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God’s Faithfulness

The Bizarre Story of the Prophet Jonah

“But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.  Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load.  But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.” Jonah 1: 4, 5

I am sure that many have questioned the authenticity of the biblical account of Jonah, especially his survival in a belly of a great fish for 3 days.  One validation of this account comes from the fact that it was mentioned by Jesus:

“For even as Jonah was there days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12: 40

Also, Jonah was referenced in the Old Testament book of II Kings, in chapter 14, verse 25, noting that he was the prophet who had prophesied that King Jeroboam would restore Israel’s border.

I find it interesting, though, that of all the prophetic books in the Bible, the book of Jonah is the only one that is entirely about an incident in the life of the prophet Jonah, with no account of the actual prophetic words that he had spoken; all of the other books record the words of the prophecies by these men, along with some events in their life.  In addition, I find that this event in the book of Jonah is quite bizarre, leaving a seemingly negative impression of Jonah.  I have to think that there was a reason that this account has been preserved for us in the Scriptures and that there must be some lesson for us to learn from it.

Here’s a list of the seemingly bizarre things that Jonah did:

  • He ran away from the presence of the Lord after he was asked to prophecy to Nineveh about God’s judgment that was coming upon them.
  • He fell into a deep sleep in the lower part of a boat that was being broken up by a severe storm
  • He told the crew that he was running from the Lord and confirmed that he was the cause of the deadly storm (after the lot fell on him).
  • He suggested that the crew throw him overboard to calm the storm.
  • He became exceedingly displeased and angry when the Lord didn’t destroy Nineveh according to his prophecy.
  • After the Lord had showed mercy on Nineveh, he requested that the Lord end his life.

There are a few things that we need to understand before assessing Jonah’s behavior.  First, we must remember that it was not an easy thing to be a prophet of the Lord back in these times.  Many of the prophets were killed or forced into being a fugitive.  Also, we don’t know what had led up to this situation.  Possibly, there were other times that God used Jonah to prophecy about judgment and then was merciful when the people responded to the message in repentance.  Jonah may have had past experiences that caused him to think, “Why should I go when God is just going to be merciful to them and it will be a waste of my time.”

Remember too that walking in faith is a bizarre thing in itself, especially to our worldly minds and to people who have no faith.

I think that we need to look in the mirror to get to the message for us here.  Aren’t there times when we know that God wants us to do something, we know the right and proper thing to do according to God’s ways, but our flesh doesn’t want to do it, or we resist for whatever reason?  Yes, I think we all have done this.  It may not be as clear as this example with Jonah, but there have been times when there were things we knew we should have been doing but we didn’t do them.  Our conscience and the Holy Spirit were nudging us but we resisted.

And sometimes God sends some type of storm our way when we put up this resistance.  It may not be a physical weather event, but rather it is something that comes into our life that has a disruptive impact on our circumstances.  What’s our reaction?  We want to ignore it.  We want to sleep through it thinking maybe it will go away.  But God won’t allow it to pass us by without making it clear that it is Him behind the storm, and that it is directed at us for a reason (remind you of Jonah?).

Unfortunately for us, much like Jonah’s circumstances, once we get ourselves in this kind of a situation there isn’t an easy way out.  For Jonah, he had to be tossed overboard into the ocean.  Fortunately, God had a large fish waiting to swallow him, to save him from death in the sea.  Here lies the good news in this lesson: God is merciful and once we give up our resistance He is there to get us back to where we need to be, even though the transition may be quite challenging for us.  I’m sure that spending 3 days and nights in the belly of a whale was no easy time for Jonah!

In full disclosure I can tell you that in my past there was a time that I was resisting God and had given in to my flesh in some areas of my life.  Sure enough, God sent the storm.  All at once I had a health issue, my wife decided to leave me (after being married for almost 30 years), I lost my high paying job which eventually led to losing my house. Bang! I look back now and think how foolish it was to go there in the first place, and I deeply regret having done so, but somehow it happened, and at the very least I can now understand and have compassion on others who go there.

