Will my enemies ever depart?

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You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 NASB

I had set aside Saturday morning to do a guided meditation on Psalm 23.  Question number three was: Do you feel anointed, set apart?

I thought I understood the context of this Hebrew word from years of reading through our Bible.  Hasn’t it been kings who were anointed?  In our age, it’s we Christians who have been set apart by God for holiness.  My mind sped to Ephesians 2:10:  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. NASB

When I deep-dived into the Hebrew for ‘anointed – dashan’, I stepped into an entirely different world. For sure, kings have been anointed or appointed for certain roles. The prophet Samuel anointed first Saul as king and then his successor David.

But the first meaning for this Hebrew term staggered me. My Hebrew reference did not mention king-naming but how God ‘fattens’ his people.  Anointing oil moistens our heads, enriching us, prospering us, satisfying us, accepting us.  Look at this context from Proverbs 28:25b, The one who trusts the Lord will prosper (be made fat, be oiled up, be anointed) NASB

Lavishing joy-filling abundance on us is what George Mueller meant when he wrote: “ I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul in to a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished….I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation

What else is in Psalm 23:5 besides oil running down over our heads?  Yes, food, drink and the best company make up that banquet feast spread out for us. Yes, in the presence of all our enemies.

For me, my enemies, my ARCH-enemies are my fears, primarily anxiety about the future. I don’t imagine I’m much different from you.

I know I’m sinning against God when I try to control the future by imagining and planning for possible scenarios. Realistically, I don’t think I can stop myself from flirting with the temptation to figure out and then limit what scares me or fills me with dread.

But as soon as I catch myself falling prey to that fear trap, I can draw back and confess it to Jesus. Because our world 1.0 is broken, full of sinning people(us included) and much evil, enemies will always surround me. What I have taken away lingering in Psalm 23 is the ever-present feast available to those Jesus has anointed.

My practice so far has been to acknowledge the fear, tell the truth about it to Jesus, and ask for his cleansing. Then I make a 180 and direct my attention to the good food prepared to nourish me.  The Lord’s table will never run out.  His helper, the Spirit, keeps the nourishment coming as long as I show up hungry and thirsty. Night or day.

Here’s a glimpse of what fellowshipping at the King of King’s table looks like. Put yourself back in Solomon’s days.  You’re a regular at his table.  The stewards bring in great platters of warm and cold food. Wine flows freely. Nothing runs out because of their attentive service.  The kitchen doesn’t close.

And those deputies provided food for King Solomon and all who came to King Solomon’s table, each in his month; they allowed nothing to be lacking.1 Kings 4:27 NASB

This is our privilege as well. As adopted children, ‘fattened’ and welcomed at the generous table, our God provides constant care for our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions so that we are set up to flourish in his kingdom. Despite the presence of enemies.  Prosperity with enemies still out there is not mutually exclusive.

Feasting on and with Jesus while all those fears linger outside the banqueting house can be my and your reality.  Let’s turn our eyes back to Jesus and his good gifts.

Is it ‘okay’ to retire?

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What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4: 7 NIV

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKVJ

Mike and I have been praying and planning about when he should retire.  I left my full-time teaching job in March 2019 when God moved us here to Huntsville.  Mike has continued working full time as a senior systems engineer.

Now, for many reasons, he wants to retire. This is not a decision we are rushing into.  Prudently, we have met with financial advisors. It does appear that Mike can stop having to work for income. What a privileged position that the Lord has granted us!

One quality I appreciate in my husband is that he is not a workaholic.  Western culture and especially America in the 21st century appear to esteem endless work.  Most men we know boast in how long they work each day. Putting in hours at night or over the weekend appears to be a badge of honor.  Mike is counter cultural.  He likes time at home with me to talk, think, read, exercise and pursue other interests.  His identity is not tied up with his productivity at the office. I’m so glad.

If God indeed grants him to retire, he’ll be 65 and 4 months. Assured of the financial viability of this change, I see Mike cautiously allowing himself to enjoy looking forward to the day when he can exercise more choice in how to invest time and energy. Instead of needing to support us through full-time work, we are now talking about ‘energizing joy’ as a way to choose how to invest his God-given talents, gifts and experiences.

But he is still hesitant to take anything for granted. The other night as we started chatting and fixing dinner, Mike mentioned how he didn’t want to be like that prosperous fool in Jesus’ parable. (Luke 12: 13-21) You know the scene Jesus depicted, that of a prosperous man salivating over his vision of tearing down his barns to build a larger storage facility to protect his wealth, his retirement.

I reassured my hard-working husband with this observation. His eagerness to acknowledge all that we have as God’s gifts to enjoy and steward, to be received with thanksgiving, points to a healthy fear of the Lord.

Mike has endured decades of ‘thorns and thistles’ in his work.  He has endured those times by God’s grace and experienced periodic days of satisfaction, but no real joy.  I think the idea that we should ‘find our bliss’ in our work sets up many for disappointment.  Work is for feeding your family, providing a useful service to society and other important reasons.  If you enjoy your work, that is icing on the cake.

Should retiring people feel guilty for enjoying some God-given peace and ‘prosperity’? No!  Read what the Lord teaches his people who look to him, who trust him, who follow him:

Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands…..Deuteronomy 30:9 NIV

God promises that there are times of refreshment and prosperity where thorns and thistles do not get the upper hand.  This is what I believe retirement can be.  I am encouraging my earnest, hard-working, precious husband to look forward with hope as he trusts the Lord with this next phase.  There are times when our Father delights to give us work that yields abundant harvests, satisfies us and meets needs of other people, all for his glory and the spread of the kingdom.

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