The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Why would Paul include righteousness, peace and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?

“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Romans 14:17,18

I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.

Righteousness

Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!

Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.

Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. In light of His holiness, we all end up far short.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.

Peace

Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isaiah 32:17

The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.

Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety and absolute security.

When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!

Joy

It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life . Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper

When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.

In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.

Paul prayed,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.

Kingdom of God

Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:

“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
Romans 14:17-18

The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all!  What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.

 

We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.

Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Righteousness, peace and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.

God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.

No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.

 

“I AM WHO I AM” – He Is Who He Is!

When I talk about God, I say, “He is!” When God speaks about Himself, He says, “I AM who I AM!” Is who I say He is, the “I AM”? Or when I speak about God, do I speak of someone less than the “I AM”?

I am not a self-professing theologian. Although, theology is simply the study of God, so in some ways, I classify as an amateur in the field. The more I see of God, the more I want to see; the more I know of Him, the more I want to know. I often feel like the seraphim who surround the heavenly throne, one faint glimpse throws me face downward, crying “Holy, God, You alone are amazing!”

“What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.”
– A.W. Tozer 

What does come into our minds when we think about God? A white haired anarchist holding lightning bolts, ready to hurl them at any moment in our direction? A soft, fluffy, weak and disinterested once-was? What is our honest perception of God?

Only when we possess an accurate view of God will we obtain an accurate view of ourselves and the world around us. The link between the Creator and His created inseparably joins us, like it or not.

Here I Am

Moses had spent 40 years on the “far side of the wilderness,” ending up at “Horeb, the mountain of God.” My running from God and everyone else may not have lasted 40 years, but I ended up deep in the wilderness, nonetheless. Not to worry! No one can run so far or fast they can outrun God. The harder we try to run from Him, the harder we will run into Him when we least expect it. 

Even in the desert of our own choosing God calls us by name.

” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look,
God called to him from within the bush,
“Moses! Moses!
and Moses said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:4

When we don’t know Him, He knows us. When we would rather hide out incognito, He finds us, redirects our wandering into purposeful walking, and speaks identity and value into our being. Eventually, like Moses, we are prepared to respond, “Here I am!”

“Here I am” for Moses was an admission to 40 years of aimlessness: circling, re-circling and swinging back to circle again.

The I AM

God calls the once-upon-a-time prince, now full time shepherd, into a new career path — a path Moses wasn’t exactly enthused about. God had heard the miserable cries of His enslaved people, who just happened to be Moses’ relatives. The Sovereign Lord used those 40 years of shepherding as His perfect training ground to prepare Moses to lead several million people out of Egypt. 

Moses argued and quickly excused himself. He hadn’t yet learned that those who argue with God always lose!

“So now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh
to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Exodus 3:10

Moses argued on! “Who am I?” “Who are You?” It’s one thing to know our own inability; it’s quite another to not know God’s ability! Moses confidently knew that he could not possibly be the one for such an important task. At this point, he wasn’t sure God was either! 

“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

He Is

In determining relationship there must be an unchanging fixed point of reference. God introduces Himself as “I AM,” establishing Himself as the only fixed point from which everything and everyone else can be measured. 

“I the LORD do not change.”
Malachi 3:6

He is our moral compass point, the place from which we get our bearings. 

“We are right when, and only when,
we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.”
– A.W. Tozer

So here is the million dollar question, “Am I willing to receive God as He is — the center of everything else?” All difficulties we face as Christians stem from our unwillingness to take God as He is and align ourselves accordingly. Too often, we insist on attempting to modify Him to our liking in our image of what we need, want and wish Him to be. 

Alignment

Comfort and inexpressible joy flows from acknowledging God for who He is and loving Him as He is — the unchangeable I AM! The most holy moments we will ever encounter will be spent in the awareness of the reality of I AM. 

To the degree that I am out of alignment with Him, I will miss those opportunities of beholding and loving Him in the pureness and power of who He is. I don’t have to be running away on the back side of the wilderness to experience such loss. I can be standing beside Him, but turned ever so slightly away, and yet completely miss out

As we pursue knowing God for who He is, we embrace the labor of conforming ourselves to Him — bringing ourselves into complete alignment of His identity and purpose.  Then we worship Him as He is.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
Revelation 4:11

Here, centered around worship, we find alignment as our eyes and hearts are fully focused on Him alone.

Worthy

It is complete contradiction to see Him and not worship. All worship, adoration and praise rests in Him. Do I know and worship the I AM for who He is or something less?

