You gave me victory over my accusers. Psalm 18:43 NLT

Accusations can sting—especially the false ones.

Norris couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Didn’t you know she was ____?” “Couldn’t you smell ____ on her breath?” It was bad enough that he’d just had his wife confess unfaithfulness and tell him she didn’t love him anymore. Now the spiritual leaders of the church he pastored were accusing him of a cover-up. But he didn’t know she was ___. And he had not smelled _____ on her breath. He had his suspicions—but no solid proof. There was nothing he could do but resign.

I’ve experienced a little of what Norris tasted. I, too, remember a time when a comment I made was taken out of context, and it almost cost me my job. Being falsely accused hurts—and can bring with it a high cost.

What the psalmist was accused of, we aren’t told. The missing information isn’t important though. He trusted God to give him victory over his accusers.

Jesus was familiar with false accusations too. When He cast out demons, the religious authorities said He was empowered by the prince of demons. False accusations eventually led Him to the cross.

Early Christians also knew about false accusations. Ironically, they were accused of being atheists. Not because they didn’t worship or believe in any god but because they would not acknowledge the Roman Caesar as a god nor believe in the Roman pantheon of gods.

False accusations are a part of life at some moment during the journey. They may or may not have anything to do with my faith, but more than likely they will. Those who accuse have ulterior motives. Perhaps they want my job. Maybe they hate the morality that comes along with my belief system.

Jesus responded to false accusations by making Himself as a sheep going to slaughter: silence. Reacting with anger, cursing, or other forms of violent behavior won’t do the trick. Nor will appealing to my legal rights. These things will only serve to damage my witness before others.

The best course of action is to turn the matter over to God. He said vengeance belonged to Him—not me. Praying over the matter and praying for the person making the false accusations will bring peace to my soul and keep me from doing something that will hinder the cause of God.

Let God handle false accusations made against you.


When the Battles Come

You have armed me with strength for the battle. Psalm 18:39 NLT

Some battles have nothing to do with wielding a weapon.

Military blood runs through my family veins. My father did a stint in the National Guard and then the Army, serving overseas in the Formosa Crisis. My father-in-law retired from the Army, doing time in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. A brother-in-law served in the Air Force, and a nephew did time in Iraq. Even both of my children did short stints.

When I entered my teenage years, the Vietnam War was nearing an end—at least America’s involvement in it. The military draft was still in force, and I feared I would end up in a war that seemed to have no end. But it did end—along with the draft.

Though I’ve never served in the military, I admire those who have and do. And although I’ve never fought in a military battle, I’ve fought a number of other battles: Are my parenting skills up to par? On what grounds do I make this decision? How will I care for my aging parents and in-laws? Should I keep this job or look for another? How will I pay for the move? Why am I depressed? Can I get through this divorce? Will I ever find someone to love me?

The psalmist was familiar with military battles, but he was also familiar with other battles that didn’t require picking up a weapon. Regardless of what type of battle he fought, God armed him with the necessary means to fight it.

God gives all the armor I need to fight my battles with the enemy of my soul—and also the battles I sometimes fight with God. He gives me the helmet of salvation. Thoughts determine actions. I have the power to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. I have a breastplate of righteousness, given when I placed my faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is my shield, and I take the gospel of peace wherever I go. My clothes are girded with the belt of truth—which determines everything I say and do. And I have God’s Word to guide every decision I make and action I take.

When the battles come, victory is certain if we adorn ourselves with the full armor of God. Don’t let the battles of life defeat you. Claim the victory that can be yours.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the weapons we need to be victorious over every one of life’s battles.

Traveling with Firm Footing

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. Psalm 18:33 NLT

Where I walk determines how I travel.

I learned the art of careful walking when I backpacked in the mountains. Trails were littered with rocks, roots, and dead leaves, making paths uneven and slippery. If I wasn’t careful, I could twist my ankle, catch my foot on a root, or slip on wet leaves. More than once, my feet magically disappeared from under me. Having to watch my step while hiking made me wish I was like a deer.

