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SURE-FOOTED CONFIDENCE

Habakkuk may be a small book, but it packs a powerful message that I believe is relevant to us today. Even though it refers to a time of unrest for Judah, the prophet’s cries to God are relatable. Habakkuk goes to God with his complaints and questions His tolerance of evil in the world. He begins in 1:3 with a lament to God and asks why He isn’t punishing sin. God responds in 1:5-11 by letting him know He has already started to answer his prayers. God is always working; we don’t always see it.

Then, he makes another complaint to God. His second lament is that God lets the wicked go unchecked (Hab. 1:12-2:1, ESV). God again responds and assures Habakkuk He will punish the wicked at the right time (Hab. 2:2-20).

Habakkuk begins to look forward to the day that God’s glory will fill the entire earth (Hab. 2:14). We certainly have hope in that truth. In verse 20, he recognizes the sovereignty of God who rules the whole world and that His extraordinary nature calls for silence. 

Finally, he remembers things God has done in the past, prays for God’s wrath and mercy, and begins to reestablish his trust in the Lord because of who He is (Hab. 3:1-19). He begins to rejoice in the God he knows he can trust, in the God who knows best. Even among the suffering, he finds joy in that trust because joy is not found in the circumstances but God alone. He finds strength in Yahweh for sure-footed confidence in God. He proclaims he can live on great heights even amid extreme cases (3:19).

He began with complaints and telling God how to run the world and ended by trusting God, who knows best and will bring justice to a sinful world. The same is still true today. Sometimes our faith waivers, but we can find hope in God’s sovereignty and that He will triumph in the end. We can also take our questions to God when we are troubled about the sin in the world. We may not always see what God is doing – but we know who He is and can trust Him as we lean on Him for strength and experience joy in all circumstances while we wait expectantly.

EXTREME MAKEOVER

Several years ago, the show Extreme Makeover Home Addition became famous and helped many families build new homes from the ground up. If you haven’t seen it lately, you may recall that they take a giant bulldozer, demolish the old house, and then build a gorgeous new home. Recently, I have enjoyed watching those old re-runs, and even though it isn’t something that just happened, it still touches my heart and gets me emotional when I see them help a struggling family. I have also enjoyed another show that helps people give their homes a refreshing look so they can sell them quicker.

            Both premises are set on refurnishing or rebuilding to make changes for the better. One episode the other day had a family member helping sandpaper a banister. All of this reminded me of how God works on us. Sometimes we may need a fresh coat of paint or a new perspective, if you will. Other times the changes may be like sandpaper, it goes against the grain of our nature and is painful at first, but the finished product far outweighs it in the end.

            Other times, if our foundation isn’t solid, God tears down the walls of our own making and helps us rebuild. When we come to God in shambles, weathered, and broken, He strips away the old and builds a new life from the foundation up. The process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit (dying to self) is never easy, but it is always worth it.

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom” (Ps. 111:10, NLT).

“But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand” (Matt. 7:26, NLT).

TRUTH OR DARE

Have you ever played truth or dare? Have you ever been fearful of someone asking you to play? I don’t know about you, but at one time in my life, I avoided playing the game because I knew I would have to choose the dare; that was sometimes a bit scary as well but at least whatever I was asked to do was better than taking a chance on what the question might be.

In this regard, the story of David hits home for me. David went to great lengths to hide the truth out of fear of what he did with Bathsheba. He tried to cover his sin, which led to more corruption and deceit, to the point that he had her husband sent to the front lines of battle and killed (2 Sam. 11:1-27, ESV).

At one time in my life, before I became a Christ follower, I was terrified of someone finding out about my dark secrets. I also went to great lengths to cover them up. I got good at half-truths because I did not want to be a liar deep down. One weekend I even sold my vehicle after being paranoid that someone saw it parked where it should not have been.

This is a miserable way to live. My fear manifests itself as panic attacks. I had never experienced them before, but I began to wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night. The doctors performed many tests on my heart without a clear cause, and they never called them panic attacks; that is my hindsight diagnosis. I can now see that no human test could have found what was wrong with my heart; that had to come from God several years later.

My fears were misplaced. Reasonable fear is of the Lord (Eccl. 12:13). I can also relate to David’s plea to God after being confronted by Nathan for going in with Bathsheba, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right heart within me” (Ps. 51:10).  Proper fear keeps us aligned with God’s desires for us. When our heart is right with God, our desires align with His because He is the One we most desire (Ps. 37:4).

PLAYING OFFENSE

Have you ever noticed how a small bird sometimes flies beside or behind a larger bird? Being the bird enthusiast I am, I’d like to think the larger bird is a role model and a leader in the relationship. But after a bit of research, the reality is that the smaller bird is playing offense and deterring the giant bird from the nest to protect its babies.

