So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled. Judges 7:20-21 (NRSV)
It’s amazing how our perceptions and perspectives affect us. God didn’t need 10,000 men to defeat the Midians. He needed 300 men with trumpets and jars to make the Midianites think there were 10,000 men. Once they were given to fear, they were easy to defeat.
The question I am asking myself this morning is this: How is the enemy trying to use this same tactic today against the people of God?
Wendy and I have begun to notice something each morning we sit down with the newspaper and every time we watch a news program on television. We hear the subtextual message “BE AFRAID! BE VERY, VERY AFRAID!” being trumpeted in the headlines and news stories until we feel surrounded by a giant unseen army in the cacophony of crack pot events and statistics misconstrued in the torchlight of political agendas. When headlines trumpet “God Isn’t Fixing This,” the spiritual assault has moved from subtle to frontal.
The resulting fear and anxiety gets absorbed by ourselves, our friends and loved ones. It seeps out on social media, in conversation, and in our behavior. We feel defeated, discouraged, pessimistic, fearful, defeated, and on the run. Which, I realized as I read the chapter this morning, is right where the enemy wants us. I perceive the prince of this world, who cannot make but only mar, using God’s playbook against us.
Today I am determined to find rest in knowing that “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” A spirit of timidity and fear does not come from God. That is a by-product of our enemy’s design preying on our own shame and doubt. God, however, provides power of which the enemy is ignorant, love that overcomes hatred, and self-discipline to perceive and believe Truth amidst the din.
The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he; Deuteronomy 32:4 (NRSV)
A few years ago we noticed that our house had developed a few cracks in the walls that hadn’t been there when we bought it. The house was older, so it wasn’t a shock, but we knew we should investigate. The experts concluded that there was one section of ground beneath our foundation that had shifted. We had to drill underneath the house until we hit bedrock, then place supports under the foundation so that our house was resting on bedrock (see featured photo).
Just last week Wendy and I were having a conversation with friends. We had been asked to reflect on life and I mentioned that the past year and a half had been an incredible time of transition for our family. Madison switched jobs, moved twice, and struggled to figure out how she would finish out college. Taylor went through a divorce and moved to grad school in Scotland. My parents were both diagnosed with terrible illnesses. Both my folks and Wendy’s folks moved. Wendy and I felt led to sell our house, build a new house. Meanwhile, my company went through some of the most stressful change in its 27 year history. I concluded this litany of events by stating, “The tectonic plates of life have shifted beneath us.”
Life happens. Sometimes it feels as if the very ground beneath our feet is shifting. Cracks appear. We feel unsettled. If you’re like me, the result is usually generous doses of anxiety and fear.
In today’s chapter, Moses concludes his life and leadership over the people of Israel by composing and giving them a song. In the song, Moses uses the metaphor of “Rock” to identify God. David and the prophets would later pick up on this same metaphor. Jesus also used this metaphor. He taught us that when life happens, you want to make sure your house is built on bedrock.
Today, I’m thinking about this period of incredible life transition for our that continues to this day. I’m thinking about how Wendy and I have managed through it all. I’m thankful that our hearts are resting on the Rock.
On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back at a post from yesteryear and re-blog one for newer readers. This was originally posted in August, 2006. Note to reader: If you read my previous post today, I would like to point out that I have actually gotten somewhat better at this!
Yesterday Wendy and I headed to Des Moines in my new company car. I was low on gas, but the car’s computer told me I had 58 miles left. I did the mental calculations to figure out if I needed to stop before we got to the Doctor’s office and then kept my eye on the odometer. As we trucked down University Wendy asked if we needed to get gas. “Nope, we’ll make it!” I answered. The computer told me so.
As we got off the exit at 22nd street in West Des Moines I had 10 miles left and a half-mile to the doctor’s office.
That’s when I ran out of gas.
Don’t trust the computer – trust your wife when she tells you to stop! :)
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him… Nahum 1:7 (NIV)
The prophet Nahum lived and wrote his prophecy in troubled times. The kingdom of Israel had been split in two, the northern kingdom called Israel, and the southern kingdom called Judah. When Nahum wrote his prophecy the northern kingdom had been attacked and decimated by the Assyrians.
The Assyrians were known for their brutality and cruelty. When they conquered a city, they would mercilessly hack the limbs off their victims and then leave the limbs and bodies stacked like a pyramid outside the city gates. It was their calling card, the sign that the Assyrians had been there. Now that the northern kingdom of Israel had experienced it, the southern kingdom of Judah feared a similar Assyrian attack.
Fear and anxiety are common emotions. Today I find it common for people to experience economic fear (When will the economy get moving again? Will we experience what happened in Greece? Is the stock market going to collapse?) and fear of terror-ism (When’s the next 9-11? Are ISIS terrorist cells on our soil just waiting to attack? ). There is anxiety about global politics (Will Iran get a bomb and attack Israel?) and climate change (Will global warming create disastrous change in weather patterns?). When Wendy and I watch or read the news we will often observe to one another that there seems to be one major theme: “Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”
Nahum also lived in a time of fear, and his prophetic message was to encourage his readers not to give into fear, but rather to trust in God. Nineveh (the capitol of the Assyrian empire), he prophesied, would be destroyed. His prophetic word was fulfilled. Assyria was destroyed by the Medes and Persians in 612 B.C.
It’s Monday morning as I write this post. The first Monday of a new month. For some of us, even the prospect of what the coming week holds brings anxiety. There is uncertainty about what we’re going to do in the coming month and how we’ll get through. Nahum’s message is a good one. Notice that he doesn’t promise freedom from trouble, but that we will find God a caring refuge in whatever comes our way.
Today, I’m choosing not to give into anxiety and fear, but to trust God to be a caring refuge for whatever comes my way.
