Not Repeating the Past

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Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura

“The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel shall be toward the Lord.”  Zechariah 9:1

What do a burden, a tribute, and a song have in common?  A lot more than one would think here.  Because I’m reading this verse that starts, “The burden of the word of the Lord,” and I’m asking, what does it mean that the word of the Lord is called a burden?  That’s pretty heavy stuff isn’t it?  No pun intended there.  Isn’t a burden a heavy thing, a heavy load to bear?  And if the word of the Lord is such a heavy load, how can one bear it?

Maybe I read to much into things, or maybe the problem is we don’t read enough into things.  But when I stopped to ask about this word “burden” represented by the Hebrew word massa, more than leading to meaning a burden or tribute, it’s also singing.  Now how does that come together?  And the origin of the word itself comes from the word nasal which means to lift.  But these definitions don’t clear everything up for me.

If I hop around Scripture looking and asking, I find massa being used of an ass lying under his burden.  Actually, it’s the ass of an enemy struggling under his burden, and then being encouraged to help the ass for the enemy’s sake despite his hatred of you.  I find massa when the tent of meeting is being readied to travel and the “sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.  These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath…” (Numbers 4:15)  Aaron and his sons, the priests, were to take the Kohathites in to perform their service of carrying things by appointing them personally to each of the holy items that had already been covered to do his service and to care for his burden and live.  (Numbers 4:19)  And then there were the Gershonites who carried the things like the curtains and hangings of the tabernacle.  It was their service and burden.  Were these things too hard?  Were these things a chore and drudgery?  Isn’t that what we think of burdens today?  Or does this concept of a burden in Your word, Lord, mean something more?

It’s not that it’s a light thing either.  Definitely, a burden is attached to some weightiness.  Here is Moses in the wilderness and the people of Israel are complaining about manna, manna, manna.  I mean, here’s God’s provision.  They are living and not dying.  Their clothes aren’t even wearing out.  They have water in the desert.  They are safe.  “All we get to eat is manna!”  And the manna falls and they gather it to eat and what is their response?  They are weeping and not for joy.  They are weeping with ungratefulness and complaining hearts.  They are weeping for what they want and not what God wants.  And Moses comes to You Lord and says, “Why have You afflicted your servant?  And why haven’t I found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people upon me?  Have I conceived all this people?  Have I begotten them, that You should say unto me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, unto the land which You swear unto their fathers?  Where should I have flesh to give unto all this people?  For they weep unto me, saying, ‘Give us flesh, that we may eat.’  I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.”  (Numbers 11: 11-14) 

Moses was so right.  This was all too “kabed” for him.  It was not intended for him to handle what the people were looking to him to handle.  It was not for You, Lord, to be asked to handle things according to the people’s will either.  Kabed means “to be heavy, weighty with respect.”  But that weight of glory was supposed to be being placed on the Lord, not on their own desires and their own hearts, nor on a man (no matter how great before God) named Moses. 

So Lord, You answer Moses.  And You tell him to gather 70 of the elders and You will take of the spirit that is upon Moses and share it with these 70 elders so that Moses will not be alone, so that Moses will have other men to help him.  So these men and Moses will all bear the burden of the people together.  And I wonder if You did that because You were teaching Moses something about himself by giving him what he “thought” he needed.  Because wasn’t that the same thing the people were doing?  And after You square Moses away, You square the people away.  You are going to give them what they asked for and more.  The meat was coming.  And Moses seems to doubt how You could do that.  Why do I say Moses seems to doubt You?  It sounds like Your words I hear.  “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?  You shall see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.’”  Let’s keep meditating on all these things.  Hold on to it, like Mary, and hide it in our hearts for You to bring together, Lord.  In Deuteronomy, Moses shares, “How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?” while speaking to the people.  This is over this same situation of the appointing of the 70 leaders, just another perspective.  Who’s cumbrance, burden, and strife was the problem?  Let’s just meditate on that.

And if this hasn’t gotten weighty enough to think about, it’s expressed as song twice in 1 Chronicles 15:22.  “And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skillful.” How can it be a burden and a song? Well, I do suppose a song is a type of tribute to God.  Now I see how it can be a song and a tribute, but relating those with the burden… I’m still searching.

How about a tribute?  We have that represented in 2 Chronicles 17:11 where some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat all kinds of tribute like silver.  And the Arabians brought flocks, rams, and goats.  Again, how do these three words- burden, tribute, and song come together in nasah?  It brings me back to Moses and another incident.

In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses is warning the people by bringing up an incident in the past.  “You shall not test the Lord your God, as you tested Him in Massah.”  Why is there a place named Massah, like the root of the word nasal?  Exodus 17:7 tells us, “And he called the name of the place Massah, and Maribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’” Paul reminds his readers of this time in his letter to the Hebrews.  He warns them not to harden their hearts as at this time when the people provoked God and put God to the proof even after seeing His miraculous care and provision.  The author of some of the Psalms looks back at that day.  It seems it had nothing to do with Your desire but all to do with their own lust and desire.  The author accuses them of turning back and limiting You.  Actually, it’s pretty strong stuff.  They “lusted exceedingly.”  Maybe this story can help bring it all together. 

