Paying Back Evil

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord . Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Romans 12:17‭-‬21 NLT

I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done. And when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord .
Ezekiel 25:17 NLT

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my Lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord ’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My Lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord ’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!” So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold.
1 Samuel 24:3‭-‬22 NLT

It is easy to get carried away and mad, and react from one’s emotions when we feel like someone has wronged us. It is quite natural to want to respond with an “I’ll show them” attitude — but responding to evil with evil is never a winning strategy long term. And even if a man seems to have won by overpowering his opponent with evil in the moment — it is clear over time who acted with honorable intentions versus who was driven by wrath and animus.

I’ve found that wrathful, cutthroat, prideful people are quick to “read into” some things as being personal attacks and as opposition because “that’s what it means when I behave that way”. And that is how they see the world — as crushing others to lift up themselves, or coddling those they wish to rise high enough to sit beside. So communication and action may be assumed to be political or strategic in nature beyond the actual situation at hand — not just functional.

Saul sought to kill David even though David had worked loyally for the King, because his mind and his own insecurities had been twisted into examining David for anything he might use against him to justify killing him. But David did not seek to destroy Saul. Even when he had the opportunity to kill (or at least hurt Saul or allow others to destroy Saul) — his conscience and his character wouldn’t even allow him to seek vengeance. The catch is that David wasn’t some perfectly virtuous man — we see his many faults laid out in scripture — but David walked with the Lord and the Lord spoke with him and corrected him and guided him.

So when we face an enemy with their minds set on harming us or our friends or family, we might want to set a trap for them. We might want to get revenge. We might want to hurt them like they have hurt us. But… have we chosen to walk with the Lord? Are we surrendered to the narrow way following in His footsteps?

If so, then we need to be honorable — not just “look honorable” so that we can prove ourselves the “better man” — but we should humble ourselves in the midst of our sinful nature screaming out for revenge — and we should genuinely offer peace and good will. Even if they will think that is is just a wrathful, cutthroat, prideful act because that is how they see the world (in the absolute worst case, this could be true, but worst cases are rare) — it is the only way that we can truly hand over the situation to God and say “May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one”. It is The Way of approaching God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
Matthew 7:12‭-‬14 NLT

We read, “Enter through the narrow gate.

Jesus is the narrow gate, the door, The Way.

So Jesus said again, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I am the Door for the sheep [leading to life]. All who came before Me [as false messiahs and self-appointed leaders] are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not hear them. I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security). The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
John 10:7‭-‬10 AMP

Those who refuse to enter the narrow gate, the door, The Way — even if they hang around near the door (in religious tradition and practice) but never humbly enter and follow Christ in The Way — these might admit that “it sounds like a righteous thing to do”, but they will refuse to actually humble themselves and follow in The Way — because they would rather seek to “slaughter foolish sheep” for their own pleasure and advantage, rather than trust or believe that the Shepherd will protect His “naive sheep”. And if they do not repent, they will only learn the truth when the Shepherd executes His justice, His vengeance, His protection of His beloved upon them.

I dont wish the wrath of the Lord upon anyone. But if I have to choose between someone facing my vengeance or God’s vengeance for what they have done (seemingly to me or against me) — I hope that I can trust and settle for God’s justice, but hope for their repentance — and also check my own conscience for whatever repentance I need consider myself (like David).

We must not overlook our own need for repentance when wronged by another. We must not look past our need to offer reconciliation — or we might think ourselves David in the story when our heart and thoughts toward the other person has truly been more like Saul — and we were blind to the log in our own eye because that speck in theirs just kept driving us mad.

Don’t let hatred and unforgiveness and an unwillingness to communicate and reconcile leave your mind twisted and hateful, prideful and wrathful.

Enter the gate.

Come to Christ for real.

Not just in religious outward motion. Not just in many shameful, remorseful tears (don’t stop short at remorse and never make it to repentance), but in faithful surrender to walk in The Way.

Come to Him today, count the cost of being a foolish, naive, humble sheep of the Master’s flock, and see that you need not work against others to enjoy the blessings, that you need not earn honor among honorless men, that you do not have to strive for victory when He is already victorious. Amen.

