Tag Archive | evil

Religious Freedom Joshua 24:14-15

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It really bums me when Buddy doesn’t want to hop onto my bed and sleep with me some nights and, instead, runs to a family member’s room to spend the night. Sometimes I know the reason–my electronics beeped and scared him off–but often I don’t know the reason why. However, I don’t force him to stay in the room with me by closing him in the room. (He’s yet to figure out how to turn the doorknob.) If I force him to stay, I know he’ll be unhappy, so I let him go. He’s free to make his choice.

Joshua warned the Jewish nation that it was best for them to serve the Lord God of the Bible, the great King who led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the land promised to Abraham’s and his descendants many centuries earlier, a land of great bounty and blessing. Abraham’s father was a pagan and the Israelites had been surrounded with false gods while in bondage in Egypt. (The 10 plagues were judgments against 10 of the important Egyptian gods.) Yet, despite the pillar of Fire at night and the Cloud by day (the visible presence of God) that led the people to the Promised Land, they carried false gods from Egypt with them.

The below is one of the first great statements of religious freedom in the Bible, and I think maybe, the World (but there’s lots I don’t know about religious history).

Joshua said to the Israelites:

“…fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua made it clear where he stood, but he declared that the Israelites had a choice to serve God or not to serve Him.

God created us, loves us and sustains our lives every day. But He doesn’t force us to love and serve Him. We are free to make our own decision whom we will serve.

Then people blame God when people choose evil instead of following Him and doing good.

That’s the price of freedom.

Finding Rest: Matthew 11:28-29

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When we visited Ocean Shores last summer, I wore Buddy out, walking along the beach. He found rest amidst the grass. However, it was inadequate to protect him from the strong wind that afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but at times I want to run away from the nastiness that’s being spewed since the last Presidential election. But, unless I want to hide in a cave for the next four years, I have to deal with it. Jesus has been my hiding place to run to and find rest.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”–Matthew 11:28-29

Preachers claim that Jesus is referring to a team of oxen: A young ox is yoked to the experienced, older ox who plods along, focused on plowing a straight line. When the newer ox stops goofing around, trying to go his own direction, and yields to the older ox, he finds that the yoke becomes easier.

I find anger, fretting, fear and frustration very taxing emotionally. It’s like a slow poison that damages your health and soul. Jesus promises that when we focus on Him, we’ll find rest. When we allow Jesus to direct our lives, we will find we’re happier and our soul feels lighter.

Jesus has a better path for our minds to travel in.

“Do not FRET…”–Psalm 139

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and DO NOT CURSE.”–Romans 12:14

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”–Romans 12:17

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…”–Romans 12:19

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”–Romans 12:21

“Do not FEAR for I have redeemed you…you are precious in My sight…”–Isaiah 43:1, 4

“Do not WORRY about your life…”–Luke 12:22

“My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”–John 14:27

As you can see in John 14, peace is something God gives to you. You cannot create peace within yourself nor obtain it from the world we live in. Ask Him to give you peace in your heart and by faith trust Him to have given it to you and thank Him for it. When the world and angry people around you start to make you feel stressed out, turn your focus toward Jesus and follow His way: praying for your enemies/opposition and trusting Him to work it out. Focus on His attributes. He’s the great Lord of Hosts, the Omnipotent God. Nothing is too difficult for Him to handle. (Jeremiah 32:17)  He’s in control at all times. He laughs at the nations. They are but dust in His sight. (Psalm 2)

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”–Isaiah 26:3

 

 

When An Evil Man Dies: Ezekiel 18:32

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Discussing the topic of death, I didn’t want to utilize a picture of my beloved Buddy. This photo is of the moon peering through our cloudy, Northwest sky.

It’s ironic that an anti-capitalist Marxist, Fidel Castro, died on Black Friday, the biggest sales day of a capitalist country, one pundit commented yesterday. Understandably, the Cuban community in exile in Miami celebrated. I pray that Raul Castro will allow, not only economic freedom to continue to expand, but also personal freedom. He is permitting Christians to worship more freely (so I’ve heard earlier this summer), which is wonderful.

