Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Power of Praise

Real Talk Ministries tweeted today: "God’s people will worship Him regardless of what their circumstances are." To ready our minds to understand and celebrate that, we need to review that “regardless.”
We do regard our circumstances, and we were made to be alert and observe what goes on around us. 1 Peter 5:8 advises: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
People throughout Scripture called out for justice, just as people heeding current events of today. Right after God's word explains how we suit up for spiritual battle, which we usually think of as our own personal trials, Ephesians 6:18 reminds us: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
And yes, people throughout Scripture called out in their personal pain, just as people facing struggles do today.
People of God are not called to denial. We are called to acknowledge our circumstances, and then to seek God’s response, already in awe. We pray expectantly, expecting God to act.
When we say God’s ways are above our ways, we’re not shrugging our shoulders in resignation. We’re keeping an eye out to see God to act on a grand scale.
We stay on the lookout, because we know that God’s grand-scale moves are not always obvious to those who aren’t looking for Him in a situation. Jesus -- God’s grandest move yet, from the perspective of humanity -- showed up in a stable, spent a few years on the run with his family, and altogether about 30 years in obscurity.
And the wait for this Messiah stretched beyond any one person’s lifetime. Yet still the faith of some allowed them to wait.
When we regard our circumstances, they can be our distraction, or serve as the education of our faith.
God’s people, once we truly come to know Him, will worship Him because of circumstances. Either we will praise Him for abundance of comfort, or the abundance of His comforting. Either way, we eventually realize we are so greatly blessed in every circumstance.
Romans 12:12 calls us:
Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
and faithful in prayer.
And how do we do that – ensure that our hopes are not wistful, our afflictions are not fretful, and our prayers are not doubtful?
Praise Him,
Praise Him,
Praise Him.
Try it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A 23rd Psalm Attitude

My dog Al came looking for me. I was the only one upstairs, and he’s like a sheep herder’s dog, checking up on the flock.
Nah. He’s more like a sheep himself. After gazing into my face, he leaped into my lap and curled up there.
He’s a good sheep – for a miniature schnauzer.
I wanna be like Al.
My dog leaps into my lap because he knows he has a place there. He leans his head back all the way, just to gaze with adoration at my face. I want a 23rd Psalm attitude like my dog Al.
Whatever we’re eating, he wants some. He’s there, as close to the stove, table or dish that we’ll allow. Yes, his dog dish is full, but he’s still eager, for the crumbs we’ll surely drop. After we’re done, he’s allowed to leap up again, where he’s eager to even to sniff the fragrance of what we had.
He knows that staying close means sharing even more in what we’re enjoying.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
Freedom from fear — the fear of going without — is the idea that opens this psalm. The rest details tender tending for a sheep. Al, who’s carried, petted, entertained at length by the members of his household, would relate.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
In this psalm and elsewhere in the Word, we get the heads-up that we will face tribulations, and we are glad to get the Word that we will know victory. But that victory is more than the relief we experience when our tribulations are over. It’s so much more, because God also provides us the rest, comfort and peace we need before, during and after those tribulations. He tends us tenderly with healing for our souls – our minds and emotions – and strengthens and soothes our bodies.
In the midst of all this providence we find in the next verse the reason for great trust: our undivided awe for God, who is omnipotent within us and around us.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
God acknowledges and addresses what we face. Enemies stand against us; and we are given time to receive and be strengthened by whatever we need in that day – our daily bread. Disease and injury threaten; and we are fortified, soothed and healed.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Because God is everpresent and eternally faithful, our faith endures. And we always have a place to turn to, a place with Him.
Surely Al knows he has a place to go – a place of goodness, lovingkindness. He has a place to abide, and an abiding trust.
He’s so eager to draw closer. He’s leaping at the opportunity.
Let’s take a leap of faith today.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Point of Yielding

There’s a yield sign, at the point where I’m ready to take the ramp to the highway and get to work. 

It’s not yet rush hour for most, so I rationalize that I can rush on ahead. I’ve got work to do, and the sooner the better. Or so it seems.

Sometimes after I’ve passed that sign, I’ll see a car approaching from the other direction. We each had time to enter the ramp safely, and so all is well. Or so it seems.

But when I stop to consider the purpose of the yield sign, I stop calculating my speed as due diligence, and my timing as precision.

The driver’s ed class I took in high school never said: Prepare to stop at the yield sign unless you have somewhere important to go.

My driver’s ed manual never had a page that read: Prepare to stop at the yield sign unless you can speed up to get by.

And the grace I’ve known in all my travels was never based on my plans or my handling at the wheel. The grace I know is God within and without, and too often I don’t prepare to stop at all to hear from Him. 

I’m eager to do the work He’s given me, but I’ve often let that work take my focus from Him – when it’s His guidance and empowerment that I need to depend on, moment by moment. I care about other people, but I’ve often rushed past someone He sent my way – when it’s His encouragement and love that both of us just missed out on sharing.

I have an opportunity to yield throughout the day, to stop for yet another moment. 

Just to interrupt what I’m doing, what I’m saying, even what I’m thinking long enough for God to get a Word in. To apply His ways to the situation at hand.

There’s a yield sign, at every point.