Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pep Talk for the Soul

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
Psalm 42:5

David is walking through a tough season of life. His circumstances are tempting Him to question God, asking "Why have you forgotten me?" and "Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" (v. 9)  In this Psalm, David experiences the pain of words that sting from his enemies. They taunt and tease him asking continually, "Where is your God?" (v. 3)  But even in the midst of the turmoil, David anchors himself to God. He wants nothing more, he knows he needs nothing more, than more of God.

Choosing to anchor himself to God first, David unloads the full weight of his grief and doubt and fear before Him, and then rides the storm out with Him. Though his sorrow is not without good reason, he must not let it overtake him. He must keep it in perspective in the grand scheme of things. He must keep the fear and grief in their proper place in his life so they don't consume him. So he gives himself a little pep talk as if having a conversation with his soul... "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" Then David's faith kicks in and answers, "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (v. 5)

Sometimes my soul gets weighed down with the circumstances of life too. Sometimes fear gets out of its proper place in my life, and doubt creeps in. Sometimes pain causes me to lose my perspective for a while. In those times, I do best when I anchor myself to God, examine my heart, confess any sin on my part, and then ride out the storm holding on to Him, trusting Him to make things right or work them out for my good. Most importantly, I must find words of praise even when I don't feel them, for praise keeps me from sinking, and praise changes my perspective. It may not change my circumstance, but it will change the way I go through it and prayerfully, point others to the One sustaining me.

Thank You Jesus that my hope is in You. Thank You for showing me through seasons of need and desire for mercy, the true value of receiving mercy. Thank You that I can anchor myself to You, and for being there to hold me when the storms do come. I love You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Desperate Measures

"[Lot] said, 'No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.'" Genesis 19:7-8

Two angels arrive at Sodom in the evening and find Lot sitting at the city gate. Lot greets them by bowing down face to the ground, out of respect. He insisted that the men (angels) stay at his house for the night. After a good meal, as they are preparing to go to bed, men of all ages surround the house and call to Lot. They want him to send his male guests out so they can have their way with them. This vile behavior is where our word "sodomy" comes from.

Because the men (angels) were his honored guest and under the protection of his roof, Lot denied their request. Instead of saying "no" to all sin however, Lot chooses what he must have thought to be the lesser of two evils -- he offers the men his two virgin daughters instead. This is the first recorded attempt at human trafficking recorded in the Bible. Lot was ready to prostitute his own girls! As I read that the angels were under Lot's protection while under his roof I wanted to raise my voice to Lot and beg the question, "Why aren't your daughters under your protection in their own home, Lot?" Unfortunately, not all dads protect. Not all dads are safe. Some dads make really bad decisions.

Such decisions are how abuse and trafficking begin: desperate people taking desperate measures, selfish people making selfish decisions. "[Lot] unadvisedly and unjustifiably offered to prostitute his two daughters to them, v. 8. It is true, of two evils we must choose the less; but of two sins we must choose neither." (Matthew Henry, emphasis added.)

Thankfully, this story didn't stop there. The angels opened the door and pulled Lot back inside after making such an appalling proposition. Then they struck the men outside blind so they couldn't find the door. The girls were safe that night.

Tonight and every night, so many girls are not safe. Millions have been trafficked into the commercial sex trade. It's happening in my own backyard. The Tampa area ranks #1 in human trafficking in the state of Florida, and #3 in the nation. Trafficking people is the second largest business in the world, second only to trafficking drugs, and is on the rise. An estimated 27 million men, women and children are coerced, abused and held against their will for slave labor, domestic servitude and prostitution worldwide. In my city, the average age a child is trafficked is 10 or 11 years old. Now that we know, we can't turn our backs. We must work to bring an end to this injustice. But for the grace of God, it could have been me...

Father God, there is so much desperation in the world. So much depravity. I know it breaks Your heart. I know it's breaking mine. God, would You shine a light in the darkness and help us expose this injustice? My own community is in dire need. By a mighty move of Your hand would You remove the blinders and bring awareness that leads to action, that leads to abolishing slavery? You are mighty to save. Save the innocent now I pray and bring justice where justice is due. In Jesus name I ask these things, amen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Private Healing

"Her parents were astonished, but He ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened." 
Luke 8:56

Jesus is asked to come to the house of Jairus because his twelve year old daughter is dying, and Jairus believes Jesus can heal her. On His way however, someone in the crowd touches the hem of His robe and He instantly knows it. He is delayed in His travels because He stops to ask around to see who it was. When His robe was touched in faith for the purpose of healing, He knew. He would feel the power go out of Him. 

During this delay, someone from Jairus' house comes to announce that the girl has died. Jesus heads on to the house anyway, saying, "Don't be afraid; just believe and she will be healed." (v. 50) He arrives to find family and friends "wailing and mourning" over the girls death. He tells them, "stop wailing... She is not dead but asleep." (v. 52) Well, they knew full well that she had died and in their disbelief, they they laughed at Him. So, He left the mockers outside and only let the girls' parents, Peter, James and John go into the house with Him. It was as if the nay-sayers didn't deserve to see the miracle. Jesus "took her by the hand and said, 'My child, get up!' Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up." (v. 54-55)

After Jesus brought the girl back to life, God's Word says her parents were astonished. This word "astonished" comes from the Greek word "existemi" which literally means standing outside of  yourself. Her parents must have felt like they were dreaming, unable to take their experience in or wrap their minds around what they had seen. They had been privileged to see Jesus perform a miracle! Then Jesus gives them strict orders to "not tell anyone what had happened." (v. 56)

What? Not tell anyone what happened? It would be obvious since the funeral was cancelled and the mourners went home, for their daughter was back among the living. The news would no doubt spread on its own -- it just wouldn't be their responsibility to tell. Her healing would speak for itself and no doubt, point people to Jesus. Sometimes, as is with this case and has been in some of my own, God does something so sacred it's not meant for a public audience. Sometimes it's only meant for a select few. You see, private healing has transforming power.

Thank You Jesus that You have the power to heal. You have the power to raise the dead -- both the physically and spiritually dead. And in so doing, You transform lives. Thank You for transforming mine. Because of You, I have freedom and I have life, and have it abundantly. Please continue to use the work You've done in my life to point people to You! In Jesus' name, amen.