Posts Tagged ‘God’s sovereignty’

1 Samuel 15:1-9
Saul Destroys the Amalekites

In this passage, we see Saul execute the will of God. Saul is the immoral, self-centered king that God has already said would lose his throne because he continually failed to honor and obey God. He is kind of the ancient equivalent of Donald Trump.

Before I start with my Trump illustration. Don’t mistake me for one of the mass of liberal Trump haters out there and also don’t confuse me with the right wing that defends Trump no matter what idiotic thing he does or says. The liberal Trump haters out there don’t like the way Trump breathes. No matter what he does they don’t like it. He could save a baby from a burning building and they would find some way to criticize the way he did it. Conversely, there are conservatives out there that no matter what stupid thing Trump tweets or says that is offensive even to the most reasonable man who will defend him as if what he said was some golden nugget of truth. Conservatives are so fearful of a Democratic sweep in the coming two election cycles (the off-year congressional elections in November 2018 and the next presidential election in November 2020) that they will defend Trump’s self-centered, unbridled egotism to the death.

I am not in either of these camps. I do not hate Trump at all. I do think with him being a Republican and a former businessman that there is more focus on making the US a business friendly nation once again (and the economy is percolating along rather nicely right now). However, I am of the belief that Trump is just an egotistical bastard who wanted to win the election to see if he could do it and win it. He treats the job as if he is still president of a private company who can say and do whatever he wants. He fails to see the position that he holds is quite different from anything he has ever done. He also seems to have no real sense of how to get things done and he burns bridges at every turn just because he thinks whatever he says is gold and he has surrounded himself with yes men rather than with people who will tell him the truth about his actions. He irks me too because he claims to be a Christian man but that is only to gain advantage with the majority of Americans who claim to be the same. He would throw off Christianity in a minute if it was not to his advantage to say that he was a Christian. As Galatians tells us, there are fruits of the spirit of person who is a Christian and Donald Trump does not display any of those qualities.

When I read about Saul in the Bible these days, I think of him as the ancient equivalent of Donald Trump. Saul was one who did what his heart desired and damn be the fallout from my self-centered, self-promoting, self-preserving results. He would feign publicly his faith in God so as to demonstrate to the priests and the people that he was a godly king. However, inside the man, Saul was no believer in God. He was all about himself. He was a self-absorbed, paranoid egotist. Saul was Saul’s favorite person. He was all about preserving his position. He was all about making the name of Saul great. He was, in effect, the ancient equivalent of Donald Trump.

That gets you to thinking…so why did God allow Saul to have great military victories and allow him to solidify Israel behind the throne of Israel. It begs you to ask the same question, why did God allow Donald Trump to become President. Neither of these men were or are the right man for the job. President Trump became president because he was a name-caller like a schoolyard bully and people felt like he was saying the things that they were afraid to say. He became president because he vocalized all that was wrong with the country but he offered no concrete plans of how to fix it but the people loved that he was complaining about the things they complained about. He became president because the average joe was so afraid of a Clinton presidency. But why, why did it have to be Trump? What purpose does God have in a Trump presidency? What purpose did he have in a Saul kingship? That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage? What was God’s purpose in Saul as king? What did God have Saul wipe out the Amalekites? Likewise, in our modern times, what is the purpose in God’s plan of having an egomaniacal man like Donald Trump in the White House at this critical time in our country’s history? The questions abound. Let us now read this passage, 1 Samuel `5:1-9:

Chapter 15
1 One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! 2 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy[a] the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

4 So Saul mobilized his army at Telaim. There were 200,000 soldiers from Israel and 10,000 men from Judah. 5 Then Saul and his army went to a town of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Saul sent this warning to the Kenites: “Move away from where the Amalekites live, or you will die with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites packed up and left.

7 Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. 8 He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. 9 Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.

In this passage, we again must ask a question. This time it is, “Why did God command such utter destruction?” Well, I think the answer lies in who the Amalekites were. They were a godless, pagan band of terrorists. Their whole purpose in life was plundering other nations and people groups and carrying off their wealth. They were really not productive in any way of their own. They were a parasitic people. They sucked off the hard work of others. They did not think anything about the fact that people had worked hard for the goods and peaceful lives that they had built. They just were marauding thieves who had no morality or sense of respect for the work and toil of others. They just felt they were entitled to sweep in and steal and kill and kidnap and destroy.

They, in fact, were the first to attack the Israelites as the entered the Promised Land, and they continued to raid Israelite settlements at every opportunity after that time. God knew the Israelites would never live peacefully in the Promised Land as long as the Amalekites existed. He also knew that their corrupt lifestyle and idolatrous religious practices threatened Israel’s relationship with Him. The only way to protect the Israelites’ bodies and souls was to utterly destroy this warlike, idolatrous, immoral, unproductive band of marauders and all their possessions, including their idols.

I can understand that in the grand plan of things that God allowed the Amalekites to be destroyed. We have already seen in Israel’s history so far in the book of Judges and prior that the Israelites were so easily taken in by the pagan practices of the cultures around them. God wanted his people to be set apart as different, as a holy nation, from which the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, would come. To keep them from becoming just like everybody else, the cleansing of evil influences had to be done to keep the nation holy. Just as we often have to remove ourselves from ungodly influences when we become Christ followers, I can understand the need to get rid of the influence of this immoral, ungodly, evil people, the Amalekites.

The thing that plagues me is why give Saul all this success if he was a godless, self-centered man himself. Like I said, he was the Donald Trump of his age. It was all about Saul and what He wanted. What purpose did God have in letting him be king and then allowing him to be successful through his victories? What was the purpose?

I had to rely on an article to get an answer. I read “Understanding God in Troubled Times: God’s Use of the Ungodly” by Bob Burrage at http://www.genevaninstitute.org/articles/studies-in-habakkuk/gods-use-of-the-ungodly/. Burrage’s article is pretty good. He says that material success of the ungodly is not a reliable measure of their true success. When we don’t see the ungodly punished immediately, or when they seem to be successful in their evil ways, we should not assume that God is beaten or is pleased to turn His head.

God will surely judge all rebellion, secret and open. We should never presume to say to an unbeliever, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” We can’t know that. God will bring ultimate and final judgment upon all ungodliness. He may for a time use the ungodly to bring deserved chastising upon the hypocrites among His own people, and to show his uncompromising wrath upon those left to what we all deserve aside from the work of his grace.

We are called to be among his faithful people. He sent His son to pay a most costly price for the sin of His people, for those who trust in Him. Will we show forth God’s glory in our obedience and in our receiving of His covenant blessing? or will we in our rebellion demonstrate the just curse of His covenant warnings?

