1 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us...God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

PSALMS - Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

Who ever came up with that one??

It's the silliest thing I've ever heard.

Any of us know that words have the power to injure us deeply to hurt us where the wounds don't show.

And taunting is a powerful weapon.

I've had times in my life when other people hurt me by giving me unflattering nicknames, by making fun of me, by teasing and poking at my shortcomings.

I'm sure you have, too.

It isn't fun.

It hurts – a lot.

Today I am reminded of something else, though. We are told in God's Word that we do not battle against flesh and blood. That we have a very real, and very fierce, enemy.

Satan – the Accuser.

And he loves taunting the faithful. Nothing delights him more than persecuting God's own children.

He is cruel and conniving and clever and cold-hearted. His words have the power to destroy. He fashions weapons uniquely tailor-making them for each individual. Honed to evil perfection, he aims those weapons at our weakest spots. And oh, how it hurts when they find their target.

Sometimes I think I can hear him cackle…

It gets discouraging sometimes, doesn't it? Constantly being attacked by someone who hates you so much. His words feel like spiritual sticks and stones – and they break us.

You know what I think his worst words are?

"Where is your God?"

Sometimes the enemy has other people deliver those words, and sometimes he whispers them himself into our very souls.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" is found in Psalms, and I think it is a rousing answer to that particular taunt:

"So many are saying, 'God will never rescue him!'
But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy mountain.
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.
Arise, O LORD!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O LORD.
May you bless your people." (Psalms 3:2-8)

Can I get a holy WOO HOO from my blogging audience?!

I want to break this passage down a bit.

First of all, sometimes the best answer to any taunt from the enemy is these words – But God…

In spite of all the accusations, all the attacks, all the posturing and taunting – there are the simple words – BUT GOD.

Tell me what you may, enemy of mine, BUT GOD has saved me. You may try to enslave me, BUT GOD has broken the power of sin and death in my life. You may try to make me feel guilty, BUT GOD has forgiven and redeemed me. You may try to tell me that I am worthless, BUT GOD loves me.

Second, God is a shield.

From the book of Ephesians, we are told that the shield of God is a powerful defensive weapon: "…hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil." (Ephesians 6:16)

The shield of GodFaith, the unswerving belief in God's Truth is impenetrable. It surrounds us with protection. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but faith will save our souls.

Third, God is our glory.

We are weak, He is strong. Paul tells us to boast only in what Jesus Christ has done for us. But oh, we can boast on THAT proudly, confidently, hopefully! It is our Savior's gift of salvation, and His promise of life everlasting, that enables us to hold our heads high. We can be proud because we reflect HIS glory.

Fourth, the Lord hears us.

He listens to our cries. He doesn't miss a thing. He hears the loud wails, the silent tears, the grief that's too deep to express. We are given this tremendous promise:

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle." (Psalms 56:8)

And I believe that one day all those tears will be poured out in Heaven – mixed with the blood of Christ – a final offering that will be swallowed up in the joy of everlasting lifenever to be wept again.

Next, God gives us peace.

He never slumbers, He never sleeps. He is watching over us all the time. He hovers over us like parents over the crib of a newborn baby. Ever watchful, ever vigilant, ever our jealous and protective Father.

We are not out of His sight…ever!

Not even when we are surrounded by enemies not even when we are accused or attacked, not even when we're the victims of persecution. Not even when it's the devil himself posturing and taunting. Rest assured, God sees.

So finally, because of all this, we can do some *trash talking* back to that old enemy of ours – (a sports term for "the art of telling another person off"):

The LORD will arise, my enemy.
My God will rescue me.
He will slap you in the face!
He will shatter your wicked teeth!
Victory comes from Him.
And He WILL bless His people.

Take that, you tired old devil.

God has spoken.


How can you claim these verses in your fight against the Accuser?

(I'm linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. And please feel free to visit me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

ISAIAH - Empty Words

How the mighty have fallen.

That phrase came to my mind when I read the Scripture for today's "Bible Pick 'Ems." It is an excerpt from the account of a confrontation between King Hezekiah of Judah and Sennacherib, the fearful leader of the Assyrian people, as told by the prophet Isaiah.

