God is Known

The broad secularization of society that has occurred over the last few generations has led to increased immorality, decreased devotion, and compromised conviction—even among those still purporting to love and adore God. In the wake of societal changes, missional churches have morphed their mission to the point they have become an unofficial arm of government bureaucracy. The emerging church movement accepted the premises of postmodernism and made cultural compromise their central doctrine. The official positions of various religious organizations on major moral issues facing society have, for the most part, displayed more interest in being accepted by society than standing up for their Savior. And what should we expect? Once you treat compromise as a guiding principle, the gutter becomes the finish line. However, while we tend to view these changes through the lens of recent history, the world—and false religion with it—actually has settled back to its norm. God’s people have always been a major minority, and they will continue to be such until the end of time. But in the meantime, Christians have a responsibility not to allow the negativity of religious antipathy to alter our faith. Instead, we should become beacons to the world, proclaiming through our faithfulness that God is real, God is great, and God is known, for this was the message of Psalm 76.

This psalm is, in essence, a song of victory. While the timeframe is unclear, the nature of the victory is certainly reminiscent of the LORD’s striking of the Assyrian army (Isa. 37:36) during the reign of Hezekiah, sending the powerful army back home in disgrace. Judah and Jerusalem, as well as perhaps even the temple, identify the place, if these are meant literally (Psa. 76:1-2). The description of a defeated army retreating from the presence of God (Isa. 76:3-4) after God kept them from being able to wage war against His people (Psa. 76:5-6) provides astounding imagery, reminding us that no power or enemy is too great for God to defeat. And that remains true today. The nature of the enemy may take a different form, and the victory may come in a different manner, but God still wields His power. Therefore, the lessons learned from this incident and recorded by the descendants of Asaph should strengthen our faith and bolster our courage. God reigns, and God judges; therefore, God should be feared by all who oppose Him (Psa. 76:7-9), and we can rest assured that God will find a way to ensure justice will be done (Psa. 76:10). Therefore, “Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them; Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared” (Psa. 76:11 ) rather than the governments of men who seek to do harm to God’s people (Psa. 76:12).

We do not suffer from the same threats as Israel did; therefore, we should not expect the same kind of response from God. However, when we are faithfully God’s people, we can have confidence that God knows our plight, feels for us, and will do something about it when the time is right. While we wait, our responsibility is to make sure that God is known to others by showing them that He is known to us.

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From Fear to Fear

Christianity is under attack. Of this there can be no doubt. While some Christians remain oblivious to this or somehow believe they are immune to its effects, the growing reality in the world and in this country warns of dark days ahead for all those who seek to be true to the cause of Christ. The very real threat of direct attacks that lie an ocean away, seen in the kidnappings perpetrated by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, the bombings directed against those professing a faith in Christ in Egypt, and the persecution perpetrated by ISIS in Syria may seem limited and unrelated by some, but they reveal a pattern that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the subtle path Satan took for decades, stripping morality and Christian values from the cultural conscience and thereby slowing but surely pushing Christianity into the background through both court decisions and legislation, has now evolved into an open advocacy for immorality and secular humanism and an open hostility toward morality and Christian values and expression. But in this we are not alone. Others have gone through similar situations throughout the centuries. Even David, long ago, felt the pain of seeing wickedness seemingly triumph, and his response offers perspective and hope.

In his reflection recorded in the sixty-fourth psalm, David found himself thrust outside of his kingdom by the plotting of his own son, Absalom. However, David accepted this with dignity despite the sense of fear that loomed throughout it all. Instead of letting his fear control him, he turned to God in faith and prayed for deliverance and safety in the midst of the storm (Psa. 64:1-2). David had to listen to personal attacks, both verbal and physical, as the forces with Absalom took advantage of their newfound power to express their wickedness (Psa. 64:3-4). How sad that such brazenness so often accompanies evil when it comes to power (Psa. 64:5-6). Regardless, God’s people can have assurance that God Himself will address the evil in a manner so sudden that no one will expect it (Psa. 64:7). On His own timetable He will bring them down (Psa. 64:8), so that while they sought to have men fear them while they feared no one, in the end, men will come to fear God (Psa. 64:9).

This must be our confidence too. We may not know how or when God will bring down those who promote wickedness from an evil heart, but we can know with certainty that He will. They may take the country down with them, but they will fall from their lofty sense of self-importance, and the eternal kingdom of God will still stand (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19). Therefore, “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory” (Psa. 64:10). The cause of Christ may not now be popular, morality may not be appreciated, and persecution may be our plight, but the rejection of the world does not define us. In fact, more than ever, our faith must speak from a heart dedicated more than ever to the truth and to our God. There may be many reasons to fear in the upcoming years, but our fear of God should trump them all.

