Driving the Nail Through the Head

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“Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.”  Judges 5:24

Somehow, just somehow, I’ve been under the impression that as a believer, I ought to agree with God.  Now maybe that’s a novel idea.  Or maybe some believers think they can pick and choose when to believe, you know, like if it doesn’t agree with how they already feel about something.  But if that’s the way I agree with You Lord, then it kind of makes me like a Pharisee toward Jesus, at least until I come to a point of surrender, and then my life changes.  The truth of the matter is that You tell us “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ saith 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.'”  And that’s the truth.  I am to line up my thoughts with You.  You don’t line Your thoughts up with me.  That would be silly.  I mean, what do I know?  Yet, You know everything.

And that’s what I’ve seen happen with this God story about this woman named Jael.  I see this woman who is praised for her action and treated like a hero, not just by people, but by a prophetess.  Here’s a woman who heard straight from God.  She knewthat God was going to deliver this tyrant Sisera into a woman’s hands and when she found out which woman, praises were sung before Israel.  Now here’s my question.  If God chooses to praise her publicly before Israel and throughout time by His Scriptures, who are we to decide otherwise?  If God knew, before Jael was ever born, that this deed or task would be assigned to her for the physical deliverance of His people, who am I to disagree with God?

Now the reason I ask is because as I’ve been researching and praying about Jael’s situation and the situation of Israel at the time, I’ve found that most commentators are extremely negative about Jael.  The one that got me thinking was this one, “Jael did not kill Sisera as David did Goliath, a champion of the Lord bent on destroying His arch-enemies. While divine judgment fell upon Sisera, Jael erred in that she did not allow God to designate the means of punishment. Perhaps she felt an irresistible impulse to slay the persistent enemy of God’s people, but she remains forever censurable for the cruel way she killed Sisera, even though Deborah gloated over the act and praised it in poetic form. When Deborah said, ‘Blessed above women shall be Jael,’ perhaps she was only praising her faith and not her treachery.”  Or perhaps this prophetess knew how God felt?  I wonder why it is so easy to condemn others when God doesn’t?

So, let’s look at the story.  The children of Israel have entered the promised land.  Joshua has died.  Some of the tribes obey God and pursue and destroy the surrounding people.  Some of the tribes get comfortable and do not obey and live amongst the people as their tributaries.  In Judges chapter 2 we hear from an angel of the Lord a message from God.  “I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, ‘ I will never break my covenant with you.  And you shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their alters: but you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?’  Wherefore I also said, ‘ I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.'”  So, when the people forsook the Lord after Joshua died, His hand was against them.  But when they would cry out to Him, He would raise up a judge to deliver them.  Yet, after each judge, they would become worse than before.  Even so, the Lord would continue to raise judges when they cried out and He would continue to deliver them.  But Lord, You had a purpose in not allowing Joshua to drive out all the nations.  This was a proving ground for Israel.  “That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.”  (Judges 2:22)  Actually Judges 3:2 tells us that You left these nations “Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof…”  Funny thing is, that because of sin, we live in a world where we are constantly at war.  We are continually raging a spiritual battle.  The danger comes when we forget that.  And that’s what Israel was forgetting, with each succeeding generation.

So the children of Israel would cry unto the Lord and He would raise up a deliverer known as a judge.  He wasn’t a judge like in the sense we think of.  He was a deliverer.  The first one was Othniel who prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.  But then after his death the children of Israel did evil again.  So God strengthened Eglon against them.  The children of Israel cried out and God raised up another judge named Ehud, this left-hander who secretly hid a double edged dagger on his right leg, went before King Eglon with a present and then told Eglon he had a secret he needed to share.  While alone in the room, he plunged the dagger deep into Eglon’s belly, locked the door behind him, and left Eglon to die in his chamber.   After him came Shamgar.  And after straying after Shamgar came the persecution of Jabin’s rule, the people crying out, and God raising Deborah as judge.

Now, unless you can show me evidence that God failed to raise a man and that’s how Deborah became judge, don’t even bring that up.  The children of Israel cried unto the Lord and Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel at that time.  Now Deborah was not only raised up by You God to be a judge- a deliverer, but she was also a prophetess and so people would come to her when they needed right judgment.  Don’t confuse the two.  So she hears from God, from You.  Yes, she’s a prophetess so she actually hears Your voice, God, sharing with her or has visions but this is real stuff and real direct communication from You.  And she hears that You had commanded Barak to take 10,000 men to the river Kishon, and You would deliver Sisera, King Jaben’s warlord, into their hands.  She calls Barak to her and reminds him these words because obviously You had shared them with Barak also.  But instead of starting out on the way, Barak says, “If you go with me, then I will go.  If not, I will not go.”  So much for Barak’s confidence in You, Lord, huh?  Now here enters what we think of as the beginning of Jael.  Deborah answered, “I will surely go with you: notwithstanding the journey that you take shall not be for your honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”

Do you really think that God was suprised when Barak wouldn’t go unless Deborah went?  Do you think that God didn’t see that coming? Do we forget that You are omniscient, God?  You know everything, even before it’s time.  Do we think that all of a sudden, You changed Your plans, and found this woman and just all of a sudden directed things in her path?  I don’t think any of this came by surprise.  I think just as You raised up Esther for such a time as her own, You raise each of us up.  I believe that Your raising begins before we were ever conceived in our mother’s womb.  When You spoke these words to Jeremiah, Lord, were they only for him?  Or were they for each of us to think about concerning Your calling on our lives?  “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)  So what if You already had placed a calling on Deborah and Barak and Jael and everyone else?  What if none of this was a surprise?  What if all of this was by divine narration?