I saw immediately that this was the hand of God in my life so I removed all resistance to His will in my life and submitted totally to Him.  I humbled myself and asked forgiveness.  Sure enough, God had prepared a way of escape for me and directed my path ever since.  He has mostly restored the things that were removed and is still working.  I am in a much better place now since I am aligned with His will and purpose for my life.  Looking back I am utterly amazed at what He has done. (Praise God!)

A major lesson here is to understand that if you find yourself in a place where God’s storm comes upon you due to past resistance to His leading, know that He has a way of escape set up for you, and although it may not be free of difficulties and challenges, you will end up in a much better place.

I want to emphasize here that Jonah’s bizarre actions were in large part a direct result of his faith and his walking in the Spirit.  Another lesson for us is to understand that our actions of faith will many times seem bizarre to others, even other Christians, but especially to the world.  In Jonah’s case his faith was apparent to the other mariners, and they were able to recognize the power of God and it had an impact on their lives:

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.” Jonah 1: 16

Jonah did have one issue that was erroneous, that is, the fact that he was displeased and angry about the Lord’s dealings with Nineveh.  The Lord rebuked him for his anger and even used an example to illustrate the situation (the tree that he allowed to shade Jonah and then caused to wither).  We don’t know Jonah’s heart and therefore don’t know the underlying cause for his displeasure and anger, but we can certainly be more aware of our attitude towards the things that God is doing.  We can’t always understand and don’t always see the entire picture from God’s view.  It seemed that Jonah was looking at his circumstances from his own perspective. He seemed to not understand that the city of Nineveh had value to God and that the change in the hearts of the people was important to God.  Jonah seemed to be more concerned with how people would look at him, now that he gave a prophecy that would not come about due to God’s decision to relinquish His original intention of bringing judgment on Nineveh.

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and He became angry.  So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!’  Then the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’” Jonah 3:10 to 4:4

“But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”  Jonah 4: 10-11

It is good advice for us to give more consideration to God’s perspective in our circumstances, not just our own view, putting aside our emotions and possible embarrassments, and looking instead at God’s will and purpose for the general good of all involved.

In summary, we can learn from the story of Jonah that men of faith often act in bizarre ways.  We all are human and will miss God’s direction at times and could even find ourselves resisting what He is prompting us to do.  In these cases, we can rest assured that no matter what difficulties we find ourselves in as the Lord attempts to steer us towards being aligned with His purposes, that God will take us through, in His mercy, and preserve us from the difficult events that may come upon us.  We need to submit to Him and His calling, the sooner the better, and we must also take time to consider His larger purpose in what He has us doing, not just our own feelings and concerns.

I hope this has encouraged you in your situation.  I know that sometimes life can be confusing and difficult but God has a purpose and He knows what is best for us.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8: 28

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

 

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God Gives Us What We Need.

“Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil – for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127 [The Amplified Bible]

Before I begin to discuss this topic, let me remind you that one of the most important reasons for reading the Scriptures is to learn how we should think, to learn what attitude we should have about our life and circumstances, and to gain the proper perspective on life’s trials and challenges as they come upon us.  Battles are won or lost based on what happens in people’s minds. Faith is a function of our inner man and therefore is very much a matter of how we think.  The Bible contains many examples of what was in the minds of various men and women of faith, so that we can follow their pattern of thought as we walk in faith.  The Bible’s teachings and instructions show us not only how to act, but also how to think and the attitude we should project. In contrast, the people who are entrenched in the world system, functioning without faith, have a completely different way of thinking than the Christian believer.

We must understand that there is no neutral position; our way of thinking is either influenced by the world system around us through television, movies, various media, educators, etc., or it is influenced by the Word of God as revealed in His Scriptures as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

One of the dangerous mistakes that Christians make is to carry over their old way of thinking from the world into their new Christian walk. Be aware and be on guard to avoid this mistake.  For some Christians, the old way of thinking creeps back into their lives as they allow these external worldly influences to affect their thoughts, and their time spent prayerfully reading and meditating on the Word of God and the things of God is decreased.

