Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good & Evil: What God does in a world of evil

As we enter the third part in this current series, the terrorist organization ISIS has given us a new consideration of evil this past week. After the previous executions of two American journalists, they broadcast internationally via YouTube as they beheaded British aid worker David Haines.

This trio of murders is both appalling and horrific. And yet, they represent only a small portion of the evil atrocities committed in our world even in just this past week. God alone knows the number of those who have suffered at the hands of the violent.

I don’t personally know John Yakubu or any of the Nigerian Christians slaughtered by Boko Haram this past summer. I’ve never met James Foley, Steven Sotloff, or David Haines. My daily life might be more comfortable if I ignored their stories along with the stories of all those who suffer. But every act of evil ripples out over the earth; eventually those ripples intersect with my life.

That’s why I need to know how to live as a child of God in a world of evil.

To that end, Psalm 37 is proving to be a great source of information. First, we learned some of the qualities we should have as children of God in an evil world. Second, we learned some of the things we should do as God’s children in a world of evil. Today we’ll see some of the actions God has promised to us before we wrap up next week with a look at the outcome for both the wicked and the righteous.

You might want to take a minute to read Psalm 37 before proceeding.


What God does in a world of evil

37:17, 24 – The Lord supports the righteous. He holds our hand. He sustains us even when hard times press in so close we fear they may knock us to our knees. Isaiah wrote during an era when the evil Assyrian empire was growing and Israel was declining. Yet He said of the Lord, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You (Isaiah 26:3).

37:18 – The Lord watches over the blameless. God is watching; He knows what’s going on. He sees that you have stayed strong even when evil permeated around you. Job knew about holding fast to our beliefs even when we endure suffering. Yet he wrote, “He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).

37:23 – The Lord establishes our steps. He directs the way we should go; He knows the way that is best. David faced a lot of adversity in his path to the throne of Israel. But in the end, he looked back – and forward – and realized, “When your time comes and you [David] rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

37:23 – The Lord takes pleasure in our way. When we follow in the path that God has established for us, He is happy about it! We please Him. The Israelites had their ups and downs as far as following in the path God had for them. However, after their 40+ year exodus from slavery in Egypt, they knew “If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us” (Numbers 14:8). And you know what? We also have our own spiritual Promised Land waiting at the end of our journey if we follow in His way.

37:28, 33 – The Lord will not abandon us. God’s not going anywhere. He didn’t bring us this far just to abandon us here! Joshua journeyed a long ways with God under Moses’ leadership. When God called him to succeed Moses, He also reminded him three times, “The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8; see also Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).

37:28 – The Lord will keep us safe. He will be on guard over you just as He would guard Himself. He has cut covenant with us which He can’t and won’t forsake. Nehemiah knew God’s covenants; that’s why when he mourned over the crumbling of Jerusalem he could also say, “Yahweh, the God of heaven, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Nehemiah 1:5).

37:33 – The Lord will not allow us to be condemned. We’re guilty; all of us are worthy of condemnation. But God denies any condemnation for His children. The psalmist Asaph recognized God’s enemies rise up against us to imprison and kill us. Yet, he also knew the source of redemption when he wrote, “May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die” (Psalm 79:11).

37:39 – The Lord gives us salvation. Victory is ours; deliverance will come. Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived – realized we rely only on God when he wrote, “No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. A horse is prepared for battle, but victory comes from the LORD” (Proverbs 21:30-31).

37:39 – The Lord gives us refuge. He is our place of safety; He alone is a harbor of protection. Nahum prophesied against Nineveh for her evil, cruelty, and barbaric practices. Even in the midst of such atrocities however, Nahum recognized, “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7 NIV).

37:40 – The Lord helps, delivers, and saves us. He will surround us in support. He will make a way for us to escape. He will bring us to victory. More than any other person in the Bible, Jesus knew unjust suffering. He felt the sting of His enemy in a way none of His followers will ever have to feel. That’s why the suffering of Psalm 22 is prophetic of His suffering. And yet, Psalm 22 includes “Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and you rescued them. … He relies on the LORD; let Him rescue him; let the LORD deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him. … Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help. … Save me from the mouth of the lion!” (Psalm 22:4, 8, 11, 21).

So, …

Whether we choose to confront or hide from the prevalent evil, God promises that He will act. God will be there when the ripples of evil intersect with our life. He will support, watch over, and establish us. He will take pleasure in our journey toward Him. He will never abandon us and will keep us safe. He will not allow us to be condemned as He ensures our salvation. He alone will help us to a place of deliverance and refuge.

