Why You Need God's Word on Your Worst Days

My bad day started from the moment I woke up yesterday.

It was early, and I didn't want to get out of bed. But it was also hot, and I decided that if I wanted to go for a run and not, at best, pass out or, at worst, die (I may have been feeling a wee bit dramatic), I had to go right now. So I crawled out of bed and was sweating before I even got dressed. 

One important thing must be noted -- I did not want to go for a run. Normally I love running. But not yesterday. I was feeling like I should go for a run, though, and that is not the same thing. I was motivated by some weird, cranky, insecure self-obligation. 

So I grunted hello to my mother, laced up my sneakers, and walked outside. Right into a spider web. 

Then I started walking down my driveway, and my heels began to burn.

Second important thing that must be noted -- three days ago I wore a very cute pair of red ballet flats to a coffee date with a friend. They are lovely to look at but dreadful to walk in. Yet I ended up having to walk four-ish blocks that day. Does not sound difficult. I'm here to tell you that it was. Like bandage-worthy blister difficult. By the time I got back to my car I wanted to cry and my heels were raw and split. 

Now fast forward to yesterday morning, three minutes after walking outside, and I am hobbling back up the driveway because I literally cannot run with those flat-induced blisters. I am humiliated, hot, tired, and annoyed. Very annoyed. My heels hurt. And I'd climbed out of my very comfortable bed when I could have been still sleeping and I was a failure and I would never be fit and I just wanted to read happy books and eat chocolate forever and then also sleep forever. (Don't ask me to make sense of how I felt. I'm just reporting the facts.)

I came inside, sat down in a huff, and immediately turned on my phone. If you're keeping track, this is like the fifty-second bad decision I've made so far this morning. Then I opened Facebook. Bad decision number fifty-three. It wasn't that I saw anything terrible or especially annoying. It's just that in my sour mood, I was looking for all the wrong reasons. Instead of edification, I was looking to social media for validation and distraction.

And I'm grateful that the Lord suddenly pushed me to shut it all down and pick up my Bible. At this lovely moment in time, I did not want to read my Bible. But I knew I should, I must, not because of self-obligation, but because it was the only thing my soul really truly needed. If I wanted to choose joy, embrace the day, live intentionally, maximize my time, do good deeds, or be kind to others, I needed God's Word. 

There, in my sin, God met me. He forgave me in my repentance and nourished me through His Word. And by 9:00 a.m., my bad day (morning, really) was over. My eyes were off myself and on God's kingship. I read Psalm 97: "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice." Rejoice because God, not me, is great. Have joy, peoples! Seriously. In your worst day, God is still in control. Right in my bad mood, God's Word was what I needed most. 

Reminders like that are what I need in the midst of bad days. Reminders that can only come from God's Word. The Spirit works in incredible ways to convict and encourage, and He works through His Word. 

For that, I am grateful.

Are You Happy Today?

It's easy for me to say that I'm happy in God when I'm actually just happy in circumstances.

It's the most elementary of Christianese, and it sounds enormously spiritual. "I find my happiness in God." So we say it or think it when we actually don't believe it.

When you woke up this morning, were you happy? Maybe you were for a moment and then reality came tumbling in. Or maybe you were and still are. Or maybe you just weren't.

In each of those scenarios, ask yourself: why do I think and feel this way? Is it because I am fixing my identity on God or my own immediate comfort? Is it because I'm gazing on God's beauty or social media? Is it because I'm pouring myself out for the kingdom of God or fighting for personal glory and achievement? Is it because I'm making life about God or me?

And right there, that's my problem. I make life about me. And so my happiness waxes and wanes based on the fickleness of my heart. Life is great, so I'm happy. Then life is not so great, and I'm filled with despair. (And I'm not talking about the grief and sorrow that are natural parts of the Christian life.)

True and authentic happiness in God starts with God, not with us. See, we're subjective. We're moody and motivated by feelings and flimsiness. If we want lasting and soul-deep satisfaction, we need an objective source of happiness outside of ourselves. Once we remove our feelings from the picture, we're free to fix our hope on a rock.