Those who look to themselves, will eventually and always reap their just punishment. Those who turn in humble trust to the Lord, who rest in His work of redemption, who seek to walk in his ways, and who turn in humble repentance when they fail, will receive His righteousness, and blessing forever. This is the grace of God as revealed in His merciful covenant.

Thus, God may use the unjust and the ungodly to achieve part of His grand plan for His people and to judge other wicked and unjust. However, that point should never be confused for his condoning of or approving of the person or people through whom does these things. They will meet their end and it was be in a way that demonstrates God’s holy justice. He used Saul in some way to lay the groundwork for the greatest of Israelite kings, David. He may have used Saul as a contrast for His people to see how clearly that David was a man after God’s own heart. Who knows?

Maybe, by allowing Donald Trump to be POTUS, God is executing judgment upon our country for the hedonistic, godless culture that we have become. Maybe it is to wake up our people to truly care about who runs our country. Maybe it is to revitalize the public debate of what is right about our country. Maybe it is to wake us all up both liberal and conservative to return to the days when compromise was what made our country work in the past rather than today’s gridlock of polarized politics. Maybe it is to pave the way to real discourse about our nations problems. Maybe it s to pave the way for us to talk about the government no longer being our savior through government programs for this and that and to teach our people again to seek greatness through hard work. Maybe it is to make us realize that things are not really as bad as the liberals think they are and not as good as the conservatives feel they are. Maybe it to pave the way for the greatest president that we will ever have just as David was the greatest king of Israel who followed after maybe its worst, Saul.

Our duty as Christ followers is to pray. Our duty as Christ followers is to submit ourselves to God’s will. Our duty as Christ followers is to care and not withdraw. Our duty as Christ followers is to get into the political arena and change the world for Christ through godly political service. Our duty as Christians is to pray for our leaders. Our duty as Christ followers is to trust God to work out His plan in the life of our nation and in our own lives. Our duty as Christ followers is to trust the Lord even in times when it appears ungodliness reigns.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 14:47-52
Saul’s Military Successes

When I was going through my divorce from my first wife, it was a horrendously bitter divorce. I think that she became obsessed with making my life miserable. She harassed me at work with phone calls during my work day. She would harass the receptionist when I would not answer my direct line. She would leave nasty, hateful voicemails on my work phone and my home phone (yes, this was back in 1993-1994 when cell phone were still very exclusive and land lines and pay phones were still the main ways to communicate). Once she figured out that I would not be harassed into returning home to the hell that was our home prior to the separation, she began refusing to allow me to have my visitations with my daughters as prescribed by our separation agreement (I was supposed to get my girls every other weekend from Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm and then on Wednesdays for three hours on the weeks that I did not get them on the weekend). After about attempting and being denied my children for several months, I decided to go back to my divorce attorney and file a contempt of court complaint against my estranged wife for violation of the separation agreement terms about visitation.

Her getting served with the papers caused a firestorm in and of itself from Lisa and even from her mother. The harassment was disconcerting and deflating at times. All I was doing was trying to see my girls that I dearly loved. However, I was being treated as if I was a traitor and was destroying the girls by wanting to see them. They treated me with disgust, contempt, derision and whatever other negative emotion you can think of. They were offended that I had fought back against them for preventing me from seeing my kids. They thought, they really did, that I deserved to be punished in this way for destroying the family and the girls. There was no recognition of the mistakes that Lisa had made in our relationship that drove me away. That was OK I guess by their point of view. So when we finally got our court date, I had not been able to see my girls in probably four or five months solid by that point. Then, at court, as a defense for her not allowing me to see my children, Lisa claimed that I had molested my oldest daughter on the last weekend visitation that she had allowed me to have with them and that was why she was preventing the girls from going with me all those months. Nuclear bomb dropped. I was devastated at the accusation (because it was most assuredly not true). I figured that there was no way that the court would believe that. I figured the would see it for the lie that it was as a justification for just plain out spite all these months. C’mon guys, can’t you see what she’s doing?

But that starting in motion a rollercoaster ride that none of us would get off until three years later when I finally got custody of my girls in 1996. DSS became a fixture in our lives. For the first six months after the accusation, I was not allowed to see my children at all. I was treated like a criminal. I even had to take lie detector test with the Sheriff’s Department. Even though I passed the test and was cleared by the Sheriff’s Office as they believed me that I had done nothing and that this was simply a court tactic by my ex-wife. However, that didn’t keep DSS from being in our lives. That didn’t keep DSS for many months thinking that I was a danger to my kids. But as they started working with Lisa, they began to see the truth of who she was and what she was about. However, it took an incident outside the courtroom after one of the multitude of DSS hearings that we had for the tide to begin to turn in my favor. Right there in the middle of lobby of family court in downtown Greenville, Lisa and her mother started screaming and yelling at me in front of everyone (including my girls) about how I was destroying the girls and calling me ugly things in front of lawyers involved in the case for DSS, my lawyer, her lawyers and a host of unconcerned witnesses. It was ugly, mean, and disgusting. Even though I was not a saved soul at that point in my life, the Lord held my tongue because I needed to come across as the calmer, more reasonable member of my children’s family. With the previously beginning to mount evidence concerning my ex-wife vindictive nature, toxic attitudes toward me that she was instilling in the girls, and just her unstable nature, this ugly, ugly public display was the last straw to DSS concerning the environment that my girls were living in. It was not long after that display that the girls were removed from Lisa’s care.

Once that happened, I thought well that’s finally over with and DSS finally sees what I had been dealing with for a year. However, DSS gave custody of my children to my parents (which in hindsight was the best thing for them – to get them out of Greenville and away from the nastiest divorce ever). DSS continued to be in our lives until 1996 when I was granted custody of my girls. It was a long, hard road from 1993-1996. My ex-wife also remarried in 1996 and the firestorm that was her nature about me dissipated greatly (though her hatred for me continued until she died at the young age of 55 in July 2015). Those years, from 1993-1996, from the time Lisa and I split up until she remarried not long after I was granted custody of my kids was a long and arduous road. It was a time that though I 99% of the time took the high road in my dealings with Lisa, it just seemed the hatred she had for me was the victor. She was a charming one and could tell people what they wanted to hear so as to cover her real motives. It seemed as though the truth was a lost art in the separation and divorce. It seemed that my trying to take the high road and not reacting to all her hatred was the wussy way of dealing with her. It seemed to never end that the hatred was the victor. It took a long time for the truth of her motives to come out. It took a long time for people to see how toxic she really was. It took a long time for people to see that I was not the Satan that she portrayed me to be. It all just took too long. It was a painful experience that can dredge up emotions that can send chills down my spine if I let myself think about it even today some twenty plus years after the fact.

