Jul 25, 2012

Psalm 84

"How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You. Selah
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
O God, behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"
-Psalm 84
Those who are God's, it seems, find great joy in the things that are God's. They love what is holy. They crave to be near a holy God. They rejoice to obey His holy law. They delight in holy relationship with others that are holy.

"My heart and flesh cry out for the living God..." this is no religion of dead works or empty practice of goodness! This is a deep, a holy relationship with God who lives, and works, and speaks, and hovers over us. It is the cry of a heart that says: "God, I long for You so desperately that I am willing to remove anything, ANYTHING in my life that would separate You and I. Remove from me the habits that keep me from being transformed daily into Your image. I don't want to offer empty praise that is void of heartfelt worship. I want to kneel time after time at the feet of my Savior and be changed by Him. I want to meet face-to-face as friends, as companions. I want to be yoked together WITH Him in the same holy, living work."

"How lovely is Your Tabernacle..." then later, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
His altars will be my home forever, as a sparrow is at home in her nest. Here, in His Tabernacle, I want to stay. Here in the continual cycle of sacrifice and resurrection; daily laying myself before Him, daily being raised up by Him. To dwell here and wait in constant attendance on my God - what a lovely thought. Forever right at His side, waiting for a word, a touch, a glance to indicate His desire. Imagine! I'd rather be the lowliest of all servants here in the most blessed of places, than to roll in riches where I never catch a glimpse of His face. 'Blessed are those who dwell in Your house' the Psalmist reminds me. Blessed, happy, to be greatly envied are we who are so privileged as to spend our days in the presence of our Lord.

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in You..."
How happy are those who don't do their own will their own way, but who lean on the strength of their God. They will find that they are never without strength so long as they are doing His work with Him. the Everlasting God is the support of the obedient.

"...Whose heart is set on pilgrimage..."
My gaze is to be set on the New Jerusalem. I am to live always as one of her citizens, abiding by her laws, loyal to her people, devoted to her King, homesick for her beauty.  I am to be so set on her that when I walk through the desert, I dig deep into the sand to find the pools running far underground that are like her own springs, and the desert becomes luscious and beautiful like my own homeland. Where is my gaze? My home? My identity? Is my heart SET on pilgrimage? Am I glad to leave everything behind to follow close to my God? When people look at me, is it obvious that I am a citizen of heaven?

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory..."
He is my rear-guard and forward motion. Like the pillar of fire for the Israelites, He lights my way and holds my enemies at bay. He gives grace - His goodwill toward me, His good work within me. He gives glory - the favor of the Lord which no man can disprove or deny. "NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those that walk uprightly". In the end, when all is said and done, I admit without hesitation that I have no regrets in serving God. I have given up nothing that He hasn't returned ten-fold. I have made no sacrifice worthy of the blessing I have received. I gave up fear, and pride, and self-loathing. I received a home, an identity, love, security, and blessing. Let me never say the road is too hard or the pilgrimage too long when He illuminates my way, hedges me on every side, makes me an heir and child, and then - to top it all - showers me with every good thing...and all I have to do is follow Him.

Yes, He has left me no alternative than to praise Him once again.

Jul 22, 2012

The Cycle Breaker

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Do you ever feel as though you live in a cycle of disaster? Where it seems that every beauty has its flaw, every success is followed by extreme failure, every flight ends in a fall?  Do you wish to cry - as David did - "My God, why have You forsaken me?" Do the heavens feel like brass and the earth as unyielding as a desert?

We go through seasons of trial. Sometimes they last longer than we think we can bear. Has every relationship failed? Perhaps each business venture ends poorly? Or you've failed to reach the call of God yet again? Are there finance problems? Maybe you're in one of those situations yet again today. Sometimes the silence of God in these times feels unfair. We feel abandoned, left alone to struggle, helpless in the face of yet another calamity. We can't figure out why things are happening this way once again.

And yet...knowing that we go through all this, the Lord declares. Notice that He doesn't just SAY it, He DECLARES it. He knows in trouble we humans grow a little deaf. He knows we are prone to giving in to hopelessness and despair in hard times. He knows how weak, how failing, how prone to wander we are. And so He DECLARES His intentions and He PROCLAIMS His plans. 

His plan for you is to prosper you. Even in this season of failure, He is preparing you for great prosperity. He really is. I know because He said it. And you can take His promises to the bank. His plan does not include harm for you. You will not come out of this trial maimed, injured, or wounded beyond repair. He WILL give you a hope. He IS giving you a future.