God never changes. He is eternally happy and unfailingly joy-giving. If we base our happiness on Him, nothing can shake it.

When I woke up this morning, the sky was very blue, and I thought, "It's going to be a good day today." And then I thought about my to-do list and ordinary troubles, and my mood dampened. So I asked myself: "Why do you feel and think this way?" Which led to this piece.

I want you to do the same. Why are you happy or unhappy today? And what are you going to do about it?

Those Days You Want to Punch the World in the Face

Don't act like you don't have those days too. 

We all have those frustrating, tinglingly irritable days. Nothing is wrong, and everything is wrong. The world is out to get us at every twist and turn. Every stop light, every customer, every family member, every inanimate object is part of a global conspiracy to ruin our day. 

And it works. We're about ready to punch the world in the face.

My question is: how do we honor God on those days?

I actually hate that question. At least, my sinful self does. Because who's the focus of it? Not me. Not my bad day. The question answers itself. In those frustrating days, we're not "let off the hook" from honoring God. These are the days when it counts the most. When we're wrestling with sin and selfishness, that's when our faith is tested. 

Do we really believe God is more worthy than us? Do we really believe our happiness is in Him? Do we really believe He's better than anything? Do we really trust Him more than our feelings? And will we really act on that trust?

Those days we are tired and angry at life, the ones where everyone and everything bothers us, will we honor God? Will we pray? Will we soak in the peace-inducing words of Scripture? 

Those are the questions we face. The way we answer them changes our day. 

Even more, the way we answer them changes our life. 

How To Avoid Frustration

Life can be horribly frustrating sometimes, can't it?

We hit three red lights when we're late. We burn our toast. Our podcast doesn't download. It starts raining as soon as we step outside  and stops raining the moment we're inside.

Is your blood boiling yet?

Just reading these instances tenses me up, as if I can feel the frustration poking me with a stick, provoking me. There are a lot of opportunities for us to get frustrated every day, so many ordinary, potentially angering circumstances.

But frustration is not an uncontrolled impulse. We don't have to get mad when we burn our toast or hit red lights. We don't have to find life so frustrating. Still, we do, because persistent sin lurks in our hearts.

So how do we stop it? How do we find contentment instead of frustration? Joy instead of disappointment? Cheerfulness instead of anger?

I think the main reason we get frustrated is that we believe we deserve life to go our way. We deserve golden brown toast and sunny skies. We deserve smooth, uncomplicated, perfect life.

What a terrible lie. What a frightening deception. Our frustration actually proves the opposite  we deserve death. We deserve Hell. We deserve wrath and punishment, because every day we do ugly, evil things. We are sinners.

But there is good news. We are no longer under the power of sin. Jesus saved us from wrath and death and punishment. He took our place. Now we have freedom and life. But that doesn't mean we deserve that. Those gifts were unmerited.

We don't deserve this salvation, this life, this day, this breath, let alone golden brown toast.

So I say this to myself first: when you get frustrated next, stop for a moment and think about what you deserve  what you really deserve. And then thank God that you don't get that.

That is how to avoid frustration.

How to Conquer Every Bad Day

Sometimes you have a bad day and the world is out to get you and every traffic light is in a conspiracy against you and you feel wholly and thoroughly miserable. You're exhausted, angry, upset, frustrated, ready to go to bed at five o'clock and have this day be gone forever.

We all have those kinds of days. That is a part of living in a fallen world. We deal daily with the effects of sin and corruption - from both us and others. But there is something only recently that I have begun considering, largely thanks to Randy Alcorn's paradigm-shifting book, Heaven. It is this fact:

Your bad day is a fragment of a drop in the bucket of eternity and a time is coming when you will never have a bad day again

In the New Heavens and New Earth, for the Christian, eternal "best days ever" await us.

Days when we won't wake up grumpy from too little sleep.

Days when we won't get frustrated at anything.

Days when we won't come home and cry from exhaustion.

Days when we won't work at a job we hate.

Days when we will have a perfect relationship with food and our body.

Days when we won't ever fake happy; we'll just be happy.

