2:30 am – “But, God…”

At 2:30 this morning an aching knee awakened me, a reminder that my body is getting closer to its expiration date! In the darkness I began to think of the various crises of my lifetime. I remembered Mrs. Kirk’s 4th grade classroom and the absurd Cold War era practice of leading children to shelter along the hallway walls, our knees drawn up to our chests, as if we were going to survive a nuclear attack. My brush with the Vietnam War returned to memory, registering for the draft in 1973, pondering my convictions about becoming a combatant; all moot when the war ended before I was called up. I thought about the birth of our first child, a difficult one, and the fear in the delivery room as he finally emerged, blue and lifeless. Oh the elation after what seemed a long time when he finally drew a breath and turned healthy color.  

And, so it went for several minutes … memories times of economic stress, church conflicts, surgery, deaths of loved ones,  9/11, and now COVID.

Struggle is the common human experience! The Bible explains this as the result of evil’s entry into Creation. Paul’s words are gripping – “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20-22, NIV)  

We do what we can to manage the risk, to push the threats to the edge of life, but all – rich and poor, white and black, male and female – sooner or later come to know that life is fragile and beyond our control. Even more importantly, at the core of our being, especially as the years pass, we desire to know a life beyond accumulating wealth, enjoying momentary pleasure. Yes, we join with all Creation in longing for liberation from decay.  

In the middle of that waking dream, one of the most hopeful texts in the Scripture recurrently came to mind. It starts like this: “But God…”  What a divine conjunction. When I was lost, when life had no meaning, at moments that the future was hidden by darkness there is GOD, showing Himself to me.

Here is the full text, one that I love. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms—all because we are one with Christ Jesus. And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:4-10, NLT)

Have you, by faith, received God’s mercy, the gift of His salvation?  In that moment, we move from death to life, stepping into the bright hope of eternal life, gaining a home in Heaven. God makes us His very own, inviting us to join Him in making this world new through faith even as we make our journey to our eternal home. All of those crises we experience become moments for faith, opportunities for us to let His love and life shine through us. 

We trust that we are not just random bits of life temporarily drifting through the universe, but that we are purposeful beings, held in the hand of our Creator. We discover this confidence – That neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38)

Have you experienced the divine intervention?  “But God …”

Here is a word from the Word. “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God.” (John 1:1, NLT) “But although the world was made through him, the world didn’t recognize him when he came.” (John 1:10, NLT)  “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12, NLT)   Oh, the glorious freedom of the children of God.

_____________

Living Hope

How great the chasm that lay between us
How high the mountain I could not climb
In desperation I turned to heaven
And spoke Your name into the night


Then through the darkness Your loving-kindness

Tore through the shadows of my soul
The work is finished the end is written
Jesus Christ my living hope

Who could imagine so great a mercy
What heart could fathom such boundless grace
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame

The cross has spoken I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ my living hope

Hallelujah praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ my living hope

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus Yours is the victory
Jesus Christ my living hope
Oh God You are my living hope

Brian Johnson | Phil Wickham © 2017 Phil Wickham Music (Fair Trade Music Publishing

[c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC])

Sing My Songs (Fair Trade Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Small god, small faith

Life is conducted these days, for the most part, on a first-name basis. On those rare occasions when someone introduces me as “Rev. Scott,” I quickly add, “just Jerry, please.” Informality has become the rule almost everywhere. Some miss the code that demanded differing kinds of clothing depending on the situation, but who even knows what it means to get dressed up for dinner these days? The dark suit and tie that once was the uniform for Sunday morning has given way to the short-sleeved shirt and jeans. The mystery that once cloaked people who held office has been stripped away and now leaders live under the unblinking stare of the TV camera, revealed as ordinary mortals which they always were. So, why am I talking about this?

Has our informality invaded our relationship with God? Have we made Him too much like us, good theology lost to pop culture ideas about Who He is? Despite his wonderful acting skills, Morgan Freeman, who played “God” in two hit movies, Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty, is no substitute for the Holy One. Discomfort with patriarchal systems has caused many to abandon the Scripture’s revelation of God as Father. Others subconsciously take that word and God becomes, in their minds, an old, benevolent Grandpa. Equally troubling is the irreverent, meant to be funny, characterization of Him as “the Man upstairs.”  

Why does any of this matter? Am I just splitting hairs over words?  I think not.  Poor theology, failure to understand God as He reveals Himself, weakens faith to the point of its failure.  A small god gives us a small faith.