That was the thing that I thought about this morning is how even though Saul was told my God through Samuel that he was not the anointed king of Israel that he was allowed to have great victories. It got me to thinking about how and why sometimes people with evil or selfish motives often are allowed to have the sunlight for long periods of time over the righteous. Not that I was a righteous person before my salvation in 2001 nor am I deserving of the righteous label on my own merit now, I was a good person who grew up as a preacher’s kid and was taught to do the right thing no matter what. I was taught not trade evil with evil. I was no saint but I didn’t purposely try to hurt people. Reading this passage made me think of that long stretch in 1993-1996 where it just seemed that those with malice in their hearts are often victors for long periods of time over people with kind hearts. Why is that? It leads you to think about God’s sovereignty and why he allows things to happen the way that they happen. With that in mind, let’s read this passage now, 1 Samuel 14:47-52:

47 Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious.[a] 48 He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

49 Saul’s sons included Jonathan, Ishbosheth,[b] and Malkishua. He also had two daughters: Merab, who was older, and Michal. 50 Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The commander of Saul’s army was Abner, the son of Saul’s uncle Ner. 51 Saul’s father, Kish, and Abner’s father, Ner, were both sons of Abiel.

52 The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.

When we read this passage, a question come to mind, “Why was Saul so successful right after he had disobeyed God and been told that his reign would end?” (remember 1 Samuel 13:13-14). Sometimes, ungodly people win battles. Victory is neither guaranteed nor limited to the righteous. God provides according to His will. God might have given Saul success for the sake of His people, not for Saul. He might have left Saul on the throne for a while to utilize his military talents so that David, Israel’s next king could spend more time focusing on the nation’s spiritual battles, developing the people into a more cohesive nation, and fleshing out the infrastructure of the nation. Regardless of God’s reasons for delaying Saul’s demise, his reign ended exactly the way God had foretold. The timing of God’s plans and promises is known only to Him. Our task is to commit our ways to God and then trust Him for the outcome.

For me, that experience with my ex-wife taught me that good does triumph over evil and that no good ever comes from repaying evil with evil. I so wanted to swing at my ex-wife’s pitches in the dirt. I did so want to retaliate with a tit for each tat. But God and my earthly father kept telling me to hold on, don’t swing, don’t retaliate and that Lisa would reveal her true self to those that mattered in due time. It just seemed like it was taking forever for those revelations to come about. I grew weary under the strain of the harassment and having to keep my cool in the face of the hatred. Sometimes it takes a long time as you are walking through an evil time.

Sometimes, we wonder at why God is taking so long to answer our prayers. Sometimes, we wonder at why God is allowing evil to have victory over us, as it seems from our perspective. One thing that I learned from that whole experience is that you have to trust God to pull you through the tough times. Hang on to that sliver of hope that is God whispering in your ear that things will get better. Even if you are impatient with God about answering your prayer, realize that He is God and that the righteous, the humble, those who love the Lord will have the sunshine on their face in the future. We have hope in eternity through Jesus Christ. We have hope that brings joy even in the toughest of times. We can have joy even when life seems to be total crap around us. What I learned from that (and especially have seen it since my salvation) that God never forgets us and that our hard times are to teach us real faith in Him. It is when it seems that life is falling apart or when it seems that God is not doing things the way we want Him to is when we learn real faith in Him. Sometimes, he sends us through a dry place, a desert, a tough time, a time when it seems He is not answering us to teach us to trust in His sovereignty.

My experience has been that God will give us the sunshine in His due time and that we simply have to straight up trust Him sometimes (when there is no evidence that we should by human standards). Trust in God no matter what. Even is the yuckiest of times, He is there. He is teaching. He is teaching us to straight up, all-in to trust in His Sovereignty.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 9:22-57 (Part 1)
Shechem Rebels Against Abimelech

We often ask the question of God, “What’s taking you so long?” or “Why did this happen?” We wonder why God allows evil and oppression to continue in our lives and in the lives of whole classes or races of people or even whole nations of people. Why does he let evil continue to rule over us? How long must we suffer before God will intervene on our behalf, if at all? You hear about evil all the time. Mass shootings. The rape and murder of grown women and even the rape and murder of little girls. Planes flying into 110 story buildings. Teenagers walking into schools and shooting their classmates and teachers. . There was even a guy that walks into a movie theatre in Colorado and shoots 70 people (killing 12) whose only crime was watching a movie. There were the churchgoers and pastor at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston not too long ago. We wonder why?

We wonder why there is death and destruction from natural disasters. Even natural disasters like wildfires out west and even recently in the mountains of Tennessee. The devastation wrought in southeast Texas by the amazingly slow moving Hurricane Harvey. Even today, we are wondering if the southern half of Florida is going to take a direct hit from what is being called one of the strongest hurricanes ever, Hurricane Irma. These are the headlines that we see about how evil and suffering seems so rampant in today’s world. And we, even as believers, cry out to the Lord, “Why is this happening?”

Even in our personal lives, we have tragedy and suffering in our own lives. Much of our suffering is of our own doing, but some of our suffering has been forced upon us by others. In my own life, I have experienced such things. Although I do not have time to go through all the background details, but during my first divorce, my estranged wife who was the type that you are either against or for her, there was no middle ground. Our separation due to years of marital problems (including her years of drug addiction and her own affair, all of which piled up anger in my heart that led to my own affair and then the violence set in by her toward me) was the beginning of evil being thrust upon me. During our separation, not too long after she figured out that I was not going to come back home, she accused me of molesting my oldest daughter. This only came out after I had taken her to family court on contempt charges. For months after she figured out that I was not going to reconcile with her, she refused to allow me to see my children at my appointed visitation times. At the court hearing for the contempt charges, she dropped the bombshell. That set in motion months and years of events that I still shudder to think of even now some 20-22 years later after the events.

