I’ve been weeding through several boxes of books this afternoon that I have stored under the stairway leading out of my apartment as I’ve managed to accumulate, once again in my life, too many books (it’s my only fetish–see definition #2–at least that I am aware of). They are weighing me down in more ways than one and it’s time to lighten the load (also in more ways than one).
While tossing them into three different piles (those to keep, those to get rid of, and those I’m not sure of yet), one book really caught my eye, and when I felt the need for a break, I brought it back upstairs (where it is considerably cooler then the stairwell area) and started reading it. Let’s just say there is not a person in the world who couldn’t relate to the topic which is a universal problem–overcoming betrayal and dealing with revenge.
Intrigued? I found the book on a discount table for only $3.97 last fall (and didn’t read it back then). You’ll recognize the author’s name right away–Dr. Laura Schlessinger (e.g., “Dr. Laura”). The title of the book caught my eye and the price made it hard to resist. It’s titled, “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)” (2011).
There is no better way to describe an initial and sudden betrayal then a shark attack. It’s brutal and it rips apart the life of the betrayed. At this point I want to quote several paragraphs from Dr. Laura’s book on pages 17-20 which describes the cast of characters in all betrayals (the betrayed, the betrayer, and the “others”):
No matter what type of person you are, there are really bad people out there who are ready to disrupt your world and well-being to a magnitude you never imagined. If you don’t know or believe that, you are dangerously naïve. If you believe that all the people out there are bad, you are dangerously paranoid. In between those two extremes is the truth of the sad nature of human beings with which we must all contend: betrayals are commonplace.
Betrayals are a breach of trust to a code or a person, including acts of dishonesty, lying, cheating, or stealing, double-crossing, deception, gossiping, duplicity, unfaithfulness, treason, leading astray, undermining, selling out . . . to name only a few faces of betrayal.
Every single human being on the face of the earth has been betrayed, back-stabbed, undermined, screwed over, or had their reputation attacked at least once in their lives. It’s a horrible experience, leaving you stunned, scared, sad, and very, very angry; and sometimes you become so cynical that it changes fundamental ways you think and react to people for a long, long time . . . .
When you are attacked, the first reaction is shock and disbelief. Next you try to shut down what is happening. When that doesn’t work, you strike back–which usually makes the situation worse. After a while you turn to others for solace, emotional support, and assistance in getting the betrayer to back off.
You probably found that most people were sympathetic at first, and then they didn’t want to hear about it anymore. You also probably found that not too many people would step up to the plate and speak up for you. Why? Because they don’t want a bull’s-eye pasted onto their backs next. People who betray are very powerful because “good people” are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives.
That means that adding insult (no valiant supporters rushing to your side) to injury (the betrayal) becomes your personal reality. Expecting rallying support from people becomes a huge disappointment added on to the original betrayal. In fact, the whole battalion taking a step back when you ask for volunteers to help you fight your battle can be a more devastating experience than the original betrayal. You end up being not only victimized but abandoned to fight your fight alone. It makes you wonder what friends are for. It makes you also doubt the legal and social systems that appear to lean way over backward to protect the perps (perpetrators).”
“People who betray are very powerful because ‘good people’ are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives . . .” Dr. Laura goes on to describe one of her own personal stories of betrayal and how a friend, who was among the betrayers but not one of them when the verbal attack took place, just stood in silence and said nothing in her defense. Nothing at all. And he didn’t even offer any support the next day after it happened, either. He remained silent.
Dr. Laura states these “stand by” folks will try (if they try at all) to defend their inaction by minimizing the betrayal. But she adds a big “however” to the equation when she states:
You [the betrayed] are usually wise enough–especially after a night of sleeping on it–to know the difference between a glitch in communication and a frank betrayal of your trust, faith, privacy, truth, status, reputation, relationship, and so forth (p. 23).
She goes on to state on the same page regarding folks who betray others that it is the “everyday” people (and not just sociopaths) that should worry us the most as they are capable of hurting us in the most extraordinary ways. She states the following:
It is the everyday people, in service to their own egos, social status, financial opportunities, envy, and petty meanness, you have to worry about the most, as they are likely to pop up from the most unlikely places: school, church, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, work . . . anywhere you interact with people.
