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Archive for the ‘God’s care’ Category

The Lord is my shepherd;  I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).

These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.

Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.

Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before  was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.

The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.

This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.

I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.

Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!

This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a  1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.

In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost.  However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.

Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.

Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.

David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.

Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.”  Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.

David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.

During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.

During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.

Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home.  I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.

However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.

I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did.  The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.

Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.

However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.

I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore.  He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.

I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.

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“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me (Psalm 13:3-5).”

I once had someone tell me in a professional situation,”I can tell you’re not happy here. I can tell by the way you walk.”

I initially was offended by this statement. For one, the person had hardly seen me in three months. In addition, I wondered what my ambulatory methods had to do with my performance in a job that was more mental than physical.

However, the more I thought about it the more I tried to take these comments to heart. It was not the first time someone had commented on my appearance as I walked. Someone close to me once said,”You walk like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

So lately I have been trying to get more of a spring to my step. I have been out walking in the forests in my community, giving my body a good hearty push. No more of this dead man walking stuff!

While I initially had reservations about someone commenting on my body language, in all fairness our nonverbal features do communicate. I should have known better since I teach language and cultural behavior.

One of the great incidents in American history involved a nonverbal action which may have saved the country during the Revolutionary War. It involved an attempt by George Washington to convince his officers not to rebel against Congress due to this bodies lack of payment for the army’s services.

According to William Safire, the officers called a private meeting. Washington learned about it and showed up where he really wasn’t welcome and gave some remarks to persuade them against their potential insurrection.

The speech apparently didn’t have much affect, but something Washington did after it  carried the day in his favor. Here is Safire’s account:

At the conclusion of his speech, which he read from pages of his own clear writing, Washington looked at his sullen audience and drew a letter from his pocket. It was from a member of Congress, he said, explaining the straits the country was in and what the body was attempting to do to pay the debts of the war. He squinted at the writing in the letter and could not go on. The audience of officers sturred in their seats, wondering what was wrong with their commander. Washington then groped in his waistcoat pocket and drew out an item that only his intimates, and very few in his audience, had seen him use. They were stunned to see him requireds to put on a pair of glasses to read the crabbed writing.

“Gentlemen”, he apologized,”you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Biographer James Thomas Flexner writes.”This simple statement achieved what all Washington’s rhetoric and all his arguments had been unable to achieve. The officers were instantly in tears, and from behind the shining drops, their eyes looked with love at the commander who had led them all so far and long. Washington quietly finished reading the congressman’s letter. He knew the battle was won, and avoiding, with his instinctive sense of the dramatic, any anticlimax, he walked out of the hall…”.

Actions sometimes do speak louder than words. Erwin Lutzer emphasizes how the father of the prodigal son demonstrated his joy at the boy’s return.

Luke describes it:  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.(Luke 15:20).”

Lutzer mentions how uncharacteristic the father’s behavior would have been in the culture of the time. So would have been clothing the boy with his own robe and ring, symbols of authority, as the father did.

I figure that sometimes I just worry too much and it shows. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.

In talking about the our great country and its standing with God, Lutzer mentions that in the great scheme of things we should as individuals put our presents and our futures on His loving shoulders. I think if I do that there will be more of a lively step in my gait, and a gleam in my eye.

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“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:30).”

Lyla Garrity is standing on the side of the highway. Her car has just broken down.

She has just turned in her late-model vehicle to her father, a car dealer, and bought a heap from another person, one her father calls a “crook”. However, Lyla is estranged from her Dad, Buddy.  

In fact, Lyla is isolated from just about everyone in the town of Dillon, Texas, her home. As Lyla says to another high female high schooler, Tyra Collette: “It’s been a crappy year”.

At the beginning of the first seaon of “Friday Night Lights”, a TV drama centered around Dillon and its high school football team, Lyla is “sittin’ on top of the world”. She is a popular cheerleader who is dating the Panthers’ first string quarterback, Jason Street.

Then, Jason is paralyzed in an on-the-field accident. This tragedy causes a huge ripple effect on the lives of the people featured in “Friday Night Lights”, Lyla included.

