God, Our Strength and Salvation

“Be our strength each day and our salvation in times of trouble” – Isaiah 33:2

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God is gives us the strength to get through each day especially if we are experiencing stress and difficulties at our workplace.  A friend of mine is going through a tough time right now where she works but she gets through each day because she is leaning on God.  It is His strength which carries her through.  I can identify.  Many times when I feel drained because I have had a hectic day, I call on the Lord to give me His strength and He does.  I get just enough to get me through the rest of the day.  God invites us to lean on Him.

King David proclaims,”Praise the Lord!  For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy” (Psalm 28:6, 7).

There are times when I feel as if I can’t take the pressure anymore, then, I call out to the Lord.  He hears my cry and answers.  He delivers me.  He is truly my Salvation.  He helps me through troubles, trials and situations that sometimes overwhelm.  Like David, when He helps me my heart is filled with joy.  I feel as if a heavy burden has been lifted.

It is comforting to know that, “The Lord gives His people strength.  The Lord blesses them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

God gives me the strength I need to get through the day and especially when I am faced with difficult situations, tasks or obstacles.  I always am assured that He would not give me more than I can bear.  He promised, “When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:2, 5).

Dance in Worship

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp – Psalm 149:3

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Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it.

Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

Some time ago, I read this message, “Be more concerned with what God thinks about you, than what people think about you.” David didn’t care how he looked when he was bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. He was experiencing such joy that he couldn’t contain himself. He was leaping and dancing. Michal saw him and was critical.

This reminds me of some churchgoers who look down on others because they are more liberal in their worship—they shake their heads and murmur because people get up and praise God with their arms wide open and their faces uplifted. They feel that the conservative way is the only way to worship God. Michal looked down on David because he was not acting like a king. She likened his behavior to a base person. Her tone when she spoke to him implies sarcasm and contempt. David explained to her that he was dancing before the same God who chose him over her father to rule over the people of Israel, therefore he was going to play music and be even more undignified than that. And for the record, the people whom she claimed he had degraded himself in front of, they were the same people who would respect him.

David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly.  In contrast Michal was so disgusted by his “undignified” actions that she could not rejoice in the ark’s return to Jerusalem.  Worship had become so deteriorated under her father Saul’s reign that it had become stilted and ritualistic.  Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king, but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expression of praise to God.  Some devoted people may look to us in their heartfelt expressions of worship, but we must accept them.  In the same way, we should not be afraid to worship God with whatever expressions seem appropriate (NIV Life Application Study Bible, page 627).

Michal cared too much about what other people would think and this led her to worry about how David’s behaviour would reflect on her and as a result she ended up without any children. People lose out on so much when they nitpick and criticize others. David was making a joyful noise and he was dancing and twirling because he was praising God. His heart was in the right place. There are times when we should be on our feet, praising God. God accepts that kind of worship too.  As long as we worship from our hearts, that is all that matters.  Worship is an expression of our love and thankfulness toward God.  It should not be suppressed but expressed in a way that will glorify and delight God.

Worship should be a joyful experience.  We are encouraged to praise the LORD with the timbrel and dance, with stringed instruments and flutes and to come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psalms 150:4; 95:2).

The Encounter

“Drink from your own well, my son—be faithful and true to your wife” – Proverbs 5:15

In all the years he had been married to Ashley, never once had he looked at another woman until that moment when he saw her leaning against the wall in the subway.  She was stunning and looked like a fashion model.  Other people were staring at her too but she seemed oblivious to them.

Although, his gut was warning him not to, he walked over to where she was and stood there, waiting for the train.  He had his head turned away from her as he looked down the tracks but he could feel her eyes on him.  Unable to resist, he glanced over his shoulder.  Their eyes met.  She smiled at him.  He had two choices, smile back or turn away.  He smiled back.  That was his mistake.  Leaving her position against the wall, she sauntered over to him, her gaze traveling slowly and deliberately over his tall frame.  He felt his body respond and his heart began to pound.  He turned around so that he was fully facing her, his eyes practically undressing her as she stood in front of him.

“Do you have the time?” she asked, her head cocked to one side, her eyes riveted to his face which felt hot.

He glanced at his watch.  “It’s a quarter to six,” he replied.  This close she was even more stunning.  Every instinct urged him to run but he stood there staring at her.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

“Do you work around here?” he asked.  “I’ve never seen you before today.”