“You shall not test the Lord your God as you tested in Massah.”  God, You say don’t do it.  I’m not to test You.  No one is.  How do I worship You properly?  How do I understand what to do and what not to do?  Is the burden of the word of the Lord to understand and serve in that right understanding?  What does Your history teach?  Could this be about You testing our faithfulness?  Could life be a test of that designed for us?  I mean, after all, You inherently are faithful.  You can’t be unfaithful.  To test Your faithfulness is to cast doubt on You and to say You are not faithful.  Who are we or the Israelites to say that?  To say, “You aren’t doing right by us.  You aren’t meeting my needs.  This isn’t how it should be happening in my life,” are all hardened hearts wanting their own way and not Yours.  They’re all saying, “I know better than You, Lord.  Straighten up Your act and get right according to me.”  Really?  Yes.  How sad.  And I’ve been guilty of that, of testing You because I’ve been one of those complainers who asked You to change the situation instead of asking You to change my heart. 

What if a burden is a test?  Sure, it carries weight, it’s heavy, it’s hard.  Isn’t that how tests are designed?  Aren’t they designed to be the proof of our true capabilities whether in math or science or welding, or in this case, our trust and submission to You, God?  I mean, what was really happening at Massah?  “God, You’re not taking care of us.  Neither are You, Moses.  You guys are impotent.  You’re indifferent to our needs.  We don’t want to follow You because You don’t listen and do what we say.  If You want us to follow You, prove Yourself to us and prove You care for us our way!”  But it was never and never will be about You following our will.  If faith is dependent upon You doing things for me, then that’s not faith at all.  You are God, not a genie.  What an insult.  Like You don’t know how to care best for Your own people, Your own creation?  Really?  Like You are under anyone’s control?  Like the created can control the Creator?  Are we kidding ourselves.  And the One who is Good, needs to be told what is good?

The burden of the word of the Lord, then, maybe, is to see You for who You are and to act accordingly based on that knowledge and experience.  To carry the burden any other way is “rebellious disobedience, a refusal to accept the character of God as the basis of obedience.” (Skip Moen)

God gives us every evidence of His goodness.  To rebel and disobey in the face of it is sin.  To say God does not care is to ignore evidence and commit sin.  God cares.  You manifest as You see fit.  It’s not our decision.  it is Your choice how to show it.  All we need to know is that You care.  I don’t tell You what to do.  I‘m Your servant.  I don’t deserve consideration but I’m blessed that You consider me.  If I think I deserve more, I better look back at history.  I can also learn that it’s dangerous to question God. I mean, You have no requirement or duty to act on my behalf and yet, You choose to.  That’s all because of Your faithfulness.  My appropriate service is gratitude.  “Gratitude is the basis of faith, but gratitude arises from who [You are}, not what [You do].”  And the truth is, Jesus didn’t die for my sins.  That was secondary.  Jesus died for the love and obedience of the Father because He wanted to be all about Him.  My forgiveness, the death of my sins through His sacrifice, is a byproduct of His obedience.  He trusted the character of You, Heavenly Father, so much, that He went to the cross as my sacrifice.  I can place my sins on him as I place my trust in a God who is faithful and worthy of being trusted.

The burden of the world of the Lord is the truth of who You are.  It’s heavy because You are heavy.  Your holiness is described as a weighty thing.  You are worthy of tribute.  Anything I have, anything I do, You deserve presented back to You because it all came from You in the first place.  And when I start seeing the weightiness of who You are, how can I help but burst out in songs of praise and worship and adoration and thankfulness. 

“The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel shall be toward the Lord.”  My eyes can be on myself, like the eyes of the Israelites at Massah.  Or my eyes can be reminded to be on you because only in You will I find that rest.  Only in You will I be consoled as You care for me as Your own bride.  Only in You will I find my true rest as You give me a home and an identity and a purpose and You abide with me and I abide with You.  Finally, when You are in control, what work do I have left other than to walk in Your ways and enjoy the blessing of Your presence?  I can carry Your burden and be defeated under it.  Or I can let You carry Your burden and be blessed as You hold the load for me and I follow in obedience and love and adoration and awe.  The choice is mine, the burden and work is Yours.  That’s faith.  That’s trust.  That’s how not to repeat the past but how to learn from it.

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Fretting at 451 Degrees

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“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”  Psalm 37:1

Fretting, evildoers, envy, workers of iniquity, fire, paper, and a rolling car- what do they all have in common?  More than I would have thought.  Let’s start with the car first.  So last night I came home with dinner and my friend and parked my car at the top of my driveway.  I even engaged the handbrake.  We ate dinner with my two girls who are at home, my husband got home from Bible study, and we sat down to watch, “Where Hope Grows.”  How ironic.  My daughter hears a noise, and our next door neighbor comes to the door to inform us that our car has rolled across the road and into another neighbor’s fence.  I am so thankful, Lord, that only property was damaged and no people were involved!  Yep, not a lovely way for a good day to end.