“Alternatives to Honesty”

Another wonderful set of questions from my childhood friend Brian Eshleman, related to his blogs here:

https://brianesh73.livejournal.com/4290495.html https://brianesh73.blogspot.com/2020/07/jeremiah-2612-prevailing-sense-of-sent.html

55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. John 8:55, New King James Version

Question: Jesus, Teacher even in the crux of intense criticism, lays out the alternative to honesty about His relationship with His Father. “If I said what you expect, I’d be lying.”

Where have the real risks of saying and living Christ’s Truth been put in perspective by the even more real dangers of the alternative? John Piper calls this the Myth of Safety.

Answer: The “alternative to honesty” is easy on the tongue of liars. They will call it half truths, or spin, or positivity, or lots of things that make something easier to swallow than the simple, factual truth.

Whether falsely accusing or using unjust scales against those they wish to control and oppress — or white washing bad things to look good to those they hope to impress — a liar is more interested in “how it might sound” (subjective) rather than verify and speak actual truth (factual).

The risks for speaking truth in the time of Jesus and His disciples included torture and death. And in today’s age, speaking truth with a pure goal of moving things forward in truth — with little regard for the politics of the matter, or how ones wording might be twisted — can cost people their jobs and all kinds of other costs socially, financially, and personally. I definitely know this from personal experience.

If you don’t line up with the liars and play their game and tell their lies, you may be identified as a threat, and they may do whatever they can to eliminate you. And if there is no actual evidence to be found to bring against you, they may twist your words and say, “He said ________.” and then say “_______ is how he meant it. Can’t you see how it has to be read/understood ______ way. That is how he meant it to sound.” And in the day of the disciples, we see that it didn’t matter that the accusations dont match up to what a disciple actually said, did, or meant. So whether someone is guilty or not will bear very little consequence. (But don’t we all consider ourselves fully justified in the moment anyway — so beware your own deceitful heart.)

But whatever loss of social status or loss of job or persecution a Christ follower might encounter, it is nothing in comparison to the price liars will pay for eternity in the pit of hell. At least that is what the Word of God tells us:

and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Roman’s 21:8b

So the cost to the liars in eternity is much greater than any temporary opposition or discomfort or unfair treatment we may face for not participating in their lies. Instead of being mad at them — we should pity them for their short sightedness and plead with God that He “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”

This isn’t always easy when facing the very real circumstance of suffering because we didn’t go the easy way.

Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; then the Lord will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you. Jeremiah 26:13, New King James Version

Question: Jeremiah comes down to us with the sobriquet of the weeping prophet. His deservedly negative message gives us the word jeremiad. Yet he doesn’t become so locked into delivering the bad news, so set like Jonah on his own vindication that he fails to cast a vision for repentance and reconciliation.

What godly communicator have you known who did both well? In what instances have you encountered someone who could be confrontational about the costs of defying God’s expectations but also inspirational that the struggle to change was well worth it? In which aspect have you had to grow more?

Answer: Without believing and appreciating Christ’s suffering on the cross,  what justification could we make that wouldn’t have us seeking vengeance in some manner or taking joy in the pending destruction and devastation of those we might consider worthy of God’s wrath. It is easy to look at those who have wronged us and who we see as “liars” as deserving the wrath of God, but that isn’t the Spirit of God. Knowing the undeserved mercy we have received — even though we might detest the dishonesty — we must remember our own unmerited grace, and have a heart for even those who oppose us and wrong us. Not just saying, “I wish you the best” through clenched teeth, but genuinely hoping and praying that hearts would be changed, that prideful egos would be deflated (quite probably including our own in that statement), that repentance and reconciliation would triumph, and that God would be glorified.

Shouldn’t it be freeing, in the midst of great trial, to see clenched jaws and clenched fists and red faces and raised voices opposing you as enemies — when your humble offer in return is peace, is reconciliation, is an offer for collaboration, communication, understanding, and community? But isn’t it tempting to mimic the agitation and anger and pride instead?