“Yes, I work around here.  I was on my way to the Mall to pick up a few items.  I’ve never seen you before either.  I would have remembered.”  Her eyes slipped over him again.  “You’re a fine looking man.  Too bad you’re married.”

He swallowed hard.  “Does that make a difference?” he asked.

“It might to your wife.”

“She doesn’t have to know.”

“She doesn’t have to know what?”

“That you and I are talking to each other.”

“Is that what we’re doing?”  She laughed.  “What’s your name?”

“Silas.”

“Well, Silas, do you want to buy me a Café Latte?  There’s a really great coffee bar near Bryant Park.  We can go there and figure out if talking is all that we want to do.”

Every nerve was screaming that he should say no and walk away but when the train thundered into the station, they got on together.  She stood in front of him, holding on to the overhead metal bar.  The car was crowded so he was standing really close to her.  He could smell her perfume.  It suited her.  Her body was inches from his and a couple of times, he bumped against her when the train stopped abruptly.  He couldn’t hide his reaction to her even if he wanted to.  By the time they got to the 42nd street subway, he knew that he was in big trouble.

They walked to Culture Espresso.  It was a pleasant afternoon, mild and sunny.  While he went to buy the Café Latte for her and a Mocha for himself, she went to find a table.  She found one by the window and was sitting with her back against the wall.  He sat down opposite her and set the Café Latte down in front of her.  “Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.  “You haven’t told me your name.”

“Aretha,” she said, holding out her hand.

He clasped it and blinked when heat coursed through his body at the feel of her slender fingers in his.  When he released her hand, he took a sip of his Mocha, his eyes trained on her.  This is madness, he thought.  He should be on his way home, not sitting here in a coffee bar with her.  For all he knew she could be in a relationship.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m single, unlike you.”

He withdrew his left hand from the table and placed it on his thigh.  “Does my being married bother you?”

“Well, I’ve never been with a married man.  It complicates things.”

“So, after we finish our coffees, we part ways?”

“I didn’t say that.  Married or not, I want to do more than talk to you, if you know what I’m saying.  I live five minutes from here.  When we’re done here, we can go there.  It’s up to you.  You can walk away or you can come back to my place.”

Silas’s mind was reeling.  This was temptation in its purest and potent form.  Now he had an idea of how Joseph felt when he faced Potiphar’s wife or King David when he saw Bathsheba.  His mind was telling him to do what Joseph did and run but his body was telling him to do what David did.  He had a while to decide what he was going to do.

“So, what type of work do you do?” Aretha asked, breaking the silence.  “From the way you’re dressed, you look corporate.  Are you?”

“I’m a Software Engineering Manager.”

“You look a bit young to be a Manager.  How old are you?”

“Thirty-five.”

“Hmmm.  I’m forty.  So, do you like your job?”

“Yes, I like it very much.  And it doesn’t hurt that it pays very well.  What about you, what is your line of work?”

“I’m a Chief Executive.”

“When I first saw you, I thought you were a model.”

She laughed.  “I’m flattered.”

“You’re a very stunning woman, Aretha.”

“Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man.  I’m not surprised that you’re already taken.”

“It didn’t stop you from approaching me in the subway.”

“I couldn’t resist.”

He slowly removed his cell from his pocket and dialed the number.  He listened to it ring out and then the answering machine kick in.  “Ashley, something has come up so I’ll be late getting home this evening.  See you later.”  He ended the call and slipped the phone back into his pocket.  He looked at Aretha.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked.

He nodded.

Aretha finished her Latte and got up.  “Let’s go, then.”

He drained his glass and rose to his feet.  He followed her out of the coffee bar.  The sun was beginning to set.  They didn’t say much as they walked to her place.  He was trying to ignore the Bible verses that popped into his head.  He was about to cheat on Ashley, something he never once imagined he would ever do but he couldn’t seem to help himself.  He wanted Aretha.  She aroused such a passion in him.  It was raw and powerful.  It gripped him like a vice, leading him down a path he never thought he would end up on.

He still had time to back out.  With every temptation, there was always the way of escape. Yet, he found himself walking right towards it with both eyes open.  He was throwing wisdom and caution to the winds.  His desire for her was luring him straight into a trap.  Maybe it was true that the only way to get rid of temptation was to yield to it.  Maybe all he needed was this one time with Aretha to get this “thing” for her out of his system and afterwards, they would part ways and never see each other again.