Now let’s look at Jael.  Her husband was Heber the Kenite who was a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law who had come with the people of Israel.  But Heber had seperated from them and was a friend of King Jabin.  Jabin’s main man, Sisera, was losing this battle and running for his life.  So he ran toward a friend.  But Heber wasn’t there.  And let’s not think that Sisera is some good guy.  I mean, on one side we have this woman and wife and mother who is not trained in warfare.  On the other side we have this desperate warrior known to treat people terribly.  Let’s just put this in perspective here.

Sisera is coming under God’s judgment.  Because he was Jabin’s number one general, he was the one responsible for all the atrocities and oppression the children of Israel had been suffering.  He’s the enemy of both God and Israel.   He hated women and was a rapist.  Here’s the attitude of his mother- “to every man a damsel or two…”  Women were prey.  A woman was a thing to use.  And here is Jael, standing face to face with this kind of man, who could do atrocities to her.  But I’m thinking that Jael knows something of God and knows that God has already pronounced a death sentence against Sisera and that is why he is at her door, running in terror.

So I keep hearing how treacherous Jael was because she invited Sisera in under the pretense of hospitality and then kills him brutally in his sleep, this man who was trusting her.  But what about this man Sisera?  What is he actually requiring of Jael?  What danger is he putting her in even by coming to her?  Do we stop to think about that?  What if, just by Sisera being there, Jael’s life and the life of her people was now endangered and she knew it?  Is it right to bring the battlefield to your ally’s door?  Sisera did.  Was it right to deal with someone’s wife rather than the husband?  Sisera did.  Was it right to enter the tent of a married woman?  Sisera did.  He even did that while Jael was alone.  Was it right in those days to make requests of Your hostess?  Nope.  Sisera did.  Is it right to ask someone to lie for you?  Sisera did.

Here’s the thing.  This guy was terrifying.  Jael could have been terrified.  She had every right to run when she saw him coming.  But maybe he would have slaughtered her and her people in anger.  She could have been fearful, fainted, or acted hysterically, but she didn’t.  She could have submitted to him.  But God had Sisera submit to her.  And being wise as a serpant and gentle as a dove, she did what she could and what she had to in order to side with You God.  She risked her life.

Jael was weaker in strength.  How could she ever fight against Sisera?  Are you people for real who call her treacherous and heartless?  If she didn’t side with God, all of Israel would have come in and slaughtered all of those siding with Sisera.  But she sided with God and the people of Israel.  I have no idea where her husband was.  I have no idea who’s side he was on.  Maybe he was staying away in fear.  But not so Jael.  She accepted her God-given responsibility for her family, her people, and her life.  She did the hard thing.  And God, You praised her for it.

“So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.”  (Judges 4:23)  Deborah offered this to begin her song of praise, “Praise you the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.”  Isn’t that what Jael did?  Didn’t she willingly offer herself, despite her weakness, despite her fear?  “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.  He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.  She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. “  Certainly that’s not a pretty picture.  But stop to think of all the blood and gore and rape and everything that preceeded this picture.  Think of what Jael knew.  What if you were a woman in that situation during that time period and in that culture?  What would you do to obey God and stop further travesties?  You know, it’s one thing to have the praise of men or women.  But it’s a whole other thing to have You, God, speak through someone to pronounce Your blessing upon someone.  For Jael, You spoke blessing over her through Your prophetess Deborah.  For Mary, You spoke the same blessing, “Blessed are you among women,” through Your angel.  And Elizabeth, who was sensitive to Your Holy Ghost, agreed with that blessing.  So the question is, will I choose to be sensitive to Your Spirit and agree with You or choose my own way?

If we stop and think about it, this really isn’t such a foreign story.  It doesn’t take a general or a king to abuse other people.  But it does take an attitude of condemnation and apathy to allow it to continue.  My prayer is that we as a people of God would really start agreeing with God and seeing things Your way, Lord.  My prayer is that we would start seeing that living together isn’t about a male/female heirarchy.  What if we started remembering that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.”  Maybe if we stopped showing favoritism, we could actually love each other the way we were created to.  It’s funny how when a spy in God’s army uses deception, no one condemns him, but a woman is held to a higher standard.  Well, God, I’m just grateful that I only have to live up to Your standard and not the standard of other people.  So just help me to learn Your standard more and more every day.   And whatever standards I’ve set that don’t match up with Yours, teach me to drive the nail right through their head.

  

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Inherently Praise-Worthy

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Photo credit to Joymarie Cayetano.

“Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.”  Psalm 47

What is so important about praise that it is mentioned in Scripture over 200 times?  In this verse alone, it’s mentioned four times.  If You repeat things that are important, then I suppose when You repeat something four times, I ought to really pay attention.  And I suppose I ought to ask myself if I actually praise You as You deserve to be praised?

Now, I wanted to know what brought forth this Psalm, this song of praise.  And research boiled it down to probably one of two events.  Either this song issued forth after the Ark of the Covenant was brought from Obededom or it issued forth after the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in the middle of the night, causing Sennacherib, king of Assyria to turn back from destroying Israel.  I’m pretty sure that either of those situations would usher forth great praise.

But then I had to ask myself, what do You mean by praise?  What does real praise look like and sound like to You?  And I have to think about that because in verse 7  I’m reminded that God is the King of all the earth, not just some of it, and that I need to sing praises with understanding.  Jeremiah 9:24 helps me with this.  “But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which excercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight , says the Lord.”  I must understand You and know You in order to have a true relationship with You.  It is going to take real, deep, intellectual thinking and grappling with hard questions.  It’s going to take meditating on things, piecing things together, struggling, and waiting, seeking, and praying, and this thing called continuing praise.  If I’m not thinking deeply about You, am I really following You at all?

