As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion.” Romans 11:26
Yesterday, my old friend and college roommate, Sandee Lee lost her battle with cancer—or did she win it? While everyone who knew this joyful, vivacious, encouraging, amazingly gifted sanguine is grieving her absence, we know that this is not the end but the beginning.
This morning, before I received the news that my friend had passed away, I had texted my husband to confirm he was going to meet me at One O’clock at the funeral service of a dear lady who had attended a church we pastored several years ago. I then did my daily Bible reading which happened to be in Hosea. Of all that I read this morning, this verse stuck out to me.
“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” Hosea 13:14
I don’t remember ever reading this in the Old Testament before but I am very familiar with a similar passage in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. I now realize Paul was referring to this Old Testament verse. I was so moved by the verse, that I copied and pasted it into my journal.
I was moved for several reasons. One being the loss of our friend whose funeral we would attend later this day. Another was my struggle of what to write in the Christmas card I had recently delivered with cookies to my neighbor who lost her husband a few months earlier. And finally because around this holiday season every year, my own grief reemerges over the loss of my own parents.
The word “deliver” stood out to me and reminded me of all the Old Testament prophecies that said a deliverer would come. (Isaiah 59:20) Just like these other Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled that night in Bethlehem–that He would be born of a virgin, (Isaiah 7:14) that He would come from the tribe of Judah, (Genesis 49:10) and that He would be born in Bethlehem, (Micah 5:2) a deliverer did come!
And one of the many things from which he delivered us is the power and destruction of death! Sandee Lee did not lose the battle of cancer, she won it! She has just left the land of the dying and entered into the land of the living!
I thank you for preparing me this morning with your Word for the heartbreaking news about my dear friend, Sandee Lee. I pray for the Lee and Zschomler families and all those who are grieving the loss of loved ones during this Christmas Season. Turn their ashes into beauty, give them the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for their spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-20) We thank you Lord that you came to deliver us from so many things, one of them being death. LH
And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Hebrews 12:27 ASV
Today I am writing to you on the 3rd Birthday of Better Off Read Ministries. I had intended to celebrate by reposting our very first post, The Word Became Flesh. (You still can check it out!) However, something earth-shaking has occurred—well, earth-shaking to me anyway. Yesterday, on the third anniversary of BetterOffRead.com going live, the website, as it was, went to cyberspace heaven. I had some updates done which turned out to be fatal!
At 2:36 PM, I received the call from the website developer telling me all that remained of the site was the generic Word Press template, you now see before you. After having invested several hundreds of dollars (not to mention blood, sweat and tears) to design a website that would be done with a spirit of excellence and be a fitting platform for sharing the Word of God, it all was gone. I proceeded to go through all the stages of grief–three of them–denial, anger and bargaining– right there in said phone conversation with the developer. Depression set in a few hours later. And now, I think I am slowing approaching acceptance–I still would appreciate your prayers as it is very common to jump back and forth between these stages of grief!
All of this to say, I don’t think we will be able to get the website back to the way it was. BUT the following will not change:
Better Off Read Ministries was founded because, personally, God has used His Word in my life to teach, encourage, comfort and correct in such timely ways, that I can only describe it as miraculous. I truly believe that EVERYONE who reads the Bible is better off!
The mission of Better Off Read Ministries continues to be to encourage readers to consistently connect with the awesome creator of this universe by reading, studying and exploring the Bible.
The post topics and Bible studies will continue to be relevant to what the Bible has to say about current events, culture and our everyday lives.
We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom and direction as we take this as an opportunity to start fresh and new. Yes, all of Better Off Read Ministries social media sites will no longer coordinate in color or design with the website for the time being. ( Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube and Google Plus)
Yes, all the Logo, brochures and other printed materials will no longer coordinate with the website. But in a thousand years what will that matter? The Word of God says that everything that can be shaken will be shaken so that what cannot be shaken will remain.
Let this serve to remind us that what cannot be shaken and what will remain is God’s Word, the Bible.
For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:25)
A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)
Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89)
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
I came across this picture from Tumblr just before this “shaking” began. It is now my daily prayer. Today, I pray it especially as it would pertain to Better Off Read Ministries.
Dear Lord, empty Better Off Read Ministries of me so it can be filled with you. Lord, empty me of the selfishness inside. Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride. And any foolishness my heart holds to. LORD, EMPTY BETTER OFF READ MINISTRIES OF ME SO IT CAN BE FILLED WITH YOU. LH
December 4, 2014. Since this was first posted, we had a miracle! Our website’s very excellent and talented developer saved the day with a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful little thing called Wayback Machine which is a digital archive of the internet!!!! I love you Mr. Developer, I love you Wayback Machine, but most of all, I love you God! I would also like to note that the crash had nothing to do with the skill of our website’s developer. It was a problem with updating an old theme with Word Press’ cutting edge updates and it was only a matter of time before a crash occurred. Please be patient with us as we work to make some changes and restore the website. Man, God is good!
Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 NIV
When we were kids, my brothers and I used to fight in the back seat of the car. To my recollection, it didn’t matter if it was a long trip or a short one. But it seemed it was only the longer trips that managed to set my father off. Because I was the youngest, I was always trapped in the middle. My brothers would repeatedly tap or poke me from both sides–something they got from The Big Brother’s Playbook, no doubt. (FAWC: I remember vividly one time when they were engaged in this pesky behavior and the song, Stuck In The Middle With You, by Stealers Wheel came on. I had my own private little laugh as the lyrics “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am stuck in the middle with you” played over the car radio.) Often, when in this situation, I would cry, “Dad, they’re touching me!” with an irritating whine. (This was in my Little Sister’s Playbook.) After enough whining, my father would turn halfway around from the driver’s seat, one eye on the road and one eye on the three of us in the back seat.
Obviously, his priority was to see the road so when he reached back, his hand would blindly flail, seeking someone’s/anyone’s flesh to smack. Unfortunately for me, due to the ergonomics of the human arm and having been forced to sit in the more accessible middle, I received a greater percentage of contact with my father’s hand then my brothers. The flailing hand was followed by a threatening “Keep your hands to yourselves!” and “Don’t make me stop this car!” So then my mom would pipe up and tell us to stay in our own section of the seat. This proved impossible for me because the manufactured back-seat boundary lines of our 1974 Buick La Sabre were unevenly placed as seen in the photo below.
Because of this, I automatically was sitting in my brothers’ territory. Hence, the tapping and poking continued but I couldn’t whine because my dad would stop the car and NOBODY wanted that! Let’s just say, the boundary lines did not fall in pleasant places for me as they did for my brothers. Car manufacturers have since solved this problem by establishing very clear and pleasant boundary lines for today’s child occupants of the back seat. Very impressive!
But enough about my childhood boundary line issues! Lets look at our featured scriptures, “Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6 NIV)
Bible commentators are not sure when David wrote this Psalm. So I wonder. Was it in his younger days, when he was being chased by King Saul and hiding in caves? Was it at the death of his infant child to whom Bathsheba gave birth? Could it have been when his son, Amnon raped his daughter, Tamar? Was it during the time his son, Absalom usurped his throne and David again was on the lam? I hope you get my point. No matter when it was written, we see in David an unmistakable heart of gratitude.
What “boundary lines” are you facing at this moment? Relational strife? Joblessness? Loneliness? Financial setbacks? Wayward children? Grief? Declining health? How is it that David could make such a faith-filled declaration, “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” after all the tragedies he encountered in his life?
We find the answer in Psalm 16:5. “Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing” precedes his positive proclamation regarding the boundary lines. As W. A. VanGemeren commented, “The psalmist rejoices in the bounty of God’s goodness to him. However, his joy is not first and foremost in God’s gifts but in the Lord himself.” (emphasis mine) Just like the Levites, David’s as well as our inheritance is the Lord! (Deuteronomy 10:9)
This past Sunday, after researching for this post, my spirit was enlightened to this in church as we worshiped to David Crowder’s song, How He Loves. For the first time I had a deeper understanding of what the song means.
He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are And how great Your affections are for me
Oh, how He loves, yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us, oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves
And we are His portion andHe is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest I don’t have time to maintain these regrets When I think about the way
Oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves all
How He loves
Like David, we can say, “The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places” no matter what we are going through! When we truly see Jesus as the greatest gift, we become “unaware” of every one of our afflictions which are eclipsed by God’s glory. We “don’t have time to maintain these regrets” when we know that He alone is our portion, our eternal inheritance and that he loves us.
Sometime I think we have heard “Jesus Loves Me” so often that it has lost it’s incredibleness and we take it for granted.
Fanny Crosby got it when she penned these words in 1879,
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me,
I can sing though billows roll.
Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!
Rhea F. Miller got it when in 1922 she wrote these words
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs.
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
Matt Redman got it in 2000 when he wrote these words,
I’ve thrown it all away that I might gain a life in You
I’ve found all else is loss compared to the joys of knowing You
Your beauty and Your majesty are far beyond compare
You’ve won my heart, now this will be my prayer
Take the world, but give me Jesus
You’re the treasure in this life
Take the world, but give me Jesus
Is my cry
In 2001, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend got it when they wrote,
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Jason Ingram and Jason Roy of Building 429 got it when in 2011 they wrote,
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
My prayer for this Thanksgiving, November 27, 2014 and every day for that matter, is that our hearts would be grateful for all our many blessings, but may we reserve our highest gratitude and praise for our Lord and Saviour, our portion, our eternal inheritance, Jesus Christ. LH
Why not read the entire Psalm 16 for Thanksgiving!
1 Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You.
