Secret Shame Exposed!

The time had come to expose the family’s secret shame. Daddy is an alcoholic. Although he is now dead, I never stop thinking, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Probably because I am so much like my father (minus the alcoholism), I never do anything halfway. So I proclaimed the truth to the entire world in my book, Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father.

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Ethan Who?

Ethan who? Ethan the Ezrahite, that’s who! He was quite a big shot in his day, but he didn’t toot his own horn. However, he could be heard sounding a mean cymbal. And it goes without saying he was a chief choirmaster where everybody who’s anybody went to worship.

In addition, he was renown for his singing and composing. One of his songs even got published in the best-selling book of all time.

Besides being an acclaimed musician, Ethan was the wisest man ever. That is, until he was eclipsed by Solomon when he became king and God gifted him with being “wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite” (1 Kings 4:31 NIV).

Another strong Biblical personality was overshadowed by a newcomer on the scene. John the Baptist didn’t have a problem slipping to second place, however, saying of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV). This itinerant preacher wisely accepted the waning of his role to prepare people’s hearts for the impending Messiah.

As the son of a priest, John the Baptist would have been familiar with the song Ethan had composed hundreds of years before his birth. No doubt he was aware of stanza six, in which Ethan the Ezrahite sang of the spiritual kingdom of the future Messiah–Jesus Christ, the Son of David, father of Solomon:

For I have sworn to David (and a holy God can never lie) that his dynasty will go on forever, and his throne will continue to the end of time. It shall be eternal as the moon, my faithful witness in the sky! (Psalm 89:36-37 TLB).

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How To Steal from God

There is something of God’s that is easy to steal. So easy that God issued a strong warning against taking it:  “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NASB).

Even Jesus respected His Father’s rightful ownership of revenge and did not touch it:  “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV).

No matter how much we want revenge or eye getting it as justifiable, God says, “That’s Mine. All of it. Keep your hands off!”

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Righting a Wrong

“Get out!” Darius shouted, slapping the fruit tray out of his servant’s trembling fingers. “And take those dancing girls with you!” He was in no mood for wine and women tonight. How could he–ruler of this entire empire–let himself be outsmarted? Why hadn’t he suspected their ulterior motive?

He had handpicked every one of those territorial administrators. He had no idea they would band together and back  him into a corner. He should have seen through their conspiracy before it was too late. He should have realized they were out to destroy Daniel. That they would do anything to keep him from becoming prime minister. They weren’t about to let a man of sterling integrity have access to their financial files.

So they duped Darius into signing a law that he was helpless to rescind. Not that he hadn’t tried to think of an out.

All day long, like a trapped animal, Darius twisted and turned for a way to deliver Daniel from the death sentence. When the sun set, he gave up. There was no way out. He must go through with the execution, as the cutthroat conspirators smugly reminded him:  “But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, ‘You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed’” (Daniel 6:15 CEB).

Now his most trusted advisor was locked in a pit with lions. And the only thing he could do was say to Daniel, “‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!’” (Daniel 6:16 ESV).

As soon as his distressful, sleepless night passed on to dawn, Darius hurried to the death chamber. There he discovered that Daniel’s God had indeed delivered him.

Darius had been outsmarted but not outsourced:

And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces (Daniel 6:19 ESV).

Are we alert to doing the right thing? It is to our good that we are:  “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17 ESV).

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One Ancient Would-Be Attorney

His was an open-and-shut case. There was not a shred of evidence to convict him. Nothing would prove he had done anything wrong to warrant what happened: losing his social standing, his wealth, his health, and his children. Yes, he still had his wife. But like his friends, she, too, had turned against him . . . and worse. She yelled at him to curse God and die.

Instead, convinced his heart was pure, Job determined to stand on his oath of innocence and defend himself in the highest court. He was confident that his record would withstand God’s examination. The all-knowing Judge would acquit him, and his accusers would hear the just verdict. But when? Way too long for his thinning patience, he had been pleading for a day in court:

But I desire to speak to the Almighty  and to argue my case with God. . . . Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. . . . Then summon me and I will answer,  or let me speak, and you reply to me (Job 13:3, 15, 22 NIV).

If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!  I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me (Job 23:3-5 NIV).

Job did get his day in court, but he did not get the first word. The Almighty claimed that:  “And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said:  ‘Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!’”(Job 38:1-4 MSG).

With that as His opening statement, Yahweh God presented the unfathomable wonders of His Sovereignty. He exhibited His authority and power as Designer, Creator, and Sustainer. Then He examined Job:  “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2 NIV).

