Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10,000 Reasons

Hello Friends,

It has been a really long time since I have had the time to sit down and write...or should I say since I have MADE USE of my time to sit down and write. Life gets busy, doesn't it? Well, I hope to share some encouraging words today with you that have been on my heart.

I love the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. I love how at the end, not only did everyone get fed, but there were also baskets of food left over. The blessing of God in our own lives is like that. He meets our every need according to His will and then pours out even more. I'm sure many of you reading this are going through some struggles and wishing that moment of needs-being-met would just happen already! But it will. Maybe not on your time schedule, or in the way you would expect, but God has promised that He always comes through, and He will. 

We've had a lot of medical bills stretching us thin the last few months- both from Cohen's May surgery and also from our new monthly payments for baby Sawyer. Yes, we had enough money to pay every bill and feed every mouth, but there sure wasn't much left over! This has forced us to really prioritize our spending as well as truly rely on God. And God has provided in extremely unexpected ways-and in abundant ways, much like the leftover baskets of fish and bread.  I've always known the Matthew 7:7 verse, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you", but now I believe it. God loves to prove Himself faithful to us, and does so time after time. If we will place God in His proper place of authority in our lives, not only speaking and singing words of worship, but also living out lives that show we worship Him, He will always make a way, often in unexpected ways. 

If you have time, I encourage you to listen to the song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman and read the lyrics. Such a powerful song of thanksgiving and a testimony of the Lord's faithfulness to us. As the song says, there are (at least) 10,000  reasons for our hearts to be grateful to God today. Stop and thank Him for all He has done, all He is doing, and for the bright future ahead that will also surely be filled with His blessings and beautiful presence.

Listen here:

"10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)" by Matt Redman

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
Lord, I'll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I'll worship Your holy name
I'll worship Your holy name

Monday, August 15, 2011

Raising a Generation to Be the Hands and Feet of Christ

Hello Friends,

I have been so burdened for the people of the horn of Africa. I know there are problems all over the world and even in our own country, people are having trouble getting by. But these photos of starving children, similar in age to mine are heartbreaking. As I was looking through the news online this morning, my oldest son, Silas, came and sat on my lap and looked with me. He instantly started brainstorming all the ways we could help these people- some of his better ideas were to put some Ramen Noodles on a toy boat and sail it to Africa :) and to give them all the extra zucchini from our garden. I loved it! I loved having that conversation with my son about how we can help people and how we can do the work Jesus has asked us to do. 

We aren't going to send Ramen noodles via toy boat or ship a box of zucchini, but we did decide to donate money to Samaritan's Purse, an organization working diligently in Kenya to distribute much needed food. Being a one-income family, we don't have lots of extra money to spare, but we want to help. Jarrod and I have decided that in an effort to raise our boys and let them see that there is a bigger world, a hurting world, a suffering world that desperately needs them to do all they can to help, we're going to sit down every payday as a family and discuss an area of the world that needs our help and our prayers. And then we're going to sit as a family and make a donation online to an organization we trust in that area. I know it seems like a drop in the bucket when you look at the overall situations in our world, but it's at least doing something. I pray that my kids grow in their capacity for compassion and are driven to be generous to others in need. I know all of you parents wish that for your kids- well let's start modeling it and letting them participate in the merciful, life-giving work that Jesus deeply wants us to do. I would encourage all of you to think of a similar family activity that inspires generosity and grows compassion, not only in our kids, but in us too. 

Blessings to you all! 

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
-James 2:14-17

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence ...” 
-John 3:16-19

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Time Gets Away

Well, it has been entirely too long since I wrote last. Here's the deal- I was cranking out some blogs on a near daily basis before we went on vacation back in June. I was in a routine and I felt really good about it. Well then we went on vacation and it was sort of tough to jump back in to the routine. Then a couple weeks later, I found out I was expecting baby 3!!! Totally unplanned, totally unexpected, but we're totally happy about it! So then the whole tired-nauseous-pregnant struggle started and the last thing I wanted to do was share happy thoughts on my blog, because I had few happy thoughts to share in those weeks. But today, I am so grateful that I am feeling well and have a little spare energy to burn. So I want to share (briefly, mind you) some thoughts I had as I read Psalm 39 last night before bed starting in verse 4.

