Category Archives: Glory Above All

Psalm 54 – Self Reliant or God Reliant?

Appreciating Psalm 54 is all about knowing what was happening when it was written.  The notes for the psalm explain that it was written, “When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’”

So we have to read about David’s encounter with the Ziphites.  This story is in the last part of I Samuel 23, but we can get an even better picture of what’s going on by reading the whole exciting chapter!  I know, I know.  You’re short on time.  I’ll summarize it for you.

David at this point is with a group of about 600 men who have thrown in their lot with him.  They are playing a deadly game of hide and seek with Saul and his army.  And then David hears that the Philistines are raiding one of the Jewish border towns, Keilah,and stealing their grain.

keilah2

Man from Kielah entreating David to help.

David has such an awesome heart.  He wants to take his band of men and rescue the people of Kielah.  But his guys are like, “What?  We’re quaking in our boots because Saul’s army is breathing down our necks, and you want to take on the whole Philistine army?”  So David consults the Lord, twice, and the Lord assures him that he will totally win.

Thus they engage in a skirmish with the Philistines.  David’s forces pound them and free the town of Kileah. Yay!

Of course, just as his men feared, this puts David on Saul’s radar.  Saul’s rubbing his hands together with glee, thinking, “Ha!  I have David in a walled in city now.  Now I can finally get him!”

walled-in-city

Walled in city

Saul sends his army in that direction.  David realizes Saul is coming, and knows this will put the people of Kielah in a dicey situation.  Will they stand with him, or give him over to their king?  He asks the Lord, and the Lord lets him know it’s time to cut and run.  So David and his men manage to slip away before Saul’s army arrives.  They hightail it to the hill country of Ziph.

ziph

The hills of Ziph — a pretty hostile environment!

Foiled, Saul’s army keeps looking for David to no avail, because God is helping David out.  But then the residents of Ziph betray David, and clue Saul in to David’s location.  Armed with this new information, Saul closes in on David.  He’s on one side of the mountain and David’s on the other.  It seems like it’s all over.  David will finally be captured.  And then, just in the nick of time, Saul gets an urgent message that he has to go fight the Philistines.  So he and his army exit the area.  Whew!

Here’s the first half of the psalm David wrote when he was going through all of this:

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!

Defend me with your might.

Listen to my prayer, O God.

Pay attention to my plea.

For strangers are attacking me;

violent people are trying to kill me.

They care nothing for God.

Can’t you just pictures the situation from what David says here?  He’s like, “Please help me, God.  And I’m going to need you to bring the big guns because I’m in this barren desert place, and it’s not just Saul and his army who are after me, now the local bad guys, who don’t even know me, are against me!”

Psalms 54 goes on:

Surely God is my help;

the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Let evil recoil on those who slander me;

in your faithfulness destroy them.

I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;

I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.

You have delivered me from all my troubles,

and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes

Notice how proactive David believes God will be.  God is the one who will help him, defend him, deliver him, sustain him, and destroy the enemy.  Not once does David ask God for the ability to do these things himself.  He believes God will do them.

In the end David says his eyes have looked in triumph on his foes. He could have been remembering past victories given by God.  But I like to think David wrote this at the end of the present story.  I envision his scouts coming and reporting, “We can’t figure it out, but Saul’s army is headed the other way.  They’re leaving.”

David does a fist pump. “Yes! Praise God!” And he turns and shouts to the hills, as if the people of Ziph can hear him, “Hey, chumps.  You thought you were going to mess with me, but you were messing with the Lord!  You picked the wrong side!”

It’s fun to think about, but whatever happened, we know that David gave God the total glory.   He attributed victory to the Lord, and exalted him.

So here are four things we can take away from this story and psalm:

Pray before taking action.  When we’re making decisions about which way to go, we need to remember to first pray about it and ask God for guidance.

Be God reliant, not self reliant.  David didn’t depend on his own wisdom or power.  He put all his eggs in God’s basket.  God was his resource for guidance.  God was his strategy.  God was his weapon. God was his solution.

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom

or the strong boast of their strength

or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:

that they have the understanding to know me. . . (Jeremiah 9:23-24a)

Deliverance often comes when things seem at their worst. David wasn’t rescued until the 11th hour.   It’s often the same for us.  I was just thinking over my life, and remembering some of the most encouraging ways God acted.  Some of the greatest things from God came on the heels of my greatest times of trial.