A story told by D. McCollough illustrates my point.  “When Lloyd C. Douglas, author of The Robe, was a university student, he lived in a boarding house. An elderly, retired music teacher, infirm and unable to leave the apartment, resided on the first floor. Douglas and the man had a ritual for the morning. He would come down the steps, open the old man’s door, and ask, “Well, what’s the good news?” The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheelchair and say, “That’s middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, THAT is middle C!” The old man had discovered one thing upon which he could depend, one constant reality in his life, one “still point in a turning world.” (The Trivialization of God, NavPress, 1995)

Moses, when commissioned to lead God’s people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, asked the Lord Who appeared to him in a burning bush, what to say when asked the source of his authority to act. “Who shall I tell them has sent me?”  “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, NIV)  Great wonder and amazing mystery is wrapped up in that phrase. God reveals Himself as Eternal and Self-existent, without first cause, without predecessor.

Isaiah, when called to preach to Judah’s corrupt society about the pending judgment, is given a vision.  It might seem weird to modern minds, but let the text speak. “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.” (Isaiah 6:1-5, NIV)  God reveals Himself as HOLY – “wholly other, unique, not like anything created” to Isaiah. He also is Almighty – “Lord of Hosts” in some translations, a term that describes Him as awesomely powerful.  How does Isaiah respond?  Not with glee, to be sure. He trembles!

Few tremble at the mention of the Name of God. Awe and wonder are rare in our worship, personal and corporate.  Our familiarity with God has made us think of Him as less than powerful which has weakened our faith and brought us prayers with little aspiration of the revelation of His glory. Are we too often guilty of rushing into His presence, whether privately or in our church gatherings, to sing songs with half a heart, to hear sermons with half a mind, to pray only hopeful, but largely faithless prayers as we drift off to sleep? To attend to worship of the Creator of the Universe while thinking about the lesser things of our lives certainly must offend the GREAT I AM.  

He reveals that He can be known, through Christ who invites us to ‘boldly approach the Throne of grace,’ and through the Holy Spirit sent to live not just with us, but in us.  We should be ever so grateful that He is both immanent (here now in His creation) and transcendent (larger than time and place); our God who great and loving at the same moment. Great faith rests on the foundation of a great God, not of our making, but who is revealed to us through His wonderful works, through the Scripture, and in Christ Jesus, who came to show us the Father. 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20, NIV)

Christian friend, let’s not allow the informalities of life in 21st century America cause us to turn the “Great I AM” into the Divine Buddy.  I make no case for making God into a remote, unapproachable Deity. He is loving, good, and majestic Lord of great glory all at the same time!  Pray for a new revelation of His majesty. Learn to quiet your mind and your emotions before Him, making a place to know a part of Him left unknown by many.

The word from the Word – “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, NLT)

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be revered above all the gods.|The gods of other nations are merely idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. …
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. Let all the earth tremble before him.” (Psalm 96:4-6, 9 NLT)

________________

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;

And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame. — George Croly

Running on Empty?

The man arrived at the Denver airport late at night, tired and ready to be home in his own bed. It was an hour’s drive through a desolate stretch of Northern Colorado. Not far into the trip a blinking light on the dashboard signaled a problem – his car was almost out of fuel! Familiar with the road, he knew that gas was 20 miles away.  He felt the tension increase as he drove in every way he knew how to conserve fuel. Finally he coasted into the station, the car running on fumes. 

He realized that his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel were sweaty. His shoulder muscles were in knots. As the fuel flowed, he relaxed. When he got back into his car he heard his favorite music, music he hadn’t heard in the last 20 miles!  He looked up and around – to see bright moonlight reflecting off the snow caps of the Rocky Mountains just to the west.  A powerful lesson settled over him in those midnight moments – he had been so engulfed by the fear of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, he had become deaf and blind to the beauty that surrounded him!  (as told by Dary Northrop)

I love that story that I heard a fellow pastor tell at a conference a few years ago. It came back to me as I thought about the world we are currently living in. IF we lower our sights to the crisis of the moment and listen to the noise of the voices telling that hope is nearly gone, we will most certainly lose sight of the beauty that remains; friends that love, the people who are working hard along side of us, the faithfulness of our God.

Jesus, the perfect God-Man, knew the temptation of the urgent which attempted to block engagement with the important. What did He do? He regularly took time to retreat, to pray, to be with His Father. Can we do anything less?

