Lessons From Habakkuk

The Old Testament book of the prophet Habakkuk isn’t one that often gets preached. That doesn’t mean, though, that it won’t “preach.” This is evidenced by the fact that it is quoted multiple times in the New Testament.

The apostle Paul particularly loved the book. He closed his sermon at Antioch in Pisidia by quoting Habakkuk 1:5 (Acts 13:41), and he quoted Habakkuk 2:4 in both Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. The verse is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38, if Paul was the writer of Hebrews. These three verses each give us the famous line: “The just shall live by faith.” That line, of course, changed the entire ministry of a Catholic monk named Martin Luther, and in so doing gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.

Commentator William MacDonald describes Habakkuk as “the doubting Thomas of the OT” because of the prophet’s frequent complaints to God about His seeming indifference to the violence, iniquity, and injustice that characterized Habakkuk’s homeland of Judah. Consider the following quotes from Habakkuk:

  • “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save.” (1:2)
  • “Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.” (1:3)
  • “Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” (1:4)

If Habakkuk wanted to get God’s attention with his complaints, it worked. Unfortunately for Habakkuk, it didn’t work the way he wanted it to work. God responded to the prophet’s complaints by explaining that He was raising up the nation of Chaldea (Babylon) to conquer Judah (Habakkuk 1:5-11). Ironically, that explanation prompted a new round of complaints from Habakkuk as the prophet couldn’t believe that God would let a people even more wicked than those of Judah conquer them (Habakkuk 1:12-17). Poor God, He just couldn’t win with Habakkuk.

To answer Habakkuk’s second round of complaining, God assured him that there would come a day when the Babylonians themselves would be brought down by judgment because of their many sins (2:2-20). That assurance was followed by Habakkuk offering a prayer of faith concerning the omnipotence and military might of God (3:1-16). Habakkuk closed his prayer by affirming that he would rejoice in the Lord even in the bleakest times that would be brought about by the Babylonian invasion (3:17-18), and that his trust in the Lord would surely be rewarded as God would renew his strength (3:19).

And so what lessons can we learn from the book of Habakkuk? Allow me to offer ten as I close out this post. Feel free to apply these any way that fits regarding your life.

  1. From an earthly standpoint, the wicked do sometimes triumph over the godly.
  2. God hears the cries of the godly when the wicked rule and justice is perverted,
  3. God doesn’t always send His judgment in the way in which we want Him to send it.
  4. You should be careful what you ask God to do because you might not like how He does it.
  5. God has no qualms about using the wicked to chastise His people.
  6. Even as God uses the wicked in His service, He has plans to judge them.
  7. God’s plans are oftentimes incredibly far reaching.
  8. Only a God as mighty and as omnipotent as God can let things get so ungodly upon the earth and yet remain unthreatened and completely in charge.
  9. The godly should rejoice in the Lord — simply because of Him being who He is — even when times are difficult.
  10. God will strengthen the godly and exalt them in due time.
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When You Can’t See God Working

In his Looking On the Heart expositions from 1 Samuel, Dale Ralph Davis relays the story of a B-17 bombing run over a German city during World War II. As one plane approached the city, it was struck by Nazi antiaircraft flak. The flak hit the bomber’s gas tanks, which should have resulted in the explosion of the tanks and the plane. But no explosion followed. It seemed to be a miracle.

The morning after the raid the pilot went to the crew chief and asked for the shell that had hit the gas tank. The pilot wanted it for a souvenir. The crew chief responded, “Which shell? There were eleven unexploded shells in the gas tank!”

The crew chief then explained that the eleven shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. From there Military Intelligence had gotten involved. And why had Military Intelligence gotten involved? It was because ten of the shells were empty, containing no explosive charges, and the other shell contained only a rolled-up note, written in Czech.

To say that everyone was curious about what that little note said would be an understatement, and so Military Intelligence set themselves to the task of locating someone who could read Czech. Fortunately, they found someone on base who could do so. The note read: “This is all we can do for you now.”

