Worshiping God When Life Hurts

life hurts

One of the last things we want to do when we are feeling hurt or betrayed is worship God. Yet worship is the very thing David does after the loss of his son. It is also what we should do. 

David is called a man after God’s own heart It wasn’t because David was sinless, for he certainly wasn’t. He was guilty of adultery, murder, and lying. Yet when the chips were  down, he got his heart right with God. He failed God miserably, but there were some things he did right.

David refused to put his hand to the Lord’s anointed. He had numerous opportunities to get rid of Saul, who was pursuing him to death.  Yet he wouldn’t touch Saul or allow his men to touch him. God honored David because of that.

David’s most horrible crime involved the premeditated, planned murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. He needed to get rid of “evidence” because he had committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and she was pregnant with David’s child.

When God sent Nathan the prophet to show David his sin, he repented. Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer of confession, humility, remorse, and restoration. This (his heart attitude) was what made David a man after God’s own heart.

Even when God forgives, there are consequences for our actions. It was no different for David. There was a consequence for David and Bathsheba’s sin. The child born to them from their adultery was going to die. God told David that, but he still fasted and prayed as long as the child was sick. He spent the night in sackcloth, lying on the ground, pleading with God to spare his son’s life. His servants begged him to eat, but he would not.

life hurts

After all that fasting and all those prayers, God didn’t spare the child.

On the seventh day, the child died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him the news.

They said, “Look how he acted when the child was still living; what in the world is he going to do when he finds out the child is dead?”

King David saw the consternation of his attendants. He saw their whispers and their lowered eyes.

He asked, “Is the child dead?”

They needn’t have worried. Once David knew the child was dead, he got up, washed himself, put on lotions, and got dressed. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped. In the middle of his sorrow and grief, David worshiped. 

life hurts

Afterwards, he came back to his house and ate.

You can be sure his servants were puzzled. They asked David for an explanation.

“While the child lived, I thought maybe the Lord would be gracious to me. But he is gone now, and I cannot bring him back. He cannot come to me, but someday I will go to him. What would be the point of fasting now? God has given me His answer.”

That’s why David worshiped. He accepted God’s answer and was able to praise Jehovah God.  [Worship is expressing reverence, adoration, and honor to God.]

What an example to us today!

When worship is the last thing we feel like doing, it should be the first thing we do. In good times or in bad times, our thoughts should go to God. Our worship is not based on emotion. It is based on Who God is and His faithfulness, when times are good and when life isn’t good.

Going to God in worship is recognizing His sovereignty and His care for us, even when life hurts.

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The Swimsuit Part of the Pageant

swimsuit

It’s about time! The now, all-woman board of the Miss America Pageant has nixed the swimsuit competition for this year’s pageant. The reason, they say, is because they want the pageant to focus “on intellect, personality, talent and accomplishment,” according to the chairwoman of the organization.

We know that the choosing of a spouse should be based on character and not on a person’s looks or body image.  Choosing friends or dating friends should also be based on character. I wonder how many times I’ve asked someone, “And what does that have to do with his/her  character?” when they are describing the man or gal of their dreams – because they’ve focused on looks and left out the most important part: character.

We have lost the focus of what makes a person great.

In a student publication of the University of Kentucky this week, Saadia Ahktar wrote,

A woman’s worth should NOT be determined by her weight, her exercise routine or how many meals she has skipped to fit into that stage-worthy bikini.

It’s not the size of the hips, muscles, waist, jock strap, or boobs; it’s the character within us. Yet, our society exploits the visual sensuality of a woman’s body. Women have allowed this to happen by participating, and many men have encouraged it because they (all men) are visually stimulated and let it be known that they enjoy the sights they see.

We choose clothing with specific patterns often designed by men. The purpose of many designers is to accentuate the female body instead of designing clothing to draw attention to her eyes and face. When an item of clothing says, “look at this part of my body,” it causes people to look at the body and not the personality or character of the individual. The person then becomes a thing or an object, losing her sense of worth and of value.

Heels that are high are designed to accentuate the hips when a woman walks. No wonder gals receive whistles and cat calls when they wear clothing  and walk in such a way to draw attention to specific parts of their bodies.  Sometimes a gal may not be aware that the clothing she’s wearing  and the body parts she is showing will invite men to see her as a sex object, but most women are acutely aware of the fashion statement they want to make and the attention they want to draw to themselves.  They are very much attuned to the approval of their peers and will often choose  indecency over their personal sense of propriety and comfort (and often that of their spouse.)