The would-be attorney was slack-jawed when faced with God’s indisputable facts. Knowing he was clearly out of his league, he said:  “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5 NIV). Job admitted he is not God’s equal:

I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head (Job 42:2-4 MSG).

When, like Job, we acknowledge that God is sovereign, we rest in God’s prerogative to do whatever He wants with His creation. We trust God that He knows what He’s up to.

Who are we to question the Almighty? He has reasons embraced in His pure wisdom that may never be known to us in our finite understanding. The basic premise is:  “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).

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Reflecting

Did the faces of the privileged three reflect what they had seen? Why not? The experience had surpassed what happened to Moses when he reflected the brilliant light of God:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:29-30 NIV).

But that was after God had engraved the Ten Commandments on stone for the second time. Why hadn’t Moses’ face glowed when he carried the Decalogue down the mountain the first time? He had been in the presence of God then too.

Maybe Moses’ glowing face was a result of what he requested of God before the law was set in stone again. He asked to see God’s glory. And it was God’s glory that those privileged three had seen:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light (Matthew 17:1-2 ESV).

When Jesus and His hand-picked three came down the mountain the next morning, the people “were overwhelmed with wonder” (Mark 9:15 NIV). Was that because Jesus’ face was shining residual celestial glory? Wouldn’t the faces of Peter, James, and John have looked different also even if not to the same degree? They had been in the very presence of God.

Jesus’ Transfiguration revealed to Peter, James, and John the unadulterated majesty of His divinity. Moses’ radiant face, a lesser transfiguration, beamed to his fellow Israelites that he had been with God. You and I, through drawing closer to God, can have an internal transfiguration that reflects Him in our spheres of living:

“All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 CEV).

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The Sober Year

Daddy did more than stay sober my eighth-grade year. He also went to church, and he went without missing a Sunday. To an outsider, sobriety and religion may look like a blissful combination. To me–an insider–it was anything but.

Words erupting from my father’s mouth in volcanic rage each inch of the mile to church were the same trash that spewed out when he was drunk. Not only was I frozen in familiar fear, I was confused. Why was he being Mr. Hyde? Daddy was sober. Why wasn’t he Dr. Jekyll?

Halfway through that year, one thing changed. A baby boy usurped my two-year-old sister’s space on Mama’s lap. My three other brothers and I still sat stony silent in the back seat while Daddy’s loud curses blanketed the newborn too.

And thus our family went to church Sunday morning after Sunday morning until my father received a pin acclaiming perfect Sunday school attendance. He seemed eerily glad when he stated, “I’m not going back. They’re a bunch of hypocrites.”

From that point on, my father attended church occasionally. His drunken sprees outnumbered those. There was one redeeming event, however, in that sober year.

It was when my mother was going to give birth to my fourth brother. She stood stoically at the stair landing, ready for Daddy to take her to the hospital. All of a sudden, she shrieked. My father rushed across the room, reached his arms around her, and moaned, “Ohhhh, does it hurt?”

That was the first time I saw Daddy embrace Mama or show her a hint of affection. His flickering tender moment for my mother has never gone out in my heart.

How true is the proverb:  “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 ESV)!

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Paul’s Phobia

Paul? Not Paul of all people! It couldn’t be true that the first-century missionary with the get-in-your-face personality had a deep-seated anxiety!

But Paul himself identified it in one of his letters to the Corinthians:

I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (2 Corinthians 12:21 NASB)

It’s hard to imagine the Apostle Paul being afraid of anything, let alone that God would humiliate him. Just a few paragraphs earlier, he  had written matter of factly and without an iota of complaint:

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:25-28 NASB)

And that’s only a sample of what Paul had been through! So why was he hounded with the fear that God would humiliate him? From the reports Paul had been getting, his work to build up the fledgling church in Corinth had not taken root. He was frightened that at his next visit he would be filled with shame unless the insincere Christians had made a reversal and straightened up their lives.

If they had not chosen the right way by then, God would allow him to stand before them demoralized. While facing that abject possibility, however, one little word signals that Paul was not done in. It’s the word “my.”

When Paul writes “my God,” he is assuring himself he has God’s abiding presence even if the dreaded scenario plays out. Paul places his faith, hope, and love in the God he worships and serves. The God he knows from experience. He may not like God’s design at the moment, but he will acquiesce to it.

Whatever the outcome of that visit was, Paul did not let go of “my God.” Five or so years later, he sent these positive words to the Philippian church:  “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB).