Lyla supports Jason, but once it is clear he will never walk again, she has trouble coping. She has an affair with Tim Riggins, a star on the team and Jason’s best friend, who is also dealing with the pain and doesn’t know how to handle it. Lyla and Tim comfort one another. All this becomes public knowledge, to Lyla’s shame.

Tim also happens to be Tyra’s boyfriend. Tim is not exactly a fine, upstanding citizen. In fact, he’s an alcoholic whose father is also a lush and doesn’t live in the home. Tim’s brother watches out for him (sort of).

Tyra herself is what could best be described as “trailer trash”, although she doesn’t live in a trailer. However, she is loose morally and is known to imbibe, also.  

She is trying to get her act together and go to college, which is how she connects to Landry Clarke, a geek who liker her. He tutors her. Landry also comforts Tyra after she is almost raped by a stranger outside a restaurant while she is waiting for him to show up for one of their math sessions.

 So, are you with me so far!?  Good. Now Tim Riggins is not the only connection between Lyla and Tyra.

Lyla’s father Buddy,who is also Dillon’s most influential football booster,  hires Tyra’s mother Angela Collette as a receptionist with less than pure motives. After they have an affair, Buddy fires her, trying to assuage his conscience by paying her a large severance.

Mrs. Collette publicly slaps Buddy outside of church All this leads to a divorce action between Buddy and his wife, i.e.  Lyla’s Mom.

But that’s not all of the sordid stuff in Dillon. Jason forgives Lyla and they become engaged. However, as he is recovering physically and pyschologically he begins an affair with a girl he meets at a quadriplegic athletic event. Lyla discovers them and ends the engagement.

Fast forward to Lyla on the side of the road, standing next to her junky broken down car. Like much of Dillon she is on her way to Dallas to watch the Panthers play for the state championship.

As she stands next to her junker, who should come along but Tyra and her “ride” Landry. In Landry’s wagon is also Tyra’s Mom, Tyra’s sister (a stripper), and the grandmother and guardian of Dillon’s replacement quarterback, Matt Saracen.

All of these women are the abused female outcasts of Dillon society, even Mrs. Saracen. She has Alzheimer’s. In fact, she was intending to take the bus to the game when Landry spotted her and offered her a ride.

Landry insists on stopping for Lyla, too. However, this doesn’t set well with Tyra. But  Landry says “it’s the Christian thing to do.”  

As Tyra and Lyla argue on the highway, the latter asks Tyra,”Why do you hate me so much?” Tyra’s reply:

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that your Dad slept with my Mom and then tried to pay her off with 700 dollars. Or the fact that you slept with my boyfriend, how about that?”

The two trade accusations until Tyra, referring to Lyla’s sleeping with Tim, says:”You don’t know how that felt.”

“Actually, you’ll be glad to know I know exactly how that felt”, replies Lyla. It is then that Tyra understands that Lyla is part of the “abused women’s” club.

Tyra invites Lyla into the car. After the game is over, with the brave boys of Dillon having been victorious partly due to the abusive men who “love” them, Tyra catches Lyla tossing away her cheerleader paraphanelia.

When Tyra comments about it, it is then that Lyla makes the “its’ been a crappy year” comment. Tyra respond to this by saying “We won State” as this makes it all worth it.

 Lyla replies, “I think it’s time for a change.” She offers Tyra a ride home and the latter accepts.

Lyla now knows how it feels to be what the Scriptures refer to as “the poor, blind and lame”.  Jesus refers to them as he tells a parable about a man who has invited  the “great men” of society to come to a lavish banquet.

The movers and shakers make excuses to the man’s servant who is making the invites. They excuse themselves.  Jesus describes the results:

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’

The downtrodden women  who were in the car with Landry when they stopped for Lyla  represent today’s “poor, blind and lame”. They shouldn’t have even been at the state championship. Tyra and Landry were supposed to go with Tim’s 50 yard line seats, but he gave them away to the neighbor lady with whom he was currently having an affair.