While visiting our friends in Henderson, Colorado, we traveled to the Rocky Mountain State Park. The mountains are aptly named and peered at us through the car window as we wound around the curves. Suddenly, mountain goats appeared. We pulled to the side of the road for a better view. They were surefooted like deer and scaled the rocky surfaces—never slipping, as I would have.

I doubt the psalmist referred to God giving him the ability to climb a mountain without falling, although he was familiar with mountains. The mountains he needed help climbing were similar to mine: financial, spiritual, emotional, relational, educational, and parental. I’ve discovered life is filled with such mountains. The psalmist scaled them because God sured up his feet.

Slipping on the mountains I climb is inevitable if I don’t let God help me scale the heights. Through prayer, meditation on His Word, and wise counsel, God gives me wisdom to know the right steps to take. Even when I neglect these things and fall, He’s more than happy to pick me up, steady my feet, and nudge me along.

Although I sometimes fall out of neglect, I periodically fall because God lets me. Falls teach me important lessons. I need to pray before I make decisions. When I make decisions that take me out of God’s will, He will discipline me because He loves me. Occasionally, God leads me over rocky slippery paths to prepare me for an upcoming assignment.

While it’s my responsibility to watch the path I’m traveling, God will give me sure footing so I can travel it.

Travel your life paths with confidence. God will give you sure footing to walk down each one.

Doing Anything with God

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.
Psalm 18:29 NLT

As Stephen Winter said, “Life is not ‘Hollywood’ perfect.”

Nathan found that out too. For fifteen years, he ambled in the wilderness, leaving God on the back burner. His marriage to his high school sweetheart was marred from the beginning when on their honeymoon night she said, “I miss my momma.” Six months later, she was leaving him for one of his work cohorts. After a short fling with him, she moved in with another man.

For three years, Nathan left women alone. Then he decided to make a fresh start in a new town where he met a young lady, fell in love, and married two years later. He finally made his way back to God, but watched this wife go through a mid-life crisis and leave him and their two children sixteen years later.

Once again, Nathan wondered how God could have allowed such a thing to happen and how he would ever get through the mess he was in. But he did, and four years later God sent him a wonderful woman who pulled him out of his depression and repaired his broken life. He discovered he could do anything with God, but nothing without Him.

David the psalmist was a military man and a king, but he had passed through his share of hardships on the way to his present position—and still faced them. When the time came for the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel, David’s father didn’t even invite David to the selection party but left him in the field tending sheep. Later, after becoming king, one of David’s sons led a rebellion, ran him out of town, and then topped off his insolence by sleeping with his father’s concubines in public view. But David made it through each of his tumultuous episodes because he discovered he could do anything with God.

I’ve discovered what Stephen, Nathan, David, and many others, have: life isn’t perfect just because I have chosen to follow God. God doesn’t promise it will be; He simply promises that with His strength I’ll get through, that the trial will contain a seed from which I can learn valuable lessons, and that I’ll grow spiritually if I’ll respond with trust instead of bitterness.

With God’s strength, you can face whatever life throws your way. Trust Him when the trials come.

Prayer: Father, enable us to meet life’s trials in Your strength, rather than in our own.

Drinking Confusion

You have been very hard on us, making us drink wine that sent us reeling.
Psalm 60:3 NLT

Life is filled with periods of confusion.

Lonnie had listened to church folks tell him how much God loved him. One day he acknowledged his sin, repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. But he was confused shortly thereafter when, at a church business meeting, the church voted to excuse themselves from a local men’s fellowship because African American churches were joining. Didn’t God love all people?

Garrett was confused too. He had accepted Christ when he was younger but had grown further away from Him. He and his wife rarely attended church. His first marriage had ended in divorce, and the present one was in trouble. Then his wife’s drinking problem led to a wreck that killed their youngest child. Couldn’t God have prevented this?