When things are financially hard, how does it feel to have your car kind of impale itself on a fence, taking out part of the neighbor’s concrete base and chain link fence, damaging the rear axle, bumper and more?  This is the family car that juggles between family members to get us where we need to go.  How does it feel to hear that news, to know what has just transpired, to know the difficulties that it’s going to bring, to wonder where is the money coming from?  what will this do to insurance?  why us?  why now?

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”  You know, Lord, I stood there and I thought, “I did everything I was able to prevent this.”  I thought engaging the hand brake was enough.  But it wasn’t.  And now, look at this.  I can’t fix it.  I couldn’t even prevent it.  But You can fix it.  You can provide.  You can take care of us.  Because even a car rolling down a hill is under Your control.  I’m disappointed but I’m not forsaken.  And I’m not angry even though I could have been.

So what does this have to do with evildoers or workers of iniquity?  Sometimes, we don’t battle against human evildoers or human workers of iniquity.  See, there is also this man of sin, this son of perdition who is working against us.  But I have this Man of Counsel, this Man of Holiness, the Mighty God, the Life who is working for me, and He trumps that little man of sin every time!

That little man isn’t opposing me except first to oppose, You, Lord.  This evildoer, this worker of iniquity tries in every way to exalt himself above You and everything of Yours.  Sometimes he tries to do that through my attitude about the things around me.  Sometimes he tries to ignite a fire in me.  Sometimes he rolls my car down a hill on purpose.  Imagine that, just to get my anger flaring up and to damage Your testimony in me.

But You remind me, “Don’t fret over it.”  Fretting isn’t just worrying.  Fretting is from the Hebrew word “harah” and means “to burn, kindle, glow.”  See, fire comes from a reaction, a chemical reaction.  Some things have to come together and react to one another to bring fire about.  Oxygen and a fuel, like wood or gasoline, and an ignition source have to all react together.  Here’s how it happens for wood.  First, there has to be something that heats the wood.  It could be a match, lightning, friction, focused light, but it’s something that is already burning.  Get the right combination of gases, and heat, and other stuff and the wood begins to burn.  Here’s the thing about burning- it’s self-perpetuating.  It’s own heat keeps it going.

See, in situations like this and in situations with what I see other people doing around me, I can run the danger of being a self-perpetuating angry fire.  That’s exactly what the son of perdition is trying for.  But the fact of the matter is that my car couldn’t roll down that hill if the Author of Life didn’t release it into the hands of the son of perdition.  Why would He do that?

Throw a piece of paper into a fire and every time it’s not going to burn until it hits 451 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oh, yeah, that’s where the book “Fahrenheit 451” got it’s name.  It’s a book about book burning.  You know, books are made of paper.  Well, maybe, I have this natural temperature at which I reach my burning point.  And the son of perdition knows it.  But I have this Abba Father who knows me better.  And He’s supernaturally powerful.  And I’m His and He’s mine and He allows me to be put in situations that test my ignition point so that He can bring me to a supernatural response.

See, I don’t have to get angry at the devil or the circumstances or the people who may surround those circumstances, because they really aren’t in control  of me or the things around me.  God’s going to take care of them one way, and He’s going to take care of me another.  I’m not called to react in anger or jealousy; I’m called instead to respond, to react in trust and keep doing His good and letting it flow from me.  My reaction will influence the reaction of others around me.  Am I exhibiting trust in You, Lord?  As I do, I will, and I mean I WILL see You feed me and meet my needs.

And what does it look like when I don’t react in anger but in trust instead?  It looks like someone who is delighting in You.  What?  How can you be happy and content in the midst of this or after this?  Because I know my God.  He’s mine and I’m His even when things don’t look like they’re working out well.  I have this tremendous God who loves me and meets me where I am and lifts me up.  I don’t always know His timing, and I struggle with surrendering to that timing, but I am so grateful for His patience and watchcare.  When He is my desire, I know that He will give me more of Himself, and whatever He needs to supply to bring forth His plan for me, He will do it, no matter how things look.

So I have to learn to not react to the circumstances and people around me when stuff like this happens.  I have to choose to commit to Your way, Lord, instead.  And You will bring all of Your will to pass even in my little life, because then my little life will be enveloped in Your glorious, supernatural life.  And it’s there, in You, that I am learning to rest.  And it is there, in You, that I am learning to wait patiently for Your solution.  This is why I don’t need to fret.  This is how I can stop burning with anger.  This is how I keep from thinking evil and not trusting that You are in control.

Because here’s what happens when I let these circumstances make me angry.  It’s like me saying, “I don’t like what You are doing in my life, Lord.  You are all wrong.  Cut it out and do it differently.”  I want to learn to trust, commit, and rest in You.  I want to always acknowledge that You are ALWAYS in control of every situation and circumstance in my life.  I want to surrender to You and Your way and revel in it because I’m busy revelling in You.

