Category Archives: Attitude

The Privilege of Providence

We take far too many things for granted today. We wake up in the morning and do not consider how that can even happen—and be refreshed. We enjoy running water, easy access to food of all kinds, indoor plumbing, instant communication around the world, advanced warning of and preparedness for many natural disasters, personalized music choices, electric lighting, a closet full of clothes, mobile phones, central air and heating—the list could go on and on! And while some people do not share all of these things, they likely have a list just as impressive in its own way. In fact, from the view of history, most of the things cited above are extremely new to civilization. In some places it has become common to use all these items as evidence of some inherent character flaw in society. Society has its problems, but the items listed above are not among them. Instead, they offer evidence of just how blessed we are. And that is why we cannot afford to take them for granted.

Three thousand years ago, before any of the aforementioned luxuries existed, David recognized this same principle and turned to God as the One worthy of praise (Psa. 65:1-2). And even then David saw that the greatest blessings he enjoyed were God’s willingness to forgive sin and accept worship on His terms (Psa. 65:3-4). He had confidence in God’s righteousness, salvation, and help because He took the time to notice what God had already done in His creation (Psa. 65:5). David looked at the mountains and was awed by them (Psa. 65:6). He looked at the seas on either side of the land and saw a God in control of them (Psa. 65:7), as He is over all the earth (Psa. 65:8). He recognized that man does not provide the water and the grain that provides for farmers to grow food. God does (Psa. 65:9-10), and He does so for man’s benefit and for the land’s (Psa. 65:11-12). He saw firsthand how God provides animals for food, as well as crops, and also provides what is necessary for them to grow and flourish (Psa. 65:13). And all these things remain true today.

Some children honestly believe that their food comes from a grocery store. They have no concept of a farm or dairy. Such reports often receive attention in social media, sometimes to make fun of the child, sometimes to make fun of the schools, or sometimes to expose a problem. But many people today cannot see that all of this and more actually comes from God who blesses and blesses again. He chose not to care for us miraculously throughout the ages but chose to work providentially through nature, but that does not negate the love, care, and attention that went into His provision, and it should not dampen, in any way, our thankfulness to Him. David saw these things as worthy of praise and further evidence of what God can do for us spiritually. We would do well to do the same.

Put Your Banner on Display

After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, a tremendous change came over the nation as a whole, if only for a time. In a show of commemoration and patriotism, millions began displaying the American flag daily and sometimes more prominently outside their homes, wearing flag lapel pins, and placing flags and other similar accoutrements on their vehicles. People bought patriotic apparel like never before. For that brief time, showing a love for America became fashionable again. However, for some this proved short-lived. At the first sign of trouble in the war against terrorism, criticism returned and flags began disappearing. When the next election cycle rolled around, such obvious displays became a dividing point once more rather than a gesture of unity. Today, as memories fade and a new generation appears, the motivations for that quick wave of patriotism, and the courage and comfort it provoked, have been forgotten and treated as relics of a bygone era.

During David’s reign in Israel, a people who had once shared in great victories were showing signs of doubt. Thus, when David reflected on this time in his country, he recognized that the people had lost faith and thus were suffering from not having God with them (Psa. 60:1-3). He then followed this statement of sadness with a statement of faith. He spoke to God, saying, “You have given a banner to those who fear You, That it may be displayed because of the truth” (Psa. 60:4). A banner, you might have guessed, refers to a flag, a symbol of identity, unity, and understanding. Therefore, while David saw Israel’s problems in terms of their neglect of God and His subsequent allowing of consequences to set in, he also recognized that the answer was found in displaying greater faith in God and His truth. God then indeed answered his cry and delivered Israel in tremendous fashion (Psa. 60:5-12), as the preface to the psalm bears witness.

