Perspective In The Middle Of The Storm

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Have you ever read the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Poor Alexander, his day just seemed to get worse—nothing was going right. He wakes up with gum in his hair, trips on his skateboard, and drops his favorite sweater in the sink filled with water. Breakfast doesn’t get any better, things go sideways at school, his least-favorite food is served for dinner, his nightlight burns out. And if all that’s not bad enough, the cat decides to sleep with his brother instead of with him. 

Can you relate to Alexander? 

Doesn’t it seem like when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong? And if things go wrong for too many days in a row, it seems like the bad times are lasting forever! All of us have a tendency to exaggerate during the dark days. 

A psalmist named Asaph seemed to be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of his own. Listen to some of his words, including the exaggerations of how bad he thought everything was: 

Why have You rejected us forever, O God? … Your foes roared in the place where You met us… They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land. … How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile Your name forever? Why do You hold back Your hand? (Psalm 74:1, 4, 8, 10, 11) 

In the middle of the storm, we tend to not only exaggerate how bad things are but we also seem to lose our bearings and we can even lose sight of God. I think that’s what was happening to Asaph in the first half of his lament. But then we come to the middle verse of this psalm and we notice the beginning of a change in perspective: “But You, O God, are my King from of old; You bring salvation upon the earth” (v. 12). 

Aha! In the middle of his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Asaph stopped looking at all the bad things around him and turned his gaze upward. “Look,” he tells himself, “there is God still reigning as the Supreme King!” Asaph begins to recount all that God has done, using the phrase “It was You” who did these miraculous things five times in the next five verses. 

In the middle of the storm, Asaph has to remind himself…

  • God existed before time began
  • He is still the sovereign ruler in this present moment 
  • He gets the final and decisive word at the end
  • He never forgets His covenant of love with His people 
  • He defends His cause and His people 
  • His desires can never be thwarted or even delayed a single moment 
  • He is the only One who exists as the Eternal I AM
  • His love and His power are unmatched and unrivaled anywhere in the universe 
  • He will rise up to save me 

My friend, I implore you to remember these words of Asaph. Commit them to your memory now, so that when your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day happens—when it seems like everything is going to go wrong forever—that you can spot those lying exaggerations, you can turn your gaze upward, and you can find hope in knowing your God not only has all power to save you in the storm, but He has unlimited love that wants to save you through the storm. 

Look up, look up, look up and see your God reigning supremely over even the worst terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. 

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Ruth + Boaz—The Mother’s Day Version

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

John Maxwell said, “We overestimate what we can do in a day; we underestimate what we can do in a year.” In the case of parents, I think we do the same thing: we lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details and the pressures of each day. As a result, many times we are unaware of the long-lasting rewards that come from our daily obedience and God’s eternal faithfulness. This was never more true than in the fantastic love story of Ruth + Boaz. 

Last week we looked at the history of Pentecost and what took place 50 days after the Passover, we saw a picture in the Old Testament that was fulfilled in the New Testament. The Jews saw this too. In the Hagiographa (Holy Writings), they picked one of the books of the Old Testament to read at each of the annual Jewish feasts, and the Book of Ruth was selected for Pentecost. I think this was because Ruth herself is in essence a “harvest” of God’s blessing. She is the firstfruits of the non-Jewish people whom God has engrafted into His holy family. 

The story of Ruth’s coming into God’s family is birthed out of heartache. Elimelech and Naomi live in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” but it was a time of famine; Elimelech’s name means “God is King,” but Israel had no king and everyone lived for themselves; Naomi’s name means “pleasant,” but her days were bitter (see Judges 21:25; Ruth 1:1-5). 

After Elimelech and his two sons die, Naomi changes her name to Mara (which means bitterness), and yet she hears “that the LORD had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them” (1:6) and she decides to return to Bethlehem. She counsels her daughters-in-law to remain with their families in Moab, but Ruth decides to cling to Naomi. 

In the face of utter hopelessness, Ruth could have chosen what was familiar—her family, her homeland, her gods—but instead she chose to cling to Jehovah. 

Perhaps when she heard that Jehovah had come to the aid of His people she realized, “I’ve never heard of Chemosh coming to the aid of his people. We sacrifice to him but he doesn’t do anything for us. This Jehovah cares for His people. I will put my faith in Him.” 

Ruth’s first step of obedience triggers a whole series of events, starting with one that the writer of this story introduces by saying, “As it turned out, Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” 

But this is no accident—God oversees and directs all of the details. All of history is His story. God is in charge of the tiniest of details: even down to directing Ruth to the right barley field. Ruth’s trust in Jehovah, her obedience in following Him, set things in motion that God had planned, just as Paul explained in Romans 8:28. 

