SLAYING GIANTS

 

Most of us are well acquainted with Goliath.  He was the 9’ 7” Philistine, who terrorized the army of Israel.  Seventeen-year-old David, a shepherd boy, was the only one who had the courage to confront this giant and achieve victory for his people.

A giant is a being of great stature, strength, and power.  However, we have also come to understand that anything unusually large or powerful may be referred to as a “giant.”

We all face such giants from time to time in our lives.  Giants are real not some figment of our imagination—not something we dream up.  They plague us with insurmountable problems, unendurable pressure, and pain.  They may not wield sword and shield, but they are fearsome bringing discouragement, depression, heartache, anger, and fear.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  They threaten our health, our financial stability, our family, our relationships, our marriage, our jobs, our churches, and anything else we hold dear.  These giants want to control our emotions, steal our peace, own our world and dictate our well being.  They show up first thing in the morning and leave us sleepless at night.

In these eighty-five years, I have suffered my share of giants.  When I retired in 2010, after having been gone for more than forty years, I moved back to Arizona.  Except for my sisters, I knew no one.  I wasn’t really happy with retirement.  After forty years in the pulpit, I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I didn’t fit into the retirement world.  I didn’t know how to golf, do lunch or wander around in an RV.  

I was often confused and sad and lonely.  This giant did a job on me, but God saw me through that time.  Eventually, I found a church where I made friends and was put to work teaching an adult Bible study. 

In the intervening years, a parade of giants descended upon me hardly leaving a moment to breathe between attacks.

All of a sudden, without warning, my healthy, happy husband of five months, became ill and was gone in seven weeks.  I couldn’t see that giant, but he was there turning out the lights in my life and weighing me down with sorrow and grief.  

Then, there was my little sister who was struggling with Alzheimer’s and refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong.  I had ignored the problem as long as I could because I didn’t know what to do.  There followed the agony of moving her to a care facility, and selling and giving away her life—another seemingly invincible giant.

Of course, there is this pandemic that has sent all of us into a tailspin.  Among other problems has been the lockdown of the elderly depriving us of treasured time with loved ones.  Now that I can see my sister again, I find that she is no longer the girls I last saw in May. I left behind a sister who still laughed and sang with me, and tried to tell me things.  Now, I have to coax her to open her eyes and look at me.  Giants find nothing sacred.

I have had heart issues for a number of years.  I know that my pacemaker keeps me alive, but for thirteen years, there has been no trouble at all.  Now, all of a sudden, there are serious problems.  The mitral valve is leaking and I’m too old for open-heart surgery.  

That’s when the giant rang my doorbell swooping in to terrify me, to discourage and defeat me, to steal my peace.  For the first time ever I began to think, “Perhaps this is my time.”

So you ask, “How in the world did you handle all this pain and sorrow? 

First, I knew that this battle against giants is a spiritual battle, so one by one I handed the problems off to someone who is bigger than I am, Jehovah Jireh, the God who meets my needs.  Then I was encouraged by remembering past victories over giants.  Finally, I know I am totally dependent on Him, so I give Him credit for the victories.

Faith may not seem to be the best option, but, in fact, it is the only option that will kill giants.  We have no great army, no weapons, and no armor, but God surpasses all of these.

Isaiah 54:17 tells us, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord…”

Not even Goliath’s 15-pound sword can take you out.

There is no other way to confront the giants in my life.  As simple as it may seem, trusting God works.  I have proved it.

Please understand, I do not wish to paint myself as a Spiritual heavyweight, who never wavers.  God certainly knows the struggles I have had.  I just want you to know that you never walk alone.  You never fight the giants alone.  You never have to live in defeat. 

David has received all the press as a giant slayer, however, I remembered another giant slayer, who fits my profile better.  Caleb was one of the twelve sent to spy out the land God had promised the Israelites.

When Israel finally entered the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the land was divided among the tribes, and, at the age of eighty-five, Caleb also asked for his promised inheritance, the mountains of Hebron, knowing that they were inhabited by giants.  

