Tuesday, September 26, 2006

#65 "When We Just Don't Understand"

September 26, 2006
"How long, O Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?" (Habakkuk 1: 2)

How many times have you heard "because I said so" from your parents when you were growing up after you questioned their denial of a request? How many times have you said those very same words to your children? "Because I said so, that's why!" If you're like me, as an adult, you still ask that same old question, "why?" Often the silence seems to scream, "because I said so, that's why!"

Well, tucked away at the end of the Old Testament, there is an often overlooked book of Scripture written by the minor prophet Habakkuk. We don't know much about him except his name and his profession. Writing at a time of international crisis and national corruption, Habakkuk wants to know why God doesn't step in and do something. Babylon was growing and so was the corruption of God's people, Judah. In this book, he is essentially asking, "God, don't you see? Don't you see the growing international crises and how morally decayed our own country has become? People don't care. They go on about their lives seeking pleasure, not God, as world powers are getting ready to destroy us?" Wow, I agree with my Bible Knowledge Commentary that says "this little book is as contemporary as the morning newspaper." But instead of saying, "because I said so", God, in His infinite mercy, gives answers and encouragement to Habakkuk, and to us, in this little book.

Whether we are questioning world events and moral debauchery in our country, or the everyday circumstances of our lives that we don't understand, I believe that the book of Habakkak gives us three things that we can do to get beyond the "why's" and walk in faith and victory.

The first thing is to have patience. This can be found in Habakkak 2: 2-3. "Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. (In other words, spread the news). For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." God's revelations and promises will always come to pass. They will never prove false. The Bible is full of promises that the wicked will be destroyed and righteousness will prevail. Sometimes the fulfillment of those promises seems delayed but they will come to pass according to His perfect plan. If you are discouraged today from doing the right thing over and over and over again with seemingly no reward or blessing or change in your circumstance...be patient. The promise will come to pass. God said it..that settles it.

The second thing is to stop complaining and stop doubting. Habakkak 2: 20 says, "But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." The Hebrew word "hasah", rendered "be silent", means "hush". Be silent. Be still. One of my favorite verses of Scripture is in Isaiah 30: 15, where it says, "in quietness and trust is your strength." Do you want to be strong? Be quiet. Hush! God is not insensitive. He is not indifferent. Nor is He inactive. He is totally, supremely in control. He told Habakkak to stand in humble silence, a hushed expectancy of God's intervention. God knows about your illness. He knows about your husband. He sees your child. He knows all of the stress that's on your job. He knows your bank account is empty and the electric bill is due. In His perfect time, He will accomplish His divine purpose.

Third, trust God. Have faith. Sounds way too simple and too much like a platitude, right? Wrong! This was Habakkak's response to the Lord's answer. God let him know that He was in control. That He could be trusted. That the end result would come. So Habakkak responded in faith and trust. In spite of what things looked like.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
(Habakkak 3: 17-18)

Habakkak was strong spiritually. In the most adverse circumstances, when there were no signs that things would get better, He was prepared to trust God. His inner peace did not depend on his outward circumstances. And he wasn't just enduring the hardships. Not just having a "grin and bear it" attitude. No, He said he would rejoice! Because He knew that God was the source of his joy. You can't buy joy. You can't find it in circumstance. You certainly can't trust your emotions. Joy is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. You can smile in the midst of adverse circumstances if you have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.

Be patient. Hush. Trust. Habakkak started out this book depressed and discouraged. All he could see were his problems. But he cried out to God and He answered. And through Habakkuk's little book, God answers your cry today. His word brings you the confidence that He has your life under control. You can start in the pits and end up on the mountain top of trust and faith in your God. Your complaints can be swallowed up by confidence. Your fear can turn to faith. Take your eyes off the problem and fix them on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) and the One who can sympathize with your weaknesses (Hebrews 4: 15). Why? Because He says so, that's why!

Donna Schultz

One Night With the King Please view this trailer for an awesome movie coming out October 13, 2006. The story of Esther comes to life and is truly a movie "for such a time as this." I'm asking everyone that I know to pack the theaters on opening weekend. This is no cheesy B-quality Christian film. It is of the highest quality and cinematography.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#64 "Good Morning or Good Moaning?"

September 19, 2006
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118: 24)

What was the first thing that you thought about when your eyes opened this morning? If you're like me, it was still dark. You might think that what goes through your mind first thing is pretty inconsequential, but it's not. I believe that those are the most important thoughts that you will have all day and they will set the tone for the next twenty four hours of your life. You may have thought about how tired you were and how much you wanted to stay in bed. You may have remembered that the problem you fell asleep last night worrying about is there, facing you, for yet another day.