Do these people know that they are “bad” or have done something “bad”? I talk to people every day who have performed the most egregious acts of hurt and betrayal, yet deny that their behaviors weren’t righteous. Righteous! They try to give examples of what was done to them (usually innocuous) and convince me that their actions were necessary or justified. These “everyday” folks often just don’t think about the humanity of their victims at all, and in fact would deny that their targets even are victims” (pp. 23-24).
There is not a person on the planet who hasn’t hurt someone by actions or attitudes and who felt justified in doing so or denied that it was done with any intent to hurt or inflict harm on that person. We are all guilty of that, folks. And while sociopaths absolutely don’t care what anyone else thinks and they like inflicting pain on others, “everyday” folks will justify their actions of betrayal or deny them to the nth degree. And when “everyday” people keep silence in the midst of the betrayal being done to others to protect themselves or keep out of the line of fire, it is just as Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (quote source here). Silence is not golden.
While I haven’t read the rest of the book yet (and just in case you’re wondering), Dr. Laura never, ever encourages revenge. She does deal with the topic in a couple of chapters. Also, from a Biblical perspective, the apostle Paul states in Romans 12:17-21:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
My long term unemployment started from an act of betrayal that just keeps on giving after four plus years and sometimes my anger and frustration comes out (well, I spit and cuss in the confines of my apartment). But the truth is, all the spitting and cussing hasn’t changed my situation one bit. And yes, I pray daily about it (the entire situation). But this past week I ran across a portion of Scripture that really gave me pause for thought, and if you find yourself in a situation right now that seems insurmountable (like I do), maybe it will give you some encouragement, too. It’s found in I Peter 4:12-19:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
This long term trial with unemployment has been one of the hardest and is the longest trial I have ever had to endure, and after four plus years with no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard to understand why the Lord hasn’t allowed me to find employment yet or at least to be able to move on with my life. It’s in times like these that I have to remember that we don’t get to see or understand what is going on in the “big picture” of our circumstances except what we go through personally on a daily basis. And the big picture really is much bigger than just “us,” and it always is.
So as Peter advises in 1 Peter 5:6-11:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
And that is very good news . . . .
YouTube video: “He’s Got It All In Control” sung by Shirley Caesar and Joe Ligon:
I began this blog three years ago in July 2010 as a way to express my frustration in dealing with long term unemployment. I was new to blogging at the time and I was also one year and three months into being unemployed, and my frustration level had peaked as I never dreamed I’d still be unemployed by that time after losing my job in Houston in April 2009. Well, if you’ve been reading my blog posts you know that I am still unemployed four+ years later.
Those first few months of blogging were a real struggle–not so much from a writing perspective but because I had no consistent theme and the posts were “all over the place” (much like my frustration level). By the end of April 2011 (which also was the 2nd anniversary of when I lost my job in Houston), I deleted all of the posts I had written and decided to take a break. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever try blogging again; after all, what I needed was a job and a life again, and blogging just seemed to exacerbate the frustration I felt from my attempts at trying to find work after applying for close to 400 jobs at that point in time. However, three months later, in July 2011, I started it back up again and, as the saying goes (and 222 blog posts later . . .), the rest is history.
This post is about celebrating these past three years and the changes that have occurred in me since then–changes that have put Jesus Christ back in His rightful place in my life and that have opened up my life and understanding in ways I could never have imagined even three years ago. Many of my blog posts are the direct result of those changes. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can’t know how to live this life in Jesus if we don’t spend significant time in His Word and getting to know Him through study and by praying for wisdom, insight, and understanding. Living on the fumes of a pastor’s sermon cannot and will not change a life, nor will focusing on ourselves and what we want. Getting to know the Creator on a personal level will change everything about our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us but we have to get our plans and agendas out of the way so He can show us His. There is no other way.
As I mentioned in a post I wrote several days ago titled, “Faith That Conquers,” I’ve been planning a trip to Washington D.C. as I haven’t been there since I attended a conference there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University (1990-91). Unfortunately, a situation with my ankle has postponed it for the moment but I haven’t taken it off the back burner. And, I can’t think of a better or more inspiring place to visit to celebrate America’s greatness and everything America stands for from our past right on up through today.