Then the man brought me to the main hall and measured the jambs; the width of the jambs was six cubits on each side. Ezekiel 41:1 (NIV)
The political and religious geography of modern day Jerusalem is complex. An important center to three of the world’s major religions, it can be a dizzying mishmash of faith, culture, religion, and politics. This also makes it arguably the world’s most perpetual political hotspot.
I was in Jerusalem near the Western Wall, also known as the “Wailing Wall,” which is located at the base of the Temple Mount. The wall is a section of stones which were part of a retaining wall that supported a large expansion of the temple mount by Herod shorty before the time of Jesus. The Hebrew temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. After the muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637 A.D. the el-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock were built on the site and remain to this day. Political tensions at the time meant that the mosque and Dome of the Rock were closed to non-muslims (though we were grudgingly allowed by muslim authorities to climb an adjacent rooftop and look over the area).
The temple, as envisioned by Ezekiel in these final chapters, has never been built as described. This leads many Jewish and Christian teachers to believe that it will, someday, be built. At one end of the Western Wall complex is a visitor’s center which is dedicated to planning for and the rebuilding of the temple once again. Many Christian scholars read the breadth of eschatological (study of the end times) material and believe that the temple will be rebuilt before the end in fulfillment of what has been written.
I stood at the Western Wall among a throng of Jews and Christians, looking up at the muslim complex which towers above it, and the stairway (blocked and barricaded at the time) that leads up to the temple mount. It was hard for me to fathom a shift in the political and religious stalemate which would allow for the rebuilding of a Jewish temple.
This leads me back to the mystifying subject of prophecy and the end times. I have come to understand that prophetic visions, dreams, and metaphors are layered with meaning, and it can be almost impossible to see and clearly comprehend all the layers. This morning I have more questions than answers as it relates to these things and confess that the on-going textual blueprint of Ezekiel’s temple vision seems to hold very little meaning for my Monday or the week ahead.
And so, I am thankful for the chance to visit Jerusalem and gain personal context for these things. I am trusting that all things will work together towards prescribed times and events. And, I am praying that I may not be so distracted by theological rabbit trails that I neglect more important matters of fulfilling the command to love God with all I’ve got, and to love others as I love myself.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. Job 42:3 (NIV)
Earlier in our walk through the book of Job I shared some of Wendy’s and my experience with infertility. Many of Job’s questions echoed our own questions during the darkest days of our striving to have a child together. The questions still arise from within us at times, but it happens less frequently the further we get in our journey.
The truth of the matter is that I still don’t understand. I have made peace with the fact that we will never understand on this side of eternity. Some things we will simply never know or comprehend. I can choose to let it eat away at my insides until my existence becomes enveloped in bitterness, madness, or both. That’s not a great way to live.
Wendy was the last of her close group of friends to get married. She was 33 when we wed nine years ago. She shared with me some of her struggles with singleness, and she finally found a place to rest in it. “If God is good,” she told me, “and I believe He is, if God has my best interests in mind, and I believe He does, then I have to trust that there is purpose and a plan for what I’m going through even if I don’t understand it.”
That same logic helped us through our struggles with infertility. I still find myself repeating it from time to time when the scabs on the soul wound begin to itch. As I read today’s epilogue from the story of Job, it seems to me that Job came to the same conclusion, though he used different words. Sometimes you have to choose to believe. That’s called faith. Not only is faith required to believe that God exists, but also to believe that God has a purpose and a plan for me despite my present circumstances.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby,and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Last night Wendy and I attended a special healing service at our church. The theme of the service was healing our losses. It was about facing those griefs that have us mired on life’s road, about processing them so we can spiritually move forward. There was a large crowd on hand, and a good portion of the night was spent in quiet worship. There were stations set up around the perimeter of the room for people to receive communion, prayer, holy water, or to symbolically surrender their losses. Wendy and I have both had our share of losses in life, and it was good to meditate, reflect, and have some personal conversations with God about those things.
What struck me most last night, however, was the tremendous compassion I felt for others. I was surprised how many people I knew. I was also surprised at the pieces of their stories I knew. The abused who became an abuser and whose life fell completely apart. The person who lost a spouse. The person whose marriage ended in terrible pain and whose life is out of control. The person with incurable disease that is wreaking havoc on the home front. On, and on, and on. My heart broke for friends and acquaintances. My own whining and petty complaints were silenced in relation to the pain I saw realized in the lives of others.
Job seemed an appropriate book to start this morning. I was struck by Job’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. We all fear getting “the call” telling us tragedy has struck, but Job gets four of them in rapid fire succession. Assets gone, employees gone, business gone, children gone. We all have our share of pain in this journey, but I imagine that precious few of us know the sheer terror of losing everything we own, and nearly everyone we hold dear in a matter of minutes.
Psalm 112 is a psalm that I’ve internalized as a foundational text for my life journey. It describes the kind of person I desire to be, and I found myself reciting it over and over in my heart last night at the service. It came to me again this morning as I read of Job’s unforeseen calamity:
“He has no fear of bad news, His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear. In the end he will look in triumph at his foes.”
I am going to have my share of tragedy in this journey. It’s inevitable. Worrying about it, fearing its arrival, and being anxious about what dark tidings the future may bring do nothing to make this day worthwhile. In fact, I’ve come to realize that the unholy trinity of worry, fear, and anxiety serve only to suck the life out of me and keep me from living this day fully and abundantly.
Today, I’m thinking and praying about those who are suffering tragedies and losses in life that I can scarcely imagine. At the same time, I’m trusting God with today, tomorrow, and each day of my journey so that I can be free to live this day fully. I will have my own share of grief and loss along the way, but I will also have God’s grace and provision in the moment(s) that I need them.