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And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all (Psalms 34:17-19).

Is it okay to cry? The righteous cry, this passage says. That is a fact. We cry sometimes. Grief is part of our lives. This passage also says that “many are the afflictions of the righteous.” We all face various trials and adversity; I may not be going through what you are going through, but we all face afflictions and pain in life. I may not be able to understand your pain, but I can understand pain.

Where is God when I am hurting? Psalm 34 says “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God’s promise to the Christian is so comforting, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Do I have to grieve “perfectly” for God to stay with me? Is there a “better” way to grieve? Sometimes we are tempted to say that someone is handling adversity “better” than another? What does that mean? The grieving process can appear plain ugly sometimes. One person may internalize it all, another may pour it all out with great volume, and another may just focus on keeping busy to suppress the pain. Which is “better”?

Remember that Elijah was ready to die. He asked God to kill him. Elijah in his fear, grief and depression made some unrealistic statements. Did God abandon him? Was God standing aloof and distant until Elijah “got a grip”? Read 1 Kings 19 to see how compassionate the Lord was with Elijah.

If we read the Psalms we will see people in great pain who just pour out their hearts to God. They ask God why. Their hearts wonder where God is, because they feel abandoned. Did God abandon them? Did God remove Himself from them because they didn’t grieve the right way?

We all grieve differently, not necessarily better. I must not place my expectations and understanding of how to grieve upon others. If God is near to the brokenhearted, then that’s where I need to be when someone is brokenhearted, even if they may get a little scary in their pain.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle (unruly), encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

They Are New Every Morning

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him (Lamentations 3:19-25).

Many of you reading this already have heard that last Tuesday night our family suffered a tragedy in that our barn and riding arena burned down, and we lost our horses, sheep, goats and chickens. The family and our house is safe, praise God. But the pain we are experiencing is just hard to put into words. We certainly welcome your continued prayers to God on our behalf as we walk through this trial and seek healing and comfort. The outpouring of love and support from neighbors, the church family and from friends around the country has been overwhelming. God is good, and His love is seen in the people He has made in His image.

They Are New Every Morning

The picture I have attached to this post is of the sun beginning to rise on Friday morning. You know the sun rises every morning? Even when there is devastation and pain, the sun rises every morning. Seeing the sunrise made me think of the above passage in Lamentations written by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was standing in the midst of Jerusalem after its destruction. An entire city including the temple Solomon built for Israel to worship the Lord their God was destroyed and burned. I can only begin to imagine the devastation he saw. I can only begin to imagine the deep pain Jeremiah experienced as he surveyed the carnage. Fires take a long time to go out. The smells and sights are things you will never remove from your mind. Worse than that for Jeremiah was that he preached for decades warning of this event, yet the people did not listen nor repent. The book of Lamentations is structured such in the Hebrew that Jeremiah is literally weeping from A to Z.

Yet in the midst of all that pain, Jeremiah called to his mind some very important qualities of God. When we are in the depths our pain, we must also call to mind these qualities of God. I will leave you with these hopeful phrases from Lamentations 3.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.

Therefore I will hope in Him.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

What about Grief?

A dear friend, who has just gone through a tragic loss, said to me, “I need to be strong but I feel so much grief.”  Deep sorrow and anguish is a natural response to significant loss or suffering but is it a contrast to strength?  As men, we often make the mistake of believing that strength is suppressing our grief and not allowing it to be seen.  When we do this we not only cause ourselves harm but we are also missing an opportunity to positively impact the family of God.  We need to redefine our definition of strength.

Please read the text below from II Corinthians 1:3-11 and consider some observations.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

  • “…just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (5): There is a direct correlation between the suffering and grief we experience and the comfort we experience in Christ.  To deny the grief is to deny the comfort of Christ.
  • “…we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (8-9): There is a lesson to be learned in all suffering and grief.  The pain of grief should be a reminder that we are not adequate, in and of ourselves, to handle the ups and downs of this life.  The grief should be a reminder of our lack of control.  To deny the grief is to deny God’s strength.
  • “…He on whom we have set our hope.” (10): Suffering and grief should remind us of the temporary nature of this life.  Properly embracing the grief will force us to place our hope in God, the only stable foundation we have in this world.  To deny the grief is to misplace our hope.
  • “…who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us…” (10): Allowing grief to turn our eyes towards God will strengthen our faith.  As we leave one storm behind us and head towards the next, we will be secure in the knowledge that He has delivered us and will deliver us again.  To deny our grief is to head towards the future unprepared.
  • “…who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (4): Suppressing our pain and grief is ultimately selfish.  We do not live in a vacuum and every tragedy and every hardship is an opportunity to be shaped and molded into a useful instrument for God.  God is preparing you because somewhere out there someone needs comforted.  To deny our grief is to fail our brothers.
  • “…so that thanks may be given my many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” (11): Worst of all, when we fail to embrace our grief and refuse to allow God to use us we are robbing Him of the thanks that He deserves.  In a way, we are stealing His glory.  Allowing others to see our pain provides them opportunity to be involved in prayer and encouragement and when we have come through the storm God will be glorified.   To deny our grief is to deny God His glory.