In Joshua 14:12, Caleb said, “Now…give me this mountain…It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them (the giants) out as the Lord has said.”

Joshua 15:14 tells us, “Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak (the giants) from there…”

I will be eighty-five years old in a couple of months.  When it dawned on me that at eighty-five Caleb was still killing giants, I felt like dancing a jig.  If he can do it, so can I!  It was a divine revelation.  That coupled with the good news that the doctors have another way to fix my heart valve, changed my whole thought trajectory.  Just because I have a damaged heart doesn’t mean that my days of usefulness are over.  I feel like I have a new lease on life.

Know this!  God does not want you to give up.  He wants you to get up and put your confidence in Him.  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LOOKING FORWARD

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain

He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.

I learned that little ditty in elementary school, and thinking about it reminds me that today is Columbus Day—the day Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the New World.  Though Leif Eriksson beat him to the New World by four hundred years, and the First Americans centuries before that, Columbus is still credited with having discovered the Americas.

He was an Italian explorer on behalf of the country of Spain.  After having cajoled needed finances from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to China and India, the Far East, only to stumble, after three months, upon the New World.  Mistaking what is now known as Bermuda and The West Indies for India, he called the Native Americans Indians, and the name stuck.

Between 1492 and 1502, Columbus made four transatlantic voyages, never finding the hoped-for route to Asia.  However, his voyages did open the way for European exploration, exploitation and colonization of America.

Columbus Day became a Federal holiday in 1968. However, opposition to Columbus Day dates back to the 1800’s.

Some wanted to eliminate its celebration altogether. The more common opposition today was led by Native Americans and refers to the treatment of the indigenous population by the Europeans, who settled this country. 

Other criticism spot lights the character of Columbus stating that while he was a brilliant Mariner, he exploited and enslaved the Native American population killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing them.

Actual observance of this day varies across the country.  Thirty-eight percent of Americans agree that the day should no longer be recognized.  Some states observe Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Columbus Day is only one of the debates going on in this year of unrest, but somehow this debate relates to the other issues that are confronting us today.

Many question whether or not our nation was established on a Judeo-Christian foundation, and while it is true that our Founding Fathers separated church from state, they did not separate God from state.  They never meant for this to be a Godless country.  Instead, they acknowledged God as the source of our rights, and, in fact, they were careful to place Biblical morality directly into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and into our values to prevent a future of totalitarian or tyrannical rule in America.

The Declaration of Independence says that, “…all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Our political and human rights come from a power higher than human government, higher than King George III or the USA Legislature.  There is still a connection between God and Liberty.  He is the author of it.

               Thomas Jefferson and John Adams noted, “Liberty cannot survive among men without Divine connection.”  If government gives us our liberty, they can also take it away.

As we have grown and prospered through the years, we have successfully pushed God to the sidelines and abandoned the values that underpinned American politics, law and morals, fragmenting our country into hostile groups bent on destroying all that we hold dear.

We are supposed to believe that these “Protests,” Demonstrations, and Riots, which encourage destruction of property and the taking of lives, benefit our Black Americans, or Native Americans or other “downtrodden” citizens.  We must not be fooled.  These supposed beneficiaries were, long ago, left behind in the dust, for the present chaos in our nation is fueled by those who hate America and are dead set on destroying it.

They are attempting to rewrite our history.  Teachers are brainwashing our children.  Churches are being closed down.  We are accused of “White Supremacy, and Racism. To be sure, there are regrettable, shameful things in America’s past.  I can regret and be sorry for our history of slavery.  I can wish that our Indigenous people had not been treated as they were, but I cannot change any of it. It cannot be rewritten.  Attempting to change the past is an exercise in futility.  It is what it is!  But, by the same token, we have much for which to be proud.

America is a melting pot of diverse people, people from every part of the world, from every culture, language, and religion, people all made in God’s image.  The values, by which we have lived from the beginning, have made us strong and successful.  These are the values that have allowed us, through the centuries, to welcome this diverse throng of humanity, offering them safety, freedom, opportunity, and a new life.

