Praise party

Psalms 65:1 …..Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion…..

As I meditated on this verse an image formed in my mind. I saw a group of people gathered together. They were excitedly making preparations as they waited in anticipation for the guest of honor to arrive. They were about to burst with their desire to exclaim “SURPRISE!!” at that moment when the one that this whole gathering was centered around entered the room . There would be laughing and joy and celebration. It all awaited the appearance of the one that the whole celebration was focused on.

Not only should our church gatherings be like this, but every day of our individual lives as we walk with Jesus. Filled with joyous anticipation, let us be found waiting, and our hearts ready to praise and rejoice in God. Whether I’m in my church, at my job, or in my kitchen, may the testimony of my life be “praise is awaiting You, oh God”!

Using God

1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”

1 Samuel 4:5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.

Israel apparently saw no need to consult God regarding their battle plans prior to engaging the enemy. However when their efforts failed they (the elders of Israel) blamed the Lord and then went to get the ark to ensure their future victory – something He had not told them to do. They didn’t want His guidance, they just wanted His power at work in the course they had determined to pursue. It’s almost as though the ark was some magical object, as though they didn’t recognize the awesome presence associated with it. There seemed to be no real reverence for the holiness of God…”let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us”….they wouldn’t go to Him for guidance but wanted Him to come to them for victory.

What a shout they gave as the ark came into the camp, but was it merely the shout of those who felt certain that their victory was now assured and not a shout of praise to the Lord God? How tragic that He actually seems to be more reverenced by the heathen than His own people.

God is not the means to our end. He is not some useful object to help us get what we want in life (even the religious things we want in life). He is Almighty God and He will not stoop to serve the agendas of men. If you are found to be using God for your own selfish gain, don’t be surprised to find yourself defeated before your enemy.

Give me a man

The Philistines are first mentioned in the book of Genesis in connection with Abraham, but we don’t really see any conflict with them until Isaac had to re-dig the wells that Abraham dug because the Philistines had stopped up the wells by filling them with earth. The Philistines made themselves an enemy to the son of promise and remained at enmity with Israel from that time forward.

Saul was king of Israel when Goliath of Gath, a Philistine, issued this challenge:

1 Samuel 17:10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

The entire Israelite army was dismayed and greatly afraid for Goliath was a giant (estimated to be at least 9 feet and possibly over 11 feet tall). Day after day, for forty days, Goliath issued his challenge and it remained unaccepted. This was more than just the challenge of one man to another man, but it was the challenge of one people to another. The freedom of an entire people rested on the outcome of this battle. On one of these days David was present. I love his response to the words of Goliath…..” who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

And so, after being approved by King Saul to accept the challenge, David gathered his weapons for battle….

1 Samuel 17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

Nothing fancy or elaborate here. Nothing seemingly very powerful. He is so unimpressive that Goliath disdained him because he was only a youth (17:42). He was just a boy. We are familiar with the story from here – David’s mighty victory and the beginning of his fame. But as amazing as his victory was, there was always another battle to fight and another enemy to conquer.

The enemy demanded a man. Saul sent a boy. The victory was incomplete.

The enemy (Satan) is still demanding a man. For multiplied thousands of year, he has been demanding every man. And he has won so often because there was no champion to defeat him, and thus he makes slaves of men. Slaves to sin….slaves to depravity…slaves to lawlessness….slaves to self-will.

But heaven watched on…..a plan already formulated. A body was prepared for THE MAN who would defeat this powerful enemy for all time. No other battle would be necessary.   The enemy raged…”give me a man”. And God did just that.

John 19:5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

And just as David, he chose no elaborate battle gear or wartime weapons. He defeated the enemy with a cross.

Colossians 2:13-15 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The uncontested champion of time and eternity – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Behold the Man.



Colossians 2:10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

I was so encouraged to read the definition of the word “complete”. Look at this:

You are caused to abound in Him

You are furnished and supplied liberally in Him

You are filled to the top in Him so that nothing shall be wanting

You are made complete in every particular in Him

For all of us who have ever felt discouraged by the weakness of our own life, remember….we don’t live by that life anymore. We live by the life of Another. And that Life lacks nothing. What a glorious truth!

Unashamed Worship

Matthew 26:7 “a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.”

Right up in the middle of everybody

They didn’t like it
It wasn’t proper
She didn’t care
He was worth it

Those who waited for the “proper” time had no opportunity to anoint Him, for He was already risen. (Luke 24:1-3)

She may not have understood the significance of what she did. But she was one who sat at His feet, learning Him, loving Him….and so when her heart was moved within her, she was unashamed to worship Him.

May we learn a lesson from her.

Rend your heart

Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence— Isaiah 64:1

“Now, therefore,” says the LORD,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”

So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm. Joel 2:12-13

Several years ago I heard a woman tell of a dream she had. In the dream there was a large group of believers who were worshipping God. And they were calling out to Him “Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down!” And the reply came back from heaven “Rend your heart and not your garments.” And the people would cry “Rend the heavens and come down” and heaven would answer “Rend your heart and not your garments.”

The rending (or tearing) of garments was an expression of grief common in that day. It was an outward expression of the intense emotion of the heart. But just like many things, it frequently became nothing more than a ritual, void of any real anguish of heart.

We are very good at rending our garments. On any given Sunday morning, in the intensity of a moment of worship when we feel very moved by the music, we cry out to Him. We tell Him how much we need His Presence, how desperate we are for Him. And then five minutes later we are discussing what our restaurant options are for lunch. The garment has been rent….but the heart remains intact.