I have an illustration I want to share.  Last year we had some tremendous blessings in our church, but there were also some challenging times.  In the fall, several of our members who were dear friends and hard workers moved away or quit coming.  And then another church started meeting at the same hotel where we had been meeting for the past eight years.  We were happy to share our space.  But this church took up the common areas, and played loud music that invaded our services.  Loud bass was vibrating while we were trying to take communion.

It was a low point.  We saw the writing on the wall — we would have to find a new place to meet.  We prayed that we could somehow find a location that would be cheap, close to the interstate, and amenable to us bringing food for fellowships. This was a tall order!

And then, out of the blue, our women’s leader, Marge, was getting a rental car and happened to see the VFW building next door.  “I wonder if we could rent that?”  she said to  herself.  It took a lot of tracking down to find the right person to talk to, but when we did, they said they were looking for renters!

So two weeks ago we had our first service in our new location, and we loved it!

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It was warm and homey.  We had coffee and snacks as we fellowshipped.   What had seemed like a setback had turned into a new start.  Our hearts were full of gratitude to God.

And that brings me to my last point about Psalms 54 —

Give total glory to God.  When things work out, let David be our inspiration.  Let’s break out into wholehearted praise!  How can we give the credit to anyone or anything but the Lord?  It is God who gives us the victory. He will continue to do so, as we completely rely on him.  And when he does, we will lift up his name with thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  II Cor 2:14a

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Filed under Faith, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Psalms, Surrender

Psalm 34 — Praising At All Times

What a harrowing time it was when David wrote Psalm 34!  He was fleeing for his life.  He tried to hide in some region called Gath, but people there were wise to him.  So David started acting like he was stark raving mad!  Here’s how the Message version describes it:

When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard.  I Sam 21:13

Can you imagine?  David really threw himself into his performance.  He was smashing his noggin on things and slobbering.  It would have been funny to watch, if it wasn’t so scary!

And in the midst of all of this, he wrote something astounding:  “I will praise the Lord at all times.” (Ps 34:1)  How could he write this while he was in fear for his life?  He could because he wasn’t fixated on his troubles, he was fixated on the awesomeness of God!

Several years ago I put the first part of Psalm 34 to music.  Here is the first stanza of my rendition:

I will praise the Lord at all times

His praise will always fill my voice

My soul will boast in the Lord

The righteous will hear and they’ll rejoice

Oh magnify the Lord with me and lift high his name in harmony.

Join with me to praise the Lord, exalting his name with one accord.

I love that David was determined to not only keep praising God, but to even boast in him, even magnify him.  That means that David kept on singing about how magnificent God was, and the more he did, the greater God became in his eyes.

Do I do that? Do I magnify God?

It has been a challenging week for me. I found out that my daughter and grandkids are moving to Chicago.  My beloved uncle in New Mexico passed away.  Another family member is going through some struggles.  My emotions are all over the place.

So what do I need to do?  I need to do what David did!  I’ve been working on being thankful, but I need to take that a step further and praise God more and more!  I need to start boasting that he is with me, and he’s going to take of me and my problems.  I need to get others to praise him with me for all the incredible things he has done and will do.

I sought the Lord and he replied, delivered me from all I dread

Those who look to him are radiant, and shame shall never bow their head.

Just as David could be radiant when he was in mortal danger, I can have a heart of joy when I focus on God, and not my problems.

And David was right to be radiant.  He knew God was the deliverer, and God did deliver him by allowing him to escape Gath unscathed.

“Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.”  (I Sam 21:14- 22:1a)

Will God deliver me as well?

The poor man cried, the Lord heard him, delivered him from all his woes.

The Lord’s angel encamps around the men who fear him, he rescues those.

Taste and see that the Lord is good and blessed is the man who takes refuge.

Lions grow weak and hungering, but those who seek God lack no good thing.

Isn’t it incredible to think of an angel protecting us on all sides, vigilant and ever ready?

Why then am I so insecure, so fearful?  Why do I navigate life like I’m walking through a minefield?  Why do I hunker down and protect myself?

God is the only protection that works!  Can I taste and see that he is good? Can I walk towards him instead of retreating and hiding?  Can I climb trustingly into his invisible arms?

And who among you desires life, and longs to age and see many good days?

Then keep your tongue from all evil words, and let no falsehood from your lips stray.

What a minute!  David is changing directions here.  The focus has moved from looking at the greatness of God, to looking at what a man’s behavior should be.  The song I wrote ends with the couplet above.  But the psalm David wrote goes on in this vein:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

David had to have be thinking about his own life, thinking of the battles he fought to not give into the dark side, to not be hateful, to not be overwhelmed with anger and bitterness.