2 I said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord;
I have nothing good besides You.” 3 As for the holy people who are in the land,
they are the noble ones.
All my delight is in them. 4 The sorrows of those who take another god
for themselves will multiply;
I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
and I will not speak their names with my lips.
5 Lord, You are my portion
and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord who counsels me—
even at night my conscience instructs me. 8 I keep the Lord in mind always.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad
and my spirit rejoices;
my body also rests securely. 10 For You will not abandon me to Sheol;
You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay. 11 You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
Yours is the mighty power and glory and victory and majesty. Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. 1 Chronicles 29:11 TLB
Recently, I went out on a limb and revealed something personal on Facebook. Don’t worry. It was nothing dramatic or that could be labeled TMI. But by sharing the information, I would be acknowledging to the world–and to myself that I didn’t know everything. I wasn’t sure how a confession like that would be perceived but I “courageously” posted it anyway.
I was amazed at the response I received! Surprisingly, others out in Facebook land admitted that they also did not know this about Brussels sprouts and I was able to help others through my vulnerability!
Today, I feel that same hesitancy but I’m hoping what I share will also be helpful to others. I am going out on a limb again to reveal something else I just learned–something far more earth-shaking than the growth process of Brussels sprouts (and their correct spelling), which is—WE CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING. Many reading this may be thinking this is common knowledge–just like knowing Brussels sprouts grow on stalks but some of us are “arriving a little late to the party.”
Not long ago I missed one of the sessions of our Church Ladies Bible Study and went back alone to view the video that I missed. One part of the video was particularly stirring to me as it dealt with a problem the Lord had already exposed last year in my life–Control Issues. (See The Day I Went To The Grocery Store And Came Home A Control Freak.) The video session was from Beth Moore’s study, Children of the Day. Beth asked everyone in her studio audience and those viewing the video to repeat the following declaration after her . (If you also struggle with control issues, you might find it helpful to read it out loud.)
I am not in control.
I cannot control all my people.
I cannot control my situations even when I want what is best.
I cannot make people behave.
I cannot make people believe.
I cannot make people be strong.
I am not God.
He alone knows how things will turn out.
I fire myself.
I see my control for what it is–a screaming testament to my distrust. (emphasis mine)
(Note: I wrote this declaration in my notes as best I could and it may not be exactly the same as on the video.)
After speaking this declaration, it was as though I was at DEFCON Level 4 when I wrote my little “Grocery Store” post last year and now I was at DEFCON 1, the highest level of warning from the Holy Spirit!
My control issues were now a “SCREAMING testament to my DISTRUST”! Soon after I received this reproof from the Lord, but before I could even process it, I was hit with one of the most difficult weeks of my life and there was NOTHING I could do about it. Things I thought I had “controlled” through prayer had now occurred and they were contrary to what I had prayed. First there was questioning God, then despair and fear, then shame–I have been a Christian most of my life and written so many posts on Faith, Hope and encouragement!
Struggling, I went t0 The Word and was uplifted by these and other verses:
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:4)
I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. (John 16:33 MSG)
I went back and read former posts I had written. (HERE, HERE and HERE are just a few.) I also went back and reread a book I had read years ago, Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning.
Manning was inspired to write Ruthless Trust after a mentor remarked to him, “Brennan, you don’t need any more insights into the faith. You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.” This challenge to steadfastly trust God saturates his book. He writes
Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic. When the shadow of Jesus’ cross falls across our lives in the form of failure, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, unemployment, loneliness, depression, the loss of a loved one; when we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile menacing place—at those times we may cry out in anguish, “How could a loving God permit this to happen?” At such moments the seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us.
I now see that we can believe in God, we can love God and we can still fail to completely trust Him. For some of us, this becomes evident when we encounter something we cannot control. Doubt, fear and despair mount and the only choices we have are to burn our Bibles and turn our back against God OR get “out of” control–rather “out of” thinking we are in control, let go, surrender and put our trust in God. Manning puts it so much more eloquently:
Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then—at our wits’ end—trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, “Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,” surges from the heart.
Unwavering trust does not mean we will not be hurt. We CAN walk simultaneously in brokenness and trust. The life of Job illustrates this. “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 KJV) When we are faced with life’s unrelenting disappointments, with God’s grace we can walk in peace. I have been inspired by these lyrics from Sara Grove’s song, What I Thought I Wanted
…I passed understanding a long, long time ago
And the simple home of systems and answers we all know
What I thought I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and somehow peaceful
I keep wanting you to be fair
But that’s not what you said
I want certain answers to these prayers
But that’s not what you said
When I get to heaven I’m gonna go find Job
I want to ask a few hard questions,
I want to know what he knows
About what it is he wanted and what he got instead
How to be broken and faithful
I close with one of my favorite quotes, which also happens to be from Manning. “To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
Dear Lord, we cannot believe in you or love you without the working of The Holy Spirit. Likewise, we need your grace to be able to trust you without wavering. Please forgive us for all the times our first response to trouble has been to try to control the situation. Help us in our darkest moments to look to you and to know not just in our minds but also in our hearts that you can be trusted with everything that is most dear to us. Help us to really know your perfect love that dispels all fear.(1 John 4:18 TLB) LH
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
A loud cry came from downstairs, “Mommmmmm!”. My heart nearly stopped but my body took flight as I raced down two stairs at a time and into the living room from where the scream had come. Expecting to see blood or some other horrific sight by the intensity of the scream, I was gratefully surprised when I arrived on the scene to find my daughter safely sitting in a chair reading her Bible. Feeling disappointed and betrayed, she looked up at me and said, “Why for fourteen years did you never tell me Noah got drunk and naked?”