Thank you, Lord, for these powerful promises in the midst of an evil world.

Click here to read the previous article.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Good & Evil: What to do in a world of evil

The horrors of evil elicit many different responses when they fall upon our ears. When you read my article of Boko Haram butchering Christians in Nigeria last week, I’m sure your thought responses were as varied as is our reading population. I’m sure it was the same when you heard of ISIS beheading a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff. Or when you heard of any act of evil carried out on the innocent in recent days.

Some people stop listening / reading as the pain and suffering are more than they can bear.

A need to fight for justice overcomes other people in the face of evil.

Others bury their heads in the sand as they deny such evil could possibly exist.

For some, frustration mounts as a lack of resources or opportunities squelches the desire to help in any way possible.

Hopefully at least a few whisper prayers for those who hurt in the hands of evil.


Psalm 37 – Good & Evil

Last week we began a study on Psalm 37. We considered some characteristics we should have as we live as children of God in a world of evil. Ok, “considered” is such a gentle word – it’s more like those characteristics plunged into our soul. They reminded us we aren’t of this world; we’re made to live different. This week we’ll pull out some parts of Psalm 37 that help us know what to do before we read next week what God promises to do. Then, we’ll wrap it up comparing the outcome that awaits both the good and the evil.


What to do in a world of evil

37:3 – Trust in the Lord and do what is good. Trusting God empowers us to do what is good. Our excuses become weak in the presence of His truth. I came across a verse a few weeks ago when Jimmy was in Africa. I’ll admit it; I was stressing a little over some stuff. I had to write it out and post it where I’d see it often, “God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

We can trust Him in the face of evil; we can even step out and do good in the face of evil. We can trust and do good because God has the situation under control. We will always have everything we need to excel in every good work.

37:4 – Take delight in the Lord. You can be happy in His presence; you can smile when you think about Him. Excitement can come over you at the thought of talking to Him. You can find a true relationship.

King David, who wrote Psalm 37, knew how to delight in the Lord. For example, he also wrote “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1). The ancient Israelites rejoiced to ascend to the Temple in Jerusalem because the Spirit of God dwelt there. For us, the Spirit of God dwells within each of us as followers of Christ. We can rejoice in a relationship with God even in the midst of an evil world.

37:5 – Commit your way to the Lord. Commit means “to roll” (Hebrew: galal) which may seem odd but is highly significant. It’s more than I can get into here. In short, let’s think of it this way… Go full circle with God. Allow Him to mark you as His child, hold fast to His truth, totally believe Him, and not just in Him.

“The LORD then said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away (Hebrew: galal) the disgrace of Egypt from you.’ Therefore, that place is called Gilgal to this day” (Joshua 5:9). Friend, God has rolled away the disgrace from your life. An adequate response is to roll away your own plans for your life. Commit your way to Him instead and allow Him to act even as evil abounds.

37:7 – Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him. God doesn’t need us to tell Him what to do or how to solve a problem. He needs us to be a willing vessel through which He can work to accomplish His plan. He needs us to wait on His plan; not make a mess even messier by jumping in with our own plan. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

37:9, 34 – Put your hope in the Lord. That’s the HCSB version but almost all others translate this as “those who wait for the Lord.” It’s a figurative term that loses something in our English translations. The Hebrew word, qavah, literally means to collect or bind together. It’s the same idea as strands of string bound together to make a rope. In a world of evil, we can bind ourselves to God. We can tightly intertwine our lives with Him and His Word. “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34).

37:27 – Turn away from evil and do what is good. We can’t do all these things if we haven’t turned away from the evil in our own lives. We’re not perfect; no one expects us to be. But, we can make a conscious effort to remove the evil in our own lives while also making an effort to do what is good. "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God" (3 John 1:11).


So,

As it turns out, we can do something in a world overrun by evil. We can trust God who is in control. We can do good to those around us in our own corners of the world. We can delight in God; after all, He loved us enough to give Himself for us even though we were part of that prevalent evil. We can roll away our own plans for our life and commit our plans to Him because we know He will act in our lives. We can wait for Him to speak rather than try and tell Him what He should do. We can intertwine our lives with Him so that all we do and say is for Him and His glory. We can do our best to not live like those who spread the evil upon our land.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good & Evil: Who we are in a world of evil

Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist group in Nigeria, butchers Christians. “Butchers” isn’t too strong of a word; it’s morbidly accurate as the group slices and hacks at the bodies of the non-Muslims. They stop only long enough to determine if the sufferer is ready to renounce Christ and pledge allegiance to Allah. You can read more at VOM’s article, “You can’t kill my soul,” but I warn you that it might make you feel something – a churning of the stomach, a shudder of the spine, an inexplicable urge to fall to your knees and pray for someone in a far off land.