After the accusation, I was unable to see my children at all for six months while all of that played out. I had to be investigated by the Sheriff’s Office. I even took a lie detector test to prove my innocence. Even after I was able to see my children again, it had to be supervised by my parents for two years after that. Ultimately, DSS saw that my ex-wife was a greater danger to the kids than I was and removed them from their mother’s care and ultimately placing them in my parents care for 2 ½ years. Even though I had proved my innocence over and over, once you set DSS wheels in motion, they are in you, on you, and around you for a long time. It was a long and sometimes lonely hard road. Even though I knew someone was going to get hurt badly, most likely me, if my first wife and I had stayed together, during those lonely days after the accusation, I felt like I had been beaten and she had won. Even after the accusations proved false, I was still being treated as an unfit parent. It was all very frustrating how one act of evil, a false accusation to the core of who I was a parent of two daughters, could suck in so many resources of DSS and profoundly affect my relationship with my daughters for years to come. One act of evil caused pain and suffering for me, the girls, and even the accuser, their mother, for years to come. Why did it all happen? This was more than just payback for having an affair and finally ending a dangerous marriage, this was just mean and evil. Let’s just say that my ex became obsessed with destroying me. It consumed her for years and destroyed what future life she may have had. For this and many other reasons, she ended up living as a hermit with her second husband wrapped up in their own little universe of just them. She passed away at the tender age of 55 two summers ago. But during the height of all that divorce/DSS stuff from 1993-1996, I wondered how evil can have such a hold for such a long time. Even in my own little corner of the universe, though I have had my share of sins that I have paid for dearly over the years, this was one instance of evil being thrust upon me and even when proven innocent the result of the evil lasted for a long, long time. Why? Why did God let that happen?

That was the thing that I thought of this morning when I read this passage. My own struggle with the results of evil actions of others. Here, we see Abimelech was allowed to rule for over three years before anything happened to change the situation. Let’s read through this passage, Judges 9:22-57, today, with an eye toward why it took so long for these events to unfold, with an eye toward why evil is allowed to continue unabated at times, as it seems. Here’s the passage now:

22 Now Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 so that the violence [a]done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 The men of Shechem set [b]men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who might pass by them along the road; and it was told to Abimelech.

26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his [c]relatives, and crossed over into Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their trust in him. 27 They went out into the field and gathered the grapes of their vineyards and trod them, and held a [d]festival; and they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank and cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is Zebul not his [e]lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 [f]Would, therefore, that this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech.” And he said to Abimelech, “Increase your army and come out.”

30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech [g]deceitfully, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his [h]relatives have come to Shechem; and behold, they are [i]stirring up the city against you. 32 Now therefore, arise by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field. 33 In the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and behold, when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them [j]whatever you can.”

34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him arose by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four [k]companies. 35 Now Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; and Abimelech and the people who were with him arose from the ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “[l]Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains.” But Zebul said to him, “You are seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Behold, people are coming down from the [m]highest part of the land, and one [n]company comes by the way of [o]the diviners’ [p]oak.” 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your [q]boasting now with which you said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!” 39 So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded up to the entrance of the gate. 41 Then Abimelech remained at Arumah, but Zebul drove out Gaal and his [r]relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.

42 Now it came about the next day, that the people went out to the field, and it was told to Abimelech. 43 So he took [s]his people and divided them into three [t]companies, and lay in wait in the field; when he looked and [u]saw the people coming out from the city, he arose against them and [v]slew them. 44 Then Abimelech and the [w]company who was with him dashed forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the other two [x]companies then dashed against all who were in the field and [y]slew them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

46 When all the leaders of the tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the inner chamber of the [z]temple of El-berith. 47 It was told Abimelech that all the leaders of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him; and Abimelech took [aa]an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, and lifted it and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do [ab]likewise.” 49 All the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech, and put them on the inner chamber and set the inner chamber on fire over those inside, so that all the men of the tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he camped against Thebez and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, ‘A woman slew him.’” So [ac]the young man pierced him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his [ad]home. 56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came [ae]upon them.

For today, let’s think about the duration of evil and God’s timing. Abimelech was not what God wanted in a judge, but it was three years before God moved against him and, thus, fulfilling Jotham’s parable (that we read yesterday). Those three years must have seemed like forever to Jotham. We, and surely Jotham, must ask the question, “Why wasn’t Abimelech punished sooner for his evil ways?” We are not alone when we wonder why evil seems to prevail (just read some of David’s psalms or read the Book of Job). God promises to deal with sin – but in His time, not ours. Is it not true that God is not only a God of justice but a God of mercy as well. All of us have sinned and deserve punishment. The world is full of sin (and the Bible tells us even the soil (i.e., nature) groans under the weight of sin) and we all deserve righteous punishment. Yet, God allows us time to repent of our sins, just as those who perpetrate evil upon us. We must trust God’s justice when it comes to sin. We must recognize that none of us is righteous and that we must examine our own hearts for the sins we have committed against others and repent of them. And, yes, we may have a time of waiting for the wicked to be punished. But, we must trust that God will deal with wickedness and evil and unrepentant sin in his due time. We must trust His sovereignty.

Atheists, skeptics and other critics of Christianity often argue against God on the basis of the reality of evil and suffering. “See,” they say, “since evil and suffering exist, God must not exist.” Sometimes they will argue that God may exist, but perhaps He is a weak god, an incompetent one or even an evil one!

But do evil and suffering really mean that God does not exist? Some Christians have responded by turning the skeptic’s argument on its head. They do this by asking on what basis is something deemed evil? If there is some moral standard the critic is basing their position on, then the problem of evil becomes an argument for not against the reality of God. After all, in order to call something good or evil, there must be an underlying standard of right and wrong. Theists argue that this standard is rooted in God and His nature. We know His moral law exists so we recognize the reality of evil and suffering. But unless there is a moral standard, we have no real basis for calling anything good or evil.

Moral evil is explained by the fact that human beings commit evil against one another. People lie, cheat, steal, hurt, and more. This does not argue against Christianity, but instead proves the point that there is something very wrong with human nature as it now is. But what about natural evil? Couldn’t there be less suffering? Why doesn’t God stop things like earthquakes and tsunamis? Again, this ties into the broad Christian explanation of the human predicament. Paradise has been lost due to human moral shortcomings. As a result, we live in a fallen world, east of Eden. As a result, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22, NIV).

Considering all the evil in the world, does God really care about us? Not only does He care, but He cares enough to have sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for us. Because of God’s great love and sacrifice, we now have a way to be reconciled with Him through Christ. This does not mean that we will no longer suffer in this world, but it does mean that we will spend eternity with God. There will come a day when God “will wipe every tear from” our eyes and, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things” will pass away (Revelation 21:4).