She had me there. It just isn’t something you see in children’s Bibles or books. I explained that we weren’t trying to deceive her but just trying to keep things on a need-to-know basis! Her eyes had been opened to the frailty of all people–even godly ones. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Maybe today is a good time for a refresher course on the topic. Just hours ago there was a press release informing the world that a pastor, “who isn’t YOUR pastor”–as my niece so aptly pointed out, stepped down from his pulpit and announced his resignation. Already the commentators have been unleashed. And when I say “commentators” I am not only referring to professional reporters or journalists who know some of the details. I’m also referring to social media commenters who even have less knowledge of the details. The name of the pastor is not relevant to what I want to share. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last person to be indecently exposed. Let’s look at the one who was the first.
Noah’s Drunkenness and Nakedness.
THE Noah, whom the Bible says was
favored of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)
a righteous man, blameless, walked with God (Genesis 6:9; 7:1)
obedient to everything God commanded him (Genesis 6:22; 7:5)
heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7)
also was “a man of the soil and planted a vineyard. He drank some of its wine and became drunk and lay UNCOVERED INSIDE his tent. His son, Ham went INTO the tent, saw his father naked and went and told his two brothers who were OUTSIDE. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked BACKWARD and COVERED their father’s naked body.” (Genesis 9:20-23)(emphasis mine)
As Warren Wiersbe so fittingly puts it, “The history of Noah and his family now moves from rainbows to shadows and we behold the shameful sins of a great man of faith.” What I love about the Bible is that it keeps it real. All is revealed. We see this here in the story of Noah. We see it when scripture reveals how David, a man after God’s own heart, (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband murdered. (2 Samuel 11:1-27) We also see it in the stories of Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1), Isaac (Genesis 26:6-16), Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-41) and Moses (Numbers 20:7-13). The non-exhaustive list goes on: King Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Asa, and Joash in the Old Testament. To name a few in the New Testament, we get a glimpse of the frailty of Jesus’ three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. I know this is stating the obvious but we need to be reminded. Even great men and women of God wrestle with sin.
So What Are We Supposed To Do When We Learn Of The Struggles, Sins Or Failings Of Christian Leaders–Or Anyone Else For That Matter?
IF YOU ARE ON THE INSIDE OF THE TENT. If you have first-hand knowledge of the struggle, sin or failure, DON’T DO WHAT HAM DID! If this story of Noah’s drunkenness would have taken place today, Ham would have-as one fellow blogger put it-“…sold tickets. Come one, come all, come see my drunken father without his clothes on!!! Ham’s descendants have lived on and today are known as the news media, destroying people’s lives for profits. If Noah were alive today, Ham would have called the news media and submitted photos of his father’s naked body to the local newspaper, and the headlines would read…PREACHER FOUND DRUNK AND NAKED BY SON!”
To put it simply, do not EXPOSE them as Ham did in the story we just read. What Ham did was INDECENT! He went INTO Noah’s private place, his tent. He became aware of Noah’s failure then went OUTSIDE to expose the sin. Today the body of Christ has no qualms about INDECENTLY EXPOSING their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to all the world.
I recently came across a video that was posted on YouTube by a media/sound person of a church in Oklahoma. The video was of his pastor’s Sunday morning rant. The pastor was rebuking church members who were right there INSIDE the congregation. For whatever reason–maybe the pastor was discouraged, had little sleep the night before or just was not a nice person, it was a horrible thing to watch. The pastor had obviously crossed the proverbial line to even the most gracious observer’s standards. But the sound person’s posting it OUTSIDE on YouTube was one of the worst cases of uncovering a brother’s nakedness or as I like to call it, INDECENT EXPOSURE I have ever seen.
IF YOU ARE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TENT. If you did not have first hand knowledge, DO WHAT SHEM AND JAPHETH DID. Shem and Japheth were involuntarily notified of their father’s nakedness while they were OUTSIDE his tent. They had no desire to see or be acquainted with the “titillating” and “juicy” details so they walked in BACKWARDS and COVERED their father’s nakedness. As one Bible commentator said, “Notice the care of Shem and Japheth to cover their father’s shame. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all. There is a “robe of reverence” to be thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors.”