I thought it might be interesting today to do a sort of *play-by-play* of this confrontation.

Let's start with a little history lesson:

"Sennacherib (pronounced Sin-ahhe-criba) was an Assyrian ruler in Mesopotamia who reigned from 704-681 BC. He is known in history for the destruction of Babylon in 689 BC and for his siege on Jerusalem that was under the Hebrew King, Hezekiah in 701 BC (see II Kings 18:13). He spent a good portion of his leadership protecting what his predecessors and namely his father, Sargon, II had established.
 Sennacherib became the first Assyrian ruler to rebuild Nineveh and make it his capital city…We get a lot of information on his conquests from the discovery of what is known as Sennacherib's Prism, a six-sided clay cylinder-like document which contains the story of his conquests. A Colonel R. Taylor during a mid-19th-century archeological study discovered it in the ruins of Nineveh. The prism is now on display at the British Museum." (from www.sennacherib.net)

Here's an interesting excerpt from that prism – Sennacherib's account of his initial invasion into Judah:

"Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number… Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms…"

Interesting, isn't it, how his arrogant tone still carries all these centuries later?

The Biblical account of Sennacherib's siege details Sennacherib's attack on Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrians, so they had captured all of the towns in Judah. Hezekiah, realizing his error, sent great tribute to Sennacherib. But the Assyrians were not deterred – they marched toward Jerusalem anyway.Sennacherib sent his supreme commander with an army to besiege Jerusalem. The supreme commander met with Hezekiah's officials and threatened them to surrender,while hailing insults so the people of the city could hear, blaspheming Judah and particularly Jehovah.

"This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don't let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria…They have completely destroyed anyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different?" (Isaiah 37:10-11)

Dripping with sarcasm and pride, isn't it?

When King Hezekiah heard of this, he tore his clothes (as was the custom of the day for displaying deep anguish) and prayed to Jehovah in the Temple.

"After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord's Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed…'Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib's words of defiance against the living God…Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power…'" (Isaiah 37:14-15, 17, 20)

I love that the very first thing King Hezekiah did was to turn toward the Lord. He laid out his problem before the Lord all the frightening and daunting details – and then he prayed. He prayed his heart – he prayed his heart out.

Isaiah the prophet told the king that Jehovah would take care of the whole matter and that he would return to his own lands.

"Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the LORD has spoken this word against him…'Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look with such haughty eyes? It was the Holy One of Israel!'" (Isaiah 37:21-23)

YAY! God is coming to the rescue.

That night, the angel of Jehovah killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. (Jewish tradition maintains that the angel Gabriel was the angel sent to destroy the Assyrian troops, and that the destruction occurred on Passover night). Sennacherib soon returned to Nineveh in disgrace.

The Bible says it this way: "Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home…and stayed there." (Isaiah 37:37)

If you really try to put yourself into this story – if you really try to picture all the characters and actionit's incredibly exciting! It's scary as the enemy troops threaten. It's humbling as the enemy king pompously struts about, bragging about all his power. It's inspiringas King Hezekiah turns to the only source of his sure hope, God. It's thrilling as God rides in on a "white horse" of rescue, and saves His people!

On a personal level, our story is no less different.

We face a powerful enemy, who takes great delight in threatening us, taunting us. He postures his mighty armies against us. He details his great victories, and brags about previous conquests. He is pompous, and proud, and mocking…

"Don't let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that I will not defeat you. I have completely destroyed anyone who stood in my way! Why should you be any different?"

Where can we turn? To God – where else? ("Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life." John 6:68)

We must "lay it all out" before Him. Every detail of our hopes and fears, our confusion and weakness, our total inability to fight any battle in our own strength.

We must let God be the One to answer our enemy. And He will. For it is God that the devil is defying. When he attacks God's children, he is really coming up against God Himself.

"Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice?"

Those words just give me holy goosebumps!

Yes, the Lord will send the enemy skulking away, with his "tail between his legs." You see, though there will be many battles against the devil – he has lost the war. The cross took care of all of that.

And one day, because of that cross – and because of a certain empty tomb – we are promised this tremendous Truth about our nefarious adversary:

"He went home…and stayed there."

There is an eternal punishment awaiting him. We can be sure of that.