The explanation was obvious. Somewhere under the reign of Nazi Germany, some Czechoslovakians had been forced against their will to work in a munitions plant for the German war effort. These Czechs did not believe in Hitler’s cause, but they weren’t bold enough, strong enough, or organized enough to attempt something radical such as blowing up the plant or assassinating Hitler. So, instead, they simply didn’t put charges in some of the shells they produced.

Davis applies this story by saying the following:

Such is frequently God’s way for his people. Not all his work is noisy or dramatic. We may be tempted to conclude he has abandoned us because we haven’t ears to hear the silent manner of God’s work.

I agree with him that God oftentimes works in a “silent manner” to get His plans accomplished. Christian, you need to remember this whenever you feel that God has ignored your plight and turned a deaf ear to your prayers. No, He hasn’t. It’s just that you can’t see the work He’s been doing for you. But it’s there, and one day (perhaps soon, even very soon) you will be able to see the end result of it all.

Posted in Adversity, Belief, Comfort, Disappointment, Doing Good, Encouragement, Faith, God's Timing, God's Will, God's Work, Impatience, Patience, Perseverance, Problems, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God, Waiting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall & You

One look out my window today proves that fall has arrived. I’ve got a yard full of dead leaves to prove it as they’ve officially made the “fall” from their trees to the ground. I love this season. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Fall is the season of death. The leaves die. The grass dies. The long summer days die. The warm weather dies. Following their deaths, all these things will be buried for the duration of the winter. Then will come spring, the season of new life.

I don’t know what it says about me that fall is my favorite season of the year. A psychologist might tell me it means that I’m more into death than life. Then again, it might be as simple as me hating bees, mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and hot weather. Or since I love baseball, maybe my mind subconsciously associates fall with the Major League playoffs and World Series. For that matter, since October 3rd is my birthday, I don’t necessarily associate fall with death anyway. I associate it with life, at least mine. Take that, Mr. Psychologist.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I reference it often. The passage’s opening two verses say:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die…. (N.K.J.V.)

Perhaps today, as you read this short post, there is something in your life that needs to die. Maybe that something is a pet sin. Maybe it’s a relationship that isn’t God’s will for you. Maybe it’s a mindset that isn’t pleasing to God. Maybe it’s a course of action that you’ve started that God never wants you to finish. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, there is no better time of year to put it to death. If you think about it, God’s symbolism for the death is seen all around us right now.

Posted in Backsliding, Change, Conviction, Creation, God's Will, Personal, Personal Holiness, Repentance, Sanctification, Sin | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Love Language?

My mother attends Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, NC. Dr. Gary Chapman has served on staff there since 1971. He currently holds the position of Senior Associate Pastor. But he is known around the world as the author of “The Five Love Languages” series of books. The first of those books, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, was published in 1992 and has since sold 10 million copies in English and been translated into 49 other languages. It has also spun off other books such as: The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition, The Five Love Languages of Children, and The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition.

According to Dr. Chapman, a love language is a way by which an individual speaks and understands emotional love. It’s how a person not only expresses love toward others but senses love from others. And what are the five love languages? They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation: People who are wired with this love language put great stock in verbal compliments and words of appreciation. They show love by bragging on others, and they feel loved when others brag on them.
  2. Quality Time: People who are wired with this love language prioritize attention. They show love and feel love by turning off the t.v., computer, and phone and engaging in intimate conversations, long walks, or other one-on-one interactions. They see time as the most valuable gift you can give someone.
  3. Receiving Gifts: People who are wired with this love language are all about the exchanging of gifts. The gifts don’t have to be large or expensive, even though they can be. They just have to be from the heart. These people show love by giving a gift to another, and they feel loved when someone gives them a gift.
  4. Acts of Service: People who are wired with this love language believe that actions speak louder than words. If they love you, they will do things for you, and if you want to show them that you love them, you should do something for them. These people tend to be very practical and down to earth.
  5. Physical Touch: People who are wired with this love language are huggers. They like hand-holding, arms around the shoulders, pats on the back, and little kisses on the cheek. It’s all about flesh on flesh. These folks don’t see the need for the concept of “personal space.”

