Paranoia is a funny thing. It can take the most level headed person and turn him into a anxious worrier. We’ve probably all been there – seeing and believing things that aren’t really there. I know that I’ve been sure I was being followed at night in downtown Tacoma and ended up running to my car and locking the doors. Of course there was no one in sight. Ok, I better elaborate on that or I’ll just sound like a wimp.

I was in my early 20’s attending University of Washington in Tacoma. At the time I attended, the area was still a bit sketchy with crime and all. We had campus security at all times. Parking for the school was less than ideal. You couldn’t really park on the street because those were 1-2 hour spots and classes ran longer than that. So you had to park a few blocks up the street away from the campus. Now at the time, the school had made an announcement to be careful at night walking to your car because incidents had been reported. Mugging, burglary, car break-ins, etc. If you felt uncomfortable, the security guards would walk you to your car. That’s cool, but I was a dude. I got this. Except that announcement made me paranoid. And sometimes I ran to my car.

Paranoia will mess with you. It clouds your judgement. It will cause you to make bad decisions. Just look at this story out of 1 Chronicles…

1 Chronicles 19:2-4 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.  When David’s envoys came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites to express sympathy to him, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved them, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.

Can we stop for just a moment and realize how funny this is? I mean, it’s absolutely terrible. But c’mon, who is the guy who thought of this? “Hey King Hanun, I’ve got an idea. Let’s make it so these guys moon everyone on their way back home.” I imagine they snickered like 12 year old boys as they watched these guys leave. I can almost see the pokes and jabs as they laughed hysterically, “it’s gonna be a full moon tonight!” (*sigh) Boys will be boys.  I digress.

The whole problem with this situation is that David actually sent these guys in peace to give his sympathy to Hanun. But paranoia ruled in the hearts of the Ammonites. That paranoia messed with their heads and made them think that David was out to get them. They thought he was sending these guys in as spies. Their judgement was clouded and they made a poor decision. In fact, instead of peace, this whole situation turned into war. And the paranoid Ammonites lost badly.

Are you living paranoid? Are you always wondering what bad thing will happen next? Do you spend time worried about what others are saying about you? Have you convinced yourself that everyone is out to get you? Friends, that is no way to live! You belong to a God who is for you. He declares Isaiah 41:10 over your life. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Take heart today. Take refuge. Receive peace. Find joy. He is your God and he will hold you up. There’s no need to be paranoid any longer.

Don’t let fear crash the party

Genesis 15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

wedding crashersThere was a movie that came out in 2005, called Wedding Crashers.  I didn’t see it, but the premise was that these two guys crashed weddings of total strangers in order to meet women.  Party crashers can ruin a party.  They aren’t invited, they don’t really know anyone, and they mess things up.  Let’s pretend you are throwing a party and there is someone you intentionally don’t invite.  You don’t invite them because you have a history with them that is less than pleasant.  They hurt you, they slandered you, they are mean.  Whatever the reason, they aren’t invited.  But somehow they hear about your little shindig and show up.  How do you feel about that?

Abram had someone crash his party.  In the previous chapter, he had just made a bold stand against the king of Sodom.  He turned down a big gift and put his faith in God.  It’s a big thing to say no to a king and a bigger thing to trust that what you can’t see will come to pass.  And right in the middle of this party of faith, fear tried to crash the party.  Maybe he made a mistake.  Maybe he should have taken the money from the king.  What if he made the king mad? What if God didn’t come through?  Yes, fear crashed his party.

That’s when God showed up like a bouncer and kicked fear out:  “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  He spoke directly into that fear and addressed the places it was messing with Abram.  Fear told him that he would be harmed, but God told him that HE was his shield.  Fear told him that he just made a huge mistake by passing up on the money, but God reminded him that HE was his reward.  It’s like God said, “Excuse me fear, I need to see your invitation to this party.”  Fear didn’t have one so God kicked him out.

*Is fear crashing your party?  What will you do when it comes knocking at your door?