4 “O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath! 

Verse 4 really got my attention. It really goes well with a devotion I just wrote for LCC for next week about making your days count. Just like I wrote about with getting out of the habit of blogging- days of not writing turned into weeks and weeks into a month! Time gets away from us really fast!

I was reminded of this again the other day at my son Silas' well-check for Pre-school. The doctor was amazed by how tall he has grown in the past year. I guess I knew he was tall, but the time goes so fast and the growth happened so fast, that I didn't realize just how tall he had grown until someone stopped me and showed me a chart and then I realized- wow! He did get really tall this year! And smart and funny and he's turning more and more into a little man instead of my little baby. Time gets away.

So maybe you should stop today and think about where time is taking you these days.

Further away from, or closer to God?
Time spent without, or time spent in His Word?
Weakening in prayer or deepening in prayer?
Running away from, or running toward the work of the Kingdom?

Because time gets away from us. We think we'll last on this earth forever, but then passages like Psalm 39 remind us that our time is but a breath here on earth. We've got to make life count for something greater than ourselves before it's gone.

I am praying that God will continue to use me and to help me make better use of my hours, days, weeks, months, years, and life. I am praying the same for you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who Do We Say that He Is?

Lots of questions today and not many answers... take some time to reflect.

Who do we say that God is...

...With our words?
      Do we choose carefully the things that we say? Are we talking about God on a regular basis with friends and family? If He is truly the priority of our lives, we should be talking about Him. A lot. 

Start up a conversation with your kids or your spouse today about what God is doing in your life right now. 

...With our generosity?
     Luke 12:34 says, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. So how are we showing that God is our treasure and that He rules over our hearts? Our money, our time, our abilities-they all belong to Him anyway. Are you giving at least 10% of your income as a tithe as the scriptures tell us to do? Are you using your abilities to help others and spread the Kingdom? Are you sharing the resources you've been blessed with to help others less fortunate? 

Give. Donate some time as a volunteer at your church, a hospital, a food bank, a school. Find someone with a need and meet it, no matter how small. 

...With our lives? 
     Your actions speak louder than words. Little eyes are watching your every move. I know from having kids and seeing them imitate not only me, but each other proves this fact. Everything God made, from the stars, to the flowers of the field, to the fish swimming in the ocean, to the tiny intricate bugs that crawl on the ground were made to reflect His glory and His involvement in our world. You are also a reflection of Him- how well are you reflecting Him today? 

Think about your character and your life choices. Are there any areas that are not meeting God's standard? He doesn't demand perfection, but He wants us to surrender ourselves to His ways: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Ask God to help you display His character, make a plan to work on any weak areas in your life and live a life that imitates His. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Creator

Well it's been a while friends! I've been a busy lady, blessed with loads of family time over the past few weeks. We've been to the beach. We've camped under the humid sticky July sky. And this weekend? Who knows! We just left the camping gear out this time since we'll be pulling it all out again on Friday for yet another adventure. I think this weekend will find us heading to the cool mountains of West Virginia where we'll be immersed in the beauty of the wilderness (aka I won't have access to a shower or flushing toilets for several days). But it's fun. It's memorable. It's a time to pause and consider who I am and what I am doing. It's a time to be still. 

What I love to think about when I'm visiting places away from home is how creative God is. All the different ecosystems- all the different animals, bugs, birds, flowers. From the murky swamp to the clear ocean waters, our God is a creative God! I love to think about the creation account in Genesis and the joy and excitement that must have surely welled up in the heart of God as He rolled up His sleeves, looking at the blank canvas before Him saying, "Let's do this."  

My devotion that I read this morning was Psalm 33. 33:6-9 says, 

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
   their starry host by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars
   He puts the deep into storehouses. 

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
   let all the people of the world revere Him.
For He spoke, and it came to be;
   He commanded, and it stood firm.

Imagine that kind of power! To be able to speak things into existence! And not just any old "things" either- an entire world spoken into existence! Light created where before there was nothing at all! And Psalm 139 tells us that in much the same way, God created each of us, carefully knitting us together in the darkness of our Mother's wombs! The Psalms show us that from the giant details of the universe to the intricate forming of a baby, God's power and creativity extend to the smallest of details. God speaks and things happen. His hands can create anything and everything. He is amazing. 

