• Coming Christmas 2019

Overcoming Bad Days-Psalm 23: Part 1

King David didn’t have just one bad day or several; he had l a lifetime of bad days!

Sometimes these bad days were brought on by his own actions, i.e. his Bathsheba watching brought on quite a few bad days. Sometimes bad days were brought on by work issues, like javelin practice at his head by his employer, King Saul, and or his family being carried off by marauders.

Sometimes bad days happened for King David because of family issues i.e. Absolam plotting to take the throne or his own brothers mocking his motives for service or his wife Michael’s jealousy or…well there a lots of family issues with David and too many to mention here. And then sometimes it was just nature rearing its ugly head that gave David a bad day like when bears and lions decided his sheep looked like a good lunch.

But near the end of his life, the Song Writer could reflect back on all his years, including the bad days, and compose a song so full of Truth that it has become the most quoted passage of the Bible of all time. Psalm 23 is Truth that bores deep into our sadness, our fears, our anxieties…our bad days and reminds us just Who God Is and ALL that He is for us.

Let’s break it down a bit starting with the very first phrase.

“The LORD is my shepherd,”

If this was all David wrote, it would be enough! Just think about what David was saying. The most powerful man of his time, maybe of all time, was admitting that he was a dumb sheep in need of a shepherd. And if anyone knew about dumb sheep, David knew. Once a shepherd boy, always a shepherd boy at heart.

David knew all about vulnerable sheep; defenseless, easily frightened, prone to stray, lacking a sense of direction, cannot care for themselves and weak. He also knew they survive better together in flocks, that they will follow and be loyal to their shepherd, and that they are loving and affectionate and thrive when in the comfort and protection of their shepherd.

David knew what it meant to be the shepherd. He knew how to use the staff to protect the sheep, he knew how to use the rod to discipline the sheep, and he knew how to find a wayward sheep, bring it back to the fold and then take measures to keep it from straying again. He knew about the hardships of keeping the sheep, of fighting off bears and lions and pestilence and thieves.

David also knew that the only way, the absolute only way for a sheep to survive in this hard and dangerous world was willingly to place himself under the protection and obedience of the shepherd.

Knowing all this King David, the shepherd boy, called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords his Shepherd! Not just any shepherd, not some shepherd hired for a night or part-time in his duties. David claimed His Creator as his shepherd.

It was personal. It was intimate. It was relational.

We, the sheep, have bad days and maybe lots of them. But because we know The Shepherd we have all we need to not just survive those bad days but to overcome them and survive. More on that in Part 2!

Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

 

It’s a Bad Day

If you’ve ever had a bad day, raise your hand? Come on!

You know you have! Raise that hand high!

That may not help you be better right this minute, but admitting you are having a bad or that you do have bad days is a good start to not having as many bad days. It is when we pretend that everything is fine and dandy so that we look good around others or because we think God will be happier with us if we pretend, that we actually bring dishonor to the very grace of God.

Of course, the flip side of pretending that we never have bad days is when we languish in our bad days and nurture our bad days and so much so that we fail to see any grace from God’s Hand and that is also a dishonor to our loving Father.

I have my share of bad days; everything from a flu bug to a relational stresser to a flat tire to tragic news can plop me into a bad day. And then there’s the most common reason I have bad days, I argue with God about what He is doing in my life or in the lives of those I love.

Just being honest.Though God is big enough and wise enough and gracious enough to handle my arguments just fine, if I persist and resist the Holy Spirit’s truth to me and refreshment for me, the consequence is a bad day. 

I’ve too many bad days recently; too much arguing with God about what He is doing or…in my finite thinking…not doing. I’ve resisted taking the steps and willingness to thrive in the Holy Spirit’s process.. Now, I am finally tired of the bad days and I want to participate in the steps to have fewer bad days and when they do come, to not stay in them as long.

And I know where to go to start in that process and to take those steps: God’s Word. There is an abundance of Bible Heroes who had bad days and plenty of guidance from God’s interaction with them for me to learn and re-learn how to handle bad days.

My circumstances have not changed. Nothing is new on the horizon that those circumstances will change.  And, maybe, you are in the same place…But God…

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the quiet waters.

He restores my soul; He guides in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

 

I hope you will join me and rediscover God’s amazing grace and mercy for us all!  Next time, David will tell us more about overcoming those bad days.

 

Wonder Woman and Me-Part 3

It would be absurd for me to discuss what Diana as Wonder Woman and I have in common without sharing what differences I found. There were quite a few actually.

An obvious difference is that Wonder Woman was 5’10” tall and could defeat an entire army garrison in 4-inch platform boots!  I, on the other hand, am 5’4” tall and shrinking! Plus, I can barely walk up several flights of stairs in my arch support tennis shoes without seeking extra oxygen!

Diana figured out how to fly and torpedo herself as a weapon! The only way I can fly is to pay outrageous airline prices, stand in human-cattle lines for hours, and then sit very still in a cramped space between two strangers for 3-4 hours in a giant torpedo shaped can! My weapon of choice is a good dose of Dramamine!

Some other differences include: Diana can rock both a ball gown and a super hero wardrobe. My best look is jeans and an oversized t-shirt! She wields a sword pretty well and can lasso anything she wants. I can wield a mean skillet on a gas stove and there isn’t a jar I can’t open, with a little help from the rubber gripper I keep handy at all times!

There are, of course, many other differences because Wonder Woman is a fabrication of someone’s imagination and there isn’t a real woman anywhere who could begin to match her. That’s the whole idea of a super hero. I’m okay with that and I enjoy her story nonetheless.

