Praying Through Road Rage

Simple errands can sometimes be aggravating if we let them.  Maybe you’ve had an experience like this: while driving through my community recently, I ended up behind a minivan that was driving well below the speed limit (or at least well below how fast I wanted to go) and seemed unsure of where they were going.  I ended up closer to their rear bumper than I should have been and thought that when I got home, I’d complain about drivers in the neighborhood to whoever would listen.  When the van finally turned right, apparently figuring out where they were going, I also remember thinking that the family in the van might end up talking about the annoying car that tailed them, having no concern that maybe they didn’t live there and had to drive slowly while they figured it out.  This is a lot of aggravation for what should be a non-event, but at the time…

Photo by Joshua Wordel on Unsplash

Somehow at that moment, Romans 12:18 popped into my head, which says: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  My first response was something like “God, what’s that got to do with this?”  But as I regained speed toward whatever errand I was in such a hurry to finish, I thought “God, which part of this problem depends on me?”  Hmm.  The tailgating was definitely unnecessary, and gosh, I might have really wanted to let the van know to get out of the way, but politely, without resorting to honking the horn.  Also, the idea of complaining about bad drivers when I got home depended on me…but what if the other family got frustrated about being tailed?  Is that my fault?  Well, if I had slowed down and been patient, that wouldn’t be a problem either.

When I got home, I didn’t share the story of the cautiously-driving minivan with anyone.  I hope the people in the van didn’t vent on Facebook about the rude tailgater.  Since then, I’ve been slightly better at being patient with slow drivers, because more depends on me than I often want to think.  Sometimes I’m too focused on what others are doing wrong.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

God’s Word Withstands the Fire. Always.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah faced immense opposition, and in Jeremiah 36:20-25 is recorded an interesting story of King Jehoiakim’s attempts to destroy the prophet’s words, and by extension, God’s words.  The king was unable to get his hands on Jeremiah, whose allies helped him to hide, so the king takes a different approach:

So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king.  Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king.  It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him.  As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.  Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.  Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”

This wasn’t an impulsive, knee-jerk reaction to God’s word, but a deliberate, sustained act of rebellion.  This took time, and there’s almost a ceremony to it, as if daring God to stop him.  Many Christians today would be outraged if they witnessed something like this.  People in positions of authority disrespect God regularly, but imagine if the head of your country burned the Bible publicly on TV, and nobody stopped them, or even objected?  Sure, in modern times, people might object on their blog, on social media, or even on smaller TV and radio outlets, but in Jehoiakim’s example, nobody was able to challenge him. He “got away with it.”

Photo by raquel raclette on Unsplash

This brings up the question of: why does God allow things like this to happen?  I’ll suggest a question in response: Would it be a stronger testimony of God’s sovereignty if He had struck King Jehoiakim dead on the spot, or is it a stronger testimony that Jeremiah’s words still exist today all around the world?  If the second option is better, the next question is why do we sometimes feel such outrage and lash out (perhaps on our own blog or Facebook page) at such acts?  Do we trust God to deal with it, or do we worry that Jehoiakim is right – maybe God doesn’t care?

Part of the scroll Jehoiakim burned may have included these words of Jeremiah about the king himself: “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”[1] And “He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night.[2]  Therefore God knew both that justice would be done to Jehoiakim, and also that his burning of the scroll had only symbolic and temporary effect.  In contrast, God’s justice and God’s word are eternally immutable and effective.  As Isaiah said: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”[3]

There’s also another question for us: if God had chosen in His sovereignty to redeem Jehoiakim, would we be angry like Jonah at the repentance of Nineveh[4], or would we praise God for His profound and measureless grace?  The same grace that brought Jeremiah’s words back from the futile fire pot of King Jehoiakim.  The grace that was purchased by Christ on the cross.

This word of God will stand as well: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:19-21

Do we believe it?


[1] Jeremiah 22:19
[2] Jeremiah 36:30
[3] Isaiah 40:8
[4] See my earlier, short post on Jonah’s anger.

Letting God Pick Our Battles II

Photo by Andrey Grinkevich on Unsplash

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” yet he also wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 that “to keep me from becoming conceited,” a “thorn was given me in the flesh.”  He writes: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

The nature of Paul’s “thorn” has been disputed for centuries, but Galatians 4:13 suggests it was a physical problem, a “bodily ailment” rather than a moral shortcoming.  So, the lesson of the “thorn” is not that God prevented Paul from overcoming some specific sin to keep him humble – He wants Paul (and us) to be satisfied with nothing less than righteousness.

However, one lesson of the “thorn” is that Paul didn’t mean by “I can do all things” that he could do whatever he wanted and succeed.  Instead, the “thorn” is an example of a battle Paul would not win, because this “thorn” had a purpose in bringing Paul closer to God’s grace and power.  In God’s wisdom, Paul was better off with this ailment than without it.

Yesterday’s post said “Picking your battles, rather than trying to fight and win every fight that comes your way, is a good piece of advice.  However, who should pick which battles to fight?”  In the case of the “thorn”, God picked a battle for Paul not to fight, telling him instead to focus on growing in faith.  The thorn had a purpose in Paul’s striving toward righteousness, which was more important than any physical ailment.  Had Paul continued to insist to God that the thorn should be removed, he would still have the thorn, but he would also not grow in his relationship with his Lord.

Sometimes there are battles He wants us to fight in His strength for His glory, and sometimes there are battles He tells us not to fight so we can focus on His grace and power while in this life, in light of His promises to heal our physical ailments in Paradise.

Today’s post closes the same way as yesterdays: “Sometimes life is hard on purpose, so that God alone may be glorified in victory, and also so that we may grow in our faith in His strength.  When we let Him pick our battles, we learn that His righteousness is the only thing that will satisfy us.  Nothing less will do.”