But how does God feel about the death of an evil man, such as Fidel Castro?

‘”For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”‘–Ezekiel 18:32

“God is love.”–1 John 4: 8b

Once a person dies, they no longer have the option of repenting of their sins and entering into a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Because God is loving, He doesn’t rejoice when someone dies without having a relationship with Him. He isn’t happy when someone is separated from Him for eternity. No one knows us as well as He does and loves as deeply and sincerely as He does.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 6:44, 48

All of us are considered sinners in God’s eyes before we repent, for “There is none righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10). He alone is perfect; we cannot consider that we’re more worthy of God’s love than any other person. Once we declare our need for Jesus to cover our sin and advise us how to live, then we’re covered by Christ’s righteousness. We’re considered holy by God only because we’ve received the Holy Spirit and our hearts have been circumcised by faith. It’s not our righteousness, but that of Jesus, that God sees when He looks at saved Christians.

In other words, no one has the right to strut about, thinking they’re so much more wonderful than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we’re either saved or not.

“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”–Provers 25:26

I’m not saying we’re supposed to rejoice when a wicked person rules or passively accept evil behavior. But to avoid self-righteousness, thinking we deserve salvation and someone else doesn’t. Because we don’t earn it: It’s an undeserved gift from God of His mercy.

I pray that the Cuban people may experience increased freedom now that Fidel Castro is gone.

 

How to Pray Psalm 23

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It occurred to me, when posting a few minutes ago, that perhaps not everyone reading my posts understands how to pray through a passage of Scripture.  I’ve found a method that our pastor’s wife taught me during Bible study very helpful. I was a Christian for nearly 25 years before I knew this technique.

I highly recommend memorizing Psalm 23; it’s short and you can recite it quickly anyplace you feel comfortable doing so. The below is from the NASB version. I prefer it because it is very poetic and supposedly the best word-for-word translation, but not always the most easily understood.

You recite a portion of Scripture then pray on it. The below is not what I say every time or it’d be a stale, rote prayer. This is just an example to give you an idea of how to do it, not something to recite.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Thank you, Lord, that You are leading and guiding me through this day. Thank you that You promise to meet all my needs so that I don’t have to worry. You love me and care about me. May I be wise enough to listen to Your voice and follow You and Your path.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures;” Thank you, Lord, that You will only lead me to green pastures. When I need rest, You force me to lie down and take care of myself. You don’t make me lie down in the mud, but where I’ll be refreshed.

“He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;” Lord, thank You for providing me with a quiet place to rest. I don’t calm my soul. You take responsibility for restoring and calming my soul. It isn’t something I can grunt out in my own effort. You calm my spirit.

“He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Lord, You will never lead me to do evil. I can always count on You to guide me in the right path. When I start to stray, You will warn me and encourage me back onto the path that’s best for my life and Your glory. If I get stubborn and insist on wandering off, You’ll discipline me and get me back where I belong, following You.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;” Lord, when life sucks, I’m not stuck there. You promise to lead me out to the other side and to be with me the entire journey. I don’t need to fear evil because You’re with me. I’m not traveling this path of life alone.

“Your rod and Your staff, these comfort me.” You are able to guide me back onto the right path with Your staff and You can protect me from my enemies with Your rod. Anyone who wants to harm me has to deal with You.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (The table here is a mountaintop of good grass the shepherd leads his sheep to. He prepares the table by pulling out the noxious weeds and anything that’s harmful to the sheep before allowing them to graze.) Lord, You’re leading me to a place of safety and protection. If I follow Your will according to Your Word, it’s going to take me to a good place.

“You’ve anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Thank you for this beautiful day, the love of my family, that I can see, hear, taste, feel, etc… (Express thankfulness for your blessings.)

“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Thank you, Lord, that I don’t need to fear death. There is not a moment You’re not with me and I will dwell with You forever when I leave this life. I can count on You to help me when I mess up and turn it around for good (Romans 8:28) because of Your loving care.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I highly recommend the book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23,” by Phillip Keller to get a better understanding what King David had in mind when he composed the psalm.