Well, Lord, I haven’t got a handle on this situation.  I still don’t know how to fix it all.  But I have this beautiful, wonderful God who already knows the best outcome and already has it under control.  So teach me to enjoy the ride.  Order my days and my steps and uphold me.  Teach me to wait on You, to be bound with You, twisted together like cords of rope until we are one rope.  I’m not in this alone.  You’re walking through the whole thing with me.  You were there even before I knew it was happening.  And You even designed this for my good and the good of others.  Let my response declare that instead of anger.  Let my response declare Your salvation and strength.  If I burn with anything, let it be with Your love and admiration.

The Bliss of Grace and Peace!

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Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 1:3

In a greeting, we wish people well-being.  Paul, wishes for grace and peace from God and Jesus Christ unto the believers.  Grace takes me from here to there.  Grace walks me step by step, day by day to the throne of God.  I love this definition of grace: “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”  I’m reminded of it in Your Word, here, Lord, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Grace is underserved merit yet it is a continual process.  Grace came to me and saved me, sealed me with The Promise.  Grace continues to work through The Promise to continue the good work it began in me until it has brought me into a perfect and intimate relationship with You, Jesus.  Lord, I must realize that I shall not be complete or in my “perfected” state until both body and soul have been changed.  Like You, I must endure the flesh for a season as the flesh imposes upon me restrictions from complete intimacy with You.  Yet I now have power in You to control and guide those restrictions.  That’s probably part of the reason You prayed for us.

You were in complete intimacy with God in Heaven.  As man, You took on the restrictions of the flesh.  You know how it feels to long for physical and spiritual intimacy.  You can understand our longing.  You know what it is to be so busy in the world with the affairs and care of men that it would keep You from time with God if it could.  But You made time, probably after a long, hard, spiritually and physically draining day of expending Yourself for others, when sleep probably beckoned softly and sweetly.  Yet You turned her down for intimacy with God.  So I too, can order my day and make time to seek that same intimacy.  I can deny my physical weakness and receive strength through and in communion with You.  This is grace.

Peace.  The Greek word eirene has to do with “the absence of war” which leads to “health, well-being, and tranquility.”  But the Hebrew idea stems from the word shalom.  The Hebrew is all about relationships instead of conditions.  When I get relationships right, other things work out.  I mean tidyng my house all day doesn’t insure right relationships with my family.  Working to provide for my family doesn’t insure healthy relationships with them.  Throwing myself wholeheartedly into my ministry doesn’t mean I have a right relationship with You and those around me.

Peace is not about physical prosperity but richness in the Lord, confidence in the Lord.  This richness, confidence, and intimacy produced through the workings of grace allow me quietness and rest and patience and understanding knowing that You, God, are not only in control of my life but that You are in control of every situation and every life around me.  You expect, no, You daily perform in my heart and life what You desire at the rate and time You deem right for me personally.  And that goes for the others around me.   Grace is not a magic trick that all of a sudden appears and then is over.  It has a sudden onset through salvation, but then constantly works to mold, perfect, build, and lift up.   Peace takes me through all the changes in confidence and love with patience.  Peace helps me hold things together concerning others because I can remember the grace I was shown and given and extend that to them and myself.

Because grace is never disappointed in me but always looks to who I will be, I can have peace.  And I can look that way at those around me.  Grace retains the lesson of my sin, yet removes the stain of sin far from me so that I may be set free.  Peace is knowing this and extending it to others.  Grace holds no records of wrong.  Peace is experiencing that and extending it to others.

In John 14:27, Jesus comforted His disciples withthese words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Here You were, Lord, preparing them for Your coming death.  You weren’t leaving them with a greeting to grant them happiness and prosperity.  You were preparing them for events that would turn their world upside down by leaving Your peace.  Now You were alive but You knew You were going to die.  And You were telling them, don’t be afraid.  Why could they not be afraid because You have left Your peace?  Because Your peace was an unending relationship, an unending intimacy with You.  They could only have that relationship when You finished Your mission.  You gave it to us and left if for us.  Unbroken fellowship with God given to us, left for us.  You gave “present-moment peace” to know and have the confidence that my relationship with God has been repaired!

Lord, teach me to truly live in Your grace and peace, not just to know about, but to joyfully live in the exxperience of Your intimacy with me.  And teach me to show Your grace and peace to others, because it ought to be a natural outflow.  Now, Lord, help me to follow Your example of loving and seeking communion with God so that our relationship is right because only then will I be able to set my other relationships right and put everything else into right perspective around me.  May I run to You continually in grace and peace.

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 One More Beautiful

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Photo credit to the Cavicchi’s.  (Congratulations!)

“The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

Lord, I want to stay looking at the depth and magnitude of Your love for Your people.  And I want to remember that Your love for me is not measured by my actions or abilities.  I’m going back to Ezekiel and rehashing how You took Jerusalem to love.  Because I need to remember what her redeeming quality was.  What made her worth loving?  What made her loveable to You?