            What an incredible picture of how we are to help our fellow believers when the enemy gets too close to the nest of our loved ones. We cannot drive away the other person’s temptations for them or fix their problems, that is God’s job, but we can point them to the only One who can, Jesus Christ.

            While someone is experiencing a season of suffering, pain, loss, heartache, or temptation, we can:

  • Listen (James 1:19).
  • Pray with them and for them (James 5:16).
  • Hold their hand / remind them who holds them by their right hand (Is. 41:10).
  • Sing hymns of praise with them (Eph. 5:19).
  • Be their accountability buddy (Prov. 27:17).
  • Feed them- not just their body and mind but also their souls with the encouraging Word of God to remind them who Christ says they are (I Peter 2:9; Ps. 139:14; Eph. 2:10).
  • Direct their attention away from the temptation; play interference with the enemy by pointing them to Christ and His truth (James 1:12-13; I Cor. 10:13).

Next time you see a little bird following a large bird of prey, ask yourself- who can I play offense for today by pointing them to Jesus and offering a listening ear or word of encouragement?

MATTERS OF THE HEART

Our emotions, self-worth, and trust come from the heart, an easy target for the devil. Since this is a spiritual battle, we must guard it with the weapons and armor God provides. The breastplate of righteousness is a source of protection. But we cannot stop there. The devil is cunning in his tactics. He also attacks the mind. That is why we need the helmet of salvation, to ward off the lies of the enemy, who wants us to doubt God and His saving work through Christ. For this, we are called to “stand firm” and put on the belt of truth; for shoes, we strap on the peace of the gospel; hold fast to the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, the only offensive weapon, but is needed when the devil is tempting us (Eph. 6:11-17, NLT).  Speaking the name of Jesus will make the enemy flee every time. We have power accessible to us through the Holy Spirit.

            Over the last few years, I have been in battles for myself and others, but I did not know how to access the armor before becoming a Christ-follower. Another step must occur before we can adequately arm ourselves against the devil’s attacks.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul gives us a comprehensive list of qualities we are to “put on” as Christ-followers. Among them are compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and more than anything else, love. He adds the peace of Christ and thanksgiving in our hearts while singing praises and Spiritual songs. A thankful attitude promotes inward peace.

            But this laundry list of attributes isn’t possible until we have cleaned ourselves up. We cannot do that on our own, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of believers. Before we can “put on” these Christ-like characteristics, we must first “put off” the old filthy rags we’ve been wearing for years, our old self, which no longer fits. “Put to death therefore what is earthy in you; sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5, ESV). Paul adds we must put them all away, including “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth”  (Col. 3:8-9, ESV).

            “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, which defiles a person” (Matt. 15:18, ESV). Those are words out of Jesus’ mouth. One of the things believers often have trouble with is the mouth. Foul language is not becoming of someone professing to be a Christ-follower. We must strive to become more like Jesus every day. It is a process, but the Holy Spirit helps us. We must work at it and ask Him for help.

We will never be perfect while we are on this Earth, but since God made us in His image, we are to reflect that to others through our actions and words. Every time we spew something out without pausing to think about what we are saying and how we are saying it and not taking time to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our talk, we are prone to making the enemy laugh. I would much rather aim to make God smile as often as possible. We all make mistakes from time to time, but God knows our hearts more than anyone, even us. Eliminating these things from our hearts will make more room for Him.

            Paul’s message to the Colossians encourages them to make a decisive break from the old sinful ways they carried into their new lives as Christ-followers. It is a timeless message to all believers of all cultures. It is a process in which God shapes our new hearts over time. If you will, the change of “clothes” has already taken place, so we must align our behavior with our new identity. In prayerful discernment and humility, we will be more equipped to wear the armor, always staying alert, praying for all believers everywhere (Eph. 3:18, NLT).

FOOTPRINTS

Have you ever wondered how dinosaurs can be millions or even billions of years old, yet God created the world and every living creature only about 6,000 years ago? This question depends upon which lens you are viewing the world. But from a creationist’s standpoint- it is something I have pondered recently.

I guess it has always been something that floated around in the back of my mind, but just recently I started doing a little more digging into the issue. What I found is fascinating and leaves me with a bone to pick with evolutionists who go to great lengths to either bury the evidence or deny its accuracy using one reason or another.

But the fact is that paleontologists have discovered soft tissue, protein, collagen, and intact red blood cells in the bones of dinosaur fossils. If you know anything about these soft tissues, (which I did not know much about them before), they decay more rapidly than other materials. Fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old do not have soft tissues, it just does not jive.

So, in other words, these findings are consistent with a young-age Earth view rather than an old one. Likewise, they found straight footprints preceding the bones, which is evidence of rapid burial and is consistent with a global flood,[1] like the one recorded in Genesis in the time of Noah- another historical fact that some try to deny happened.