Have a glorious day.

 

 

 

Relaxed During The Storm: Ephesians 1:11b

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There’s a lot of anxiety during this election season. One side worries about losing their Constitutional rights and the other about being left out. Mud is being slung from both sides, some of it sticking, some of the darkness still waiting for illumination.

Buddy can rest because he knows he’s loved and being taken care of. He’s even resting on the dragon, the symbol of our great enemy, Satan. It also helps that he doesn’t understand the evening news or read newspapers.

We, too, if we’re in relationship with the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, can rest in God’s loving care: “Who works all things after the counsel of His will.”–Ephesians 1:11b, NASB

When I get anxious about current events I remind myself that everything that is going on in this world is under His control. It’s hard for me to really wrap my mind around that truth. So much is out of my control and I often feel helpless, a minnow trying to swim against a rising tide of garbage flowing my way. It’s not easy for me to understand God’s awesome power because it’s so out of my own experience. Even, despite my best efforts, Buddy ran off around the Fourth of July holidays and was nearly killed by a van on a nearby street when I was taking a shower. Even what I think is under my control, ultimately, is often an illusion. I’m dependent upon God 24/7 to protect me and my loved ones. In a sense, that’s comforting because it means He’s really been in control all the time.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”–John 16:33, NASB

Jesus reminds me that He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent; meaning He is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere. No evil catches Him by surprise. He’s working all things according to His plan. Sometimes,  to be at peace, I have to LET GO OF MY PLAN and trust that He’s working out HIS PLAN for the world, when His plan seems to be at odds with mine.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I go from your presence?”–Psalm 139:7, NASB

I highly encourage you to memorize Psalms 23 and 139. When I pray through these Psalms, I find my anxieties melt away as I remind myself of God’s power, faithfulness, and tender care for me.

No Greater Love: Luke 23:33-34

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One day I came home from work and was greeted by Buddy, proudly displaying his new prize: my donut. I immediately forgave him and laughed. After all, it was my fault that he snagged the donut as I set it down upon my bed when getting ready for work and then forgot it.

I much admire Jesus’ great love for us. When He was hanging from the Cross, in unbelievable pain and agony, His focus was on the welfare of others:

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.'”–Luke 23:33-34 NASB

When I’m feeling cranky or stressed, it’s a challenge for me to remember God’s great love and patience for me and that I’m supposed to demonstrate that same love to others. How often I’m tempted to repay evil for evil, or insult for insult, to strike back at someone who’s done evil, forgetting that I once was condemned, deceived and far from God, till I was given a saving knowledge of Christ because of God’s mercy. I was tempted not to pray for a wicked public figure (not a politician in case you’re trying to guess who it is), but God reminded me that He loves everyone and so I prayed for his soul.

After all, to someone as pure as God is, we’re all pretty rotten, yet every day He gives us a beating heart, air to breathe, a lovely day and evening sky, all the blessings of nature, and, in general, a government that maintains law and order. I have no right to be irritated with someone else because we all need God’s mercy.

I’ve been thinking about Judgment Day lately, how those in leadership who think they’re getting away with evil, and refuse to repent, will discover there is no escaping God’s judgment. I feel sorry for them and pray they’ll repent, because it is going to go hard on them. Perhaps this Great Day will not only include a summary of our sins if we’ve not accepted Jesus so that they’ll understand why they’re sinful in God’s eyes, but perhaps also a recitation of all the great love He shows each person every day that they never noticed or acknowledged: Escapes from harm, healing from disease, enablement to make a living, a restraining of wicked impulses that helps them to choose good and maintain their relationships, friends and pets who love them, etc.

And they’ll mourn because they’ll realize they’ve rejected spending eternity with the most loving, generous being Who was, is and will ever exist.

God waits to bring judgment because He is showing remarkable patience, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”–2 Peter 3:9

I’m very thankful, since I wasn’t saved till I was 28 years old, God was patient with me.