There is one other place I have longed to visit, and that place is Israel. Israel and the Jewish people have a very special place in God’s heart and the Old Testament is filled with stories and prophesies regarding the creation of Israel and it’s rich history which includes folks like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, King David, Elijah, Elisha, and all of the prophets, and many, many others, too. Israel is also known as “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8), and it is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and where He ministered during His time on earth until his crucifixion and resurrection. And Israel and the city of Jerusalem will play prominently in the future role God has in store for this planet of ours. Zion is another term frequently used in the Bible which “generally refers to the city of Jerusalem (and is used in conjunction with Jerusalem), and the entire Land of Israel, and . . . to the Jewish people” (quote source here). That brings me to one of my favorite passages in the Bible that is found in Isaiah 54 (NIV), and it is full of promise:
The Future Glory of Zion
“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children
of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.
Centuries ago, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 30:2-3 regarding the restoration of Israel after it’s destruction back then: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord.” And again Jeremiah 33:7 states, “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” And after 1,878 years Israel became a nation again on May 14, 1948 (source here) and it’s economy is booming.
It is my hope that once my own “economy” is booming again (e.g., employment/income) that I can visit this great nation of Israel that God raised up centuries ago, scattered around the globe after it’s destruction, and then brought back to life again in 1948–a nation so rich in heritage for us as Christians and where Jesus Christ walked and ministered during His years on earth and gave His life so that we may live (for those who believe).
As Israel has come “full circle” after centuries of being scattered, I have great hope, too, that after some very difficult years filled with unbelievable learning experiences that I, too, will soon finally come “full circle.” And if you are currently experiencing difficult and trying times (and who isn’t?) . . .
It is my hope that you will, too . . . .
And on that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite jazz instrumentals by David Benoit on his CD titled, “Full Circle” (2006).
YouTube Video: “Beat Street” (2006) by David Benoit:
Where is God in the midst of injustice, suffering, and evil? That question has echoed down through the ages and is still being asked today by both skeptics and believers alike. The skeptics point to it as some sort of proof that God doesn’t really exist, and the believers ask it because they don’t understand where God is in the midst of great tragedy, injustice, and evil.
Of the sixteen writing prophets in the Old Testament, there is one who took our side and asked that question of God from our perspective–“Where are you, God, in the midst of injustice and suffering?” His name was Habakkuk and he wrote three chapters that appear in the book with his name on it in the Old Testament. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah and prophesied during the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylonia’s world rulership (source here). Little else is known about him other than what is written in his book.
Most of us (well, the believers among us) can certainly relate to the opening lines in Habakkuk (see below). Habakkuk levels two complaints and the Lord gives His answer each time, and then Habakkuk ends with a prayer. As stated in a study of Habakkuk in Bible.org, he was wrestling with the very issues we wrestle with (in fact, his name means “embrace” or “wrestle”)–“If God is good, then why is there evil in the world? And if there has to be evil, then why do the evil prosper? What is God doing in the world?” (quote source here). The study notes a similar thought in Zephaniah 1:12 coming from the Israelites who thought that “God did not do good or evil. They thought God was not involved and so continued in their sin.” However, “Habakkuk is one of the good guys. He fears God and does what is right, but it is getting him nowhere” (quote source here).
I think most of us (e.g., the believers among us) can definitely relate to that last sentence. I know I sure can. The study in Bible.org continues with a quote from a book on Habakkuk published in 1983 titled, “From Worry to Worship,” by Warren Wiersbe: “While Habakkuk begins by wondering or worrying about the world around him and God’s seeming indifference, he ends by worshipping God” (p. 8). Habakkuk has a fair amount of fear after God tells him what is going to happen in answer to his first complaint which brings about his second complaint and God’s second answer. The progression of Habakkuk through three chapters takes him from a place of fear, trembling, and complaints to trusting and worshiping God (source here).
With that in mind, let’s read the three chapters in Habakkuk (NIV):
The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
The Lord’s Answer
5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
12 Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?
2 I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
The Lord’s Answer
2 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
5 indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.
6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,
“‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
How long must this go on?’
7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise?
Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
Then you will become their prey.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
the peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!
The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.
17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
and your destruction of animals will terrify you.
For you have shed human blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
he makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.”
20 The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.
3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.
2 Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
4 His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
5 Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
6 He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.
8 Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
9 You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10 the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.
11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.