Christian, we must not allow ourselves to run on empty. If we do, the fears, the tension, the anger so prevalent in the world around us will overwhelm us.  God has prepared renewal and refreshment for us. The words that the Lord spoke to Isaiah are not just poetry. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” (Isaiah 44:3-4, NIV)  

Here is an invitation – “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)

I write these words with tears in my eyes, sorrow for my own failures to take His grace and live in the flow of the Spirit and so sad for the millions of Christians who are losing sight of the goodness of the Lord in these troubled times. Let’s remember that whenever we take life into our own hands, when we do not balance work and worship, when we let ourselves be tricked into thinking “I have to do something, anything, right now, or all is lost,” we will become empty and desperate. The songs around us will go unheard; the beauty of His blessings unseen. With Israel’s ancient pilgrims, let’s pray: “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 121:1-2, NLT)

Are you running on empty? Do what seems impossible- Stop! Wait! Look up!

Pray, perhaps simple sentence prayers, “Lord, show me the way.” “Jesus, be my peace.” “Father, give me vision.”

Worship. Last night, feeling tense after a long meeting, I stood in the darkness on my front porch and listened to the night sounds of the woods. I took in the night sky and in those moments, I felt small, yet renewed in the wonder that the God of Creation knew MY name, MY needs.

Sabbath. God wove a principle of rest into His plan.  In Genesis, we are told that “He rested on the 7th day.”  He concluded that His work was complete. We, too, need to take time, not just to play, but to pause the ordinary activities in order to give ourselves to those spiritual things that complete us.

Running on empty? Lost sight of the goodness of life?  Here is a word from the Word.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)  There is no need to run on empty because God promises Christians the fullness of the Spirit.  “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” (Ephesians 5:15-19, NLT)  In that fullness, desperation will be replaced with “life… more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV)

_________

Take a few moments, right now, to pause.
Let this song lift you to worship!  The song is performed by
Heavens Mutambira & Amplified Praise

Holy Spirit (a beautiful song, a confession of our need)

There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
No thing can compare You’re our living hope
Your Presence
I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
In Your Presence Lord

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord
Your Presence Lord

Your Presence
Oh God how we love Your Presence Lord
Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness (Lord)

Bryan Torwalt | Katie Torwalt © 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Take charge of those emotions

This stormy year, 2020, creates fertile conditions for us to become panicky, troubled, and reactionary. I readily admit that I can work myself into a worried state in a minute or less! Who has not asked, “What’s next?” and wondered about the future?  Christians, people who should be the most hopeful, tragically have fallen under the influence of the more radical voices, often spinning conspiracy theories, or defaulting to “End Times” speculation. These are difficult times and the changes in our country are truly significant!  My intent today is not to minimize the troubling times, but to remind you of the principle that Paul gave to Timothy – “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)

It is just fine to wonder what is going to happen in the future. It folly to refuse to take appropriate caution (though it is hard to know what is right) to protect ourselves. For example, it is not faithless to wear a mask, to wash your hands more frequently, or to choose to limit your social contacts. Faith is not the refusal to admit that there are challenges to life and well-being. It is steady trust in the LORD that keeps us from reactions that are not aligned with His will and Word. Faithlessness is nakedly obvious in hateful attacks on those with who we disagree, when we demonize people of differing ethnicity or race, or when we choose to repeat baseless rumors inciting greater fear! People who do those things show they are controlled by fear.  

We have a daily choice – will we trust God to lead us into the future or allow an awful anxiety to drive us to desperation? Faith grows when we admit that we cannot control the virus, the political scene, the social unrest, the things we perceive as threats to our future AND actively put our lives in the care of the One who is eternal.

Dramatic events like those of the last few months, tend to raise our awareness of our faith or lack thereof.  When we feel spiritually adrift, the best responses are prayer – “Lord, I believe, help me overcome my fear!” – and meditation in Scripture truth – “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10)  Remember faith is not just a feeling of confidence or a surge of courage. Faith is a way of life that affects our most basic daily choices. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. … It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, The Message)

There is a cartoon version of real faith that causes some Christians to act in ways that are ridiculous.  This superficial kind of ‘faith’ tries to convince us that can control our health, our family, our world by saying the right words or “believing” enough. People who fall for this become like those little children who obviously are feeling the terror of the monster in the closet while they chant – “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid,” in a tremulous voice. Real faith is quite capable of admitting to a sense of uncertainty, saying “I really don’t know how this will turn out, but … I trust the God Who secures my future.”