Girls who are working to compete in pageants – whether on local or national levels – often focus more on getting their body down to the size they want than immersing themselves in developing character qualities that will make a difference for a lifetime. (Don’t get me wrong – it makes sense to try to lose those last ten pounds to fit into that dress for a special occasion; my point is that the obsession to make the swimsuit competition is wrong.) How much more time has been spent at the gym compared to investing in others, and/or volunteering in service to others as opposed to trying to fit into a swimsuit? Health  and being fit is important because our bodies are the temple of God. We need to have that balance.

A former winner of the Miss America Pageant and chairwoman of it now, Gretchen Carlson, said she knew the swimsuit competition wouldn’t make it for her.

She knew she wouldn’t win the swimsuit competition, but she had to train for it anyway, running around the block of her childhood home in Anoka.

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When I’ve voiced these ideas to others, I’ve been called old-fashioned and behind-the-times. I wasn’t “enlightened” and didn’t understand how “times have changed.”  There’s been some name-calling, for sure. This week, however, I moved from the ranks of old-fashioned to being in step with the times – thanks to the decision of Miss America’s Board of Directors.  Finally, the Board has declared that character has nothing to do with waist size or weight. Some women finally stepped up to the plate and said it loudly enough for everybody to hear.

Oh yes, times have changed. Crime is higher than it was years ago. Girls are prostituted at younger ages than a half-century ago.

Our world has sensationalized sex and the female body. Females, especially, have allowed this to happen by what they have chosen to wear and sometimes by their conduct. We do tend to act the part of the way we are dressed.

People aren’t happier because they’re “enlightened”; instead, there seems to be more competition and less satisfaction with one’s station in life. (I don’t have statistics to prove this, but I’m sure it’s true. It takes a lot more to make a kid happy now than it did 50 years ago.)

We allow this to happen when we choose to wear outfits that show off parts of our bodies that should be private. We say men should keep their minds out of the gutters and then proceed to bring gutter sexuality right to their eyes. We disrespect our own bodies by unclothing them, then become aghast at comments we hear or flirtations that occur, especially  in the work place. (The comments and flirtations are wrong; so is inviting them.)

Whether it’s in choosing a swimsuit, a prom dress, wedding dress, bridesmaid dress, or something for a gala event, the easiest ones to find are the ones with the least amount of fabric. Tell me it isn’t so. Instead of measuring our attire and actions by scripture, we compare ourselves to what others are doing – and feel good because at least what we’ve chosen covers more than what someone else is wearing. This is not the part of wisdom.

It’s true that “women can wear whatever they want to” in today’s culture. They cannot, however, choose the consequences.

Nor can women who follow Jesus wear “whatever they want to”, because Jesus said we are not our own; we are bought with a price. Therefore, we should glorify God with our bodies. Some Christian women choose dresses for occasions that expose parts of their bodies they themselves would consider improper to expose in church – but think nothing of baring cleavage or thighs for “special events”. Oh, they are special, all right, special to proclaim boobs and bottoms in such a way that it leaves nothing to the imagination. Why are we shocked and disgusted that “all he can think about is sex” or  that “he doesn’t recognize me for who I am, but just for my body.”

swimsuit

If we women don’t want people drooling over our bodies, then we ought not put them  on display. Don’t bring a brownie fresh out of the oven when your guest isn’t allowed to have chocolate.

Finally, we hear women proclaiming that the swimsuit ought not to be included in the  beauty competitions. “Because,” women are finally saying, “Beauty pageants are about character and not our bodies.”

Now a winning competitor will “use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.” Finally!

It will take more than forty acres to turn this thing around – but the first turn of the wheel happened this week by the all-female board of the Miss America pageant.

Kudos!

 

swimsuit

Coming Home Empty

empty

Empty. That’s what happens to us when there is sorrow. This story has a lot of sorrow in it. Three graves, for one thing. A foreign land, for another. Emptiness and loneliness and bitterness. So many unanswered questions!

It’s also one of the best love stories in the Bible.  You have to get beyond the sorrow and bitter herbs first. In the end, good wins over evil. God has a way of doing that.

