When You’re Unfairly Attacked

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Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. (Psalm 35:1). 

This psalm is in a category called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” 

Does it sound unusual to your ears to pray a prayer like that? After all, aren’t we as Christians commanded to forgive those who offend us? How do we square that teaching of Jesus with these brutally honest prayers that David offers up? 

Always remember that imprecatory psalms are spoken exclusively to God, not to our enemies. So when we pray these prayers, we are really turning the matter over to God. God does the contending and the vindicating—He knows best how to dispense the appropriate judgment. 

David also shares with us several introspective prayers throughout the Book of Psalms, where he asks the Holy Spirit to search him. This heart-searching is interwoven in this imprecatory prayer of Psalm 35, as it should be with our prayers too. 

Notice that David can only say these things with integrity because he had already allowed the Spirit to search his heart, and then he had asked forgiveness and he had repented from any sin (see Psalm 139:23-24; Matthew 5:22-24; 6:12, 14-15). David could point out with a clear conscience what his enemies were doing because David was innocent of these actions himself. Things like… 

  • their attack was without cause (v. 7) 
  • their accusations were purposefully designed to entrap him (v. 11) 
  • they were repaying David’s good work with evil deeds (v. 12) 
  • David had attempted to treat them well (vv. 13-14) 
  • they gleefully piled on more slander when David stumbled (v. 15) 
  • the enemy’s mocking was malicious (v. 16) 
  • they hated me without reason (v. 19) 
  • they invented false accusations against David (v. 20)

After his imprecatory prayer, David resolves to turn his eyes from the bad guys to God. He declares that worship of God will be his comfort (v. 28). What a great example for us still today! 

When you are falsely, unfairly attacked, take these three actions: 

  1. Introspection. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, and then quickly take action where necessary: Ask forgiveness, and repent from sinful thoughts, words, and actions. 
  2. Pray. Remember to share your hurts with God alone. There is no need to unleash your anger on those who have attacked you. 
  3. Worship. As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

Please keep these God-honoring action steps in mind the next time you are unfairly attacked. 

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Whom To Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. … In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise—in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11). 

Have you ever been afraid of someone? Have you ever experienced the fear of God?

Interestingly, it’s the same Hebrew word (yaré) for both. This word can mean either something that causes me to fight or flight, or it can mean reverential respect. David is saying, “When I begin to feel the fear of man, I instead turn to the fear of God, and I am no longer afraid.”

Or to put it another way: “When I think I have to fight or flight on my own, I instead choose to reverence God and He takes care of my fear.” 

In both verses 4 and 10, the word “praise” is the Hebrew word for “Hallelujah!” When David feels fear of man creeping in, he looks to God’s Word, finds a promise on which to stand, and reverentially begins to worship God: “Hallelujah! With this promise, I no longer need to fear man!” The Amplified Bible says, “On God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear.” 

There is one other difference in the Hebrew language that is not readily apparent in the English translation. In verse 4, David uses the name Elohiym for God. This means the Mighty God who is Supreme over all. In verse 10, he uses God’s covenant name Yahweh or Jehovah. To me, this sounds like David knew that the fear of God could combat everything from general fears of human philosophies to a specific fear of a specific mortal. His conclusion is a good one: What can man—a mere mortal—or any of his worldly philosophies do to rattle me? Absolutely nothing because I am secure in God! 

We all become fearful at times. If we choose to fight or flight the fear, we do it in our own strength. This may result in temporary relief, but the fear will come back around again. However, if we decide to fear God—to say “Hallelujah!” to His promises—He is able to completely remove our fear. 

The choice is ours: fear man or fear God. 

To paraphrase the declaration of Joshua: “Choose this day whom you will fear. As for me, I choose to fear God!” 

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Refusing To Be Controlled By Fear

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The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

How many of my daily choices are affected by fear?

  • whether to try something new or to stick with what’s familiar?
  • should I confront a friend on a bad choice or let him figure it out on his own?
  • to spend money or to invest it for later? what do I buy? where do I invest?
  • what if people don’t like what I do or say? what if they talk behind my back?

David begins this psalm with the same kinds of questions, as he battles enemies surrounding him, the possibility of his family rejecting him, false witnesses speaking lies against him, and foes closing in from every side. 

In the middle of all of these swirling issues, David exhibits a confidence that starkly stands out:

  • whom shall I fear?
  • of whom shall I be afraid?
  • my heart will not fear
  • I will be confident
  • I am still confident

How can David respond this way? He kept turning his thoughts from the temporal to the eternal—

It may seem dark now, but God is light.