Evil is nothing new; persecution began when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s resulting in Cain’s murderous assault on Abel (Genesis 4:1-12). Nevertheless, it is part of our current world. How do we face it? How do we respond to bloody stories that don’t fit with our comfortable church-pew Christianity?

I found some help – even some encouragement – in Psalm 37. I hope you’ll take a minute to read it now; all you have to do is click on the link. (Can I be honest here for a second and point out that a lot of people in this world would weep tears of joy for such easy access to the word of God?)

We’re going to take a look at Psalm 37 over the next four weeks. This article will consider who we are, the next two weeks we’ll look at what we do and what God does, and then the fourth week we’ll discuss the outcome.




Who are we? Characteristics of the righteous


I pulled this list of characteristics out of the text of the chapter. Let me start by saying that I dealt with some serious conviction while I did so. You know what I mean – those “Ouch” moments when you read God’s Word and the Spirit points out somewhere deep inside that you aren’t quite living up to what God is asking of you. Yeah, those. But here we go –


When confronted with evil, a child of God is…

37:1, 7, 8 – Not agitated. A confrontation with evil shouldn’t make us burn with anger. That’s hard, isn’t it? When I read the above article from VOM about the beheading of a little boy, anger burned within me. By all accounts, evil is spreading and prospering. Earthly armies can’t stop it but eventually Christ will. Trust me, evil doesn’t prosper and find victory in the end.

37:1 – Not envious. At first thought, why would we be envious of evildoers? But, let me admit, envy flickered in my mind when I found out the ISIS army has $2,000,000 a day in income just from the oil fields they’ve conquered. But again, their success is temporary.

37:6 – Righteousness that shines like the dawn. This isn’t me showing off all my good works to make sure everyone sees them. My righteousness is in Christ; if it shines like the dawn then that is Him in me shining out to the world. That’s a good thing.

37:8 – Not angry nor enraged, in addition to not agitated. Keep the breathing under control; don’t spew words of poison. Stay steady. If you believe God is in control then you should be under control.

37:11 – Humble. Remember, Christ’s righteousness shines through us, not our own goodness. Honestly, we don’t have any goodness on our own anyway. He’s in control. As a child of God, we lay aside our own pride and positions to advance His kingdom.

37:18 – Blameless. We’re not perfect; we’re not sinless. The idea behind being blameless is to be complete or whole. Christ in us – His joy and love manifested in us – completes us.

37:21, 26 – Gracious and giving. We can’t hold tight to what God has given us. When we see evil, our response is to help, reach out, give, and extend grace to those who hurt as a result.

37:22 – Blessed by God. God chose to look on us in favor. He chose to come before us with the greatest gift possible – the life of His Son. He chose to restore us through the sacrifice of that Son. We are blessed.

37:30, 31 – Wise, just, and know God’s instruction. This is another one we can only claim because Christ works in us and through us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

37:37 – Man of peace. Evil – characterized by pride, anger, rage, greed, and foolishness – leads to restlessness, destruction, and death. But a child of God knows peace even in the midst of evil.

I don’t know about you, but this list will stay with me this week as I see evil become more prevalent in our world. All of these characteristics are contrary to how the world says we should live. If we can implement them in our lives, we can make a difference. We can live the difference. We can shine the righteousness of Christ in a world of darkness.


Please click here for the next article in the series.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Look to the Future: Praying for the work to be done

Jimmy and his team are home; Africa 2014 is over. But that doesn’t mean the work is finished.

Despite the delays in luggage and the resulting shortage of tools, they installed the solar panel system in the home of a doctor and his family. One thing North Africa has in abundance in sunshine; a solar panel electrical system makes a huge difference for those serving in this region! We received this note yesterday from Doc, “Every day we think of you guys and cherish our fridge and freezer and power…I have not turned on the generator since you left!! Amen!!! Now the battery to the generator is dead…need to charge it. It’s a great problem to have. The system is running beautifully!”

You may recall that Jimmy flew to visit missionaries serving in a different location after they finished installing the solar panels. Grow Barefoot worked with this family two years ago to provide them with solar power as well. He flew in to find the village surrounded by floodwaters; they are a community entering a time of disease, food shortages, and inaccessible medical care. I don’t have any miraculous updates for you on this issue but we continue to trust the One who is the worker of miracles. Please join us in praying for this village as they recover from this debilitating natural disaster. Their national government told them they would not provide any assistance. Floods may have cut off all roads to the outside world, but the road to Almighty God – paved in the prayers of His people – is never cut off.