What a contrast. Ham paraded his father’s sins in his own pride and self-righteousness. Whereas Shem and Japheth behaved with honorable humility! Just a thought, but when we make our comments on social media from OUTSIDE the “tent” of the struggling Christian leader, are we also walking in judgement, self-righteousness and pride? If we truly love deeply as our featured verse exhorts us to do, we must humbly cover our brothers and sisters in Christ, acknowledge our own struggles and refrain from judgement. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all were as humble as this famed country singer:
“I think it is just terrible and disgusting how everyone has treated Lance Armstrong, especially after what he achieved, winning seven Tour de France races while on drugs. When I was on drugs, I couldn’t even FIND my bike.” – Willie Nelson
RESTORE. If you have read this far and think by covering another’s sin, it means to condone or sweep it under the carpet, let me clarify. 1 Peter 4:8 is a partial quote from Proverbs 10:12 in which “cover” means to not harshly condemn or expose faults; but to forbearingly bear other’s burdens, forgiving and forgetting past offenses. Whether we are on the INSIDE or OUT SIDE, our motivation and goal should always be restoration and reconciliation. Exposing other’s sins and talking about them publicly is almost never an act of love! Galatians 6:1 says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (emphasis mine) Jesus preached a lot about forgiveness but He did convey that there are times when we are to deal with sin more directly WITH the goal of restoration and reconciliation. We are to go to the offending person alone and privately. We should deal with it INSIDE the relationship. If Ham would have covered his father during the drunken state and later addressed his concern that would have been honorable. There are times when the offender does not listen. Jesus explained THEN we are to take one or two others along. If they still refuse to listen, then tell it to the church. (Matthew 18:15-17) If you are on a church governing body and become aware of a leader’s SIN, there may be more to the process. (1 Timothy 5:17-20)
Some Last Words Of Exhortation
If we are on the OUTSIDE of the circumstance let us graciously refrain from perpetuating the shame of the leader involved. If we are on the INSIDE and have experienced the leader’s failure personally, let us approach the matter privately with love with our motivation always being restoration and reconciliation. I don’t know about you but James 2:13 “inspires” me to be gracious and merciful. “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Let us heed the words of our Savior, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:37-38 MSG)
May we be gracious to others as you have been gracious to us. May we be your hands of mercy extended to the fallen as we help them up and not push them down. Help us not to sully your Name to a world that is watching our every move and listening to our every word. Let your love rule and reign in us. LH
Featured Photo: Ham Mocking Noah by Luini Bernardino (Pixelated)
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
After twenty-seven-and-a-half years of marriage, my husband knows just what to say. When asked the most consequential question that wives have been asking their unsuspecting husbands since the dawn of time, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”, he ALWAYS answers, “No, you look beautiful!” We both know the truth but there is no way he is going to say anything different after what happened the first time I asked him that question! Let’s just say that as a newlywed not yet knowing how these things work–to his regret–he did not answer correctly! However, now the man can practically read my mind. Knowing my obsessive tendency to over-plan for any and everything, he has learned to anticipate what I think needs to be done. When I go through the sometimes-insane checklists and say, “We need to get that.” or “We need to do this?”, he quite often will say with great satisfaction and accomplishment, “I’m one step ahead of you!” This favorite catchphrase of his when translated means, “I have already thought of every possible thing we will need for this situation and it has been taken care of–so don’t worry!” As great as this is, sometimes human foresight and preparation alone is no match for some of the difficult life challenges that befall all of us. This is why I love the featured verse so much!
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.“ (Deuteronomy 31:8 emphasis mine)
We see a beautiful example of this in the Old Testament. Scripture says:
“And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (Numbers 14:14)
In Exodus 13:17, as the Israelites exited Egypt, it says God did not lead them through the shortest route because He knew they would give up and return to their slavery. So instead, He led them along the Wilderness road toward the Red Sea. Perhaps He also chose the route through the Red Sea to simultaneously build their faith as the sea parted and to destroy the Egyptian Army as it returned to its previous state. We may not understand why God is taking us on the road we are on but we must trust that He has a very good reason. We are told that throughout the Israelites’ entire journey in the wilderness–all forty years of it–God never left His place in front of them.
“The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:22 HCSB emphasis mine)
A few days ago, one of our customers (my husband has a construction business) was telling me how God had gone before her and prepared the way as she experienced the most difficult circumstances of her life–the loss of her husband to cancer. She told how her husband had fixed up a lovely home in an older neighborhood where they had lived for many years. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, he became interested in a plot of land in a safer and more upscale neighborhood. They sold their old home and built a new one on this plot, which also happened to be a few houses away from one of their daughters. Not long after the move, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly he was gone. She joyfully told this story of how anxious she would have been in her old neighborhood as an elderly widow and how she attributed her husband’s unusual decision to relocate as God’s doing. Because God had prepared the way, she now felt safe and grateful to be so close to her daughter in her present neighborhood.