When we consider creation, we should be in awe of the grand scale of the universe and our world. But we should also recognize the intimate connection we have with our Creator. He has created all things in a very purposed, orderly way. His main goal is that His glory would be revealed. All of creation is certainly doing it's part to reveal His greatness and today my prayer is that we, as His people, would be purposed to do the same. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A.W. Tozer = Genius

I've been reading the very short book The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and it's just amazing. This man can WRITE! So today, I'm not even going to try. I'm just going to let you read some quotes from his book that have really impacted me and see for yourselves. Practically every sentence in this book is something you want to copy down, put in a frame, and hang somewhere in your house where you'll read it every day until it sinks in. Oh man it's good. It cost like 4 bucks on Amazon. Buy it. Now.   :) 

"We Christians must simplify our lives or lose untold treasures on earth and in eternity."

"...Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God. Believing, then, is directing the hearts' attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to "behold the Lamb of God," and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.'

"God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as He can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.

"Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us." 

"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything." 

"Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and "things" were allowed to enter. Within the human heart, "things" have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne." 

"The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. They are 'poor in spirit'. They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is where the word 'poor' as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting, but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. 'Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'. " 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Years

Today Jarrod and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. It's been an amazing 10 years! I was thinking back on our wedding day and remembering how beautiful it all was this morning. Everything was perfect! The theme of our day was built around a song that Jarrod and I sang together during the ceremony (and if you know me at all, this does not come as a surprise to you!) The song was based on a powerful passage from scripture, Psalm 61:1-5

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Our pastor at that time gave a memorable message that day about marriage. He said that when based upon God as the foundation, marriage can be a shelter and a refuge. That truth has stayed with me throughout our years of marriage. Anyone who has been married for longer than a few years knows the truth- life happens. You don't always have those giddy, lovey-dovey, barf-inducing days just following your wedding.

 Jobs are difficult to find but bills have to be paid. 

Doctors tell you it will be difficult if not impossible for you to conceive a child.

When you do conceive a child, you face the difficulty of sudden loss.

Difficulties arise in your area of ministry and you just don't know where God wants you.

After having a family, it's difficult to find any time to get a word in edgewise together! 

Sicknesses come, the economy crumbles, loved ones die...the list goes on and on. Life is difficult sometimes! Marriage is difficult sometimes! 

But through it all, God has been faithful. And through it all, our marriage has been a place of shelter and refuge from the world. 

It's significant in my opinion that marriage is not easy. This fact has vast implications. I recently read the book Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge and found this passage to be such a great explanation of marriage: 

"We all know that loving is hard. Marriage is hard. It is hard because it is opposed. The devil hates marriage; he hates the beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride that it represents. He hates love and life and beauty in all its forms. The world hates marriage. It hates unity and faithfulness and monogamy. Our flesh is not our ally here either- -it rebels when we put others before ourselves. Our flesh hates dying.

But God loves marriage! The Holy Trinity is for it. God loves intimacy, friendship, unity, self-sacrifice, laughter, pleasure, joy, and the picture of the Sacred Romance that you have the opportunity to present to the watching world. God is with you. He is for you. He commands you to love and he says that with him and in him all things are possible. Not easy. But possible. "

So there you have it- our marriages are often turned into a battleground, but that is because they are set in the midst of a war between good and evil. But as the Pastor said 10 years ago from this day, marriage, when based upon God as the foundation, can be a shelter and a refuge. That's the promise that we've lived by for a decade and we pray that promise over all of you today. Marriage can be a place of shelter and refuge...but the key is that God HAS to be the foundation. A marriage built upon anything less than God will crumble- sure, it might stay together, but it will be devoid of the joy and the unity that could have been. If you have a good marriage and want to make it even better, invite God to take His place at the center of it and see what happens!