People may be fickle, but God is unchanging.

Foes may be strong, but God is the strongest.

People are mean, but God is good.

Both David’s opening and closing thoughts in this psalm are really a conversation with himself: The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? … I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (vv. 1, 13, 14)

My friends, don’t let fear drive your decisions. Let confidence in God drive your decisions. Talk back to your fearful thoughts like David did and remind them of the great and loving God that cares for you. Don’t take matters into your own hand, but wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

I used Psalm 27 as a teaching example of how to turn passages from the Bible into our own personalized prayers. Check out this 5-minute video here:

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First In Forgiveness

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From David’s bookend prayers to Jesus making prayer the central, empowering practice of the Christian lifestyle, I hope you’re beginning to see that prayer starts it, prayer sustains it, prayer successfully concludes it! 

There is another thing both David and Jesus agree upon. They both tell us that there is one thing that can block our prayer: unconfessed, unrepented sin. 

David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” The Hebrew word translated “regard” means to be aware of something. David teaches us that we have to be made aware of our sin in order to confess our sin and ask forgiveness. We become aware of our sin through prayer and reading the Bible (Psalm 139:23; James 1:25; Romans 7:7-12). 

The NIV translates the same Hebrew word in Psalm 66:18 as “cherished.” After becoming aware of our sin, we have to be careful not to make excuses or justifications for it. And then the NLT translates the same word “not confessed.” After becoming aware of our sin and accepting responsibility for it, then we can confess it to God. 

In teaching us to pray, Jesus said our forgiveness of others had a direct correlation to the forgiveness we would receive from our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Jesus further expounds this thought when He tells Peter to forgive others “seventy times seven times”; in other words: countless times. 

Think of it this way: Have you asked God’s forgiveness more than seven times? How about more than seven times for the same sin? I have! So Jesus is really asking Peter, “Do you want God to put a limit on how many times He will forgive you? If not, then don’t you put a limit on how many times you will forgive others.” 

The Amplified Bible has a great definition of forgiveness in Matthew 6:12—left, remitted, let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against. The Hebrew word David uses in Psalm 32:1 has a similar feel—lifted up, taken away, carried off. 

Our forgiven sins are forgotten sins. Every time we come to God for forgiveness, it’s like it is the first time. And Jesus says this is the same way we need to treat others. 

Let’s all strive to be first responders in confessing our own debts to God so we can be forgiven, AND then let’s also be first responders in forgiving the debts others have incurred against us. 

As I’ve said before: A mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between awareness of his sin and making his confession of that sin. 

But this is just as true: 

A mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between being injured and forgiving the offender. 

We do this again and again and again—countless times!—because that’s how often our Heavenly Father forgives us. 

Be a first responder in both asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness.
Don’t let your debts block your prayers.
Don’t let your unreceived forgiveness weigh you down.
Don’t let your ungiven forgiveness weigh others down.

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Learning Life’s Lessons

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Have you heard the cliché, “Experience is the best teacher”? I don’t think that’s really true. I’ve known a lot of people who have had some huge experiences but haven’t learned a single lesson from them. Honestly this is the better statement: Evaluated and recalled experience is the best teacher. 

Many of my “life lessons” have cost me money. For instance, I was told numerous times by my parents, grandparents, and my driving instructor not to speed, but I didn’t learn that lesson the easy way. It cost me financially. I recovered from that, and I’ve only had one speeding ticket in the 40 years that followed! 

Most of us can recover from a financial loss. But other life lessons cost us more dearly: our broken physical health, lost intimacy in a relationship, a damaged reputation, or missed opportunities. Then we walk around with the weight of guilt, baggage, second-guessing, and regret. Jesus didn’t die on a Cross for us to live weighed down like this! 

God wants to help us! So why do we wait to call on Him until after we’ve tried to do it ourselves? Or until after we’re so deep in trouble or weighed down with baggage? Perhaps we think, “This is such a tiny thing. I can handle it myself.” 

