Monday, June 27, 2016

Lily-Livered, Chicken-Hearted


[Photo of soldiers hugging]

“The men of Ephraim, though armed with
bows, turned back on the day of battle.”
—Psalm 78:9

The reference for this particular account seems to have become lost. Some think it refers to a battle with the Philistines. But, the Psalm does indicate that the mighty, and once largest, of the twelve tribes had turned their backs on God and become so weakened that they no longer had the courage to fight.

I, too, have found myself in a position of weakness and distrust in the strength and goodness of God toward me. Maybe you have, too. God has well-equipped us. But, we fail in light of the evidence. He has allowed us to see our very real vulnerabilities in the face of our enemy.

What lies at the root of cowardice? For Ephraim, it seems that they had forgotten the covenant with their God and relied upon their own reputation as warriors. They exhibited a shameful ingratitude to God and, over time, this resulted in unbelief, disobedience, and a rebellious spirit.

According to Matthew Henry, the well-known 18th century theologian:

Weapons of war stand men in little stead without a martial spirit, and that is gone if God be gone. Sin dispirits men and takes away the heart. 1

So, how should we live in face of battles that we know we cannot fight?

Firstly, we must remember that we are equipped. We have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Secondly, we must agree with God about His will and His Word, obeying them in every way, as people who live in covenant with Him.

Thirdly, and this is the most difficult for me, we must believe that God stands with us in the battle. When we trust Him, He in turn gives us courage. He wants to shine through the darkest moments with His light. Acts 4:13 reminds us:

When they [the rulers and elders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

What battles do you face? Do you wobble in the face of chronic illness? Financial need? Relationships gone sour? Loneliness? Fear of any kind?

The Israelites, though they were a multitude led by Moses, had to go on after he died. They quivered. Moses spoke to them, recorded in Deuteronomy 31:7-8:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 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.”

So to you, and to me, I say, “Up! Take courage! Stand strong! Prove the weapons you have been given, and reflect the power of your Champion!”


1 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1983. Volume 3, p.533.



Monday, June 20, 2016

White Noise


[Photo of a young woman who is daydreaming]

“Be still and know that I am God.”
—Psalm 46:10

You have probably experienced the same thing as I have. I stop at a red light, wrapped in reverie in my mind, when a black car with darkened windows pulls up beside me and my ears are assailed by a very loud, driving beat that fairly bounces off the pavement and makes my car shake. I wonder to myself, “Has this person ever heard the sheer beauty in music?”

We live in such a noisy world. And, like white noise, we hardly notice it. We tend to fill the silence with music in the car, with the TV at home, and sometimes with music while we work. Some people really suffer withdrawal and discomfort when absolute quiet lasts too long.

While I taught music to children for 40 years, I taught listening, as well. A motto I had during those years said, “Beautiful music begins with a beautiful silence.”

Children frequently come to music class singing without listening, which results in making sound without any reference to the pitch of the song the class is singing, to the teacher, or to the piano. These children have to learn to listen in order to match the pitch in the room. For some that seems very difficult.

We Christians have trouble listening in quiet so that we can hear what God wants us to hear. On a purely earthly level, we miss the sounds of nature around us: the birds in the trees, the waves on the beach, or the rustling of the leaves in the breeze. How can we fully appreciate the Creator without listening to the sounds He has created? We simply need more quality time in utter silence.

On a more spiritual level, we must listen, as 1 Kings 19:12 KJV says, for the “still small voice” of God. Not only do we need to have silence from earthly noise, we need stillness in our person and in our thinking, so that we can listen to what God is saying.

A devotional author, Sarah Young, writes:

The curse of this age is overstimulation of the senses, which blocks out awareness of the unseen world… The goal is to be aware of unseen things even as you live out your life in the visible world. 1

2 Corinthians 4:18 talks about the sense of sight:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

A whole world of the Spirit waits for us to experience without our natural senses: seeing the unseen; hearing the silence; sensing the closeness of God’s precious Presence. In our attachment to Earth, we most comfortably experience everything through our five senses. But, if we would hear what God says to us, we must turn off the sound, so that we hear most clearly with our spiritual ears. In this respect, Silence is golden!


1 Young, Sarah, Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Devotional for June 15th.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Never Lost in Translation


[Photo of a woman signing with American Sign Language]

“But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes,
he will guide you into all truth.”
—John 16:13

Have you ever watched one of those interpreters for the deaf and wondered if they were delivering the message correctly? What if the interpreter had an agenda other than to clearly express what the speaker was saying? It might be quite dangerous, right?

Well, we have an enemy, Satan, or the devil, about whom 1 Peter 5:8 says:

prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Satan makes it his mission to misconstrue, mistranslate, misrepresent, and otherwise distort the truth with what often looks like truth.

The Apostle John, both in his gospel and again in his letters, speaks often about the importance of understanding the truth, and the way in which our enemy likes to derail that truth. In fact, in John 8:44, the Apostle writes:

When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Throughout Christian history, churches and groups of Christians have been led astray from the truth by Satan’s wiles. They may have been well intentioned, even devoted to the Kingdom of God. But, somehow they managed to get taken in by false doctrines that ultimately ruined their faith.

We’ve all heard of cults whose members have been derailed from the truth by strong and manipulative leaders. Those leaders, much like their father the devil, have schemed and lied in such clever ways as to persuade a whole group of people to follow in an ungodly direction.

Do we consider how dangerous a wrong translation of God’s Word can be? Do we seek to avoid it as the Apostle warned? And, how do we keep from getting tricked into believing wrong doctrine and a misinterpretation of the truth?

When Jesus left earth in order to return to heaven, He told His disciples about the Holy Spirit, the “Counselor.” He is the one whom the Father promised to send to us.

Jesus taught, as recorded inJohn 10:1-21, about the true “sheep” who would know the voice of their true Shepherd. He urged them to listen clearly. We too, gullible and weak—perhaps even more than the first disciples—need to listen carefully to the Holy Spirit when reading God’s Word and listening to those who claim to preach and teach truth. We need to weigh what we’re being told against the whole counsel of God’s Word. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

Oh Lord God,

Please keep all those who truly desire to follow hard after You to know the truth You share in Your Word. Protect them from error and help all who teach Your Word to do so with integrity and clarity.

In the midst of the lies and confusion of our present world, may Your timeless Word come to us in these days with power and the authority of the Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus Name. Amen.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Act of God


[Photo of broken highway and mountain vista]

The Lord said in his heart, …“As long as the
earth endures, seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night will never cease.”
—Genesis 8:21-22

When we look up a legal definition of an “Act of God,” we find:

An event that directly and exclusively results from the occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution, an inevitable accident. 1

It’s quite amazing to find that humans think Acts of God are inevitable accidents! Yet, the seasons that have never ceased since the creation, neither day and night, we credit “Mother Nature” for the natural order of things and the way they should happen.

Is it not more wonderful to see the absolute regularity of natural things following God’s commands? I love the entire Psalm 104 that expresses so beautifully the way He has designed the order of things. Here’s a taste from verses 5-8, 12-14, and 24:

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them…

The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sings among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth:…

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Now, those are truly Acts of God! So too are the tsunamis and earthquakes. None of what happens in nature can truly be called an accident. We have a God who not only created the earth and ordered its weather, but One who sends the storms and knows the boundaries for them. We can exclaim with the psalmist in Psalm 71:16:

I will come and proclaim your might acts, O Sovereign Lord;


1 West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd edition. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, Inc., 2008.