My prayer for you today is for your marriage- that you embrace the beauty of loving another person deeply. And if you are not married today and dream that the day will come soon, I am praying that God will bring His dreams for your life to fruition- dreams more amazing than anything you ever imagined. God is good. He provides. He sustains. He heals. He loves. He is our ultimate shelter and refuge. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summit 2


I am so unbelievably stirred and excited about what God has in store for us this Sunday evening at  Summit 2. We're going to have an awesome evening of sharing corporately in worship through music, communion,  prayer, and various interactive stations that will focus on our theme for the evening, "The Journey:Every Step is Praise".

I pray that you will make it a priority to be at the Summit. I pray that you will make it a priority to pray for those involved in leading the Summit and also for all those who will be coming, that God will show us His glory in a life-changing way.

If you were at the last Summit, then you know how strong the presence of God was in our midst that evening. You know how the Lord bound us all together in unity. You know how many lives were changed- chains were broken, hearts were mended, relationships were renewed, and in it all, God received all the glory. This Summit is going to be another night of change. We've been preparing for months- prayerfully choosing the songs, the stations, the scriptures to guide us...now all that is left is to wait with eager anticipation until the evening begins at 6:00 on Sunday.

Please plan to join us. You will be so glad that you did.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Be Lifted High

Isaiah 6
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

As Summit 2 approaches, it is my deepest prayer that we would all come expecting a mighty revelation of who God is. 
That we would stand in awe of the majesty and mystery of God. 
That wonder would lead to worship. 
That we would leave the evening forever-changed and ready to be a source of change in our world. That we could truly say "Here am I. Send me!" 
The glory of God is our heart's desire. Feeling the Holy Spirit moving in our midst, changing hearts and mending lives is our expectation. 

This song encapsulates everything that I want to say so well, so I'll stop writing and let you listen and read through the lyrics. Be lifted high, Lord!
Be Lifted High by Brian Johnson and Tim Hughes

Be lifted high
Be lifted high
For your glory
Be lifted high

You're the king of all the ages
You're the author of salvation
You're the reason why we're singing
For your glory
Lord release the sound of Heaven
Let it rise in every nation
We will join the anthem singing

You're the Everlasting Father
You're the all consuming fire
You're the reason why we're living
For your glory
We will be a generation
Calling down the reign of Heaven
We will join the anthem singing

Be lifted high, be lifted high
Higher and higher Lord
Be lifted high, be lifted high
Higher and higher Lord

Swimming in the Depths

We're back from our vacation at the beach! What a beautiful time we had growing closer to each other as a family and indulging in the beauty of God's creation. Words can't describe that feeling you get when you see the ocean after not having seen it for a while. It's overwhelming to consider the immensity of the ocean and it is humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time to look out and consider that God made all of that and that I play a small, teenie-tiny little part in it all.

Sometimes we need the bigness of the ocean to remind us of how small we really are.

A thought came to me as I was thinking back on my time at the beach and I want to share it with you now:

The moment we can finally worship in spirit and in truth will come when we embrace the knowledge that life never was, nor will it ever be, about us.

As you stand on the sandy beach and see the giant waves pounding the shore, blue sparkling water as far as your vision allows you to look- it is in that moment that you realize just how insignificant you really are, but how significant the God you worship IS. WAS. AND WILL BE.  And how He is the only source of value you have. His heart in ours is what makes our lives mean anything at all.

The ocean also reminds us that life goes on and on and on and the ocean is always doing it's own thing whether we enter it's waters or not. But we certainly enjoy our trip to the beach if we do step into the waters and take full advantage of it's warm moving waters. In the same way, we do have a lot of control over the depth of our relationship with our Creator.We can stick our toe in at the edge and get a minimal glimpse of what a life totally surrendered to Him would look like, or we can run and plunge in to the deepest part of who He is- abandoning self in exchange for life with Him. And to be honest, there is some difficulty in the depths- there is an ever-lurking threat of the unknown. There is effort required. But there is also joy. And beauty. And adventure. And exhilaration.

