Sunday Morning Coffee: What a Week

If you’ve ever had to use Prednisone, you could write this post yourself. You have my total sympathy.

If you’ve never had to take it, count your blessings. It is used as an anti-inflammatory, among other things, and does its job well in that regard. But the side effects? Oy.

This has been me for the last 4-5 nights. Last night I slept for three hours, and I’ve been awake since 2 a.m. Had a melt-down this morning just from lack of sleep. I’m not given to melt-downs. They’re no fun, and they don’t help. One. More. Day.

So why take the stuff? Because it DOES help swelling and inflammation that make it difficult to treat certain conditions. Next week, we’ll make a decision about another spinal steroid shot, which really couldn’t be made without a good visual, i.e. xray or MRI. Inflammation had to be reduced first. And the pain IS better.

There are many other side effects of Prednisone, which a good doctor always points out before prescribing the stuff. Some people can’t stop eating, and gain a lot of weight. Others get headaches. It’s a long list. For me, the wired-up feeling, shaky hands, emotions out of whack, and sleeplessness are the worst. I’ll have some of the same reactions from the steroid injection, but they will pass quickly. And the extended pain relief is worth it.

I like to think of Prednisone as the medical counterpart to good Bible preaching that gets under our guard and convicts us of sin. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t enjoy it. We want it to go away so our comfort zone isn’t invaded and we don’t have to DO anything to regain our spiritual composure.

Without it, though, it’s often hard for us to see the cause of our sin because of the swelling of pride and SELF that obfuscates the real problem–pride, anger, worldly lust–that’s a very long list, too. It’s only when we swallow the medicine and allow it to do its work in our hearts that we can see clearly and deal with our sin through confession and repentance.

This hasn’t been a fun week, but there have been some bright spots in the form of caring friends who have stopped in, called, messaged on Facebook, and so on.

And of course, there’s music.

The Work of the Spirit

John 16:8-11.

And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

Of sin, because they believe not on Me;

Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see Me no more;

Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Verse eight says that when the Spirit is come, He will reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The word reprove is also correctly translated as rebuke, convict, convince.

Have you ever had what Dr. Charles Stanley describes as a check in the spirit? I certainly have, on many occasions! It is the work of the Holy Spirit that guides us to think carefully, and if we choose to sin, it is the Spirit’s work to convict us and bring us to repentance. As I grow older, I am learning to wait for that check in the Spirit before moving forward. For example, as I was writing a post the other day, the flesh took over and I typed some words that were inappropriately controversial. I paused, read over what I had written, and deleted it. That’s a fairly easy to do in this computer age. I wish it were that easy to erase words that coming tumbling out of my mouth before I pause to get the approval of the Spirit. We can’t unsay those words. We can only apologize, where and when it is necessary, and pray for guidance to do better the next time.

So. The work of the Spirit is to convict the world in the three ways Jesus named: Sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Sin is the truth about man, righteousness is the truth about God, judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths.

Gizik, Blue Letter Bible

The Spirit shows us truth. To convict is also to undeceive. It is a serious thing to ignore the whisper of what we like to call the conscience. Disney trivialized the conscience in the form of Jiminy Cricket, in the story of Pinocchio. Still, when the puppet boy ignored Jiminy, it landed him in a world of hurt. Just so, when we ignore that check in the spirit, we end up in places we never intended to go. My pastor, years ago, used to say that sin always takes you farther than you intended to go. It can start as a small thing, but before you know it, you are tangled in a very sticky web, indeed.

The truth about man is that we are sinful, and we deceive ourselves. We ignore the check in the spirit that would lead us to the next point.

The Spirit shows us the truth about God: He is righteousness. It is very sad that even believers have mocked those who try to live godly in Christ Jesus. “Too pious! So spiritually minded, he’s no earthly good!” But God’s Word tells us that we are to daily become more and more like Christ. Piety has come to be a somewhat derisive term, but was never meant so in its beginning. To be pious was to be good, honest, true, upstanding, godly, having good character. To be like Jesus. Our pastor preached such a good message yesterday, describing how Jesus, in His first advent, didn’t return derision with derision, revilement with revilement. He never behaved in a way that would bring shame to the Father. Neither should we.