Here are Your words about the state of Jerusalem when You chose her.  “Your birth and nativity is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite.  And as for your nativity, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you; you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.  No eye pitied you, to do any of these unto you, to have compassion upon you; but you were cast out in the open field, to the lothing of your person, in the day that you were born.  And when I passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you when you were in your blood, ‘Live;’ yes, I said unto you when you were in your blood, ‘Live.’ ” (Ezekiel 16: 3-6)

How is that for a graphic picture?  So here was Jerusalem, Israel, like a new-born baby just left out on it’s own with no one to care for her.  But let’s look at the whole picture.  Her dad was an Amorite and her mother a Hittite.  Where did Jerusalem come from again?  Aren’t those “heathen” nations?  Weren’t they always standing against You, Lord, and against Your people?  But aren’t You saying that this is where Your people came from?  Aren’t You saying that Your people were born in this sinful union?  Well, that makes absolute sense.  Just like Israel didn’t start out as Israel, neither do any of us start out as holy.  Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” was not just about modern man.  This is the truth about every baby ever born, including “Jerusalem.”

I was born into the world just like Jerusalem.  Well, I was taken care of in the hospital, but how about spiritually?  If my parents were believers then who really took care of me?  Who really cleansed me?  Was it them?  Or was it only them by Your power and Your grace?  And what if I was born to a family who did not know the Lord?  Who cleansed me then?  How did I even know I needed cleansing?  Wasn’t it still You?  I mean, who else would have cared about me spiritually?

And doesn’t the same thing go for how I was raised?  Who had true compassion on me?  Who truly cared about the welfare of my soul?  Who cared about my eternity?  Who cared enough to be able to do something about it?  Who cared enough and had the ability to do something about it?  Who saw my potential in Your eyes?  Who grew me into You and impressed upon me the things of a Holy and Righteous God?  Who shaped my thinking and my desires toward You?  Who drew me towards righteousness, compassion, and holiness?  Who made me so I could know and accept You?  Who made me so I saw Your value?  Who washed me and clothed me and anointed me to equip me?  Who went beyond the basics and showered me with blessings beyond compare?  Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  What did this life You gave me look like?

Here are Your own words, “‘I have caused you to multiply as the bud of the field, and you have increased and become great, and you are come to excellent ornaments: your breasts are fashioned, and your hair is grown, whereas you were naked and bare.  Now when I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yes, I sware unto you, and entered into a covenant with you,’ says the Lord God, ‘and you became mine.  Then I washed you with water; yes, I thoroughly washed away your blood from you, and I anointed you with oil.  I clothed you also with embroidered work, and put shoes of badgers’ skin on you, and I girded you about with fine linen, and I covered you with silk.  I decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck.  And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head.  Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your clothing was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil; and you were exceeding beautiful, and you prospered into a kingdom.  And renown went forth among the heathen for your beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon you.’ says the Lord God.”  (Eziekiel 16:7-14)

How did Jerusalem become beautiful?  Where did her renown come from?  How do I become beautiful?  Where does my renown come from?  Our beauty is only made perfect through Your character.  Your magnificence, Your splendor, Your ornamentation, Your beauty, Your excellency, Your gloriousness, Your honour, Your majesty, Your everything is what was imparted to Jerusalem and it’s what You impart to any one of us who puts our trust in You.  I have no beauty aside from You.  Neither did Jerusalem.  When Jerusalem stopped walking in Your beauty, they lost it.  Because our beauty is attached to You.

You said Jerusalem’s beauty was “perfect” through Your “comeliness.”  Now You said that again to us all through Jesus in Matthew 5:48, “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  Really?  I’m to be perfect?  Yes.  But not in the American sense or the Greek sense.  It’s just like this picture You painted for us in the God sense.  I’m to let You have Your beautiful way in me.  I’m to just let You have Your way and do Your thing in me.  Is that really so hard?

It’s not even about being perfected.  It’s really about being made complete.  It’s about being made complete in You and completely like You.  Oh, but how can I ever be completely like You?  I let You continually do Your work of beautifying in me, I surrender to and in it, and I just let You do Your thing until You are done.  And I can be confident that You will complete Your beautiful work.

Now, here we’re talking about a child being born.  And specifically we’re looking at a child being born into You, Lord, and being given life and beauty in You.  And this isn’t a Greek or American idea.  We can find it back in Genesis.  And we find You speaking it to the Israelites in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.”  You are calling us to set apart our lives in You for Your purposes.  You want us to submit to Your beautiful ways, even if they seem hard.  You want us to stop rebelling and taste the goodness of You, and in tasting, experience Your goodness, and have that goodness imparted to us.  And it’s not a one time deal.  This is continual.  I need to continually taste Your goodness.  I need to continually be refreshed in Your beauty.  I need to continually submit and receive and express what You are imparting to me of Yourself.  It’s a continual process of You beautifying me and me receiving Your beautifying.  Every day You make me more capable of being holy like You are holy.