Note that the Scripture quoted above from Psalm 127 is very much contrary to the mindset of the world today, and is therefore considered to be foolishness in the light of the world’s advice and wisdom.  Although the Psalm is specifically about a person building a house and a watchman who is watching a city, the general concept is about a person working hard to attain something that they want by “rising early and working late with anxious labor.”   Let’s look closer at the world’s attitude and mindset in this area.

The wisdom of the world regarding our attitude towards getting the things that we want is that people must focus on their dreams and pursue them, that they must establish their goals and work hard to make them become a reality, not allowing failure or setbacks to lessen their determination.

As a result of this attitude, people end up getting the things that they want, for the most part.  It may take a long time but eventually they get it.  Unfortunately, in many cases the results are disappointing when they find out that the “grass isn’t greener” or that the thing they wanted isn’t what they expected. You have most likely heard the expression, “Watch out what you wish for because you just might get it.”  People who say this have learned that getting what they wish for is very much different than what they expected and can even become more of a hardship and curse rather than a blessing as expected.

As I have stated earlier, people in the world, who are apart from God, are taught that they need to come up with a plan for their lives, and then they need to work hard to make that plan a reality.  People are told that they should never just sit idle and wait for things to come to them – this would be a major error.  When people have it in their minds that they want something, then they will work and work until they get it.

Many times the result of getting what they want is that they are very soon not satisfied and so they move on to the next thing that they want or that they think they need.  Much of their stress and anxiety is the result of their striving to get these things.

The Psalmist in Psalm 127 said it this way, “they labor in vain” meaning that all of the hard work is futile and a waste.  Why?  It’s because our information is limited.  We don’t know the future, and we don’t even know our own hearts and what we really need – but God does.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that the Scriptures are promoting laziness.  On the contrary, it is clear from the Word of God that we all must work and do our part.

“Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13

The Lord will show us the work that we need to do and it will not be a burden on us, and will not cause anxiety and stress.

The issue here is about the focus of our work, and about the direction of our life, or maybe more specifically, who is directing our life.  Our labor is in vain when it is focused on what we want and not on what God is directing us towards.  Instead of patiently waiting for the Lord to direct us towards what He wants for us, we stress and push towards what we think we want (or even think that God wants for us but in reality it our own desires).

When we first came to the Lord we most likely had the proper attitude about this.  We had made God our God and recognized that we had made a mess out of our lives and it was easy for us to turn it over to Him.  We liked to say things like, “God is in the driver seat and I’m just a passenger.”  Over time, as life went on and challenges arose, we soon took on our own wants and desires and slipped back into the driver seat.  My exhortation now is that we need to make sure that God is directing our life completely.

Here is the truth that we need to allow to sink deep into our minds and hearts:  God is working out the plan for our life.  All we need to do is allow Him to do so without getting in the way.  We must patiently wait for Him to give us clear direction.  We must restrain from running out ahead.  God is working out all of the angles and is preparing all of the details for what we need.  He is putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together. He is working things out for us even as we sleep!  All we have to do is wait for Him to open the door for us, and then we just walk through.

You would think that it would easy to do nothing and to wait for God to move, but it turns out that this is the most challenging thing for us especially when we are pressured from the people of the world around us and from our old self and old way of thinking.  We need to “Let go and let God!” (This is another saying that we most likely used as young Christians.)

Here’s the irony:

The unbelievers in the world work hard at getting what they want, with stress and anxiety destroying their health, and when they finally get it they are disappointed, upset, and confused. Many times they have to lie to themselves and convince themselves that they are happy with what they have worked so hard for, but deep down they know that it’s a disappointment.

The child of God rests peacefully in the guidance of their heavenly Father, waiting for Him to establish their path and direct their life, working only for what their immediate needs are and entrusting the future to Him, and as time goes on they find that they get what they really need (as only God knows best) and they are satisfied and content.