Days when no one will ever slander again

Days with no headaches, no sore throats, no back pains.

Days when gossip will no longer exist.

Days when we get to sit in the presence of God and bask in His beauty.

Days that will only be good days.

So on your bad day, as you're lying in bed at 5:01, reflecting on the lousiness that was your day, think about Heaven. Think about how wondrously, gloriously perfect your life will be one day. How endlessly fun, with endlessly delicious food, and endlessly exciting adventures, and endlessly dream jobs. And no sin.

These thoughts should dissipate your ill will, anger, frustration before you know it. They will also readjust your priorities. God has placed you where you are right now for a specific reason. Don't waste it stewing on the bad; keep your eyes fixated on the end - the everlastingly good - and use that to motivate you to serve your time here well.

The Death of the Classy and the Depravity of (Wo)Man

I was about fifteen minutes early for work yesterday. I had just picked up a book from the library, so I parked and then opened up the book. I had read maybe three sentences before a series of sharp, staccato horn honks lifted my head. Before me were two SUVs and two middle aged women driving them.

The first SUV was at a stop line in the parking lot but she hadn't stopped. The other SUV was driving through and had been nearly cut off by the first SUV. The woman who was driving through slammed on her horn a few more times before irately rolling down the window and shouting at the other woman, "That's a stop line! That means you're supposed to stop! Didn't you see it?" The woman who should have stopped proceeded to display some colourful hand gestures and some even more colourful language to her new friend before angrily honking her own horn and driving off.

And I just watched. It was kind of like a train wreck, something truly horrifying that you can't take your eyes off. These women were about forty or fifty, my elders. Yet I couldn't believe how immaturely they acted. Their behaviour was so deeply ugly and so unclassy. Somehow I could never see Audrey Hepburn rolling down her window and flying off the handle at another woman for not stopping at a stop line in a parking lot. Then again, there are few women with true class left in our society today.

But it's not really about classiness. It's about the depravity of our society, the depravity that has held every human society in its sway since Adam and Eve's descendants.

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ... There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:10-12).

And without Christ, that was us. We were those ugly, frustrated, cursing women in the parking lot, our identity wrapped in our sin. We were, as the song goes, "lost in darkest night, yet thought [we] knew the way ... [running our] hell-bound race, indifferent to the cost." But then in a mighty miracle of grace, God looked upon our helpless state and we were plucked out of the darkness by the power of the cross. We were saved from depravity, given new identities in Christ.

Yet the darkness still surrounds us - in our parking lots and workplaces and schools and neighbourhoods. We see depravity almost daily. That's part of living in a fallen world. But seeing that depravity reminds us where we were. That depravity reminds us where we are no longer. And that depravity spurns us to dissipate the darkness around us.

As Jonathan Edwards reminds us, we are sunshine to the dark world because we reflect the Sun of Righteousness. We are the good in the face of depravity.

What I Learned from Failure

You could call me a successful person. I'm a hard worker, I get good grades, and I don't fail tests. Actually, I don't really fail much.

So while failing your first driving test may not seem like a big deal to you, to me it was crushing. It was a week before my birthday, a month ago. Though I was nervous, I was desperately confident. When I backed into that spot at the DMV, clicked on the parking brake, and turned to my instructor with bright eyes and an expectant smile, I was ready for success. I was ready to hear, "You passed."

I didn't hear that. Instead I heard, "I can't pass you today." Failure. Instant and bitter and cold and unexpected. My stomach dropped and with a slightly trembling lower lip, I stepped back inside and told Mom. She could read it in my eyes before I said anything. I failed.

Since that test, I've learned a lot about failure. Both my parents and I refused to let this failure be wasted. It was a learning opportunity. Now as I look back, there was a lot I learned from failure. And here are a few things:

Failure is only failure if you don't learn from it. It sounds cliche and trite and perfect for a Pinterest inspirational quote board, but it's true. Everything God gives us is because He knows that it is best for us. Everything is for our good. And He expects us to give Him the glory and to become more sanctified through our experiences. Failure is a growing experience. Failure is a sanctifying experience. It should make us better Christians.