I’ve encountered many leaders in my professional career (and in my friendships with “men of God”) who have been able to be both “confrontational about the costs of defying [] expectations but also inspirational that the struggle to change was well worth it” — and the key thing that made them good at this was that they were in the trenches with those they expected to influence and inspire. They were invested in and engaged with the people, not casting commands from afar, but seeing rough edges as an opportunity for constructive criticism and feedback and growth through their leadership — rather than seeing people as disposable commodities. If one cannot love and respect, he will condemn instead of convict — and he might correct but never inspire change.

And if one cannot love and respect and seek reconciliation, pride is the root of the cancer that eats at his insides and keeps him away from the life giving power of Christ. One must lay down pride, surrender, and die daily to self if he truly wants to live.

The confrontational part is easier for me because I’m by nature more “matter of fact” and “direct” in my communications. I would say that it is because I’m “focused on seeking truth” and “the best solution”, and I don’t care if it comes from me or from someone else. So I don’t get offended if someone else’s idea proves to be better, I’m actually excited to have learned something new that I can put into practice.

So, naively thinking that everyone has this same perspective, I step out boldly to speak, not expecting people to be offended, but expecting collaboration of ideas, questions, criticism, and a respectful consensus. However, I say this approach is naive, because thinking that everyone is actually mutually respectful and seeking to work together just isn’t always the case. Ego, hunger for power/authority, and personal insecurities in others can interpret this direct approach as intimidating — and my communication of the facts/specifics can be wrapped in an imperfect delivery — not considering all the ways it might step on egos and insecurities. And this can breed misunderstanding and division.

So, I would say that I need to improve in my understanding of those things that get in the way — grow in my understanding that everyone doesn’t think like I do, nor are they always going to hear what I’m trying to communicate from the simple statement of facts/circumstances/truth.

Lord, many times I only see my own side of things. Help me to be willing to care enough about others to hear and try to understand their side of things as well. Help me to not judge others harshly just because it seems that we are set in opposite directions. Help me to appreciate differing opinions and perspectives and not stifle communication and understanding, but to listen and consider and to seek reconciliation where possible. Help me to make every effort I should, yet to also know when to shake the dust from my sandals if reconciliation is impossible. Amen.

Observing

Remember those silent observers who sat in the back of classrooms observing teachers? And remember how students would listen quietly to what is being taught, either waiting until the time for questions or raising their hands (not to interrupt, but to signal something they didn’t understand and needed clarification on)?

How much more effectively can evaluation and learning both take place in such an environment — as compared to an environment that is a flood of overreaction and debate. Even when we have questions or concerns, shouldn’t we listen ALL THE WAY THROUGH to see if our questions will be answered eventually? And isn’t our life daily an opportunity to learn and grow?

It seems easier in today’s age of trolling, disrespect, and sarcasm from so many internet “keyboards warriors” to see people tuned into a model of amplifying conflict through provocation and overreaction. Just look at conversations about masks on Facebook, for example, and you might be hard pressed to find people in that conversation who are genuinely seeking to listen, understand, consider alternative perspectives, respect one another, and provide gentle responses that promote understanding.

How often do we find ourselves handing over our peace to people and situations — that are, quite frankly, unworthy of stealing our peace?

And there is an approach even better than just maintaining our own inner peace in the midst of strife and division around us.

Have you ever been on a lake when there are a lot of boats actively moving around? Have you noticed how the wake of many boats moving in a small cove will cause a lot of waves that affect each other?

What if we weren’t just a lone ship who has all portholes secured from the waves and is sitting still, safe from sinking, but the waves are still rocking us wildly about — but if we could actually be part of the calm?

I’ve noticed something about lake life over my decades skiing, jetskiing, tubing, and boating. When people from the boats are smiling and waving at each other, they are usually not being disrespectful and disrupting others with their wake, nor are they as quick to grit their teeth and plan vengeance because another boat’s path impacted their intended direction.