Yet, understanding alone is not enough.  I must understand and know You.  And it ‘s not enough to know the answer like 1+1=2  or reciting some verses or books of Scripture.  It’s like Adam knew Eve.  And I’m not just making this up.  Remember, God is the one who told us that true religion is knowing Him.  What does that mean?  I like the way Skip Moen puts it, ” He means that the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada’ [know] YHVH. He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge and a host of other close connections. Understanding who God is is not enough. Understanding who He is and experiencing intimacy with Him is the essence of true religion.”

Now let’s jump from that point.  Here is what creates the desire to praise You in me.  When I experience You, when I think of the lovingkindness You bestow upon me and others, when I see the greatness of You name,  Your righteousness shining forth, and when I just remember or fall at Your feet, it wells up in me as a song.  It doesn’t matter if the Ark is finally coming home or if I feel like You are not listening to my cries, I can still have a song in my heart and praise You because I know You even in the times You are silent.  You are my hiding place even in those times.  You still encompass me about with songs of deliverance.  You still guide me even when I can’t hear because I already know You and I already understand.

Psalm 33 tells me to rejoice in You: for praise is comely for the upright.  I don’t think that means it just makes me look lovely.  I think that is telling me that praise issues forth and bubbles over no matter what from those who have been made upright by the Upright One.  If I am truly in awe of You, praise will bubble forth no matter the circumstances.  Can I be like Job who could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”?  Job had it.  He understood You and knew You.  When his wife gave up, he held fast.  Even David before Abimelech, when he was being pursued by Saul, understood and knew You.  In the midst of all that seeming junk, he praised You.  “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.  O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.  I sought the Lord…”

Praise.  I need it.  You, God, don’t need it.  It just belongs to You naturally.  You evoke praise.  But I need to be involved in praising You.  Praising You keeps me knowing You and understanding You.  It keeps my focus right.  Praising You no matter what helps me to draw others in to praising You and to refocus them on You.  Praising is for my benefit, for our benefit.  You don’t need our praises.  You don’t need anything.  See, the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. From before time began as we know it, You, God, were excelling any expectation that man ever could have.  Your ways are above our ways yet You invite us to get to know You by them glimpse by glimpse.  And here’s the exciting thing.  Every glimpse of You is absolutely praise worthy!  And all I’ve gleaned is a glimpse of praise today, just a miniscule glimpse.  But it’s enough to show me how much more there is of You to know and understand that I adore You and that You deserve, more than words can tell, praise upon praise.  And  the more I know You, the more You will bring it forth naturally no matter the circumstances in my life because You are greater than all the circumstances in life that have ever existed or will exist.

“Sing unto the Lord, O you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness…hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be my helper.  You have turned my mourning into dancing: You have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto You for ever.”  (Psalm 30)    Because You are my God, You rub off on me, just like You rubbed off on David.  And when Your glory touches a person, it is worthy of singing about.  When You do it, it can’t be hid, and I must praise You.  A veil won’t cover it.  I won’t be able to stay under a bushel.  Your praise is too great.  Your glory will burst forth.  Why?  Because I wasn’t the one who displayed it or made it.  You did it all, whether in me or around me, and Your light must shine not because it’s commanded but because that is what and who Light is.  It’s not that I won’t want to put it under a bushel like that kids song.   It’s that when You are God in my life, well, You WILL be God.  The Light WILL shine because it’s what You are and what You do.  Praise is inherently due You.  It flows out of those who see and know and experience You.  May I continually sing praise to You according to Your mercy!

A Vortex of Praise

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Photo credit to http://www.dancingwithwater.com

“In God we boast all the day long, and praise Your name forever.  Selah.”  Psalm 44:8

Maybe I should have chosen another verse to emphasize today but boasting in You, Lord, and praising Your name forever is where it all winds up.  This is where everything comes together and has come together.  Wrap up all the seeming junk and hardness of life like a big vortex, all the the good and all the bad, and when it all gets down to the very point of the funnel, it’s where everything winds up- boasting in You and praising You forever.  So here I am sitting today instead of spinning at that point in the bottom of the vortex and stopping to think about it all, which gets me to thinking about You.

I’ve been posting verses from Scripture around my house.  Some are taped to my kitchen cabinets.  Some are lying on the counter.  One is on a sewing cabinet.  One is here on the floor where I like to go spend time with You alone.  I need to see these reminders as the swirling vortex turns.  I need to have a right focus, to keep my eyes  on the Point so I don’t just become dizzy and overwhelmed by the spinning.  But I also need to allow myself to be turned and in being turned, I need to turn to that Point who controls the vortex.

I’ve been reading Psalms and thinking on them a lot.  David was pretty human.  So were the other authors of the Psalms.  They had a hard time spinning in the vortex also.  What was true then is still true now.  That’s what “as it is written” tells me.  I mean when I read Psalm 44 I hear David starting out with his remembrances also.  But then he goes over this list where he is saying that You, God, are the cause of our separation.  How can You save us and cause our separation that we need saving from?

Paul uses this thought in Romans 8:36 where he points out a timeless truth, “As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  How can he tie this in with absolutely nothing being able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus?  I wonder if maybe Paul and David and others are telling me that I need to focus on the Point and not the swirlings.  Maybe I need to focus on the living and active love of God in and upon my life through Christ Jesus.  How do I do that?  I have to focus on the big picture, like David who remembered Your deliverance because who You were is still who You are.  I need to be like Paul who reminded us that though David cried out in desperation, You delivered him time and again.  I have to remember that though I feel forsaken, my Deliverer IS coming.  I must remember that my Deliverer is here with me. It’s what He does.  It’s who You are.