To placate Tyra, he gave her 4 crummy seats. They were in the nosebleed section. Even so, the women were happy to be there.

The Bible describes a time in the life of King David of Israel that seems very much what Lyla experienced. In David’s case, he was minding his own business and running his successful kingdom when his life came crashing in.

David’s own son Absalom rebelled against him. David and his followers had to run for their lives. On the way out of town David got to experience how “the other half” lives. He was verbally abused by an angry man named Shimei, who also added some theater by throwing stones and tossing up dirt.

To David’s credit, he held his peace when his men offered to chop Shimei’s’s head off. He told them:

“Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it.  And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”  (II Samuel 16:11b,12a)

Earlier, David had told Israel’s priest that he was putting his life in God’s hands.  He told  Zadok that if the Lord saw fit He would restore his fortunes. He added: “But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him (II Samuel 15:26).”

David now knew how it felt to be part of the “poor, blind and lame” club.

Those who “have it” in this world generally have no clue what the poor, blind and lame go through until they have their own calamities. I’m not rich, but I am not so poor that I can really say I do either. Still, I sometimes get a taste of it when somebody more economically, physically or politically more powerful than I am treats me unjustly.

What do I do in those cases? I get angry and frustrated. Imagine how the extreme poor, blind and lame feel.

Jeffrey Sachs has some idea. He is an economist who has been studying the causes of extreme poverty for 30 years.

Sachs notes that part of the problem is due to how the “rich” countries of this world ignore the causes and refuse to deal with them. How does he feel?

Bono, the famous musician, gives some idea in a foreward to Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty”. He describes Sachs when he speaks to groups on the subject as “angry”.

Mr. Sachs anger is righteous in my view. So was the rage of the man in Jesus parable who threw the banquet and couldn’t get the high and mighty to come.

So how does Jesus feel when the poor, blind and lame are ignored, even abused? Well, first He is angry at the abusers.

 But even more, the special place in His heart for these folks comes to the fore. One day the feted and praised of this world are going to be shocked when they find that the people in today’s cheap seats are sitting at the front of Jesus’s awards banquet. 

Maybe the celebrated will be in the arena, sitting along the wall. Or maybe they won’t even have a ticket in.

 

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“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8).”

It’s hard sleeping this time of year. I live in a Nordic country which is currently experiencing “white nights”.

One former colleague posted the sunrise and sunset times in her hometown above the Arctic Circle on Facebook yesterday. There was about 45 minutes in between these events.

In my location farther south it isn’t as bright,but it’s close. The sun officially sets between 22:00 and 23:00 and rises again about 3:30 am. In between is twilight and perhaps about 45 minuted of darkness.

It’s hard enough to sleep in this kind of environment unless you have good curtains or eyepatches. But it’s even worse when your heart is troubled.

I will be unemployed in about three weeks and I am looking for work. Having to write and talk about myself so much to strangers, especially professional ones, is nerve wracking.

Although I have a lot of strengths on a professional level, I haven’t been perfect. In fact, my recent history includes a failed work experience.

 There are all kinds of details I will leave out here. Also, I do not intend to use this space to argue my case or assign blame. Let’s just say that things did not end well.

This makes it difficult when I go to apply for similar jobs as the one I had. When they ask to speak to my supervisor at this place of employment, I inwardly cringe.

I have no choice but to give them a name. I then know that my prospects with the employer I am currently talking with aren’t good.

 So, there’s a lot of stress right now. I really don’t care what time it is because I just sleep when I feel like it. (As an educator my schedule is pretty flexible in the summer.)

It’s easy in my situation to beat myself up over this whole thing.  People have expectations and sometimes you don’t meet them.

Author and pastor Bill Merritt tells of his own experience where he almost lost his job. He notes that talent isn’t enough anymore.

Merritt says that people want you to actually be able  to relate to them. They want you to ask questions and be interested. They want you to be nice.

“Imagine that!”, he writes.

“Nice” was not always my forte on the job I left badly. I think I did an excellent job there, but I could have handled relationships better. As a result there is an irreparable rupture between me and this company.