  • Solomon said it was the tiny things that brought ruin 
  • God told Cain that it was the sin that was crouching at his door that wanted to take him down 
  • The devil prowls around and looks for the most opportune time to pounce on us 
  • Which is why Paul tells us to put on all of God’s armor and prayer all the time (see Song 2:15; Genesis 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 4:13; Ephesians 6:10-11, 18) 

Portia Nelson summed it up well in her short story that I think all of us can relate to…

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I fall in.
   I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I pretend I don’t see it.
   I fall in, again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I see it is there.
   I still fall in… it’s a habit… but my eyes are open, I know where I am.
It’s my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.
    —Portia Nelson

Prayer helps us avoid the holes in our sidewalk, the crouching sin at our door, the prowling devil, and the lurking temptations. But more than that, prayer puts us on the right path to avoid all of these things in the first place (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 30:21; 2 Samuel 22:34, 37)! 

God doesn’t have to get ready to help us; He’s already ready to help us. He’s just waiting for us to ask for His help. 

No matter how little or big the challenges, with God I can overcome! 

No matter how obvious or hidden the hole is, with God I can go down the right street! 

No matter how many times I fall in the hole, God can get me out! 

No matter how much the devil wants to bring me down, with God I can live righteously! 

No matter how many times sin pounces on me and I give in to it, God can forgive me! 

Don’t wait a moment longer to call on your heavenly Father in prayer. Let Him hear your voice early and often—He loves to hear from you and respond to you! 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series on prayed called Be A First Responder, you can find the full list by clicking here.

A Proper Perspective In An Evil Culture

Do these phrases sound familiar? 

  • The foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? 
  • The faithful have vanished from among men 
  • Everyone lies to his neighbor 
  • The boastful say, “We will triumph with our tongues” 
  • The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men 

This could be said today in my neighborhood. And 20 years ago in Washington DC. And 500 years ago in Europe. But it was said over 3000 years ago!

In times like these it’s important to remember that there have always been times like these! 

In the United States, elections bring regular changes in leadership. Around the world and throughout history violent dictators are toppled, benevolent monarchies fall, dominate personalities shine brightly and fade from the scene, even people who called themselves “Great” or “the king of kings” have disappeared. What should our perspective be in changing cultures—whether they are good or evil?

In Psalms 9-12, David shares some timeless reminders.  

In Psalm 9, he contrasts the temporary track record of mortals with the transcendency of Yahweh. His Selah pauses in this psalm invite us to consider the question: Who benefits me ultimately and affects me eternally: mortals or God?

In the Septuagint, Psalms 9 and 10 make up one psalm. In our English Bible, Psalm 9 closes with the phrase “they are but men” and Psalm 10 closes by calling mankind “mere earthly mortals.” Contrast that with Yahweh who is described as “the LORD reigns forever” and “the LORD is King for ever and ever.” 

In between these eternal affirmations of God, mere earthly mortals are described as: 

  • arrogant 
  • boastful—literally saying “hallelujah” to themselves 
  • blessing all who are like them in their wicked thoughts
  • having no room in their thoughts for God 
  • even praying to themselves—which is the literal meaning of “he says to himself” that David repeats three times 

Literally this mere earthly mortal thinks of himself as god! But even as he says “nothing will ever hurt me while I’m alive” he acknowledges his mortality, admitting that he is indeed finite. 

In Psalms 11 and 12, David gives the righteous the proper perspective to handle all of this. In a word, David wants the godly to remember:

  • Remember God sees everything 
  • Remember God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous 
  • Remember God gets the final word 

Christians can only live exemplary, anxiety-free, and God-honoring lives when we stay focused on the Infinite, on the Eternal God. With this perspective we can live out our roles as “aliens and strangers”—as the apostle Peter calls us—while we live in this evil culture.

God Delights In Me

It’s been said that the bookends of success are starting well and finishing well. I believe that! 

David started well when he lifted up a prayer of thankfulness to God when he became king over the united nation of Israel. Prayer at the the beginning puts us on a path toward success. 

Have you ever begun to assemble a child’s toy or a piece of furniture, gotten completely stumped, and only then read the instruction manual? We’ve all been there! There are many things in life that we start on our own and then hit our knees in prayer only after we’ve exhausted all of our human resources. Fortunately, after we pray and God answers, we often end up finishing well with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The question is: what do we do when we again get ready to start something else? Do we pause to start well with prayer, or do we dive in on our own again? 

I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t go to prayer quickly is because we feel unworthy to go into the presence of a holy, righteous God. 

One commentator said about Psalm 18 that David probably prayed this “before he committed his terrible sin” with Bathsheba and Uriah. That may be, but with very few minor changes, David prayed this exact same prayer (2 Samuel 22) at the very end of his reign. His reign as king was bookended with the same prayer. 