Break a Leg

Zechariah 12:3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.

breakalegAs I get older, I find it much easier to injure myself.  When I was younger, injuries came with outrageously awesome athletic attempts.  A diving catch, a mid air flip, an impressive play at home, or maybe some heavy lifting.  Yes, I once could push the envelope of amazing and walk away nearly unscathed.  These days, however, I can injure my ankle simply by walking.  My back can be sore simply from sleeping.  If someone tries to wish me luck by saying, “break a leg,” they should know that it is entirely possible.

You know what would be really cool?  If people who tried to mess with me injured themselves.  Now I know that sounds mean and all, but think about it.  Someone cuts you off in traffic and they pull a muscle.  Someone gossips about you at work and they get a canker sore that makes it hard to talk.  A bully who tries to pick on your kids trips over his shoelaces.  That all sounds fair, right?  In fact, if you knew you had that kind of protection, you would worry a lot less.  Fear wouldn’t mess with you; anxiety would be sent packing.  All because anyone or anything who tried would get hurt.

It was this level of protection that God promised Jerusalem.  He said that when anyone tried to come against His people they would injure themselves.  “Oh, you want to hurt my people?  Well go ahead, break a leg. (snicker)”   What is funny about this scripture is that God didn’t say He would wreak havoc on them.  He would just go ahead and let them hurt themselves.  They would sprain their ankles while doing nothing in particular.  They would randomly walk into trees and break their noses.  Well, it doesn’t really say that, but I find the thought amusing.

What’s the point? We don’t have to get all worked up about the kind of protection that God gives us.  We think that it is essential for Him to destroy our enemies.  We wish that He would go all Old Testament on some people.  But sometimes He just lets them injure themselves.  So enemies of God, good luck to you.  Break a leg!

*Are you worried about how God will protect you?  Don’t be.  His ways are creative… and sometimes even humorous!

You are going to be really hungry

Acts 23:12-15 12 The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

hungrySurprise. Paul got himself into some more trouble.  It’s not that he did anything wrong; it’s just that he was preaching Jesus and the Jews didn’t like it.  He was frustrating the religious leaders because he was teaching something that was different than they taught.  They had the same reaction to Jesus, too.  So they had Paul arrested.  While he sat in prison, some Jews got together and decided to take a vow to not eat until they had captured and killed Paul.  Little did they know they were about to be really hungry. 

God protected Paul.  These thugs thought they could just seize and kill God’s anointed, but God had other plans – He used Roman soldiers to guard Paul and usher him to safety.  They were protecting a prisoner.  A prisoner.  And it wasn’t just a little bit of protection.  He wasn’t guarded by 5 secret service agents.  No, he was sent out of town escorted by 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen.  Does that seem excessive to anyone else besides me?  Paul gets a death threat and the commander surrounds him with 470 members of the armed forces.  That’s some serious protection!

Isaiah 54:17 says “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.   That verse is for you today.  No weapon formed against you will prosper!  Your God will protect you.  And everyone who tries to falsely accuse you will have the tables turned on them.  God will take care of you and He will take care of them.  Put it in His hands.  Put your life in His hands.  He is your mighty fortress; He is your God!

*Do you feel like you are getting attacked today?  Remember to run to your protection and He will ensure that no weapon formed against you will prosper.

Safe room

Joel 3:16 The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. 

I was recently watching an episode of Extreme Home Makeover in which they built seven homes for families who were effected by tornado damage.  The damage was intense!  Their homes had been leveled and they were being given a brand new start.  It was devastating to see the wreckage and to hear the stories.  There were moms who literally had their children ripped out of their arms by the force of the storm.  One lady gathered her kids in a closet and as the walls were ripped apart around them, she held onto the door with all her might and shielded them from the storm.  As I watched, I wondered about the wisdom of building these fabulous new homes right back in tornado country.  Would these people feel safe in their new homes or would the memory of the storm haunt them?

But Ty and his team did something fabulous – they installed safe rooms in each house.  A safe room is a reinforced box with a indestructible door and walls.  These little rooms can withstand extreme weather conditions and keep those inside completely safe.  They equipped the rooms with emergency kits and food supplies.  What peace that must have given these familes!  If a tornado were to strike again, they could now keep their families safe rather than climb in the bathtub and hope for the best.