And this is not some esoteric idea or philosophy I get to just talk about attaining some day.  This takes place in every practical and not so practical area of my life.  Just as beautiful as the life of Christ was when You walked on earth, Lord, is how beautiful that my life is supposed to look like now.  You walked out Your  beauty on earth so that I could know what mine ought to look like when it’s walked out on earth.  But I never walk the beauty out on my own.  Once I place my trust in You, You walk out Your beauty on earth in my life as I continually submit to You.  I live out the beauty of Your Word and Life in my life.  I act in accord with Your Word and with Your Spirit.  Your beautiful compassion becomes my beautiful compassion.  Your beautiful attitude becomes my beautiful attitude.  Even Your beautiful suffering becomes my beautiful suffering.  Your beautiful way of acting and responding in the world becomes my beautiful way of acting and responding in the world.

Who gets the credit, Lord?  Absolutely not Jerusalem, not Israel, not me.  You get all the credit, Lord, because You are the One who has done this beautiful work in each of us.  You are the One who gives us a heart to desire to live according to Your way that You have established.  You are holiness.  And holiness is living in You.  Holiness is living Your way.  Period.  And there’s no way to live that way unless I am fully relying on You.  Lord, keep me from rebellion.  Keep me from thinking that I have anything to offer on my own.  And mostly, keep me in the power and preciousness and presence of Your beauty.

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)  Yes, this is what I seek, to know You like this, Lord.  I need to recognize the wonder of Your beauty continually.  I need to not leave it.  I need to live in it, to live in You.  And I need, moment by moment, with every breath I take, to inquire about my next breath from You.  Why?  Because I want my every breath to be beautiful in You.  Am I there yet?  No.  But I know that as long as I surrender and remain in Your beautifying grasp, You will take me there.

And, Yes, God, You are mighty enough to do this in me.  This is what You save us unto.  But to think that You rejoice with singing and excited dancing over this baby that You make beautiful, well, Lord, that is just amazingly mind-boggling.  That is just amazing, mind-boggling love to the utmost.  Who could fathom that?  That You rest in Your love for me, for each of us, and that You joy over each of us and all of us together with singing…Wow, Lord!  What can I say?  This is where words fail, but Your beauty never fails.  There is no one more beautiful, Lord, no one.

How About Rest Today?

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“…for Good News has also been proclaimed to us, just as it was to them.  But the message they heard didn’t do them any good, because those who heard it did not combine it with trust.  For it is we who have trusted who enter the rest….”  (Hebrews 4: 2, 3a)

Wow!  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Who doesn’t want to hear Good News and who doesn’t want it to pertain to them?  And especially now, in these days, doesn’t rest seem promising in this ever-so-fast-paced world?  But this joyful hope is actually wedged between some not so joyful thoughts.  This is actually wedged in a warning.

What’s the warning?  Well, in chapter 3, Paul was reminding everyone of the attitude of the Israelites in the desert with Moses.  How they had the promise and presence of God and yet they didn’t trust Him.  They kept wanting things their own way, or the old way, and they kept complaining and grumbling against Him.  They had this kingdom planned for them, this rest that You, God, had prepared for them right around the corner, really, but because of disobedience and unbelief, they had to wander in a wilderness for 40 years!  And most of them never got to experience the rest that You, God, wanted them to enter from the start. You hadn’t wanted them to wait 40 years for it.  And it wasn’t that they didn’t know about it.  They knew everything that was required to enter that rest, but they disregarded it all.  They exempted themselves.

So Paul warns us about exempting ourselves.  Verse 4:1 starts with “Therefore, let us be terrified of the possibility that, even though the promise of entering His rest remains, any one of you might be judged to have fallen short of it.”  Ooooh!  That hurts!  Because it’s not just about having the Gospel preached in my hearing.  It’s not just about the hearing of the Truth.  Because so many Jews in the wilderness heard, but they didn’t respond rightly.  They heard, but it didn’t do them any good.  Why?  Because if we don’t hear and combine it with trust, it’s just words.  When I take Your words, Lord, and I combine them with trust, it becomes power.  Because then I become an instrument of Your power.

Think about it.  Twelve men went to spy the promised land.  Ten came back telling stories of the giants and how they would be defeated because the “power” of the people there was so great.  Two men came back and said, “God is bigger!  He can defeat giants!  This is no problem for Him!”  Ten men trusted in their own strength and the strength of other men.  Two men combined what they had already learned of You, Lord, and Your promises, with trust.  And that brings another thought to mind.

What thought is that, you might ask?  That I think that Joshua and Caleb, our two spies who trusted You, Lord, had already begun entering Your rest.  Wait a minute!  They didn’t get to enter the promised land until 40 years later!  Maybe not physically, but I think that when you see giants and you can say, “No problem.  No worries.  God is going to handle this for us,” then I think that’s a state of rest in itself.  I’d call that resting in the Lord, and it only comes with a committed trust in His every word and every part of His being.