I could tell many stories of my own of how God has gone before us in some of our most difficult circumstances. The one most dear to me was when God prepared us for the birth of our disabled son. Seven years before his birth, I was ministering in Singapore on a three-and-a-half-month-long mission trip. One evening during my devotion time, the Lord gave me a tune for the following scripture:
In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.
Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape:
incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou my strong habitation, where I may continually resort:
for thou art my rock and my fortress. (Psalm 71:1-3 KJV)
Because I was so amazed that God had given me the tune, I recorded it on the cassette tape I had been making for my then-fiance, now-husband. (Note to Millennials: That’s what poor couples who were separated by continents and couldn’t afford telephone calls did before the internet existed!) The fact that God gave me this tune for this scripture is nothing short of miraculous, given my musical ability–or lack thereof. (See NOT OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS) Also in the miraculous category is the fact that my husband still married me after hearing me sing–but I digress…
So, seven years, a wedding, and two kids later, I am in the delivery room having complications during the birth of my third child. I am fretting because my first two deliveries went fine and I have never experienced the stress and alarm of this nature. Out of nowhere, this tune starts playing over and over in my mind. I ask my husband to look up the scripture to the tune and read it. He reads the first familiar verses then continues on to
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge. (Psalm 71:5-7 NIV)
We were both overwhelmed by the comfort and peace that this Word brought to us. God spoke right to our hearts that HE was the one bringing Judah forth from my womb. That assurance has been invaluable as we have walked the long road we have traveled. Several times since, we have been encouraged and strengthened by other verses in this chapter. The word, Praise, is used six times in this portion of scripture. Our son’s name is Judah which means Praise. Because this chapter has spoken so much to our hearts specifically regarding our son, we now call this Judah’s chapter. We marvel that God set in motion this Word seven years before the precise time we needed it. Our son’s Cerebral Palsy did not take God by surprise. He was preparing the way long before I ever gave birth to Judah.
I am so grateful that God goes before us but unfortunately, sometimes we mess it up. For various reasons we choose not to follow Him. We may think we know better than God (Pride). We may not trust God. (Unbelief) We may want to do it our way. (Selfishness) Twenty-three times in the Gospels, Jesus said, “Follow me.” Like the Israelites, if we do not follow, we may lose some valuable time (forty years) or worse–many of them did not make it into the Promised Land. For those of you who need a visual–take a look at the following photo. (Note: Since this was first posted, some readers have asked me to explain the following photo. The footprints symbolize God going before us and the bird claw-prints are us when we are not following God’s leading!)
Dear Lord, Please don’t let our journey look like the photo above! You are not confined by space and time. Nothing is hidden from your view. You know all things, are present in all places and all power is yours. May we follow close behind you, and never stray from the shadow of your love. LH
Forgiveness is one of the most foundational aspects of the Gospel. So many people today behave as though it is optional. The Bible is pretty clear that we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive. Although 490 is a finite number, Jesus’ response to Peter indicated a forgiveness that should have no limits.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:12-15 NIV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ESV
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13 ESV
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25 ESV
They were singing the song that his servant Moses and the Lamb had sung. They were singing, “Lord God All-Powerful, you have done great and marvelous things. You are the ruler of all nations, and you do what is right and fair.” Revelation 15:3 CEV
All my life, I have loved to sing. Sadly, to sing on key was not a talent the Good Lord decided to bestow upon me. Some of my earliest memories are of my brother howling, like a dog crying in pain, whenever I would sing. Sometimes he wasn’t as subtle, like when he told me, “You sing like a dead octopus!” Fortunately, my brother grew up to be an all-around-nice-kinda guy. Unfortunately, comments about my singing were not limited to pesky childhood siblings. In college, I was “lovingly” given the name “Modulating Lisa” by my friends because no matter how hard I tried, I could never stay in the key a song was written!
BUT, you may be happy to know (or not), this has not stopped me from singing! The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to sing. Here are just a few places:
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:1-2 ESV
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Psalm 100:1-2 ESV
I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. Psalm 101:1 ESV
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19 ESV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 ESV
So, I continue to bellow songs out loud from the deepest parts of my soul—in private!
Lately, the song I have been singing has been The Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman, which I only heard recently for the first time even though it was released last year. Check out this song!