However, the application for today is not political but spiritual. In the same sense that, over time, Americans lost their original fervor for displaying their flag, many Christians have lost their original fervor for putting their own banner on display. Rather than openly living and speaking of their faith in Christ and the truth of the gospel, many have been reduced to silently creeping about, admitting their allegiance only when necessary due to the climate created by political correctness and the promotion of immorality through the courts. Nevertheless, whatever the climate and whatever the situation, as God’s people we should put the banner of the cross on display unashamed (Rom. 1:16). We should never allow the world to reduce our faith to quiet attendance in worship and a few odd symbols of faith here and there. Instead, we must become like David and realize that a return to boldness is the path to victory and greater days ahead. This may not be easy. Indeed, persecution may follow. But the more we put the truth on display, the more souls can be saved, and the more God can be glorified. We have forgotten what it means to let our light shine and have hidden it under a bushel for too long (Matt. 5:14-16). So let us gain courage from David, and put our banner on display for all to see. There is no reason to be ashamed of the gospel and every reason to proclaim it. We are all to be flag-bearers, leading the way into battle and gladly declaring our identity and the rightness of our cause. This is what our culture needs. And, interestingly enough, it is what we need as well.

Trusting Judges

 The decisions of the courts and the selection of justices dominates the American political landscape in ways unforeseen by the founding fathers. Regardless, people on either side of the aisle sometimes wait breathlessly for the latest decision which will determine the direction of the country for the foreseeable future. While this irony—the most political influence and power coming from what was intended to be the least political branch—seems lost on the masses, there is a greater lesson that God’s people should regularly revisit. The reality of the predatory creeping of immorality through the courts is a reflection of both the malicious aims of some and the incredible apathy of others. Nevertheless, Christians should stop these displays of incredulity when the latest nonsense issues forth from on high. Instead, we should recognize the real nature of the problem, rooted in the individual wickedness of men high in power and low in morals. That they have the audacity to claim moral superiority in the midst of an immoral screed only speaks to the inspired wisdom of David when he wrote, “Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones? Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men? No, in heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth” (Psa. 58:1–2). 
While our prayers should continue, seeking an environment in society that will allow Christians to live and work in peace (1 Tim. 2:1ff), we must never fool ourselves into thinking that we live in a society in harmony with Christian principles or that this is in any way the aim of those in power. In fact, we must accept that the wicked often hold power, working behind the scenes to undermine and destroy while putting on the public face of charm (Psa. 58:3-5). We can hope and pray for their failure and downfall, but it is not always within our control (Psa. 58:6-9). Accepting this while soldiering on for Christ is the type of perseverance that Christians need today. There are indeed people at work whose ends are wicked at every turn, and we can but wait for their influence to wane. In those moments when we see a slight course correction, we may breathe easier and rejoice for a time (Psa. 58:10), but we should never lose slight of the bigger picture, of how far conditions have worsened and how far society has fallen into the pit. 

However, it is proper to rejoice when the power of evil has been rebuffed, if only briefly. Furthermore, our perspective should be greater by far, remembering that whatever judges may say upon the earth, they too have One who judges them for their decisions and lives. “So that men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely He is God who judges in the earth’” (Psa. 58:11). We should not put our trust in judges to do the right thing, but we can always put our trust in the Judge of all mankind, for He always does the right thing. Every political twist may not turn toward righteousness, but God will set it all right in the end.goo

No Fear

Fear has become a mainstay of political propaganda. According to a wide array of websites, the election of the candidate they oppose would lead to consequences so severe and catastrophic that the very fabric of society and life itself might hang in the balance. The hyperbole used by the candidates and political parties themselves has made fear-mongering an art form—a grotesque, misshapen, perverted form of art. As the chasm between world-views deepens, the clashing rhetoric of these world-views has created an all-too-real fear among the people who listen. In a way, this makes sense. Those who came of age during the threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States rarely fell into a constant state of fear; it was instead a kind of steady tension. However, the rise of terrorism as a constant threat in the new millennium has raised a very different prospect. People are uneasy in general because so much of the world they knew appears under threat. They feel threatened by the influx of immigrants from places known to harbor terrorists. They feel threatened by the upheaval of social mores foisted upon them by elitist judges ruling from afar with a disdain for both morality and history but with great confidence in the power of a black robe. They feel threatened by the economic changes created by an unbalanced playing field in the workplace and the monetary policies of nations. They feel threatened by the skyrocketing cost of healthcare along with its retreating coverage. People carry all of these fears with them constantly in addition to the regular challenges of daily life.