I absolutely love the joy that I have as a follower of Jesus. But at some point we are going to all have to admit that even in the midst of all of our smiles and laughter, we do not experience His presence like we know is possible. Maybe one day soon we will no longer be satisfied with just rending our garments, but we will let our hearts be truly rent before Him, no longer willing to pretend that the superficiality of our walk with God is abundantly satisfying. And maybe then He will rend the heavens and come down.

Imposition of ashes

Today I passed by a church that had the following announcement on the sign outside the building: “Imposition of Ashes – 7:00 pm”. Throughout the Bible, ashes are connected with grief, sorrow over sin and repentance. When Job was in great sorrow concerning all the losses in his life, he sat in ashes. When the prophet Jonah preached the word of judgment to the city of Nineveh, the king himself repented in sackcloth and ashes. But what really caught my attention about the sign was this word – imposition.

Imposition – an excessive or uncalled-for requirement or burden.

In that one word the spiritual condition of our nation is summarized. We don’t want to be imposed upon by God to think anything about ourselves is wrong or needs to be changed. The ashes that are to be an outward expression of the inward repentance of the heart, like so many other things, have become nothing more than a religious ritual with no real spiritual significance to most who participate in it.

Repentance, the turning of a heart toward the Lord Jesus and away from sin, is a beautiful thing. The apostle Peter actually describes it as a blessing:

To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:26

Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Why? Because from our repentance comes times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). What a welcome thing this is to those who have experienced it!

Repentance is no burden, but a proper and necessary response to the dealings of God with our life. It is through our repentance that we agree with God about the weakness of our flesh, our ever falling short of His glory, and our continual need for His strength and cleansing. In repentance my heart can rejoice that I serve a God who is unwilling to leave me the way that I am, who is committed to conforming me to the image of Christ, and who is always working to remove those things from my life that hinder this goal.

I won’t be getting any ashes on my forehead tomorrow. Instead I choose to live daily in the fiery presence of a God who changes me from glory to glory.

Lonely for You

In life’s lonely seasons of sorrow
balancing on the very edge of emotional meltdown
wordless, with tears and sighs, aching

Yet even if every situation was happily resolved
so that all seemed right with the world again
it would not satisfy, it would not be enough
I am lonely for You Jesus

Every prayer has become an act of desperation
reaching, grasping, intensely needing…

Listening so closely for even Your whisper
silence again
yet still I wait….for You

And though the waiting is an agony
to not wait is unthinkable
I will watch for You
I know You will come and meet with me
until then…my heart’s cry….
I am lonely for You Jesus

The Cling-worthy Christ

I’ve been reading today in 1 Kings 12 about Jeroboam, the first king of Israel once the kingdom was divided after Solomon’s death.  This man Jeroboam had no royal lineage.  He had been a common man serving under King Solomon, recognized for his diligence and promoted to a position of responsibility.  But God had other plans for him and sent a prophet to tell him of his future as king of ten tribes of Israel.  Upon the death of Solomon, Jeroboam came forward to claim what God had promised to him and he began to reign over ten tribes just as the Lord had told him.

But Jeroboam was fearful that this position would be taken from him, and that if the people returned to Jerusalem to worship the Lord that their hearts would turn back to Rehoboam, king of Judah.  To remedy this he had two golden calves setup – one in Bethel and one in Dan – and he installed priests at these high places that were not from the tribe of Levi.  In order to protect his kingdom, he led a whole nation into idolatry.  One must wonder why he felt the need to do this since the kingdom had been given to him by God.  Did he not believe that God was able to establish and protect the throne that He had placed Jeroboam upon?

But is it not human nature…can we not see it in ourselves at times… grasp and greedily cling to things, and to utilize whatever means are available to retain them?

Our ministry….our gifting….our position…..our reputation….all our little kingdoms that we desperately cling to and fight to protect lest someone tear them from our hands.  And the tighter our grip becomes the more obvious is the ugliness of our covetous heart. And the closer we are to idolatry.

But how beautiful to have this heart, as John the Baptist, “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27).  Faithfully treasuring those things entrusted to us now, but holding them loosely.  That which we have today could be gone tomorrow, and if we have placed our hope in anything but the Lord Jesus Christ we will find ourselves clinging to things that are unworthy of such attention and devotion.  The only thing we should cling to is Jesus.  He alone is cling-worthy.

Becoming convinced

Reading the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36-7:15…..a man chosen by God for a great work. Yet he struggled to believe it could be true that he would be chosen for such a task as delivering the people of Israel from their enemies. He was an insignificant man from an insignificant family.  He realized that he couldn’t step out into the plans of God with such doubt.  Thus Gideon requested the fleece, which God so mercifully answered. Still there was doubt, so he requested another sign which God also granted. But still Gideon did not have the faith needed to embark into the purposes of God for his life. The questions he thought he needed answered, the things he thought he needed God to do to convince him, did not help. They did not strengthen his faith.  And although he began to step out into obedience and assemble the army, yet his heart remained unconvinced.   But when Gideon has exhausted all his questions, all his fleeces, and determines to step out into a fearful obedience solely based on what God has said, then God brings a word to him that settles the matter in his heart.  Gideon no longer questions, but worships.  And the purpose that God had declared to him (“arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand” 7:9) now becomes the faith filled cry of his own heart as he gives the command to his army – “arise, for The Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand.” 7:15.  Gideon has become convinced.

We are often so confident that if God would just answer this question or provide that confirming sign that we could then be steadfast and immovable in God’s purposes.  However I have found, like Gideon, that this is so often insufficient. But the God who made this heart knows how to persuade this heart and utterly convince me and bring me to a place of settled faith about a thing.  May we learn from Gideon and be obedient to our Lord, even when it is a fearful obedience.  Marching forward into His purposes, with an ear open toward heaven, we too will surely receive the faith we need to finish our course victoriously and with great joy.  Amen!