We are told in Psalm 118:24 that the Lord made this day. Back in Genesis, whenever God made something, He saw that it was good. So it only follows that if God made this day, which He did, it is a good day. Did you open your eyes this morning? Take a breath? Move your body? That is good! You are alive! The world is still spinning around on its axis and hasn't spun out of control while you slept. And when you opened your eyes, you pulled the ribbon off of the greatest gift that you could ever receive -- the gift of life. Maybe you woke up and found that your waterbed leaked and then realized that you don't have a waterbed. Maybe that bird singing outside of your window is a buzzard. But you're alive. Rejoice!

What does it mean to rejoice? The Hebrew word used in Psalm 118: 24 is guwl. The picture of "guwl" is to spin around under the influence of violent emotion. It means to be glad and joyful. The King James Dictionary defines "rejoice" as experiencing joy and gladness in a high degree; to be exhilarated with lively and pleasurable sensations. The Message translation of this verse is "let's celebrate and be festive." How festive were your thoughts this morning? Did you have a feeling of joy and gladness at the prospect of a new day? Was it a good morning? Or did you do a good moaning?

Our thoughts are a choice. We do not have to accept every wrong thought that the devil drops in our heads. There may be physical darkness around you when you wake up but get the darkness out of your mind immediately. You may be waking up to problems at home. You may be experiencing mental torture. Your bank account may be empty and there's a stack of bills that need to be paid. Your salary may not be enough on that job you need to get dressed for. No promotion is in sight. Your spouse may be cheating. You may be tired of looking at the empty space in the bed next to you. You may have had to bail someone out of jail last night. Stop those thoughts of doom. Tell them to relax, cool down, be still and know that today is a day to rejoice. It's a day to laugh, smile and sing praises to God, not a day to be wasted on worry, confusion, anxiety and depression. Remember that today is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift to Him.

Try waking up each morning saying (out loud if you have to), "This is the day the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it." Remember it's your choice. Say, "I will bless the Lord at ALL times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34: 1) God has given you this day. He is still in control. If He woke you up today, He's not through with you yet. He still has an awesome plan for your life. He's got work for you to do and He has great things planned to give you. Who knows? Today could be THE day that you see the breakthrough that you've been praying for. Today could be the very day that you see your problem solved. Don't miss out on it. Don't let the devil discourage you and turn your thoughts toward worry. Remember that worry is worshipping the words of the devil. Make Satan and his minions tremble when your feet hit the floor each day.

This is truly a day that the Lord has made. It is His creation, given to you. Right at it's beginning, when your eyes first open, resist the devil, speak the Lord's words of life to your day and truly rejoice in it. You won't get another one. This is the only Tuesday, September 19, 2006 you will ever get. The late Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game, said, "As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round." Rejoice in this day, my friend, rejoice!

Donna Schultz

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

#63 "Wounded Wrestlers"

September 12, 2006
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, I will not let you go unless you bless me." (Genesis 32: 24-26)

I had ringside seats a lot of years ago to a WWF wrestling match. We got to see our favorite wrestlers up close and personal. The old adage, "that's gotta hurt" was very real that day as we watched the wrestlers throw each other around the ring and twist body parts in positions that God never intended. Sweat flew, crowds screamed. Being up that close amplified the sound of bodies slamming on the ring. Okay, you don't have to tell me that it's fake. I know that. But it doesn't lessen the fact that it hurts.

Today, let's take a ringside seat at an ancient wrestling match between God and Jacob. "The Deceiver" was at the threshold of the promised land. He was afraid and uncertain about crossing over into his brother Esau's territory because, you see, many years before he had cheated his brother out of both a birthright and a blessing. He wasn't really sure that he would get a great reception. Messengers told him that Esau was on his way with 400 other men. Didn't sound promising. He prayed to God for safety at his brother's hands but still continued to manipulate the situation instead of trusting that God heard his prayer. He sent an astounding number of gifts on ahead of him and also, coward that he was, he sent his wives, maidservants and sons on ahead of him. By name and by nature Jacob has for a long time walked the road of his own choosing, the road of self will, selfish goals, the road of his own strength and resources. Now that road leads past the Jabbok River, a name which means "wrestling."

So we find Jacob alone. And here comes the opponent. A man who some say was an angel but most believe was the pre-incarnate Christ. (Genesis 32:28 and Genesis 32: 30) And they wrestled until daybreak. It was a long night of wrestling with God but I'd like to say that the match had been going on for most of his life. In the Old Testament, one's name was linked to one's character. Jacob's name meant, "deceiver, heel-catcher, conniver, cheater." He was always struggling and scheming to get his own way. He had family problems. He was fearful and unsure of his destiny and felt the need to do it his way, to make things happen whether they were God's will or not. He wanted what he wanted and would do anything to achieve his goal.