When I am reminded that I am poor and needy; yet You Lord, think upon me, that You are my help and my deliverer, and I wait and cry out that You don’t tarry as in Psalm 40:17, I start to get that right focus.  I’m like the sons of Korah, or David, or Paul or any saint.  My soul gets cast down sometimes.  I am right there with them when they cry out, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted in me?  Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. ” (Psalm 42:5)  And then I realize that I want something more than help and a change in situations.  Because when I cry out to see Your countenance I am crying out for everything that makes up who You really are.  And here’s the wonderful thing about crying out for You like that- You are on my side!  The God of the universe is on my side supporting me with every part of His being! (Thanks Skip Moen for pointing that out!)  I’m not alone.  Others understand because You have taken them there also. 

It’s repeated in Psalm 42:11.  “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”  This verse seems different but it’s just a different relational focal point.  The first cry was emphasizing how God and all of who You are is my salvation in every instance.  You just sweep in and be God or You just wait and be God and either way You are being God in my life and for me and for Your glory.  But this next time, the focus is on what You are doing in me.  See health and help are both the same Hebrew word, Yeshua, which is salvation.  And Your presence, O God, is the health and life and help and salvation of all of my being.  And You are going to take me through the vortex until I have spun into the image of Your Son, until I resemble You and all that You are.

You will take me there until “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall compass me about with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)   You will take me there so that I may learn to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”  (Ephesians 6:10)  You will provide those tough situations in my life so that I will know that “the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  (Psalm 27:1)  You will spin me hard and turn me around time and again so that I will be able to proclaim “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise Him.”  (Psalm 28:7)  Not only will I know, but others will be reminded that “The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving strength of His anointed.”  (Psalm 28:8)  And when I stop focussing on the spinning that has a tendency to make me sick to my stomach, but focus instead on that Point of Help and Health and Refuge, then I will “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the Lord.”  (Psalm 31:24)

Sometimes help comes right away and sometimes help tarries.  But help is always bigger than the situation.  Help is everything that You are God.  All I know is that when the world seems to be falling apart around me, You never fall apart.  This weak and poor and needy person can run to You.  You are my hiding place, even when You are quiet.  This is because You are my hope just like You were David’s hope and Mary’s hope and Moses’ hope and Paul’s hope.  Like them, I can rejoice in my sufferings, knowing, yes, KNOWING that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because GOD’S LOVE HAS BEEN POURED INTO OUR HEARTS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO HAS BEEN GIVEN US!  For while we were still weak and poor and needy, at the RIGHT TIME, Christ died for the ungodly. (From Romans 5:3-6)  This vortex teaches me to rely on You, God and it conforms my character to Yours.  Teach me to think on this, and no matter what to boast in all that You are all the day long.

Singing, Because I’m in a Win-Win Situation

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Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rides upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.   Psalm 68:4

Sometimes, I just don’t automatically feel like singing, or praising, or rejoicing.  If I am going to be honest about it, that’s the honest truth, Lord.  Sometimes, I feel like just going somewhere by myself and crying out to You.  And sometimes I just feel like going to sleep because then You let my mind be quiet for a while.  I suppose, sometimes I just get tired and heavy laden and I just want rest.  But I don’t just want rest; I want rest in You.

But I’m learning that if I only get alone and cry, or run away and sleep, that the “perfect” rest will evade me.  Because both of those choices alone run me into the danger of meditating on the  wrong thing even though I’m running to You.  I’m in the danger of zone of pity.  And I may just wind up having a pity party for myself and making You listen.  And that is so far from Your desire.

I ought to run to You and cry out.  I ought to seek my rest in You.  But I also absolutely must not forsake or forget that both of those need to be balanced out with singing unto You, praising You, and rejoicing before You.  Because if I run to You with my tears and run to You for rest,  where am I showing the hope of Your intervention.  What if I wept all day?  Who would see hope?  What if I felt like sleeping the whole day away to avoid the hard stuff?  Who would see hope?  But what if I obeyed, and burst forth in the midst of the hard stuff, in the midst of a heart full of hurt and pain and sorrow, in the midst of life and feeling worn down, and I sang, and praised, and rejoiced?  What then?

In the midst of it all, I am to sing unto God.  I know we’ve talked about this before, the importance of singing.  But I need us to talk about it again.  Because the truth and how I handle it is more important than my feelings.  If this word, “shiyr”, is so important to my spiritual well-being, then I better not only understand it, but I better obey and embrace it.  In the Hebrew, singing was connected with worship.  “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing ‘eats’ you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.”  (Skip Moen)  Yes, sometimes I need to be divinely transported from the feelings of my own heart or mind and transported back to You.  That’s what singing does.

So, I could just cry, or I could run away in sleep, or I can choose to sing.  I wonder which exhibits greater faith, greater trust, greater love?  “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.”(Siah Safre Kodesh)  It’s not that I won’t cry, it’s not that I won’t be silent, because there is a time for every season, a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to speak and a time to be silent.  But the test comes when I can choose to see You above myself.  Anyone can cry and anyone can run silently, but only someone who can really “see” You can praise You by singing in the midst of it all.

What if, after Paul and Silas had been beaten wrongly and thrown in prison, they had just decided to cry and sleep it off until the new day came?  Would the prisoners and jailors have seen You, God, show up?  But instead, they chose to look at You and when we look at You, how can we help but sing Your praises?  So instead of wallowing in self-pity or bitterness or what-if’s, they chose to pray and sing.  They celebrated You in song.  And the prisoners heard.  And You heard.  And that made a difference.   It made a difference in their life.  It made a difference in the lives of the prisoners.  And it made a difference in the life of the jailor and his family.  Because You are the Difference.  And singing is acknowledging You in my life.  Singing lights up the world around me.  Singing Your song lights up not only me, but the world around me.