Community vs “my way” is how I see it playing out on the lake. When a lake community is a “we” thing, it is usually a great day. But get a few folks out on the lake only thinking about themselves, being disrespectful to other boaters, and overreacting to others — and the lake can become very dangerous, very quickly. And the solution is never to “one up” the bad behavior into submission — the risk on the lake is way too high for that. But finding a peaceful way to welcome folks into the community and demonstrate courteous boasting practices and consideration for others on the lake can make a real difference.

This is true for so many areas of our lives. And it starts with being quick to listen, being slow to speak, and being slow to anger.

This may seem like a burdensome task list to follow if we realize how often our own selfish nature has had us facing down other people because we didn’t appreciate their behaviour, or circumstances because we didn’t like how they turned out. We might say things like, “Well, I’m just not a patient person” or “Why should I back down” etc. if we want to make it all about ourselves.

But a Christian who opposes such instruction,  or who isn’t applying such things in their life daily, might want to ask themselves what is at the root of their getting caught up in things and overreacting emotionally. Could it be a lack of trust and surrender to God? Could it be that we forget that He is in control and has offered us opportunities to be the welcoming, listening, loving, supportive, gentle, kind servant to a world in need of a better way?

I find myself failing in this area quite regularly. I faced temptation even while doing this lesson and the things going on in my house around me were constantly interrupting me. But instead of letting my frustration well up and feed my normal, short response of “Daddy is doing his lesson” which means “everyone leave ne alone for a bit” — I took the time to listen to what my daughter had to share with me. It was a sweet gift idea for her mother’s upcoming birthday. No, it wasn’t an emergency, and yes, it could have waited. But what mattered to my daughter was that she was welcome, that she was heard, that she was seen, that she is loved, and that her daddy is here for her. I wonder how many times I have used various excuses to justify my not being quick to listen that were all about “me” and “my way”?

Lord, forgive me again today for my many shortcomings that lead me back to remembering the cross and your willing sacrifice for our benefit. Help my learning ands sharing to not just be mental and intellectual conjecture, but for my heart to be changed by your Word, and for my life to be more conformed to your perfect example. Thank you. Amen.

Self-Serving Hireling or Invested Servant

Another great series of questions from Brian Eshleman today from his blog https://brianesh73.blogspot.com/2020/07/jeremiah-2535-37-hirelings-habits.html

Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? John 8:46, New King James Version

Question: Where have Jesus’ doings in your life memorably lined up with His teachings to convince you to follow in a challenging area? Or, where have you found yourself waiting for or nursing some seeming disconnect between what He teaches and what He does in your life as an excuse not to follow?

My Answer: A challenging area for me is when I’m within an environment which smells like what is described in this article https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-do-you-spell-effective-leadership/ as “The stifling, ceiling-hitting environments where a tyrant calls the shots and everyone else has to live with it, powerless to do or say anything that will make a difference.” And pairing that challenge with the call to serve and not be served has me stretching and trying to grow in my letting go of things outside my control and focusing solely on what I can do — to not just endure a storm, but appreciate the process of humbling myself and trusting God.

And the “waiting for” has been for me — the result of prayers wanting strong, experienced leadership with integrity whom I can learn from and grow — not usually realizing that their “not being what I pictured in my mind” may be more of a problem with my unreasonable expectations rather than all a problem with “them” — and that I am learning and growing in the process. So prayers turn into begging for the way to be more conformed to my image instead of the reverse, and my excuse for not following becomes my “wanting” instead of my “trusting”.

He has left His lair like the lion;
For their land is desolate
Because of the fierceness of the Oppressor,
And because of His fierce anger.” Jeremiah 25:38, New King James Version

Question: What false belief or impact of false belief have you found God faithful to hunt down, even oppress, until it is exposed as unworthy compared to Him?

My Answer: I was intrigued by a question today which mentioned the devil from a young man who has at times in the past seemingly sought to provoke me into argument over religious topics. And as I tried to determine our individual understandings of this being called the devil — I found myself considering and questioning and wondering my own exact position on the topic. And I found my own unsteady footing on the topic to leave me better open to listening and learning and considering — rather than just debating to defend a position/argument.