Between the bookend prayers of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, David prayed another prayer—this one was after he had sinned against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah. David truly believed that God forgave that sin and wiped the slate clean, so much so that he noted this great blessing on his life: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. 

He rescued me because He delighted in me?! Yes! 

David knew that God had told us that He delights in those who obey Him. The example of God’s delight was seen in Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of my sins, I can be completely cleansed. Then Jesus comes in me, and takes me into Him, and takes both of us into the Father. So now when our Heavenly Father looks at a forgiven sinner, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus—something He utterly delights to see! (Check out all of the biblical passages I’m referencing by clicking here.)  

David said his sin had been washed “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), So now look at what he could claim—

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight” (2 Samuel 22:21-25). 

…according to my cleanness in His sight. 

In GOD’S sight! The devil wants to accuse me. He wants my sight to dominate. The devil doesn’t want me to see myself as God sees me. But I declare it out loud: I am clean IN HIS SIGHT! 

This cleanness allows me full, bold, confident access to Almighty God! I can take everything to God in prayer because I am clean in His sight! 

If you would like to read more of the posts in our prayer series called Be A First Responder, please click here. 

Authority To Serve

And David knew the Lord has established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of His people Israel. (1 Chronicles 14:2) 

“David knew” reminds me of “Jesus knew” in John 13:3.

Both knew God had placed them exactly where they were supposed to be. 

Both knew the authority God had given them. 

Both knew the power that was theirs to use.

Both knew they could do self-glorifying, self-promoting things with their power. Yet both used their authority and power to serve others: “for the sake of His people.”

Jesus gave His authority to us (Matthew 28:18). 

Do I know that? 

I mean, really know that? 

If so, am I using His authority to serve others?

A mark of a godly leader is one who uses his God-given authority to serve others. 

This is part 53 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

How A Leader Gains Followers

And David became more and more powerful because the Lord Almighty was with him (1 Chronicles 11:9). 

David had followers from all twelve tribes of Israel—warriors, leaders, talented men, fierce men. David wasn’t recruiting them or promising them any rewards, but they volunteered, coming in “one accord” and creating “joy in Israel” in the process (12:1-40). 

David was prepared to go alone. He fled from Saul without a single helper. David’s attitude was one of all-in trust in God, so all of these warriors came to David because of what he represented, not because of what he advertised. It was David’s wholehearted commitment to God that won the wholehearted commitment of these valiant men.

Their unity of purpose—“fully determined … one mind” (12:38)—was not because of a compelling vision that David cast but because of a mighty God David fully feared and loved. 

A leader’s focus should never be on building a following or casting a compelling vision, but on wholehearted, single-minded love and commitment to God. Any power or following only comes “because the Lord Almighty was with him.” 

A mark of a godly leader is his wholehearted devotion to God which creates a wholehearted devotion in his followers. 

This is part 52 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here

Loitering Words

These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs. The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’” (2 Samuel 23:1-4) 

Look how David describes himself: 

  • Inspired by God
  • Exalted by the Most High 
  • Anointed by God 

This statement by David reminds me of the words Moses spoke about himself: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)! 

David also said that he was the hero of Israel’s songs. The King James Version says he was “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” However he is described, these are his last words. Literally, that means that his words loitered. They hung around. They continued to impact people’s lives long after he was gone.

Look how long his words loitered. When the Church prayed in Acts 4, they quote David’s prophetic words, stating that they were spoken through the Holy Spirit. David said that’s exactly how he was speaking—“the Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue” (v. 2), and God Himself is recorded as speaking through David in verse 3.

God’s words were on David’s lips because God’s Spirit was in David’s heart.

David was both confident of this and humbled by this.

  • Confidently he said he “rules over people in righteousness” and “my house [is] right with God” (v. 5). 
  • Humbly he said “he rules in the fear of God” and God was the One who “brought to fruition my salvation” (v. 5). 

God is still looking for people through whom He may speak loitering words.

May our prayer be—God, You are still looking for men and women through whom You can impart loitering words. You want to put Your words in the mouth of those who are righteous in Your sight and who walk in reverent fear of Your holiness, those who acknowledge Your love and Your sovereignty. O God, make me that person! I don’t want to speak idle words, but life-changing, God-glorifying, Spirit-empowered words that will loiter, and impart truth, and bring people to Jesus. Show me what I need to change to be the one through whom You will speak Your loitering words.

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