Going to the doctor doesn't scare me. Getting shots does not frighten me. Having my blood drawn for blood work doesn't bother me. But do you want to know what I struggle with when visiting the doctor's office? Do you know those spring-loaded lancets? They are the finger poking things the nurses use to prick the tip of the finger. The spring-loaded ones are conveniently cocked and ready. The nurse simply has to touch the release button as the lancet is placed firmly on the fingertip. With a distinct, loud click the lancet shoots the blade into the tip of the finger. Why does that bother me? Every time I hear that click noise I jump. It startles me. No matter how much I am expecting the noise and try to relax, when I hear that loud click I jump. When a blade is being shot into your skin, that is not the best time to jump.
One day I went to visit the doctor. I had to have my finger pricked. I told the nurse, "You need to hold my hand tightly because when I hear that click I will jump." I made it a habit to warn nurses who were using the spring-loaded lancets of my reaction. Nurses would then take a death-grip on my hand and would proceed without incident. Unfortunately, this one nurse did not take my warning seriously. She held my hand, pressed the release button on the lancet, the click sounded it's deadly intent, and I jumped. What should have been a simple, small prick was now a nasty cut that sliced across the tip of my finger.
Pricks turn to cuts when you jerk away.
Psalm 38:2 "For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore."
David was being pricked. The arrows of the Lord's conviction were sticking him. It was uncomfortable. David didn't jerk away. David didn't reject. David knew God was doing a healing work in David's heart. David needed the conviction and the chastisement because he had sinned. How did David respond?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."
Acts 2:37 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
When the people of Acts 2 heard Peter's message, they were pricked in their hearts. The Gospel convicted them and they responded with repentance.
Later in the book of Acts the high priest, the chief priests, and the captain of the officers gave a much different response. They heard the truth about Christ. Peter and the apostles refused to stop preaching Jesus.
Acts 5:33 "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them."
They were not just pricked. They were cut! Why? The same sword (God's Word) that pricked the people of Acts 2, cut the heart of these men because they jerked away. They rejected. They were not interested in the healing that the Lord was offering.
Stephen preached the Gospel in Acts 7, and got a similar response.
Acts 7:54 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
Those men that he preached to rejected God's Word, and Stephen became the first martyr.
Standing close by, consenting to his martyrdom, was a man named Saul. Saul was vicious in his pursuit against Christians. He threatened and pursued Christians. Yet, God was already working in Saul's heart. On the outside, he was dedicated and determined, yet God's Word was pricking his heart. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus confronted Saul about his response to the pricks.
Acts 9:5 "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
He was not rejecting God's work in his heart. He was not cut to the heart, but he was kicking. Later he submitted to the pricks and repented. He responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
What are you doing when the Word of God pricks? How do you respond to conviction?
Do you jerk away and reject? It will cut your heart and make you angry and bitter. It will cause you to lash out at those who speak the truth of God's Word.
Do you kick against the pricks? Do you fight the work God is doing?
Or do you, like David, submit to conviction?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."
With my oldest child starting Boot Camp in the US Army in a few weeks, my mind has been on military lately. I guess that is a pretty good mindset to have when reading through Psalms. So much of it deals with battles and enemies. David was an amazing military leader.
Every good military has a battle plan. Every good military leader communicates that battle plan to his soldiers. He doesn't tell his soldiers the whole story, but he fills them in on the part they are responsible to carry out. The leader gives precise instructions and the soldiers must follow those instructions in order to win the battle.
In life, we face many battles as Christians. The good thing is that our Commanding Officer, the Lord, has given us precise instructions on how to fight the battles. He hasn't told us exactly what He will do in the battle, but He has guaranteed us the victory if we follow His battle plan.
The TDCR Battle Plan
Psalm 37:3 "Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed."
The first part of the battle plan is to trust our Commanding Officer. Trust what?
Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
One of the greatest tactics of any enemy is divide and conquer. If the enemy can weasel his way in between the soldiers and the commander, he can create confusion. We have to be vigilant about this strategy. The Lord must be our delight. He must be our heart, our focus, our everything! He must be what brings us joy. He must be what we anticipate and look forward to. He cannot simply be a peripheral part of our lives, off on the sidelines. He must be central.
Psalm 37:5 "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
To win this battle, the battle must start with a surrender. It's a complete surrender of our lives to Him. Our will, our desires, our goals, our decisions... all of it must be placed completely in His hands. How can we do that? Trust. A person who doesn't trust God will keep holding the reins of his life. They will refuse to hand those reins over to the Lord.
Psalm 37:7 "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass."
It isn't enough just to wait on the Lord. We should wait on the Lord, but how we wait is just as important as the waiting. He doesn't want us wasting energy pacing back and forth, fretting while we wait. He wants us to rest. He wants us to grab a spiritual cup of hot tea, sit down, and rest. He really is in control and there is no need for us to worry. We need to wait patiently. He will accomplish His part of the Battle Plan. We need to accomplish our part.
Trust, Delight, Commit, Rest. That's our battle plan. That's our strategy. That's the command given by our Commanding Officer.
My family is originally from western North Carolina. Our home town is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. People from all over the world come to see our mountains during the changing of the leaves in the fall season. Words just can't do justice to the splendor of the colorful canvas of orange, yellow, red, and brown trees that decorate the mountains. We are very proud of our mountains.