God Most High, The LORD of Angel Armies,
King Eternal, Yahweh,
Creator and Sustainer,
Great Deliverer, Mighty Warrior, 
Wonderful Counselor
Redeemer and Savior of all,
the Healer and Shepherd of our souls. 
the Anchor that holds us fast, 
the One who sees and knows,
our Light in darkness and Hope in despair.

There are no words to define the greatness of His being, no adjective that completes the image. The I AM is and always will be the fullness of Himself — incapable of being any more or any less.

Who do I say He is? Is who I say He is all that the I AM truly is? If so, bravo! If not, I need an alignment! My life will continually be a pursuit of knowing, discovering, learning, seeing, and possessing the greatness of I AM. But today, right now, I set myself on course to know Him more.

To know Him is to love Him; to see Him is to stand in awe.

Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.”
Psalm 96:9
 

 

A Time to Dance – Lavish, Unrestrained Worship, Warfare and Praise

It’s time to dance!  The bible affirms dance, both individually and corporately, as a significant and powerful expression of worship, celebrating God’s presence. Many Christians around the world freely worship God through dance. North America perhaps lags a little behind, however.

Clinical studies have shown the positive effects of dance for both physical and mental health. One study using MRI scans showed that even people watching dance “activated the same neurons that would fire if they themselves were dancing.” Is that why dance mobilizes the Body of Christ to deeper levels of worship?

Even today, worship leaders echo Solomon’s words, “Everyone should dance!”

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Over twenty five years ago, I stood awestruck as I watched worship dance for the first time. I had danced before God in the privacy of my own basement many times, but to see it as a public form of worship stirred something deep within me to pursue worship in every dimension.

It’s Time

The first bible reference to corporate dance in worship involved over a million people. It was led by a woman over 85 years old!

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister,
took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her,
with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the LORD; for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.’ ”
Exodus 15:20,21

This brother-sister dual of Moses and Miriam led the greatest worship service ever conducted. On the banks of the Red Sea, they watched their mortal enemy floating dead on the waves. Four hundred and thirty years of oppression broken! (Ex 12:40)

From slavery to freedom,
oppression to deliverance,
poverty to abundance,
captives no more!

When I remember what God has done in my life, separating my past from my present, I can’t help but break into worship. He released me from a inescapable pit, shattering the chains of addictions too strong for me to break. He softened my hardened heart. This mind clouded with depression, He renewed. He filled me with a passion to live sold-out for Him.

For me, it is time to dance!

Everyone Together

David was also lifted “out of the depths.”

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and
clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises
and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”
Psalm 30:11-12

Israel knew how to dance through oppression. Dancing as joyous praise weaves throughout the psalms.

“Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Jeremiah 31:13

Sometimes dance expresses joyous gratitude toward God. At other times, God himself inspires and motivates believers to dance. Either way, it is time to dance!

God of Movement

The very first verse in the bible describes the Holy Spirit actively moving over the void establishing rhythm.

“In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth.
Now 
the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2

Hovering describes an eagle fluttering over her young, shaking and trembling, vibrating and moving. By divine strategy and in preparation for creation, Holy Spirit actively moved, fluttered and shook. Then God spoke the elements into existence.

In preparation to creative release, Holy Spirit knew it was time to dance!

Bringing in the Presence

Perhaps, David best illustrates another purpose for dance. He longed for the Ark of God’s Presence to return to Jerusalem. His first attempt failed with Uzzah losing his life, but David didn’t give up.

“Wearing a linen ephod,
David was dancing before the LORD
with all his might,
while he and all Israel
were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
2 Samuel 6:14-15

David danced “before the LORD with all his might.” He poured himself out in lavish praise with dance as an offering unto God. Dressed as a priest, the king led. All Israel followed.

Extravagant, vulnerable worship is risky. Some, like David’s wife, will misunderstand such devotion, rejecting what God calls pure and beautiful.

David remained unwavering,

“…I will celebrate before the LORD.
I will become even more undignified than this,
and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”
2 Samuel 6:21-22

For those desiring to usher in the Presence of God, the time to dance can be costly.

Collaborative Dance

Zephaniah reveals God in collaborative dance with His Bride, Israel. First, “Daughter Zion” celebrates in her God.

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!”
Zephaniah 3:14

Shouting aloud and other whole-hearted expressions of adoration and worship becomes contagious.  Expressions of utter joy radiate from faces turned God-ward. The word “rejoice” means jumping for joy, triumphant leaping forth.”