Fear has become natural to us. But that is all the more reason to turn to the comforting words of the psalms and to gain perspective, for in them we are reminded that “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1), and that this alone is the reason not to fear—no matter what (Psa. 46:2-3). God does not promise to remove all trouble. He does not promise to relieve all our pain. He does not promise there will be no trials. He promises something more important than these things. He promises He will be with us (Psa. 46:7). All that man does poses no threat to Him (Psa. 46:8-9), and that is why, when we have Him with us, we need not fear.

Regardless of who is in power in this country or any other, the LORD is God, and that is what really matters. When a terrorist strikes, the LORD is still in heaven. When the Supreme Court issues a ruling, God has still spoken. When tragedy strikes, God is still love. Therefore, rather than allowing the challenges and heartaches of life to let fear enter your heart, fill it with faith instead. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psa. 46:10). “The LORD of hosts is with us” (Psa. 46:11a), but we must first determine to be with Him.

The Measure of My Days

Not long ago, a friend on Facebook wrote a post that I do not believe I will ever forget. He said, “Hello to all my Facebook friends and family. After forty-two days in the hospital, I’m home!! The bad news is, however, that I’ll not be around for long. My life expectancy is not more than six months. Please remember me in your prayers. Love y’all” (Rodney Cheatham). Situations such as this are never easy, and yet it is a blessing to have an opportunity to see your whole life in its true context and be able without distraction to prepare for its end. In Psalm 39 David wrote, “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psa. 39:4-5). David was feeling the burdens of life, including all its worst fears, yet he understood that clinging to this life is never the answer. Instead, he concluded, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Psa. 39:7).

Many people say something similar to this, but David focused his words spiritually. For him, the idea of death approaching emphasized the seriousness of dealing with the problem of sin (Psa. 39:8a). He did not ask for death to be taken away because he accepted what had happened as the Lord’s will (Psa. 39:9), asking only that he would remove his reproach (Psa. 39:8b). The wording of verses ten and eleven hint at the plague that followed David’s unauthorized census of Israel (2 Sam. 24:1-25), thus he is feeling the full weight of his sin and realizing that, while the king of Israel, his part in life is limited and brief. This is life in perspective. Death is certain, and wealth is fleeting, but a relationship with God can be eternal. It is so easy to attach ourselves to this world and what it offers. We can quickly forget how quickly life passes and how meaningless many of our accomplishments truly are. No matter what we do and no matter how long we live, we are frail beings whose existence is but for a moment upon this earth. This we cannot change, but we can change how we approach it as we live.

Three days after he left the hospital, our brother Rodney passed from this life. Three days. I never met Rodney in person, but others’ testimony of his faithfulness is meaningful. I am sure that it was a comfort to leave the hospital and return to the surroundings he knew with the people he loved. But how much greater comfort is there for Christians when, whether three days or more, we can then truly go home (2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 1:21; 3:20). Let us therefore live as those who do not know how long we have upon this earth but yet are certain where we are going and live to go home. As James then echoes, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

Broken

At various times when different athletes have ended up in trouble and the question arises about whether their careers can recover from the incident—almost regardless of the offense—sports journalists emphasize: Americans are a forgiving people. Considering the level of immorality associated with the world of sports and the declining interest in Christianity in society, this itself seems like an interesting take. However, it does provide insight into the way most people view forgiveness. Following these incidents, it is amazing how people will judge the offender’s apology as the foundation for starting anew. Perhaps this is due to journalists overvaluing words and undervaluing action, but most of society thinks in a similar fashion. People have grown to equate an apology with repentance, thus concluding that a proper incantation can ward off any consequences. Apology has thus become a social ritual of renewal, and many people have accepted it as sufficient. However, David’s message in Psalm 38 demonstrate that the words of contrition, while necessary, must be founded on a heart that is truly broken by the pain of having sinned.