My apology was not accepted. Subsequent correspondence to this organization has gone unanswered. 

I’ve improved some since then. However, as noted above joblessness is hovering and I don’t have much going on, and this failure hangs around and occasionally surfaces. 

It is hard to recover from personal failure. This is true in the workplace and at home both.

When you fail people don’t trust you. They get mad at you.  Not only that, you get mad at them, especially if you feel as if your treatment is unjust.

You lose fellowship and friendship. What to do?

Well, as a Christian I know that it’s not a good idea to quit on God.  If I stick with Him, He will stick with me. 

However, if I abandon God, He will abandon me. It’s my choice (II Chronicles 15:2).

I noted above that when there is a relational fracture in the workplace that the parties get mad. I notice that God tends to get mad when people don’t treat Him with respect, too.

The Psalmist tells leaders that they had better submit to Jesus, or else!  Destruction is on the way when our Lord is ignored, rejected or rebelled against (Psalm 2:10-12).

The Psalmist says that God is an honest judge. He gets angry at the wicked every day and takes action against them (Psalm 7:11-13).

So, what’s my part?  Well the Psalmist tells ME if I want to sleep at night that I should:

-submit to Jesus myself (Psalm 2:12b);

-control my 0wn anger and trust God (Psalm 4:4,5);

-pray for God’s active protection and action against my enemies (Psalm 3:1-4,7);

-ask God to take care of my reputation (Psalm 4:2,3);

-ask God to rescúe me from the mess in my heart and out there in the world (Psalm 6:1-10).

This last point is especially  profound. Until last night I thought of God as someone who would come in like the calvary to perform his rescue. I didn’t see Him as someone who stuck around the garbage dump I’ve created in my heart and life.

However, it occurred to me yesterday evening that Jesus is down there with me in the junkyard. He is there waiting patiently for me to acknowledge Him while I sit in the stench.

This thought reminded me of an old booklet from my youth. Robert Munger wrote a short story called My Heart Christ’s Home which was popular at the time.

In this piece Jesus is invited into a man’s home. Room by room he begins to set the man’s house in order.

Eventually, the man realizes he can’t keep his house clean and asks Jesus to do it. However, Jesus tells the man that He has no authority there: He is just a guest.

The man turns the deed of the house over to Jesus. From then on, the man is just the servant in the house and Jesus is master.

I learned last night that Jesus is not content to stay on the outskirts of our lives. I had forgotten this and didn’t think He wanted to be down there in the muck with me, but He does.

Yet, the Psalmist says He does. He wrote,”For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God”. (Psalm 7:9)

When we give over ownership to Jesus, we can sleep soundly. David found this out. He wrote:

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side (Psalm 3:5,6)

When Jesus enters the trash heap, it is not His intention to let it stay messy. He intends to clean it up, if I let Him.

If I do, I think I will sleep better despite the white nights. I will have the assurance and peace that He is there to take care of my messy heart and the rest of my trashy life out there.

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“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close (Psalm 27:10)”.

Francis Phelan is a bum. That’s what he calls himself and his comrades on the streets of Albany, New York. Today, we call people like Francis homeless.

Francis is the lead character in the book “Ironweed” by William Kennedy. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.

In addition, the story was made into a movie by the same name. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles as Francis and his girlfriend Helen.

The story is a moving and troubling one. It’s 1939 and Francis has been running from his past since 1910, when he dropped his infant son, resulting in his death.

His life had once been promising. Francis had even played Major League baseball.

Now he goes from place to place in Albany, trying to find a place to sleep for himself and Helen. Francis scrounges a dollar  or two out of odd jobs mainly to buy booze.

Helen is seemingly the more responsible of the two. She is better with money anyway, and chastizes Francis for his free ways with a buck.

Yet, she is also haunted by her past. Helen came from a good family and appeared to have a career as a singer or pianist in view.

However, she was eventually abandoned by her married piano teacher, a man who also seduced her. Helen, like Francis, ended up on the street.

“Ironweed” portrays the plight of the homeless from day to day. If it is true, as F. Scott Fitgerald wrote, that the rich are not like you and I,  then you could say the same about the homeless.

