not perform any rescue and the apostle died violently, like Kayla and so many other believers.

 

Things will come apart in this life. If I seek help from anything before God, I won’t be able to function powerfully, as Kayla and Paul did. Holding fast to God’s word and the truth about his character will keep me steadfast and others-focused when all around me might be shaking and breaking. I need to go deeper with him now and remember his reply to Habakkuk, so that when the next storm comes, my foundations will be strong enough to keep me standing.

 

“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God” Habakkuk 2:4 (NLT).

 

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/israel/2019/october/baghdadi-operation-named-after-christian-woman-who-refused-to-give-up-faith-before-being-killed-by-isis

https://abcnews.go.com/International/kayla-mueller-captivity-courage-selflessness-defended-christian-faith/story?id=41626763

 

 

 

Choosing Joy In the Midst of Disappointment

Some years ago, my husband, Ken, and I almost lost everything we owned due to some unethical and dishonest business practices of a corporation he worked for at the time. Faced with the potential loss of our home and business, I wandered in a spiritual desert for a few months, where I learned much about myself and God and his Word.

During another challenging season, many years ago, God called Ken and I to step away from everything we knew and most things we allowed to define who we were at that time. We left our home of twelve years, (it was a parsonage), with no place to live and both stepped down from our ministry positions with no other jobs lined up.  This desert season lasted a couple of years as it took me some time to understand that God wanted to teach and instruct me and draw him closer to himself.

The third dry season that comes to my mind occurred even before the other two when Ken took his first ministry position. Released from the rigors of seminary life and a job I tolerated but didn’t love, I eagerly looked forward to our new season. I felt certain God would now open doors for a teaching position for me, the job I dreamed of and prepared for my whole life up to that point. God opened no teaching doors and instead positioned me as a floral designer in a small shop in our town. I didn’t dislike the job at all, and I enjoyed my new role as a pastor’s wife, but the Desert of Disappointment haunted my soul for four long years, as I pined away, every day, for a teaching position. At that time, I lacked any understanding that God was up to something, and I needed to submit to it. I’m so glad I started to get a clue in the next two deserts.

When I read the end of Habakkuk 3, I am reminded of those seasons, and one of the main ideas God wanted me to grab hold of.

“Even though the fig trees have not blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”  Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT).

This. This is the type of attitude God wanted to develop in me. Even if my plans fail, I lose what I have and my dreams don’t come to pass, will I still take joy in God and my salvation? That’s one of the primary questions God will ask of any believer in the Desert of Disappointment. So, what’s your “even though…” situation?

The pastor may say, “Even though my church hasn’t grown the way I thought it would by now, and my salary isn’t what I hoped for.”

The single person might yearn, “Even though I’ve dreamed of being married for so long, but I’m not even dating anyone yet.”

The parent could say, “Even though my child is rebelling against God and walking with the world.”

The worker sighs, “Even though I can’t find a job and bills are piling up.”

The divorcee whispers, “Even though my spouse left me for another.”

How do you fill in this blank?  Even though_______________________________________

yet will I rejoice in the Lord!  There’s a lot that needs to happen in the average human heart between the front and back ends of that sentence.

Matthew Henry describes this purifying and revealing of the condition of our hearts in his commentary on this passage.

“Destroy the vines and the fig-trees, and you make all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease. But those who, when full, enjoyed God in all, when emptied and poor, can enjoy all in God. They can sit down upon the heap of the ruins of their creature-comforts, and even then, praise the Lord, as the God of their salvation, the salvation of the soul, and rejoice in him as such, in their greatest distresses. Joy in the Lord is especially seasonable when we meet with losses and crosses in the world. Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man lives not by bread alone, we may be supplied by the graces and comforts of God’s Spirit. Then we shall be strong for spiritual warfare and work, and with enlargement of heart may run the way of his commandments and outrun our troubles. And we shall be successful in spiritual undertakings.”

My deserts always revealed the true condition of my heart. Oh, dear brothers and sisters, we will continue to experience “losses and crosses,” until Jesus takes us home or catches us up with him in the air. Will we choose to be strengthened and matured by these things, better equipped to fight on our Lord’s front lines or shall we wander around, as I did, sorrowful and hopeless in our wilderness?