Here is a practical suggestion, a lesson from an ancient godly king in Jerusalem. Hezekiah was threatened by an army that had the ability to obliterate his little nation. Here’s what he did. “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.” (2 Kings 19:14-16, NIV)  

Write down the things that you fear, the threats you perceive. Then, go and present your list to God! Do it like Hezekiah did, with true worship. In this you acknowledge that you are in His care. Receive the gift of peace that results from giving those fears to Him.

Paul wrote to Christians who lived in a world where they were a tiny minority, completely powerless politically or economically. His words to them are important for you and me in our time!  This is the word from the Word that closes today’s thought. Let’s believe it, receive it, and live it. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV)

________

Lord, give us a Quiet Confidence,
a willingness to trust and wait,
to hold onto hope,
to live with joy in each day.

May we not surrender to apathy,
nor demand life on our own terms.
Show us Your face,
keep us near to Your heart.
Whisper to us that You are Master, Savior, and Friend.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Love renewed

A  picture of Bev and me sits on a side table in my living room, two kids in 1974 with love in their eyes. When I look at it, nostalgia takes over. “Wouldn’t it be great to relive that ‘first love’ of that Summer?”  Those were days when evening dates couldn’t come soon enough. (Remember we didn’t have 24/7 contact on cell phones and texts!)  We talked about everything and nothing – just ‘in love.’

From those days I can do a fast flyover of 41 years of marriage.  Like most couples, once we married life took on a kind of routine. Kids came, responsibilities increased. Ours was a solid and loving marriage but not perfect. Seasons came when life intruded, when we forgot to prioritize our relationship, and love was tested. Then came those last two years together when the foundations of life were put to the test. A love emerged unlike any we had known, even in that first Summer: a deep and profound “I trust you with my life” kind of love that was bright and beautiful in the middle of the darkness.

On this Monday morning, the Spirit asks me (and you) about our love for our God. Go with me to John’s words to the church of Ephesus, from the 2nd chapter of the Revelation. “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands  (Jesus Christ): I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:1-4, NIV)  

Jesus’ complaint is that His bride has let responsibility diminish love. This church was doing good things, preached sound doctrine, and had stayed faithful in hard times, BUT they had lost the fire of their love.

I let this line shape my meditation, my prayers this morning. “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4, NIV)  I encourage you to do the same.

Are you growing in your love for the Lord or have you settled for doing things for Him, keeping up the routines while losing the heart of it all? Jesus appeal to that church and to us is this: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5, NIV) Two verbs are His commands.

Remember!
Keep the memory of His saving grace alive. One of the shared practices of Christians from all ages, in every liturgical tradition, is Communion. Week by week, in our worship, we follow Jesus’ command to ‘eat this bread’ and ‘drink this cup.’ Why? We remember Him, going back to the foundation of our hope, that He came to us, God become human, the Bread of Life; and that He gave His very life to create a covenant, the assurance that we can know and be known of God. In the middle of the good things of your religion, do you remember Him, with devotion?

Repent! 
“Turn around and look me in the eyes,” Jesus says. In various ways we are reminded as Christians that our Lord seeks our fidelity. We cannot let our affections be stolen by other loves. There are so many things that can come between us, not all of them terrible or evil. Love of family, love of tradition, love of comfort … are just a few of those things that could replace Jesus at the center of life. He wants to own us, to be at the core of our affections – all other relationships secondary. Is He?  That isn’t a question that yields an easy answer for our hearts are quick to justify the loves that govern them.  If we find other ‘loves’ have come between us, the answer is to repent, to turn around and leave them to pursue Him.

Jesus defines the love He desires from us. It goes beyond praise songs, beyond our emotions that are fickle.  Real love for Jesus, like any genuine affection, is demonstrated by priority of commitment. He says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15, NIV)  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:24, NIV) He warns that there will be people who stand at the Last Judgment claiming that He was their love, but He will say, “I never knew you!”  

On this Monday morning, take some time to meditate, to reflect on how you love Him. Let’s be like Peter who saw some leaving Jesus when His words became difficult to accept. When asked if he would leave too, he says what I hope each of us can say. Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life.” (John 6:68, NLT)

__________

One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

(worship with this song about His love)

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
Your love

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains

In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love

Brian Johnson | Christa Black Gifford | Jeremy Riddle © 2010 ChristaJoy Music Publishing (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

I Hope You Dance

The day was full of ordinary joys – a cup of coffee with an old friend, reading a note from a recent grad who thanked me for a hundred Bible chapels in her elementary years, a few hours handing out bags of groceries and kind words with a faithful team of Christians who love others in this way, some texts from friends and family that made me smile – nothing grand but all worth celebrating.  I chose to remember, to lean into the good, and to turn my mind to the Giver of Good Gifts in worshipful praise. In short, I celebrated! Do you remember to celebrate?  