It certainly does not make it any easier to go through suffering but one thing it does do is bring us to our knees and makes us realize that the fallacy that we are own gods and that we control our own lives. Our pain and suffering makes us feel out of control. In those moments, we may just open our eyes to God for the first time. We may realize that we don’t know why God does what He does but we must trust that He has a plan. He has a plan to take this world that we as a human race have made a complete mess of and make it right again, when all things will be made new again. He has kept every promise He ever made. He is working it out now. He is giving us time through His mercy to realize who He is and come to Him. He has a plan for the world and He has a plan for you (even in the midst of our suffering, as we see it).

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 11:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Israel Defeats the Northern Armies

Here in this passage, we see that God has instructed Joshua to do certain things and Joshua carries these instructions out completely without question. I think that Joshua learned his lesson about either not consulting God and as a result not carrying out God’s instructions from his experiences with the Gibeonites and with the defeat at Ai.

 

This morning, all I can think of at the moment is that song by Bethel Music (featuring Kathleen DeMarco) entitled “It is Well (With My Soul)”. It is a modernization and remake of a remake of a remake of the original hymn penned by Horatio Spafford and the music was composed by Philip Bliss. The story behind the words of the song is as a remarkable story as is the song itself.

 

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

 

Now let us read the words of the remake by Bethel Music:

 

Grander earth has quaked before

Moved by the sound of His voice

Seas that are shaken and stirred

Can be calmed and broken for my regard

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

It is well with me

 

Far be it from me to not believe

Even when my eyes can’t see

 

And this mountain that’s in front of me

Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

 

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]

[x3]

 

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

[repeat 3x]

 

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]

ahhhhhhh (softly)

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You Lord

Through it all, through it all

It is well with me.

[x2]

 

Horatio could not understand why his family had been devastated in the way that it was. We still do not know, but his faith in God gave us so much out of that tragedy. This beautiful song that has given so many so much hope over the past 150 years. This latest rendition of the song would have made Horatio proud. I think he wanted people to feel the strength of his heart and his faith in God through his tragedy. Spafford, his wife, and the two children they had eventually settled in Jerusalem and ran a help agency there that helped people regardless of religious affiliation, be they Christian, Jew or Muslim. Thousands of locals were helped by Horatio and his family. This may have not occurred had the tragedy not happened. Horatio may have continued working as a businessmen and real estate developer in Chicago. He was saved by his business interests in Chicago while his family went ahead of him. His family died but he didn’t. He was devastated and it took years to recover but had the tragedy not happened he may not have become the inspirational figure that he became.

 

Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen the way they do or why God asks us to obey him when it really doesn’t make sense to us. Like here in the Lyman-Duncan-Wellford, SC area, we had the fifth teenager at Byrnes High School to die accidently within the last 15 months, the second one to drown in that time span. Why did this happen? What good can come from it? We question God at these times. But we must come back to the trust in God that He sees things that we cannot and sometimes we have no other thing to do but to trust that He knows what He is doing.

 

That is what came to mind this morning as I read through this passage. What came to mind was how Joshua just simply obey. Just simply trusted. And followed God’s instructions to the letter. Let’s read it now together:

 

11 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, 2 and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3 to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

 

6 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

 

7 So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8 and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9 Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

 

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed[a] them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself.

 

12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

 

Here, in this passage, as we read it for today, we see that Joshua carefully obeyed all the instructions given by God. This theme of obedience is repeated frequently in the book of Joshua. It is the one part of the believer’s life that the believer can control. We can’t always control our understanding because we may not always have all the facts and must simply trust God. We, also, cannot control how other people treat us or what they do. However, we can control our choice to obey God. Whatever new challenges we may face, the Bible contains relevant instructions that we can choose to ignore or choose to follow. We can choose to ignore or follow what God tells us directly through the Holy Spirit living in us as believers. We have also seen several instances in Joshua where the people did not seek the Lord for guidance and in each case they failed miserably. We may not always understand why God’s Word says what it says or why the Holy Spirit counsels us as He does but it is up to us to realize that God is God and sees more than we can see and that He has our best interest at heart. Obedience thus becomes an act of trust in our mighty omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God and an act of love toward our loving Father in heaven.

 

Sometimes God does not give us the full picture. He just gives us a glimpse (like a kid peaking through the living room door on Christmas Eve to see if Santa has come yet). We cannot see the whole picture as He can. He is God and sometimes we just have to dig down deep and trust without an answer right this very moment as to why something happened the way it did or why He is asking us to pursue something but does not show us what’s behind Door #1. Sometimes, we just gotta blindly trust God and do what He says, believe in His Fatherly wisdom. We just keep on keeping on. We just obey. We just believe. Sometimes that is what we have to have is that childlike faith sometimes. We may wait a long time, to have the answers to why certain things happen or why God pushes us in a certain direction, but there will be a day when either here on earth or maybe it’s not til we get to heaven that we can look back through God’s eyes and see what and why.

 

Joshua simply obeyed God no matter what the task given. He knew God knew better than he did. Sometimes we have to have that same faith about events that seem unfathomable to us or when God directs us to do things that seem crazy by worldly standards. Or when God makes us wait and wait and wait for Him to make our path clear. Or whatever it is that you don’t understand that God is doing in your life. Sometimes we just gotta trust the Big Guy. Sometimes we gotta trust when we don’t understand. We gotta trust when everything in us screams that it’s not right and it’s not fair.

 

God has never failed us and He never will. So we just trust and obey. So that it will be well with our soul. Sometimes the darkest hours in our lives is where we learn to let go of our desire to control the world and just simply trust in the Lord. Then it is well. It is well. It is well. With my soul!

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 2 of 3)

The Israelites Defeat Ai

If you are like me, one of the biggest questions that I have after reading this passage was “Why was it OK for the Israelites to keep the plunder, the spoils of victory, at Ai but it was not OK to do it at Jericho?” It is a puzzling question. Does it bother you that God seems to be inconsistent here? If God is a God of truth, then what is true in one situation is always true, right? Is God displaying situational ethics here? What’s the deal?

 

It kind of reminds me of the fact that as a father we know the difference between a boy that is really smitten with our daughters and those who just want a physical conquest. I have a 10 ½ month old granddaughter now and realize the world that she will grow up in will be completely different from the world that I raised her mother in and it was worse than the world that I grew up in from a moral values standpoint. I just worry about my granddaughter and the pressure she will face from guys growing up. She is already a very beautiful little girl at less than one year old. I imagine that she will grew up to be a knock-out of a girl just by how cute she is now, about how expressive her face is, and so on. She is just cute and that’s not just me talking. So many people talk about how gorgeous she is already at such a young age. So, I know that as she becomes a middle schooler and later a high schooler and then college and then early adulthood, that there will be guys. She will be very feminine I know that. Her mother is a girly girl. 100% girl. Loves being a woman. She loves all the things that girls love. She will make sure that her daughter is feminine. But being a beautiful women in this world today makes them vulnerable to every dude who wants a notch in his belt. Women are more toys to boys that they ever were before. Today’s world objectifies the female body in a way that was only hinted at when I was a teenage boy.