And in the meantime, all of his words are empty. They are just the blustering rant of an arrogant, but defeated, enemy. Just posturing, prideful "Sennacherib words"…

For the LORD has spoken:

"'…I know you well – where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against me. And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth…The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!'" (Isaiah 37:28-29, 32)

God to the rescue! YAY!

Are you turning a deaf ear to the "Sennacherib words" of our enemy, and claiming the victory won by the LORD of Heaven's Armies?

(I'm linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. And please feel free to visit me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

ECCLESIASTES - Chasing the Wind


We live in a world that is hungry – for wealth, for fame, for power, for pleasure.

People are searching…

And yet, the more they try to get, the more they realize how little they really have.

Almost 3,000 years ago, Solomon spoke about this human dilemma. And yet, because we are all so very human – the insights and applications of his message are relevant and timely today.

I used to think the book of Ecclesiastes was a pretty depressing read – (except for inspiring a catchy little tune from The Byrds in 1965 – "Turn, Turn, Turn.")

Empty, futile, hollow, nothing the words have a ring of disappointment and disillusionment.

Life is empty, meaningless.

Hey Solomon, way to be Debbie Downer…

But, in the midst of what some might call "gloom and doom," I believe Solomon found truth.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" is key:

"So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can…enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him." (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

Yes, Solomon was a wise man indeed.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, he takes us on a thoughtful journey through his life – reflecting on an analysis of life's experiences and taking a critical look at the true meaning of life.

I think it's crucial to remember that these are the words of someone who *had it all.* Wealth, fame, power, and pleasure. (Would Solomon be the Bill Gates of our day?)

And in the end, he considered it all meaningless – like chasing the wind.

So, in our verses today, is Solomon giving us the advice to "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die"? Is he recommending that we make life one big, irresponsible party? Hardly.

Solomon's very honest approach has a purpose. All of his remarks are leading us to the one conclusion that he has found to be trueseek fulfillment and happiness in God alone.

He didn't want to destroy our hope, but he desired to direct our hopes to the only One who can truly fulfill them and give our lives meaning. Solomon affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure – but only in their proper place.

Everything temporal MUST be seen in light of the eternal.

That's the message of today's verses. Without God, satisfaction is a lost search. No pleasure or happiness is possible without Him. The cure for emptiness is to center on God. His love can fill the emptiness of human experience.

So, I'm reflecting on Solomon's message.

There are many things in this life that I enjoy – I'm sure you do, too. Is that wrong? Absolutely not. It's how we view these things – where we think they come from – that dictates a right spirit about their enjoyment.

Everything comes from the hand of God – a God who chooses to give us abundant blessings!

What does the Bible have to say about wealth, fame, power, and pleasure? Quite a lot – but I choose these examples:

Wealth – "'Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.'" (Luke 12:21)

Fame – "Therefore, as the Scriptures say, 'If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.'" (1 Corinthians 1:13)

Power – "Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…" (Philippians 2:9-11)

Pleasure – "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires." (Psalms 37:4)

So, Solomon, what would your message be to us today?

I think maybe this:

Take pleasure in what you’re doing now and enjoy life because it comes from God's hand.

True enjoyment in life comes only as you follow God's guidelines for living.

Take each day as a gift from God, and thank Him for it and serve Him in it.

True satisfaction comes from knowing that what you are doing is part of God's purpose for your life.

When you realize that God will evaluate all you do, you should learn to live wisely.

Above all else, strive to know and love God. He alone is the source of Wisdom.

Without God, all is meaningless – like chasing the wind.

Yup, changing my mind a little about the book of Ecclesiastes. It's a brutally honest book – an unapologetic look at the meaninglessness of life.

But, it's also a book of hope.

Listen to Solomon's final words:

"That's the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone's duty." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Fear God.

God – the One who sent His Son, Jesus.

Jesus – the One who promised that He alone is "the way, the truth, and the life."

The One who gives us…

…fullness instead of futility.

…love instead of rejection.

…hope instead of despair.

…salvation instead of condemnation.

…eternity instead of emptiness.

The One who gives us…


"'If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?'"
(Matthew 16:25-26)

Are you seeking the things of this world, and hanging onto the things of this life? Is it worth it?