Disappointment is a valid emotion that we should experience and move past not an address where we set up housekeeping. When I daily lay down my discouraging situations and ongoing trials at Jesus’ feet in his throne room, I must be so careful not to pick them back up lug them with me all day. They are too heavy, and I will walk bent over instead of leaping around with “hind’s feet on high places” (Habakkuk 3:19). Instead, I need to open my eyes to the doors that God opens, the blessings he’s providing and the new direction in which he’s leading.

 

Hearing From God by Positioning Yourself Rightly

There are times when I think God is quiet towards me when, in fact, he is speaking but I’m unable to hear. Why?  I’ve discovered several reasons, but one of the biggies is how I position myself spiritually. The way that we listen to God and others is important. Deficit listening skills affect every relationship. I didn’t comprehend that for years because, well…………..I didn’t listen well. Clear communication with God and others around me is crucial for healthy relationships, so it’s a good idea to think about what kind of receiver I am, on the listening end.

In our early years of marriage, I didn’t understand that my husband is a thinking-first, internal processor while I am a feeling-first external processor. When we disagreed, I started throwing a lot of words and ideas at him, wanting him to toss the same back to me. Sometimes he did holler back, mainly to  defend himself, but eventually he’d exit the premises, so he could think. Alone. Quietly. I misinterpreted that as a lack of caring, which I usually shouted at his retreating back. We needed to learn to communicate more productively when we disagreed.

In the book of Habakkuk, chapter two, the prophet has finished quite a list of complaints to God about the unpunished evil in the world around him. God replies and Habakkuk complains more. Then, a marvelous change occurs in his attitude, and he re-positions himself completely towards God.  Instead of shaking his fist at the heavens, he takes a humbler posture.

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint “Habakkuk 2:1.

Commentator, Matthew Henry’s wisdom about this verse is powerful.

“When tossed and perplexed with doubt about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient.  When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case.  God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them.”

In the past, I used the same poor listening skills with God that I used with Ken, expecting him to fit through my narrow funnel of hearing.  When Habakkuk positioned himself rightly, God told him profound things and inspired him to write a few of the most beautiful verses in the Old Testament. (See the bottom of the post for my favorites.) God wants to speak weighty things to me today. I don’t want to miss any more than I already have in the past. What can we learn from this prophet to improve our God-listening skills?

  • Designate quiet times and spaces in each day.

Most of us live in a crazy, loud world compared to ancient times. Media, traffic, families, workplaces and such create a lot of noise.  Whether Habakkuk went to a literal watchtower or a figurative one, there is an implied quiet there. Ancient watchtowers were often manned by one or two people, high in the sky, away from the bustle of their communities. Whether it’s a quiet room in your home, walking trail or even your bathroom with the vent fan running, (my mom used to do this for quiet) it’s so important to carve out physical quiet in your day, specifically to talk with God and listen.

  • Be prepared to wait.

God does not move on our timetable.  That’s an important fact to wrap our 21st century minds around. He may take days, weeks, months and even years to respond to a prayer request or complaint. Think about the lapse of time between all the Old Testament prophecies about Christ and his date of birth. Being impatient with him demonstrates a lack of trust. We are implying that he is doing nothing, simply because we can’t see his movements.

 

  • Accept that the answer you receive may not be the outcome you expect.

Notice that Habakkuk says, “how he will answer my complaint,” in verse one.  In the first chapter, the prophet implies that God is not doing what Habakkuk thinks he should do concerning the evil Chaldeans, who are oppressing the Israelites, but here I see a change in his attitude. There used to be times when I looked for that one right answer from God. When it didn’t come the way I imagined, I felt disappointed. I missed entirely the other things he did instead in those situations.  He is Alpha and Omega who sees the entire picture and knows what is ultimately best. We see a limited viewpoint of any set of circumstances, colored by our own perceptions, experiences and prejudices.  God is not limited by any of that junk.

I want to position myself in a spiritual watchtower where I hear and discern the words and movements of God in my world and the world around me. I long to pray effectively, lined up with the will of God. Wherever you are in your God-listening skills, are you ready to come up to the next level?