Worship includes quiet, solitary encounters with God. Instrumental, vocal and dance movement also create beautiful expressions of adoration to the Lord as a demonstrating of worship.

How does God respond to such extravagant worship?

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

God, the Mighty Warrior, rises with great delight and absolute joy. He breaks into twirling and spinning “over you with singing.” Am I exaggerating? Not at all! “Rejoice” here means to be “bright, cheerful, having great joy, twirling and spinning.”

When God rises in collaboration to our frail but expressive worship, dancing breaks forth on earth and in heaven!

Warfare Dance

Dance also fights spiritual battles.

“Praise and worship is the highest form of warfare
that is possible against the enemy of our soul.
Worshiping God…is the best form of warfare —
refusing to give the enemy our time or attention!”
Called to Flag

The united activation of people in extravagant praise and adoration to God, ushers in God’s presence in powerful ways. Although biblical flags and banners were not used in the same context that dancers use them today, dancers often symbolically use flags and banners as instruments of worship movement.

When dancing and flagging is used as an expression of worship to God, it is a powerful, non-verbal declaration of love and adoration to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

David’s wife Michal misunderstood David’s worship and criticized him. As a result she remained barren all her life. (2 Sam. 6:23) God takes worship seriously. He honors and protects those who without reservation give Him all their worship.

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind.”
Luke 10:27

The dance of worship truly includes all these aspects. Perhaps for all of us, it is time to dance.

**********

(Special thanks to RAC Worship Dance Team for their inspiring movements through dance and breathing life into my worship. Photo credits Amanda Chernesky)

Boast in the Lord – You May be Good but You’re Not that Good

Boast in the Lord and Him only. We may think we’re pretty good compared to others, but not compared to God. We’re just not that good. All other boasting is ludicrous and dangerous.

The other day, I laughed as I overheard four siblings constructing a major building block project. They had gotten along quite well, but now were disagreeing on the finishing touches. Finally, Evan announced, “Here let me do it! Boys are better than girls!”

Shayla, the oldest of the group, placed her hands on her hips, and with eyebrows lowered glared at him in disbelief. His remark obviously stuck a uncomfortable chord with her. Karli, the younger sister, backed off obligingly, pondering the weight of her brother’s comment while beginning to question her own ability. Four year old Sara didn’t miss a beat. She gently but firmly shoved the boaster off to the side, “You’re good, Evan, but you’re not that good!”

I laughed until I felt the nudge of Holy Spirit gently, but firmly, speak similarly to me. He was reminding me how easily I too step in with over-confidence, when humility and tact would be more appropriate. Boasting in ourselves usually doesn’t end up well — for kids or adults, male or female.

“Let someone else praise you,
and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.”
Proverbs 27:2

Boasting

Such boasting in ourselves never produces the results we would like. Boasting must have been an issue in the Corinthian church because it was the first problem Paul dealt with.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.‘”
I Corinthians 1:31 

I have discovered that often boasting partners with insecurity rather than confidence. Those who accurately measure their talents, abilities or expertise, don’t need to boast; their works speak for themselves. Those who feel a need to be publicly noticed or appreciated tend to boast as a way to elevate and validate themselves before others. Such tactics usually backfire.

Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18

Unless you think, for even a moment, I am pointing my finger at anyone else, rest assured, I’m not! God orchestrated this little incident with these young children to get my attention. Although amusing, it speaks directly to some boastful thoughts incubating in me.

Not That Good

Sara’s small but firm voice, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” has been resonating in my ears. I’m asking God to show me places where I overthink my own worth or accomplishments. I have always struggled to receive compliments well. Insults, I’m able to handle more readily, but accolades can trip me up.

I’m not alone! Perhaps the chief danger zones for most of us are pride, praise, and power. These each have a way of ultimately revealing our true nature.

“Brothers and sister, think of what you were
when you were called.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were of noble birth.”
1 Corinthians 1:26

Having no claim to either nobility or wisdom, this verse resonates with me. Though my parents gave me a generous start, my beginnings were humble. Any wisdom I possess, came from a gracious God and the school of many mistakes.

Quite frankly, I’m not that good! I hate to break it to you, but in the words of Sara, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” either.

Who Are You?

Just this week, someone confessed that when they heard me teach a class for the first time, they thought, “Who does she think she is?” Believe me, I wasn’t offended! It was obvious to everyone in the room, including me, that I wasn’t anybody special. I hold no distinction, certification, title or degree. Nothing set me apart from anyone else.

But here is the kicker! What does set each of us apart lies entirely in the extra-ordinary mercy of God!