Carine had a heart for children’s ministry. When a new Vacation Bible School director brought in numerous children from the community, her heart was touched. She decided to begin a van ministry. Every Sunday, she picked up children and brought them to church. When teachers threatened to give up their classes, when no one would sit with the children, and when no one made any attempt to speak to them, Carine was confused. Didn’t Jesus tell the little children to come to Him?

David was also periodically confused. If God favored Israel, why did He occasionally let their enemies defeat them?

I, too, can throw my hat into the ring of confusion. God, if You love me, why the divorce, why the financial struggles, why the rebellious children, why the unemployment, why the layoff, why the betrayal, why the death, why the sickness, why the…

David discovered confidence in the midst of his confusion. But you have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack (Psalm 60:4). Whether it looked so or not, God was in charge and in control. What appeared as a mess to David wasn’t to God. What appeared to be unconcern wasn’t at all.

The only way I can walk through periods of confusion with my faith intact and my eyes looking upward and forward is to believe the same. God loves me and is ordering the steps of my life—even when the evidence seems to point to the contrary.

Don’t let life’s periods of confusion dampen your faith in a loving God.

God Understands

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

Psalm 139:1-2 NLT

Regardless of how many times I explained the concept, some continued to misunderstand and make mistakes.

Correctly punctuating compound sentences is one of the simplest yet most difficult concepts I teach in Language Arts. The rule is simple: when two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, a comma must precede the conjunction. In order for an independent clause to be claimed as such, it must have a subject, verb, and a complete thought—not just a verb and a few prepositional phrases.

And it was the latter that confused many students. Many of them placed a comma when the sentence was actually a simple sentence with compound verbs. Others would mistake the word “then” for a coordinating conjunction and place a comma. I spilled much red ink correcting papers that related to correctly punctuating compound sentences. Although I explained the concept in every imaginable way, the rule often didn’t sink in. Their failure to understand cost them many unnecessary mistakes.

I, too, have failed to understand concepts when I was in school. My misunderstanding was more in math than English classes though. But more worrisome is being misunderstood by others. The psalmist was confident God understood him. After all, God had created him. He knew everything about him, even his innermost thoughts.

Failing to understand a concept and being misunderstood by others aren’t pleasant. Both can lead to frustration. I’ve taught students who practically gave up, and I’ve known people who struggled with depression because others just didn’t “get” them.

Since God made us, He knows everything about us. He knows what things we struggle with—the hard subject, the unpleasant work atmosphere, the tough relationship, the co-dependent friend, the addiction. He doesn’t have to hear us voice our frustrations because He knows our thoughts. He understands us.

There will always be things we don’t understand, as well as some who don’t understand us. We can live with that as long as our Creator is by our side, guiding us along life’s journey. He’s the friend who will never leave, who will always comfort, and who will forever understand.

Take comfort in knowing God understands when no one else does.

Good Comforting

I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Job 16:2 NLT

Regardless of where she went, she couldn’t find comfort.

Leah and her husband were never apart. They even volunteered at the same place after they retired. Both appeared to be in good health, so you can imagine Leah’s shock when her husband dropped dead. Jeff was outside cutting grass. He had no recent health concerns. But when Leah saw him stumble into the doorway and say he wasn’t feeling well, she could see something wasn’t right. Within a few minutes, he had slumped over, never to recover.

Although months had passed since Jeff’s death, Leah still mourned and suffered from anxiety and depression. She went to counselors, pastors, and friends, but nothing seemed to soothe her pain. She couldn’t focus and struggled to make it through each day. She left her old church, saying she just couldn’t stand to attend without Jeff. Leah longed for lasting comfort, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Job didn’t find it with his fair-weather friends either. He had lost almost everything a person could lose and still survive. What’s worse, God permitted his woes to prove to Satan that Job would maintain his loyalty to God despite extreme adversity. The only comfort Job’s friends could muster was telling him he had sinned. Confess, and things would get better was their advice. Job, however, had nothing to confess. He maintained his innocence and muddled through his pain and sorrow.