Lay your head down tonight Take a rest from the fight Don’t try to figure it out Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart ‘Cause I know this is not Anything like you thought The story of your life was gonna be And it feels like the end has started closing in on you But it’s just not true There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding Just you wait and see and you will be amazed You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over So hold on to every promise God has made to us And watch this glorious unfolding
God’s plan from the start For this world and your heart Has been to show His glory and His grace Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of His unfailing Love And the story has only begun
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding Just you wait and see and you will be amazed We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over So hold on to every promise God has made to us And watch this glorious unfolding
We were made to run through fields of forever Singing songs to our Savior and King So let us remember this life we’re living Is just the beginning of the beginning
Of this glorious unfolding We will watch and see and we will be amazed If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over And hold on to every promise God has made to us We’ll see the glorious unfolding
What an incredibly encouraging song! It resonates so strongly. When I first heard it, I had been losing sleep every night because I was fretting over some loved ones whom were going through crises. Things were not turning out like I had expected. God used the song to completely change my perspective. I think the most endearing thing about this song, is the songwriter’s story. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote this after experiencing a very dark place in his journey. His five-year-old daughter was killed when his seventeen-year-old son ran over her in the driveway of their home. I couldn’t even imagine losing a child and yet this family’s heartbreak was so much worse. But by the Grace of God, they emerged with a trust and hope that something glorious is still unfolding from their worst tragedy.
Soon after I started singing this song, news broke about the suicide of Robin Williams. I kept thinking, what if he had someone in his life who could have encouraged him with words similar to the words in this song?
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over So hold on to every promise God has made to us And watch this glorious unfolding
Would it have made a difference? We will never know. But I felt compelled to share this on my blog. If you are discouraged and ready to give up on God–don’t! Sorry for using this old colloquialism, but my friend, it’s not over till the fat lady sings! (This popular quote from Dan Cook, a sports broadcaster in the 70’s, originally was “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, which basically means you shouldn’t presume to know the outcome of your circumstances when they are still in progress!) Your story isn’t over yet!
I love the featured verse! They were singing the song that his servant Moses and the Lamb had sung. They were singing, “Lord God All-Powerful, you have done great and marvelous things. You are the ruler of all nations, and you do what is right and fair.” Revelation 15:3 CEV. When our life on this earth is over, we will still be singing! And look what we will be singing when we have Heaven’s vantage point– Lord, you have done great and marvelous things! You do what is right and fair!
Until I get to Heaven, I am keeping my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith–the one who does all things well! (Hebrews 12:2 KJV; Mark 7:37)) And just so you know, when my story on earth is over, I will be singing with the best of them! No more howling. How do I know this? Because scripture says there will be no more crying or pain in Heaven! (Revelation 21:4 NIV) I’m not sure about the fat part. LH
If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 CEV
Recently I reached a milestone in my life. I have now lived half a century! And, at absolutely no cost to you–’cause that’s just the kind of person I am–I’m going to let you in on a little something I have learned over the years–by personal experience I might add.
You can go to church, know the Bible inside and out, tithe, give money to help the poor, actually help the poor through acts of service, have Spiritual gifts such as Healing, Miracles, Word of knowledge, Wisdom and Prophecy to name a few, have a bunch of Faith, teach Sunday School, sing in the choir and even be a minister of the Gospel BUT still be an unloving person. Don’t just take my word for it–check this out:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Apostle Paul was writing this to the Corinthian Church. We gather from his letter to them that they were very spiritually gifted. However, they were comparing whose spiritual gifts were greater or better than the others in order to establish some sort of superiority! There was also division, envy, selfishness, impatience with one another AND they were even suing each other! Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, must have had similar experiences for him to be quoted as saying, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
I can so relate! I have this friend–someone super-duper close to me–who can even be right in the middle of something really spiritual and then think, do or say something so surprisingly unloving!
Family arguments on the way to or from church–CLANG! Gossip, cleverly disguised as prayer requests–CLANG, CLANG! Critiquing church leaders, their spouses or family–CLANG, CLANG, CLANG WENT THE TROLLEY!(or in this case cymbal) This is what we do to our own. What about those who disagree with us philosophically, politically or morally?
As you get older, you become more introspective. You wonder what your life’s legacy will be. At the end of my life, will every gifting I possess, every accomplishment I have achieved and every act of ministry count for nothing? Just a clanging cymbal?
When I was a child, our family had one of the most obnoxious toys ever made. (See featured photo.) I defy any reader to show me a more annoying toy! A few years before my mother passed away, she told me I could have it. To me it was nostalgic and brought back a lot of childhood memories spent with it–mostly ones of terror–but I took it home anyway. My husband and children are not at all fans of said toy and it mysteriously makes its way to the attic. I have to continually go up to the attic and bring it down into the house. I know it’s weird but I want it with me always! It provokes me to remember what we are like if we do not walk in love. (A little bit of therapeutic conditioning I think!)
When I am impatient, unkind and envious, those monkey eyes are glaring. When I dishonor others, am prideful or selfish those teeth haunt me. When I am easily angered, keep a mental list of how others have wronged me or think the worst of others rather than think the best, the repeated clanking sends chills up my spine! (See 1 Corinthians 13:5-7)
Now, because I don’t want any of you readers to be unloving by envying me (1 Corinthians 13:4) because I possess this clanging monkey and you do not, I have lovingly:), created this little video for you to download and take with you where ever you go!