The truth about the world? Because of the constant struggle between sin and godliness, there will be judgment. The essence of sin is unbelief. It is unbelief that condemns a soul to eternal damnation. Unbelief involves non-acknowledgment of the sinful condition of all mankind. It involves the erroneous belief that we can somehow deserve heaven. And it involves refusal of Jesus Christ as the Son of God; refusal to accept His death and resurrection as the only path to salvation.

Satan, the prince of this world, will be finally and utterly judged for his unceasing efforts to defeat the Son of. God.

I, Even I, am He

Isaiah 43: 24-26. Thou hast bought Me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled Me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put Me in remembrance; let us plead together; declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.”

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Sweet cane, called sweet calamus, was used in the incense that Israel made for worship. Some was grown in Arabia, and India, and  an inferior quality in Egypt and Syria. The kind used by Israel was brought from afar (Jer. 6:20)

Filling God with the fat of sacrifices simply meant to satisfy Him by meeting His requirements according to the law of Moses .

A paraphrase of verse 25 could be, “Instead of serving Me in holiness and righteousness, and worshiping Me with sacrifices and offerings to atone for sin, you have served in your sins and burdened Me with your iniquities.”

In spite if the sin of His people, God promises that He will indeed forgive them (this promise presupposes a period of their coming to repentance, which will not happen in a national sense until the Millennial reign. The idea of blotting out sins is taken from the custom of keeping accounts and canceling or blotting out the charge when the debt is paid. Thus God  promised to cancel the sins of Israel and blot them all out. When this is done no punishment can be exacted for sins, and the people forgiven must be treated is pardoned friends.

Truly, what a kind and loving God we serve.

Thou Worm, Jacob

Isaiah 41:14-16.    “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel: I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.  Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.”

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The word worm in v. 14 pictures man in his unclean, sinful  state, in contrast with God, the Holy One of Israel.  The particular Hebrew word refers to the worm from which crimson dye was made; crimson  being a word that is often used to denote sin (Isaiah 1:18).

In vv. 15-16,  Israel is depicted as the Lord’s instrument in bringing their enemies to nothing. Israel will be a sharp, new threshing roller with two-edged knives, like an instrument that cut up the straw for fodder, and separates the grain from the chaff. The mountains and hills, figurative of proud and powerful enemies, will be threshed to powder, and scattered and destroyed, as chaff is blown by the wind.

Of special interest is God’s description of Himself as the Holy One of Israel, and as their Redeemer. These two promises are repeated often in the book of Isaiah, emphasizing that God intends to keep  all His promises to His people.

Egypt

Isaiah 31:1. ” Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!”

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There were always those who wanted to turn to Egypt any time there was a threat from another nation.  They saw Egypt has strong and powerful because of their many chariots and horses, and their strong soldiers.  The sin they committed was that they put their focus on human help, and refused to depend on God to help them out of their troubles.

No matter how often they were warned, or how often this cycle repeated itself, they continued to turn away from God and look to man for help. They would not listen; they would not see; they failed to remember how easily God had delivered them from Egypt so long ago.

Sin always has consequences.  Always.

King David and Depression

(Since it’s Friday,have chosen to pull up a post that still, after several years, gets lots of hits.  Originally written and posted in 2014, it shows up nearly every day on my list of ten most-viewed posts. I looked up the stats yesterday and found that over 19,000 people, about 5.5 % of my total readers, have accessed this post.  Maybe not every single one of them read it, but it amazes me how much interest it has engendered over the years. I did a fairly long series on depression in 2017 under my “Friday Counseling Issues” category.  You can find them near the bottom of the right side of the page, listed individually and under “Counseling Issues.” When you find the category, you’ll need to scroll all the way to the bottom and read from the bottom up for continuity. 

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David’s story is one of the most dramatic in the Bible.  He didn’t have an easy life, and he often made terrible decisions.  Still he is named “a man after God’s own heart”  (Acts 13:22). He earned that title because he always repented of his sin with great remorse; he always begged God to cleanse him and restore him to His favor (Psalm 139: 23-24).