Job’s friends did what is typical. They thought they had to say something to soothe his grief—and they did. But what they said didn’t do the trick nor was it biblically sound. Telling someone God needed another angel or that you know how they feel is hollow comforting. God doesn’t take life to get angels, nor do humans become angels after death. And no two people experience the same episode in the same way.

Presence in the midst of grief is better than words. Sharing truth from God’s Word can be comforting, but timing is critical. Sitting and listening and letting the person cry on your shoulder is better. When the time is right, they’ll ask, and then you can share words of wisdom they might need to hear. For the moment, silence is golden, and practical help is priceless.

Comforting those who grieve is tricky business. Before you speak or act, pray and ask God for direction and wisdom.

The Christmas Gift

His eyes welled with tears as he opened the envelope. The gift was the most unselfish act he’d ever witnessed.

Harry* was about to experience the most agonizing Christmas of his life. A few months before, he had taken out a consolidation loan. The loan seemed like the right approach to his family’s financial situation. With a lower interest rate than he currently paid to his separate creditors, this loan would let him pay them off quicker. So with his wife’s blessing, he signed the paperwork and began paying the monthly payment.

Life seemed good for Harry. His job was rewarding, secure, and paid an honorable salary—enough for his family to live on comfortably. He planned to keep doing what he enjoyed for many years to come. But life changed suddenly. He noticed his wife changing. She associated with a different set of friends, worked longer hours, frequented places she shouldn’t, and became more distant in the process.

Harry was concerned but never imagined he’d hear, “I don’t love you anymore.” Topping this off came the news she’d had an affair. What seemed like a safe and cozy world shattered into a million pieces. He couldn’t form a thought. His mind raced in hundreds of directions. Anger mixed with sadness. A thousand questions entered and exited his mind before he could answer them.

Failed attempts at reconciliation eventually led to their separation and divorce. Harry was left with two teenage children and bills he couldn’t pay. Not only had his wife walked away from him, but she had also walked away from their mutual responsibilities. His family disintegration also led to the loss of his once-secure job.

The only employment available to him paid a mere pittance of what he once earned. Bills lagged further behind, one of which was the consolidation loan he had taken out just months before the bad news broke. He struggled to make the payment, but he knew the day was rapidly approaching when he wouldn’t find the funds anymore.

December arrived and with it the prospect of meager presents, mounting bills, and one that would go unpaid—his consolidation loan. In spite of his depressed mood, Harry agreed to continue his traditional Christmas celebration with his parents, siblings, and their families.

For a number of years, the family had made a practice of sitting in a circle, having the grandchildren pass out presents, and then opening them one by one for the others to adore. Everyone understood why Harry didn’t have any gifts to share this year, but the pile lying at his feet was monumental nevertheless. One was a simple white envelope that read, “To Dad, from ______.”

Harry’s curiosity prompted him to open the envelope first, but his daughter warned him this present was the last one he could open. Reluctantly, he opened his other presents one by one, but the enjoyment he would have normally got from opening them was trumped by his anticipation over what was in the envelope.

Finally, only the envelope remained. Carefully, he tore through the scotch tape that held it securely shut. As he carefully ran his fingers into the envelope and extracted the contents, a bundle of money fell into his lap. He counted it and discovered the exact amount needed to make his loan payment. His teenage daughter who worked three part-time jobs while attending high school had saved enough to help him do what he couldn’t have done otherwise. Never before had he received a gift like this one.

But Harry’s daughter’s gift—as unselfish as it was—pales in comparison to a greater gift given more than 2,000 years ago. Angels announced this offering to shepherds living in the fields. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David (Luke 2:9-11 NLT)!