Will you let go?

Seek Him first.

(I'm linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. And please feel free to visit me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

JOEL - The Locusts Are Coming

I love dominoes.

I especially like the ones with the different colored dots.

There are many fun games to play with dominoes. I enjoyed that. But my favorite thing to do was to line them all up, real close together, and then topple them all down just by pushing the first one over.

Such a harmless tap of my finger – but oh, what it sets into motion!

Sin is like that.

Sometimes we can start with the smallest "innocent" decision or action, and without even knowing it, we set a series of consequences into motion.

Because sometimes that first "little" sin is merely the first domino – the one that makes all the other ones fall.

When I read today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" I was reminded of that:

"Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before?...After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left! After them came the hopping locusts, and the stripping locusts, too!" (Joel 1:2, 4)

I investigated some commentaries to help understand the different types of locusts. Here's a quick overview of my research:

--Some scholars have suggested that the words indicate four stages in the
development of locusts
--Others believe that the locusts symbolize four different invading armies
--Many believe that the creatures here spoken of are different
kinds of locusts, so named from their number or voracity
--The law mentions several sorts of locusts – in fact, more than 80 different
kinds have been observed
--Slight as they are in themselves, beautiful and gorgeous, they are a scourge
that grows in successive devastation
--Each judgment, though in itself desolating, is later followed quickly by
another, and thus they complete their destructiveness
--Morally, also, four chief passions can desolate successively the human heart:
--lust – which so pollutes the heart it possesses
--vainglory (pride) – which exalts itself with empty presumptions
--gluttony and covetousness and materialism – appetites of impious desires that
are indulged in too immoderately, leading ever
more fiercely to any object of
--anger and impatience – whose flames wither the fruit of virtue

When some vices succeed to others, one plague enters to devour the *field* of the mind, while another is leaving it.

As much as I would love to tell you that I have no experience of this type of "plague" I have to be honest. There was a time when my life was invaded by sin.

I made one small decision at least it seemed small at the time – but it became the first domino to fall in my life.

Unbeknownst to me, the first wave of locusts had arrived.

It doesn't take much
one crucial lapse of judgment, one singular step over the line into sin, one selfish ignoring of faith and values, can lead to a "swarm effect."

An *innocent* beginning can quickly turn into devastation.

And you can end up feeling like the Israelites:

"Despair…wail…weep…The fields are ruined, the land is stripped bare. The grain is destroyed, the grapes have shriveled, and the olive oil is gone….And the people's joy has dried up within them." (Joel 1:10-12, parts)

Yes, I finally looked around at the mess of my life and realized – I was a wilderness. I was far from home, far from the Lord who loved me. And I wanted to return.

My repentance was quick. His forgiveness was instantaneous and complete. And though my healing took a little longer, I fully understood like never before, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love.

He is eager to relent and not punish.

I will never forget the day when I knew that I was headed down a new path. I had a *random* meeting with a woman (no coincidence – this was a divine appointment). We talked, I told her about my story. She said some of the most powerful words I have ever heard – and oddly enough, they were from the book of Joel:

"The LORD says, 'I will restore to you the years
 that the swarming locust has eaten,
 the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter…Once again…you will praise the LORD your God, who does these miracles for you.'"
(Joel 2:25-26, ESV and NLT)

I hugged her with tears in my eyes.

Oh dear ones, God proved to be faithful.

He did indeed restore and revive me, renew and re-establish me. He paid back – many times over – the time that I lost.

My lesson for today?

It's two things.

First, be very careful when dealing with dominoes. One small sin can be the first catalyst to an onslaught of ensuing consequences – and one day you will find yourself devastated.

But, there is hope.

For the second lesson is this – we have a great and gracious God. And He is perfectly able, and completely willing, to forgive the repentant sinner. He can heal broken hearts, He can restore shattered relationships. He can mend and mold a faithful life out of the locust-eaten fields of iniquity.

Anyone who calls on God's name can be saved.

"I will pardon my people's crimes…and I, the LORD, will make my home…with my people." (Joel 3:21)

Do you, or does someone you know, need to hear this message of hope?

Won't you pass it on?

(I'm linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. And please feel free to visit me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"