We didn’t know until Jimmy began his journey home that his friend there, Kap, is also suffering from severe malaria. Despite the lack of available medical care, he continues to improve quickly. Again, God answers prayers.



Which is why I appeal to you today

God does answer prayers. So, I’m asking you to pray for Grow Barefoot as we consider how to work in this region in the future. Some projects we are considering include –

  • Doc would love to have a medical team come in to do a clinic. The surrounding villages and tribes need so much in basic medical care and education.
  • Doc would also like to begin a milk clinic for babies whose mothers are unable to nurse or are just not available, perhaps due to death. GB has worked with a milk clinic in Haiti; perhaps we can combine knowledge gained in Haiti to help begin a program on the other side of the world.
  • Kap is already working on digging three or four wells in outlaying tribal areas so the people may have access to water. This is an immediate need.
  • Kap would also like to start a training center in his area. They would teach English, water cleanliness, and job skills for people to develop a trade, earn a living, and create jobs in the community. This is a great method to build relationships with the people, which in turn leads to great discussions and opportunities to share the message of Christ.
  • Kap and Chica would also like for me to come and lead a conference based on “Seven Roles, One Woman” for the local women in their area. The Muslim population accepts the book of Proverbs so this study based on Proverbs 31 may be a great way to build relationships, help women understand their value in God’s eyes, and share Christ with them as well.
Please pray for our continued ministry in these areas as we desire to follow where God leads.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Holy Anguish: Praying for those who hurt

Our last post shared about the flood crisis Jimmy flew into during his current trip to Africa. Much of that post came from Chica, the wife of the couple with whom he worked while in that particular village. The following is another section of the email I received from her regarding their current situation. 

Before the floods even hit, a flu-like sickness hit many of the people. As Jimmy said in a text message at one point, "People are dying all over the swamp." (The swamp is their nickname for the area.)

With that explanation, here is Chica's update...

Last week the local religious leaders said the amount of sickness in our town is due to people not following Mohammad's way correctly. The leaders announced that everyone was supposed to wash with hot water mixed with salt and neem leaves at 11:11. Then God would hear them, and He would heal them. Well, a lot of people did it. Neighbors checked on each other to see if they did. Then they decided they should have a sacrifice, too. Just maybe, God would be pleased and take away the rampant sickness. So, lots of sacrifices and blood was split.

Then this week it flooded.

I asked my neighbor, Ash, and she told me that the washing was silliness. That it is not commanded, but praying is commanded. So, everyone should just pray. I shared with her about why I don't spill blood. I shared that I agree we should only look at God’s Word and see what it says; follow that, and not listen to what others say.

She said, “Who would ever think that God needed salt?”

Today, it was just Ash and me on the mat. It was a sweet time for me with her. Please pray for her – and for my boldness. Pray for her as this is abnormal for her to go against what everyone is doing and say these things. Pray for me that God would increase my love for Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind so my words flow from my heart and not rehearsed. Pray that I have the courage to continue to be bold with her.


Also, please pray for me to have a holy anguish for all of the peoples here.

I realized I was in anguish – just nauseated – thinking of the villages cut off by the flood during this season. Malaria is coming; it always does. The way to the hospital – the way to the saving medicine – will either be very difficult or impossible. Many will die. It makes me so upset inside… then angry… and then really sad. I wish they just had the opportunity to get the medicine, if they chose to come in. Dumb flood!

And at the end of today, I realized I’m more upset about this crisis and thinking how can we fix this than I am about the same people cut off by the flood of sin. Sin is reality; it always is. The way to the ultimate saving grace – the way to healing that will save their lives and give glory to the Healer – will be very difficult. Many will die. And that should also make me so upset inside… then angry… and then really sad. I want them to have the opportunity to get to salvation by grace, if they choose to come to Him. Dumb, deceitful father of lies!



So I am praying that our Father will give me that holy anguish for them.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Floods in the Desert: Praying for a messed up world

I began my last article with a list of some of the concerns in our world right now. As I typed the list, I thought, “Jimmy doesn’t even know about much of this as he’s virtually separated from world news in such a remote location.”

Jimmy didn’t need access to world news, however, to know people are in danger and hurting. He flew into his own situation right there.