Out on the streets, it’s open season.  The hobos of Ironweed have a tough existence.

Before he returned to Albany, Francis rode the rails, a common occurrence in the Depression. During one episode in a boxcar, a man who admires his shoes tells Francis”I’m gonna cut off your feet” and proceeds to go after him with a meat cleaver.

Helen has her purse snatched on Halloween by a group of masked urchins. She had what amounted to her life savings in the bag -15 dollars.

Helen also suffers indignities no woman should have to face. Francis, seeking a place for her to sleep, puts her up in a car with a bum who spends his nights in an old wreck of a car.

Francis knows Helen will have to do more for the man than just be pleasant. However, in his mind he doesn’t have many options for her.

Both Francis and Helen are subject to incidents of mental illness. Francis hallucinates that the men he has killed in his travels, including the meat cleaver bearer, are in his presence taunting him.

Helen is invited to sing at a gin house by the bartender, a former renouned singer himself. As she sings, she imagines the audience is hailing her performance with cheers and great applause.

The truth is, when she finishes, Helen receives a mild clap or two. She idly leaves the stage with a sense of disappointment.

The life of the bum includes poverty, crime, mental disability and addictions. A good many of us have never experienced lives like those of Francis or Helen and can’t imagine having to live that way. However, in our current times  having to scramble hour after hour to exist isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

It’s not just the extremists and conspiracy theorists who are warning of potential economic collapse. Every day, I read some report in which a reputable government official or business  person  is decrying the state of the world economy and hinting at a future of economic hardhsip at least as difficult as the Depression.

I’ve never been homeless or extremely poor, although I’ve come close a time or two. It is a hopeless and powerless place to be.

At times I have been  poor enough not to be able to afford health coverage for my family, but with enough income to not be eligible for assistance from the government. During one of those periods, it was extremely frustrating to not be able to find medical care for a sick daughter at a free clinic because we didn’t live in the county offering it. (Our county was next door and didn’t offer such a service.)

When you are homeless and in poverty, or close to it, you feel abandoned. And you are to some degree.

In once scene from “Ironweed”, a drunken woman is sick and drunk outside a city mission. The preacher who runs it is a good man, but he refuses to  take people who are not sober in over night.

Francis tries to help her, but he is powerless except to ask for a blanket and some soup for the woman from the mission. When he returns, he and Helen find her being eaten by wild dogs.

The Bible describes such happenings. People in dire straits are subject to the attack of wild animals (Psalm 79:1-2).

Sometimes the predators are human.  Jesus desribed them as “dogs” (Psalm 22:16).”  Wild beasts of all varieties are out there who would like nothing better to make a feast of some vulnerable person on the street.

We may not have the greatest digs in the world, and might even end up homeless, but the person who follows Jesus can know one thing: they have not been abandoned.

In fact, every day we can live, at least spiritually, in a mansion. The Psalmist wrote:

“One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple. 
For in the day of trouble
   he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.

  Then my head will be exalted
   above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
   I will sing and make music to the LORD. (Psalm 27:4-6)”

Governments, corporations and corrupt people may try to take away our dignity. That’s impossible though because the source of our self respect is in our relationship with God.

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“The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit (Proverbs 28:18).”

On January 30, 1972 a large number of people in Northern Ireland decided to thwart the British government’s ban on public protests in their area and took  to the streets.  By the end of the day, 26 people were dead.

The event, known as “Bloody Sunday”, shook Ireland. Meant to be a nonviolent protest against discrimination along the lines of those held by Martin Luther King, Jr. in America,  the protest was just the opposite.

British soldiers stormed through the predominantly Catholic crowd shooting protestors. Official accounts immediately following the massacre cleared the British troops of wrongdoing.

According to the soldiers involved, the killings were justified because the protestors were armed and using their weapons against them. Most eyewitnesses disputed these claims, but to not avail, at least at the time.

As depicted in the movie, “Bloody Sunday”, the truth was that the British troops went crazy. They basically murdered many unarmed civilians without cause.