Grief is a powerful force in our lives.  We can suppress it and render ourselves useless in His kingdom.  We can succumb to it and allow it to cloud our vision and erode our hope.  Or we can embrace it, be trained by it, and become effective tools in the hands of our Creator.  It is our choice.

Overcoming Evil

What About Justice?

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Romans 12:17-19

What do you think about justice?  Is it important?  Let’s ask that a different way; how do you feel when someone cuts in line?  How about when your car gets broken into or your home is burglarized?  What if your wife or kids are disrespected and treated rudely?  How about when a known criminal gets off on a “technicality”, how does that sit with you?

Justice is essential and is one of the key attributes of God.  In fact, Psalm 89:14 tells us that, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.”  Psalm 89:14  But Paul challenges us in Romans 12 to set justice aside.  He says “Never PAY BACK evil for evil”, implying that the wages earned for evil is evil.  As Christians, we are to pursue peace and leave room for God to administer justice.

How easy is this command?  The last time someone rudely cut you off in traffic how did you respond?  How did you want to respond?  What about when your co-worker lied about you or took advantage of your kindness or made that derogatory remark about your faith?  Most of the time it is a victory when we just ignore it or keep our mouths shut.  Sometimes I wish the text would end there but Paul’s challenge goes even further.

 The Higher Calling 

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:20-21

The call of Christ is not to simply ignore evil.  The call is not to hold in our desired response and keep our mouths shut.  The call of Christ is to do the unexpected…to actually do good to those who do evil.  I believe this command is one of the most challenging in the entire bible.  This concept goes against our inherent sense of right and wrong.  It turns our concept of justice upside down.

What’s the purpose?  Why would God ask us to do something so difficult?  In short, because He did it for us.  How did Jesus overcome evil?  In the book of Revelation, Satan and evil is personified as a great dragon and how is Jesus pictured?  He is a bloody and battered lamb…a sacrifice.  The entire story of the bible depicts how Jesus overcame evil with good.  As a result, when He was lifted up, He drew all men to Himself (John 12:32).  God has called us for the same purpose.

We are to be lights to the world and we’ve tried to accomplish that our own way.  We’ve tried to batter people with the truth.  We’ve tried to be louder than the opposition.  We’ve tried to stand up for ourselves and defend our rights.  We’ve even tried to take the “high road” and keep our mouths shut, but maybe, just maybe, we should try it God’s way.  When we do the unexpected and we love those who hate us and we show that love in action by doing good it will impact the world.  People will feel the God given shame of sin and be drawn to the sacrifice of Jesus.

The fact is that Paul starts his discussion in Romans 12 with urging us “by the mercies of God”.  Think of the life of rebellion you lived before Christ.  Think of the wages that you deserved.  Now consider how God looked at you and the price He paid for your redemption.  Let us meditate on that daily and strive to be a living sacrifice.

Such Were Some of You

Here is an article called Such Were Some of You by Andy Harrison. Our theme for Tuesdays is normally the marriage relationship, but I wanted to go ahead and share this today. Great articles yesterday and today, Andy!


“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of god.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 5:9-11

If you have come to Christ, if you’ve been washed in His blood and cleansed from your sins then I’m guessing you’ve done some things in your past which are now a source of shame.  We all have them.  Dark things, embarrassing things that we find hard to even speak about, things we may have never confessed to anyone except God alone.   On occasion I’ll be in a situation that triggers the memory of some long forgotten event and the disgrace and humiliation will come flooding back as if no time has passed at all.  When that happens there is not a shower hot enough to make me feel clean and the only remedy is to fill my mind with the mercy, grace and forgiveness of Jesus.