And this position, upon a teetering position not yet firmly nailed down in my mind — yet facing someone who has regularly proven themselves as adversarial — left me wondering how I might be presenting myself in the challenge I mentioned in my answer to question 1 above. Have I genuinely been a servant willing to humble myself even to the point of suffering? Or have I been proud because I’ve been insisting that I’m right and “they” are wrong. It makes for a convicting consideration for sure.

Brian’s blog https://brianesh73.blogspot.com/2020/07/jeremiah-2535-37-hirelings-habits.html also continued to hit me square in the mouth with realization and conviction like the following (the highlight is for my own emphasis):

Lord, in my weaknesses, your grace is proven sufficient yet again, and your power is made perfect. Forgive me, heal me, lead me, and don’t discipline me in anger for my foolishness. Mold me to be more like you, and restore my peace and serenity in situations and circumstances beyond my control. You have been trustworthy and faithful all of my days. Amen.

Grieving for Glory

A high school friend and fellow Christian blogger, Brian Eshleman (http://brianesh73.blogspot.com/), proposed two verses and questions in a text message tonight:

You are of your father the devil,
and the desires of your father you
want to do. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and does not
stand in the truth, because there
is no truth in him. When he
speaks a lie, he speaks from his
own resources, for he is a liar and
the father of it. John 8:44 , New King James Version

(1 ) When have you believed and
told a lie because you spoke from
your own resources, because you
didn’t pause to seek God’s
perspectives?

Wail, shepherds, and cry!
Roll about in the ashes,
You leaders of the flock!
For the days of your slaughter and
your dispersions are fulfilledi
You shall fall like a precious
vessel.

(2) When has God’s declaration of
your likeness to a precious vessel
been convicting rather than
encouraging?

My answers:

1) The greatest lie may be when I seek validation for what I’ve done by my own resources — when I’m expecting honor from men and glory from my giftedness, or acknowledgement for personally overcoming my shortcomings. Instead of building an altar from rocks untouched by a man’s tooling for God to be glorified alone, I sometimes find myself eager to polish and stack beautiful stones so that men might admire my work — rather than God get all the glory. It is a horrible lie when I half-heartedly play at glorifying God while expecting to be seen, heard, recognized, and honored. Lord, help me, because I don’t even realize it too often how imperfect my “worship” can be. And when I hide behind my fig leaf, saying, “But it wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t premeditated, it wasn’t intending evil” — it proves ever more clearly that the only good in me comes from God — and that it had been my disconnect, my not abiding in Him, my not communing with Him, my not dying to myself daily that had opened me up to such a sad state of the union.

2) It convicts me about the times where my focus is “to be cherished in this world” rather than “to be of great use eternally for the glory of God”. And who would reach forward extending a finger to touch the hand of God like in the Creation of Adam, thinking of oneself to be “greatly used for the glory of God” but either the most insane of proud, shortsighted men — or the most humbly sane that view eternity clearly? But has my faith recently had me at the ragged edge of radical faith eagerly awaiting His return? Or fat and comfortable and sleeping, unaware of any thieves that might come in the night?

He Pressed me further with question 3:

3) Can you think of a particular instance when you have been convicted of either of the fallacies above, or, even better, when you realize that by the grace of God you are making progress?

My response:

3) I recorded an especially heartfelt and personally moving worship that I shared on Smule App for others to join for their part of worship. It got such an large turnout of different people joining me etc., that I later thought to myself — I ought to sing/record that particular song more often. Making the horribly self centered assumption that people enjoyed my singing of the song and wanted to join me — rather than the genuine worship being what drew others to join in worshipping God, and I tried to sing it again later and share again for others to join — not realizing the double insult, of my second “Amos 6 level counterfeit worship”, and my almost tainting the original genuine worship by how I perceived it might be leveraged for my own glory.

Even so, years ago, I wouldn’t have been giving God any glory at all.

“Bingo”, he replied, and I continued:

If it was all up to me to get better at all of this under my own power, I would be utterly doomed. Now, I not only see the foolishness in my old ways, but even the foolishness in so much of my current ways — even though I can see measurable improvement in some areas. But making it from step 1 to step 4 on a scale of infinity isn’t the time to gloat.