Moms, at the end of the story of your life, you will look back and see so many as-it-turned-out moments. But that means you are living in an as-it-turned-out moment right now. If you believe God is overseeing the details of your life, then every moment is divinely orchestrated by Jehovah, every moment is strategic, every moment is God-directed. You must remain daily obedient to God. 

Don’t underestimate the legacy of God’s provision that is being established every single day that you remain obedient in following Him. Look at the amazing way God used Ruth and Boaz in the family tree of Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:16-22; Matthew 1:1-6).

Moms, your obedience today is preparing your children—and their future generations—for them to experience God’s provision in a coming famine (see Amos 8:11; Psalm 91).

Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to Obed without there being a father, which is why the story is called Ruth + Boaz. On Father’s Day we’ll look at the integrity of Boaz that made this possible too, so please make plans to join me then.

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King And Commoner

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… (Ezra 1:1). 

Ezra begins as 2 Chronicles ends: with the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. 

The Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, who were then defeated by the Medes, who were themselves defeated by the Persians under Cyrus II. This was a powerful man who claimed “all the kingdoms of the earth” as his possession. (v. 2). 

Yet this conquering king who was called Cyrus the Great had his heart directed by God. 

Among the Israelite exiles that returned to Jerusalem were princes, priests, Levites, servants, and common people of every stripe. These exiles were rulers of nothing. 

Yet these people also had their hearts moved by God (v. 5)—42,360 of them, to be precise. 

The same God who moved the heart of the most powerful king on earth also moved the hearts of common people. God had a plan to fulfill and He knew exactly which hearts to move at the precise time to bring about His purpose. God is sovereignly in control. All of history—including all the people in history—is His story. 

The king is not too powerful and the common citizen is not too small to be used by God. 

Let me make that statement more personal: All of the “great” people on earth today are not too powerful to be used by God, nor are you too small to be used by Him. 

Will you say “yes” when He moves your heart to action?

It’s Not About Me

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… (2 Chronicles 32:1). 

After three very long chapters outlining Hezekiah’s faithfulness to obey God and restore worship in the temple, how would you expect this sentence to be completed: 

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… 

  • …God gave Hezekiah abundant blessings”? 
  • …Hezekiah never had any problems”?
  • …all of Hezekiah’s enemies were afraid of him”? 

Actually, the full sentence says, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” 

What?! That doesn’t seem fair! 

Shouldn’t it be something like, “If I do these good things then God will do good things for me”? Or even, “If bad guys do bad things then God will do bad things to them”? 

But this wasn’t about Hezekiah. It wasn’t even about Sennacherib. It was about God’s glory. 

Jonah had delivered God’s message of judgment on Nineveh and the people had repented. But then they had begun to backslide from that. God was mercifully giving them another chance to repent. Sennacherib felt he was invincible and didn’t need to turn to Yahweh. So God had to demonstrate “with [Sennacherib] is only the arm of flesh” (vv. 8, 10-19). 

God’s judgment fell, Sennacherib was assassinated, Judah was delivered, and God was glorified (vv. 21-23). 

It is shortsighted of me to say, “But God, I did everything faithfully so this bad thing shouldn’t be happening to me.” 

It’s not about me! It never has been. It’s all about God’s glory. 

Yes, Hezekiah reaped the benefit of Sennacherib’s defeat, but it wasn’t because God was “paying Hezekiah back” for the good he had done. God was still being glorified when “many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”

Sennacherib was defeated and Hezekiah was saved for the same reason: God was glorified in doing so! 

Whenever you walk through a dark time, you too might be tempted to say, “God, this isn’t fair!” But remember, it’s not about you—it’s about God being glorified. Perhaps God gains greater glory and you gain greater rewards by Him delivering you through an enemy’s attack, not delivering you from the attack. Whatever God is doing, He is doing it for His glory. 

Sola Deo gloria!

Poetry Saturday—Why Fret Thee

Why fret thee, soul,
For things beyond thy small control?
Do but thy part and thou shalt see 
Heaven will have charge of these and thee.
Sow thou the seed and wait in peace
The Lord’s increase. —Kate Putnam Osgood

7 Quotes From “Faith Of Our Founding Fathers”

Parents, please download a FREE copy of this book to help educate your children on the biblical faith that informed the decisions of our Founding Fathers (link in the book review). You can read my complete book review of Faith Of Our Founding Fathers by clicking here. 

