By the Rivers of Babylon

To me, Psalm 137 is one of the saddest psalms written. It speaks of Judah’s captivity for seventy years in the land of Babylon.

The psalm uses words like weeping beside willow trees. Hanging stringed instruments on branches because the joy to sing no longer existed. Whether they felt like singing or not, their captors, their tormentors, required the captives to sing them happy songs of Zion.

How could they sing happy songs in this foreign land away from all they knew? All they held dear? Apart from the temple? How could they sing joyfully when their hearts broke?

The captives pleaded with Jehovah not to forget to repay those who razed Jerusalem and burned it to the ground when Babylon, that evil beast, entered their city.

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet warned Judah time and time again to turn from their wicked ways of idolatry and follow God’s commands. The people refused. Jeremiah warned them if they didn’t repent and turn back to God, God would send his servant, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to the city. God promised when that happened, all of Judah would become a desolate wasteland. For seventy years after that, the people would be forced to serve the king of Babylon.

Like the prophet Habakkuk, I often wondered why God used the Babylonians to conquer his people. As Habakkuk said, “We are wicked, but they far more! Will you, who cannot allow sin in any form, stand idly by while they swallow us up?” (Habakkuk 1:13 TLB)

As LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” I suggest you read Jeremiah and Habakkuk to see what happened.

Anyway…the Israelites’ captivity was a consequence of their choices and activities. Although the people refused to turn back to God, God never turned away from them. He never stopped loving his people.

Between the lament at the beginning of the psalm and the fiery passion against his tormentors at the end, the psalmist declared if the day ever came when he forgot Jerusalem and God’s covenant with his people, may he also forget his musical skill. If he failed to love Jerusalem and God more than his highest joy, may he also never sing again.

As God promised, seventy years after the people of Judah were taken into captivity, Persia destroyed Babylon. The once mighty conquering nation was conquered. The land became an everlasting desolation, and God’s people were allowed to return to Jerusalem.

In our life there may be times we find our self weeping beside the rivers of Babylon. We hang up our harps. We can no longer sing a happy song. Life is just too hard. Our tormentors require us to sing, but we can’t. Not now. And we wonder if we ever will again.

Yet, with the conviction of the psalmist, we can remember everything our Lord has brought us through. We can remain convinced we will sing again in the land God promised us after our captivity ends.

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Weeping, we sat beside the rivers of Babylon thinking of Jerusalem. We have put away our lyres, hanging them upon the branches of the willow trees, for how can we sing? Yet our captors, our tormentors, demand that we sing for them the happy songs of Zion! Psalm 137:1-4 (TLB)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Guest Post – I Am Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Today’s guest post, I Am Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, written by Dave Peever first appeared on Live 4 Him.

That’s a lot of people inside my head but don’t worry because the title is a little misleading. A more accurate title for this post would be, I Wish I Was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For those not familiar with my “I Am _____” series, this is usually the part where I add the disclaimer about me knowing that my name is really Dave followed by something that eludes to the fact that while I may be Dave I am still  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego or whomever the title suggests I might be. This time is different. This time I can only wish I was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

I am Peter more than I am Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

If you know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you know that they were faced with certain death if they did not bow to the gods of the land. Their willingness to go against the king even if it meant death is already a character trait that makes me says, “I wish I was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” I would like to think I would be willing to give up my life in this way but when faced with death I am more likely to be the Peter at Jesus’ trial than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

There is a certainty in what they said that I wish was part of my faith.

It isn’t just that they were willing to die, that makes me want to be Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It isn’t just that they went against the king’s order even though they were threatened with death. I wish I was like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because of what they said.  “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. Daniel 3:16-17 (NIV)

This is what the comic books call a crossover.