 

Why do I worry about my granddaughter? I was a teenage boy once. I know what that was like. You are ruled by one thing – our testosterone. We are ruled by our lusts when we are teenage and early twenty year old boys. We will do anything and say anything to achieve our goals. I know what that was like. I will be able to spot that from a mile away. Just by the way he will look at my granddaughter,  just by the way he says things to her and what he says to her, I will know. The one thing that I will know is that to Ralyn, she will think her dad and her granddad are being inconsistent when it comes to the boys that she will date. We will like some. We will loathe others. She, as a girl, will not understand why and her dad and I will not be really able to explain it to her. There will be things that her dad and her granddad will sense about the boys she brings around us that cannot be explained but just known by us because we are men. There will be boys that just want to take Ralyn to bed and use her up and throw her away and move on to the next conquest. And there will be possibly and hopefully those boys that are just smitten with Ralyn and will treat her like a princess and will respect her femininity and will respect the delicate flower that women are in our lives, the most wonderful creatures that God created.

 

Ralyn will not understand when her dad says she can’t see this boy anymore. She will not understand when her Papa says that boy’s no good for you. She will just think that we are being controlling and random. She will not understand that we know boys and we will be able to smell out the ones that are after one thing and ones that are truly in love with her and respectful of her. She will just think we are being mean. But we will only have her best interest at heart. She will only understand it when she does find that one right guy that treats her as the princess that she is and will be. She will only understand later when she has to call her dad or her granddad when she finds herself in a jam because she found out what we already knew – that certain boys only want one thing from her. But there will be many days when she just thinks we are being inconsistent and illogical. This boy’s ok but that boy’s not. Get rid of that one. Keep this one. We will drive her crazy with our seeming inconsistencies. But it will be for her own good and she won’t understand it until she arrives at the altar with that one right guy.

 

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 8:1-29 for the second of three times. Let’s read the passage together this morning:

 

8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”

 

3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5 I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6 They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”

 

9 Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.

 

10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. 11 The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.

 

14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.

 

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.

 

20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.

 

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.

 

28 So Joshua burned Ai[b] and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.

 

From this passage, we see that, Israel’s laws for handling the spoils of war covered two situations. First, cities like Jericho were under God’s ban (judgment for idolatry) could not be looted (see Deuteronomy 20:16-18) because God’s people were to be kept holy and separate from all influence of idolatry. Second, the distribution of captured goods from cities not under the ban was a normal part of ancient warfare. It provided ancient armies with the necessary food, flocks, and weapons needed to sustain itself in wartime. Ai was not under ban. The conquering army needed the food and equipment. Because soldiers were not paid, the plunder was part of the incentive for going to war and risking their very lives for their cause.

 

Sometime on the surface we may think God is being inconsistent in this passage. But think about the fact that the Bible clearly stated that Jericho was an idol-worshiping culture. Nothing of the kind was said about Ai. They may have been without God in their lives but it is not mentioned that Ai was filled with idols and all the immorality that went along with worshiping idols. Since it was a much smaller town than Jericho there may have not been many idols and trinkets related to the industry of idolatry as there was in Jericho. I don’t think God was being inconsistent here. He knew something about Jericho that was going to be a bad influence on the Israelites. Jericho may have been much like Corinth in the New Testament – a town where anything goes and a town like Vegas where what happens in Jericho stays in Jericho. Jericho must have been so warped and so wrapped up in its self-pleasing idolatry that it had to be completely destroyed. The Israelites may have not understood why it was OK to keep the plunder at Ai but not at Jericho. They may themselves have thought God was being inconsistent and capricious. Just like Ralyn may think her dad and her granddad as being capricious and inconsistent when it comes to the boys that she will date. She will not understand it. She will have to just trust that we know what we are talking about and accept it. I pray that she does not have to find out the hard way through real experiences of being hurt and crushed by a boy who just wanted her for one thing.

 

Sometimes, God may seem inconsistent to us in the things that he leads us into or steers us away from but we must trust Him as the Sovereign of our lives. We must trust His eternal knowledge. We must trust His eternal foresight. We must trust Him. Sometimes, we won’t understand why but we must just trust and let God be God and us be His child. He knows best. He is our Father.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 3:1-11

Victory over Og of Bashan

Yesterday, we talked about how sometimes conflict is unavoidable. Situations and circumstances, people and their immovable positions often force us to take a stand for what we believe is right. So, today, let’s take a look at it from the perspective of being forced or feeling forced into conflict and you accept that challenge. What now? What do you do? You are a person that likes to avoid conflict at all costs but you are in it now! What now?

 

Being a person who avoids conflict at all costs, any conflict seems like an insurmountable conflict. What do you do? For me, one of those times was at work. At my job, the company that I work for, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) is a legal subsidiary of its American sister company, America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL). However, from an operational perspective, we report our results to both companies’ ultimate parent company in Japan, Fujikura, Ltd. (FJK), separately. We report managerially separately, too. There is a separate chain of command and we have a separate president from AFL. However, from a legal perspective, we are a subsidiary of AFL. It can cause confusion for us, much less you reading this. In November 2013, Japan felt it was best that we quit using our separate accounting systems and use the same accounting system as AFL. The implementation was like that of a big brother thinking that anything that little brother did was silly and insignificant. As a result, they did not put much effort into our implementation. Nowhere in the process did they ever tell us that there were two levels to the general ledger system where AFL corporate personnel could make entries to FAI’s books in what is known as the consolidated ledger in addition to what we used for the normal operations of FAI in what is known as the local ledger. This became important in the looming conflict that I will tell you about. As part of our switching to their general ledger system, we were also forced to join their centralized banking program, too. This plays a role in the conflict as well. Centralized cash and them being able to make entries to my books at the consolidated ledger level is the crux of the conflict to come, in addition to poor implementation training.