“God created dinosaurs along with humans on Day Six, approximately 6,000 years ago.”[2] (Genesis 1:24-25) God is all-powerful and unlimited; He created everything in a mature state at the time of creation. The Bible does not say God created Adam as a baby, so why could He not create all the animals, plants, and trees fully developed and capable of producing fruit? God is outside of time and space, but He created in six days and rested on the seventh as an example to humans because we are. Another way God did something for our benefit was Jesus becoming flesh and walking this Earth as a human- leaving footprints of His own, to relate to, teach, and die for our sins, as the only suitable sacrifice. His life was also an example for us to imitate.

Because the earth was so corrupt and filled with violence after the Fall, God judged the earth by destroying it and everything in it with the Flood (Gen. 6:17). The only ones saved were Noah and his family along with two of every kind of creature. Dinosaurs lived pre-Flood and then post-Flood, they eventually died out due to human activity, climate change, or other factors.[3]

Many other findings and facts are consistent with a young-Earth creation. I recommend watching a documentary entitled Is Genesis History?  A virtual trip worth taking with fascinating discoveries and explanations of them along the way.

These are evidence of historical events in Genesis that lead us to Jesus and the gospel of salvation. To deny these momentous events and genealogies from Adam to Jesus- diminishes Christ’s death on the cross and the very gospel message that ensures our hope of salvation.

To put dinosaurs millions of years before the time of Adam is saying that death preceded the Fall and that is not consistent with the Bible’s redemption story and the need for Jesus. It is only when we realize our brokenness (because of sin entering after the Fall- which leads to death) that we can accept the gospel message and Jesus Christ as our Savior, which leads to life.


[1] Oard, Michael. March 1, 2003, In the Footsteps of Giants. https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/footprints/in-the-footsteps-of-giants/

[2] Answers in Genesis https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/

[3] Ibid.

DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH

I think with all the shocking news we hear every day and the things going on, we sometimes forget there’s still good in this world. We should take time to pray for God’s people everywhere, the lost, hurting, and oppressed. But there’s still beauty in God’s design and nature and it’s okay to laugh and enjoy it.

Take some time to enjoy a sunrise and take in the beauty of the flowers and sky. Schedule a game night with your family or play ball with your kids. Smile, dance, sing, and praise God for each one of them. Read a book (the Bible has some wonderful stories), it’s okay to watch a funny movie and enjoy your life in the middle of the heartache that seems to never cease around us.

Because at the end of the day, we know who has us in the palm of His hand. Take loving care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health so you will be ready to care well for others when the need arises.

There are still good people, and good news to share. It’s okay to laugh and experience joy. Smiles and laughter are contagious- so spread some love today. Enjoy your family, friends, and kids. Take a break from the news and read the Good News. Take respite in the only One who can offer complete peace and rest under the shelter of His great wing.

It is my hope this is a resource for good news that leaves you awe-inspired by the Creator and hopeful, that there is a reason to smile, laugh, and love, as we put our faith in Christ for a better life ahead.

“Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24, ESV).

 “I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my Salvation” (Is. 12:2, ESV).

EDEN-LIKE PARADISE

As a kid, I ran from my shadow. I can look back now and understand why- I was running from the dark side of myself and the secret life I would live in later years. Living in the shadows is a miserable place to be, separated from the fullness of God. Living in the lies of the enemy, just trying to survive.

As I reflect on my rescue from that life and what I look forward to in the next, I don’t believe there will be shadows in heaven. God’s light will saturate everything leaving no room for darkness of any kind.

This hope lives in my heart, by way of the Holy Spirit, allowing me to live vicariously through it until the day of Christ’s return. It may look different for you, but my Eden-like paradise and hope manifests itself as a valley-floor sitting at the base of a majestic mountain, vestured in wildflowers of every variety and color imaginable. The greens are so vivid, the ferns, moss, and trees are the lushest of all, like a magnificent rainforest, flowing with streams of living water in every direction.

There are birds and butterflies of every species; foals, foxes, and fawns delightfully playing in the distance. There is a ray of light ‘reining’ down from above that never goes out. I am not only living by the Word of God, but this place allows me to live in the Word because the Word is God. He permeates my whole being. A unique and special place in my heart that supplies the hope to push through the shadows of this life and persevere as I lead others to the Glorious Kingdom of God.

What does your hope look like? Spend some quiet time with the Holy Spirit, finding the Eden-like paradise that will allow you to push through the shadows of this life- to not just survive but to thrive until Christ returns.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, ESV).

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8, ESV)!

MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

           Our battle scars run deep, but God’s grace is enough. Jesus’ scars cover all. Forgiveness has a direct correlation with freedom. We cannot stay in our pain, in offense of those who hurt us. That is right where Satan wants to keep us, so we don’t experience the freedom that comes with forgiveness. If we take it to Jesus, He will redeem it.