In Romans 6, Paul is dealing with the idea of continuing in sin after having been baptized into Christ and he says in verses 20-22, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the outcome of those things is death.  But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”  I look back at my life of filth and sin and I try to determine what benefit I thought I was deriving from those things.  The pursuit of pleasure in its many forms almost always ended in pain and suffering for me and those I care about the most.  But having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, I can now see that there is benefit I can derive from my former life…if I have the courage.  Let me explain.

I was recently asked to help a young Christian man who is struggling with alcoholism.  He comes from a good Christian home; he has been active in the church and, after college, began a very successful and profitable career in the pharmaceutical industry.  From the outside, he appeared to have the world by its tail.  However, internally he was battling his “demons” and they have gotten the best of him.  So the question is; why was I asked to help?

The answer; “such were some of you”.  Based on my past, I am fairly well equipped to help in this situation.  Those very things I am ashamed of are the experiences that help me relate to this young man.  I can relate to his powerful desires and yearnings.  I have experienced that hollow and empty feeling inside that, at least for an instance, can be filled with emotion-numbing substances like drugs and alcohol.  I have felt the hopelessness of trying and trying and trying to get myself “clean” only to end up in a more desperate and dark situation.  I know what it is like to be filled with so much self-hatred and loathing that I just want to give up.   I have experienced the power of God’s mercy and grace as He pulled me from the pit and washed me clean.  And most importantly, I know what it is like to live one day at a time seeking to please my Father.

Such Were Some of You

My encouragement to you is to share your experiences with others.  Be courageous and let others know what you have been through, not in boastful longing for the past, but as a testimony to the love and power of our amazing Father.  And if you are in a dark place, struggling with sin, realize that God has placed His people all around you to help lift you up.  We were not designed to walk this world alone.

God is amazing!  He can take the most broken life, mend it, and put it into service to help others.

It is the coward that hides their past and pretends that it never happened.  It is the coward that tries to “man up” and deal with their problems on their own.  True courage is revealing the real you to others so that we can experience the true strength that comes from God and His people.

And please pray for me as I endeavor to help a young man find his way out of darkness and into the Light.

Abhor What Is Evil

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

It really is a simple concept, isn’t it?  Abhor, detest, or hate evil.  Cling to, adhere to, or cleave to what is good.  Who gets to define evil and good?  It has always been and will always be God.  God, the creator of all things, established good and evil from the beginning and ever since man has been confusing the two.

Why is that?  What motivates us to pervert such a simple concept?  Why do we, “call evil good, and good evil…substitute darkness for light and light for darkness?”  (Isaiah 5:20)

I submit to you that the main reason is shame.  Psychologists and therapists make very good livings trying to help people overcome their shame.  The alcohol and prescription drug industries are fueled by people intent on medicating their shame.  We will do everything we can to avoid shame.

Shame is the product of violating a set of standards that people and society holds.  We manipulate those standards, change laws, redefine marriage, and crucify morality to avoid shame.  We get so wrapped up in marginalizing sin to overcome shame that we fail to see it as a gift from God.  “Guilt is the fact of men doing wrong.  Shame is the God-given response to that fact.” – Andy Cantrell

Even though our culture is in a free fall and godly principles are openly mocked, it doesn’t change the fact that right is right and wrong is wrong.  We deceive ourselves as Christians if we think this is just a problem in the world.  The church faces the same challenge and is slowly being conformed to the world’s way of thinking.  God’s standards are being eroded in the body of Christ and too often we don’t even notice.

Brothers, we can do better…we must do better.

  • We must do better in the things we meditate on.
  • We must do better in the movies we watch.
  • We must do better in the language we use.
  • We must do better in how we treat each other.
  • We must do better in the clothes we wear.
  • We must do better in the priorities we set for our families.
  • We must do better.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24

Jesus lived in a broken world, among sinful people, and was crucified by evil men yet He never compromised His Father’s standards.  We must reach for that same standard, following in His footsteps, being driven by deep appreciation and profound gratitude for our Lord’s sacrifice.

Sermons on Racism

Today’s post is a link to some much-needed sermons on racism by brother Benjamin Lee. Please consider these sermons prayerfully. Racism is real and as Benjamin says in these sermons, we need to have some crucial conversations about it.

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him (Acts 10:34-35).

Sermons on Racism by Benjamin Lee

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26).

…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

Note: We got our power back sooner than expected, enabling me to post today’s article. Many are still without power in Michigan, though. It makes you appreciate having electricity!

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” 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 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.