From the world stage to the home front, this truth has been, is now, and will always be true.
Proverbs 22: 8 Those who sow injustice will harvest evil; the rod of their fury will come to an end.
It’s common for those who choose pride, power, greed and destruction to justify themselves. They call their victims the wrongdoers. They market their story so that those who know no better, or those who are undiscerning, will believe it.
Their followers are easily ignited to fury. They arm themselves with words or weapons, and unleash more evil on their common target.
Those who sow injustice have their moment to feel grandiose, untouchable, and invincible. They convince themselves they are in the right. They convince fools that they are in the right.
They rule with iron fists for a day.
But the story does not end there.
God has never been, is not now, and will never be fooled. His word will be the last word:
Proverbs 22: 8 Those who sow injustice will harvest evil; the rod of their fury will come to an end.
If there was a camera that could capture near and far views of your lifetime, you could zoom out and see the value of your life experiences. You could examine a time of your life that you were restricted, suffering, or failing, and see how that painful time produced qualities for success later.
We don’t recognize the value of frustration when we’re in it. The best we can do is trust that God has our best interests in mind. If we stay committed to letting God have our lives for his purposes, we can be sure that he will release us when the time is right.
I can imagine God’s hand holding us back despite our anxiety, impatience, and confusion. He does so to set us up for long-term success. But God doesn’t kill the heart and aspiration to eventually go forward — that drive is needed to surge ahead when he removes his restraining hand, and says “Now, the time is right. Go.”
Your release is ahead. You will see your life make sense when God places you in the position he is preparing for you. What is in your heart will not be snuffed out — it will be fanned into flames when the time is right.
When your position is ready, God will make sense of your life by promoting you to that position.
What frustrates you now, will make sense then.
What you view as failure now, will make sense later.
Until then, God is causing your character, abilities, and desires to develop and grow. Your heart will continue to fill with God-approved aspirations. When he removes his restraining hand and allows you to move forward without hindrance, your aspirations will direct you according to God’s intent.
“13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Philippians 2:13 (NIV)
You have within you the heart to do what God has planned for you to do.
You have within you the abilities to do what God has planned for you to do.
So don’t fret the frustrations. He hasn’t removed his restraining hand yet. When he takes his hand away, you will be free to burst forth in a spirited release of all that is within you.
“6 For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert.
7 But God is the judge; he puts down one and sets up another.”
In America at this time in history, countless people have formed their stances based on two offerings: Option A or Option B. They founded their lives upon their selections, such as:
Republican or Democrat
pro-white or pro-people of color
traditional values or nontraditional
familiar or unfamiliar
nationalism or internationalism
power or weakness
religious or secular
predator or prey
oppressor or oppressed
us versus them
They failed to even realize they could have said no. They lacked the wisdom to decline the choices as posed to them. They should have known that something much better — something supreme — is available to found their lives upon.
People failed to realize they could just choose God. Christians failed to realize it.
People who claim to be Christian, but chose an alternative to God, turned their backs on Him. Once the substitute was in their committed grasp, they quickly took on the qualities…
Forgive me for comparing my relationship with my dog to God’s relationship with us, but something occurred to me today.
I was out walking with my border collie on this beautiful December day. We walked a hilly country road that at one point borders a hay pasture. Its aged wire fence has one wide opening through which we passed to enter.
With the road to my back, I let my dog off leash to run. She is trained for trails and to be off-leash, so I was very certain she wouldn’t run back through the fence opening and be at risk of being hit by a passing car.
Why could I feel so confident that she would mind me, and stay within the fenceline?
Because we progressed to this degree of obedience over the two and a half years of her life.
As a puppy, she was crazy fast — almost greyhound fast — and she ran with reckless abandon. She was not mindful of my voice, or obedient if she did hear me. She had one thing on her mind: to run like the wind. I could only let her run inside of fenced areas, far from roads or danger. I couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t run after a bird or squirrel, and fail to check her surroundings. She could easily be hit by a car.
Over time, she matured. She learned to stay attentive to my voice. She learned my consistent commands, such as “this way”, when I take forks along trails or alter course in open areas. When she hears “this way” now, she turns on a dime, comes back to me, and goes ahead of me in my new direction.
She still occasionally gets in trouble for ignoring me — there are consequences; usually having to go back on the restrictive leash, or, if we are at home, into the kennel for “time out”. She knows that obedience equals more freedom.
I need her to be obedient. There are times her life depends on it.
I’ve learned about her, too. Border collies were bred to work with livestock. She doesn’t want to run off; she wants to stay in the area I’m “shepherding”. Sometimes she treats me like I’m the sheep. She runs varied-diameter circles around me, then comes close, nose to my feet, attempting to maneuver me somewhere. I never taught her that behavior. In fact, I am working hard to train that instinctive behavior out of her; she trips me sometimes, and it interferes with our walks.
When we’re out on trails with our hiking friends, which include her two best dog buddies, I often bring up the rear, and she frequently drops back to check on me. If I were a straggling sheep, she would never let me be left behind.
In open terrain, she puts a large radius between us — up to a quarter of a mile when there is open space — and therefore a large perimeter in which she circles. But she always comes back to me.