This was "Summer Slam", "King of the Ring" and "Wrestlemania" all rolled into one deciding match. The championship belt was on the line after a long season of doing his own thing, in his own way. The bell rings and the fight begins. He wrestled for what he wanted. Safety, a destiny that he had planned for his life. Blessing over his own plans, not necessarily God's. He tried to use all of his moves that he had used all of his life. A half-Nelson here, a choke hold there. A body slam. A throw against the ropes. But he was soon to learn that you can't struggle against God. The man let him wrestle him all night long but then, enough was enough. At times, Jake even thought that he was winning. It's like when we wrestle with our kids. We let them wrestle a while and think they're winning before we end the match. Well, it was time for God's signature move. The "Tombstone", the "Pile Driver", "The Sharp Shooter", "The Stone Cold Stunner." That signature move that ends the match once and for all. The Bible says that the man touched the socket of Jacob's hip and it was wrenched. He dislocated the ball-and-socket joint of his thigh. And then He told him to let go. All of Jacob's old moves were useless. It was useless to struggle against God. Self-confidence, stubbornness and pride didn't work anymore.

Jacob wouldn't let go. He was wracked with pain but would not let the man go. He said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Ahh, he says, "YOU". Not, "I will get the blessing on my own." Not, "I'll do it my way." Instead he clings to God and asks for HIM to work on his behalf. One author says that Jacob goes from wrestling to clinging. Wrestle means to contend and fight for dominance. To cling means to hold on to and to grasp in desperation. He now was admitting that all of his plans, his self-sufficiency and his pride were useless. He needed God and only God. He was desperate for God to take control of his life. Therein lies the blessing.

At the moment he yielded to God, he became a new man who could receive the blessings of God and assume his place in God's plan for his life. God begins by giving him a new name, "Israel". This new name suggests royalty and power and sovereignty among men. Instead of being an unscrupulous conniver he would now be a God-governed man. Jacob couldn't enter the promised land as a conniver. He had to have God's divine blessing. No more self-sufficiency, no more prideful plans. God was the owner of the land promised to Abraham's seed and Jacob had to be changed to enter it. But because he was so stubborn, he had to be injured in the process. But he was now ready for the blessing.

Are you wrestling with God today? Has he told you to be obedient in some area and you are refusing, with all your excuses? Why you can't break the habit. Why you can't forgive. Why you can't stop playing the victim. Why you can't let go of your past. Has He asked you to give something up? A destructive relationship. A gossiping tongue. The pornography on your computer. Are you trying to change people when you know that only God can change hearts? Are you manipulating situations to get your own way? Are you bounding out ahead of God in ministry, thinking you're doing His will with no indication that it's anything other than your own bright idea? Remember, when God ordains, God supplies. Are you stubbornly holding onto something that God does not want you to have or do? Are you going through doors that God has shut and going out the doors where He wants you to stay a while? Remember, "don't despise the day of small beginnings." (Zechariah 4: 10)

Stop wrestling. Stop struggling and striving with God. Cling. Abide. You're going to lose anyway. The championship belt has already been won by the Ultimate Champion...Jesus Christ. He has the victory over death, hell and the grave and over your life. He'll give you a new name. He'll change your heart. Pray. Confess your true nature to Him. Don't let go until you know you've heard from Him. Be desperate for Him and only Him. You may be wounded from all of your wrestling. God may have to wound you to make you stop your striving. Jacob was wounded. For the rest of his life he would be crippled, yet his limp would always be a reminder of Who was in control.

Get alone with God. Have your own encounter. Walk into your promised land. Jacob never walked the same again after his encounter with God and neither will you.

Limping, but on my way,

Donna Schultz

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

#62 "Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks"

September 5, 2006
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. / Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs." (Isaiah 42:3 / Isaiah 61: 7)

She came in a few minutes late for the message. She sat in the back row by the wall. She caught my attention because her face was hard. But her eyes. Her eyes were sad. A little lifeless it seemed to me. I couldn't tell if she was interested in the message I was giving or not. She just looked so sad and worn out. But as I continued to teach, her eyes never strayed from where I was speaking. When our time was up and I was gathering my things, I felt a hand on my shoulder. There she was. She spoke so quietly that I had to strain to hear her. She wanted to pray. After she told me that she had been going through some things, her voice choked up. She couldn't even tell me what those "things" were. It was almost as if she were choking when she tried to get the words out. She gasped for air at one point. Tears streamed down her face.She couldn't get it out. She just couldn't tell me. So we prayed anyway because I don't need to know....All that I know is there was something so fractured and so broken inside of her that she couldn't even put it into words.