But here is the key: let Him break the cycle of disaster. It has to be about Him. It has to be for His glory. It has to be to make His name great. He will not break through for us as long as we think we can do it without Him. Our plans for us are faulty, are shortsighted, are only a chapter in the story. Our plans will fail until we are out of human options.

His plans are glorious, grand, and beyond comprehension. In His mercy He will not let us succeed in our shortsighted plans. He will let us fail until we let Him work His plans in us. He will let us fail until we finally say, "GOD, it will take a miracle, and I can't do it without You!" 

And then He breaks through. He comes down like thunder. He breaks the cycle. He accomplishes His plans. He takes us into adventures we never dreamed. He works HIS PLANS and they are GOOD.

Jul 14, 2012

Still My Soul

How do you still a soul that can't be stilled - that WON'T be stilled? How do you bring back under the peace of God the raging emotions that do not want to rest?

"Be still and know that I am God," our Beloved speaks in His Word, "Be still and KNOW that I AM God, I will be exalted..."

The quietude we long for comes when we sit still and learn that God IS God. Shut down the clamor of the mind. Stop the argument, the reasoning, the logic first to one side then another. Shut up and just realize something...

Realize that right now your God is the Commander of your situation. He is the Master of your future. His is the Provider of all you need. He is the Refuge from the storms of life. He is your strength to do His will. He is the One who makes the decisions. Even though the earth be removed and carried into the sea, you will have no need to be anxious...ever. Even though everything you hold dear is shaken, He will accomplish what He said. He who "makes the wars of nations to cease" can bring peace to the war in your own mind. Today. Right now. This instant.

Don't just realize these facts. Proclaim them! Speak it with your mouth until you know it well. What your mouth speaks, your mind begins to believe. What your mind believes, your heart will feel. What your heart feels will become the all-consuming focus of your life.

Never forget that the One who loved you first loves you best. Never let the circumstances that arise shake your trust in Him, for, in doing so, you exalt them...you make them priority...you make them bigger than God in your heart until they take up so much of your attention that they become your god. Never let your problems become your god.

Jul 7, 2012

Lessons from Abraham - Part 1

Have you ever noticed how specific, intense, and downright unbelievable the dreams of God really are? And yet, all over history is splashed the stories of people who accomplished the dreams of God for their lives. What kind of person does it take to live out the miraculous dreams of God?

It takes a person like Abraham...

First, God calls Abram (as he was still called then) out of the land of his birth. He doesn't tell him where he's going, only to start moving.
Lesson 1: God doesn't always tell us the end of the story right away. Sometimes He just expects us to follows His step-by-step instructions.
He lets Abram take a little rest of about 5 years in a nice little country, but it's not quite the Promised Land yet, so soon Abraham is on the move again.
Lesson 2: God won't let us get comfortable anywhere short of the Promised Land. In His great love, He makes sure we won't ever be happy with second best.
Within a little time, Abram is settled in Canaan, the Land of Promise. He is, perhaps, thinking that he has accomplished God's will and can now enjoy his rest. But God has other plans...
Lesson 3: The plans of God will last your entire life. You will never run out of His good pleasure or reach the end of His plans. The adventure won't stop short, and the process will not be boring.

Abraham and his nephew began to have troubles. So Abraham partitioned off the land and allowed Lot to take his pick of where he would live with his flocks and family. His pick was, of course, the best land, and so it was settled. But God came once again to Abraham to remind his that ALL the land of promise would belong to Abraham's descendants.
Lesson 4: No one else can steal your promise. You can turn from it, deny it, or ignore it and lose it that way, but no other person on the face of the earth can stand between you and God's dreams for you. This should erase all fear, all striving, all jealousy, and all self-protection.

Abram does a good turn for an ungodly king. The king, understandably, is very grateful, so offers Abram a reward. Abram refuses the reward on the grounds that he does not wish it to be said that a man made him prosperous.
Lesson 4: God's plans don't need the help of our logic, our human strength, or anyone's better ideas. There will always be a shortcut or "Plan B" presented. Don't take it. As Jim Elliot said, "God always gives His best for those who leave the choice to Him." Let God fulfill the dreams He gives. He is well able.

...and the story is just beginning...

One summarizing thought on this first part of the story:

God doesn't expect super-humans. He doesn't even expect above-average humans. He expects obedient humans. And in obedience, He expects complete obedience. Not the half-hearted, wishy-washy, unsure of what He said, uncertain as to what He meant, unwilling to listen close enough to figure it out sort of pseudo-obedience that we tend to offer. He really wants a heart that is set earnestly on Him. Like Abraham's.