I want to look back at those three levels of sorrow again.  The man on the lowest level cries.  He hurts.  He calls out.  I think of David and Elijah.  Both men of God fled.  They cried out to You.  They also went to that silent place, hiding in the cave.  Who else was there to really hear?  Who was really getting to see the light of the glory of God shine in them to it’s fullest.  Not that it wasn’t dully shining, but was it shining to the fullest?  Did they ever come to the point of seeing that all the threats around them were inconsequential when compared to You?  “Your flight from your enemies is an expression of your lack of trust in the One you serve.  Unless He tells you to hide, there is nothing to hide from.  The fact that you have covered yourself with the dark simply means that you aren’t available to be the light He intended.”  (Skip Moen)  Did David and Elijah remain hermits in their caves?  Or did they wake up out of their darkness and run back into the light? Yes, there is a time for self-examination but it’s ultimate goal is to come out acting upon what we learn.

Do you know how David acted?  He didn’t run out and defeat all his enemies.  He didn’t run out and finish off Saul.  Look at the Psalms.  Psalm after Psalm, song after song, David glorified You, Lord.  David sang forth his confidence in You.  He sang forth the light of Your faithfulness.  “When surrounded by apparent overwhelming evil, praise is the weapon of choice.  To honor God is to defeat the enemy.” (Skip Moen)  I sing (shiyr) and make melody (zamar) not because it removes all this hard stuff, but because You,God are God and You are using me for Your glory.  In the midst of the trash, You have a divine purpose for me and You are fulfilling it.  I sing because I believe.

See, I don’t just sing, and I don’t just sing about what I want or the stuff going on, or how it’s going to be so wonderful soon.  I ‘m singing praises to Your name.  I’m extolling JAH, the Ever Existent One.  I’m rejoicing before You.  I’m taking my eyes of the trash and putting them on the Beautiful One.  I’m remembering Who You are and forgetting about the power of the trash.  I’m remembering Your honor, authority, and character.   And I’m reminding myself how much it outshines everything around me.  I’m mounding You up, “salal”.  I’m piling You higher and higher until I finally see You for who You really are, above everything that surrounds me.  I’m exalting You.  I can’t exalt You unless I know You, unless I know You intimately.

I’m singing praises to the One I know by name, JAH, my Lord, my Savior, my Everything.  And how can I help but rejoice before You?  How can I help but jump up and down for joy the more and more I think about You, the more and more I know You and experience You and believe in Your Truth.  You bring Your words back to my mind and I leap for joy at Your promises.  I leap for joy at Your deliverance.  I leap for joy at the shear presence of You.  I leap for joy in the love.  I leap for joy in Your acceptance of me.  I leap for joy that You have made me clean.  I leap for joy that You give me the power to carry on.  I leap for joy that in You I am an overcomer and I have victory!  I leap for joy that I can come before You!  Yes, no matter where I am or what mood I am in, I can stand, or sit, or lay, or even shower in the presence of my God.  Yes, I have to mention that one, because that is my favorite place to sing to You, Lord. (Well, right along with true corporate worship!)  Because if I must cry, You wash away the tears with the water as You cleanse and refresh me.  And You always put a song in my heart.  And sometimes it’s a song I’ve never sung before.  Sometimes it’s just a song about You.  I may never sing that song again, but that’s OK, because it was for You, that moment, straight from my heart.  And I suppose, at that moment, it was a gift from You to me, reminding me of Who You are.

Lord, I need a tremendous amount of help in honoring You in this area of singing.  Because I need to carry this attitude over into all the day, and not just my shower.  Instead of snapping at someone when I’m under stress, I need to have a heart of singing and praise.  What if today, I started practicing singing continually?  I mean, not always out loud, but in my heart and mind too?  What if I turned the things that caused me stress into song instead, songs honoring You.  How would my attitude change?

But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. ” (Isaiah 65:18)  Lord, I just need to keep my eyes continually on You.  I need to constantly remember, forever, that You are creating in me, the child of God that You desire me to be.  You are my creator just as You created Jerusalem to be something for You to rejoice over and a people to fill You with joy.  And in being rejoiced over and bringing You joy,  it ought to fill my joy full and lead me to reciprocate that rejoicing back to You.  Help me to remember, I’m living in a win-win situation here because I’m in.  And being in You deserves eternal singing, praising, and rejoicing.

No Matter the Circumstances

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Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  Philippians 4:11

Here’s my question today, “How long does it take to learn to be content?”  Funny question?  But it really is my question.  When do I really learn that lesson?  How long did it take Paul?  Well, I’m not really sure but I looked into his life timeline.  He was converted by the Lord on the road to Damascus and placed his trust in the Lord around 34 A.D.  And this letter to the Philippian believers was written somewhere around 61-63 A.D.  That’s about 27 years.  Not only is that 27 years but it’s 27 hard years from the start.