13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
(Source: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®)
In so many of our church settings today, this is a vision of God that we don’t often hear about. As I read through the words in Habakkuk, I can understand his fear and trembling as it is my same reaction. In fact, with all the talk of “God’s favor” that is so pervasive in many segments of Christianity in our culture, it smacks of a certain “unreality” to what we are used to hearing. In fact, it’s almost like we want to do a “double take” to make sure we read it right. God is raising up a foreign nation (the Babylonians) to come and destroy Judah? And the Babylonians are really wicked and powerful and no one can stop them? (See Hab. 1:6-11.) While verse 11 indicates that the Babylonians will be held responsible for their wickedness, God is using them to bring about His purposes.
At this point the study on Habakkuk in Bible.org states the following:
Most of us have been praying for the evil in our society hoping for revival. What if God sent the Soviet Union [e.g., Russia] or Saddam Hussein [this study was written before his death] to conquer America, to instill communism or a dictatorship, imprison all Christians, etc. What would you think about that answer? Would you say God didn’t answer your prayer?
This points us to another principle we can learn from Habakkuk. God doesn’t always give us the answers we want or expect. We usually have it in our mind how we want God to answer our prayers. When He does it differently, how do you respond?
[Note: The Soviet Union was dissolved into 16 independent nations on December, 25, 1991 and is now referred to as Russia. Saddam Hussein, who was the President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003, was executed on December 30, 2006.]
This leads to Habakkuk’s second complaint found in Hab. 1:12-2:1. First, he acknowledges that God is everlasting. The study in Bible.org brings up God’s immutability–that God does not change. It states “the fact that God does not change is important because it means God keeps His promises and He has made promises to Israel. Habakkuk knows that God will not totally destroy Israel because of His covenant promises. That is why he says, ‘We will not die'” (quote source here).
Habakkuk also acknowledges that God is too pure to look at evil and that He cannot tolerate wrongdoing, and he asks, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (v. 13). Yet even though he still doesn’t understand God’s answer, he believes in and places his trust in God.
If you’re like me, at this point we are looking for something positive–anything positive. This is not good news, yet God has His reasons. So after Habakkuk levels his second complaint, the Lord answers (see Hab. 2:2-20). After reading those verses, we discover that the enemy–in this case, the Babylonians–are puffed up, arrogant, greedy, never satisfied, and “gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples;” dishonest, violent, sensual, and full of idolatry. In other words, as the study in Bible.org states, “God’s answer is this: Don’t worry about the Babylonians. They will get theirs, too.” But let’s not overlook a very important portion of verse 4 that is for us (e.g., those of us who believe) in the midst of all the tragedy, “. . . but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (e.g., by faith). That is what we (e.g., believers) are called to do in the midst of any circumstances that we find ourselves in whether good, bad, or downright awful.
At the end of the Lord’s answer is this verse (Hab. 2:20): “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” God is in control. Way too often and most of the time we relegate God to our level of understanding. And in our own effort to understand God, we make Him like us, and that is a very grave error on our part. As Isaiah 55:8-9 states:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
At the start of Chapter 1 Habakkuk was low and despairing because of the evil all around him, and by the beginning of Chapter 2 he is standing watch, waiting for the Lord’s reply, which is found in Hab. 2:3:
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.”
In the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful, he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):
“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.”
As the study in Bible.org concludes, “Habakkuk now understands and offers a prayer of praise because God is in control. He pleads for mercy in the midst of the judgment (Hab. 3:1-2); he praises God’s majesty and power (Hab. 3:3-15); and he promises to wait on the Lord (Hab. 3:16-19)” (quote source here).
While none of us knows what the future holds, like Habakkuk, we know Who holds the future. While injustice and evil abound all around us, that is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot, folks. And that’s the message of Habakkuk, going from fear to faith and worshiping God for who He is (through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord). And if we truly know and believe in Him, we know the ultimate end of the enemy, and we know that in the end . . .
God wins . . . .
YouTube Video: “Through the Fire” by the Crabb Family:
A couple of days ago I received an email from a friend I used to work with and it was one of those emails requesting me to do something and then send it along to twenty other folks. Since I knew the friend who sent it to me usually doesn’t forward these kinds of emails, I decided to read it to see what it was all about.
The email requested that we send one of our favorite verses to the first name on a list that only had two names (actually, just email addresses) in the email and then forward (via bcc) the email to twenty other folks. When forwarding the email I was told to delete the first email address of the person I sent a verse to and move the second email address into first place, and put my email address in second place. The object of this email was that eventually, if everyone did it, we would all receive individual emails from others with encouraging verses to brighten our day, and I thought it was a great idea.