When I moved here I gained new perspective. Surrounding the valley where we live now are "mountains" that are the same height and similar shape to our mountains back in North Carolina. The people here, however, call these "mountains" hills. They will actually laugh at you if you call them mountains. Why? Because off into the distance behind these hills is a mountain range that towers high above these tiny mounds of dirt. The majestic white-capped giants are several miles away and still they dominate the hill area as if the hills were nothing more than tiny ant colonies.
It's time to gain a little perspective.
Psalm 36:1-2 "The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful."
In man's own eyes, he is big. He is in control. He doesn't need to fear anyone, even God, because he flatters himself with the thoughts of how strong and powerful he is. He boasts and brags. He makes confident plans.
Psalm 36:3-4 "The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil."
He doesn't take thought of how little and weak and helpless he really is. He is like a tiny ant in an ant colony and yet he sees himself as Mount Everest. He imagines he is master of the universe. He is big... in his own eyes.
And then there is God...
Psalm 36:5-7 "Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings."
His mercy cannot be contained. His lovingkindness is immeasurable. His righteousness towers high above the works of men. His judgments are deeper than the ocean. His safety covers His children like the wing of a massive eagle casting a great shadow of safety over all those who trust in Him... all of them at one time. Our God is big. He is powerful. He is truly in control. And He is worthy of adoration and fear.
Imagine me looking down at a tiny ant hill and calling it a mountain. Imagine me boasting of its greatness and power and majesty. Then imagine me standing at the foot of Mount Everest. I can simply step on the ant hill and collapse its peak without any effort, and yet Mount Everest has only been scaled by a handful of people throughout history. It has claimed many lives in their attempt to reach its summit. Even the most skilled climbers respect the dangers the deadly high peak poses to its challengers.
Who are we to boast in ourselves and make confident plans? Who are we to flatter ourselves thinking we have power and control? We are but tiny ants totally dependent on His mercy, lovingkindness, righteousness, judgments, and protection. God is big and it is prudent for us to learn the fear of the Lord.
Sometimes ministry here can be really difficult. I am not talking about the hardships of living here. Yes, sometimes it is difficult because of physical hardships, but there are things we occasionally deal with that are even more difficult to endure emotionally and spiritually.
Just after the first major earthquake a few years ago, we learned quickly how difficult ministry can be. Though we experienced many things firsthand, we also heard stories of things other groups endured. One group went into a village to help build emergency shelters for earthquake victims. While that group was building, people from the village went through the group's vehicles and stole all their tools and supplies. The group was there to selflessly serve the people, and several of the people took advantage of them. I can't imagine the frustration and heartbreak. That group left the village. Another group, unaware of the previous situation, came in to build and the same thing happened to them.
One time when our group went into a village to help build emergency relief shelters, many people sat around watching them build. As our men worked, several men were mocking them and treating them poorly. Our men were serving and making a difference while others did nothing. Our group kept building and ignored them. They were not doing it for the people. They were building for the glory of the Lord. It was still heartbreaking.
When you pour your heart into serving others, it cuts deeply to have them take advantage of you or to have them show hatred or disdain for you when you love them and want to help.
David knew what that was like.
Psalm 35:13-16 "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother. But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth."
When David's enemies were in need, David had compassion. He mourned, prayed, fasted, and treated his enemies like friends and brothers. Then his enemies rewarded him with mockery, false accusations, and cruelty.
David did not retaliate. He didn't seek revenge. How did David get through such heartbreak and difficulty with his enemies? How could he endure such treatment?
One day as our group of men worked building shelters, men sat around mocking them. Our guys continued working. Then suddenly, a young woman grabbed some of the supplies and started helping. They showed her how she could help, and she worked as hard as any of our men. It put to shame the men sitting around doing nothing. It also encouraged our group.
When people you try to serve do not treat you with the kindness and compassion you showed them, remind yourself that you do what you do for God's glory, not for their appreciation or reciprocation. Continue to love your enemies, do good to them, and pray for them. Let God fight the battle with them because it is an issue of their hearts. Learn to rejoice in those who love righteousness and treat you with kindness. Don't waste your time stewing over those who live to bring you low.
I love parties. I love attending parties and throwing parties. I love the games, the fellowship, the food, and the entertainment of parties. I love the festivities. I love throwing theme parties the best!
I hosted the July Fourth party this year. The theme was Freedom. I set up "breakout/escape" rooms with fun clues to open a lock. That was one of the funnest parties I have ever hosted.
But I have to confess that sometimes I throw terrible, ungodly parties. I am not talking about parties with beer or parties with worldly music and such. These parties I throw, though, are carnal and are wicked. I hate it when I realize I have thrown one of those parties. It breaks my heart even more when I realize I have sent out invitations to those parties. (If I send you an invitation to those parties, please respectfully decline to attend.)
Every day, you and I send out invitations to one of two parties. We may not realize we do it. Both parties have the same theme: praise.
The first party has self at the center. When we boast of our accomplishments and talents, we send out an invitation for people to come to a party to praise us.
The second party has the Jesus as the focal point. When we give Him the glory He is due, we send out an invitation for people to join us in praising Him. You know who will attend the second party? Humble people who love the Lord. They love those parties!
Psalm 34:2 "My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together."
When you hear me say, "To God be the glory," I have just sent you an invitation to a Praise Him party. Join me! Let's exalt Him together.