Failure exposes pride. Jon Bloom said that pride is the pathological core of all of our sin, and nothing reveals the crippling pride in my heart like failure. Why was I so disappointed that I failed my road test? It's just a road test. The answer is wrapped up within my own pride. I wanted to pass for my own glory and good. Coming away from that failure, I felt my sin exposed nakedly before me. I am proud. This truth was stapled to my failure. If I had passed, I would never have realized the depths of my sin. Failure, meanwhile, was used by the Spirit to expose my sin blackly before me and convict me and lead me to repentance.

Failure makes me a more realistic person. Being someone who's rather alien to the concept of failure, the "real world" is going to seem pretty bleak if I don't at least have some experience with failure. Success will not be guaranteed solely by hard work. More failure is going to come - worse failure than road tests. And if I don't know how to deal with it, it will destroy me.

Failure makes me work harder. My road test instructor gave me a checklist of reasons why I failed. I memorized that list and I learned from it. I worked harder. I pushed for success. Just because I know failure might come, it doesn't mean that I ever stop doing my best and trying my hardest. And failure just means I have to work harder than before.

Failure is not the end of the world as I know it. So I've been known to be a bit of a dramatic soul. I feel things very deeply and sometimes respond to disappointment irrationally. I felt devastated after my failure. It took some tough love from Mom to get me to look at things more objectively. Because no matter how I feel, failure is not the end of my world. Failure is only a negative experience if you let it be. If you let feelings dictate what you think, you'll find your failure wasted.

Failure makes success sweeter. And the happy ending to my failure story is that yesterday, success came. I passed my road test and my new license sleeps happily in my wallet. There is no way that I could have possibly felt this good about passing if I had not failed my first test. Failure makes victory so much richer and more meaningful. I can look back on my first failure and smile. Sure, it still stings, but its sting just reminds me that I have to learn from it and refuse to waste it.

Nobody wants failure. I don't. But regardless of what we'd like, it's going to come and we're going to have to deal with it. We can waste it. We can sin because of it. We can let it destroy us. Or we can use it for our good and the glory of God. We can learn from it. We can become better people because of it. We can let it teach us.

Ecclesiastes for a Monday Morning

Philip Ryken said,

Ecclesiastes is the only book [of the Bible] written on a Monday morning.

If you've been to church for any amount of time or read the book of Ecclesiastes for yourself, that will make sense to you. My dad started a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes yesterday, and he made clear that it has gotten this reputation as being the Bible's "depressing book."

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities. All is vanity.

That's the second verse of chapter one. Not exactly the most uplifting text in the Bible. I don't think that's going up on office motivational posters any time soon. But the Preacher, the author of the book, King Solomon, wasn't trying to be inspiring. He was trying to be real. Ecclesiastes chronicles his search for life's meaning. This was a man who had every possible pleasure at his fingertips, and he thought life's meaning lay in each of them. He thought it lay in money, in sex, in work, in wisdom. But every time he was disappointed. And so Monday morning rolled around, he was tired, and he sat down to write Ecclesiastes.

Without the end of the book, Ecclesiastes might actually be pretty depressing. Questions without an answer would leave it pervaded with despair. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? These questions that Solomon wrestled with need an answer. And his Monday morning hopelessness needs a hope. That's why the end of the book brings everything together. At the end of his musings on life, meaning, pleasure, and satisfaction, Solomon wrote in 12:13,

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 

What is the meaning of life? Trust God and obey Him. On Monday morning, and Tuesday morning, and Friday morning, and Saturday morning, and every single day. Life is full of let-downs. We'll live through many Monday mornings. We'll be tired and cranky and step in puddles and spill coffee and hit red lights and want to cry sometimes. This is living in a fallen world. But trusting God transforms our Monday morning outlook from depressed to delighted. Delighted to be alive, to breathe the air, to drive cars, to drink coffee, to be able to see and hear, to be ambassadors of Christ to a dark world. All this delight is fueled in a firm trust in God and a desire to obey Him. We are not honouring Him when we mope. John Piper said,

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

So be satisfied in God this Monday morning. For the end of the matter is this, when all is said and done, the meaning of life is to "fear God and keep his commandments." There is no greater duty or delight.