Maybe I am just too much of a realist, or maybe as a pastor I live too close to the sorrow of others, but without a conscious choice to look up, the ‘stuff’ of life beats me up.  I am a dutiful kind of guy, fairly resilient, so I keep going, but sometimes I forget to hope, looking too closely at the immediate, forgetting the promise.

At this time in America, many of us, for various reasons, are finding life more than a little difficult. Planning? Who can even attempt it with the edicts of government and the imperatives of a pandemic changing weekly? Too many of us are forgetting who we really are in Christ, becoming snapping snarling creatures like a dog in pain. When we choose merely to survive, rather than to thrive, all that is whole and holy is lost.

The antidote to the poison of merely surviving is real celebration born of experiencing transcendent wonder – in a baby’s smile, in a lover’s embrace, at the splash of colors in a sunset, or in a moment of worship that connects with the Spirit’s Presence.  Friend, we must choose joy. It is a gift of God that keeps us whole and holy.  We can choose to take a break, pausing to reflect, imposing silence on our soul, so that we can remember God.

Jesus used the illustration of the vine and branches, life only possible when that connection was maintained. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5, NLT) The principle is clear:  No connection, no life!  He went on to point out one of the benefits of this relationship:  “Remain intimately connected with Me,” He said, “and you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11, NLT)  There is a caricature of Jesus that hides His true nature. Because we think so often only of His cross (a treasure for us to be sure) we forget His time with children, that He attracted crowds of people who found hope in Him, that He told jokes about the absurd fixations of the Pharisees – i.e., ‘you strain out gnats, but swallow camels.’   Now, that’s funny!

So, how do we live in His joy?

Worship! 
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, NIV) 

If we live life with our face to the ground, focusing only on the needs, the duties, the pressing responsibilities – life’s urgent needs will press us to the point of despair. Worship, offering up the sacrifice of praise, lifts our face to Heaven and allows us to regain a view of God’s glorious works.  No wonder the Scripture urges us to “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NIV)

Serve!  
Stop, Jerry, didn’t you just say we need to step away from duty?  There is joy in moments of selfless service, offering a word of encouragement, listening, picking up somebody’s groceries for them, patiently helping.  Jesus told a story about men who were entrusted with responsibility.   Two of the three were diligent and obedient in their service.  Note their commendation:  “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful . . .  Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV)

Accept!  
If we insist on life on our own terms, we write ourselves a script of misery. We belong to God and each other. Being part of a larger, sometimes mysterious universe, means we will run up against things not to our liking. However, we can accepting God’s grace for the road we will walk today.  Nothing that happens to you today surprises Him.   Those who are His beloved children can turn to Him and find help, strength, and resources. Sometimes He leads us through dark valleys, along ways we would not choose for ourselves. Even there, He will provide grace for the journey. In that grace, there is joy even in the trials of life.

Joy is a constant work of God’s Spirit in us, not something we drum up, create, or paste into place. Pray for God’s grace to change your heart first before you seek a change of circumstances. Let the Vine pour the Life of the Spirit into your mind and heart. Let JOY grow where sorrow was sown. We bring our Lord great honor Him in simple contentment and an authentic smile.

The word from the Word says “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” (Philippians 4:4, The Message) “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:6-9, The Message)

May the Lord lead you to joy today is my prayer.

___________

I Hope You Dance

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’

Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Tia Sillers / Mark Sanders

I Hope You Dance lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust Ave

Memories of failure?

This week I was looking through an old box I found on a shelf in my closet and came across a couple of cassette tapes. Remember those? On one I heard my voice, recorded in April, 1970, singing in a high school talent show.  The other was a recording of the first time I preached on the radio in 1975. The sounds made me laugh, sending me on a journey through the intervening 50 years. There have been some high points and some low, some successes, some failures.

We celebrate our wins but what about our sins? What can we do with those regrets, those failures, those sins?  

The first step always is dealing with them honestly, in confessional, to God, and where appropriate, to those we have wronged. Our Heavenly Father offers, through Christ, both forgiveness and redemption. 