Wrongfully My Enemies

David knew a lot about having enemies. He fought in many battles and secured many victories. But the enemies that he faced the most throughout life were his enemies only because of their own ill will. Saul’s disobedience and jealousy led him to attempt to hunt down and attempt to kill David. And when David’s son, Absalom, led a coup de tat against him, so that David barely escaped with his life, David still mourned and wept upon hearing of his death. In fact, the enemy who is distant and faceless does not take anywhere close to the emotional toll on us that a friend or family member who turns against us will do. It is even difficult to come to our own defense sometimes when the attacker was once someone whom we trusted. And yet deep within we desire God’s help and protection, while hoping that our own deliverance will not carry too high a cost for those who would make themselves our enemies. The whole of Psalm 35 carries this sentiment well—a cry for help when under attack coupled with a hint of confusion and dismay that the relationship has come to this. We should side firmly with righteousness regardless, but this begins by making sure that any enemies we have are wrongfully so and that any who would hate us would do so without a righteous reason for doing so (Psa. 35:19).

As someone who grew up being the new kid in town almost every other year, I came to experience the phenomenon of seemingly being hated without a cause if only in a superficial childlike way. You may never understand why some people hate you and want to destroy you or your work. It often will make no sense at all. In some cases, such as Saul’s, jealousy enters the picture. People may see things in your life that they wish they had but do not know how to obtain themselves. For Christians, our lives should shine forth the blessings of God in a noticeable way so that people can see good things in our lives that they would want. Unfortunately, worldly people can respond in worldly ways. And that sometimes means they look at you as an enemy. Sadder yet, sometimes this can even happen in the church. Some Christians are so weak spiritually that they feel threatened by the success or abilities of others and believe it necessary to try to destroy others’ reputation in order to save their own. Their competitiveness overwhelms any spirituality to their own detriment (Phil. 1:15-18).

While under attack in any situation such as this, it might be easy to be drawn into the fray. But instead of this, we should handle it with faith in God, defending ourselves when necessary while avoiding the temptation to destroy others in the process. We should pray for the defeat of those acting unrighteously in their ungodliness, but we should also pray for their spiritual well being that events might turn them to godliness. You may find someone at school or at work or even in the church who seems to treat you like an enemy. Do your best to still treat them as someone in need. You will hurt inside when attacked. This is undeniable. But growing to love even your enemies—enemies wrongfully or not—is part of following Christ (Matt. 5:44).

Seeking Vindication

The world’s march toward darkness has quickened its pace in recent years, trampling over long recognized standards of decency and right to impose its ungodliness on the whole of our society. Satan’s wish list of years ago has become the prevailing dogma of today. In a world gone mad, we increasingly hear people call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). They may mask it in politically correct terms, but promoting homosexuality, in the name of love, abortion in the name of women’s health, and transgenderism in the name of tolerance is simply Satan’s angels doing Satan’s will. Therefore, it is unsurprising that they would attack anyone supporting the Bible’s view in no uncertain terms, using the words phobia, hate, and intolerant so much that you would think they did not own a thesaurus. Christians feel this deeply. As the world they know crumbles beneath them, they tend to cling to the hope that others will soon come around—or perhaps that they will wake up from a nightmare to discover that all is actually right with the world. Unfortunately, this is reality, and the people advocating more and more unrighteousness are not likely to admit their error even when the ultimate consequences of their foolishness becomes all too apparent. We should not expect nor seek vindication from Satan’s minions, knowing without doubt that the LORD will provide vindication of the truth according to His own timetable.

On one of the many occasions when David found himself threatened by enemies (Psa. 17:9-14), he offered a perspective that God’s people need desperately in a world filled with sin. Rather than giving up or giving in, David offered his cause to the LORD in prayer (Psa. 17:1). Rather than expecting the world to accept his righteousness, he looked to the LORD in confidence that He would see his life as it truly was (Psa. 17:2). Rather than compromising with evil to avoid the judgment of men, David stood firm and counted on the righteous judgment of God (Psa. 17:3-4). Therefore, as we await that time and continue to battle for the hearts and minds of souls in a lost and dying world, we can still find comfort in the knowledge that God is still with us, He still listens to us, and He still cares about us (Psa. 17:5-8). The world will never accept righteousness—from God or in us. Therefore, we should not spend our energy seeking the world’s acceptance or vindication at all. Instead, we should look to that day when we meet the LORD face to face and live so that we, like David, can “be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psa. 17:15).

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