Our focus should be on the promise of heaven and eternal life, storing up riches for heaven, and looking towards the things that make us rich towards God and not rich in this life.  It is the desire for riches in this life that ensnares us to shift our focus to this world and to pursue our worldly desires to our own hurt.

“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-10

Let us be content with our circumstances.  Let us allow God to direct our life as we patiently wait for Him to open doors for our future, trusting that He knows what is best for us.  Let us be focused on the next eternal life, and not on this temporary life here on earth. Resist the stress and anxiety that the world is trying to push onto us, suggesting that we launch out on our own to pursue our own wants and desires.  God is good and as we look to Him we will see that our labors will not be in vain, but He will give to us what we really need for both this life and for the next.

“But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

Remember also that God will supply our needs for this life also, food and clothing, so we don’t need to be anxious for these things, but should seek first the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Luke 12: 29-31

Amen.

Don’t Worry about the Wicked

“The Lord is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.” Psalm 129: 4

No matter which news outlet you choose to listen to, whether the main stream media or the alternative online media, all news seems to be bad news.  The media’s role appears to be to expose the evil in our society, and so we are constantly seeing evil.

I would agree that there is an important role of the free press to keep other powers in check and this sometimes requires exposing the evil of powerful groups or governments, but the volume of negative news is constant and overwhelming.

Currently, there is also a battle going on to determine what media outlet represents the true view of reality and which represents “fake news” or propaganda. The battle lines are drawn.  On one side there is the accusation that the main stream media is owned and controlled by the evil elites who want to control the opinion of the masses, promoting their agenda and world view, with most of the “talking heads” having this same world view, allowing it to influence and bias their presentation.  On the other side there is the accusation that the alternative media consists of amateurs who create stories based on rumors and don’t verify their sources, or even worse, that some are at least sympathetic to, or possibly controlled by, Russian or communist propagandists.

Personally, I think that both sides are biased by their world view/philosophy and by what they think is the best thing for the future of our society or the world.  As Christians though, we must take all news with a grain of salt, recognizing that absolute truth only comes from God, via His Word, and all other information must be subject to being overridden by the Scriptural truths.  We need the Holy Spirit’s help to discern what is true and what we need to take to heart or what we should dismiss.

As I stated earlier, no matter what source of news we choose, we are being bombarded with continual exposure of wicked devices and criminal rackets.  We are also faced with the choice of which evil is the source of blame for our problems.  Is it the government and politicians, or the wealthy one percent elites, or is it the big corporations, or is it the banks and financial system, or is it the racists, or is it the lazy welfare entitlement seekers, or is it the illegal immigrants, or is it the dead church and religious fanatics, or is it the Islamic terrorists?  (I could go on)  I would say that there is enough blame to go around to all of them.

It stands to reason that this onslaught of news about the evils and the wickedness of our current situation would cause us to be distressed and worried.  For many the solution is to block it out or ignore it; pretend it’s not there; put on the glasses that make everything look rosy.  I would suggest that ignoring reality is never good and potentially could result in serious problems.  For example, prudence requires that we assess our situation and, if need be, make the proper preparations for the future.

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3 & 27:12

A much better approach is to establish in our hearts the reality that God is in control and will deal appropriately with the wicked people of the world.  As biblical Christians we learn from the Scriptures that although Satan has been given some authority in this current age, the Lord is still in control and will assure that in the end the wicked will be punished and the righteous will be blessed.  Let’s look closer at what the Bible says.