There are many times in  the Psalms that David wrote in which he declares his great sorrow.  In Psalm 6:6, David says he is weary with his groaning; that all night his bed is swimming in tears. You will easily find other places in Psalms where this experience is repeated. His grief over his sin was great.  His soul was weary with grieving, crying over the state of his disobedience to God, and the terrible results that followed.

Now I want to focus on Psalm 13, which is a little gem describing the steps David took from depression to prayer to victory.  It is a retrospective song, written from the vantage point of age, so that David can be objective about his earlier experiences.  In this Psalm, he was running from King Saul.  He was alone, as yet without the support of his band of mighty men. He was in the northern reaches of Palestine where it was dry, rocky and dusty, and the peopled were unfriendly. In the first two verses we hear five complaints:

1. How long will You forget me, Lord?

2. How long will You hide Your face from me?

3. How long do I have to confer only with myself?

4. How long will I have daily sorrow?

5. How long will Saul have victory over me?

This Psalm has often been called the “how long Psalm,” or even “the howling Psalm.”

Things weren’t going well at all.  Not unlike most of us, when the going got rough David complained and wept, feeling very sorry for himself and even going so far as to accuse God of forgetting about him.  Of course that wasn’t true, but please, haven’t we all felt like that at some point in our lives?  The problem comes when we begin to believe that what we feel must be the truth.  It is never safe to believe that how you feel is the truth.  “Follow your heart” has become a very popular saying, but it is dangerous because our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).

In the second set of verses, David apparently starts to get his thinking straight.  He begins praying instead of complaining.  He asks God to hear him and wake him up so he won’t “sleep the sleep of death.”  Anyone who has experienced that craving for deep, oblivious sleep  that never has to end will understand that David is describing an aspect of deep depression. The only thing that seems to bring peace is to sleep so long and so deeply that  the depression is escaped, at least for a time.  In verse four, instead of complaining that Saul is the victor David asks God to have the victory.  Nothing wrong with  praying that God will prevail.

Finally, in the last two verses, David gets it right.  He reveals three important aspects of answered prayer:  Trust in God’s mercy; rejoice in His salvation; sing praises to God for His bountiful dealings.  We are told to pray with  gratitude in Phil. 4:7.  Gratitude goes a long way toward eliminating whining.  If we turn our minds to God’s mercy, goodness, and grace we are much better able to deal with the vicissitudes of life, including depression.

Most important, I believe, is to rejoice in God’s salvation.  Some time ago, I was impressed with a wonderful truth.  In this passage, David says he will “rejoice in THY salvation.”  He didn’t say he would “rejoice in MY salvation.”  Salvation belongs to God.  He provides it for us when we receive His Son as our Savior, but redemption is His.  We cannot lose what we do not own.  We never need to worry that we’ll lose salvation, because the victory is the Lord’s, and no one can take us from His hand. That truth alone should help boost us out of the pit of depression and despair.

As you read through the Psalms, look for David’s descriptions of his soul’s agony.  You will be surprised at how quickly you can identify with this man that most of us see as a great and powerful king.  We forget that man is only man, after all, and that we are subject to our own weaknesses, just as David was.

Invasion and Destruction

Isaiah 9:11-12. “Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him and join his enemies together: The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind: and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.”

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Rezin, King of Syria, who had attacked Israel, was in turn  attacked and conquered by Assyria.  Following right behind Rezin was the army of the Philistines. Ephraim, the northern kingdom, had  joined Rezin and the Philistines in invading Judah, the southern kingdom  Assyria came along and made a clean sweep of all of them.  Because of their pride, God allowed them to be swallowed up.  His hand was not stretched out in pleading, not any more; now, it was stretched out in anger against Judah and Ephraim, the whole nation of Israel.

I am reminded of Jonathan Edwards  sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  Israel certainly felt the disciplinary hand of God, and still they persisted in their sin, pride, and idol worship.

Fourth Woe: Apostasy

Isaiah 5:20. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

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The subversion of moral principals had become rampant in Judah and Jerusalem.  You cannot worship some man-created god and still pretend to practice true godliness.  The two things simply cannot exist in the same space.