“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things
of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things
of this world and the despised things —
and the things that are not —
to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Good news! We qualify among the ranks of those God chooses. Honestly! Who else but God would choose us, when we are “good, but not that good?”

This beautiful, intelligent woman felt a little uneasy about her thoughts. I didn’t! God and I both know, I’m just one of the “foolish things…weak things…lowly things…the things that are not.” And boy am I glad! No one can look at me and say I got where I am on my own efforts, intelligence, economic status, or by any other human means.

In Christ Alone

I constantly need to remember what Paul told the Corinthians believers,

“It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus
who has become for us wisdom from God —
that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
1 Corinthians 1:30

 

Everything originates in Christ — everything. Wisdom? From Him! Health or wealth? From Him! Loving relationships, warm home, security, hope, peace, destiny and promise? From Christ alone!

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,

“May I never boast except in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world
has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.”
Galatians 6:14

The cross puts everything into perspective. So no matter how good we may think we are, we know that we’re not that good.

Boast Please!

Not all boasting is bad, however. Paul wasn’t disqualifying all boasting. A few verses later, He lets us know that most of their boasting was in specific leaders. He warned about this propensity to boast about ourselves or others, whether a favorite leader, music group, sports team, college, or whatever.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'”
1 Corinthians 1:31

Here Paul quotes from a much larger portion found in Jeremiah:

“This is what the LORD says:
“let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

God Delights in Boasting

God delights when boasting is directed toward Him. Not because He is in any way self-centered or needs such acclaim, but rather boasting in God is healthy and beneficial.

David said,

“My soul will boast in the LORD;
the humble will hear it and rejoice.”
Psalm 34:2

Boasting in God has a spin off effect on others, positively turning their eyes toward Him. I’m so glad God didn’t have to use a donkey to speak to me, like He did with Balaam. He chose a four-year-old child to make His point in my heart. I hope her words will stick with me for a long, long time, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”

A little humility goes a long way!

Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought  us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!

Speak Blessing, not Cursing! Love is a Verb!

Paul boldly challenges the Roman Church, and us, to “speak blessing, not cursing.” All of us, from every generation, need the reminder that love without action is not love at all. Love is a verb!

Though many themes ebb and flow through his writing to the Roman church, personally none pierces my heart more than the theme of grace. The study of this epistle a few years ago reformed my thinking and rearranged my heart to love in a new way.

Love is a verb, not a thought or emotional response.  As a new Christian, I prayed, “Lord teach me to love.” I knew as clearly then, as I do now, that love requires a breaking of my self-centered, self-righteous, independent motivations. God alone gives the ability to love in a genuine, transforming way.

Grace and love flow outward to the deserving and undeserving.

Mankind prefers rather to

crush and control,
condemn and judge,
manipulate and intimidate,
strong over the weak,
healthy over the sick,
wealthy over the poor.

This ungodly propensity exists in every culture — Christian and non-Christian. Paul calls for an intentional turn-around in these natural tendencies, no matter how justified we may feel.

Transformation

Transformation starts from the inside infiltrating attitudes, words and actions. Paul sets the defining tone of love and grace in action.

“Let the inner movement of your heart
always be to love one another,
and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask.
Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.
Be devoted to tenderly loving your
fellow believers as members of one family.
Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
Romans 12:9-10

“Lord, teach me to love,” remains a key prayer decades later. Why? Love is tough!

I once read Neigel Bigpond’s story:

“My mother was sick in the hospital, and I went to visit her one day. When she opened her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means I love you,” she replied.

“I love you, too.”

My mother responded, “No son, you don’t understand. Our Yuchi word for “I love you” is not like English… “Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” means, “You are like a river that brings me life, and without you I cannot exist.”

That’s loving like God. Surrendering to Him so completely that others “are like a river that brings life and without them we know we cannot exist.” Quite frankly, God is asking for the impossible.

The Key

God knows I can’t! I know it, too! So He gave us the key to loving fully.

” Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord,
keeping your passion toward him boiling hot!
Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and
let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Romans 12:11

Love comes from God through the Holy Spirit. God is love — strong, unmasked, raw, pure. Only in passionate, “boiling hot,” relationship with Him will that love be evident in any of us. The dissipating of love in any dimension should drive us to our knees, “Lord, set us ablaze! Holy Spirit burn in us!”

Love is a verb! Active and powerful!

Circle of Love

Paul identifies the elements found within the larger sphere of love.