The Lord Cares Even for Your Wilderness

If you are like me, some days feel very eventful and productive, but other days remind me of the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  There are times when we all wonder: Who cares about what I did today?  Did today matter?  Did anyone notice?

When recently reading Psalm 29, verse 8 struck me, which says: “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”  Why is this verse here?  Earlier in the Psalm, the voice of the Lord thunders, shatters the tall cedars of Lebanon, and flashes like fire.  Who cares about the wilderness?  It reminded me of the tree falling with nobody around.  Why does it matter?

It matters because the Psalmist (David) wants us to know that God’s power exists even where we can’t see it and in ways we may see as inconsequential.  However, to Him, nothing is inconsequential, and no detail is too small.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:30 that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”  If a tree falls in the wilderness, God cares about it even if nobody else does.

Psalm 29 closes with “May the LORD give strength to his people!  May the LORD bless his people with peace!”  His strength and peace are available on good days and bad.  On days we feel motivated and days we don’t.  On eventful days and on days we feel we are in the wilderness with nobody to hear.

Today, God will notice you, and will work in ways that you may only know when you look back on them from eternity.  No tree falls without His knowing about it.

May His strength and peace be with you always.

Out of Exile into Exile

Many of us cannot wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over, so that we can return to normal and get back to doing the things we want to do.  Lessons learned, and let’s move on.  About a week ago, I posted about John the Baptist and what we can learn from his unexpected circumstances.  I also quoted Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” – on another blog about learning from sickness.  As if on cue, I got Covid soon after.  Much of this week I’ve been too uncomfortable to sleep, but also without enough energy, physically or mentally, to do much of anything.  And it would appear I still have more to learn from the pandemic.

What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at the Old Testament life of David, and what he learned about trying to get back to normal.

King David’s Lost Decade
David had been anointed king at about age 16 but did not become king until about age 30.  Having already been anointed[1], David was forced into exile by the reigning king Saul, who tried to kill David multiple times.[2]  After this, David was kept by force from the throne he knew he would inherit for about 10 years!  When David says “wait for the LORD” he knows what he means from hard experience.  While David’s behavior in this time was not perfect, he provided some lessons for waiting on God’s deliverance from trials.

First, our timing to receive God’s promises is not God’s timing, and we must trust that His is better.  Warren Wiersbe notes that “It’s likely that David’s fugitive years are reflected in Psalms 7, 11–13, 16–17, 22, 25, 31, 34–35, 52–54, 56–59, 63–64, 142–143.”  These 22 Psalms are full of testimony of David’s faith that God would sustain him through all trials, that God was in still in control, and that God would always be proven faithful and true.  If God had anointed David king, He would get him there when He decided it was the right time.  Because David wrote these Psalms during his exile, Wiersbe says “God’s people today can find strength and courage in their own times of testing. Our Lord quoted Psalms 22:1 and 31:5 when on the cross.”[3]

Second, our power comes from God, and we must trust that He knows what it should and shouldn’t be used for.  On at least two occasions, David was given an opportunity to seize the kingdom from Saul by violent means.  To end his exile on his own terms and timing.  1 Samuel 24:1-7 and 1 Samuel 26:1-11 show Saul completely at David’s mercy, seemingly by God’s Providence, but David knew that if he struck and killed “the Lord’s anointed” he was betraying the Providence sustaining David during his years on the run.  Since David was also “the Lord’s anointed”, could he glorify God for preserving his own life, yet apply a different standard to Saul?  Would God bless David’s future kingdom if David trusted his own power, instead of relying on God’s power and timing?

David eventually rose to the throne and mourned the death of Saul, who took his own life on the battlefield rather than be captured by the opposing Philistine army.  David united the tribes of Israel under his rule, headquartered in Jerusalem, and led the way for the Temple to be built by his son Solomon.  While David’s grievous sins, including adultery and murder, had many consequences for himself, his family, and the nation, David always came back to his God and knew where his strength came from.

When forced back into exile by his son Absalom[4], David returned to the lessons of his earlier exile.  David always knew that salvation belongs to the Lord alone, but also seemed aware that salvation was not done yet.  He wrote in Psalm 17:15 – “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”  While the idea of a future, eternal life was vague in the Old Testament, David knew someday he would meet God and know Him more fully.  David knew that as long as he was on earth he was still in exile, awaiting the full salvation of the Lord, which would come in His power and in His timing.

The Lost Pandemic Years
The pandemic seems like an exile from normal life – the life we think we should be living and the life we think we can return to living once the pandemic is over.  God has promised heaven, how can this continue?  I will eventually be over Covid, and the pandemic will end.  However, what we call our normal lives are also lives lived in exile, waiting for the salvation of the Lord.  Our normal lives remain interrupted not only by sickness, but also by our sin: our impatience, our frustrated longing for justice, our temptation to take salvation into our own hands, and our inability to love as we would like to be loved.  It would appear I still have more to learn from the pandemic.

When we leave the exile of the pandemic for the exile of our normal lives, let’s keep Driving Toward Morning: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25

What is “the Day”?  It is not the day I get over Covid, or the day when the pandemic is no longer disrupting our everyday lives.  It is the Day where not only is every disease defeated, but also the Day we overcome all of our impatience and division and our longing for things to be set right.  It is the Day all of our desires are perfected, and in Him all of our perfect desires are fulfilled.  The Day we are no longer in exile and see the full salvation of the Lord.


[1] 1 Samuel 16:13
[2] 1 Samuel 19:10-12
[3] Wiersbe, Warren.  Be Successful (1 Samuel) (2001).  P. 135.
[4] See related post on Psalm 3, written by David at this time.