Before his conversion, Paul probably had everything people of his day wanted.  He had a political and religious standing of importance in the community, respect, money, power.  What did he have after his conversion, after he placed his trust in You, Lord?  I think he started out with some solitude with You in Arabia for maybe 3 years.  And at the beginning of his conversion, he was already an outcast.  People were afraid of him so it wasn’t like there were welcome arms all around.  On his return, his preaching and teaching get him drummed out of cities, persecuted, beaten, chased.  He was shipwrecked and imprisoned.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

To get the picture, I want to listen to Paul’s own words.  As a minister of Christ, Paul speaks of superabundant labours,  stripes beyond measure, superabundant prison visits, and even death many times.  To be in danger of death is one thing, but to be left for dead or even believe God revived You from the dead is a whole deeper story, and I think that’s also what Paul has experienced.  He goes on, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold exposure.   And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  Yeah.  Paul didn’t learn contentment all at once.  And to learn it, You, Lord, had to take him through some pretty rough stuff.  I suppose if I want to know supernatural contentment, I need to learn to go through supernatural circumstances.

See, You God, are Supernatural.  If I want to experience You, I have to learn how to live in the Supernatural.  If I can do it on my own, then that’s exactly what I’m doing, doing it on my own.  But I can’t do supernatural on my own.  Only You can.  And I can only do that if You do it in me.

If I want to come to the point in my life of living life supernaturally in and through You, then I have to let You bring supernatural situations into my life.  And I have to respond rightly to them.  I have to begin seeing every circumstance as Your circumstance designed for my benefit and Your glory.

I have to learn to live a life in need, not so I can call on others, but so I can learn to be dependent on You.  And so that in that dependence, I can learn to be confident and content in You.   This word for content in Greek is “autarkes.”  It means “self complacent, contented.”  Get this, it implies self-sufficient.  What?!  How can I be dependent and self-sufficient at the same time?  Isn’t something wrong here?

Well, let’s understand this idea of self-sufficiency here.  Skip Moen relates it as “the positive sense of being satisfied in mind and disposition.”  And get this, it’s not passive.  I have to make it happen.  The two words that best express this idea in Hebrew are “avah” and “Ya’al.”  Here is more of what Skip has to share about their meaning. “Both words convey the idea of choosing.  ‘Avah is about being positively inclined to respond.  Ya’al is about making a decision to act.  Neither one conveys the idea of simply waiting around for something.  To be content is to choose a certain frame of mind, a certain kind of external activity, a certain way of being in the world.  That’s why contentment has to be learned.”

Paul had learned to choose Your sufficiency.  His frame of mind in all these circumstances, good or bad, was centered on You.  His activity in the midst of the trials was centered on You.  His way of being in the midst of much or little was centered on You.  You were his Sufficiency so he was sufficient and all his needs were sufficient because You were what He needed most and he learned to keep his focus on You.  Lord, You warned us it was going to be rough.  You said that in this life there would be troubles, but You also promised us Your peace if we learned to remain in Your focus, in You.  Why did You tell me about the rough times I should expect in this world as Your follower?  “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Tribulation, “thlipsis,” is ‘back-breaking” pressure.  As Your follower, You are preparing me for the supernatural pressure that comes with living in You in a foreign territory, under an enemy who is looking to destroy and plunder everything that belongs to You.  In the world I’m guaranteed tribulation and pressure.  But in You I’m guaranteed peace.  Now the Greek word for peace is “eirene.”  And the Greek meaning has the connotation of the absence of war, of prosperity, good health, and well-being.  But That’s not what Jesus is talking about here.  It’s not what Paul has learned and is teaching us about.  See, the Hebrew notion in this Greek expression comes out of “shalom.”  “Shalom begins with right relationships because right relationships determine all the other factors in life.  Fixing my retirement plan will not improve my relationship with my wife, but improving my relationship with my wife will certainly have an effect on my retirement plan.” (Skip Moen)  So, having a right relationship with Jesus will determine all the other factors in my life.

I can be courageous in the middle of the deepest pressure because I am under the goodness and power of my Everlasting God.  You already overcame it all!  You already conquered!  All of Your promises are true.  You will continue this glorious, supernatural work You have begun in me!  Whether I have food or no food, You remain good and You remain with me.  Will I remain in You?  Whether I am persecuted or at ease, You remain good and You remain with me.  Will I remain in You?  Whether I live or I die, will I still insist that You are good and You are with me?  Will I remain in You?  I was created to be an overcomer because my God is an overcomer.  Who will my focus be in?  How will I live?  How will I act?  How will I think?  How will I respond?

Lord, I must learn the lesson that Paul learned.  You must take me through hardship so that I will learn.  I want to be able to know exactly where Paul is coming from and be able to say with him, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through HIm who strengthens me.”  Yes, it’s not because someone, or even You MADE Paul bring himself low, or abound.  He learned through You to bring himself to be grateful and in You in those low circumstances.  And in the abundance, he learned to bring himself under You and be grateful also.  He learned the secret.  The secret was that You, Lord, are the sufficience in every situation, whether bounty or dire need.

Yes, “such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…”  See, You love a cheerful giver, Lord, because You are a cheerful giver to the max.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-12)

Well, Lord, Your Word took me exactly where I was hoping it would take me today.  Straight to a heart of thankfulness.  Because in the midst of all these hard things and all these pressures, I need to learn to ever be thankful.  Because no matter what, You have given me and continually give me the greatest gift of all, a relationship with You, my God!  So, when the money doesn’t come, thank You, Lord, I am Yours.  And when the money comes, thank You, Lord, I am Yours.  And when things fall apart around me, thank You, Lord, You hold me together in You.  And when things are just honky-dory, thank You, Lord, because You are better than the best thing in my life.  So, Lord, teach me this contentment that Paul learned to experience in You.  And let my praise in and for You never cease to usher from my lips and heart no matter the circumstances.