“Let this hope burst forth within you,
releasing a continual joy.
Don’t give up in a time of trouble,
but commune with God at all times.
Take a constant interest in the needs of God’s beloved people
and respond by helping them.
And eagerly welcome people as guests into your home.”
Romans 12:12-13

Another version says, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” Love hangs in there faithfully praying. At the same time, a season of withdrawing from gross dysfunction or severe abuse may be absolutely necessary.

I have helped people recede from unhealthy relationships, giving individuals time to regain personal health and wholeness. The goal of the separation isn’t to harm, but rather to restore.

Unbroken fellowship with God remains essential for individual and corporate relational health. In Him, we regain godly perspective and the ability to love genuinely and radically.

“Freedom is not the license to do whatever we want;
freedom is the choice to love.”
– Danny Silk

Love is a Blessing

I cannot imagine a life without love — either the pure joy of loving others or experiencing being known and loved. Love is a blessing, a grace gift from heaven.

“Speak blessing, not cursing,
over those who reject and persecute you.”
Romans 12:14

The things that come from our mouths disclose the reality within our hearts. When communication becomes judgmental and negative, we can be sure we have a serious heart condition.

Words are indicators and predictors!

The words of our mouth create the highway of our future — whether the way of blessing or cursing.

When David became an object of cursing and scorn, he appealed to God for help and strength. He gives a warning to his mockers.

“He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.”
Psalm 109:18

Negative talk about others deeply affects our own health — spiritually and physically, individually and corporately. How important to speak blessing!

Bless Actively

Just like love is a verb, so is blessing. Blessing goes far beyond the words of our mouths spilling out through active care for others. Paul lays down concrete ways to demonstrate a heart that releases blessing.

Celebrate with those who celebrate,
and weep with those who grieve.
Live happily together in a spirit of harmony,
and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own.
Don’t live with a lofty mind-set,
thinking you are too important to serve others
but be willing to do menial tasks and
identify with those who are humble minded.”
Romans 12:15-16

Paul calls for a sensitivity, wisdom and humility to mark our relationships. Every word challenges me! Every action is to be focused on the needs of others:

promoting others when we would rather be promoted,
serving from a state of fatigue and personal need,
setting aside personal agendas to elevate those around us.

Love is a verb – selfless and fearless!

Conquering Love

Love conquers with blessing. God’s instruction through Paul becomes even more difficult:

“Never hold a grudge or try to get even,
but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.
Do your best to live as everybody’s friend
If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch!…
Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.”
Romans 12:17-21

This is where I often feel overwhelmed. I hear within these lines a call to Christian extremism showing extreme love and compassion to our most oppressive enemies and most aggressive persecutors.

“Through the power of Christ’s blood,
we can exchange such things as curses for blessings;
guilt for purity; sickness for health;
lack for provision; sorrow for joy;
slavery for freedom; and death for eternal life.”
– C. & R. Wagner

How? In Christ and Christ alone! Unless the fire of Holy Spirit burns intensely within us, we will miss this incredible opportunity to live, love and bless. “Set us ablaze, Lord, and start with me.”

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Moses knew God like no other man. Yet, he still asked God, “Show me Your glory!” The intimate encounters Moses had in God’s presence only increased his desire to know God.

Time spent with those we love, whether family or friends, is sweet and refreshing. We constantly want to know what they are doing, how they are feeling, what is new in their lives, the struggles and successes they are experiencing. Time passes quickly in their presence. Often before one meeting has ended, we’re anticipating and planning our next get together.

Moses felt this way about God. God’s attributes, nature and character are beyond finding out. Though Moses glimpsed who He was, he wanted to know God fully and completely.

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

The desire to know God will always lead to asking, “Show us more of You.”

A Meeting Place

My husband enjoys meeting with other men at a coffee shop, sipping on steaming cups of hot coffee and savoring humongous fresh backed cinnamon buns. I like meeting in homes — ours or someone else’s. Weekly worship services and prayer gatherings connect us to our church family.

The place we meet isn’t as important as being intentional about meeting.

“Now Moses used to take a tent
and pitch it outside the camp some distance away,
calling it the “tent of meeting.””
Exodus 33:7

Moses’ meeting with God wasn’t happenstance. He established a place and time to meet with God. When Moses was purposeful to meet with God, God met him.

“As Moses went into the tent,
the pillar of cloud would come down
and stay at the entrance,
while the LORD spoke with Moses…
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.”
Exodus 33:9,11

Face to face! Friend to friend! What stirs within you as you think about meeting God face to face, Friend with friend? Wonder, curiosity, anticipation, longing, or maybe even fear?