My favorite story in the Gospels is found in Luke 15, one that Jesus told about a man who, while still very young, made a profound choice to do wrong! He rejected his father’s love, arrogantly demanded his inheritance and went off to live on his own terms. Of course, he exhausted his resources and found himself broke and hungry. The worst part of it was the shame he felt. Sitting in a pigpen (yes, that is what Jesus said) he formed a plan to go back home. “I’ll just ask Dad if I can work on the farm,” he thought, “because then at least I’ll be safe and fed.”  Off he went and when he approached home, he was shocked to find his dad waiting for his return. 

The old man did not heap shame on the awful son.  This phrase describing the love of the Father fills me with emotion: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)  It’s Jesus’ story… for me, for you. God is not waiting to play a ‘gotcha’ game with us. He’s longing for us to turn around and come home to His embrace – again and again, because His love is deeper than the ocean, beyond our ability to fully understand, unfathomable.

“God rewards failure,” you ask? No, but He offers us mercy and grace when there is true repentance.  Paul, once known as Saul, persecuted Christians and vehemently rejected Christ Jesus. His past was ugly, his actions worse than regrettable.  When Christ came to him what did he find?  “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16, NIV)

Beyond finding forgiveness there is a second important step required in dealing with the past.  Listen to Paul’s inspired words. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13) 

While we never forget the lessons of failure, we can and we must, leave the regret behind. The past can paralyze us.  Some become bitter, unable to forgive themselves or others.  Some become fearful, afraid of making the same mistake again. Others hide in shame, as if a singular choice is the total definition of who they are.  “Leave it behind,” the Word says, and look forward.

Stuck in the past? Feeling disqualified and unworthy of God’s blessings? 
The scandalous grace of Christ offers a new start with a new heart. 

Here’s the word from the Word. “I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! ” …  We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” ((Ephesians 1:15-19, 2:10, The Message)

Whether you are 15, 45, or 75 – trust Christ with your life. Let Him forgive the sins and keep track of the wins, for His is the only judgment that matters when it’s all said and done.

_____________

Who You Say I Am

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am

(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Known!

In 2020 many of us are concerned about privacy.  Huge amounts of personal information are collected that create profiles kept by tech companies like Google™. What we buy, where we use our credit cards, our Netflix viewing habits, our financial data, our internet browsing – all of it ‘paints’ a picture of us that marketers can use. You do not have to a conspiracy nut to worry about the amount of information the government collects on each one of us; information that could be used for all the wrong reasons.  But, still, we long to be known!

One of the most wonderful feelings in the world is having someone who really knows you, who understands why you do what you do, who cares when you are struggling, who shares in your joys. One of our greatest fears is being ALONE.

Cheers was a sit-com that played on TV for 10 years, beginning in 1982.  It was based on the people who hung out in a Boston pub. The theme song is compelling (at least to me, smile!) –

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
.
You want to be where everybody knows your name.  (Gary Portnoy)

Ok, so it’s not Shakespeare but we can understand the universal human longing to be known that those words express, can’t we?

God knows YOU and ME. I often remind people in our congregation that the One who knows you best, loves you most. Think about that.

David, inspired by the Spirit wrote a song about the depth of God’s knowing. He says “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:1-3, NIV)  He sings of God’s perfect knowledge of our words before we speak them, that He knew us before we were created in our mother’s womb, that all of our days are written in His knowledge before we live them!  How can it be? But, it’s true!  God, in His perfect and amazing fore-knowledge, knows it all and HE knows me.

Does that threaten you or comfort you?  Our response to His knowledge largely depends on our willingness to trust Him and to walk with Him as Lord. If we are rebels, if we let things like hate, lust, greed, and selfishness shape our days, we don’t want Him to know. However, if we understand His love and grace, if we trust that He is for us, not against us, His knowledge secures us, helping not to feel lost, alone, or at the mercy of the winds of fate.

Mark tells us a story about Jesus’ love for a woman who was invisible in her world.  She had an “issue of blood,”  a constant hemorrhage, (KJV) the Bible says. Seeking relief “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (Mark 5:26, NIV)  Beyond her misery, in her culture she was considered ritually unclean, isolated from general society, unable to attend synagogue, making others who risked contact with her ritually unclean as well! (It was form of social distancing, not made to be cruel but to stop the spread of disease.)  The worst was the fact that because of a mistaken understanding of the nature of God, most people thought she was getting what she deserved, under the judgment of God, for something she had done. Alone suffering, sick, broke, and judged: a tragic life.