So are you standing on the shore observing, or are you jumping headfirst into the riches of His depths?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Too Busy to Worship

As we prepare for Summit 2, I have been compiling a lot of different information about worship since the theme for Summit 2 is The Journey:Every Step is Praise. I've been working hard lining up set lists, emailing reminders, questions, concerns, and ideas. I've been ordering art supplies. I've been working hard!  The reason I'm cranking through all this is we go on vacation this week too, so it all has to come together! I'm full of anticipation for both the vacation and the Summit, but if I'm being honest, in the midst of all the busy work is this little nagging feeling... You see, I think I've been so wrapped up in my work that I've forgotten who I'm doing the work for.  As I was falling asleep (very late) last night after working on Summit 2 things, I realized I sure had been working hard on seeking information ABOUT God, but I had not been very diligent about simply seeking God.

This happens to me on a different level on my kids' birthdays. Let me explain. I tuck them in bed the night before and then wake up early on their big party day. I clean, I cook, I decorate the cake. Jarrod whisks the boys away to some other area of the house so that I can get my stuff done without interruptions. I don't really see the birthday boys all day long because I'm so busy with the preparations. When it comes time to blow out the candles, it suddenly hits me! Uggg! What have I been doing all day long? I forgot the most important thing of all! Enjoying my kid on the day of his birth! I've had 4 years of this now and I've finally come to the realization that the person is way more important than the party. So anyone invited to this years' festivities, I will apologize in advance- it's going to be way more thrown together this year and all years after this. There may even be...dare I say it...a store bought cake (gasp!) and I can guarantee that the invitations will be something I can throw together in less than an hour...no individually hand-crafted invitations that take a month to make. Sorry, but I am not being overtaken by the madness anymore. I love my kids. I want their day to be special. But I also want to enjoy the time with them instead of focusing on the work. 

A lot of times in our relationship with God, we run into the same trap- forgetting that the person(Jesus) is way more important than the party (life).

Sometimes we get so busy doing ministry work, or just work in general, that we lose focus of the big picture. I am so bad about this lately. I work and work and am so busy that I forget that my heart's deepest desire and purpose is simply to be with God. To know Him. To be still. Do not be deceived to believe that being busy is equal to being spiritual. This is probably one of the biggest tricks of the enemy. It's kind of ironic, isn't it? The Director of Worship being too busy to worship? But it happens. To ALL of us. So what can we do about it? 

There is a perfect story in the Bible about this very subject in Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

On the flip side, I think sometimes people could use this passage as a way to get out of work. I mean, honestly, in ministry or in life you can't just hang out all day loving Jesus and leaving the details to everyone else- there is work to be done! But I think the point of the passage is that our attitude and our mindset about the work that needs to be done is important. Are we, as Martha was, distracted by all that needs to be done? Are we obsessing about details that don't matter? Are we playing the "Martyr card" (woe is me...I'm doing ALL this work...feel sorry for me!) I want everything that I do in ministry to be done with excellence and I want to work hard, but I also have to balance it out with the necessary time spent at the feet of Jesus- listening to Him, learning from Him, and loving Him.  

When's the last time you just stopped DOING and started BEING in God's presence? I know for me, it's been way too many days. Friends, seconds turn into minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, and years into lifetimes. I want my life to be defined by a deeply abiding love of Jesus- not all the work I did in His name. Although the work we do, no matter what it is, is important, it's not the most important part of life. Jesus wants our hearts, not the work of our hands. Without the heart, nothing else matters anyway. 

Be encouraged that though your life is busy, your heart doesn't have to be. Rest in Jesus' love. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) Don't be distracted by details that only matter to you anyway. Choose "the good portion, which will not be taken away from you". Work hard, but love God even harder and let every bit of effort that you produce in your life bring glory to Him. This is what worship is all about. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Honest Responses in Tough Times

The LORD makes firm the steps
   of the one who delights in Him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
   for the LORD upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

This is another key verse for Summit 2, The Journey: Every Step is Praise. 

Sometimes it's hard to read a verse like this when you're in the midst of a crisis situation and actually believe what it says. So many times when troubles come we feel abandoned by God. What does God expect from us in times when we feel like we're far from being upheld with God's hand? I think He expects raw honesty. 

So often in the book of Psalms, we read David's honest words as in Psalm 69:1-3 

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." 

Or my personal favorite Psalm of desperation, Psalm 35:22-23

"You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!"