Visitor’s Welcome

Wanting to know originates with God.

“I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the LORD.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

God gives us a heart “to know” Him. Then He meets us fulfilling that longing, which only causes us to hunger and know Him more. If earthly friendships are sweet, how much more precious our time with God, the Greatest most Faithful Friend?

I envy Moses’ encounters with God. I also envy young Joshua’s position of being able to eavesdrop in on those conversations. As Moses’ assistant, Joshua was able to enter the Tent of Meeting, even lingering long after Moses went to other duties.

If we think God shows Himself only to His mighty men, we are mistaken. God welcomes anyone and everyone who comes humble and hungry. No matter how many times Moses and Joshua entered the tent, no matter how long they stayed, it was never quite long enough. The desire to know God always increased.

Hunger and Thirst

No amount of “knowing” is enough!

“If you are pleased with me,
teach me your ways so I may know you
and continue to find favor with you…”
Exodus 33:13

Moses declares, “Thank you God for your presence, but I want to know you more!” God affirms their friendship — no arm twisting needed! He responds immediately,

“And the LORD said to Moses,
I will do the very thing you have asked
because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17

There are over 100 names for God in the bible. Each name reveals something about His character and identity. Moses knew God by Yahweh or Jehovah. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses his name. In Egyptian, “Moses” comes from the word for “son”, but in Hebrew it has the meaning to “deliver” or “drew out” because the Egyptian princess, “drew” Moses out of the Nile. His name reflected his destiny. God chose Moses to partner with Him to draw the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Names are significant. Calling someone by name shows them respect and value. Moses had a desire to know God even beyond His Name.

Show Me

Moses pushes the relationship to new levels and immediately asks God for more.

“Then Moses said, “now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

If you were confident of asking God for anything He could offer, what one thing would it be? When, like Moses,  you already know God’s unlimited power and unending capacity, what would you ask for?

“Show me!” Moses asked, “Show me more of You.”

Moses wasn’t enticed by power or position. He once lived in the house of the richest most powerful man in the world. What man possesses, another man can take away. But what God has, who He is, and what He gives can never be removed. “More of You,” Moses asks.

Jesus said

“Wherever your treasure is,
there the desires of your heart will be.”
Matthew 6:21

How intentional I am about creating a meeting place with God, will prove how hungry I am for His Presence. It will also reveal where my desire is.

Desire to Know God

Moses wasn’t alone!

To paraphrase David, he said, “There is only one thing I ask God. I want to live where You live. There is no one else I want to be with, look at, or hear from.” (Psalm 27:4) The Sons of Korah echoed David’s desire to know God more.

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 84:2

They knew there was no place better! No other place held the indescribable joy of God’s presence praising Him.

Flip a few pages in the bible to the New Testament and we find Anna in the temple day and night worshiping, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:37) Without a husband or family, her time was exclusively devoted to God. Mary sat at Jesus feet intently listening, watching and learning more. (Luke 10:39)

Paul’s desire to know God came in monstrous proportions.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

His knowing Jesus went beyond the ooey-gooey, make me feel good kind of knowing someone.

“I want to know Christ — yes,
to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death.”
Philippians 3:10

To Know More Fully

The more these men and women knew God, the more they longed to know Him. The desire to know God out-measured the need for personal comfort, gain, or reputation. In the knowing, an unquenchable hunger for knowing more fully was awakened.

For each of these people, time devoted in His presence (speaking and listening, waiting and pressing in) nurtured the hunger for more. There were no shortcuts.

“Lord fill us with a hunger for more of You.
May we “pitch our tents,” setting aside a specific place to meet You.
Help us draw away from demands and responsibilities
to wait in Your presence,
even if that means stepping “some distance away.”
May we choose to reach for You,
to seek Your face,
to long more deeply for your presence.”.

The Power to Choose – For Better and For Worse

God has allowed each one of us the power to choose. In His sovereignty He refuses to deny us that ability. The unrestrained power to choose can ultimately lead to immeasurable good or irreversible harm. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, the choice is ours.

I have a long history full of both good and poor choices. Probably, so do you! If we are wise, we will learn from both our successes and failures. My life is colored by the effects of choices I’ve made regarding finances, health, relationships and a multitude of other areas.

It is often the little choices that lead to bigger decisions with even greater consequences. Little things form big habits of conduct that result for the better or for the worse.

“This day…I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
and that you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is wanting the people to realize how serious the power to choose inevitably is.

