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.
It's one of those mornings.
Have you ever had one of those mornings where it seems like the harder you try to be a help, the more you mess things up? (Enter pity party.)
I got out of bed this morning with a flourish. I was ready to start my long list of things that needed to be done. I wanted to be a good help to my husband so the first thing I did was I turned on the electric heater. I wanted him to have a warm room to wake up in. Then I rushed downstairs and turned on the iron to iron his clothes. I then decided while the iron was heating up I would make his coffee. I put water in the electric kettle and turned it on. I grabbed the slow cooker out of the fridge and put it on the counter. It had our lunch in it. I plugged it in to get it started. Then I realized my husband had coffee in his thermos I could heat in the microwave so he could have one cup of coffee quickly. I poured the coffee in his favorite cup and pitched it into the microwave. I turned the microwave on... and suddenly power went out throughout the house. In my flurry of helpfulness, I didn't realize how many electrical appliances I had turned on. I overloaded our electrical system. The husband I had been trying to help now had to spend time fixing the problem I made. I felt terrible.
While my husband was trying to fix my mess, I sat down to do my devotions. In my discouragement, I flipped to Psalm 34, then prayed.
"Lord, I need something this morning. I feel awful. I created more work for my husband even though I was trying to help him. Please give me something from your Word, not just to teach others, but to help me."
When I finished praying, I looked down and read.
Psalm 34:1 "... I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth."
Immediately I knew that verse was exactly what I needed. Here I was trying to wallow in my pity party pool, and the Spirit of God was showing me I needed to praise the Lord instead. He is worthy of our praise even when things don't go according to our plans. He is worthy of our worship and devotion even when things seem to be falling apart. He is worthy at all times. I don't have time for pity parties.
"But, Lord, how do I switch gears from pity party to praise party?"
I read a little more.
Psalm 34:2-3 "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."
We leave the pity party and enter the praise party when we get our eyes of off self and get our eyes back on Him. The guest of honor at a pity party is me! The guest of honor at a praise party is the Lord.
Yes, there are times when we have good intentions and honorable plans that don't work out. We have a choice in our response: pity party or praise party.
This morning I entered the pity party, but called out to Him.
Psalm 34:4 "I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
I like this new party much better. The Guest of honor certainly is more worthy!
And just like that...
I became an Army Mom. My oldest joined the military. I am not surprised. He has spoken about joining the military most of his life. He has almost always owned camo clothing of some sort-- desert camo, digi camo, etc. He can tell you about every tank that has ever been used, what battles they were used in, and who would have used them. He can watch a military movie and pick out if the director used the right weaponry for the movie. More than once we have had to endure him yelling at the television about how that tank wasn't in that battle or that gun was not used during that time period. He would make an amazing military museum docent.
It's no mistake that our family supports our military personnel. My Dad was a veteran of the Army. I have uncles and cousins who have served or are currently serving in the Army. My husband's Dad was a Navy man. Yes, military must be in my son's blood.
Our family has also been voters. We try to do our part as good citizens. We research candidates. We train our children how to seek God's will concerning voting. We teach them how to vote and always take them with us to the polls so that we can set the example. We pray for good leadership, and when the leader, good or bad, gets in office, we pray for them.
Psalm 33 gives a proper perspective of these two things. Though we are a patriotic family, our patriotism comes with limitations. It reminds us who our real Commander in Chief is. Though we show respect and honor to our government leaders, our ultimately loyalty must be with the King of kings and Lord of lords. Why?
Psalm 33:9 "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast."
Because everything and everyone is under His command and authority. In the military when a commanding officer gives an order, that command must be followed. There is no choice in the matter. But think about our God's commands. His authority isn't just over people. His authority stretches over all creation. He spoke the world and the heavens into existence. He has complete sovereignty.
Do we put our trust and confidence in government leaders? Are we looking to a president to solve our problems?
Psalm 33:10 "The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect."
But our God's counsel?
Psalm 33:11 "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations."
Psalm 33 gives a contrast between the two. God's Word is sure and permanent. His ways are perfect. That's why a nation that chooses to follow Him will be blessed.
Psalm 33:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."
There is such a temptation to trust man's logic and wisdom, but man's logic and wisdom is faulty and temporary. There is also a temptation to trust in force, strength, and weaponry. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I love our freedom and right to bear arms. I love that we have a strong military. I even love that in a few weeks my son will be wearing an official Army uniform. But my trust isn't in a conceal and carry weapon. It isn't in my husband's aim and his readiness to defend our family. It isn't in the power and might of our American military.
Psalm 33:17 "An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength."
Our weaponry is vanity. True power and safety comes from the One who sees all and commands all from His throne in Heaven. Yes, there is wisdom in being prepared. Yes, there is wisdom in a nation having a strong, well-trained military. But our trust should not be placed in the guns in our hands. Instead, our confidence should be placed in the God on the throne.
Psalm 33:18-19 "Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine."
I have been asked many times how I felt about my son going into the military. How do I feel?
Total peace. Why? It isn't because of the gun in his hand. It isn't because of the armor around him. It isn't because of leaders or government. My peace comes from knowing that my God is sitting on the throne of Heaven has His watchful eye over my son. Nothing can happen to him without God's permission.
Psalm 33:20-22 "Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee."
He did it again.
Actually, he does it almost every morning. As I lie in the warmth of my bed early in the morning, my husband walks in carrying my hot tea. What a lovely way to wake up each day! This morning it got me thinking about how blessed I am with such a wonderful husband. I began dwelling on his character and nature and how much I treasure who he is. It excited me to think about how blessed I am with such a husband! The more I thought about who he is, the more my love for him swelled within my heart.
Then I sat down this morning to do my devotion. The Lord served up some "hot tea" from His Word. I read again today about how we should rejoice, praise, sing, and play instruments in honor and worship of God. (Psalm 33:1-3) Then I read the "why." Why should we rejoice, praise, sing, and play in worship of Him? Just as I meditated on the character and nature of my husband, I began meditating on the character and nature of my Father in Heaven.
Psalm 33:4-7 "For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses."
Why does He deserve our praise and worship?
Yes, we should worship and praise Him because these things are true, but if we take time to dwell on who God is, then worship and praise will bubble up out of us! Sometimes we neglect simply thinking about who our God is. Sometimes our worship is shallow, dry, or nonexistent because we forget all He has done for us and all He that does for us each day. The more we dwell on His character and nature, the more our respect, reverence, love, and adoration for Him will swell into praise and worship.
Psalm 33:8 "Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him."
This verse is saying stop and think about who our God is. Stand in awe. He is worthy!