The person to whom I sent my verse to was another woman I used to work with and we had both, several years earlier, moved on in different directions. I remember her with great fondness and was happy to see her email address was the one I was to send my verse to, and so I sent it. The verse that I sent comes from 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Interestingly enough, I read a short devotion this morning that mentioned this verse. The devotion also included a passage of Scripture that I feel compelled to share. It is from Luke 23:32-43–the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ between the two thieves:
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The two thieves crucified next to Jesus had committed crimes that justified their punishment, yet Jesus had committed no crime. While one of the thieves hurled insults at Jesus, the other thief recognized Jesus for who He was, and rebuked the other thief who hurled the insults. In humble recognition, he asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And what was Jesus’ response? “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). What a classic example the forgiven thief provides for us in this verse. Both of the thieves had lived the same kind of lifestyle which brought about their death sentences, but only one recognized the Son of God as Jesus hung on the cross between them and called out, in humble recognition of who Jesus was (and is) to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus did. And Jesus still calls out today to everyone who will hear His voice.
The devotion I referred to above comes from Our Daily Bread and is titled, “Unfinished Business.” It includes a short story that brought back memories of the work that I did before I was fired and my career in that field, after twenty years, essentially ended. I worked with adult students of all ages and a couple of the oldest students were in their 70s. One of them, a woman who had finished a very successful career as a nurse before retiring, still had a great desire to finish her bachelor’s degree, which she never finished as she embarked on her career in nursing years earlier. At the graduation ceremony, she was asked to tell her story of what earning her degree had meant to her after all of those years, and it brought tears to my eyes. And the story of Leo in the devotion below reminded me of her this morning. Here’s the story:
At age 99, Leo Plass received his college diploma from Eastern Oregon University. He had stopped working on his teaching degree during the 1930s when he left college to earn an income in the logging industry. Seventy-nine years later, he completed the three credits necessary to graduate and resolve this important unfinished business in his life.
Many of us can relate to Leo. Our unfinished business may include apologies left unsaid or, even more important, unfinished spiritual decisions. One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus needed desperately to make such a decision. Just a few breaths away from eternity, he realized who Jesus was and wanted to be with Him in heaven. He recognized his sin and Jesus’ innocence, and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus replied, “Assuredly, . . . today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).
God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). His offer of salvation is open to anyone, regardless of age, health, or stage in life. His offer is open to you. Don’t delay receiving Jesus as Savior (2 Cor. 6:2). Resolve this important, unfinished business, and you’ll look forward to eternity with Him. ~Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Think of that for a moment . . . . The second thief, just like the first thief who hurled insults and mocked Jesus, was just a few breaths away from eternity—E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y–when he recognized his sin and Jesus’ innocence and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And Jesus remembered him.
As the devotion states, our “unfinished business” may include finishing a degree that got sidelined many years ago, or apologies left unsaid (sometimes over an expanse of years), but most important of all are our “unfinished spiritual decisions.” And ignoring that decision doesn’t change the final outcome if we die before it is resolved. The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 9:26b-28: “. . . but he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
There were two thieves crucified with Jesus that day long ago. The first thief hurled insults and mocked Jesus, but the second thief recognized who Jesus was and humbly called out to him to “remember me.” And only one made it into paradise with Jesus that day.
While most of us will never commit any crimes punishable by death according to the law, there is a point of connection between us and the two thieves. The point of connection is “sin.” Romans 3:22b-26 states, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
We are like the thieves in that one of the thieves died believing in Jesus Christ and his sins were forgiven, and the other thief died in unbelief, mocking Him. In that respect we are like them . . . we can either live our lives on our own terms and deny the reality of who Jesus Christ is, or we can come to Him in humble submission for what He did at the cross for us–taking on our sin debt. The choice is ours. So with that in mind, let me ask you this question . . .
Which of the two thieves represents your heart?
Don’t put off answering that door . . . .