As soon as they got to Aretha’s place and she had locked the door behind them, he reached for her.  His mouth found hers and he devoured it like a mad man, driven by a hunger that couldn’t be held in check.  She kissed him back wildly.  In a matter of minutes, they were naked and making love on the rug in front of the hearth.

Unfortunately, their encounter that afternoon wasn’t their last.  It was the beginning of a long and torrid affair.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” – Matthew 26:41

Sources: CNBC; Culture Expresso; Latte Art Guide; Eater New York; Brainy Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praise

I will always praise the Lord.  With all my heart, I will praise the Lord – Psalm 34:1, 2

King David was always praising God.  Every opportunity he got, he praised Him for who He is and what He does in our lives.  Do we praise God?  Do we take the time to praise Him for who is He is?  Or do we spend most of our time asking Him for things?

Instead of asking God to bless our children, we should say, “Lord God, we want praise You for the many blessings You have poured out on our children.  We want to praise You for Your faithfulness and goodness.”

When God answers our prayers, do we praise Him?  David did.  “I praise You, Lord, for answering my prayers.  You have helped me and I will celebrate and thank You in song” (Psalm 28:6, 7).

Even when we are hurting, we ought to praise God.  “Lord, even though I am feeling low today, I want to lift up Your name.  You are my Rock and my refuge.  I know that this sadness will not last because You will send joy my way.  You will lift me out of this valley and place me back on top of the mountain.  You will make my heart glad because of Your goodness and kindness.  Lord, even when I don’t feel like singing, Your put songs in my heart.  Even when I don’t feel like smiling, You put a smile on my face.  Today, Lord, I praise Your name because You deserve to be praised.  Honour and glory belong to You.  I praise Your name because You are good.  You have rescued me from all of my troubles.”

I find that when I am feeling down and I start to praise God and sing songs of praise, my spirits are lifted and the sadness vanishes.  When we focus on God instead of our troubles, it makes a world of different.  Let us get into the habit of petitioning God less and praising Him more.

Jesus’ Family Tree

Knowing where you come from is very important.  Nowadays, there are ways that you can find out about your ancestry.  In some cultures, including Jesus’, genealogies are very important.   Matthew begins Jesus’ genealogy with these words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Why does Matthew begin the family tree with King David and Abraham?  Well, he wanted show that Israel’s hope had been fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  The promise of Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) is fulfilled in Jesus as the Saviour of the world.”  As the Son of David and his direct descendant, Jesus is qualified to be Israel’s King.  The birth of Jesus showed that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham and David.

It was unusual to include women in genealogies but four are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy.  Tamar who had children with Judah, her father-in-law because he wronged her; Rahab, a Jericho prostitute who helped two Jewish spies; Ruth, a Moabite woman who made God her God because of he mother-in-law, a Jewish widow and Bathsheba, King Solomon’s mother.  Bathsheba is the only one of the four women who is not mentioned by name.  She is called the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.  King David had committed adultery with her while Uriah was away fighting for king and country.

These four women are not type of women you would expect to find in the genealogy of the Son of God.  It just goes to show that these women like all sinners can be redeemed by God and used to accomplish His will.  It is clear that we are precious to God and therefore, despite our sinful nature, are valuable to Him.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

It Takes Courage

Waiting takes courage.  That’s what King David implied when he said, “Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

Waiting takes a lot of courage especially when you are tempted to act.  You want answers or results right away but God is telling you to wait.  You know from past experiences that waiting on God is always the best option but that doesn’t make it easy the next time you have to slow down or halt when you would rather go full steam ahead.

For eighty-five years Caleb waited to get possession of the land he was promised when he was forty-years old (Joshua 14:7-10).   During those forty years when he was forced to wander in the wilderness with the rest of Israel because of their rebelliousness but he didn’t lose heart.  He continued waiting for the day when they would enter the Promised Land, always trusting God.  He continued waiting until God fulfilled this promise, “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).

Waiting for years to have a child and watching your chances grow slim as you get older is not easy.  Sarah longed to have a son but she was unable to conceive and after years of waiting to no avail, she concluded, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children” (Genesis 16:2).  She didn’t know at the time that God had plans for her to have a son but at the time of His choosing, not hers.  By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised (Genesis 21:2; Hebrews 11:11).

Waiting on God is never easy but it has its benefits.  It teaches us to be more patient, to persevere and it builds our faith.  Waiting teaches us to be more dependent on God and not in our own strength or wisdom.  Waiting is not something we do alone.  God is there with us, strengthening us.