 

Treasures from Habakkuk

(all from NLT)

“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.” 2:14

“But the Lord is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.” 2:20

“I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works.” 3:2

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren…yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” 3:17-18

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” 3:19

 

What To Do When It Feels Like God Isn’t Listening

In the past, I dabbled with the thought that God was ignoring me. I knew this was false, yet I use to agonize during God’s silent seasons with me. For example, he seemed quiet on the matter of me finding a teaching job for many years, although he faithfully opened other career doors of opportunity for me. When fraudulent behavior and unethical corporate practices decimated my husband’s business like a tsunami, some days, I only heard the roar of the waves.

When you are a leader, these types of experiences are unsettling since people under you often expect you to be a God-hearing vision caster 24/7. Parents can feel the pressure from children, spouses from their mates and so on. Every true God-follower will experience deserts and dry seasons in their faith and just as Satan pounced on Jesus in the wilderness, he waits to attack us in the same places. Starting with Adam and Eve, our enemy tries to trick humans into doubting God’s character, particularly his love and power.

I remember praying faithfully and fervently for a couple’s broken marriage relationship that still ended in a bitter divorce. I know God does not override our free will to choose sin, which is what one partner did. Although I hurt deeply for this couple, I also struggled that through the whole, agonizing process, I couldn’t seem to see God’s hand moving in their situation. By faith, I know he is always active on behalf of his children but at that time, I felt like my prayers hit a wall and then slid back down.

Nowadays, I’ve learned to trust God’s heart when I can’t see his activity, and it seems like evil is winning. It’s a faith stretcher.  I’ve met many Christians who experience that struggle of feeling like they are faithfully conversing with God, but he isn’t talking back. These are not new, 21st century feelings.  The ancient prophet Habakkuk cried out to God with similar emotions.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:1-4).

God answers the prophet and reveals his plans for judgement on the wicked. Instead of finding comfort in that, Habakkuk is in despair. He rails on God some more concerning the activities of evil. I remember times when I landed in similar valleys where I struggled to believe the truth of God’s word because it seemed so far removed from present, painful circumstances.

God doesn’t scold Habakkuk in his brokenness and despair. Instead, he says, “Okay, I’m going to share more of my plan with you and I want you to write it down and then see that the message is spread around your country.” In the next post, we’ll dive more deeply into what God said and Habakkuk’s change of heart. For now, may I share a couple ideas on what to do when you find yourself feeling disconnected from God, in a valley of doubt and discouragement?

  • Feed your spirit man rich food. The old saying is true; whatever you feed grows and whatever you starve dies. Even though devotions and Bible study might feel like a chore, don’t forsake them; they will strengthen the best part of you and help take your emotions out of the driver’s seat. Storing up God’s word in your heart and mind gives the Holy Spirit the materials he needs to help you climb up out of your valley.  
  • Read Stories of Other’s Successful Journeys through the valleys of despair.

There are hundreds of books and websites available where brothers and sisters in Christ share their narratives on overcoming debilitating circumstances. I’ll list a few below.  Also, there’s a great website I worked with for awhile entitled, “Why Is This Happening?” (whyisthishappening.org) Great stories from overcomers are available on the site.

  • Spend your prayer time on others needs more than your own.

My prayer times used to become myopic during valley times, until I learned the discipline of casting my cares on God and then moving on to intercede for someone else’s situation. God wants to know that we trust him with our stuff.  Jesus set the perfect example of caring more for the tragedies of others rather than his own, many times. Dying on the cross, he spoke to John about caring for his mother, Mary, and also taught salvation to the lost soul crucified next to him.

  • Continue in the last clear direction God gave you until he gives you a new one. My former pastor, M. Wayne Benson used to say, “If you’re not hearing from God right now, then keep doing the last thing he told you to do.”  Don’t equate God’s temporary silence towards you, with indifference. Whatever Satan may be screaming at you, remember, as the Newsboys song says, “The cross has the final word.”

One of the beautiful things about seasons is that they change. You may think that impossible right now, during your winter, but spring will come to your life again.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3 ESV).

Recommended books:

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Turbulent Times,” by Max Lucado.