She heard about a Healer named Jesus, Who was coming to her town. “She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.” (The Message. Mark 5:27)   Jesus knew she needed more than physical healing.  Her broken heart needed to be restored, too. He stopped and asked, “Who touched me?”  His disciples chided Him for the ridiculous question. “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mark 5:31, NIV)  The woman, who was trembling with fear Mark says, emerged from the shadows and identified herself. 

Tenderly, lovingly, Jesus reached out to a woman who was used to being ignored. She expected a rebuke from Him for making Him unclean.  She’s used to being an object but instead He gives her dignity. “Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”  (Mark 5:34, The Message)  Daughter! To Him she is not just ‘woman.’  She’s not just ‘unclean.’ She’s a daughter of God, a person who matters enough that the Master will look her in the eyes and call her His own!

Deep emotion wells up in me as I read that and, by faith, know that He knows MY name, too.  In a world of billions of people, where many of us feel like an object rather than a person, God reminds us that He sees us, loves us.

Christian friend, He loves YOU. 
Turn to Him in faith and present yourself, as you are, to Him. He will NOT reject you.  
My prayer is that the quiet voice of the Spirit will answer with the revelation that He knows YOU.

Here’s the word from the Word.  “I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  (Isaiah 49:15)

__________

He Knows My Name
(A simple song by Tommy Walker. Listen and be loved!)

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hand

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

Tommy Walker © 1996 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Songs (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

The power of “YES!”

46 years ago one August evening,  I asked a beautiful young woman to be my wife. In later years, we laughed when we looked back on my awkward proposal, anything but romantic. I earnestly told her about my highest calling to Christian ministry and the unique challenges of being a pastor’s wife. Bev wondered if I was attempting to end our relationship, but when I fumbled my way to finally ask her to be my partner-  she said “Yes!”  We were blessed with 41 years together. The journey brought us 4 children, shared ministry in 4 different churches, and enduring love.

We had a few days when we wondered about that “Yes,” but we never set aside the covenant we made that night of January 10, 1975.  What strength and security there is in an unwavering commitment – to God first; then to another. When those dark days of sickness came the deepest joy of keeping our promise emerged. Bev was secure in my love, increasing dependent on me in every way as her life closed. In all of the sorrow of letting her go, there was for me the satisfaction of knowing that I walked with her the last mile of the way. 

Let’s think about the power of saying “Yes” today, not just to someone we love but to the Lord as well. Christians are blessed and a blessing when they live the word of Jesus – “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NIV)  I trust that kind of person with my life!

God has said a POWERFUL “YES” to us.  “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22, NIV)  God’s faithfulness to keep His promise is the foundation of our Christian hope. He made a covenant with us, not a contract. He guarantees the newness of life, our salvation, and our eternal home by His own Word. His “yes” is our security, asking us to receive His grace, by faith.

There is no need to add anything, to think of our relationship with Him in any way other than with great assurance.  In the first covenant of the Law, sacrifices where made day after day, year after year for the sins of the people. Sins were covered but not removed. The Word teaches us who are in Christ that we now have a completed salvation, a final and unequivocal “yes” through Him. Jesus Himself opened the Way to Life. “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. … (so) let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:14,22, NIV)  What a great hope.

Will you answer His invitation to accept His grace with your own “yes” that has no sub-clauses, no hidden reservations?

As you live in the life of the Spirit, there will be days when the Evil One works at diverting attention to those things that disappoint, things for which we have no explanation, suggesting that “God is not faithful” with the aim of making us waver in our faith in God’s promises.  Eve, in the Garden, heard his whisper about her Creator that held the suggestion that God was not good, that He was withholding good from her, and she sinned. He will attempt the same with you, with me. 

When we are enjoying blessings, readily join David’s song “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.” (2 Samuel 22:31) When times like our present come, when we walk with sickness or temptation – we can be tempted to think that God’s promises are only for others. We may be tempted to question Him as David did in another of his songs, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?”  (Psalm 35:17)

Today, focus away from your own abilities to ‘hold onto faith’ and away from the vagaries of life. Pray for faith’s sight that sees the face of the One who promises. 

His promises are “Yes and Amen.”  Nothing and no one can steal His love from us. Confess that and defeat your doubts. 

Hope that is fixed on the unchanging promise of our Father is a solid anchor for our lives!