David must have seen how God took care of him as he held onto his integrity.  This motivated him to rally others to fight for their integrity as well.  “Good leads to good, and bad to bad!” he exhorted them.

Evil will slay the wicked;

the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

It sounds like a no brainer.  Of course we need to keep doing the right thing.  So why is it hard?  Why is there a spiritual principle of entropy?  We do we blink and find ourselves going the wrong way?

For me, I get tired and overwhelmed.  I start slacking on taking the positive steps.

So these words of Psalm 34 are a great reminder.  As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  If I let up the fight and give into the dark side, there will be repercussions.

As I close this blog, I want to talk about two lines of the psalm near the end that have been puzzling me.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The lines seem like they don’t fit in.  David’s done such a good job of praising God, and talking about how God takes care of the righteous.  I have the impression that David has it figured out and feels great in spite of his challenges.

Then he talks about the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. Whoa.  This is gut level raw.  It’s like the hidden pain in David’s heart erupts.

And as I meditated on these words, in the end, they rang true.  David had to leave his wife and his best friend.  He left his home and his career.  His former friends and family were stalking him.  He was forced to run from place to place, and do things to survive like bang his head against walls.  His anguish went deep.

Trusting in God doesn’t instantly mend a broken heart.  It helps, but we still bleed inside.

I would have been different than David.  I would have told myself, “God is awesome.  So you’re supposed to have faith and be doing better.  Don’t let yourself give into despair.”

But David was the opposite.  He let it out and gave name to his pain.  He saw that his pain showed him how desperately he needed God.  He was confident that God wouldn’t be repelled by his mess of emotions, but would instead draw closer to him.  He knew God’s heart would be moved to help him.

That inspires me more than anything.  Yes, I want to magnify God.  Yes, I want to do the right thing.  But what I really want is to be gut level honest with God and say that I hurt.  I’m scared.  I feel lost and abandoned.

And when I do, I want to hear God saying, “It’s okay.”  I want to feel him drawing me into his embrace.  I want to know that he’s marshaling his heavenly armies to deliver me.

That is what truly inspires me to praise God without ceasing.

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Filed under Battle Against Evil, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Psalms, Strength in God

Six Practical Ways to Make Jesus Lord

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:   ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’    David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

The large crowd listened to him with delight.  Mark 12:35-37

Jesus is talking here about the Jews’ expectation of the messiah.  The teaching tradition was that the messiah would be a king who was a decedent of David.  The classic  prophesy of scripture they used involved God promise to David in II Samuel:

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  . . . Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”  II Sam 7:12-16

Jesus amazed them by pointing out scriptures that teach that the messiah would be called Lord, not just a leader.

This was a radical, life changing concept — for the people back then, and for us today.

Because you can admire a great king, you can pledge fealty to him.

But you don’t worship him.  You don’t see him as divinity. You don’t live in complete subservience to him in every area of your life.

It wasn’t the first time this concept had been introduced in the time of Jesus.  What did the angel tell the shepherds?

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  Luke 2:12

The angel proclaimed it.  Jesus came to be God on earth.

And later Jesus would confirm it:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  Matt 28:18

The messiah would not just be a regent to pay homage to.  He would not just be a leader to follow.  He would be the Lord, to whom every knee should bow.

Today, can we treat Jesus as our leader, but not our Lord?  Do we want to follow him, but not bow down to him in every area of our lives?

Here are six practical ways to make him Lord:

  • Get up early enough to spend time with God.  Start your day with putting God first.  I have done this for 25 years, and it is an awesome blessing.   That doesn’t mean it comes easily.  Even after all this time.  I still have to battle for it, especially for a focused prayer time.  But making it happen makes every day go better.
  • Watch your tongue.  This is so difficult for me lately.  I have been feeling negative and critical, and I find myself saying negative things about others.  It feels like I’m teething, and I want to bite something.  I also catch myself loving to tell juicy stories about others that I wouldn’t want to repeat to their face.  I definitely have to guard my mouth.
  • Reach out to someone at least once each day.  Be outward focused and seek to connect with others by texting, calling, emailing, and even better, actually getting with someone.  Don’t just let social media be your interaction!  Don’t let your schedule get more important than people.  Love others as He loves us.
  • Submit to one another.   Married women, let your husband lead, regardless of his competence to do so, and TRUST that this is God’s plan.  I have been married 34 years and I KNOW this is the best way.  If you fight for your own way, you are fighting against God.  Everyone, married or not, submit to one another out of reverence for God.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Don’t have to have your own way.
  • Seek and save the lost.  I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs since I first started seeking God when I was 16, and I can state with certainty, life is always better when I’m making a concerted effort to bring others to Christ.  There is just something about changing someone’s life forever, and getting close to them in the process, that is the most fulfilling thing ever.  But doing this is also the HARDEST THING.  It really takes a conscious effort every day, every instance, to deny self and make Jesus Lord.  If you think it’s difficult for you because it’s not your gift, think again.  It’s hard for all of us.  But it will bring you the greatest blessings.
  • Fight for your heart.  I’m just telling you from experience, you’ve got to get in there and tackle this stuff.  Battle the bad attitudes that rise up every day.  Wrestle with your laziness and lack of motivation.  Don’t let moodiness control you.  All these things will arise, but don’t give into them.  Don’t let them be the status quo.  Fighting for your heart is one of those things that seem hard to do at the time, but believe me, it’s worse if you don’t deal with it.  Remember, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Heb. 12:15)  A bad attitude GROWS and messes you up, and also hurts others.

Today, people still think that the scriptures teach that God plans to build a physical kingdom through the nation of Israel.  If you’re interested in exploring what the Bible says about this, here is a great article.

But Jesus came to do much more.  He came to establish a spiritual kingdom, where he would be King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  (Rev. 17:14)

And his rightful place would be on the throne of our lives and hearts.

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Discipleship, Glory Above All, Mark

Blessed Be the Name

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,  “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  Mark 11:7b-10

It’s so easy to be a fair weather worshiper.  Just like these people at the triumphal entry, when things are going well, we’ll happily give glory to God.

But of course, very soon after this, these same people did an about face and shouted for Jesus to be crucified.

When things aren’t going as expected, how quickly we turn.

I’ve realized something lately.  God is most truly glorified when He is praised in the midst of life’s trials.

I feel like it’s the same principle as goodness.  How can someone be “good” unless they have a choice?    True goodness is displayed when, although they could do bad, they CHOOSE to do good.

In the same way, how is it impressive to praise God when things are going well?  At least we aren’t taking credit for the good things, but giving it to God.  And we should thank Him for the good things.  But when we declare that God is real and good in our darkest times, THAT has impact.

Nothing illustrates this better than the story of Job.  Satan accuses Job before God of being a fair weather worshiper, snidely suggesting, “But now stretch out your hand and strike everything (Job) has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 1:11

And so God gives Satan permission, and Job loses everything he has.  But when this happens, Job doesn’t curse God, he says, “The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”  (Job 1:21)

This is so powerful!

In the end, God indignantly demands, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?  Job 38:2. 

And Job replies, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  Job 42:3

The wonderfulness of God surpasses everything.  It trumps all our ills and complaints.  No matter what, He is still the I AM, the ALPHA and OMEGA, the CREATOR of the vast universe.

He is always, in every circumstance, to be praised.

The Bible is full of examples of people who bring true glory to God, who worship him in the valley — like Abraham, Joseph, Joshua and Daniel.  And how about Paul, who sung while in chains, and said while in prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!”  (Phil 4:4)

So now, while I see ebbing in the church, while I decline with age, while I see things go wrong around me, I PRAISE the Lord with everything in me!

It is but what I am created to do.   It is what He is due.  It unequivocally declares to the world the He is real and He is good.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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Filed under Glory Above All, Mark

Worship that Erupts into our Daily Lives

The tradition of washing hands.

The tradition of washing hands.

Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.’ . . .  He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! . . Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God’s word.  Mark 7

I love this God’s Word translation of this passage from Mark 7.

We read this selection from Mark 7 all the time when we study the Bible with people, so I almost wanted to skip over it in my study of Mark.  But as I’ve looked at it, my heart has been struck by how much God wants us to do things by HIS blueprint, and not put our own spin on things.

It’s important that we dig into the Bible and seek out what God’s blueprint is.

So I started to look at what God intends for worship to be.  I read a great article by Michael Morrison that gave me perspective.

Morrison said, “The English word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.”  So worth-ship is the quality of having worth or of being worthy. When we worship, we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. . . .  We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.”

We know from Romans 12:1 that we give our whole life in worship to God — “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

Thus, everything about our life needs to be about worship, DECLARING that God has supreme WORTH.  Everything we do needs to shout out that God is awesome, we will put Him first.

Our purpose is to praise Him:  “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”  I Peter 2:9

In what specific ways did the people of the Bible worship God?