I keep going back to something a pastor of ours said many years ago:  Sin will always take you farther than you intended to go. It is like a whirlpool–wide and slow-moving at the top, but once you are caught in, and  it circles downward, it narrows and goes faster and faster  until you are without escape.

Any society can legalize sin if they choose to do so, and maybe that makes people feel better about whatever they are doing that is against God’s truth. However, legalizing sin does not make it acceptable to God. In our pitiful pride and self-confidence, we look at God and say, “But we made a rule that it is okay now to kill babies!” or whatever other heinous act we now accept as normal.  God will not be impressed. He never changes, and we are foolish to believe that we can function against His power and still escape destruction.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Circuses, Cats, and Fleas

Several weeks ago we were at a farm show that was featuring a flea circus off in one of the sideshows.  We were hot and tire and didn’t want to take the time, but Terry and I were talking about it lat night. I did some googling, and came up with several videos featuring fleas and some of the circus acts that are set up around them.

There was one in which Ben Hur Flea was in a chariot race with Messala Flea.  Ben Hur, of course, won the chariot race.

Well, I was tired and I went off to bed while Terry watched a bit longer. This morning, when I lifted the lid to my laptop, I was greeted with a video of a cat getting a flea bath. Intrigued because the cat wasn’t fighting the process, I watched for a while. The man who was bathing the cat gave clear directions while he worked. Wet the cat down with warm water, avoiding the head and face. Then soap him up really well with something Irish Spring soap, which is what he uses on himself, after all.  So glad to know that.  While this process was going on, the fleas began to surface.  I guess they don’t like soap, and especially scented deodorant soap. It was amazing, really, how easy it was for the guy to pick off the fleas and send them to  their maker.  He says he has to do this every day during the hot weather and into autumn, so apparently this was an indoor/outdoor cat. And I must say, a very patient cat.

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So why am I sharing this?  Well, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Psalm 51:7:

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

It takes a daily cleansing for my heart to be free of nasty little critters of sin that can infect my thinking and my behavior. Daily, coming to God and asking Him to show me where the “fleas” are so they can be cleansed away.  And even as a cat can accept this daily cleansing ritual with composure, so I can come to look forward to my times alone with the Lord while He seeks out the hidden corners of my heart and cleanses me with His grace, forgiveness, and mercy.

Sometimes we don’t like the process. We squall and hiss and try to break free. But His loving hand holds us steady until the process is complete. And it feels so good when it’s finished! Knowing your heart is clean before God is a wonderful thing.

We just can’t stop those cleansing moments, though, because the fleas come back when the cat goes back outside, just like sin does when we go back out into the world we live in. Sadly, sin isn’t just an outward influence. It comes from within. We can never stop being vigilant, just as we can never stop being thankful for a God Who forgives whenever we ask Him to.

Alliances

Isaiah 2:6. “Therefore, Thou has forsaken Thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and  they please themselves in the children of strangers.”

This passage, verses 6-9, details eight national sins–sins that the people as a whole have committed against the specific direction of God.

The first two of these sins are in verse six:  They were filled with customs and ways from the east, from nations that did not know God, joining in alliances with them and adopting the art of fortune-telling from the Philistines; and they had intermarried with other nations, having children with those who did not know God, and were idol-worshipers.

In Israel’s cycle of sin and restoration over the centuries, their biggest downfall was to go directly against God’s command: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20: 3). Falling into the worship of idols from other nations always, always led to great sin, great falling away from the holiness demanded of them by God, and resulted in persecution and defeat often at the hands of the nations whose gods they worshiped.  One would think they would have learned their lesson after a time or two of judgment and suffering,

One would think that America would learn its lesson, too, as we forsake all that is godly and as we suffer the consequences in increased violent crime, the increase of juvenile violent crime, the increase of  violence in our own homeland perpetrated by those who hate us; the increase in divorce, abortion, drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, rebellion against parental authority, rebellion against teachers and other school authorities. Who would ever have thought that being a teacher in America would be a risky career!

We need to look at God’s dealings with a rebellious Israel to realize how much danger America has earned.