YouTube Video: I originally posted this song on my Easter 2013 blog post titled “On the Road to Emmaus.” The song is titled “Jesus Saves/Easter Song” sung by Northland Church Worship Team on April 12, 2009:
Okay, okay, this isn’t “A Silicon Valley Story” but it is “the new, new thing.” And, I’m pretty sure my niche is definitely here on this blog site. I know I mentioned in my last post that I had started a new blog site and I called it “a new thing”; however, after writing two blog posts on it, it really isn’t turning out to be much different from this one. And while I won’t trash that site yet, I can hear the wrecking ball in the distance . . . 😉 Some things just need to be trashed. (UPDATE: I completely trashed it on June 8th and I just replaced that blog post mentioned above with one of the posts I wrote on my new blog site that no longer exists.)
May 2013 has been an interesting month for me. I think I’m glad it’s over, too (along with another birthday on May 31st). Besides the never-ending frustration of being unemployed for a zillion years now (okay, maybe not that long, but it sure feels like it), I was hoping that by starting the new website that I could sort of “showcase” my writing skills to potential employers with the hope of possibly landing a writing gig. (You do know that I want to be a writer when I grow up, right?) And, most employers (except for Christian employers and that’s still a “maybe”) probably aren’t interested in reading what I write on this blog.
Well, after encountering a bunch of hacker issues on that particular blog site (no point in going into the details) and writing two blog posts that were not significantly different in topic then what I write on this blog (well, they may have been a bit more “edgy” then what I write on this one–after all, I’m pretty sick of being unemployed and going nowhere fast or slow or at any speed, really), I decided that it was best to leave the month of May in the past, and start fresh again in June.
I am in definite need of inspiration and I’m not getting it by what I’ve been doing lately. So, I’ve been thinking about taking a road trip to the most inspiring place I can think of right now–Washington DC. It’s about the same distance as my trip to Houston, but Houston wasn’t too inspiring (after all, I lost my job there over four years ago now). It’s been years and years since I’ve been in Washington DC. In fact, if I remember right, the last time was when I attended a national conference (NASPA) held there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University.
My first stop would be at the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t think of a more inspiring place to start my tour. If it was possible (and it’s not, I know . . .) I’d like to crawl up on Lincoln’s lap and ask him for some advice. He had a pretty tough life and, of course, he was assassinated at the end, but slavery was abolished under his tutelage. And that is a very big deal. A VERY big deal. Slavery was one of the worst blights ever to appear on the American landscape.
And my next stop would be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where so many, many soldiers of my generation died at way too young of an age in a war that divided our nation and brought scorn to those who did returned. Another blight for which the creation of “The Wall” has provided much healing especially for those who served in Vietnam. And, of course, there’s the Washington Monument, dedicated to our first president, George Washington. And, a tour of the White House would be nice, but due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration tours have been cancelled.
There is much to see and I’m sure I’d plan to pack in as many sites as I can during the few days I’m there; but mostly, I want to go there because it is the greatest place of inspiration and dedication to America and what America stands for in our nation. And I’m in need of inspiration . . . (a job would be nice, too).
I’ve been alive long enough now (61 years) to have seen a deterioration of America over the past few decades. It started when we threw God out of the public schools and the public arena; drugs became highly fashionable with the invasion of the hippie revolution, as did a major decline in morality on a large scale; and there was the whole women’s lib movement as well as the civil rights movement that brought two significant issues to a head that certainly needed to be addressed, and there was also the “God is dead” movement followed by the “Jesus freaks.”
The disco era bought in shallowness as a mainstream lifestyle and the 80’s brought in the “Me generation” with all of it’s excesses in greed and materialism (on a mass scale), and somewhere along the line making money became our god and God was put on a shelf. Even our churches started catering to the culture to draw and keep crowds, and the birth of mega-churches produced “the 20-minute sermon” to go along with our fast food and fast paced society. Our lives became a long, never-ending “to do” list of things and events and how to make more money. Spiritual maturity ended right after the “get saved” prayer and the Bible was relegate to a shelf on the bookcase except when it was dusted off to take to church on Sunday morning (if we even took it or if we even attended).
Then there was the Wall Street crash right after the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date–9/11. And we started a “war on terror” overseas and here at home. Over the next few years there was a housing boom that was really built on nothing more than a “house of cards” waiting to fall. What looked like a real boom for several years wasn’t . . . and it fell with the second Wall Street crash of September 29, 2008, the greatest crash of all that sent shock waves around the world and the world economy reeling.
Of course, the unemployment rate started to skyrocket in 2008 when the “house of cards” started falling and the recovery ever since has been very slow and in many cases, nonexistent (for those like myself who are still unemployed). We live in troubling times.