Life or Death

If the consequences of our choices were instant, perhaps we would learn quicker and be wiser when it comes to decision making.

“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:33-34

Do you notice how it is “a little” of this and “a little” of that, that leads to something seriously alarming? That little extra may not seem like much in the moment. Over time though, a pattern of behavior develops that leads either down a path of destruction or up to God.

Many people are bound by addiction. None of them sought such an ending. Usually it started with a little taste, a small whiff or a sneak peak. All too soon, an unbreakable habit leads to brokenness, regret and even torment.

My consistent prayer over our family has been, “Lord, don’t let us get away with anything. May we face the consequences of our sin quickly and soundly.” We can be lulled into apathy and indifference when we think, in even a small way, we are getting away with something contrary to God’s perfect will.

Blessings and Curses

When I flip back a couple chapters in Deuteronomy, I see the promises of blessing God has waiting for those who seek to obey Him with all their hearts. Blessings such as overcoming enemies, gaining prosperity, open heavens and receiving promotion.The extensive list invites us to revel in God’s goodness and grace.

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
the fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock
— the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be bless when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-6

I have lived in the city and in the country, farmed land, raised livestock and enjoyed abundance. Yes, hard work was involved. All success was entirely the result of God’s blessing, however. Yet, there were also seasons, when my heart was equally fixed upon God and devastation seemed to loom everywhere.

Through the legitimate struggles God was working out a higher good, developing my character, strengthening my faith, humbling my heart and allowing me to lean totally on Him as my Source.

This same chapter that speaks of the blessings of obedience also contains the negative consequences of turning away from God. God warns that the power to choose goes both ways — blessings and curses, better and worse.

Choose Life

Moses presented the truth, honestly and sincerely. Now everyone who heard was released to weigh their own actions in the balance of God’s standard. God isn’t wanting to allow harm to come our way. He lovingly invites us to Himself.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children my life
The LORD is your life
and He will give you many years in the land…”
Deuteronomy 30:20

I wish I could have been there to hear the intonation in Moses’ voice and catch a glimpse of his expression. The gift of life, a life that would affect generations, was being extended freely and fully.

I can hear that same offer repeated by Jesus,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

We see again the power to choose and the results of that choice.

Extra Benefits

When we wisely exercise the power to choose, “extra” benefits come along:

“Now choose life, so that …
you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:20

The road of life is littered with relational corpses of poor choices. That “thing” we mess with may not result in instant death, but every act of disobedience drains life from us in one way or another. God’s gift of choice affects not just us but everyone around us as well.

More than anything, our choices affect our relationship with God. I am foolish if I believe I can walk in disobedience to God and still maintain intimate relationship with Him. My power to choose will either open my heart to hear clearly from Him or cause dullness to cloud my perception. A little compromise here and a little more there is the outward evidence of how much or how little I am “hold(ing) fast” to Him.

Sadly others can see the outcome of my choices long before I do. Sometimes my willful blinding to God’s truths causes dullness in my mind. At other times, I have stepped off course in innocence or ignorance. The reasons my vary but the results are consistently damaging.

Power to Choose

God will never take away our power to choose. His heart rejoices when we exercise that gift of grace to turn to Him in wholehearted love and devotion. At other times, He grieves as we turn and go our own direction.

Love propels God to release us to our own destinies. His love invites us to choose wisely.

At the end of Joshua’s tenure as leader, he declares his stance:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
but as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

The principle of the power to choose life or death flows through the pages of the bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Today, I simply add my little voice to the mighty voices of multiple others, “choose life.” For in choosing life we also make the choice to love, listen and hold fast to the things of God.

God is Worthy of All Worship, Adoration and Praise

God is Worthy

There is only one God Who is worthy of all worship, adoration and praise, though there are many little “g” gods among us. In Guatemala, I visited places where sacrifices were made to Mayan gods. On a single plot of land In Cambodia, I saw various sized temples, now crumbling in ruins, built for the worship of over a hundred different gods.

With so much affluence in Canada, the god of materialism can be seen everywhere. We erroneously ignore The Giverof every good and perfect gift” while idolizing the gifts instead. Even as Christians, we can easily become self-sufficient, self-appointed gods of our own making — knowing God but marching to our own drum beat. Even areas of ministry can take precedent over relationship with God. Doing things for God can unintentionally become more important than the worship of Him.

I have to frequently stop — purposefully re-evaluate my priorities. It is beneficial to allow the Holy Spirit to do a serious internal investigation of the motivations of my heart. Am I alone or do others struggle to keep God in first place?

