A Confession of Sins

We complain. A lot. Turn on the news (any channel) and it is filled with complaints. Everybody is doing something wrong. No one is satisfied. No one is getting along. Even the weather is not as perfect as we would like. Think of your own conversations. How many are filled with complaints. This person was rude and not fully focused on our issues. That person cut us off. This food didn’t taste as good as we had hoped. The store didn’t have exactly what we wanted, or was too crowded or took too much time. The city, the state, the country isn’t spending money and time on what we want. We fight over masks and vaccines. Drug use, depression, loneliness and inactivity are impacting all of us. Many are suffering alone, out of fear. We are not satisfied. We are not happy. We are angry. We are fearful.

Today, the Bible opened to Psalm 106. The Psalm recounts a number of times where God saved the Israelites, only for them to quickly forget his works and crave the things of the world, turning away from him. Hmmm. Sound familiar? We were one of the richest nations, but we were not satisfied. We were founded by individuals looking to avoid persecution for their religious beliefs. Our declaration of independence refers to the rights provided to us by God and our divine providence. But it didn’t take long for us to turn away. The Psalm ends in this fashion:

Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes, and were brought low through their inequity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry. He remembered for their sake his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his mercy.

He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say “Amen!” Praise the Lord!

Psalm 106: 43-48

We are wasting our time and breath (and health) with our complaints. Our worry and fear is powerless and harming us and those around us. God hears us when we cry to Him, when we turn to Him. His mercy and His love is never ending. We need to stop looking to the things of the world to satisfy us or to make us happy. We need to stop thinking (and being disappointed) when the people of the world are incapable of solving our issues. God is our only savior. God is the only answer!

The most common and frequent commandment in the bible is “do not be afraid” or “fear not” — why? Because God is with us… if we allow Him to be.

Save us, O Lord our God! We give thanks to you and praise you. You are good! Your mercy endures forever. Open my eyes, Lord. Open my heart. Open my ears to your word. I am tired and angry and afraid when I look at the world. Help me to turn my eyes to you instead. We are sinners, individually and as a nation. We have turned away like the Israelites so many times before us. Hear our prayer! Heal our land! Heal our hearts! Turn us back to you! I have seen the great works that you do. I have seen your healing and your power. Lord, you are great indeed! Forgive me for getting lazy, forgive me for forgetting to put your first, forgive me for forgetting you and letting the world take over. Create in me a clean heart and fresh start. I want to do better!

Battle On!

I feel that we are on the precipice of a battle.  And I am not talking about politics, or race, or even the coronavirus.  We are on the precipice of a battle for God.  We are on the precipice of a battle for our souls.  We have practically shut down the country for six months, changed the way we do everything, and added masks to cover our face (and our smiles), all because of fear.  Fear of death.  But what we seem to be missing, is fear of God.  God tells us over and over in the bible, do not be afraid.  The only thing we have to fear is God, not being with God — in essence hell.

Our nation’s faith in and reverence of God has been faltering.  We are seeing a growing population of atheists, agnostics and others who simply don’t believe, or care to believe, in God.  And even those of us who claim to be Christians, seem to have an easy time hiding our beliefs in order to get along with others, in order to be politically correct, in order to avoid a conflict.  In effect, we deny Christ in our lives except when its convenient — and with the close of so many churches because of fear, the convenience has gone away.

Today, I read the first book of Maccabees, completing my review of the historical books of the bible.  As I finished this book,  I was struck by how so much of the old testament is filled with battles and wars.  The Israelites were in constant battle to preserve the commandments and laws of God and to protect their people from those who did not believe, those who wanted to destroy their temples and religious practices.  As much as it feels like these times are different, we are still in those same battles.  The question is, will we be seen as a people who stood up and fought for God, or one that cowered to the will of others and let our beliefs become overcome by secularism?  I often think, but what can I do — the growing masses against us, against God, are bigger and more powerful than me.  Today, Maccabees had the answer:

But when they saw the army coming against them, they said to Judas: “How can we, few as we are, fight such a strong host as this? Besides, we are weak since we have not eaten today.”
But Judas said: “Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.  With great presumption and lawlessness they come against us to destroy us and our wives and children and to despoil us; but we are fighting for our lives and our laws. He will crush them before us; so do not fear them.”
1 Maccabees 3:17-22

Our victory does not depend on our strength or size, but on the strength that comes from heaven (if we ask for it).  One thing I have recently come to realize is that God really meant it when he gave us free will.  He is not a helicopter parent who will interfere when we don’t want it, but if we ask, if we turn to Him, if we seek Him, He is always there.

