The Measly and the Mighty

NOSELESSIn Psalm 135, a vivid contrast is painted in broad strokes that compares the almighty and robust God of King David to the puny and powerless idols of the Canaanites. The Psalmist describes the inept and impotent gods: They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

A recent viewing of some photography reminded me of this Psalm. The photographer had captured the image of some artifacts that portrayed their gods with smashed ears and crushed noses. I wondered if these ancient scars were the work of vandals or mischievous imps.

After reading Julia Wolkoff’s article on the subject, I found my answer: The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.

By smashing the ears and crushing the noses of these images, the perpetrator thought he was castrating the idol and nullifying its power.

My worship and prayer aren’t focused on a toothless god who can be rendered impotent by the hand of man; my devotion is to the Omnipotent God who is great, above all gods, and the One who does whatever He pleases.

The God who is the focus of my attention is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Focused or Fretful

headcaseIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiousness?

In anxious moments, I’ve found comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.

Here’s a simple truth: The mind that’s not staying on God, is straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments faith and smothers the fires of fretfulness.

To “stay” your mind on God, I suggest that you begin by:

  • Focusing on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claiming the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believing God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Getting a grip on life: For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

Think about it: When God is holding your right hand, you never have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Phil 4

Two Powerful Words

FOLLOW-JESUS-footprintsTwo words changed the lives of two men, and they gave birth to a spiritual revolution that changed the world. The two words were spoken by Jesus when He called out to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).”

The best way to follow Jesus is to walk in His footsteps.  To make sure you’re on the right path, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I walking in love?
  • Am I walking in the light?
  • Am I walking with wisdom?
  • Am walking or living my life in a way that is pleasing to God?

Before I was tall enough to see over the corn stalks and heads of milo that filled the fields where my dad would take me hunting, I never got lost; all I had to do was step where Dad stepped.  The same is true as you journey through life, simply walk like Jesus.

The apostle Peter said, Jesus suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).

I encourage you to follow Jesus, walk in His steps, and use the words of Psalm 119:133 as a prayer: Father, Direct my steps by your word!

Remember When

rememberThe older I get, the more often I ask, or I am asked the question: Don’t you remember how it used to be?

This question was repeated several times this morning in a conversation, and it reminded me of a tender scene in The Lion King when Mufasa challenges Simba: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, there are times we need to remember who we are—We are children of the King. This is not some simple mantra to be repeated; it is a truth full of practical applications when, like Simba, you lose your way.

When you truly realize you are a child of the King, you can:

  • Worry less by spending more time in prayer as you turn your problems over to God.
  • Stand tall when you feel like you are in over your head; God is in it with you.
  • Remember that God is bigger than any of your problems.
  • Be certain that you will never be so lost that you can’t be found.
  • Be assured that when you feel like no one likes you, God still loves you.

As a child of the King, God speaks to you and says: I will hold your right hand: Fear not, I will help you.

Gratitude

gratitude-noteOn March 8, 1713, Matthew Henry experienced an unfortunate incident that offered proof that he was a preacher who could not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Henry had preached a sermon in a London church that focused on the joyful sound, and based on the words of Psalm 89:16: They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.

Shortly after he left the church, Henry was robbed by a couple of thieves. As Henry reflected on this incident in a prayer, he said:

Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.

Henry’s prayer is an expression of gratitude.  He chose to focus less on what he had lost and the danger he had faced and more on what he still had, what he had never been, and that he remained safe and secure in Christ.

Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in his life, Henry chose to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and nurture an attitude of gratitude. Can the same be said of you?  Which of these three is indicative of your attitude today–bitterness, forgiveness, or gratitude?

To help you stay focused on this discussion I’ll end with the words of Zig Ziglar:  Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

Are You Bushed?

Sleep-DeprivedBecause I don’t like the government tinkering with my sleep pattern, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. I’m hoping the government will eventually learn that you can play with a clock, but you can’t turn back time.

It takes some people months to adjust to the change, and they stumble around like a zombie, saying: “I’m bushed.”

Whether it’s an interruption in your sleep or some other issue, there are times when most of us have felt like we’re weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like you, you may need to get Am-bushed.

To understand my terminology, think with me about the plight of the Hebrew people during the Old Testament days of the Pharaoh. The Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help, so they cried out to God in prayer. The answer to their prayers came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding, soon-to-be-deliverer by the name of Moses.

At this point in his life, Moses was disillusioned. He wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, and he was running on empty as he yearned for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage or was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn; it was ablaze, but it wasn’t consumed.

It was a spectacular sight to Moses, and he was stunned and astounded when God’s voice resounded from the bush: I’ve seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their prayers. I know their sorrows. I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied, “I AM THAT I AM.”

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed. He felt as though he lacked eloquence, but God assured him that he was a diamond in the rough.  He felt empty, so God filled him. His life had been meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

The life of Moses is an epic account of how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. It’s the narrative of what God can do through you.

More Than A Might Be Deity.

faithOne of the best-known and well-liked chapters in the Bible, is Psalm 23.  In times of heartache, people contemplate its principles and find solace in its truths.

This past week, I was offering comfort to a daughter as she said her final goodbye to her mother and father.  I called her attention to the word “is” in the first verse of the psalm:  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

God is an is God; He isn’t a has been or a might be Deity. This is the difference between the pain of the world and the promise of heaven. It’s more than a wish; it’s God’s centuries old pledge: The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is also:

The list above compliments the shepherd-sheep relationship woven within the verses of Psalm 23. I encourage you to refer to this list throughout the week so you can deepen your relationship with the good Shepherd.

Seeking Peace

seek-peace-and-pursue-it-2Some people live their lives wildly chasing dreams that eventually leave them feeling empty and hollow.  I thought of this yesterday when I read five words from Psalm 34: Seek peace and pursue it.

As I thought about this verse, it occurred to me that a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the result of what we pursue in life.  The writings of Paul validate this statement:

  • Romans 14:19: Pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another
  • I Thessalonians 5:15: See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
  • I Timothy 6:11: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

It’s been said that whatever catches your attention, catches you.  Have you been ensnared by the false hopes of groundless dreams or have you captured the peace of God that is beyond human reasoning?

As you start a new week, I hope the words of Peter will encourage you to focus your thoughts on the peace of God. He said: Seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer (I Peter 3:10-12).

Blessings: Have You Counted Yours?

countWhen was the last time you paused and counted the many blessing that you have?  Have you taken the time to heed the old hymn and “name them one by one?” These are the questions I asked myself after reading Psalm 68:19: “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!

A survey of the Psalms will reveal several verses that remind us of God’s many blessings:

  • Psalm 1 speaks of relationship: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
  • Psalm 2 speaks of faith: Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him
  • Psalm 28 speaks of prayer: Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
  • Psalm 31 speaks of God’s kindness: Blessed be the Lord, For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
  • Psalm 32 speaks of forgiveness: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
  • Psalm 33 is a promise: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

I’ll close with this link to Count Your Blessings. I hope the song will become a symphony as you reflect on the times God has blessed you.