 

After the rocky road of the initial implementation of AFL’s general ledger system at FAI, we finally were able to understand the system and make it work for us three months after the conversion. Those first three months were a nightmare that I won’t talk about here but it was just rough as hell, know that. So from January 2014 to March 2014, we thought we were smooth sailing again after the conversion. However, in April, at the year-end audit of AFL and its legal subs, including FAI, it came to light that what I had been reporting to Japan did not match the financials that the auditors were getting from the general ledger system on an AFL consolidated basis. It was a major issue. It almost cost me my job. It was a conflict of the highest order. Come to find out, AFL’s corporate finance group was routinely making cash entries at the consolidated ledger level of FAI’s books. I was reporting to Japan only what was in our local ledger books. I was never told that they would be making entries to my books without my knowledge. AFL corporate personnel were throwing me under the bus by saying that I was keeping my own set of books as if I was being fraudulent in some way. My contention to Japan as all this came to a head, where my job was on the line was that:

 

  • Training on the all the ins and outs of the general ledger system that they forced us to use was shoddy at best. It may have been great for operations personnel (customer service, billing, and accounts payable) but general ledger training was almost non-existent.
  • Never were we told that manual journal entries were going to be made by corporate personnel in this “consolidated ledger” level of our books that only corporate has access to.
  • I contended that the “consolidation ledger” should be used only to consolidate our data with all the other business units and not for making actual journal entries.
  • I contended too that if I am being held responsible for the books of FAI, which I am, then, I need to be informed of any entries being made to my books so that I can review and approve of them.

 

There were about 3 months from April – June 2014 where I was uncertain if I was going to survive this crisis. I think that the only thing that saved me from being thrown under the bus completely without being vindicated was my track record with the company over the previous 6 years before the crisis. I was the one that moved FAI’s finance group from complete disarray into the most reliable financial reporting group among the US group of Fujikura companies. Never had there been any audit findings regarding FAI Finance before this. And I had a reputation within the group for having the cleanest and tightest set books in the group of companies. Why then all of a sudden would AFL accuse me of being fraudulent in some way. There had to be a reason for the crisis. It was the new general ledger system and it was how they were using it.

 

Since AFL had grown into a large organization but the AFL corporate finance organization had not grown to match, it was often easier for them to make adjusting entries at the corporate level on the books of the subs rather than make the subsidiary adjust their books. It had become a habit. Because they had not fully trained us on the general ledger and not made us responsible for recording our cash activity from the new banking system, all those cash inflow and outflow entries from the centralized cash management program were not being recorded manually at our local level of our books. They were just booking it at the corporate consolidated level of our books. Not knowing that I had to report to Japan both what they were doing to our books at the corporate level in addition to all the regular activity in our local level of our books, you can see how the conflict arose.

 

You can ask my wife, as I had to explain and defend myself over a three month period, I would literally come home and cry on her shoulder. It was seemingly an insurmountable war in which I was in the middle of this huge fight that I did not want to be in and was not really of my making. The biggest thing that I would cry about was that people were questioning my integrity when it was really about the lack of training and the lack of communication with regard to this new general ledger system. It was a nightmarish time. My wife and I prayed constantly during these three months and it seemed bleak at times. It was like being on trial for a crime that you did not commit. It was like going to battle against a great army and you were just a bunch of ill-equipped revolutionaries. It was a time that I was humbled before the Lord. I laid it at his feet and just had to trust that the man the Lord had made me into over the years since salvation would trump this temporary maelstrom.

 

It was that idea of simply having to lay it at the Lord’s feet and trust that God will deliver you against what seem like insurmountable odds is what I thought of when I read this passage. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt to prove it. Let’s read this passage, Deuteronomy 3:1-11:

 

3 Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. 2 The Lord said to me, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”

3 So the Lord our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. 4 At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 5 All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. 6 We completely destroyed[a] them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying[b] every city—men, women and children. 7 But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.

 

8 So at that time we took from these two kings of the Amorites the territory east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge as far as Mount Hermon. 9 (Hermon is called Sirion by the Sidonians; the Amorites call it Senir.) 10 We took all the towns on the plateau, and all Gilead, and all Bashan as far as Salekah and Edrei, towns of Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 11 (Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide.[c] It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.)

 

Here, in this passage, you will remember from Numbers, of which this passage is a recap, that the Israelites faced a big problem when it came to battle King Og. His army was well-trained and all of the major cities were well fortified. The Israelites hardly stood a chance. But they won because God fought for them. God can help His people regardless of the problems they face. No matter how insurmountable the obstacles may seem, we must remember that God is sovereign and He will protect those who earnestly seek after Him. We can place our hope and confidence in Him to protect us and keep us safe even in the worst of the storms of life. We must cling to the hope that He provides us. God is the creator of the universe. Let us remember that. He is greater than any created thing. He is therefore greater than any problem that we face.

 

When you are in a conflict that is forced upon you, when you are having to stand up against the tide, when you are in a fight and you wish you were not in it, and you are afraid, and you feel all alone, remember that God is with us. He is our Emmanuel. He will never forsake us. Often, it is in the storms of life that we learn how to truly love the Lord. The storms teach us that we are insufficient to go up against what we are facing but that He is. It teaches us to be thankful for His sovereignty over us and over all creation. Trust in the Lord in the storm. He will deliver you just as He has delivered me on countless occasions. I love the Lord because He has seen me through many a storm and has set me safely on the shore each time.  Without fail. It makes me trust Him more and more with each storm. Trust in Him.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 1:1-5

Introduction to Moses’ First Address

It is Thanksgiving Day in America today. It is a time of reflection. It is a time of looking back at the road that has led to this point in time. Sometimes you wonder why all the twists and turns have occurred. Why did you have to go through all the stuff to get where you are. Wouldn’t have been easier if we had just taken a straight line to where you are now. A lot of times, we say, “Man, if I only knew then what I know now, things would be so different!” When you think of the twists and turns of your life, man, it is right. If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t have made some of the choices that we made.

 

For example, with me, I think of some of the choices that I have made or the choices that were made for me. As many of you know, I grew up as a Methodist preacher’s kid. One of the most fateful decisions of my life was made for me as a result of being a Methodist preacher’s kid. The Methodist Church in South Carolina in its wisdom thought it was best to move my dad from his appointment as the Associate Pastor (the only time he was not the head pastor) at Trinity UMC in Anderson, SC to Travelers Rest & Jackson Grove United Methodist churches in Travelers Rest, SC back in 1976 when I was about to turn 14. What if? That one move of all the moves that we made when I was growing up affected the entire trajectory of my life. That was the most fateful move of the history of my life. That move. That move, everything hinges on it. I often wonder what if when it comes to that move. What if my dad had gotten moved somewhere else. I would have never met Lisa, who became my first wife, and would not have had to go through all the stuff that I went through with. With the marriage to her and her having a handicapped mother to care, we ended up staying in Greenville. There were opportunities to move away from the Greenville area that I had to turn down because of the whole situation with her mother. I would never had to suffer through her addictions and the pain and suffering that I had to go through because of that.