My brother, Brian, replied in text — both of us on other sides of technology during this pandemic, confessing our sins together, and encouraging one another, and genuinely glorifying God in the process:

“Can totally relate. When the blogs don’t generate the looks, likes, or questions I would like, my reaction is not grief that his glory isn’t extended and that people aren’t fed. Too often, it’s for my vastly underappreciated talent. :-)”

That quote “my reaction is not grief that his glory isn’t extended and that people aren’t fed. Too often, it’s for my vastly underappreciated talent. 🙂” will preach.

Lord, I’m so grateful that this molding and making all things new is in your hands, and not just mine. I’m so grateful that You who are in me is so much greater and wiser and more purposeful and perfect in your plan and timing. However you might use me, and even in my foolish wanderings, and even in my numerous weaknesses, and even in my own selfish yearnings that you are sifting and filtering and refining, may you be glorified. Please don’t let us speak, act, or work from our own resources, but from the Holy Spirit as our source, guide, comforter, protector, and teacher. We rejoice that the Lamb of God is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals, hallelujah! Amen.

Please check out Brian Eshleman’s blog: http://brianesh73.blogspot.com/?m=1 And if you would be interested in receiving similar questions via text message regularly, let us know. Brian is one of my wisest advisors and mentors, and is far beyond me in his knowledge, wisdom, and deep insight into the Word of God. Where I am a novice blogger “keeping a journal” along my Christian journey, he is a writer and a poet preacher whose thoughts and musings are meat that will truly have you chewing and considering the awe and wonder of God.

Summer Reading Plans

Amazon just delivered some new reading materials for my upcoming vacay! When I think about the insane number of books that I’ve read up to this point, I think about four things:

1) The authors sharing valuable wisdom with me
2) The mentors who have made good recommendations to help me learn and grow
3) The books that I have been able to pass on through mentoring and my recommendations to others
4) The stark difference between aged books on a specific technical topic that all make their way to Goodwill eventually, vs so many strategic/theoretical books that remain collected treasures on my bookshelf

It seems that in IT, there is always a mix of learning technical information that with be good for 5-10 years max — vs learning skills, tactics, theories, and approaches that will continue building upon a solid foundation for decades. And you can’t beat OJT and real world experience for teaching us about both humbling victories and encouraging defeats.

And reading the Bible for wisdom is something that I was able to do when I was a child, and that I still enjoy in my forties. In fact, I have a dedicated bookcase these days just for Bibles send Bible study related books.

I’m not sharing this to brag or for “virtue signaling”. I’m sharing this because reading and authoring and mentoring is much more “profitable” to us as a society than arguing on Facebook, watching trending videos on the Internet, vegging out in front of the TV, or even being politically active. And “learning and sharing” (mentoring) is different than “preaching”.

I think that I became frustrated with my own circumstances recently because I was “preaching” — making myself heard and trying to prove myself right — instead of learning and sharing. It’s hard to get anyone but a captive audience to listen to such things, and it is easy to let one’s heart harden when one is blindly and loudly “preaching” — throwing seed around wildly with no thought as to what seed would be best, and with no attempts at plowing, mowing, weeding or maintaining.

I seem to go through seasons of my life where the circumstances and demands of the day, along with my responsibilities to family, friends, employer, etc. have me falling short time after time. I commit to a great idea of how I will do such and such each day, how I will stick to a certain schedule, how I will be consistent and unwavering. And I laugh at myself each time when I eventually fall short again of my “well intentioned plans”.

I’m going to tell you — read, grow, learn, preach, mentor, and live a purposeful life of worshipping God and spreading this Good News to the whole world. And when you look up and realize that things have drifted, that things have changed, that you need to refocus again — do it!

We all fall short. Don’t let the lies of the enemy tell you that because you fell short of your “perfect plan” that you ought to just give up and stop. No, God has a better plan than your best plan — and He has brought you to where you are for a time such as this. Don’t let the number of books on the shelf tell you anything about yourself — or the work you’ve done in the past be a measure of your success or failure. If God is for you, and He is in you, and He is with you, what can stand against you?