How many of us hold, on the inside of us, secret things? Things that are so devastatingly painful that we can't even put them into words. I would guess that we may not even be able to voice them to God, let alone to other people. We even fool ourselves into thinking that if we don't talk about them, if they don't come out into the air, that we can make them go away and no one will know. But we always know, deep down inside. They affect our self-esteem, our relationships, our everyday existence in some way. The secret things. Secret sin, past or present, that we are so ashamed of that it is even hard to confess it to God and ask for forgiveness. Secret things that other people have done to us that cut to the core of who we are and leave us with guilt and shame over things that were beyond our control. The devil is a liar and he wants us to believe that we deserved the heinous thing that someone inflicted on us. So we carry our burdens quietly ... lugging them around everywhere we go ... alone, afraid, ashamed. Bruised reeds, waiting to be crushed and broken because we're useless. Smoldering wicks almost snuffed out, the fire almost out.

She told me that she almost didn't come that day. But she felt that she had to. She was looking for something. A word, a touch, something to cut through that pain and make her alive again. She did the right thing. She made her way to a church. She sat down and drank in the living water of God's word. And she decided to lay her burden at the feet of Jesus in prayer. She had other choices that day. But she made the right one. She didn't think anyone cared. Not even God. But I believe that Jesus knew and by His Spirit He led her to the right place that day, to hear the right Word for her life and to let her know without a doubt that He cared for her uniquely, and that He knew her secret. All that time that she thought she was alone in her pain, Jesus knew, and He was tenderly drawing her to a place where He could demonstrate that love and care in a tangible way.

We have choices too. We can walk around for our whole lives with the yoke of our burdens, pain, shame and sin strapped to our backs. Or we can get in the right place, hear the right Word and lay our problems at the feet of the One who knows. He shatters the yoke that burdens us, the bar across our shoulders, the rod of our oppressor. (Isaiah 9: 4) Most people would break a weak, useless reed, but Jesus will not do so. He is gentle and tenderly He will avoid crushing the bruised reed. When our faith is weak and we feel we're about to "go out" like a smoldering wick on a candle, He will not let us be extinguished. He can set us on fire once again.

I saw her about a half hour later talking to Monique. Believe it or not, her whole countenance had changed. She was smiling. She was carrying on conversation and she told us how much better she felt. Her shoulders were straight. She was no longer bowed down. There was a little twinkle in her eyes. Oh, the power of the Word of God! It's not in the style or the speaker...the Word has power...to heal, to soothe. To be that sweet balm of Gilead that heals the wounds of God's hurting children. It's not all okay with her now. She still has a long way to go. But she's off to a great start. Just one word from the Master. A word for such a time as this in her life. The Creator of the universe stooped down on a cool Saturday morning and touched one woman with His tender hand and let her know that He cares. That He sees her. That He knows her secret and He will stay by her side through all of the fire and the flood, removing the guilt and the shame and giving her beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning and peace for despair. Giving a double portion for her former shame. (See Isaiah Chapter 61) It was like Jesus was saying, at that moment, "Woman, thou art loosed." (Luke 13: 12)

Are you carrying a secret today? Have you committed a sin in your past that you think is so bad that God will never forgive you? Were you violated somewhere along the way by someone who had control and power over you? Were you helpless to fight back? Have you been rejected and cast aside by people who are supposed to care about you? Are you carrying something that makes your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth and takes your breath away when you try to speak about it out loud? An addiction, an abortion, a rape, incest, adultery, prostitution....secret sin that you may still be committing. Things that have fractured your life right at the heart of who you are? I am here to tell you today, that He knows. Jesus knows! And He cares. He cares so much that He will orchestrate your movements and your life so that you can get to the place where He can tell you... where He can show you how much He loves you. And then that wonderful healing, that powerful loosing process can begin. Maybe He will lead you to a church. Maybe He will lead you to a friend. Maybe this message will speak about His love and care to your wounded, breaking heart. No matter what it is, my friend, it's not too difficult, it's not too impossible, you're not too far gone. His hand is extended to you right now...His heart is breaking with you..His eyes are shedding tears for your sorrow. Let Him into that secret place. It's really not a secret to Him anyway, you know. But He's a gentleman and won't force His way in. But He's waiting, patiently, quietly, tenderly and expectantly for you to let Him bring you His peace. Can you hear Him calling your name?

Donna Schultz

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