In the early days, they sacrificed to him.  Morrison pointed out that the patriarchs didn’t have many rules to follow in sacrifice, but one concept was very important — the commandment that they shall put no gods before GOD.  It has always been that God is to be shown the most worthy.

A replica of the altar where sacrifices to God were made.

A replica of the altar where sacrifices to God were made.

At the time of Moses they were given many more specifics about how to worship God, but the most important part was this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deut 6:6-7

Worship for God was loving Him with every bit of your being.  EVERYTHING was to be about God.  Nothing came ahead of Him.

And the Word of God also became an important part of worship.  You were to teach it to your children in all sorts of ways.

Teach children about God.

Teach children about God.

In New Testament times we see in Acts 2 the example of the first church worshiping:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Worship included:

  • The Word
  • Fellowship
  • Communion
  • Prayer
  • Praise

It’s pretty cool that there is SO MUCH here that is relational.  The believers spend tons of time together.  They share possessions.  They give up their stuff to help each other.  They eat together.

It looks like a LARGE part of worship is ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT with our brothers and sisters!

 

Worshiping at the Auburn Amphitheater

Worshiping at the Auburn Amphitheater

And I think this extends to everyone, not just believers.  We are not just to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, but also love our neighbor as ourselves.  Think of the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10.  And remember what Jesus said in Matt. 25:40.   ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

In the end, worship is like everything else in Christian life — it’s really about the HEART. 

We want to make it about what we DO.  And we come up with all kinds of ways to DO more, put our own spin on things, just like the Pharisees did in Mark 7.  We have jam packed worship services with electronic music and multi-media.  We read books, and attend seminars and small groups.  And I’m not saying any of these things are wrong, they can be good.

But worship is an attitude.  It is a face constantly turned towards God, a heart at praise, a mind fixed on Him, a soul overflowing.

Worship erupts into our daily life.  As day after day the sky pours forth speech (Ps 19:2),  our actions pour forth the speech that God is awesome, He is alive, He cares deeply and faithfully for us.  We say it with our joy and hope.  We say it with our other centered deeds.  We say it when we deny self.  We say it when we persevere.

And of course, we proclaim it full force when we sing!  That’s a vital area of worship. “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”  Eph 5:19

God’s blueprint for worship is that our lives declare that HE is the ONE, the only way.  Everything in us yearns to find fulfillment, meaning, purpose.  It’s so easy to let the things around us fill this need — our loved ones, our job, our leisure pursuits.  And yet if we do this, we at some point find ourselves empty, disillusioned, dysfunctional.

It is ONLY GOD who can meet our deepest needs, and show us how life is designed to be lived, and how we should go forward.

And when we acknowledge this, when we throw up the white flag of surrender and prostrate ourselves before God as the ONE AND ONLY, that is worship.

 

 

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Filed under Glory Above All, Having the Right Heart

The Lord is My Helper

Some of the gifts to deliver.

Some of the gifts to deliver.

Yesterday was such a crazy day.  I woke up at 5:30 and ran through the cool grey of dawn, watching pink smears of clouds illuminate  the winter sky.  I prayed as I ran, then came back and wrote a poem entitled, “Peace.”

What irony, because almost as soon as I wrote it, my peace was disrupted.  I was supposed to deliver Christmas presents to an underprivileged family in Tuskegee almost thirty minutes away, and part of the delivery was bikes.  I had switched cars with my husband so I could load the bikes in his hatchback.  Then I got busy, and forgot to move the rest of the presents from my car to his car.  He drove off to work in Columbus, 45 minutes away in the other direction.  The presents were gone.

When I realized this I felt terrible.  It stinks growing older and more forgetful!  I had carefully made an appointment with several people involved in the gift drop-off, and I hated to move the appointment.  So I decided to deliver the bikes anyway, and set up another time to get the rest of the presents there.

As I drove my husband’s beat up old rattling Hyundai Accent, I prayed to God, “How can I feel better when I mess up?”  In time, it came to me that God can make all things better.  He can take what goes wrong, and work it for good.

And that is what happened.  When I delivered the bikes, it turned out that one was too small.  I would have to take it back and get a larger one.  Another trip would need to be made anyway.  And then one of the young men in our Tuskegee ministry who was going to help me with the delivery volunteered to take the presents to the family later this week!  And then when I went to Walmart to exchange the bike, I ran into a young woman I had shared my faith with when I bought the bikes, and she gave me her phone number, and I connected her with a sister who lives near her!