Naomi and her husband Elimelech leave the city of Bethlehem to go to the country of Moab where there is food and job security. Their two sons go with them. After Elimelech’s death, the sons marry pagan women.

Naomi feels alone and bereft. There is nothing for her here, anymore. In desperation, Naomi decides to return to her country and her people. One daughter-in-law, Oprah, is persuaded by Naomi to stay behind. Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, insists that she will go with Naomi, declaring, “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”

Together, they enter Bethlehem. The years have been cruel to Naomi, and people, hardly able to believe that it is she, ask, “Is this Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she says. “Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.”

empty

Naomi had left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons. She left full, and she came back empty.

Widowed and childless, she enters back into the city of her people. She is empty. She went away full, and now she has returned with nothing to show for her travels..

Oh yes, she has Ruth – but she seems to have forgotten to count that blessing. Through the providence of Jehovah, Ruth does the next thing. She finds work to provide for both of them.

Over a period of weeks, Ruth finds a new husband and later has a son. Naomi finds a new purpose for living, for this child is considered a descendant of her husband Elimelech.

When Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem, they are probably penniless. Ruth does the next thing. It is barley season, and she finds a job gleaning behind others in somebody’s field. Day after day, Jehovah’s care and provision is evident as Ruth does the next thing; she is kept safe and kept fed – bringing food home for Naomi.

The beauty of this story is that Ruth and Naomi keep doing the next thing and God keeps providing.

I remember this story when I feel empty and barren or when I feel like I’ve come back barren.  As Ruth  kept doing the next thing, she found that God was more than able to provide. In the mundane of reaping barley in a field, she met Boaz. Ruth kept fitting into the plan Jehovah had for her, gleaning heads of grain in the field of Boaz. Who would have thought that her prince would be there in that field of barley?!

Boaz became her kinsman-redeemer, thus becoming a type of Christ. Their marriage produced a son. That son became the grandfather of King David.

From a pagan world to an unknown town, Ruth found Jehovah. She found Him to be her Provider.

Ruth came to Bethlehem empty, but her life became full.

He does the same for us when we keep doing the next thing. When we are willing to enter into the mundane of living, He will fill us beyond our wildest hopes and dreams. Instead of being empty, He will make us full.

empty

Just Come Home

homeThis is the story I was told:  A young man had made some poor choices. He was at the end of his rope and knew he had failed himself, his parents, and the commitment he made to his God years before. Sure, he’d had good intentions and he had been sincere. Life happened; he made wrong choices; he had fallen and now he wondered if there was any way to get back up and start over again.

One evening  as he sat down in the middle of the mess where he was living, He called his folks. He wasn’t sure that he really wanted them to know his dilemma, but he didn’t know where else to go or what else to do.

Heartbroken, they listened as the phone lines carried his words of failure, defeat, and hopelessness.

At the end of his tired explanation, they said three words.

Those words gave him hope and belonging.

          “Just come home.”

He was their child, their son. All they wanted him to do was come home.

What is it about just coming home that brings healing and restoration?  What is it about coming home that gives life and re-birth and hope?

They had given him wings, and now it was time to go back to his roots.

He needed to remember that he belonged.

That’s how the Father is with us. When we have been so wrong, when we have failed Him or others, all He asks of us is what those parents asked of their son: just come home.

It’s what the father of the prodigal son wanted most of all for his son: just come home.

It’s what any parent wants for a wayward child or a lost one who is out of the fold: just come home.

It’s what our Heavenly Father wants for us most of all: just come home.

I’ve been there. I might not have been eating the husks fed to the pigs, but I’ve been away. I’ve needed to just come home. Sometimes the wandering begins because of hurt, anger, or grief. We distance ourselves from those who caused the pain; we distance ourselves from God who allowed the pain to happen.

home

Before we even know what’s happening, we’ve drifted away from home, away from safety, away from the harbor. We don’t recognize what happened to cause us to become distant from our safe harbor. It happens so subtly that sometimes we’re drifting far from the shore before we realize we’re treading dangerous waters. That’s when it’s time to just come home.

It’s the best place to be, and the best place to go when we’ve wandered, failed, and messed up completely.

If you’re in a place far from home; if you’ve wasted your time, your energy, your money, and your life; if you’ve spent until you’re penniless, just go home.

The lights of Home are still on, begging you to come in. There’s a welcome there – just for you. There is love and forgiveness waiting at Home.

Just come home.

come home