What if instead of just focusing on masks, instead of our leaders preaching this, and billboards and commercials harping on this, that same focus was put on praying?  And praying in loud voices. What if instead of just focusing on social distancing we focused on drawing closer to God?

We have spent or lost billions (maybe even trillions) of dollars because of the fear of death.  Imagine, if we put that same energy, focus and resources into following God.   Not worrying about death — which is inevitable, but focusing on building that relationship with God, so that we can share eternal life with Him.  (Death is only scary if we are not in communion with God.)  Our strength comes from Him — Let’s gird up for battle!

Lord,

Help me not to fear the battle here on earth or hide from you or my faith in you.  Give me the strength to be a witness of you, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter the strength of those around me.  I know that when we turn to you, when we walk in your love, there is nothing to fear.  With everything going on in our world, it is sometimes easy to forget this.  Be with me God, be with our nation.  Give us strength.  Help us all increase our faith.

 

In God We Trust: Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

Today, I needed a break. So I got up from my new home-office desk, formerly known as the dining room table, and decided to take a walk outside. It was beautiful. The morning air still had a crispness to it. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the green leaves still had enough dew on them to sparkle in the sunlight. Beautiful. And as I walked and continued to be struck by the beauty in God’s creation, a peace settled over me. And I found myself crying out to God: Help Me! The world you have created is so beautiful. Help me to find the beauty and stop getting caught up in the negativity.

I have noticed that I am becoming caught in the negativity that is plaguing our country. I am beginning to feel more anger and even hate towards “the other side” on whatever the issue may be. As I walked, I asked God to take this away from me, let me focus back on His world, not the mess that we have created. And I began to resolve to stop looking at Facebook, to stop watching the media and to pray more.

And then I came across Sharlene, an older lady who was also taking a walk (a short walk just two driveways down from her house). We said good morning and commented on what a beautiful day it was. And instead of continuing on my walk I paused for a moment to enjoy the beauty with her. And Sharlene, who I had never met or spoken to before, told me that she starts every day by reading the bible. And today she read:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.

Psalm 118:24

My entire being rejoiced as she spoke, because the words she was saying resonated with exactly what I had just been thinking and praying to God. I was uplifted and filled with joy by this chance encounter. We chatted for a while longer and then continued in our opposite directions.

And when I arrived back home to my desk/dining room table, I opened the Bible to read the rest of Psalm 118.  And what a clear answer to my prayer it is:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

Let Israel say:

his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Aaron say,

his mercy endures forever.

Let those who fear the LORD say,

his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

The LORD is with me; I am not afraid;

what can mortals do against me?

The LORD is with me as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on my foes.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

I was hard pressed and falling,

but the LORD came to my help.

 

The LORD, my strength and might, has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous:

“The LORD’s right hand works valiantly; the LORD’s right hand is raised;

the LORD’s right hand works valiantly.”

I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and thank the LORD.

This is the LORD’s own gate, through it the righteous enter.

I thank you for you answered me;

you have been my savior.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

 

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice in it and be glad.

LORD, grant salvation!

LORD, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God and has enlightened us.

Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;

my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

 

Psalm 118

 

“In danger I called on the Lord.”  I have been in danger.  In danger from the world around me.  Not so much the physical danger, as much as my soul has been in danger.  And no mask can protect me or others from that.  But the Lord is with me and has answered me!  How great is our God!!  He has set me free!

The words in this psalm are so powerful!  “What can mortals do against me?”  Nothing.  Nothing if I am right with God. “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.  Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.”  No politician can save us.  We need to put our trust and hope in God, not any politician, democrat or republican.  In God we trust!  If only our country would turn back to this.   I cannot control the country, but I can control me: In God I trust!  I can resist the negative temptations of the world:

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

This is truly the day the Lord has made.  The beauty that surrounds us is all created by God.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Let us stop looking for sorrow and anger.  Let us stop focusing on the negativity.  God is great!  His mercy endures forever!  Thank God for that because our own mercy towards each other is short tempered and short lived!

God,

You are amazing!  Thank you for this beautiful day!  Thank you for opening my eyes and answering my prayers.  You alone are my God.  In you alone I put my trust!  Help me to keep my eyes focused on you!  There is so much to rejoice about with you, so much to be thankful for!