Now,  as you might have guessed, these five love languages oftentimes overlap in the lives of individuals. For example, many people who value quality time also value physical touch. Likewise, many who value receiving gifts also value acts of service. This isn’t hard to understand.

And, yes, the difference between the sexes frequently comes into play in these matters. The stereotypical male will be high on acts of service while the stereotypical female will be high on quality time. Unfortunately, those two love languages don’t usually jive, and this communication gap has been a major contributor in the demise of many marriages. You know, he decides to mow the yard at the very moment she wants to go for a walk.

While most people have traces of all the love languages, Dr. Chapman’s point is that each person majors on one or two. As for me, my two are Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service. If you want to show me that you love me, pay me a compliment or do something for me. Those are the things that register with me the most. And if I pay you a compliment or do something for you, you should know that I care.

My wife, Tonya, can attest to the fact that I’m not much on quality time or physical touch. If you ever see her out for a walk holding hands with a man, you should assume that she’s having an affair. It’s either that or I’ve done something really, really bad and am trying to make up for it.

I’m not so much into receiving gifts either. I’m normal enough to like birthday presents and Christmas packages, but I don’t fly mad if I don’t get them. My mind just doesn’t think that way.

If you have trouble determining what your particular love languages are, here are three questions that can help you decide:

  • If you get a birthday card in the mail, are you more touched by the card itself or the monetary gift inside? The sending of the card speaks to acts of service. The monetary gift speaks to receiving gifts.
  • If your father or mother gives you a big hug and says, “You did a great job,” are you more touched by the hug or the compliment? The hug speaks to physical touch. The compliment speaks to words of affirmation.
  • If you and another person spend the day on a certain project, are you more touched by the fact that the job got done or by the fact that you got to spend all those hours around that person? The finishing of the job speaks to acts of service. The hours spent on the job speak to quality time.

In all my years of preaching on the subjects of marriage, parenting, and relationships in general, I’ve never run across anything better than Dr. Chapman’s five love languages. They really do get right down there where we live. It’s no wonder the books are so popular.

That’s why I encourage you right now to give yourself a quick mental checkup to identify your specific language or languages. Then talk to the people closest to you (your spouse, your children, your mother, your father, and your friends) and ask each of them what he or she feels is his or her language. This will enable you to most effectively show your love for them going forward. And if there is anything this world needs these days, it’s people effectively showing authentic love toward others.

Posted in Children, Family, Fatherhood, Friendship, Individuality, Love, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Something We Can Learn From the Harvey Weinstein Story

I can’t get on the internet these days without seeing a new article about the Harvey Weinstein scandal out in Hollywood. For those of you who might not know, Weinstein has been one of the most powerful men in the movie industry for over thirty years. He and his brother, Bob, co-founded the Miramax production company in 1979, and it quickly became one of the most successful in the movie business. I won’t cite Harvey Weinstein’s resume here, but the fact that Meryl Streep jokingly referred to him as “God” in accepting her 2012 Golden Globe award for her role in The Iron Lady will give you a pretty good idea about Weinstein’s clout.

But that clout is now gone. Last week, The New York Times published an expose in which a number of women, including actress Ashley Judd, accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. A few days later, The New Yorker magazine ran an article, written by Ronan Farrow (the son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow), in which he contended that Weinstein had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted thirteen women, and had raped three of them. In a followup article the same day, The New York Times cited Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow among many actresses who had reportedly had Weinstein make unwanted sexual advances toward them.

In the wake of all these allegations, Weinstein has been fired as co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, and his wife, Georgina Chapman, has announced her intentions to divorce him. It’s even reached the point where Democratic politicians who have accepted donations from Weinstein over the years are now being pressured to return the money. Rarely has the public seen such a swift and complete fall from grace.