Harry reluctantly accepted his daughter’s gift, even though he needed it desperately. She had worked so hard for this money and could have used it to purchase things she wanted. But he honored her unselfishness by slipping it into his pocket and giving her a big hug followed by an “I love you.”

God gave an extremely unselfish gift as well. He gave it with no strings attached. All we must do is willingly accept it, slip it into our hearts, and he’ll do the rest by letting the results of our acceptance change our lives and the lives of others.

*Name changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Wondering Why

And Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?
Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?

Numbers 11:11 NLT

Wondering why often leaves us wondering.

I sat in the car with my daughter’s two children while my wife underwent a physical test. The three-year-old sat in the front seat with me biding his time and asking questions.

“Pop, what is this,” he asked, pointing to one knob on the radio.

“It turns the radio on and makes it louder,” I said, trying to focus on what I was doing.

“Why,” was the next question.

“I don’t know. It just does.”

“What about this button,” he asked as he pointed to a button beside the first knob.

I finally told him all the buttons in that general area worked the radio. My answer still didn’t’ satisfy him.

“Why?” he asked.

After playing this game for every piece associated with the dashboard and exterior mirrors, I finally said, “Pop’s tired of answering questions. I need to work.” He stopped asking questions.

I’m glad he has entered the inquisitive stage and wants to know things. But he’s soon finding out I don’t have an answer for everything he asks, and I do eventually tire of answering his “why” inquiries.

Moses wondered why in the world God had saddled him with caring for more than a million people. People who complained most of the time, who couldn’t get along, who had a tendency to rebel against God, and who on occasion threatened to kill him. God answered his why questions by giving him some help. God wanted those people in the Promised Land, and Moses was the person he chose to lead them there. He didn’t need to know why; he just needed to obey.

God’s ways and will are often a mystery He chooses not to solve in our presence. Perhaps in heaven, He’ll answer some of our “why” questions—but He might not. There is nothing wrong with asking God why, but we must be prepared to experience silence. While God never tires of us asking why, He doesn’t want our why’s to come from disbelief or discouragement but from a desire for more understanding—like Moses.

Don’t be afraid to ask God why, but be prepared to be kept in suspense. Following His will is a faith journey with many unanswered why’s.

Love Fulfills

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 NLT

In a split second, their lives were changed.

Bobby and Jackie were a young couple with a small child. He had been called into youth ministry and was serving in a little church not far from Jackie’s home. Things were going well—until the accident.

Out of nowhere, a truck slammed into their vehicle. Jackie and their infant daughter, Angie, weren’t seriously injured, but Bobby’s life was changed forever. The wreck placed him in a vegetative state for the remainder of his life.

I was told the story when I became Jackie’s pastor. Angie was a young child without a father, Jackie was a young wife and mother who for all practical purposes had no husband, and Bobby lay in a nursing home fifty miles away.

I visited Bobby once a month, and every time one of his family members was present. They all took turns caring for him. Bobby was fed with a tube, but he still needed constant attention. Coughing spells racked his body. Fluids drained from his mouth and nose.

As I watched Bobby’s family tend to his special needs, I realized what the apostle Paul meant. For the committed Jew, the law consisted of the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws, and the laws added by the religious authorities. For Paul, it was simply God’s moral laws, and all of them could be obeyed by merely loving one’s neighbor.

I’ve seen enough love for the wrong reasons. The consequences are never pretty. But loving for the right reason paints a beautiful portrait. I can experience and demonstrate love because Christ has loved me. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and now gives me the opportunity to love for Him.

Loving others sets an example. As I watched Bobby’s family perform the unpleasant parts of caring for an invalid, I was reminded of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The example was inspiring. My loving others gives an example to those who desperately need to see love in action.

When I love my neighbor as myself, I also point them to Christ. My words may not crack the hard shell of someone who doubts or disbelieves in Christ, but it’s hard to argue with acts of love. They say what my words can’t adequately speak.

Just ask, and God will give you myriad opportunities to put love for others into action.