With tender mercies and heartfelt tears, our Heavenly Father always hears.

            We read in 2 Cor. 9-10 that Paul had a thorn in his side that he asked God to remove, but God said, “My grace is sufficient.” We know we live in a fallen world and sometimes there are hard things to deal with, sickness, hurtful people, abuse, and many other painful experiences. God does not always remove those things from this life, but He promises to be with us (Matt. 28:20, ESV). Just like Paul, in our weakness, we are strong when we lean on God to see us through. We don’t know what Paul’s affliction was, probably a physical ailment, but when God says His grace is sufficient, the ESV Study Bible notes that this underscores the ever-present availability and sufficiency of God’s grace, for Paul and every believer, regardless of how critical one’s circumstances may be.

God’s righteousness demands wrath against sin, but in His love for us, he also sent the answer for our sins (Rom. 8:31-39, ESV). He is both just and the justifier, through Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave His accusers while He was still on the cross (Luke 23:34). I am doing a Bible plan right now that talks about Jesus being the Forgiving Victim. As we see others through His eyes and realize what He went through for us; how He forgave us; how can we not forgive others so we can walk in that freedom. Our battle cry is Jesus Christ. We are no longer a victim, but a victor.

“With liberty and justice for all.” Those are not just words or an inscription on a plague. They mean something, or they did at one time. Francis Bellamy wrote this in 1892. President Eisenhower had “under God” added in 1954 in response to the Communist threat.[1] The Statue of Liberty meant something as well. In her right hand, she holds a torch that is a light showing the path to freedom. In her left hand, she holds the Declaration of Independence, for hopeful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. It was a peacemaking landmark symbolizing the relationship between the US and France and her illuminated torch was a navigational aid.[2]

            Let us not forget who the enemy is so we will stop fighting each other. The enemy is Satan, and he uses our victimized state to pit us against each other instead of teaming up to fight against him through the saving grace of Jesus, so we can be indivisible, as the allegiance goes on to read.

You may have heard of doubting Thomas. He was not there with the other disciples when Jesus returned from the dead. So, he had doubts. He wanted to see Jesus for himself before he would believe. Jesus allowed him to trace the scars in His hands, to thrust his hand into His side and feel that the scars were real. Jesus went on to say, “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed” (John 20:27-29, ESV, emphasis mine).

Jesus offers ultimate freedom and forgiveness.

Will you believe it?

Have you experienced the freedom Christ offers? Feel free to share in the comments.

Do you need to forgive someone so you can?

Ask God to reveal them to you and then ask Him to help you forgive.

Sometimes we must forgive our oppressors multiple times, but it is a choice we can make every day; choose to forgive and then don’t forget to thank God for His forgiveness of us.

Maybe that someone is yourself or someone who hurt you, but either way, forgiveness is the key to healing and redemption. God is the only One who can fill the gaps of hurt, loneliness, pain, illness, loss, and anything you are searching for other than Him to stop the pain of our past or even what we are going through in the present. Do not allow Satan to use your offenses against you. Christ paid the price for our freedom, let us walk in that freedom and live like we are free.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, ESV, emphasis mine).

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV, emphasis mine).

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17, ESV, emphasis mine).


[1] The Pledge of Allegiance, USHistory.org. https://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

[2] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia. “Statue of Liberty.” Encyclopedia Britannica, September 17, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Statue-of-Liberty.

SOJOURNERS

Like a whale living in a pond yearns for the ocean, believers sojourn here on earth awaiting an end-time home. Reverence and awe should characterize the lives of believers during their exile on this earth (I Peter 1:17; 2:11, ESV).

The Bible mentions the word sojourner about thirty-two times if my calculations are correct. Many times, the Bible categorizes it along with the fatherless and widows as landless people whom God watches over. Abraham considered himself a foreigner in the land even after 62 years of existence in Canaan. He chose to continue to live in tents. He longed for a city whose designer and builder are God (Heb. 11:9-10, ESV).

We read in Ezekiel 47:21-23 instructions for the Israelites to treat sojourners who live among them as native-born and share their inheritance with them as they divide the land among the tribes of Israel. They had been strangers in Egypt and knew what it was like. God is telling them to treat these strangers as if they are one of their own. This reminds me of how God grafted in the Gentiles to share in salvation along with the Jews (Romans 11:11-17, ESV).

When the Israelites turned away from God and became idolaters, they were wanderers among the nations because they did not listen to God. A wanderer is different than being a sojourner, in the way we drift away from obedience to God. Sometimes we wander in the darkness for many years. Just as the Israelites put themselves at risk, we do as well when we abandon God’s Word. A sojourner continues to search for nuggets of truth like spiritual breadcrumbs on the path to righteousness.