The Lord is like one of those safe rooms.  It says in Joel 3 that He is a refuge for His people.  When the storms of life are raging we have a God in whom we can hide.  He is our protector and our shield, stronger than a closet door.  He is our stronghold, our safe room, during the tornadoes of life.  And while the world is being ripped apart all around us, we can have assurance that He will be with us.  We can be certain of His power and His peace.  So if life is just to much for you today, run to the safe room.  There you will find security, rest, and shelter from the storm.


New counter-terrorist strategy: prophecy

1 Samuel 19:18-24  18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”  “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said.  23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

This is funny.  God seriously has a sense of humor.  I read a story once about a man who was hired to kill a missionary pastor.  So the man went to the church service to complete the job.  The only problem was that the spirit of the Lord began moving on him and he couldn’t do it.  So he went back to the next service and the same thing happened.  Eventually he got saved and confessed the reason why he was there.  The pastor remained safe and heaven gained a citizen!  That’s just awesome.

Essentially, that’s what we see happening in 1 Samuel 19.  Saul sent a bunch of hit men to kill David and instead they prophesied.  That has got to be the weirdest defense I have ever heard of.  Have you ever been praying for the Lord’s protection and His response is that your enemies will prophesy?  Ya, it hasn’t happened to me either.  But I applaud God for His creativity.  Only He could come up with something like that.  Who else would choose prophecy as a counter-terrorist defense strategy?

You see, God will find a way to protect you, one way or another.  Your job is to make sure that you hang out in His presence.  That’s what David did; he fled to the Lord’s presence.  For in that presence is safety and security.  In His presence there is assurance and peace.  And in His presence you never know what He is going to do.  He might protect you by wiping out your enemies, but He also might choose to save them.


That’s gonna leave a mark!

Joshua 5:1-3 1 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. 2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.

I was always a big fan of Chris Farley.  Whether it was “fat man in a little coat,” or “in a van down by the river,” he always seemed to make me laugh.  He was silly and had an incredible knack for physical comedy – especially for a big guy.  One of my favorite lines of his was, “that’s gonna leave a mark.”  Whether it was getting hit in the head by a 2×4 or knocked off a boat with a sail, this response would come out of his mouth.  They left a mark alright!  He was always getting hurt – always in some kind of embarrassingly painful situation.

Today in my reading, I found the Israelites in their own kind of painful situation.  Here they have just miraculously crossed over the Jordan river and God says that He wants them consecrated before going into the promised land.  So they all get circumcised, young and old.  You see, all the Israelites that were circumcised in Egypt 40 years prior were all dead and God wanted to re-establish this covenant with them.  I wonder how that announcement went over to all the guys.  Maybe something like this:

Joshua: Good morning men, today we are going to go on a little hike.

Men: Sounds fun, where are we going?

Joshua: I thought we’d go up to Gibeath Haaraloth.

Men: Wait a minute.  Doesn’t Gibeath Haaraloth mean “hill of foreskins?”

Joshua: Sure does.

Men: Oh snap. That’s gonna leave a mark!

So off they went and every single one of them was circumcised.  To me this was a horrific tactical error on their part.  Mainly because it would mean that the people of Jericho would have a prime opportunity to attack them.  They would be down and out for a few days.  They certainly wouldn’t be able to fight if an army approached them.  Let’s just say they would need some healing time.  For this reason alone, I might be a little worried.  If I was doubled over in pain, I might wonder if this would be the time the enemy would strike. But it turns out, as it always does, that God had them covered.

We just need to look at verse 1 in the passage.  You see, when all the other nations heard that God was doing all the work for them (like drying up the river), they were pretty discouraged.  In fact, it says that their hearts melted and they no longer had courage to face the Israelites.  God knew this when he asked the men to go get circumcised.  He knew that no opposing force would come against them in the midst of their pain.  He knew that His protection was already on them even though they would walk through this.

We need to realize that same truth in our lives today.  It is inevitable that God will ask us to walk through some things that seem hard.  He may ask us to do something that to us, seems painful.  But He knows what He is doing.  He knew what He was doing when He asked Abraham to take Isaac up on the mountain to sacrifice him.  God knew that He would provide a way out.  He knew what He was doing when He asked the Israelite men to get circumcised days before they would face their greatest enemy.  He has got us covered. He is our protector and shield; there is no reason to fear. David wrote it best in the 23rd Psalm: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.  Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”