First, let me catch you up on his location. After finishing the current solar panel installation, he flew to the village where he led a previous solar install two years ago. The following is a description of what he found there – some written by me from a compilation of his text messages, most written by Chica (the wife of the family with whom he’s staying.)



Yikes, did it flood.

The rainy season had been off and on. However, the night before Jimmy flew here – literally hours before the plane took off from his solar project – the rainy season turned on. 

A flash flood came through; the pressure of the water blew four culverts out of the road. The road is made of hard red clay. A few sections have culverts made of concrete and large causeways built under them to allow water to flow north to south to the millet fields. The water was so much and so fast – plus engineering didn't take water pressure into account – that it washed away these causeways.

So now the area is completely flooded. The floods extend for miles and miles and miles; the causeways are huge drop off cliffs. They cannot fix the road until all the water covering it completely subsides and dries up. That won't be until after rainy season and some strong African sun. Rainy season ends in October; then, the roads have to dry up and work vehicles have to get here. It may easily be November before they begin to fix the roads.

The broken culverts happened right outside of town. The truck stop and outlying neighborhoods are under water. I keep thinking, “Don't drink this water! We don't need typhoid and cholera.”

But, I know others are thinking, “Free and convenient water.”

It's all perspective, I suppose.

We visited neighbors today. Everyone is talking about what the floods mean for our community –

  • The flood wiped out fields that farmers planted only a couple of weeks ago. All that work, all that seed, and all that future harvest – gone.
  • Food and fuel prices will be high and then higher as the harvest will not be brought in. Prices have already increased by 25% in one day.
  • Our village is cut off from the road to the north, the country to the east, and the capital city. All of our goods come from those locations. We are literally an island right now.
Folks are scared. What does this mean? They don't know. Will there be enough food? Will the mills still run to grind the grain if the gasoline runs out for the generators? What about medicines for the hospital? People are thinking about the villages that weren’t flooded, but are cut off by the flood. Those people have no way to the market, no way to the hospital.

Some people are driving large market trucks to a certain point in the road; they then use dug out canoes to bring goods into our town. So some things are arriving. That is good. If they can keep essential supplies arriving, that is great.

Kap and Jimmy wanted to see if they could offer some aid. They went to the governor’s office but he had left on travels. His offices are chest deep in water. So, with no local leader, figuring out how to get to people who know what is happening is difficult to chaotic right now. The folks are worried about the river – which is on the other side of town – overflowing its banks.

So, the overall feeling right now is fear. And helplessness. So then more fear.

Please pray for us - that we can help with the immediate crisis and that we can bold in our faith. Pray that we can work past the fear and helplessness of being cut off from the surrounding communities as we try to reach a people who are cut off from the grace of our living Savior.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Finding Good Things in Bad Times

It’s been a rough week. Jimmy is in Africa which leaves me as a single parent of four (make it five) active girls.

A beloved grandparent is suffering through some hard medical times. The whole extended family hurts along with him.

Celebrity status doesn’t affect me; people are people, regardless. But Robin Williams’ suicide hit me kind of hard. It’s rough to see such a beloved entertainer reach that level of despair.


Ferguson, Missouri, is a mess right now. 

The Middle East has been a simmering cauldron for too long. It appears it may be about to boil over. The terror of ISIS, combined with the war between Israel and Hamas has also weighed heavy on me. That’s not to mention the Syrian conflict, Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, and Putin’s actions in the Ukraine. All of it may play a role in the onset of very dire times.

Every afternoon I have a cup of coffee. During these hot summer months, I usually drink it iced, flavored with sugar and half & half. Stay with me…this is connected to the first part of my article.

This week that afternoon coffee has tugged at my heart. For some reason, I found myself being conscientiously thankful for that coffee each day. Perhaps it was the Spirit’s prompting. I held that cup each afternoon and was acutely aware that God blesses even in hard times.



This may sound silly. Imagine how I felt, however, when this series of text messages came in from Jimmy regarding their current project in Africa…

God is good. We are completely finished with the electrical work. Big Daddy R will now get some quality time with his grandchildren. It’s fun, fun as I sit here and watch him be a jungle gym for their young birthday girl. Doc’s birthday is today, also. Sitting in an air cooled, 78° house while the temperatures soar outside is an awesome birthday present.

It was great to see the joy on Posey’s face when she got to make iced coffee for the first time. Then, I saw the joy on Doc’s face when he got to taste it. These are the simple things we in America take for granted – things we think we have to have to survive.

Lights, cooling fans, and refrigeration will make Doc and Posey’s work in the desert so much easier as they bring living water to this dry land. 

We have seen and heard good things.