The first step towards forgiveness depends on allowing divine rebuke to pierce the soul (Psa. 38:1-3). It is therefore not enough to feel bad about the consequences, to be embarrassed about getting caught, or to offer an apology designed to get you off the hook. Instead of being concerned about public perception, we must first feel the impact of sin’s situation. Until we take responsibility for our own sin—without trying to justify it or play the blame game—we have not sufficiently acknowledged and mourned the depths of our behavior (Psa. 38:4-6). The guilt caused by our sin should affect us deeply—so much that it builds within us a willingness to do whatever is necessary to make things right (Psa. 38:7-8). To make matters right requires far more help from an ad agency or public relations firm. Making things right depends on giving your all to have fellowship with God once more (Psa. 38:9-10). This is the consequence that matters. While other relationships may suffer and other consequences may emerge, until all is right with God, nothing else matters (Psa. 38:11-14). “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God” (Psa. 38:15). Coming to God first, we gain perspective about life and our own sin. We accept responsibility and are prepared to acknowledge the spiritual error of our behavior (Psa. 38:16-18). There will always be those who use our mistakes and sins against us, but they do so because they do not understand or appreciate the spiritual context of life in the first place (Psa. 38:19-20).

In the end, no matter what we have done—professional athlete or just ordinary Joe—we must remember that the social consequences of misbehavior pale in comparison to the spiritual consequences. Therefore, before we concern ourselves with trying to repair our image, we must come to God, acknowledging that we are guilty and broken, so that He can forgive and build us up once more. Unfortunately, many people have attached the world’s quick and easy view of forgiveness to God. They want a quick prayer to absolve their sin and solve all their sorrows. Instead of realizing they are broken, they come looking for a band-aid. But the heart of forgiveness begins with realizing we have lost touch with God and need to return to Him. For He is the only one who can help. “Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psa. 38:21-22).

Do Not Fret

Worry challenges almost everyone, regardless of wealth, intelligence, situation, or even circumstance. We all experience negative feelings from time to time—some introduced to us from others but many of our own making. We worry about whether we are raising our children in the best way possible. We worry what someone else might do to hurt us at work or sometimes even at home. We worry about the past; we worry about the future. We worry whether we will have enough money just to get by; we worry about what to do with the money we have. Sometimes we even worry that we worry.

At its core, worry is simply wasting time and energy thinking about things that have not happened and/or that are completely out of our control. We get caught up in the possible negative outcomes we might face and, as a result, lose sight of all the positive experiences we have to enjoy. King David had plenty of reasons to worry. He had the responsibility of all of Israel on his shoulders. He knew the challenges of hunger and the trials of sitting at the king’s table. He had experienced the danger of battle and the intrigue of politics. He had plenty of reasons to worry. Yet, in Psalm 37, he offers this guidance: “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Psa. 37:1).

“Do not fret.” This is easy to say but hard to do. But David did not simply issue a command not to worry; he gave other guidance to pave the way. “Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass” (Psa. 37:3-5). When you place your faith in the Lord completely, it means handing over all those issues you might otherwise worry about to Him and His care. Rather than worrying about things you cannot control, we should busy ourselves with doing good, which is always in our control. Rather than worrying about what we do not have, we should delight in what we have in a relationship with the Lord, realizing He will care for all our needs. We can either waste our time on matters beyond our ability to affect or we can place ourselves in the hands of the LORD with confidence in what He can do. Once we do this, we will not worry about someone who seems to profit in this world through wickedness (Psa. 37:7) or allow that worry to lead to anger (Psa. 37:8), because we accept not only the Lord’s guidance in what steps to take in life but also in how to go about that life. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psa. 37:23-24). Once we accept this way of life, we can lay worry aside and concentrate instead on the things that truly matter, saying, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread” (Psa. 37:25). Truly this is the foundation of Jesus’ own words when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).