The film reveals wounded people in the  crowd being targeted by the soldiers. In one instance, one of them shoots a protestor lying on the ground at point blank range.

The movie’s portrayal of events are true. Later government investigations determined that the killings were out-and-out murder.

One cannot help but become angry watching “Bloody Sunday”.  How could the government allow such a thing to happen?

Surely, the protest was illegal. In addition, there had been violence between radical IRA elements and British troops. However, nothing justified the murders which occurred on “Bloody Sunday”.

Most of my life I have witnessed such protests as this one on television and generally thought the government was in the right. After all, they are there to protect us and ensure the common good.

In fact, I have always been something of a “good soldier”. I am not one to rock the boat or hold contests with authorities.

However, in the last year something has changed in my attitude.  This is because I have begun to be personally affected by what is nothing more than corruption in high places.

For the first time in my life, I have experienced moral rot in high places that has impacted me. I haven’t dealt with the experience very well. In fact, I have at times squealed like a pig.

I think part of this sense of injustice comes from my having originally been one who trusts established institutions and authorities. As  a Christian, I have subscribed to biblical teachings that tell me to submit to these powers (I Peter 2:13-21; Romans 13:1-7).  

I have understood that those in authority arent’t perfect. I understand that they are human.

However, what I have found is that they are in fact not always worthy of my trust, which to me is something needed for respect to happen. I have seen in my own deaslings what I interpret as either chosen ignorance, or perhaps worse, cowardice by people entrusted with power over me.

It has been very disheartening. People who I thought had my back did not.

We humans are created in God’s image.  Yet, I should not be surprised that we don’t carry it very well. God has told us that in His Word:

God presides in the great assembly;
   he renders judgment among the “gods”:

 “How long will you defend the unjust
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
   uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
   They walk about in darkness;
   all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:1-5)

When the corrupt are in power over you, your world gets rocked. No wonder the Bible tells us that people in such a condition lay low, hoping to avoid trouble (Proverbs 28:12,28).

Oh, how wonderful it would be to be surrounded by people like David’s mighty men. These fellas had his back.

They looked out for him and kept his enemies at bay. When most people deserted David, they hung tough. These guys are described in II Samuel 23.

For example, Eleazar killed Philistines alone with David until he was too tired to hold his weapon anymore. Of course, the rest of the army only showed up to collect the benefts (v 9,10).

Then there was Shammah. He stood alone in a field when once again the Israelite army had fled. Shammah, however, held his ground and the Lord gave him a great victory (11,12).

When David wistfully longed for a drink of water from the well of his hometown, a troika of  these boys snuck by the Philistine garrison there and brought some back to him. David was so awestruck by this action that he refused to drink the water.

He gave it in worship to the Lord in thankfulness for men who would risk their lives for him on a minor whim (v. 13-17). David knew these men were rare, and a gift from God. 

My favorite “Mighty Man” was Benaiah.  He is described as having done “many mighty deeds”.

My favorite of these  is when he chased a lion down into a pit with only a club. Benaiah scrambled down this muddy hole and killed the beast (v 20). How many people do you know that actually run TOWARD a dangerous animal?

The Scriptures indicate that corrupt authorities who have power over you are similar to a menacing predator. The wise man of Proverbs describes them as “like a roaring lion or charging bear” (Proverbs 28:15).

It is difficult to know what to do when you are faced with people like this. My own prayer of late has been the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Behind all this tainted behavior in high places is a menace the Scriptures describe as a lion: the Devil himself (I Peter 5:8). He is mad as hell because he knows the jig is up, so he is out there ready to take it out on believers like me (Revelation 12:12).

I am willing to follow the biblical admonitions to stay alert and resist him when he attacks . However, I don’t think I have the wherewithal or the courage to actually chase him down into his hole as Benaiah did.

This would mean I’d have to go on the offensive against Satan and his power grab around me. That’s asking a lot from one person.

However, there is a Mighty Man willing to take on the task I can’t. It is the almighty and all powerful king of kings and lord of lord: namely, Jesus Christ.