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Wife Despises Husband

michal2I was reading the account of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem and how this time the ark was carried the correct way by the Levites who had to sanctify themselves first.

It was a momentous occasion, the ark coming into the city of David.  The king was beside himself with joy.  While he was leading the procession, his wife Michal looked out of the window and saw him.  When she saw him leaping and whirling before the Lord, she was filled with contempt.  She despised him in her heart.  Why?

Unaware of the negative feelings he had stirred in his wife, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord and when he was done, he blessed the people in Lord’s name. Then he distributed a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins to all of the people who happily departed to their homes.  Everyone was in a celebratory mood except Michal.

When David returned to bless his household, she came out to meet him.  I can just imagine the expression on her face. There was no warm welcome.  No embrace.  No hello kiss. Nothing except contempt.  Instead of a word of greeting, she weighed in on him, her voice dripping with sarcasm and distaste, ““How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”  She was not only objecting to his dancing but to his dress.  He had set aside his royal robes and was a linen ephod.  Her remark implies that he was indecently dressed but according to 1 Chronicles 15:27, in addition to wearing the ephod, David was clothed in a fine linen robe like the Levites who carried the ark.  He was dressed for a very special occasion. 

In his defense, David’s responded, It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord.  And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

It’s safe to say that this marriage fell apart after this.  How could David respond to a wife who despised him for dancing before the Lord?  Perhaps David would have appreciated a wife like that of Phinehas, the son of the High priest Eli. She was devastated when her husband and his brother took the Ark and it was captured by the Philistines.  She declared in her distress, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”  She would have rejoiced when David returned with the ark.  The return of the ark seemed to be the last thing on Michal’s mind.

We learn that Michal never had children.  This probably means that David never had marital relations with her again.  She died a bitter and barren woman.

Do you think Michal had a legitimate reason for the way she felt towards David?  Was the way he was dressed the real reason for her resentment or was there something else?

Michal had once been deeply in love with David and had saved his life by helping him to escape from her father, Saul.  While David was in exile, Saul gave Michal in marriage to another man.  During those years of separation from David, Michal heard of his other wives and their children.  How she must have felt.  After years of waiting for him to come back and claim her, her hopes were dashed until her love for him began to turn to bitterness.

There is no indication that David loved Michal.  We only read that, “Michal Saul’s daughter loved him” (1 Samuel 18:20, 28).  It pleased David to be Saul’s son-in-law (verse 26) as opposed to be pleased that Michal was to be his wife.  And after Saul’s death, David went to claim her as his wife not because he loved her but because, “I was betrothed for one hundred Philistine foreskins.”  He still wanted to be the former king’s son-in-law and it didn’t matter that Michal was now married to Paltiel who loved her.  When she was taken from him, he went with her, weeping as he went, as far as Bahurim and then he was told to turn back.  Did Michael resent David for coming back into her life after so much time had passed and abusing his power as king to break up her marriage?  What about all those other wives he had?  What did he need with her now when he hadn’t bothered to come back for her when she desperately wanted him to?

Should David have tried to understand how Michal was feeling?  Should he have been more patient and sensitive?  After all she had been his first wife and now she was one of many.  I can sympathize with Michal.  When she rebuked him, what should David have done?  Should he have responded in anger?  Should he have said what he said?  What if he had said, “I was dancing before the Lord who has been gracious to me by appointing me rule over His people.”  He didn’t have to remind her that God had chosen him instead of her father.  He could have left out the part about being undignified and that he would rather have the female servants’ admiration than her respect.  What if he had said, “I’m sorry you thought I was acting shamelessly but I was dancing before the Lord with gladness because the ark of the Lord is with us.”  Perhaps this gentle response might have made a difference.  Perhaps not. 

Has your husband done something that rubbed you the wrong way?  Did it change the way you related to him or thought of him?  Did it make you lose your respect for him?  Did you ask yourself if you had good reasons for feeling this way?  If the answer is no, then let it go.  Remember the things about him that made you fall in love with him in the first place.  Ask God to help you to let go of the resentment and bitterness and all of the emotions that are preventing you from loving your husband.  If the answer is yes, then ask God to help you to work through this and to give your husband the support he needs.  He doesn’t need your condemnation.  He needs your love and forgiveness.  Give him time.  Give your marriage a chance to heal.