“It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,” Lisa Ter Keurst

 

 

Hope When You Feel Helpless

When feelings of hopelessness edge into my heart, its first cousin, helplessness, often accompanies. Yesterday, both tried to climb over walls I’ve put around my heart to guard it against such things. Some pernicious health issues created a pathway to my wall and carelessly, I let the cousins start climbing.  Their hands made it up over the bricks of morning worship and prayer and even beyond the lessons from my current devotional study about displaying God’s glory in our lives.  Just as they began to fling their legs over the top of the wall, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a power verse. “Greater is he that is in me than he who is the world!” (I John 4:4)

I belted that phrase and then sang a scripture-based song, “Whom the son sets free, is free indeed. I’m a child of God, yes I am!” The last I saw hopeless and helpless, they were running away with their ears covered. They will most likely attempt to breach my walls again because my health situation is not resolved, and Satan is nothing if not persistent. This is not my first fight with him on this battlefield but when I stay in step with the Captain of the Host, victory comes.

There are many ways our enemy tries to attack our faith in God’s power and love, and for some of us, it’s directly on our physical bodies. For others, it’s our families, our finances, jobs, churches, mind and emotions or any other place in our lives where Satan thinks he can advance his army.  Sometimes he confronts me on multiple fields of battle. Truthfully, there have been days when I’ve allowed hopelessness and helplessness to climb the wall and camp out in the garden of my heart for a time. Let me tell you, once you let them all the way in, it’s tough to get them back over that wall.

The forces of hell will plot against God’s kingdom until the final judgement. I find hope and strength for my battles throughout scripture, but today I want to point you to a passage in the book of Nahum I recently discovered. In the first chapter, the prophet describes the fierce anger of the Lord towards the enemies of his people.

“The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on ALL who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies. The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he NEVER lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm.  The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles… “Nahum 1:2-6 NLT (emphasis mine).

I love what commentator Matthew Henry, says about this passage. “Let sinners read it and tremble, and let saints read it and triumph.”  For Satan, his army, and those who choose to align themselves with darkness, this passage, and others like it, are terrifying. They’ve experienced God’s wrath. I don’t think only Egyptians screamed when the Red Sea crashed down on them or that only the inhabitants of Jericho quaked when their mighty walls crumbled.  Wherever evil resides, the unseen world of darkness exists in tandem.

For the believer, these types of scriptures are assurance that God sees every injustice against his children, whether in the natural or the supernatural, and will deal with every perpetrator of wickedness in ferocious ways.Your feelings of helplessness or hopelessness may come from sinful acts committed against you by humans but understand there is always a vile puppet master pulling the strings behind them. This is why Paul instructed the church in the book of Ephesians, that Christians are not wrestling merely with humans and we best be wearing our spiritual armor.

It’s Satan’s delight to keep our vision horizontally focused on enemies we can see in the natural, pitting Christ followers against each other and against unbelievers.  Passages like the one in Nahum remind us that this is a vertical war between good and evil, with the outcome already determined in heaven.  Satan knows this and is simply working to take as many spoils of war as he possibly can, namely the souls of men.

If he can distract me with hopelessness and helplessness about my own situations, how likely am I to see and respond to the needs of others in their broken moments? Maybe a fellow believer falls because I’m not there to throw my arm around them and help them to the med station. Or perhaps my unbelieving friend sinks deeper into the enemy’s darkness because they can’t see my lantern pointing the way to the Light. That’s why scriptures like Nahum’s first chapter are so powerful and affirming. They remind us that we are marching with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s the God who piles up seas then tumbles them down and crushes giant walls like brittle leaves. He’s always working on behalf of his children and against the forces of evil whether we can see it in the natural or not.

I’ve developed a phrase that I roll out repeatedly, to speak to my soul when I find it trending towards hopelessness.  I say, “I don’t know exactly what God’s gonna do, but he’s gonna do something.” Then I choose to focus on the tasks God places before me and the needs of others rather than continuing to stew about my own situations.

Be encouraged today by the knowledge of God’s power and might inserted into your circumstances. Sometimes I am helpless to change sinful or painful situations to any great degree, but God never is and loves to demonstrate his authority over heaven and earth on behalf of his children. Here’s a few more passages to meditate on concerning his power and might.

Job 26:7-14, Psalm 136,  Isaiah 14:27,  Isaiah 52:10, Psalm 66:7, Ephesians 1:19-21,