Here is a word from the Word – “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT)

________

All Your Promises

(let the joy of this praise song fill your heart)

Oh Lord our Lord
How majestic is Your name
Your words are true
Your mercy does not change
All Your promises are precious
Reviving our faith
Ev’ry one of them
Will be fulfilled one day oh

All Your promises
Are yes and amen Jesus
Your promises are true
All Your promises
Are yes and amen Lord Jesus
We’ll keep running after You

We will run
We’ll run and not grow weary
We will rise upon the eagle’s wings
In the presence of the Lord
Our spirits will soar
Till we one day gaze upon our King oh

My foot had almost slipped
Oh Lord you know I’d almost lost my way
‘Till I entered the house of the Lord
And heard Your sweet Spirit say oh

All Your promises
Are yes and amen Jesus
Your promises are true
All Your promises
Are yes and amen Lord Jesus
We’ll keep running after You

Andrew Smith © 1995 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA) Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)

CCLI License # 810055

But, it’s so hard!

Good parenting requires saying “No” to a child, perhaps as often as a “Yes.”  It is up to the adult to say, “It is bedtime and you have to put away your tablet.” Or, “Your diet will be a balanced one. Cake is dessert, not the main course.” Or, “You have a time-out right now because what you did is not acceptable behavior.” Does the little one understand why? Of course not!  The wise parents puts up with tears, resistance, questions, even anger. She gives consistent, loving guidance because she has a long term goal;  raising a person who can get along, be responsible, and know that there really is something more important in life that being happy at each and every moment.

When I had teenagers I loved them and how longed to give them the things they wanted, to share happiness with them. But, there were painful moments when Dad’s will frustrated their desire and things got ugly. My love for them caused me to enforce curfew to keep them out of trouble, to tell them to get their priorities in order by getting their work done first before hanging out with friends. Feeling their displeasure, “But, Dad, all my friends are …” was hard for me, too.  Today, those same people, now in mid-life and knowing success, thank me for those lessons.

God says “No!” too.  His will sometimes frustrates our desire. Our will collides with His and the deeper the issue, the more it hurts.
God says no to a desire for revenge, asking forgiveness.  Will I obey or insist “I can’t to do that.”? 
God asks for regular worship. Will I respond by giving Him time or insist on going to the beach instead?
God says, “No murder.” Jesus refined that by saying “Don’t even speak badly of another.” Will I seek to be loving and kind or insist on using my mouth slanderously.

Serious Christians understand that their loving Father makes boundaries. He says “No” and expects our obedience.  When we meet His “No,” we have to decide if we trust God to lead us to the best life or if we want to take control of our own life. I can tell you from experience that sometimes doing His will feels like dying! We are wise children of the Father if we obey Him, but there will be tears when we meet the hard edge of God’s discipline.

The Scripture teaches us that our Heavenly Father says, “No” to us because He really loves us. “So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children.

Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” – (Hebrews 12:5-11, The Message)

Let me remind you of another important part of God’s guidance. People ask me all the time about judgment. “Will God punish me if I go ahead and do …” and they tell me about something they know really is not right. Even asking the question reveals an immature understanding of how God operates. He is not like a police officer waiting around the corner with a radar gun waiting to catch us speeding so he can write up a ticket!  He is not gazing down from Heaven waiting to punish us the moment we step out of line.  He is merciful, kind, and patient.

Peter tells us that He “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  He has established, however, a world where there is a law of harvest. “Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NLT)

Ask the Lord for a vision of what is BEST, not just what is pleasant; for what will return the better harvest, not just a happy moment. Have you encountered the hard edge of God’s discipline, disciple? Cry if you must, but pray for strength to make the choice for obedience. Though you may not see it then, the time will come when you will see that He always had your best in His heart, that He is a loving Father.

The word from the Word comes from the story of King Saul, a willful man, who repeatedly ignored God’s “No” to do his own will. He tried to ‘buy God’ with sacrifices, somehow thinking that he could appease God while living self-willed. Samuel, the man of God, told him this, a principle to remember.

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.  Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23, NLT)  God does not play “Let’s Make A Deal” with us.

Have you found yourself confronted with a clear choice – to do what you want or to submit to Him? Find the richest blessings of the Lord by choosing to listen, obeying Him with joy.

___________

Take My Life And Let It Be (Hendon)

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my love my Lord I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
Ever only all for Thee

Frances Ridley Havergal

© Words: Public Domain