As I walk the unclean halls of power in my life, which for me are unmanageable, I can trust Him to keep the devil down in his hole there. There is no doubt He will give me the insight to do business that will glorify Him, help me keep my footing on those slippery paths, and protect me along the way.

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Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes (Psalm 112:6-8).”

Monday is rough. It is a good day to be afraid.

You don’t know what the week holds. Plus, you are just coming off the weekend, where rest, relaxation and recreation are the expectation.

It is culture shock pure and simple. Yet, we know what’s coming.

On Sunday night we get a little squirrelly in anticipation of the week ahead. What new challenges will we face.

Then Monday comes, as it has for me this morning.  As is usually the case, I am having a difficult time getting going.

This morning it is because I really don’t have anything on the schedule, at least exactly. I have enough to do, and expect a meeting to occur some time about some personal business, but generally I can flex a little in terms of when I do the needed activities.

So hear I sit at 10:41 Monday morning, writing this entry. I am a 10 o’clock scholar, and hopefully I will show up at my office about noon.

Now, Tuesday is a different day. Usually by that time the barnacles from the weekend have been scraped off and we are in the midst of whatever battle we are facing for the week.  We are usually too busy to be anxious or afraid on a Tuesday.

Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001 in New York by all accounts was gorgeous to behold. The temperature was mild, the sky blue and the sun bright.

It was one of those days I suppose when the weather brightens your mood. Furthermore, Monday is gone, so hopefully you feel better about things.

By 9 am on this Tuesday morning, any good feelings had gone. They were replaced by emotions like fear and anger.

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, our feelings and our world changed in an instant. We were at war with an unknown and unseen enemy.

Now, ten years after the event, a lot has happened. The enemy has been identified and put on the run.

There have been a lot of courageous acts in that time, many of them occurring on September 11 itself. The bravery of a lot of people has helped a lot of us get through this monumental period in history.

America’s president spoke of the last 10 years and the effects of this courage on Sunday. The headline accompanying the text of this speech read AMERICA DOES NOT GIVE IN TO FEAR.

The Bible tells us, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On September 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.

In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.

Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith—in God and each other—that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny—that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.

These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit—these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism—in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on.

America did not give into fear because it had leadership that helped the country rebound from that terrible day 10 years ago. The Bible also speaks of a man who did not surrender to his own fright or the anxieties of others.

In I Samuel 23 it tells of a time when David was told of a September 11 type event in a city called Keilah. The people were under attack from Israel’s enemy the Philistines.

The first thing David did was ask God if he should fight. After all, he was on the run from the king of Israel, who was trying to kill him and his supporters.

God told him to fight. However, this didn’t set well with David’s men, who told him that they were afraid enough running from the king. Why take on a battle that really belonged to him.

David again did not respond to their fears or his own. He went back to the Lord to add this piece of information and find out what to do.

God once more told David to go to war. Thus, he and his men went and defeated the Philistines.

You would think that Saul, the king of Israel, would be grateful. Instead, he saw the coming out of David into the open as his opportunity to kill him.

David did what he had done before. He went to God to determine if he was in danger.

When David found out from the Lord that he would indeed be turned over to Saul by the people he had just saved, he and his men escaped.

God not only responded to David’s faith in coming to Him for aid when he was afraid, but he sent his beloved friend Jonathan to encourage him and help him “find his strength in God (I Samuel 23:16)”.

David is the role model of how to respond when fear strikes. In summary, even when he himself was afraid and the people around him also showed fear, he repeatedly went to God for instructions about what to do.

David did not get stuck in his fright or that of others, or suffer from the “paralysis of analysis”. He turned his thinking over to God, who had much greater wisdom.

What is more, this story of David tells us how gracious God is when we are afraid. We can go to Him and ask for flesh and blood human beings to give us the encouragement we need to continue to trust God, even when the chips are down.

It’s almost noon on my Monday. The examples of those who showed  heroism on and after September 11, and David’s actions at Keilah, when he ran to God instead of ran away,  have given me the small spark I need in my spirit.

I am ready to go to work.

 

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