Their strong faith that God not only could but that God would do the miraculous is what is often missing from my prayers and public declarations. The promise that the Holy S***** (a bad word in many people’s churches) would clothe us with power, the promise that signs and wonders would follow those who believe and the promise that we can ask in Jesus’ name and receive is all but gone from my faith walk. As I have said before, it could be based on my fear of being let down or the watered down teachings about a God who has a plan and anything I pray is irrelevant. It really doesn’t matter why I believe that God will not act, that the Holy Sp**** will not perform miraculous works that point toward the creator of the universe, all that matters is that I am unable to speak with the same boldness that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did.

I know there is more.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego continued, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:18 (NIV) It is so easy to use this last part to support my often watered down doctrines. I can cling to the idea that God most likely won’t step in when I pray. I can say this story was a rare display of God’s power and that even they knew that it most likely wouldn’t happen even though it did. This becomes an excuse to weaken my prayers and my faith that God will act.

They were convinced that God would save them.

I was not there and I am not Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego but I do believe that the final statement they made, “But even if he does not…” was not them hedging their bets. I do not believe that they were laying out their beliefs with an exit strategy just in case God did not act. I will go out on a limb, take a chance that great biblical scholars will correct me. I will add my interpretation to this part of scripture fully aware that I may have it wrong.

Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego added the line “But even if he does not…” to show that their faith was not based on the fact that God would save them but rather their faith was placed in God no matter what, not a god but The God.

Holy Spi*** is power for those who believe.

The Holy Spir** promised by God, God’s Spiri*, has the same power to do the miraculous that was exhibited when the three did not die in the fiery furnace. The prayers we pray have power and the answers God gives are perfection in the same way. We can count on the Holy Spirit being treated as a bad word and the belief that God still performs miracles through that same Spirit being ignored because it is easier to not take the chance that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did and say God will act.

I believe, the God we serve is able to deliver, and He will deliver us. Even if He doesn’t, I still believe because He is God.

Who is Dave Peever? I am a follower of Jesus the Christ. My specific call is to creatively present various aspects of life as a Christ follower and as a member of a collective of Christ followers I use my background as an actor, director and playwright/writer as well as my music, preaching and leadership skills to assist churches in transition (between pastors) with their desire to be more effective. I have been married for 31 years. We have 3 sons and 4 grandchildren all who currently reside in central Ontario Canada. I have been in ministry for 22 years.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

One More Opportunity to Trust God

During our present state of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, do you find yourself in a place of being given one more opportunity to trust God? I am.

Because of that, I looked back through Woven and Spun’s archives for a post which might speak hope into our hearts. The following post first appeared on Woven and Spun July 9, 2013. I pray it is meaningful to you.

July 9, 2013

Last week I sat in my family practitioner’s office where she told me I should have come in to see her a week earlier. Although I am fond of my doctor, I do not like going to her office. I’d been dealing with this particular health concern for over two weeks before I finally made the appointment to see her. I think — hope — the medicine she gave me is working.

If not…off to a specialist. Here again, I like this physician. Just don’t like going to his office. Especially in light of the last procedure he performed. Think needles. And a lot of pain.

As I thought about this current problem, I remembered all the many, many, many things God has gotten me through. Opportunities to trust God, as one dear, sweet friend calls them. I realize this present situation is minor in comparison to those in my past.

I also think about people I know and the difficult opportunities to trust God they currently face.

Dialysis or kidney transplant?

Place loved one in a nursing home or take care of him at home?

Surgery or chemo?

Confront with God’s truth or allow child to go down the wrong path?

Stay or go?

Stand up against the bully or continue to be bullied?

Tell the kids you can’t afford it or go deeper in debt?

Is this the one or do I wait for another?

Speak the truth in love or let it slide?

Step out in faith or not?

Tough decisions. Tough situations. Tough circumstances. Tougher God.

Perhaps you are in one of those opportunities to trust God situations right now. If you are, please know I’m praying for everyone who reads this post that you will find peace in your circumstance, continue to trust God knowing He is faithful, and possess wisdom to know what to do next.

So what do we do? Where do we turn? Who do we lean on?

