Have you ever been frustrated by something that should work and doesn’t? For the last several months I’ve had a rotten time trying to charge my phone. I purchased several charging cords but the connection always seemed to be an issue to the point where many times I would have to hold the phone and firmly push the cord to get a steady charge. I was just about to take the phone into the store and replace it when I had an idea. Taking a pin I probed the cavity where the cord connected and immediately all kinds of dirt and matted hair began to come loose. Honestly, I felt pretty foolish—no wonder the phone was not properly charging—it was plugged up with debris.
Joe works hard at work and by the time he gets home he is exhausted. Too often he is impatient with his children and snaps at his wife. When he loses his temper and yells at her it is not because he wants to be a jerk or to act in such an unloving manner. The fact is his willpower is nearly sapped. Unfortunately, because of this, he is also insensitive to the fact that his wife, Alice, is also exhausted from watching high-energy children and operating at the tail end of being sick. Her willpower and ability to understand his feelings is also at a low end.
Addicere has serious problems. She is obsessed with pornography and she dares not take even a sip of alcohol or she will soon be drunk. This young woman is amazingly talented and comes from a home with loving parents who raised her with strong moral values. Yet despite their good example, their daughter is on a road that will end in tragedy if she does not come to a crucial spiritual understanding.
Teesha* was my waitress as I ate at Barrio Cafe in the Phoenix Airport while waiting for my flight to El Paso. As she refilled my lemonade I noticed a tattoo on her neck, “this too shall pass.” When she brought me my bill I asked her if she would tell me the story behind those four words. She immediately shared that she had a rare blood disorder and had almost died on numerous occasions. While wiping her forehead in the hospital, her mother would often say to her, “This too shall pass.”
Romans 13:14—But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.
In Genesis 19, we read one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Evidently, the behavior of the valley inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah was so awful that the Lord with two angels came down to investigate. Fearfully, Abraham asked Him if He would spare Sodom if He found just ten righteous people there. He was concerned because his nephew Lot lived in the city. The Lord replied, “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (18:32).
Jamaal and Hannah spend hours each day playing video games. Their mother Roxanne*, says it is “okay”—at least they are not doing drugs or out on the street involved with the wrong crowd. Today we have Jamaals and Hannahs in their mid-thirties who devote hours each day to gaming. Their spiritual lives are mediocre and their contribution to advancing heaven’s agenda is abysmal. Their parents let them feed their infatuations when they were younger so long as the obsession was “harmless.” But there is no such thing as a harmless infatuation.
I had the privilege for several weeks of working with four Army generals. In discussing the importance of a good reputation, several of them shared why it was vital to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Their conduct was measured not just by standards but also the perception of those standards. Aside from their own moral and spiritual convictions what they were willing to do or not do was tied directly to the people they served. I was encouraged that powerful men modeled integrity with humility.
I apologize in advance for this illustration but I am not trying to be crude in making a crucial point. Each night I walk our two dogs, Hero the Labrador retriever and Saber the Sheltie. When the three of us walk, Saber has a habit that is extremely annoying. If he comes across what I suspect is dung from another animal (I’m guessing raccoon), before I can stop him, he literally does an in-the-air rollover dive into the mess and slides his chest and back all over it! Now I’m mad because I have to clean him (a difficult task with his thick and long hair) and he stinks. Furthermore, can you imagine what people would think of me as an owner if they came upon Saber in such a disgusting condition?
I make it a habit to read the Bible daily because I want to grow in my relationship with God and I need the wisdom His word gives to help me live in a God-pleasing manner. Sometimes Scripture jumps from the pages and slaps me. Such was the case recently when reflecting on 1 John 1:3,4.
This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
One of the reasons I love to study the Bible is the amazing way God speaks to the times in which we live. Read what the prophet Hosea wrote to his countrymen sometime between 755 and 722 B.C. and see if his words speak to your nation.
If ever there was a need for prayer, it will be for a man named Obama. He inherits a nation at war with a stressed out economy. He will pilot a land divided in opinion in the midst of a world looking for a messiah. He will render senior leadership in a most complicated government with junior experience and little room for failure. He will face a press that is woeful in gathering all the facts and enemies that would love to see this nation destroyed. He will need wisdom from above in a culture that increasingly follows an ethical theory and practice “that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.”*
When we navigate with a compass if we don’t keep on line with the precise azimuth, we get off course. Just walking across uneven land, over hills and through brush will change our direction and can easily cause us to get lost. I remember as a child in Japan, descending from the top of Mt. Fuji with two other boys. We left the sure circular path to take a short cut. But coming down the steep slope, we walked at an angle and ended up far away from our intended destination, lost and separated from the rest of our group.
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
My office is the scene of constant battle. On the front line of my desk, two forces are engaged—the Pile Army led by General Intentions versus the Orderly Army led by General Tidy. The Pile Army constantly bombs the white-painted plain where I work with papers, books, writing instruments, mail, business cards, pictures and occasionally food and drink. Tidy is outgunned, outmaneuvered and so seldom wins victories that his army is often prone to quit fighting. Bills, deadlines and voting ballots are sporadically missed—all casualties beneath the deadly aim of Intention’s battle captain—Procrastination. On occasion, when I take trips, my wife visits the frontlines and brilliantly supports the Orderly forces with such pragmatic movements that I can actually see my desktop when I return.
Samson amazingly typified the nation of Israel. He was specially chosen by God, and empowered with eye-popping strength. Yet, like his countrymen, he chose the cravings of his flesh and failed miserably. What prompted the man set apart for God to make decisions set apart from God?
Have you ever felt sorry for yourself? I have and I’ve noticed something quite interesting. Whenever self-pity is at work it’s because I don’t have something I want. Self-pity is the logical result of a self preoccupied with expectations that may or may not be realistic or even right. I have also noticed that the solution to self-pity always comes from a reminder from God that He is all I need. Usually His prompts are gentle. He speaks through His word, or His Spirit brings to mind the blessings He so faithfully provides. I don’t believe I have ever had an extended, self-pity party. God is too awesome and nothing good ever comes from stewing, sulking, brooding or moping. Even the sound of those words should make us want to avoid them!
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
This is another one of those topics most of us would rather not be bothered with—to our own peril. We want God to be just and fair but we often fail to understand that His fairness is effectual because of what lies underneath it—His wrath. How can anger have anything to do with fairness? Well, let someone try and grab your daughter and abuse her and you’ll have a good idea. Watch someone blatantly run a red light and see if your blood begins to boil. The Bible teaches us that “God is a righteous judge and a God who shows His wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11).