Now, thanks to this video, you too can be reminded to live a life of love–in case you are like me and forget at times.
Dear Heavenly Father, you said the greatest commandment is to love you with all our heart, soul and mind. And that the second is like it–to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:29,30) We acknowledge that our hearts can be deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) We repent of our unloving ways and humbly ask that you help us walk in love that you may be glorified and that many will come to know the truth of your gospel by our love. LH
(Many of the posts on this website are accompanied by a Bible Study such as the one below. The study is broken up into 5 days and is designed to take you no more than 10 minutes each day. For a printable copy of this post’s Bible study, CLICK HERE.)
“Just Say Know” Bible Study
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most important, popular and memorized chapters about love. However, the Bible has a lot more to say about it.
Day 1 Read John 3:16; John 15:13; Romans 5:7-8, 1 John 3:16; Romans 8:35-39
Jesus is the greatest example of love.
According to these passages, what is the greatest act of love?
What attributes of God’s love are evident in the verses from Romans chapters 5 and 8?
Day 2 Read Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; John 15:11-12, 17; Deuteronomy 6:5
Because of the example Christ has left us, we are to love Him and all others.
What is the greatest commandment?
What is the second greatest commandment?
Based on these passages, if we want to love and serve God, is loving others an option?
Do you think you can obey the second commandment without obeying the first? Why or why not?
Day 3 Read John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7-12, 19-21; Deuteronomy 7:9; John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 1 John 5:3
Love is the defining characteristic of a Christian but is misunderstood by many in today’s culture.
According to the verses in John 13, how will everyone, believers and non believers know we belong to Christ?
How do we know God lives in us? Can we hate someone and still love God?
According to verses in the above scriptures, how do we show our love for God?
Can we love God and not follow his commandments? Have you ever been called “unloving” by others because you followed God’s commandments and did not endorse sin?
Day 4 Read Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 13:8-10; Colossians 3:12-14
Sometimes I think we get confused about who and how should we love.
Who is our neighbor? Are the verses in Matthew 5 hard for you to follow?
What will we always owe everyone? How does this fulfill the law?
How do you “clothe” yourself with compassion and “put” on love?
Day 5 Read1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Galatians 5:13-26
We know that we are commanded to love one another but sometimes we aren’t sure exactly what that looks like.
List all the attributes listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Which of these attributes are hardest for you to live?
According to Galatians 5, what is the opposite of serving other humbly in love?
When we follow one we get the acts of the flesh and the other, the Fruit of the Spirit. List both and compare them.
While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. 2 Corinthians 5:2 CEV
(I am reposting this from last year because today marks the One Year Anniversary of Jasonte Medsker’s passing from this life to the next. We commemorate his beautiful, purposeful, life-giving journey. Our prayers go up to God for peace and comfort to his family as they mourn the loss during this anniversary.)
My son turned twenty today. Birthdays are the hardest. They are calendal reminders to me that my son is handicapped–just in case I ever forget. They are like some sadistic temporal cue refusing to let me be, trying to prevent me from walking in faith and joy by throwing in my face all the life milestones that normally accompany one of such an age.
Been there done that—according to my calculations—at least twenty times!
But like I learned in that first Lamaze class I took, when you feel the pain, breathe and think of a happy place. So my imagination takes me off to a place I first heard about in a song, a football game in heaven.
I was a camp counselor at a retreat that my daughters were attending. The worship leader began to sing BIG HOUSE by Audio Adrenaline. I had heard the song so many times playing on the radio, but never during a worship service. Completely surprised, this time I was moved to tears by the lyrics.
Come and go with me
to my Fathers house
Come and go with me
to my Fathers house
It’s a big big house
with lots and lots of room
A big big table
with lots and lots of food
A big big yard
where we can play football
A big big house
Its my Fathers house
As I sang the words, “a big big yard, where we can play football”, a picture of my son running around in heaven playing football with the guys came into my mind. This picture was so evocative to me. Perhaps, because I had grown up with four older brothers who were very involved in sports. I have many cheerful childhood memories of watching them play football. For some reason that was not to be for my son, at least not at this time. But this song reminded me then and continues to remind me, this world is not all there is!
This past week, Judah’s friend, Jasonte passed away. He, like Judah, had cerebral palsy and was captive to his earthly body. Our family grieves deeply with his family for we have walked together down a similar path and have gained strength from each other in the hardships and the joys that these children bring to us. We also celebrate with them, knowing that what we envision for our sons when we sing about heaven is not just wishful thinking. These lyrics are a modern-day invitation to an ancient summons. Jesus said, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together.” John 14:1-3 VOICE
Jasonte is warming up for one of the most fantastic pick-up games of football that could ever be imagined. ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?LH
(If you aren’t sure if you will be in the game CLICK HERE)
Encouraging People to Read, Study and Explore the Bible