Here are some Biblical examples of God working in situations that seem like things go wrong —

But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.”  Genesis 50:19-20

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”  Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  . . . He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.”  Mark 5

Lazarus now lay sick. . . So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

1.  NO FEAR – In reading these examples, it struck me how much fear was involved when things went wrong.  That has been my battle lately, to unclench the tight fist of fear in my heart, to acknowledge it and deal with it.  I have been repeating over and over to myself the words of Ps 45, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way…”

Even in trouble, even in situations when we mess up, we do not need to fear.  God can ALWAYS help.

However, when we do make mistakes, we do need to take ownership of them.  Fear is counterproductive.  It makes us close in on ourselves, try to hide, instead of opening up and facing what we have done. We need to work it out through our relationship with God.  “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight..”  Ps 51:3-4

2. FOR GOD’S GLORY – in each of these situations, God intended to be glorified.  God works things out not just because He cares about us (which he does — he wept as Mary wept), but because that is who He is.  God is always working good amazing purposes.  This was true with story of Joseph, and how the nation of Israel would survive and be built in Egypt.  It is true with the story of Lazarus, which caused many to have faith, and allowed some of the most famous teachings of Jesus to come forth —

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”  John 11:25-26

The raising of Lazarus was also pivotal in bringing about the persecution and death of Jesus, which in turn opened the way to his resurrection.  It furthered God’s plan

3.  GOD HEARS – Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”  John 11:41  God is close to us, listening, caring.  We can talk to him as we would talk to someone standing next to us.  We can work it out with Him.  His hearing results in action.  (Think of Ps 18)

So yesterday was a roller coaster of things not going as expected.  At Walmart, when I returned the bike I decided to get some of my other shopping done as long as I was there, and it took my whole morning and put a crimp in my schedule.  People emailed me and added unexpected tasks to my day.  My discipling group time got cancelled.  But I also got so much done — a budget for church, scripts for Challenger films, shopping accomplished, butternut squash soup for dinner, even working out at Pure Barre and seeing Merike!  When I look back on the day, it was great, full, blessed.

As I list the things I am thankful for, I see God’s hand so clearly.  I also see that His hand will be in every day going forward.  It makes me feel strong and capable.

Let me face the day without fear, knowing God hears.  He is my HELPER always, even in my weakness and failure.  Let me go so far as to THANK HIM that He is working good!  His exciting purposes are being accomplished.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  Heb 13:6

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me  Ps 54:4

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Filed under Diary, Faith, Glory Above All, Gratitude

Open Hands of Thanksgiving

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I realized recently that my hands are not open to receive because I am too intent on what I am “supposed” to be doing.  It becomes all about me, and less about God, even as I’m focused on serving Him.  I am so busy trying to make things happen, do the right thing, that I am not open to what GOD is doing in this situation.  The very thing I seek is the thing that stands in my way.

 “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.”  John 5:19

So much of this stems from my insecurity.  I am constantly trying to validate myself.  But Christianity doesn’t exist so we can validate ourselves.  It is all to glorify God.

I think the solution here is to be thankful more.  Being thankful puts me in communion with God.  It makes me receptive.  It creates interactions, instead of actions.

He who offers thanksgiving is he who will glorify me;

there I shall show him the way of the salvation of our God.

Ps 50:23,  Arabic Bible in Plain English

When I am thankful, it becomes about God and His glory.  When I am thankful, God shows me what HE is doing, the road for me to walk that day.

I need to open my hands and let life happen more, just enjoy the smiles on the faces, be able to appreciate the little foibles that make each person special.

A woman who lived a sinful life in that city found out that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she took a bottle of perfume and knelt at his feet. She was crying and washed his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them over and over again, and poured the perfume on them. . .   Luke 7:37,38

I need to come back to Jesus like this woman, like the grateful leper.  He is the only source.  Nothing brings real change and healing but him.

As I told a friend who is seeking ago, Jesus is the one who chose me, who took a bullet for me, who is at my side, longing to present me radiant.  I forget this.  I forget him.  I need to come back to him time and time again, be rich towards him as the sinful woman was.

I have to lose my life to save it.  I have to stop trying to validate myself.  Instead of acting, I need to react.  I need to GIVE thanks.  THIS is how I am rich towards God,  recognizing how rich He is to me, and falling at the feet of Jesus, overflowing with appreciation.

Perhaps what is more true is that I will receive from God, not based on what I do, but based on my thankfulness for what He is doing.

Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:38

measure running over

 

 

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Having the Right Heart, Self Worth, Things I Am Learning