I believe our nation is in terrible turmoil today, because little by little we have abandoned these values, which made America great.  What is to be done?

2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us the answer.  “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Notice, it is His people to whom He speaks, people who call themselves Christian.  He is speaking to people who have loosened their grip on God given values, and failed to fight for the truth allowing the disunity that permeates our society today.  He asks us to humble ourselves, to seek His face, and admit our wrong doing.  It’s as easy and as difficult as that!  In turn, God promises that He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.  

  I cannot change the past!   I must look forward believing that I can make a difference in the future.  I must come to terms with my own responsibility determining to speak the truth and live out the values I have so long cherished regardless of opposition or perhaps even persecution.  I must love my neighbor as myself sharing Christ in every way possible. And, I must, I must, stand up against evil!

GOD HEAL AMERICA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED HOPE

BLESSED HOPE

The sun is shining—not a novelty in “The Valley of the Sun.”  The temperature will reach 103 degrees today, but I am smiling.  Even as I examine the ugly black and blue bruises on my forearms, a sense of great peace and anticipation fills my heart on this seventh day of October 2020.

Just a couple of weeks ago the future seemed uncertain.  In fact, I didn’t know how much of a future I might have.  Not knowing how this serious heart condition would be treated guided my thoughts down a shadowy pathway.  I worried about whether or not my paperwork was in order, I planned my funeral, and of course, I thought a lot about heaven, because that’s where I plan to end up one of these days.  Can’t forget about prayer for I spent a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Considering all of this, I am amazed at how six hours in the Cath Lab at Banner Baywood Heart Hospital, could bring about such a change to the human psyche.

After two sweet little nurses jabbed me numerous times trying to insert a needle into my very narrow, meandering veins, hence the ugly bruises, they called an expert, who slipped the needle in without batting an eye.  Then I was whisked away to the lab, where I underwent an angiogram and an esophageal echocardiogram.  Returning to my room, the surgeon met me with good news.

   “You are a candidate for this newer, less invasive procedure,” he said.  “We can repair your mitral valve without cutting you open.”

That news filled me with hope.  It was like a sweet strain from heaven.  It was an answer to prayer.   The surgeon’s words changed everything—my emotions, my thoughts, my behavior.  All of a sudden my thought trajectory swerved off in a different direction.  I was no longer thinking about my funeral, though I am glad I made those plans.  I was thinking about tomorrow, next year, and years to come.

Truth is I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.  I don’t know all the details of God’s plan for my life.  Maybe I have years, maybe I don’t, but because of that surgeon’s words, I have a new confidence in the future.  Oh, my confidence doesn’t amount to certainty, but it is grounded on substantial evidence.  My mitral valve will be repaired and I’ll be able to breathe normally again.

Hope is a marvelous thing.  It offers a new lease on life—a reason to look at the future positively—to look on the bright side.  Hope always gives pleasure or joy.  

Life is hard.  We all face setbacks.  We all wonder at times whether or not we will make it.  We all know what it’s like to feel helpless, like you’re right on the brink of disaster.  We can choose to be negative or we can choose hope.  People often think that those who are hopeful are naïve even foolish believing that good things will happen when they never will.  

What they don’t know is that hopeful people can face even the most unfavorable times with a positive attitude.

Someone has said, HOPE means “HANG ON PAIN ENDS!”

One of the most important strengths in life is Hope, but we must be careful in whom or in what we place our hope.  To hope in riches, possessions, power or others is, for the most part, fruitless.

In Psalm 39:7 and 71:5, King David said, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”  “For you are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.”

Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

Again, in Hebrews 6:19, we are told, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

God comes to us, in our most dire moments when we’re looking our worst, and gently whispers hope to us.  When our failures have outweighed our triumphs, when sadness has seemed to overcome, and our joy has taken flight, God offers hope—hope that never disappoints.  We hope in His love.  We hope in His Word.  We hope in His faithfulness.