 

What if I had broken up with Lisa while were dating in high school? That would have changed everything. There was one girl, Mindy Walker, that I would have broken up with Lisa for but did not have quite the cuhanas to do it. I often wonder how that would have changed my life. Mindy wanted me to be her boyfriend but I was too, what amounts to being, scared of Lisa’s wrath to ever go through with it. Mindy was so much calmer and less volatile than Lisa. That was a missed opportunity that I wonder what would have happened to my life if I had taken that path – the Mindy project, the Mindy path. What would my life had been like. Where would I be right now?

 

What if I would have gone to Clemson University for college like I wanted to? Instead of staying home in Greenville and going to Furman University so that I could stay near Lisa. I know most likely if I had gone just an hour away from Greenville and went to Clemson that hour away would have changed everything. It most likely would have caused Lisa and me to drift apart. It would have become harder and harder to leave Tiger Town and come home every weekend because of the things I would have become involved in over at Clemson. Probably a fraternity. I would have met people that would have changed my life. Lisa and I would most likely have broken up over that hour away in Clemson. What would have my life have been like if I had gone to Clemson and met a Clemson girl? What would have my college experience been like? Where would I be now if I had met and married a Clemson girl? What would I be doing? Where would I be living?

 

What if I had never accepted that job at Dunlop Slazenger Corporation (DSC) where I met Trena. After all the drug addiction, drama, manipulativeness, and vindictiveness that I suffered through with Lisa, Trena was a breath of fresh air. A breath of sanity. A breath of normalness. I would have never met her if I had not accepted the job at DSC. I would have never fell madly in love with her and left Lisa. That marriage proved to be just as painful as the first. Trena hated anything to do with my past. I ended up cutting myself off from friends from my past and from my family. The whole my kids vs. your kids thing wound up destroying that marriage. What if I had more balls to stand up to her and say that I am going to do more than just what was legally necessary for my children. What if I had not been so addicted to access to female charms? What if? What if I had not met her? What if I had gone to work somewhere else and found someone else at a different place of employment. What would my life be like now? I would not have had to move away from Greenville finally after 28 years just to get away from my past and make more money because I was the only one funding my oldest daughther’s college experience at Clemson? Where would I be now?

 

The circuitous route of my life would be totally different if I had not moved to Travelers Rest. It would be totally different if I had gone to Clemson instead of Furman. The trajectory of my life would be totally different if I had not gone to work at Dunlop Slazenger Corporation. All the pain and suffering that I have gone through in my life may have not occurred if I had not met Lisa or met Trena. Things would be so different now. If I had only made different choices!

 

But then I think. If I had not met Lisa (even with all the pain that relationship caused), I would not have my wonderful daughters, Meghan and Taylor. Sure, I would have children but they would not be Meghan and Taylor. Those unique, quirky, wonderful daughters that they are. If I had not met Trena, I would not appreciate the relationship that I have with my children now (because I almost lost total touch with my own kids during my marriage to Trena). If I had not met Trena, I would not know about the fact that I was giving up my soul because of access to sex. If I had not met Trena, I would have never known the pain and suffering of withdrawing from making a person your god. I would not know of the fact that I could actually make it on my own without a woman in my life. If I had not met Lisa and Trena, I would not have learned to be more frugal with money. While married to these ladies, I sold my credit rating down the river just to make them happy. If I had not met and married these ladies and lived in the places that I lived and lived the lifestyles that I lived with them, I would not have moved to Rock Hill, SC after 30 years in the Greenville, SC area. If I had not known the life that I lived in Greenville, I would have never been ready to met my wife that I have now, Elena.

 

For having the past that I had with my previous wives, I would not have such a great appreciation that I have a great friend, my best friend, in her. I would not appreciate that we have friendship that extends beyond the bedroom into the living room. I would not appreciate how we have worked so incredibly hard to restore my credit to the point that I don’t have to make exceptions for my credit anymore. We have worked hard to save and work toward living with less and less debt. We have worked hard to be in a position to be generous. We have been blessed so much through our obedience to God that He has generously blessed us in so many ways. I wonder what my life would be like if I had not met Elena. I shutter at the thought. With being married to her, I have learned about unconditional love from her. With Elena, she is my accountability partner when it comes to my relationship with the Lord. With Elena, I know of comfort and security. I praise God for the lack of drama in our marriage. She is my resting place. She is my high ground above the floods that were my life.

 

Without my past, I would not know of the peace and serenity of my present. Without my past, I could not really appreciate the soundness of my present. Without the missed turns and twists in the road of my life, I would not know of the easy stream that I am floating down now. I know that I am blessed right now. I know that I have it good right now. It is not an expectation. It is an appreciation. If I did not have my past, I could not appreciate my present. A good wife. A good life. A generous life. A blessed life. A life where I appreciate the joy of a grandchild. All of the roses of my life now would not smell so sweet if it were not for my past.

 

The thanksgiving for where I am today is what I thought of when I read today’s passage. That thanksgiving comes from seeing where you are after all you have been through is what I thought of. Let’s read it together:

 

1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)

 

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. 4 This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

 

5 East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying

 

The Israelites spend 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days at the time. It wasn’t distance that stood between them and the Promised Land. It was the condition of their hearts. God’s purpose went deeper than simply transporting a large group of people from one place to another. He was preparing them to live in obedience to Him once they arrived. What good was the Promised Land if the Israelites were just as wicked as the people living there? The journey was a painful but necessary part of their preparation. Through it, God taught the Israelites who He is – the living God, the Leader of their Nation. He also taught them who they were: people who were fallen, sinful, prone to rebellion, and doubt. He have His rebellious people the law to help them understand, how to relate to God and other people.

 

For you and me, our spiritual journey may be lengthy and we may face pain, discouragement, and difficulties. But remember, God is not simply keeping you alive to experience these things. He is preparing you to live for service and devotion to Him. The roads we travel are not wasted. God is preparing us for what He has next for us. Nothing is random. Nothing is purposeless.

 

On this Thanksgiving Day, I thank God for the twists and turns of my life. It makes me who I am today. It makes me appreciate the calm waters upon which I sail right now. Without the wilderness of my past life, I could not truly appreciate the Promised Land in which I live now. Thank you Lord. I enter Your gates with thanksgiving and Your courts with praise. Thank you Lord for the wilderness. It has made me see your hand in my life. I am thankful for you placing me on the high ground. It is not lost on me that I am blessed beyond all that I could imagine or hope for.

 

Amen and Amen.