There are two important differences though that I want to keep in my heart and mind. One to challenge me and the other to keep me focused on the real world full of it’s real people and our desperate need of a Savior!!

The differences between Wonder Woman and Me

  1. Train Harder!

Hippolyta: You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, 10 times harder — until she is better than even you.

The Queen of the Amazons, Diana’s mother, gave the order for Diana to be trained and trained and trained some more. But that order could only be carried out if Diana was willing to endure the five and ten times harder part of that training. To say that her early training was stepped up, is the bona fide understatement of DC Comic lore. And yet Diana met that training head on until she was the best and no one could beat her; not even the god of war.

Because of Diana’s willingness and even eagerness to train and train harder, she was able to tap into her deepest power and abilities and accept a seemingly impossible mission her mother reluctantly assigned. The only reason Diana could use the “god killer” sword and the lasso of truth and handle a shield for deflecting machine gun shots, is because she trained like her life and the very existence of the world depended on it.

A life of ease didn’t shape Diana, though her mother at first tried to provide that. A life of gladiator training with hand to hand combat smattered with blows to the head and topples to the ground prepared her for super hero status. Lounging around in the castle eating bonbons all day had no place in Diana’s daily experience. Active preparation and a willingness to be trained primed her for the day she pulled a man from the ocean waters. Nothing would be the same for Diana.

Elaine: I don’t have time for training. I have a family, a career, a life to pursue. I’ll fit in church when I can and read the training manual (Bible) sometimes. It’s not my fault I don’t experience the full blessing of God.

Sadly, I cannot with any honest confession, say that I train as one of Jesus’ disciples…as a daughter of the King of Kings…even two times harder let alone five or ten times harder than an average person might do. So in this comparison, I am not like Diana at all!

My spiritual muscles are weak and out of shape. Oh I can get by for a simple hike through church life and family interactions. But I am in no way, shape or form ready for the front lines of the ugly, filthy, and even hateful human messes that are the daily experience of all of us…and mostly from me, myself and I.

Some days, I cannot believe the ugly sinful thoughts that come to my mind and weave through my psyche and then express themselves in curt words or snide glances. One simple WalMart run proves my lack of training! But I shouldn’t be surprised. One church service and a few verses a week are no match for my old nature colliding with a world without Jesus!!

Unlike Diana who became better than her instructor, I will never be better than Jesus! I don’t want to be! He is God! I am Not! And it is much better that way! But, I am commanded to be like Him and the only way to do that is to train 5 times and 10 times harder in God’s Word, by God’s preachers and teachers, with God’s people in the trenches and Jesus as my instructor.

I have not “redeemed the time” or “taken the whole armor of God” with any kind of regularity. But I do want to finish my course well. I want to be a warrior princess for the God who saved me!! May God help me do so!!

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Timothy 4:7

  1. Believe in>>>What?

Diana: “It’s not about what you deserve. It’s what you believe. And I believe in them (people). “Only love can truly save the world.”

This is the biggest and most important difference between Wonder Woman and me.

Her premise sounds so good, so right, so doable. It is echoed all around us: movies, TV shows, marketing, sports figures, politicians and religion. But is it true? And does it solve the human condition; namely sin and separation from Jehovah God and eternal life?

First of all, it is ALL about what I deserve.

I deserve death and damnation because ALL have sinned. 

Romans 3:10 “as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Second, it is not just believing for believing sake. I can believe anything I want about anything I want, but without absolute truth, without the substance of reality, that belief is useless. I can believe a two-legged chair is going to hold me up, but until I actually test that belief and sit down to the truth, that belief is quite ludicrous.

In a world where truth is relative, faith is pointless!

James 2:18-19 “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (emphasis mine)

Third, It is ALL about who you believe in!

Is it a little “g” god or The God, Creator, Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Or as, Diana claimed, should we believe in people?

The only acceptable “belief” in our culture is; “Believe in yourself!” Really? The “Self” that lies if it is convenient? The “Self” that is jealous of anyone who looks better in jeans than “Self” does? The “Self” that screams and yells at those who disagree with “Self”? Or the “Self” who lets the tears fall when someone dares to disagree with “Self’?

How about the “Self” who cheats on their taxes and their spouse? Same difference, right? Or let’s believe in the “Self” who imposes lots of laws but excuses themselves of basic moral law? There is the “Self” who gives up after one or two tries or won’t hold down a job or abandons their kids? I could believe in that “Self”?

There is NOTHING in any human being; not my husband, not my kids, not even my grandkids that is worthy of my belief! And there is absolutely NOTHING in me that persuades me to believe in me! We are ALL too fickle!

No way, am I going to believe in people for my hope and salvation! The human race is a mess and has been since Adam and Eve. And quite frankly, man has been trying to save himself for ten millennia and isn’t doing a very good job. The evil and chaos and self-destruction of our enlightened age is powerful evidence against believing in people.

Little “g” gods like Diana and Thor, et al, are fun to watch in clever movie plots, but they do nothing for my reality or for yours! But neither does the god of the American Dream or peace at any cost. Just a cursory investigation into the rise of crime, violence, hate and suicide tells us that belief in our modern manmade gods leads to death and destruction, not the peace and life we all long for.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but my me.” John 14:6

And he also said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

Jehovah is the God I believe, the Hope I cling to and the Life I long for!!! It is nothing of myself and everything of Him! For that truth I am eternally thankful!

Finally, there is only ONE love that CAN Actually Save the World!

John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, not principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”