The opening verse from Psalm 129 in the Amplified Bible says this:

“The Lord is righteous; He has cut in two the [thick] cords of the wicked [which enslaved the people of Israel].”  Psalm 129:4

You might ask the question, “Why does God allow the wicked to enslave His people in the first place?”  We must recognize that both Satan and the wicked men in this world are tools that God uses for His purpose.  And what is His purpose and why does He allow evil to touch His children?  The answer is: It’s not our place to question God’s ways.  This verse in Romans 9 applies to this situation also (although not the exact use in the context of Romans 9):

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay….” Romans 9:20-21

We do know from the Scriptures that God uses the trials in our life to produce in us a deeper character, making us stronger, more loving, and more like Him.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,…”1 Peter 1:6-7

The fact that God allows His people to suffer affliction at the hands of the wicked is confirmed in the first three verses of Psalm 129, just before the verse quoted above:

“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth – Let Israel now say – many a time they have afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.  The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long.” Psalm 129:1-3

The metaphor used in these verses of someone plowing on your back suggests that these afflictions were not insignificant.  The key words in this verse are “they have not prevailed.”  God knows what we need and how long we need it.  The wicked always lose in the end.

We, therefore, as God’s beloved children, do not need to worry or fret, or fear what the wicked may do to us.  We can rest assured that God will protect us and will only allow us to be exposed to the evil of the wicked when in accordance with His purposes for our lives.

Here’s my testimony of recent events in my life:  Back in 2007 it started with hearing that I had health issues with my cholesterol being too high and need to change my diet, so I embarked on a serious  and challenging change to my eating habits.  Next I heard from my wife of 28 years that she didn’t want to be married to me any longer; (we split up then and later divorced in 2012).  A month after my wife’s leaving I was laid off from my job where I had been employed for almost 10 years.  Not much later the crash of 2008 came when I was laid off again from my next job and I lost half of my 401k retirement savings and was forced to cash it out with no place to roll it over.  I also was under water on my mortgage since I recently refinanced, couldn’t sell my house in the current market to pay off the mortgage, and was forced into foreclosure on the house.  The low point came when I was given a 2 week notice to leave my house and I had no place to go.  The Lord provided for me then (a friend allowed me to stay in a 1 room apartment attached to his business and hired me as a laborer) and the Lord has continued to provide for me, and has now turned my situation around completely.

I look back and see this time as being a very valuable time of spiritual growth for me.  I can look back and connect the dots to see how God has brought me though many situations for my good and the good of my friends and loved ones. It would have been a mistake to look to the evil forces of the world as the reason for my predicament. God was allowing these things to occur and He was in control.  He had me right where I needed to be.

I’m sure that many of you have faced much more difficult trials than what I went through.  My purpose in mentioning my past is to encourage all of us to remember that God is in control.  I must remind myself often that God has sustained me before and will do it again.  He may have more challenging trials ahead for me, but I trust that He is able to bring me through them and that they will be for my perfection and for His glory.

We have no need to worry or fret about the wickedness that surrounds us.  God is the source of our needs and He is greater than the powers of this world or this age.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into bans; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit (18 inches) to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear?  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matt. 6:25-34

Most importantly, seek first the kingdom of God.  Turn from sin and seek His righteousness. This should be our focus, and not the barrage of information that slams us daily from the various news sources.  Turn the news stations off and close your computer if they are causing you to worry and fear.  Look to God’s Holy Scriptures to build you up in your faith and strengthen you for the days ahead.

The final victory comes when the end of this age comes and the righteous Judge sets all of this straight:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14: 9-12

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Revelations 20: 11-12

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelations 20:15

Having this Scriptural view of the evils of this world, in the light of God’s control of our lives and his ultimate judgment of the wicked men of this age, we can be free of all worry and fear, and then be free to make sound judgment about what we need to do, if anything, to prepare ourselves and our families for the future.  We can then be open to the leading of the Spirit, and able to move forward with the necessary plans with confidence.

There is really nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon said many years ago in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Today I see man’s greed as the root of many problems, which he manifests in the government and financial systems of the world, causing great inequality of wealth, which in turn is causing rebellion by many who feel they have been abused.  These wicked, greedy men are bound for judgment, either in this life, or when the Lord returns as Judge.