She is what she was bred to be, as well as what she has been trained to be.
So you see all the reasons why I feel comfortable letting her off leash in spaces that are a safe distance from roads or other dangers. I know her, and she knows me.
Now, here is where God comes into this:
Put God in the role of a master. He wants the best for us. He wants to keep us safe and alive. He takes into consideration our nature, our hearts’ desires, and the level of our maturity, both independent from and in relationship with him.
The more he experiences us choosing to stay close to him, the more leeway he can allow us. We can be “off leash”, so to speak, because we are in constant check with him. The more we keep an ear to his voice, the less at risk of peril we are. When we hear him call, or direct, or command, we respond.
We obey because he keeps us safe if we do. We have learned that.
But what about those people who don’t obey? They may be a “pup in progress”, so to speak. They’re not mature yet. They’re not even aware they could hear his voice, they are so focussed elsewhere.
What about those people who know him, and know better, but they want to retain their own will and independence? They want to stay in charge. In many areas, or in only one, it doesn’t matter; if there is an area not yielded totally to him, they are at risk.
Those people prefer compromise. If God calls out to them, “Stop! The road! A car is coming! You’re going to be flattened if you keep going!”, a stubborn resistance rises to negotiate.
“I will stop. After a little bit. I just want to keep running this way. Onto the road just a little bit. Then I’ll come baa ….”
But will it be too late? Will they have been hit by the car that God was trying to save them from?
Would God allow that to happen? Can’t he divert, delay, or halt the car, to save them?
God does not often command those who are already choosing to stay in proximity and earshot of his voice. He doesn’t need to. They are voluntarily in a safe place, simply by choosing to be always close to him; to follow and not lead; to hear and obey.
But those who are habitual, stubborn compromisers … what becomes of them?
God is not a puppet master. He does not force us against our wills. If our wills are set on compromise, at best, or disobedience, at worse, God will ultimately let us have our way.
Simply stated: The “pups” who obey are saved from being hit by cars. Those who compromise are not.
Be mindful of God. He loves you and wants to keep you safe. He wants to spare you from disaster. Stay close. Learn his voice and voluntarily keep within earshot of him your entire life. 24/7. Always.
When he commands, do it. It’s called obedience, and it will save you.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
1 John 5:3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Choose well who you believe and whose thoughts and ways you ingest. Your life is either for Him or against Him. You cannot serve two masters.
*Song credit and rights belong to Brandi Carlile.
If there were only one teaching in the Bible to guide you, and to assure your correctness in this chaotic time, let it be John 15.
Connect to and remain in the vine. He who is love, truth, and power shall flow through you. Apart from Him you can do nothing.
John 15 New International Version (NIV)
The Vine and the Branches
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
The World Hates the Disciples
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Before it turned chilly, I power-washed a couple years of accumulated grime and algae from the siding of our house, drive, and landscaping blocks. It amounted to long hours of standing, aiming the wand, thinking and listening.
The word “rejuvenate” looped in my mind every day I worked.
I heard it as a positive, not from a tone of admonition, as in “How did you let that grime get there?”, or “This is the natural consequence of aging and time.”
No, the word “rejuvenate” was enveloped in a whisper of hope and promise, as in “Do you expect this newness of me?”, or “I am reminding you to look forward to becoming ‘like new; that’s what I do because that’s who I am.”
Rejuvenate. A verb (used with object), re·ju·ve·nat·ed, re·ju·ve·nat·ing.
To make young again; restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc.:That vacation has certainly rejuvenated him.to restore to a former state; make fresh or new again:to rejuvenate an old sofa.
to renew the activity, erosive power, etc., of (a stream) by uplift or by removal of a barrier in the stream bed.
to impress again the characters of youthful topography on (a region) by the action of rejuvenated streams.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. …
*U.S. church membership is down sharply in the past two decades. It was 70% or higher from 1937 through 1976, falling modestly to an average of 68% in the 1970s through the 1990s. The past 20 years have seen an acceleration in the drop-off, with a 20-percentage-point decline since 1999 and more than half of that change occurring since the start of the current decade.
The reason for the decline is:
Not because prayer isn’t allowed at school.
Not because “God” is left out of the pledge of allegiance.
Not because people aren’t patriotic.
Not because kids don’t respect their elders or the flag.
Not because our youth aren’t raised right anymore.
Not because of “the Muslims”.
Not because of immigrants.
Not because of wall-less borders.
Not because of gay marriage.
Not because of transgender bathrooms.
Not because of social programs to non-working people.
As I walked at a track today, a coach worked at one end of the adjacent field, his young son played on the other. The boy sprinted, head down, football tucked at his belly. Zig-zagging left and right, he reached the end zone, did a little leap, and raised the ball overhead.
“What’s the score?” I called out.
“Fourteen to nothing!”
“Who you playing?”
“The Cardinals! Game’s over. I won,” he answered.
“And you are … ?”
His invisible coach told him to take a rest (those were his exact words), so I was the fortunate recipient of some football information: He didn’t play on a team yet; flag football starts in third grade, pads in sixth; he wants to try all the positions, but when he plays his first game in sixth grade he wants to be the quarterback.