Times, of course, have always been troubled . . . ebbing and flowing with whatever is going on in the world and our own culture at the time (the two are intrinsically intertwined). And we threw God out of the public arena in the 60’s–fifty years ago now. The very principles this nation was founded on no longer seemed to matter to anyone (at best, we’re admonished to “keep it quiet”). Now when the tough times hit, there is nothing to fall back on. We have a whole generation (primarily people under 40) who have been raised with little or no “religious” values of any kind or if they have been raised with them, they are shallow at best and never meant to be an “anchor” for their lives. Faith in self is their motto (or maybe faith in technology).
Let’s look at how Americans responded after 9/11. For a few months after it happened people flooded into churches all over the nation and God was mentioned everywhere, but in very short order life went back to “normal” and God was put back on the shelf and faith in ourselves was back full force. But what will happen if something worse happens in the future (after all, terrorism hasn’t disappeared)? If people haven’t put their faith in anything other than themselves and/or their own financial resources, what will happen when it all collapses? Where will they turn?
I feel fortunate to have been raised in an era when Christianity was still very much a part of the fabric of America. It’s not that everyone in my generation (the Baby Boomers) adhered to it–in fact, many didn’t–but it was still there and widely available. Discipleship was taken seriously after conversion and we knew there was a “growing” process to a new life in Jesus Christ. The focus was on Him and learning how He expected His followers to live, and not on all of the focus on “us” that started happening in the 80’s (or possibly earlier) in mainstream Christianity. We can’t ever get to know Jesus Christ if what we are looking for most of the time is what He can or will give to or do for us and/or if we were brought up to believe that our sin doesn’t matter or that sin is irrelevant (just look at how the whole topic of sin has died out in the past few decades).
These past four plus years of unemployment have been some of the hardest years of my life, and I know that if I didn’t have my faith in Jesus Christ along with the Biblical knowledge of how to live my life (not perfectly, mind you, but knowing the direction it should be taking), and without having a relationship with Him that is “two-way” and not just “my-way,” I don’t think I would have survived for this long. My faith in Jesus Christ (and not faith in myself) is the anchor that holds my life together, and while many folks in our society today ridicule such beliefs I find it amazing that they ridicule something they don’t even understand, nor do they even try to understand. They just mock. But what will happen if/when the bottom falls out of their lives? The Wall Street crashes have proved that any monetary support that people have built up over the years to support themselves could be wiped out in an instant and that happened to millions during the Great Depression. Faith in self and/or money is no faith at all.
Do you want to know the type of faith that conquers the world? It’s stated in I John 5:1-15:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
This life is not just about the “here and now” of how to keep ourselves going and trying to stay away from trouble as much as possible and/or trying to accumulate as much money as possible (circumstances have a way in interfering with that as we all know). It’s also about eternity, which lasts forever . . . forever . . . . I am amazed at how trite people take the concept of eternity, if they even allow themselves to think of it much at all. This life on earth isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.
Many of our early leaders in America like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were strong believers in Jesus Christ and they were not ashamed to lead with the clear knowledge and conviction that they were not in charge, and that God was (and is) ultimately in charge. And, this nation was founded on Biblical principles and with the eroding of those principles over the decades there has been an eroding in our culture. But just because our culture has eroded, that doesn’t mean we as individuals should allow our faith in Jesus Christ (if we are truly His followers) to erode into a shallow type of Christianity that looks and acts no different from the rest of the culture and will not stand when the tough times comes, and they will come as they always do.
So you may be asking if I really need to make a trip to Washington DC to be inspired? Maybe not. But I want to go and celebrate a nation that is still the greatest nation on the planet, and celebrate the lives of all of those leaders and soldiers and other folks, too, who have made it great. And where is our nation headed? I don’t know. I can’t even find a job let alone answer a question as big as that, but I am grateful for our past and where it has brought us and I look forward to being inspired by all of those folks from our past while I’m there.
So, let me ask this question . . . what or who are you putting your faith in? If it’s anything (self, money, etc.) or anyone other then Jesus Christ, your faith will not hold, and you’ll cave in at the first sign of trouble. Don’t cave in. And if you don’t know Him, get to know Him now.
You’ll never regret it, no matter what circumstances come your way . . . .
YouTube Video: Here is Salvador singing that great Steve Winwood song, “Higher Love” (1986):