Think about what David's saying in this Psalm! He's accusing God of being asleep! The Message Bible states it this way: 

"Don't you see what they're doing, God? You're not going to let them Get by with it, are you? Not going to walk off without doing something, are you?  Please get up - wake up! Tend to my case. My God, my Lord - my life is on the line."

David is saying, "Wake UP God!!! Where are You when I need You the most? Don't You understand what's going on???"

David is known as a "man after God's own heart" and yet he's questioning God vehemently in these and lots of other passages in the book of Psalms. Here's the key- God's not offended by our questions, but He wants us to trust Him for the answers. When we're going through a rough time, God has not fallen asleep on the job, He still possesses His omniscient, omnipresent powers, and He knows what's going on. What's difficult for our finite minds to comprehend is that He works infinitely on our behalf. A crisis situation today may be the moment we look back on in the future and recall as a Spiritual turning point. The point is that WE DON'T KNOW what's going on completely. But God does.

So bring on Your questions. He's big enough to handle them. Keep trudging ahead on the path, even if it seems hopeless. God surely has something amazing for you as you climb upward toward His help and His glorious presence and intervention in your life. 

Another Psalm to keep close to your heart when things are not going well is my all-time favorite: Psalm 121- A Song of Ascents. Songs (or Psalms) of Ascents are thought to be psalms that were sung by the people on the ascents (or going up) to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16) or by the kohanim (priests) as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Source: Easton's Bible Dictionary) Ascent...Summit...I think I see a connection here :) 

I'm praying that as you read Psalm 121 the peace of God will invade your life. That you will truly believe that each step of Your journey towards His heart is worth the effort. And that even when the steps take you through painful places, you still choose to praise Him. 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

   From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,
   who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
  the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time forth and forevermore.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He Will Direct Your Path

Make me to know Your ways, O LORD;
 teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
 for You are the God of my salvation;
 for You I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:4-5

This is another key verse for Summit 2. If you are reading this and don't know what the Summit is, it is a quarterly worship experience at my church (Lancaster Community Church). I have the honor as Worship Director of LCC to coordinate this worship event. The first one absolutely blew me away. God revealed Himself to us in the time we spent together that night, and we responded with hearts surrendered to Him in praise. It is a moment I will never forget. Summit 2 is coming up and so I'm spending the next couple of weeks blogging about the concepts we'll be covering at our event which has the theme, The Journey: Every Step is Praise.

This Psalm took on even more meaning for me today as I was sitting at my parent's house gazing out into the woods while my boys played nearby. I saw this gorgeous flower on the edge of the woods (I've had an intense fondness for flowers as long as I can remember). The flower had dark, rich green foliage and then this burst of tiny white flowers in a globular shape at the tip of the stem. Really breathtaking (if you're into that sort of thing). I stepped off the porch and walked closer to the base of the hill so that I could get a closer look and as I came closer, I realized that there were a few more behind it, and then several more behind that cluster, and then I realized that a great majority of that section of the forest was densely dotted with these beautiful flowers. But I had to walk a ways to view the full splendor of the scene before me.

This made me think about how our journey with God plays out. We get this beautiful glimpse that propels us to continue on, and then with each step closer to Him, we see even more. We respond with adoration and thanks to each attribute He reveals and each glorious interaction with Him. This ties in so nicely with Psalm 25:4-5. So often we think that knowing God or studying the Bible is difficult, but we have to understand that He leads us each individually and at the pace that He knows is best for us. He reveals to us what needs to be revealed, when it needs revealed. He's never going to lead us into more than we can handle and we can trust His path because His understanding of the future is complete. Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path."

The most important thing to understand about the Christian journey is that He is the one guiding us and He knows where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. Externally, God leads us by His word while internally, His Spirit guides and teaches us in all situations...IF we will surrender and allow that to happen. And when we do surrender and allow Him to lead us instead of charging ahead like an insolent child, we see His beauty and glory revealed in ways that we could never experience without Him. For some of us, we're just at the start of the journey catching a glimpse of the beauty ahead while others of us are climbing into the most beautiful territory we've ever seen. Still others are hanging on, vicariously grasping the rocky precipices, holding on for dear life. But all the while, no matter what stage of the path, He is leading us. And that is all that we need to know for our journey. 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8