And if He isn’t, or if you aren’t sure that He is — then how about you talk with Him about that right now?

Just Thinking Aloud on 7/15/2020

I have disappointed you at some point.

But why in the world would expect anything other than that from me?

I’m very flawed.
I’m broken.
I’m imperfect.

Don’t you already know this about me?

Isn’t that freeing — to accept that we are all this easy?

Doesn’t that make it easier for us to forgive that idiotic thing someone else posted or commented online — if we realize we too are good at being an idiot quite often.

Doesn’t that make out easier for us to forgive those grudges that we’ve been holding?

Doesn’t that make it easier for us to find contentment in our present life circumstances — instead of either loathing ourselves for missing our paper dreams — or inflating our egos about “success” that was a good part luck?

Disappointment transforms to contentment when we set our bar of expectations rightly and reasonably and fairly.

If I find myself disappointed in others around me regularly — is it more likely that THEY are the problem — or that my expectations are the problem?

Even if I tell myself that it “is a little of both” — isn’t it the shortcomings of everyone that is to be expected? Or do I really think that their shortcomings need to be CORRECTED to what I EXPECTED — when I can’t even live up to the hypocrisy myself.

What good would it do me to lower my expectations and be surprised and overjoyed when people regularly surpassed my lowered expectations?

Or do I foolishly think that my false expectations have any impact on what they ate actually going to do or “live up to”?

Lower your expectations. Be happy. Be content. Be grateful for now. Don’t fret about tomorrow. Give your best every day, and enjoy the success of a peaceful mind.

Doing Battle

I’m learning from Deuteronomy chapter 20 this morning about “doing battle”.

Do Not Fear What Lies Ahead

“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. When you approach the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people, and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: you are advancing today to battle against your enemies. Do not lack courage. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble [in terror] before them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
Deuteronomy 20:1‭-‬4 AMP

Address Selfish Distractions

The officers shall also speak to the soldiers, saying, ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not yet dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it. What man has planted a vineyard and has not put it to use [harvesting its fruit]? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would begin to use its fruit. And who is the man who is engaged (legally promised) to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would marry her.’
Deuteronomy 20:5‭-‬7 AMP

Battle Alongside Others Committed to Victory

Then the officers shall speak further to the soldiers and say, ‘Who is the man who is afraid and lacks courage? Let him go and return to his house, so that he does not cause his brothers’ courage to fail like his own.’
Deuteronomy 20:8 AMP

Commanders are Warriors Beside Us Not Aristocracy Far From the Action

And it shall be when the officers have finished speaking to the soldiers, they shall appoint commanders of armies over them.
Deuteronomy 20:9 AMP

Allow Enemies A Peaceful Surrender

“When you advance to a city to fight against it, you shall [first] offer it terms of peace. If that city accepts your terms of peace and opens its gates to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall lay siege to it.
Deuteronomy 20:10‭-‬12 AMP

Strike Down Everything that Stands Against Victory, or That Will Rise Back Up Against You, But Limit Collateral Damage

When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike down all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and everything that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. That is what you shall do to all the cities that are very far away from you, which are not among the cities of these nations nearby [which you are to dispossess]. Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they will not teach you to act in accordance with all the detestable practices which they have done [in worship and service] for their gods, and in this way cause you to sin against the Lord your God. “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its [fruit-bearing] trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged (destroyed) by you? Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees shall you destroy and cut down, so that you may build siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.
Deuteronomy 20:13‭-‬20 AMP

So we end up with a repeatable pattern that is to be used consistently for battle:

  • Do Not Fear What Lies Ahead
  • Address Selfish Distractions
  • Battle Alongside Others Committed to Victory
  • Commanders are Warriors Beside Us Not Aristocracy Far From the Action
  • Allow Enemies A Peaceful Surrender
  • Strike Down Everything that Stands Against Victory, or That Will Rise Back Up Against You, But Limit Collateral Damage

All of this is to be discussed, considered, and set firmly in our minds BEFORE BATTLE.

This is so that DURING BATTLE we are to FOCUS ON PRESSING FORWARD AND NOT LOOKING BACK.