How about we go to Jesus?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Our Lord and our God, you are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector. You are the rock where I am safe. You are my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter. You rescue me and keep me from being hurt. 2 Samuel 22:2-3 (CEV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Pause for Poetry-The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

Annie Johnson Flint

Some of us stay at the Cross,
Some of us wait at the tomb,
Quickened and raised with Christ
Yet lingering still in the gloom.

Some of us bide at the Passover Feast
With Pentecost all unknown:
The triumphs of grace in the heavenly place
That our Lord has made our own.

If Christ who had died had stopped at the Cross,
His work had been incomplete.
If Christ who was buried had stayed in the tomb,
He had only known defeat.

But the Way of the Cross never stops at the Cross,
And the way of the tomb leads on
To victorious Grace in the heavenly place,
Where the Risen Lord has gone.

 

Our Sacrificial Lamb

©Frances Gregory Pasch

The cross lay bare and bloodstained…

The nails ripped from Christ’s hands.

They came and took His body.

Most did not understand.

The crowd wept tears of sorrow

For they did not realize

His mission was accomplished…

In three days He would arise.

What seemed like such a tragedy

Was all part of God’s plan.

When Jesus died, He paid the price…

Our sacrificial lamb.

He conquered death by rising

And opened heaven’s door.

If we will just believe in Him,

Our destiny’s secure.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

When You Turn Back

Did you ever notice when Jesus met the disciples on the seashore with a breakfast of grilled fish which he cooked for them after his resurrection, he called Peter Simon?

Jesus didn’t call the apostle Peter, the rock; the name Christ gave him. Instead, Jesus called the apostle by his birth name. I hadn’t paid much attention to that detail until I prepared this month’s Easter posts.

Also, I love the fact Jesus didn’t say if you turn back. No. Jesus said when you turn back.

Thank you, Jesus, he tells us the same.

It’s not one strike and we’re out. Not even three strikes and we’re out. Jesus tells us after we fail, after we fall, when we turn back to him his grace is sufficient. His sacrifice is sufficient. He is sufficient.

Do you think when Peter heard Jesus call him Simon, it was similar to the feeling we get when our parents call us by our first AND middle names? Maybe.

Jesus spoke Simon’s name twice. He needed Simon Peter’s full attention. The words Jesus spoke were extremely important. Especially given Peter’s previous denial as the Lamb of God awaited crucifixion.

Yes. Jesus named Simon the rock, however, Peter needed to understand in addition to his strong side, Peter also had a vulnerable side. Just like the rest of the disciples. Just like the rest of us. Every single one of our strengths can be turned into our weaknesses. Those are the areas where Satan shows up. He takes the good and twists it into something bad.

Peter felt confident he would never forsake Christ. Satan took that confidence and twisted it into self-pride. That prideful spirit allowed Peter to care more about protecting himself, and what others thought of him, than he cared about protecting Jesus.

Each of Christ’s disciples have a vulnerable side, a target Satan intends to penetrate to destroy our testimony about who Christ the Risen Savior is. It is a target Satan can only attack with God’s permission. A target of temptation Jesus prays we will withstand  through the power of the Holy Spirit in those who belong to him.

Peter’s story didn’t end when he denied Jesus around a fire the night Christ was betrayed. After he repented, turned back, and set out to proclaim Christ and him crucified, Simon Peter preached a sermon during Pentecost that saw thousands confess Jesus as Lord. And that was just the beginning.

Like Peter there are times we fail. We deny we ever knew Jesus through our careless words and actions. Jesus knows the outcome before Satan even draws back his bow and sends fiery darts our direction.

Like Peter, when we fall we have a choice.

Will we let our failure define us, give up, and walk away? Or will we acknowledge our fall, get back up, repent, and when we turn back, strengthen those around us?

Who knows? But one thing is sure. Whatever we do after we fall is just as important as what we did before we fell.

Grace. God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sins.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31-32 (GNT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.