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The Reluctant Warrior and the Other Woman

Barak couldn’t believe his ears! So this is why the judge had summoned him! Maybe he should be flattered that out of thousands of men she had selected him, but her proposal was preposterous. He didn’t want anything to do with it. What was she thinking? Their nation didn’t have the resources to win that war!

General Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots at his disposal. And how many did they have? Exactly none. Even if he could muster an army, the campaign was doomed to defeat! For twenty years King Jabin had tyrannized them. They couldn’t rid themselves of him now. Not with that savage general at his command and those invincible war machines.

What Deborah suggested didn’t make sense. But then . . . it was the product of a woman’s brain.

The second he thought it, Barak felt a stab of shame. He wasn’t being fair. Deborah had taken the job that a man wouldn’t. Everyone–himself included– respected her for her levelheadedness and wisdom in settling their disputes. But why would she come up with this cockamamie idea that they could be free from foreign oppression?

Yes, there was that part where she said the message had come to her from the LORD God of Israel. He couldn’t dismiss that. It was common knowledge that Deborah, unlike her three male predecessors, had the gift of prophecy. Well, we’d see just how much she believed in this foolhardy venture. He’d put her to the test:  “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go” (Judges 4:8 NIV).

Her reply was as sure and quick as a well-spent arrow:  “‘Certainly I will go with you,’ said Deborah. ‘But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman’” (Judges 4:9 NIV).

That was fine with him. He was man enough to let her get the credit (if there was going to be any). After all, she wasn’t just any woman. Deborah was already a highly respected leader. What did he care if she got another accolade?

But Barak had miscalculated. Deborah was not prophesying of herself. Another woman would kill the terrifying General Sisera:

Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead (Judges 4:22 NIV).

Jael and Barak

Now you know how Jael was the other woman in the rest of the story (What’s Up with the Right Hand?).

 

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What’s Up with the Right Hand?

Uh-oh, she thought, as the lone, distant shape she was watching from her tent’s door advanced close enough for her to recognize him as King Jabin’s formidable army general. Ha! Hunched over, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other, the slice-and-dice commandant was now looking  like something the cat dragged in.

Um, this could mean only one thing. The battle hadn’t  gone his way. But what to do? Her husband was nowhere to be found. She must think fast.

Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket (Judges 4:18 NIV).

When the bedraggled warrior requested water, Jael brought him curdled goat’s milk instead and waited expectedly for her next move.

While he was sleeping from exhaustion, Heber’s wife Jael took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died (Judges 4:21 HCSB).Jael

After the ultimate decimation of Sisera’s army, Jael was praised that “she reached for a tent peg, her right hand, for a workman’s mallet” (Judges 5:26 HCSB). It is striking that “right hand” is used in the victory song but not in the narrative. Why? Because when the event was preserved in poetry, there was more meaning at stake than the mere mention of a specific side of the body.

Have you ever heard such phrases as “right hand of fellowship,” right hand of the Lord,” “right hand of power, and “right hand of righteousness”? All of these are grounded in the Bible but do not refer to human anatomy.

When it’s robed in symbolism, “right hand” represents strength and honor. David said as much in one of his songs: “I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8 HCSB).

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The Faith of the Prodigal Son

True, the prodigal son is a fictional character. But that fact does not rob him of universal value. For his story was the brainchild of the Son of God, Who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6 ESV). In His short time on earth, Jesus did not waste a moment or a syllable. The earthly stories He created and told contain everlasting truths.

You may recall the prodigal as the arrogant, willful younger son who demanded his share of the inheritance before his father died. With it in hand, he  left home for faraway places and wasted every penny on wild living. When he could no longer live high on the hog, he hired himself out as a swineherd, living so low that he lusted for the food the pigs ate.

Then the young man’s faith kicked in. Not, however, the come-what-may faith that would endure anything and everything.

While wallowing in the mud with hogs, he thought about home. The prodigal son remembered that, when he left, his father had not shut the door. Never had his father told him, “This door swings only one way. If you leave, don’t ever come back.”

Realizing that the door to his father’s house swung both ways was the faith that the wayward son latched onto. He could change his mind. He could turn around and go home. So he said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’” (Luke 15:18 ESV).

In his repentance, the son’s mind scripted that as soon as he saw his father, he would also say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But let me be like one of your hired workers” (Luke 15:19 ESV). That, though, is not how his father would ever think of him, for “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 ESV).

The father, beside himself with joy, immediately gave his returning son a top-notch homecoming party, because “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24 ESV). The son whose fellowship he hungered for had come home, and nothing was too good for him.

When we choose to come home to God the Father, He welcomes us with unconditional love and acceptance.

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