Now here’s the other sandwich end of Paul’s words for us today.  “For it is we who have trusted who enter the rest.”  I’m stopping here for a minute because as I read that, it’s not telling me that we who have trusted will one day enter the rest.  It’s telling me that we enter it.  When I knock on a friend’s door and they open it and invite me in and I step inside, I enter their house.  I don’t wait ten minutes or ten years before I enter.  It’s something I do now.

I’m going to jump back to Matthew and share something that You, said, Jesus.  You were talking to a young man who asked how he could have eternal life.  But You refocused his thinking and ours by Your response.  Here’s what You said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good?  There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  (Matthew 19:17  NASB)  First, You focussed on entering into life, not even looking ahead to eternal life.  And this entering is a verb form that is something that has already been started.  And another word You choose to use is this particular word for wish.

Oh, let me go into a little more detail here.  This wish is “thelo” in Greek,  It’s a desire or wish.  So is the word “boule.”  They both mean to desire and wish something and to plan.  But there is a great difference.  “Thelo” makes sure it happens; “boule” does not make sure it is accomplished.  Sounds like You are pointing this young man and us to a faith that acts upon what it knows.  Faith isn’t just wishing I would be a better wife or a better husband or wishing I would have greater faith.  Faith is applying what I know so that it is coming to pass in my life.

But that’s not all.  There’s that word “eiserchomai” for entering in.  And the young man wants to enter into eternal life one day in the future.  But Jesus is using this verb tense that’s saying that life has already been entered.  What?  You mean I’m supposed to be concerned with how I live now?  This is the life I’m to be living for You?  Is it really my desire to live and bring about life?  Really?  Well, I’m are already in it?  What am I doing with it?  Am I livingYou out in it?  Is my life a portrayal of Your words?  You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Is that what my life looks like?  I‘ve got all the words I need.  Am I living them out in obedience, in faith?  Because to live in You, to live in Your words, that’s what life is all about.

And so I come to the rest of verse 3.  “It is just as He said, ‘And in my anger, I swore that they would not enter my rest.’  He swore this even though His works have been in existence since the founding of the universe.”  But I can’t stop here because I need to go on to verse 6 and 7.  Listen, Heart.  “Therefore, since it still remains for some to enter it, and those who received the Good News earlier did not enter, He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David, so long afterwards, in the text already given, ‘Today, if you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your hearts.'”

What does all this mean, Lord?  Maybe, that believing is living it out in life right now.  What if I was so concerned with living every moment for You that I really didn’t even have time to dwell on Heaven?  Would that really be so bad?  I mean, what if I was living out Your word in my life moment by every moment?  What if I was seeing giant after giant all around me and it wasn’t phasing me because I trusted Your words to me so much, I knew that You would defeat every one as long as I committed my ways to You and followed Your leading?  I mean, I have so many giants surrounding me right now but I’m going to choose to trust You and go on waiting for that moment when You will defeat them.  You know, I don’t have this down pat, Lord.  But I’m learning to turn from my ways and trust in You more and more every moment.

Lord, I’m not the only one who needs to live in Your rest now.  We all need it.  And we can’t wait until heaven.  And I’m so glad that You don’t intend for us to wait that long to rest in You.  You are our rest.  You established Yourself as our rest when You created the universe.  Your works and Your rest have existed for us since then.  Today I can enter into that rest.  But that today actually started so long ago.  How many days will I choose to pass up on Your rest?  I don’t want to pass up on any more.  And I pray that no matter the situation going on in my life or anyone else’s out there, that no matter how big the giant or how many, that we would live in Your rest by faith in action.  May Your word and You live through us and may we give You and Your word every opportunity through faith.  I’m so glad Your today started before mine and that I get to live in Your today forever!

A Rest More Effective Than Work

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“But to him that works not, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Romans 4:5

Our attitude about God, toward God, and in God matters.  This specific attitude of Abraham called “faith” was so important that it’s mentioned basically the same way in Romans, Galatians, and James.  “Abraham believed God” and it was accounted to him as righteousness.  In James, he was even called the Friend of God because of this attitude.  So do I have this attitude?  And what does it look like?

Well, I started thinking about this yesterday.  And after I had finished, I couldn’t help but think about a phrase in Your word, Lord.  Well, I didn’t have it exactly right but I kept thinking about these words: “in rest and in quietness and in trust.”  So as I was driving and spending time talking with You, because if you turn off the radio, the quiet is a good time for that, well those words started floating around in my head.  And I knew that when I got home, I had to find that verse.

Well, I did.  Isaiah is actually speaking of the sin of Israel.  And God is telling them about the attitude they have and the actions they’ve been demonstrating because of it and the problems in their life it is causing.  And He tells them the cure.  “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15)  But the problem was, according to You, Lord, through Isaiah, they were unwilling.