If our hope is founded on His promises, whether or not that thing we most hoped for is ever obtained, we can be assured that God has designed the best for us.  And—

             Still we have hope for eternity.  Look at the wonderful truth in Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

STILL WAITING

 

I believe this is where we left off last week.  I’m still waiting!  

I looked forward to seeing the cardiologist on Monday morning.  I was sure he would have the whole plan for my treatment mapped out.  Because of the seriousness of my condition, he would take care of everything in a couple of days, and life would get back to normal.

NO!  Two more tests are required—another echo and an angiogram.  The doctor said, “We will get it all done in the next few weeks.”

There is a question about whether or not this newer procedure will work in my case.  So I asked, “What if it won’t work for me?  Will you do “open heart” surgery?

“No,” he said.  “At your age, and being overweight, you would never survive that surgery.”

I didn’t like his comments about being overweight, and I wanted to tell him that I can get rid of the extra twenty-five pounds in a few months.  But I cannot get rid of the extra years.

I’ve always wondered how doctors, day after day, could deliver such sad ultimatums to patients without revealing the least bit of emotion.

That left me a bit deflated, and the difficulty of scheduling the new tests only added to the frustration.

I am home now with my thoughts, and there’s no real way to control them.  To begin with, I am thinking that, “Surely the doctor will be able to use this minimally invasive procedure, and we won’t need to worry about anything else.”

Then the “What ifs” began dinging around in my head.  What if they can’t?  What then?  How will they treat this illness?  How long can I live like this?  Pretty serious questions that cannot be ignored!  

I am not afraid to die, but neither do I want to.  I still have many things I need to do and want to do.  However, there is an unspoken demand that crowds my space—a demand that I deal honestly with the future.  I don’t even know when my next appointment is, so how do I deal with a tomorrow that seems lost in a murky fog?

The only way I know to do this is to commit everything to the Lord.  So I prayed and I asked many others to pray with me.  I’m afraid I prayed selfishly.  I prayed that my tests will prove that the surgery is possible and God will enable the surgeon to perform the procedure without hindrance. That is my prayer.  That is what I want, but I do not yet know what God wants.

My favorite Psalm, Psalm 139, assures me that, “…in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

Every day of my life is written in God’s book.  He already knows what will happen tomorrow, and I must try to rest in the truth of His plan for my life.  Notice, I said, “Try to.”

My thoughts rattled around jumping back and forth from one thing to another.  Is my business in order?  Have I left proper instructions?  What should I do with this—what shall I do with that?  I even thought about my funeral and who would officiate.  I was a bit surprised with myself, for I have always shied away from such thoughts wanting to believe that I would live forever.  However these thoughts were not dark and morbid, but matter of fact and appropriate for the moment.  Maybe I’m finally growing up!

Eventually, my thoughts turned toward heaven, the place Jesus said He was going to prepare for us.  I wondered just how real heaven is, even to those who call themselves Christians.  I fear that for many heaven has become no more than a fairy tale.

All my life I have heard about heaven.  Sunday school teachers taught it, pastors preached it, people sang about it.  But, until now, we have not experienced it.  Even in the New Testament doubters were questioning the reality of heaven and the coming of Christ. 

In 2 Peter 3:4, they ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For…all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.

Perhaps that is the way you feel.  “I keep hearing about it, but nothing changes.” So, because we have not yet experienced heaven, to many, it remains an amazing story that we may or may not believe.  I must admit that it may be difficult to make the leap from this sad, broken, tired world to that eternal city that awaits us.  My advice!  Read the story again in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.  

As you read, understand that heaven is much more than a city with gates of pearl, streets of gold and jeweled foundations.  It is the throne room of All Mighty God.  It is the dwelling place of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is a city illuminated by the glory of God, where night shall never reign.  No more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears.  

I’ve no idea when I will be called from this earthly life, but I know where I am going.  I am going to live and work in that eternal city that Jesus has prepared for me.

2 Peter 3:13, “…we according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

 

SEE YOU THERE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!