Is God worthy of all worship, adoration and praise? Absolutely! No one and nothing else comes close to who He is!

Indescribable God!

Have you ever tried to describe the indescribable?
Or compare the incomparable!
God’s love is immeasurable and His ways incomprehensible!

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Creator God is worthy of worship!

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that was made.
There is only One inhabiting heaven’s throne,
far above all rule, authority, power and dominion
He is the King exalted over every other king.
But contrary to all others,

“His kingdom will never end!”

Rulers can’t stop Him,
armies can’t defeat Him,
kings, queens, dictators and prime ministers
can’t legislate Him away!

 “to the only God our Savior be glory,
majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages, now and forevermore!”

He is God — the only God —
worthy of all worship, adoration and praise.

God Above All Gods!

“His incomparable great power” 

makes every impossibility possible when He steps into the scene.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.”

Great is our God and worthy of worship!

The earth shakes and mountains tremble at the sound of His voice.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah roars
defending and protecting His own.
Righteousness and justice form the foundation of His throne
love and faithfulness go before Him.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are (His) ways higher than (our) ways
    and (His) thoughts than (our) thoughts.

He is Savior, and Shepherd of our souls,
Redeemer, Provider and Deliverer,
our Refuge, Fortress, and Shield.
He is Light and Salvation,
Peace in the midst of any and every storm,
the Anchor that holds us steadfast,
our Righteousness and our Strength,
our Healer and Hope
— leading us
into all hope and
giving us a glorious inheritance.

“For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever!”

He neither sleeps nor slumbers,
never growing tired or weary!
His understanding no one can fathom!

Ever present God, worthy of worship!

    “…Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”

He formed each one in the womb,
setting us apart and appointing us for His purpose!
His plans are always for good
— never for evil!

Holy God!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was, and who is to come,
the Almighty.”

The holy, magnificent, glorious One
who inhabits his holy temple where

He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.”

Not to punish or execute judgement,
but rather to reward
those who seek Him with all their hearts,
with the tender eye of a good Father,
loving generously,
forgiving readily,
and sheltering continuously
with passionate care.

 “Who can hide in secret places
so that I shall not see them? declares the Lord.
Do not I fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.”

The God who fills heaven and earth is worthy of worship!

“For this is what the high and exalted One says —
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Do you love and know the ways of
this One who is worthy of all worship, adoration and praise?

All Knowing God

Awesome beyond measure!
The intelligence of man is but foolishness to God.
The foolishness of God is wiser
than the collective wisdom of all generations.
He is absolutely brilliant!
He makes known all things and
is the Source of all knowledge and
understanding.

The Lord on His heavenly throne is worthy of worship!

Where could I go from your Spirit?
Where could I run and hide from your face? 
If I go up to heaven, you’re there!
Or if I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too!
If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there!
If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting!

He is God. There is none beside Him.
No one comes close to the magnificence of who He is.
To God, the end is as clear as the beginning,
for He alone is outside the constraints of time.

“I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’ ”

He knows us like none other.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight,
including our hearts.

“The Everlasting God, the LORD,
the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.”

Though finite minds cannot understand Him,
He makes Himself known
and approachable,
revealing Himself in the expanse of the skies
and the tiniest micro-organism
in the depth of the ocean.

The God I Worship

But let’s get personal! I know Him as

always available and accessible,
with arms of incomparable strength opened wide.
He never grows impatient by my endless questions,
or pushes me away in disdain.
He is compassionate and gracious
beyond anything I deserve.
He knows my pain and holds my tears.

God is closer than you know

His eyes are an ocean of peace
and a flame of fierce unending love.
Not one prayer falls to the ground — unheard or unnoticed.

His compassion is big enough to embrace the broken,
restore the outcast,
and seek the lost.
He is joy in the midst of sorrow and
comfort in the darkest hour of night.

When I awake each morning, I ask, “Is God worthy of all worship, adoration and praise?” The answer never changes, “Yes Lord! You, and You alone, are worthy!”

God will not give His glory to another.
No other is worthy!

He is bigger than any could imagine.
His mercy and grace surpasses
all comprehension.
He loves more, best and always,
no matter who we are or
how we’ve failed Him.
Though at times, we might disappoint or frustrate Him,
He will never leave or forsake us.
Everything He does is perfectly good,
because good and perfect is who He is.

But He is so much more!
There is always more of God, this One,
who is, and always will be,
worthy of all worship,
adoration and praise.

Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many different ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself, yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiners fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.