See, Abraham got it.  I mean, he wasn’t perfect either, he was still human, but he got this idea of a proper response, a proper worship of God, of You.  It all starts with returning, “shub” or “shubah” in this instance.  It’s not just an action.  Here it’s a state of heart and mind and being.  Abraham or we turn away from whatever has kept us from You and we return to You.  There is this action on our part that totally repositions our subsequent actions and our whole focus of thinking.  The pagans sought their gods to turn to them, but God seeks us to turn to Him.  He is calling us back into our position in Him that we had before sin entered the world.  This is where we begin to find everything we have been seeking for in all the wrong things.  This is where we find satisfaction.  Up till this point, we’ve been searching in empty wells.  But the well is full and overflowing.  We just have to turn to the right well and partake.

Returning is accompanied by rest.  I don’t think they are two separate things here but the reemphasis of the first.  Remember that we returned and positioned ourselves in God.  Well, that’s were rest is found.  This is the position where my works are handed over for Your working in me.  This is where You, Lord, do the saving.  This is where You save me unto You and into You.  This is where You save me moment by moment from my self and from sin, and where You save me in You continually.  This is where You save me in every trial that rears its head against me.   This is where You save me from my wrong attitudes.

And that’s just it.  Scripture, in Psalm 67:2, talks about Your “saving power.”  It’s the Hebrew word “yasha.”  But in that verse it’s the word “yeshuateka.”  “Yeshua,” that’s Your name.  It’s Your salvation.  It’s not my power.  It’s all about returning to You and making You known.  It’s all about showing the world that our power is in You.  I find my rest in You because You are the one working in me.  How beautiful is that?  Your work in me saves me.  This is faith, letting You have Your way in me.

Where does my strength come from?  Psalm 121:1,2 says, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from where my help comes.  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”  And that reminds me of when I first put my trust in You, Lord, as a 15 year old.  I remember looking up into the hills behind our church after youth group and singing this song I had learned in the Christian school I was attending- “Unto Thee, Oh Lord, do I lift up my soul, unto Thee, Oh Lord, do I lift up my soul.  Oh my God, I trust in Thee.  Let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”  That’s actually Psalm 25:1,2.  I wish I understood then what I’ve come to learn since then.  That You alone are my Help.  You are every Aid I need.  You are my Strength.  When I look up to the hills, I’m looking up to the mount where You became my Salvation which is my Help and my Strength and my Everything I Need.

“In quietness and trust shall be your strength.”  How can this be when we are taught, even within the church to be so busy?   The Hebrew word, “shaqat” has to do with inactivity, lying down, resting, not being harrassed.  It can mean me quieting myself or me being quieted.  David felt it when he shared Psalm 23.   Read it.  He said You made him lie down in green pastures.  You lead him to where the still waters are.  You restore his soul.  You do it to impart Your righteousness.  And am I any different than David?  If David, “a man after God’s own heart,” needed You to do this in him and for him, I need You to do this in and for me just as much.

So, I’m saved in this quietness You give me in You, that is only found in You.  It’s not by my works, but wholly by Yours.  And there is this confidence that I develop in You as I place my trust in You.  Because I am listening to Your voice and learning to trust and obey, because you can’t separate the two.  You speak, and like Abraham, or David, or Rahab, I listen.  I let You do what You say You will.  I let You be God in my life.  I let You settle me, lead me, restore me, turn me around.  And every time I listen and obey, I see something more of You.  Even greater, I experience something more of You.  And my confidence in You builds.  And my trust in You grows exponentially, not because of what I am doing but because of what You are doing in and through me as I allow You to have full reign and be You.  This is my strength.  You are my Strength.

It’s “not by works of righteousness which I have done” but by Your works of righteousness for me and in me and through me.  It was never about the work I do, but always about the work You do in me.  But Your work in me glorifies You and draws others to You so that they can be Your works of art and glorify You with their lives as they return and rest in You, as they find their quietness and confidence in You, as You become their strength.  This is faith.  Believing to the point of letting You have Your way in my life.  Faith is handing all of me over to You to mold into Your image of righteousness and to live You out in my life as You live through me.

Wow!  Galing!  (That’s Filipino for Wow!) Yeah, this is AWESOME stuff, because this is GOD STUFF!  I don’t have to be anybody, but just to be God’s, just to be in Christ, makes me special beyond compare.  I am everything I need to be, and everything I could ever want to be in You, Lord.  I may not compare to anyone else, but I don’t have to.  We were created to be in Your image.  And You alone make that possible and turn that into reality in my life.  That’s the only ministry I want, Lord, because everything else lacks without it.  I just want the ministry of believing, really.  I want the ministry of being in You and You being in me and being God in me and through me.  That’s what I want as my ministry.  And through that ministry, that ministry of Yours, my prayer is that I would minister to others that they would become part of Your ministry of believing.  That’s my prayer, Lord.  That’s the only ministry I want so no matter what You lead me to do, You are always ministering through me because I’m always resting in You and letting You have Your way in me.