“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts.” —John Jay 

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and Soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.” —George Washington 

“In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? … I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth, That God governs in the Affairs of Men! And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His Notice, is it probable than an Empire can rise without His Aid?—We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring Aid we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel…. I therefore beg leave to move, That henceforth Prayers, imploring the Assistance of Heaven, and its Blessing on our Deliberations, be held in this Assembly every Morning before we proceed to Business.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep for ever….” —Thomas Jefferson 

“The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.” —Samuel Adams 

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” —Samuel Adams

The Source Of A Leader’s Moral Authority

Samuel said to all Israel… (1 Samuel 12:1-25). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads with God’s moral authority. 

Samuel had always been a public person: accessible and visible to all. Now he calls all Israel together to challenge them to point out where he may have taken a bribe or used his position to his own advantage. All Israel was silent on this—no one could speak a word against him (v. 4). This gave him the moral authority to speak a hard word to the people. 

Samuel reminds Israel that God is sovereign:

  • God appoints leaders
  • God overrules evil plans
  • God fulfills all His purposes

Samuel had to “confront [them] with evidence” (v. 7) that they had not acted like those things were true about God. A prophet frequently has to say, “Here is God’s standard, and here is where you are falling short of His standard.” But a shepherd’s voice quickly adds, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (v. 23). 

This prophet-shepherd is attested to by God Himself. God will sometimes thunder His thunder (vv. 17-18), but God will always make sure that none of His servant’s words fall to the ground (3:19). This moral authority is gained by both fearing God and delighting in Him.

Fear of God brings the prophet’s voice forward. Delighting in God brings the shepherd’s voice forward. God’s effective leader needs both voices to lead with moral authority.

This is part 47 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Sacred Bond

‘Twixt Jesus and the chosen race, 
Subsists a bond of sovereign grace. 
That hell, with its infernal train. 
Shall ne’er dissolve, or rend in twain. 

This sacred bond shall never break, 
Though earth should to her centre shake ; 
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this, 
For God has pledged His holiness. 

He swore but once, the deed was done; 
‘Twas settled by the great Three One; 
Christ was appointed to r’deem 
All that the Father loved in Him. 

Hail sacred union, firm and strong! 
How great the grace, how sweet the song! 
That worms of earth should ever be 
One with incarnate Deity! 

One in the tomb, one when He rose, 
One when He triumph’d o’er His foes. 
One when in heaven He took His seat. 
While seraph’s sung all hell’s defeat. 

This sacred tie forbids their fears, 
For all He is, or has, is theirs; 
With Him their head, they stand or fall, 
Their life, their surety, and their all. —Anonymous

10 Quotes From “Coronavirus And Christ”

John Piper has given us a book that is so spot-on timely for this unusual time we are going through. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I am a sinner. I have never lived a day of my life—not one—without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness. So how can this be? How can God say, ‘You, John Piper, will be with Me—live or die’ [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10]? God didn’t even wait for the question before He answered. It’s because of Jesus.” 

“To be God is to cause His own counsel to stand—always. God does not just declare which future events will happen; He makes them happen. He speaks His word, and then He adds, ‘I am watching over My word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).” 

“Jesus expresses the sweetness of God’s sovereignty for His disciples as beautifully as anyone: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10: 29–31). Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: you are of more value than many sparrows; the hairs of your head are all numbered; fear not.” 

“Christians get swept away in tsunamis. Christians are killed in terrorist attacks. Christians get the coronavirus. The difference for Christians—those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure—is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation.” 

“God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in disease and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.” 

Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.” 

“Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that He is coming and that we need to be ready [Matthew 24:44].” 

“What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.” 

“Paul does not view this experience of desperation as satanic or random [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. It is purposeful. And God is the One whose purpose is mentioned: this life-threatening experience ‘was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’” 

“Jesus taught His followers to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering. …

“It is nor mere good deeds that give Christianity its tang and luster. It is good deeds in spite of danger.”

Poetry Saturday—One God

One God! one Majesty! 
There is no God but Thee! 
Unbounded, unextended Unity! 

Awful in unity,
O God! we worship Thee,
More simply one, because supremely Three!

Dread, unbeginning One! 
Single, yet not alone, 
Creation hath not set Thee on a higher throne. 

Unfathomable Sea!
All life is out of Thee,
And Thy life is Thy blissful Unity.

All things that from Thee run, 
All works that Thou hast done, 
Thou didst in honor of Thy being One. 

And by Thy being One, 
Ever by that alone, 
Couldst Thou do, and doest, what Thou hast done. 

We from Thy oneness come, 
Beyond it cannot roam, 
And in Thy oneness find our one eternal home. 

Blest be Thy Unity! 
All joys are one to me— 
The joy that there can be no other God than Thee! —Frederick Faber

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