A Shining Parallel

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Photo credit to Cameron Verano.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…” (2 Corinthians 4:13)

I had trouble learning what a parallelogram was once.  I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t get the concept down.  It upset the family member who was trying to teach me.  I mean it’s just “a four sided plane rectilinear figure with opposite sides parallel.”  And even though I was a good student, I just had trouble grasping it.  And it didn’t help the matter when that someone “helping” me became really mad and upset at me for not understanding.  But I did finally understand.

Paul is giving us a parallel here.  We are to think about what he’s sharing in 2 Corinthians 4 and we’re to go to what’s happening in Psalm 116.  He wants us to fit them together in our minds and hearts.  And once we are able to fit them together, we might just get what he is trying to help us understand.

Well, I want to start by looking over 2 Corinthians 4.  Paul tells us we’ve been given a responsibility, a ministry, that we received by the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.  Because we know we have this God-given, God-appointed ministry.  But it’s not easy, this responsibility we’ve been given and entered into.  It makes us feel like we can’t do what’s set before us sometimes.  But we don’t faint.  The Greek for faint is “ekkakeo.”  Thayers Lexicon defines it as “to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted.”  Believer, have you felt that?  But the truth is, we are never spiritless because even in those times we are Spirit-filled.  And even when we are weary and exhausted, we have a power dwelling in us and guarding over us that is beyond that which is of us.  So, as we rely on Him, we do not fail, we do not faint, because though we are weak, He is not.  Isaiah reminds us in chapter 40, verses 28 and 29, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding.  He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength.”

Christ’s effect on my life is evident.  I’ve turned away from things of the past llike dishonesty or craftiness or bending the word of God to fit me and my behaviors.  Now the Truth is an expression of my life.  When others see me, they see You expressed through me.  Now, if there is any hidden thing in my life, it’s not those things that would bring me to shame, but Your Good News that others are still not able to see, like that parallelogram.  And just like I was temporarily blinded to the truth of the parallelogram, there was hope for me, that I would one day see and understand.  And there is hope for those who do not see, that their eyes would be opened.

See, what we are preaching about, what we are telling, and living out, and walking out in our lives is not about us.   It’s all about Jesus.  And we are here for each other and those who don’t see yet as servants of Jesus, shining Him forth, the Greatest Encourager who has ever been and ever will be.  We preach from this light that’s shone in our own hearts.  That light shines out.  What we have come to know bursts forth to give others that knowledge.

And none of it is by my strength or my knowledge.  Because it’s all been deposited from God in this fragile earthly vessel that is me.  And this fragile earthly vesel struggles.  And just as Jesus had to experience all the pains of dying, which are all the pains of life and death, so do I.  But I am not alone.  And my Jesus was victorious over death and lives.  And He lives in me and I can allow Him to make that known and shown in me.  I suffer the stuff of life but I am not overcome.  I suffer for a time, maybe even great suffering.  But it is only for a moment.  There is a hope that will be fulfilled that will carry us into the eternal weight of glory.  That’s a strange phrase, but in the Old Testament, the Shekinah, the manifested glory of God, was known as the weight of God.  I guess I think about it as the fullness of God Himself.  Some day, everything that has weighed me down will be removed and I will find myself in the middle of the fullness of God where there is no weight to be born by me, because he bears all.

But what does the parallel say?  “I believed, and therefore have I spoken.”  We don’t know who wrote this Psalm.  But it’s part of the Paschal Hallel, the Passover Song, that has been sung for generations, even by Jesus.  The Psalmist has a God of action, a God who acts on behalf of His own, a God who listens.  Why does he love You, Lord?  Because You hear his tiny, insignificant voice and it is not insignificant to You.  And his requests are not insignificant to You.  The Creator leans in to listen.  He knows he can depend upon Your listening and caring ear.  He knows Your faithfulness.  Life was rough, the pressures surrounded him.  He could have given up and been overcome.  But he remembered Your faithfulness and he called on You.  He depended upon You for deliverance.  Because he depended upon You and waited for You and called upon You and remembered You, he experienced Your grace, Your righteousness, and Your mercy.  He was preserved when he could not preserve himself.  Being brought low gave You the opportunity to deliver.

David, or the writer, continues to say “the Lord has dealt bountifully with [me (my soul)].”  It’s a completed action.  And that verb can actually mean to deal bountifully or to deal harshly.  It’s all dependent on the character of the giver and their intent.  But is this saying that God has only allowed good in the writer’s life?  How can that be?  We’ve already heard his desperate cry to be removed from some really tough circumstances.  Or is it that God has a way of making any situation good by His bountiful presence and deliverance in Him?  Maybe he learned the same lesson as Paul in Philippians 4:11-13.  “…For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Can I say that You, Lord, are dealing bountifully with me even in the tough times?  Thank You for giving me multiple opportunities to learn this tremendous truth.

How was the Psalmists soul delivered from death, his eyes from tears, and his feet from stumbling?  He remained in the Lord no matter the circumstances.  How do I know?  He said, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”  He walked in Your ways, He allowed You to conduct his life.  He placed his trust in You and not the circumstances.  Think about his words.  “I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted…”

Yes.  I want to really think about those words.  I want to look at those words in the eyes of some different translations.  “I still had faith, though I said, ‘I am in great trouble,'” (BBE)  “I was faithful to You when I was suffering,” (CEV)  “I continued believing even when I said, ‘I am completely ruined!'” (ERV)  “I believed, even when I spoke: ‘I am greatly afflicted;” (ESV)  “I kept on believing, even when I said, ‘I am completely crushed,'” (GNB) “I kept my faith even when I said, ‘I am suffering terribly,” (GW)

Even when the Psalmist began to focus on other people’s dependability and found it faulty, his focus was brought back to the faithfulness of You, Lord.  Because it’s not people that deliver us from these afflictions.  You may use people for our deliverance, but You alone are our deliverer.  And I guess I just have to come to grips with the fact that Your deliverence always comes at the right time, Your time, and not necessarily mine.  I mean, sometimes I have to go through things and be brought low to be delivered from attitudes in my own heart.  So sometimes, I don’t even know the real intent of the struggle You have allowed in my life and I cry out in my haste and make wrong assumptions just like the Psalmist.