I leave you all with this interesting prophecy from Habakkuk from the 7th century B.C. with words that could apply to today’s wicked, greedy men (from the Amplified Bible):

“Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the just and the righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness. Moreover, wine and wealth are treacherous; the proud man is restless and cannot stay at home.  His appetite is large like that of Sheol and [his greed] is like death and cannot be satisfied; he gathers to himself all nations and collects all people as if he owned them. Shall not all these [victims of his greed] take up a taunt against him and in scoffing derision of him say, Woe to him who piles up that which is not his! [How long will he possess it?] And [woe to him] who loads himself with promissory notes for usury! Shall [your debtors] not rise up suddenly who shall bite you, exacting usury of you, and those awake who will vex you [toss you to and fro and make you tremble violently]? Then you will be booty for them.  Because you have plundered many nations, all who are left of the people shall plunder you – because of men’s blood and for the violence done to the earth, to the city and all the people who live in each city.  Woe to him who obtains wicked gain for his house, [who thinks by so doing] to set his nest on high that he may be preserved from calamity and delivered from the power of evil!  You have devised shame to your house by cutting off and putting an end to many people, and you have sinned against and forfeited your own life.  For the stone shall cry out of the wall [built in sin, to accuse you], and the beam out of the woodwork will answer it [agreeing with its charge against you]. Woe to him who builds a town with blood and establishes a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not by appointment of the Lord of hosts that the nations toil only to satisfy the fire [that will consume their work], and the peoples weary themselves only for emptiness, falsity, and futility? But [the time is coming when] the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2: 4-14

Amen.

I wrote a song back in 1979 called “He Rescued Me”.  Here’s the words:

I was living, but without life;
I had eyes but could not see.
Like a blind man in the darkness,
till you came and rescued me.

Oh Lord, how I need you,
As my shepherd and my guide,
Ever by my side.

You have bought me; You paid a high price.
You took my judgment as Your own.
By Your shed blood, I am worthy,
Of a place before Your throne.

Oh Lord, how I love you,
As my savior and my king,
Lord of everything.

In 2008, I was living in Manchester, NH, and had an opportunity to share this song at a festival at a park in the center of town.  A few weeks before this, an incident occurred along the Merrimack river that runs through Manchester.  There were some homeless people who had waded out into the river to bath, not realizing that the river current was stronger than usual due to some recent heavy rains.  The current swept them away down the river.  Fortunately, someone nearby called 911 and they were able to be rescued by a police helicopter.

Before I sang the song, I mentioned this incident, and how life can be like this river current.  We get swept away unexpectedly, and find ourselves helpless to the “current” of life.  We can’t rescue ourselves, but we need to be rescued, just like that helicopter pulled those people from the river.  Fortunately, if we cry out to God and wait for Him to respond, He can rescue us.  When life gets us trapped in its harmful flow that pulls us into dangerous places where we get bruised and feel like we are being pulled under water, gasping for air, we need to cry out to God and wait for His hand to reach down and pull us free.

The amazing thing is that the Lord will do this multiple times in our lives.  He has for me.  Somehow, beyond our knowledge and power, we manage to get “swept away” , but God in His mercy is ready to pull us free.

King David experienced this same situation thousands of years ago and wrote a psalm about it.  It’s psalm 40, and it begins like this:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feed upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He had put a new song in my mouth-
Praise to our God.
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.”

Being stuck in a pit of miry clay is probably an even better analogy of where we can find ourselves in this life.  Here again, God is able to rescue us when we cry out to Him.  He sets our feet on a solid foundation where we can stand firmly and confidently, unlike the miry clay that we sink into and can’t move.

David continues in the psalm to indicate that the Lord’s wonderful works, like rescuing us, are many:

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which you have done;
And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

There is also an old hymn that is taken from psalm 40 and the chorus says:

“He brought me out of the miry clay.
He set my feet on the rock to stay.
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, Halleluah!”

God is in the business of rescuing those who cry out to Him, and He is willing to do so many times in our lives.  He has been merciful to me many times.  This is my testimony to you that God has done so for me and He will do so for you also if you cry out to Him.