Needless to say, a lot of people are writing about Harvey Weinstein today, but I just want to hone in on one fundamental fact that is now bubbling up out of this whole wretched mess. That fact is: Many of the major players in Hollywood — actors, directors, producers, etc. — KNEW about Weinstein for years but kept their mouths shut for fear their careers would be damaged by going public about him. As it turns out, a whole bunch of those Hollywood types who are so good at pushing their moralistic views onto us regular folks aren’t nearly as morally principled as they like to believe. When it comes to their careers, their fame, and their money, they are perfectly willing to look the other way rather than play the role of whistleblower. I think this is why the Weinstein scandal has hit them so hard. It’s laid their hypocrisy bare.

However, before you throw any rocks at the house of Hollywood, you’d do well to examine your own and make sure that it isn’t made of glass. What I mean is, do you have the moral backbone and courage to denounce sin where you find it? What if that denouncing costs you your job? What if it costs you money? What if it costs you family? What if it costs you friends? What if it makes you an outsider in an insider world?

You say, “Oh, I can handle all that.” Okay, then let’s talk about your family. What if your whistleblowing gets your spouse either alienated at work or fired? What if it costs your child playing time or a spot on the team? What if your family has to move because the blowback becomes so intense? Tell me, can you handle all of that? Really?

And here’s the ultimate question for you: If you know going in that your whistleblowing won’t result in the problem getting fixed, will you still speak out simply because it’s the right thing to do? Ah, now we’re getting down to it. Where does logic trump moral outrage? At what point does common sense silence the prophet’s voice? When does personal security take precedent over fixing the world’s problems? Summing it all up, what is your price for going along to get along?

In Ephesians 5:11, the Bible tells us Christians to have no fellowship with (take no part in, have nothing to do with, don’t participate in) the unfruitful works of darkness. While, admittedly, we oftentimes fail at living up to even this first part of the verse, it’s the verse’s second part that really puts us to shame. There we are told that we should expose (rebuke) those works of darkness. That certainly takes the matter to a whole other level, doesn’t it? Staying away from a work of darkness is one thing; raising your voice against it is quite another.

As for the Bible’s record, there are instances where the whistleblower (the rebuker, the exposer) is treated kindly and his message is accepted in the spirit in which it is given. For example, King David responded appreciatively to the prophet Nathan’s rebuke (2 Samuel 12:1-15), and Peter responded rightly to Paul’s (Galatians 2:11-21). Then again, there are other instances where things don’t end well for the whistleblower. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12), the Sanhedrin Council stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:51-60), and the Jews/Romans crucified Jesus.

What the Harvey Weinstein story teaches us is that whistleblowing (rebuking, exposing) is rare. Sure, everyone is jumping off the Weinstein train now, but that’s only because it has derailed. For the past thirty years, as Weinstein was making or breaking careers and winning awards, there certainly wasn’t anything being publicly said or done about his sexual misconduct. But now that the story has broken, A-list actors are taking to their Twitter accounts to issue vanilla, politically correct statements about how appalled they are at his transgressions. And while I don’t doubt that most of them are genuinely appalled, it’s obvious they weren’t appalled enough to speak up until it was safe to do so. You see, that’s the problem with being a whistleblower. If you wait until it’s safe to blow your whistle, you’ll find that it doesn’t work.

Posted in Character, Conscience, Courage, Current Events, Doing Good, Entertainment, Fear, God's Work, Honesty, Personal Holiness, Preaching, Truth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Do It Now

Here’s a true story. A church in San Antonio, Texas, committed to a fundraising drive to build a new building. On a chosen Sunday morning, a special offering would be taken up to help toward reaching the monetary goal. Each member was asked to pray about how much he or she should give.

A couple of days after that announcement was made, a middle-aged man stopped by the pastor’s office. He told the pastor that he and his wife had been praying about what they should give and had decided on the amount of $10,000. The pastor was astonished because he knew this couple well enough to know they weren’t wealthy, and he was even more astonished when the man reached into his pocket, pulled out the money, and laid it on the desk. Evidently the fellow had just come from the bank, where he had arranged for the money.