Hurt Feelings

Last week was Ladies Bible Study and we had a fantastic evening of biblical teaching, fellowship and Miss Donna's incredible apple bovarian torte. Mom taught the lesson and it was so good I thought I would share some of her notes (with her permission) here! The topic was "Hurt Feelings," and it was based on chapter five in Martha Peace's excellent book, Damsels in Distress. Be warned - it's convicting!

Intentional Hurts
This is how we began - looking at how to respond when people intentionally hurt our feelings, whether through a spiteful comment, slander, gossip, etc. There were eight basic biblical principles for how we are to overcome intentional hurts.

1. Show love to God and the person sinning against you. We must forgive and show kindness and patience. It is also helpful to think about things from the person sinning against you's perspective - what are they going through right now?
2. Thank God for the test. This is a chance to give into temptation or to grow in Christ-likeness.
3. Overcome evil with good. My mom said wisely, "You do not have to feel like it, you do not have to desire it, and the other person does not have to deserve it, but you do have to respond righteously."
4. Give a blessing instead. (1 Peter 3:9)
5. Pray for those who mistreat you. Pray for grace to respond to the situation and pray for their repentance.
6. Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15 and Proverbs 15:28)
7. Lovingly confront the person who is sinning against you. (Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 18:15-20)
8. Bring other witnesses into the situation if necessary. (Matthew 18)

Unintentional Hurts
Then we turned to how to respond to someone who has unintentionally hurt our feelings - whether through a careless comment, a perceived insinuation, or anything we take as offensive. The first thing we discussed here was the sin of judging motives. Only God sees the heart. We can think we see the heart and make up any motives we want, but we cannot know the truth unless we seek clarification.

But what is the process when our feelings are hurt by someone completely unintentionally? First we must ask ourselves an important question,

Who am I most concerned about right now?

We have two answers to choose from - either myself or the other person. If we say "myself," then we have to ask ourselves a few more questions,

Am I being overly sensitive? Is what was done or said true and said in love? Did I judge motives? Am I refusing or unwilling to deal with the situation because it would make me uncomfortable?

Finally we must acknowledge our sin and repent! But what if we had chosen "the other person" as who we're most concerned about? Then we must ask,

Do I need to seek clarification?

And then we have two biblical responses:

1. The best thing for the other person is for me to overlook the offense in love.
2. Or the best thing for the other person is for me to point out their sin in order to bring them to a right relationship with God and others.

Like everything else, we must respond biblically to hurt feelings in a way that will most demonstrate the character of Christ and bring Him the most glory.

I Didn't Want to Write a Blog Post Today

I have had a long day.

I was up at 6:30 to be on the road by 8:00 to drive for fifty minutes in traffic to get to a community centre, at which I was on my feet for four and a half hours with nothing but a fifteen minute lunch break. It was video shooting day! For project ARC, we're now filming follow-up videos to send to schools after our show, identifying and expanding upon certain subjects we talk about in the show, for example, helping people, helping animals and helping the earth. We call these videos spARC (Start Practicing Action, Responsibility, Choice).

Besides that, I've been battling a cold and asthma issues since last Thursday, and lots of coughing and a sore throat continue to linger. When I got home, Mom made me take this thick, red, goopy cough syrup that tastes about as horrible as rotten cherries and sour milk. And after I choked that down, it was time to start school - at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had Accounting and Greek and some Systematic Theology homework that needed to be done today, besides working on my Scripture memory work, devotions and ... writing this blog post.

I didn't want to write a blog post today. I had enough to do.

But a line I have in our spARC videos really has been rolling around my head since this morning.

"Are you really just here [on this planet] for you?"

It was like I got thwacked in the head with a four-by-four. That was my problem today. I was so concerned about me, me, me that I forgot that this world doesn't actually revolve around ... well, me! It's not so much that I just didn't want to write a blog post as that I forgot that I'm not just here for me. I'm here for Someone much greater than me. I'm here for the Creator. I'm here for His glory, not my own. And I'm also here for others. I'm here to serve them and to shine a light to them.

So maybe I didn't want to write a blog today because I was just feeling a little too selfish. And I'm sorry for that. But now I realize it, and I wanted to tell you about it. Sometimes we need a little reminder that we're not just here for us, that this planet doesn't revolve around our needs. Now, instead of focusing on me today, I'm going to try to focus on God's glory and serving others. How about you?

Curse You, Wilma Poole ... And Your Little Jewelry Shop Too!

It happened during my accounting class today. I was working on posting the entries from the general journal in to the individual accounts for the fictional Wilma Poole and her jewelry shop, Poole's Jewels. For those of you non-accountants, this won't make much sense, but bear with me for a minute. Basically, as I was in the process of filling out the debit and credit columns, I committed a big accounting faux pax. Instead of putting the credits from the debit account into the credit column, I put them all into the debit column. To the normal reader, this doesn't sound so bad. In fact, when I realized this mistake, even I didn't think it was so bad. But it was. It was real bad.

Over an hour of work spent on this seemed to be wasted. Because of one little mistake, my totals were all off. My debits didn't equal my credits. Poole's Jewels was in hot water.

Thinking about how one little mistake in the accounts could unbalance everything really clicked with a verse I read just a little while ago.
"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Galatians 5:7-9
This was in Paul's testy letter to the church in Galatia. What he's saying is that though the Galatians started the race of the faith well, error had crept in, and "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" - or, it only took the slightest bit of error for it to spread throughout the entire church. Like in accounting, one little mistake can affect all the accounts, one little sin in our life or in the church can quickly spread to those all around us.

So though I may be cursing Wilma Poole (and her little jewelry shop too!), I've seen an illustration of how sin can spread, and now I will work extra hard to pray for strength to run the race well (oh, and try to keep the accounts balanced too!)

2 Hours of Reading, a City Without Walls and a Spirit of Self-Control

My name is Jaquelle, and I have a problem. I read too much. No, I'm not kidding. In the past, I was reading four or five hours a day, just pleasure reading. That is a problem. Now it may not seem like it on the surface, as I was reading edifying books. But it is. Why? Because 1) I wasn't getting much done, besides reading, 2) I wasn't getting any exercise, 3) I was spending way less time with my family, and 4) I was making reading a priority over other important things. So the solution Mom and I came up with? I'm allowed two hours of pleasure reading a day. Period. The purpose is to help me develop self-control in this area that I clearly struggle with. And I really want self-control, in this area and in every area of my life. Why?
"A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."  (Proverbs 25:28) 
Wow. If there's one thing I don't want to be, it's like a city "broken into and left without walls." Back in biblical times, walls were a city's main protection. If their walls were knocked down, they were basically left defenseless. Anybody could come in and destroy them. They were extremely susceptible to many forms of danger. That's what I'm like if I can't demonstrate self-control. A defenseless, susceptible city.

So, as I work on cultivating a spirit of self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7 comes to mind. "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." If that's not a reason to develop self-control in all areas of our life, I don't know what is.

Plagues, Power, and One Perturbed Pharaoh - Part 10

“Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely." (Exodus 11:1 - emphasis mine) Today's the day. It will be finished. The Israelites will be freed. Pharaoh will suffer. God's power will be shown and His name magnified. The Israelites will be given favour in the sight of their Egyptian neighbours. Then they will go. Yet one more plague ...

But what is this last plague, this straw that will break the camel's back? "So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’" (Exodus 11:4-7)

Death will mark the Israelites' freedom. They shall be emancipated at the cost of the Egyptians' blood. Their liberty march will be to the wail of the Egyptian mourners. All so the glory of God could be shown.

But before this plague actually took place, it was first only threatened, giving Pharaoh one last chance. (Exodus 11:1-8) But when Pharaoh clearly chose, once again, to refuse the Israelites' release (Exodus 11:9-10), action had to be taken. Before that happened, though, the Lord put the Passover in place, in which the Israelites were to mark their doorways with a lamb's blood, so that when the Angel of Death came to kill the Egyptian firstborns, it would pass over the Israelites' houses. This symbolism would later represent Jesus' death, when the perfect Lamb became a sacrifice for us, saving us from sin and death.

"At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”" Is it just me, or is it kind of interesting that even though our perturbed Pharoah told Moses and Aaron that they'd never see his face again (Exodus 10:28-29) ... they did? Twice? And the second time, they were specifically summoned to his presence. The HCSB Study Bible simply suggests that Pharaoh "could not keep his resolve." Still ... it's peculiar.

Well when Moses and Aaron arrived at Pharaoh's palace, they found a man more perturbed than usual. "Up!" Pharaoh must have groaned, choking back anger, fear, pain, tears. "Go out from among my people, all of you. Go, serve the Lord. Take your animals. Be gone! And bless me also!" Did anyone else notice that interesting phrase that seems like a tack-on at the end of his rant? "Get out, go, be gone ... but don't forget to bless me!" But why? Was Pharaoh simply scared? Did he want something else? The HCSB offers a bit of insight on this too: "Pharaoh's desire for blessing recalls earlier dealings of Egyptians and others with God's people that show things could have been far different for him." That's exactly it. If Pharaoh's cold hostility had capsized just one plague sooner, his son would still be alive. "If onlys" and "what ifs" probably clouded his brain. But it was too late, Pharaoh. Much too late ...

Well, the Israelites were free. Exodus 12:36 tells us that they were given favour in the sight of their Egyptian neighbours and were given lots of free stuff. And then they grabbed their belongings and left. They were on the move. God's purpose and plan had come about exactly as He had predetermined. The plagues proclaimed His power, and our perturbed Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go, though at a high cost. I'd quote Shakespeare and say with a sigh, "All's well that ends well," but in reality, this story didn't end so well. Blood flowed through the streets of Egypt. The Israelites were free, but because of their sin, they were destined to wander 40 years in the desert before they were given a land of their own. But don't be discouraged, be uplifted! Because if it wasn't for the 10 plagues, God's power, and one perturbed Pharaoh, the gears of the rest of Biblical history wouldn't be set in motion. And if they weren't set in motion, then our perfect sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ, would never have died for the sins of His people. So praise God that the Israelites are free, and, because of Christ, we are set free from the bondage of sin and death!

"The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!" Psalm 146:7-10

Plagues, Power, and One Perturbed Pharaoh - Part 9

At the beginning of the plagues, the Egyptians probably jeered and tormented their Israelite neighbours. "Those stupid slaves. Why do you they have to practice their stupid magic on us? Blood and frogs. Ugh." But by Plague #9, their "magic" was stupid no more. They probably quaked in fear any time an Israelite footstep fell nearby. Yes, God's purpose in these plagues was being fulfilled as each blow to the Egyptians landed. The name of the LORD was being proclaimed in Egypt and His power was being shown. So by now, the Egyptians were probably wondering what plague would strike Egypt next. Well, they wouldn't have to wait long ...

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days." (Exodus 10:21-23)

I find that phrase in Exodus 10:21 interesting. This wasn't just darkness like darkness at night, when the moon still shines or when you can at least still see. No, this was "a darkness to be felt."

But why darkness? The HCSB Study Bible sheds some light on this: "Darkness seems appropriate as an attack on the Egyptian king, since Pharaoh was believed to be the son of Egypt's chief god, the sun-god Re. ... Pharaoh had refused to allow a three-day journey for the Israelites, and now, ironically, Pharaoh's people were surrounded by darkness and unable to go anywhere for three days, while the Lord's people had light for their activities." That's kind of interesting, isn't it? Darkness was not randomly picked; there's irony at play here.

"They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived." (Exodus 10:23 - emphasis mine) Yep, Egypt was black with their sin and idolatry, but Goshen remained light with the name of the LORD being proclaimed through the brightly-lit streets. "For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners." (Psalm 69:33)

"Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.”" (Exodus 10:24) Here we find Pharaoh trying to make yet another compromise with Moses. "Okay. Just the men was a no-no. How about I let you take the men and your little ones? How about that? No animals, but I think that's a pretty good deal."

"Not. A. Chance," said our fed-up Moses. "We need our flocks so that we can offer sacrifices to the LORD. Do you hear me? Not a hoof will be left behind when we leave this place." (Exodus 10:25-26) 

"But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go." (Exodus 10:27) Okay. This is getting a little old. Nine times and counting. We're sick of this, Pharaoh. Sick and tired. Well, apparently Pharaoh was too. "Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”" (Exodus 10:28-29) Ooh. This was harsher than expected. "Bug me again and die," said our fed-up Pharaoh. The tension here had suddenly escalated to about a billion; Pharaoh was this close to killing Moses, and we're on our second last plague. Things are changing all ready. But don't go away yet. We've got one more plague before everything explodes ... and God's power is proclaimed with blood ...

Venting to God

I don't know about you, but I like to vent. When I'm angry, when I'm sad, when I'm frustrated, when I'm confused. Venting helps me gather my thoughts and put my life into perspective. But venting to people can send you down a dangerous road. Venting to people can easily lead you (and the people you're venting to) into sin. Gossip, slander, malice, frustration. Any of those sound familiar? They're all sins that seem pretty tangible when you head down the venting road.

So what do we do? The answer is simple: we vent to God. If we have a problem with someone, we don't take it up with other people around us (i.e. friends or family). We take it up with God. God created that person we have a problem with, and He knows them and He loves them. When we have burdens or troubles, it can seem really easy to dump them at someone else's door step. But that's not what the Bible tells us to do in Psalm 55:22: "Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you." 

When you have burdens, pent-up anger and troubles, don't take your complaint to your friends and family. As David encourages us in Psalm 142:2, "I pour out my complaint before him [that is, the Lord]; I tell my trouble before him." David pours it all out to the Lord, and we should too.

That doesn't mean it's right, though. We've got to be careful. Though venting to God is better for us and for others, unrighteous anger, malice, frustration, slander, and any other sins that we commit when venting need to be repented of.

But don't pour out your complaint to those around you. Pour it out to God.


Frustration. We've all had those moments. You go searching everywhere for a pencil, you finally find one, you haven't even finished the first letter and SNAP, the pencil breaks. Frustrating. Canada is up 3-0, and in the third period Russia comes and scores 5 goals to take the win in the Junior Hockey World Championship. Frustrating. Someone cuts in front of you in line. We get frustrated. But does that make it right? No. As much as this hurts, we're still sinning when we choose to get frustrated. Yes, we're the ones who choose to get frustrated. But what does God say about frustration? Well, when I typed "frustration" in the BibleGateway keyword search, one result came up.

The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. - Deuteronomy 28:20
 In this passage, God is talking to the Israelites. In chapter 28 of this book of Deuteronomy, we learn of the overall theme of the book: obedience to the Lord = blessing but disobedience to the Lord = curse. So what does this tell us about frustration?

The first thing I noticed was what frustration was lumped in with: curses and confusion. In other words, we know that frustration is a punishment here, along with our other two elements. Thus, we know that if it's a punishment, God does not like it.

So what difference should this make???

This passage shows us that God does not like frustration. He lumps it with curses and confusion. It's clearly a sin. So, when we get frustrated, here's a couple of things we should try:
  • Pray. Nothing eases frustration more than prayer. Speaking to the Lord and laying all your burdens at His feet. It's very calming.
  • Think about what you're frustrated about. Is it something silly or of no importance? I know those are the things that I often get most frustrated about. Think, is this going to matter in a week or a month or a year or ten years? 
  • Try to specifically do something kind. Making someone else's life a little easier always helps me feel better. It also helps me to put my frustration into perspective and combat my choice to sin with something that honours the Lord.
  • Recognize when you're frustrated. If you can see your frustration, it may not be the best time to reply to an e-mail, write a blog, invite somebody over for dinner, or go to the mall. The best thing for you (and everybody around you) may just be to curl in with a book and cup of tea and enjoy some alone time. 
So let's ask the Lord's forgiveness for the times when we got frustrated and go about our life with a different attitude.