But when I stop being hasty, I have to stop and wonder how I can repay You, Lord, for all these benefits.  Benefits?  Of suffering?  Of hard circumstances?  Of trials?  Of going hungry and sleeping on hard floors on cardboard boxes?  Of feeling alone?  Of feeling misunderstood?  Yes, because if I am trusting in You and living in that trust, then as I continue to seek You despite the pressures and feelings, I will see the deeper truth about You that You are making known to me.  You are the Benefit.  Being drawn closer to and in You is the benefit.  I will “appreciate fully” my cup of salvation.  I will love to call upon You and wait for You and know You more.  I’ll pay my vows to You before others by proclaiming You and showing You and telling of You in my life.

Now, I’m really having trouble with fitting in verse 15.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  The Jewish Study Bible intereprets it as “The death of His faithful ones is grievous in the LORD’s sight.”  I just have difficulty thinking that the idea of me dying in itself is so precious for You, Lord, or that me dying is a grievous thing for You.  Because the Psalmist has been talking over and over about being delivered from death and sheol (often translated as hell).  So if You deliver, how is it so awful or precious?  And how can it be awful and precious at the same time?

What if this death is all tied in with what Jesus came to earth for?  What if this death is all tied in to the first Holy One, the Holy One that makes me and every other believer a saint, a holy one?  Because that’s what the word saint is all about.  Psalm 16:10 tells us “For You will not leave my soul in hell; neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption.  (Hebrew-Old-Testament) So I can’t be a Holy One without the Holy One making me holy in Him.  So, what’s so precious or grievous about death?  What if it was always about the price that the Holy One, Jesus, paid for you and me?  What if the beyond imaginable horrendous truth is that God tore His own heart apart to save us?  He inflicted His entire wrath upon His own beloved Son instead of me.  Well, either way I look at it, that makes me beyond precious in His sight because of the death of His Son for me.  And at the same time, isn’t it the most grievous thing that any father would ever have to do?  And maybe the point is, I need to realize the magnitude of the treasure of the death of You, Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, for me.

But I think the Psalmist thought about that even though He only had a future promise to look forward to, even though he didn’t get it all yet.  But I have the truth of the resurrection.  So I am even more responsible for my reaction.  What was his reaction?  “O LORD, I am Your servant, Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have undone the cords that bound me.  I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and invoke the name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in the midst of Jerusalem.  Halleluja.”  (Jewish Study Bible)  When I realize, Lord, the magnitude of what You have done for me, that I have not done anything to deserve, I cry out as the Psalmist, “I am Yours.  I belong to You.  You have purchased me by Your blood.  I am Your servant because You are the One who has set me free.  You are the One who shall receive my thanks.  You are the One whose name I shall continually extoll!  Your name is the One to whom I will cry for deliverance and every need and just for sheer joy.  What vow could I ever pay You that would repay You for what You have done for and given me?  I will be who You created me to be in You.  I will rely on You.  I will walk in You.  I will proclaim You.  I will be Your vessel and allow You to have Your way in me before all people.  That’s my vow.  When I trusted in You, when I surrendered to You, when I came to You in desperation, I vowed to be wholly Yours, so I will give myself to You to fulfill Your ways in me.”

Lord, I am so grateful that Your Spirit of faith has never changed.  The same Spirit of faith that David knew and that this Psalmist knew, is the same Spirit of faith that Paul knew and that I know and that any person alive can come to know.  And this same Spirit of faith, that is You, can belong to anyone who will believe.  It’s a living and powerful belief because it’s life in You.  It’s not just words, it’s a Person, and it’s Life itself.  I believe.  But can I speak?  Is the evidence there in my life to back up that belief?  Lord, may the evidence of Your Holy One speak loudly in me and through me, not just in my words, but in my whole being, because I can’t be a saint, I can’t be a holy one, without the Holy One Himself working in me.  I am Your servant, Lord.  May I be faithful in full surrender.  So no matter what it takes, or how hard the life situations You take me through, bring me to the point where I shine with the fulness of the Holy One.

Funny thing, the last words of Psalm 116 are “Halal-Yah” or “hallelujah.”  And isn’t it something, Lord, that I wound up talking about shining?  Because I decided (and I wonder who led me to look?) to check out that word, the Hebrew for “hallelujah.”  And it doesn’t just mean praise because it also means to shine.  Because You always shine, You are always worthy of praise.  And though my circumstances may seem dark and endless, I can remember the lights in the sky, and even though they may be covered by clouds, they still burn brightly.  And I can be reminded of You and how You forever shine because of the nature of Your glory.   And I praise You again, because You will keep me walking in Your light even when I cannot see, because You never cease to shine.  And I’ll never cease experiencing Your light and I won’t ever stop declaring what I see because Your light is more beautiful than anything and You’ve got me covered.

Clear the Stage by Ross King

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What a blessing when Micah Griffith, our pastor in training, shared this song in church one morning. Hope this blesses you. Worship is so much more than a song. Scripture says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.” This is true worship, when every part of our being delights in the Lord more than everything else. That’s when our heart’s desire becomes His desire. And He will always honor His desires. Let us always be ready to clear the stage and worship Him alone who is worthy.