When the pastor pointed out that the couple might be overextending themselves by donating such a large amount, the man explained the incalculable influence the church had had upon the couple’s life. Both the husband and the wife had been raised in the church. They had met in the church. They had been baptized in the church. They had been married in the church. Their children had been raised in the church, and now their grandchildren were attending there as well. Because of all this, the couple felt they couldn’t give any less than $10,000.

After hearing that, the pastor graciously accepted the gift, but he did ask the man to keep the money and personally place it into the offering plate the designated Sunday morning. But the man wouldn’t agree to that. He said, “Pastor, we already know what God wants us to do — so we want to do it right now while we can. I do expect to be here that Sunday morning, but I believe the time for a fellow to do anything is just as soon as he knows what God wants him to.”

A couple of days later a wealthy local businessman learned that he had to make a trip to California. Since he had a four-passenger plane, he called three of his friends and asked if they would like to join him, free of charge, on the trip. The man who gave the $10,000 was one of the friends. For some reason, the group decided to fly to Denver, Colorado, first, where they landed at Stapleton Airport. The next morning they filed a flight plan for Los Angeles and took off. After that the plane was never seen again. It must have gone down somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

On the Sunday the building-drive offering was taken up, the widow, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, sat in the church sanctuary and watched the pastor place the $10,000 into the plate. She was thankful her husband hadn’t waited to donate the money. If he had he wouldn’t have gotten to experience the earthly joy of personally donating to that offering.

When God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him there, Abraham rose early the next morning and began the journey (Genesis 22:1-3). When the Holy Spirit told Philip to overtake the Ethiopian eunuch’s chariot, Philip ran to do it (Acts 8:29-30). This is the “DO IT NOW” mentality, and it’s something that is sorely lacking among Christians. So, Christian, what is it that God has told you to do? Well, have you done it yet?

Posted in Church, Doing Good, Giving, God's Will, God's Work, Money, Obedience | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

God’s Perspective

A man was having a particularly intimate conversation with God by way of prayer. The man asked, “God, how long is a million years to you?” God answered, “It’s just like a second of time for you, my child.” The man asked, “And what is a million dollars to you, Lord?” God answered, “To me, it’s just like a single penny.” The man asked, “Then Lord, will you give me one of your pennies?” God answered, “Certainly. In a second.”

Perspective. It means everything, doesn’t it? And God’s perspective on just about everything is vastly different than ours. That’s why Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (N.K.J.V.)

I don’t know what you are going through right now, but let me encourage you to stop seeing it through your limited perspective and start seeing it through God’s eternal one. Are you currently enjoying a season of good times when everything is going well for you? Perhaps God is allowing you to take His test of prosperity (which is a difficult test to pass, by the way). Are you dealing with some awful situation and you can’t understand why God hasn’t fixed it yet? Perhaps He is building patience and perseverance into you. Are you facing something that looks completely and utterly hopeless? Perhaps He is enrolling you in His course on faith. On and on I could go with the hypothetical situations and God’s perspective on them, but you get the idea.

One of the best things you can do in the midst of ANY situation — whether it be good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, pleasing or trying — is ask God to help you see it from His perspective. And when He provides that insight, what you’ll probably find is that He has a different agenda than you do for the situation. In other words, you might be trying to get one thing out of the situation, while He is trying to give you something completely different through it. Speaking from personal experience, I can’t tell you how many times He and I have been on different agendas regarding what was going on in my life. I was zigging but He was zagging.

So, wherever this post finds you, put it to use regarding your circumstance. Yes, God’s thoughts are not your thoughts and His ways are not your ways, but that doesn’t mean that His thoughts and ways are not as good as yours. To the contrary, His thoughts and ways are higher than yours, as high as the heavens are from the earth. That means that His thoughts and ways can be trusted even when they don’t make any sense to you. Like I said, you just have to start seeing things from His perspective, not yours.

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Disappointment, Discipleship, Faith, God's Omnipotence, God's Omniscience, God's Will, Impatience, Prayer Requests, Problems, Prosperity, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment