Don’t Settle! Keep Going! Resist Doing Things Halfway and Missing Out

We can all be tempted to quit before reaching an intended goal. Today, I encourage you “Don’t settle for where you’re at! Keep on going until you reach the end.”  (Whatever the end may be!)

How many unfinished projects await completion in your home or life—visions, goals or desires that lay dust-covered or moth-eaten in the back corner of the garage or closet? I have my own lingering projects and faded intentions. Initial excitement rose high but time, money or energy waned.

My grand-daughter shared her experiences on a high diving board. At the lowest level, she fearlessly jumped into the water just a few feet below. Bounding back out, she set her sights on the next highest level. With only a slight bit of trepidation, she ran, lept and plunged into the cool pool. Looking up she assessed the risks of the second-highest diving platform. Determinedly, she ascended the steps, building courage as she went. Upon reaching the platform, fear’s grip froze her. She came this far to jump, but couldn’t. Unwilling to back down, she stood for a long time before cautiously approaching the edge peering at the ripples of blue far below. Pushing herself past fear, she stepped off, plummeting into the deep. She did it! She overcame.

Don’t Settle

Have you been there? The scenarios differ but the feelings remain consistent. Did you keep going, or pull back?

I read,

“Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot . . .
his daughter-in-law Sarai . . .
and together they set out from Ur
of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan.
But when they came to Harran,
they settled there.”
Genesis 11:31

Terah gathered his family and left the prosperous Ur of Chaldeans, leaving advanced culture, fertile land with lush gardens and idol worship. Was God directing His steps? Had God given him a vision of Canaan or a word of promise?

Just as we aren’t told the reason for Terah beginning his journey, we aren’t told his reason for stopping. “But,” (that sticky little word) he did. He already passed the halfway point to his intended destination. He already overcame numerable obstacles to reach this point. Why stop here, or now?

We read something even more devastating,

“Terah lived 205 years,
and he died in Harran.”
Genesis 11:32

Where he settled, he died!

Keep Going

Immediately after Terah’s death, God spurs Abram to finish what his father began.

“The LORD had said to Abram,
Go from your country, your people
and your father’s household
to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1

“The LORD had said. . .” Interesting! The LORD doesn’t give some new directive. Yet, after the death of his father, Abram is reminded of something “the LORD had said.” Something about a promise, a great nation and blessing for him and “all peoples of the earth.”

Was the promise originally given to Terah, but he settled too soon? Did Terah settle for halfway obedience or halfhearted effort? Would Terah have been the one to receive the promise if he would have continued?

No one knows.

Obviously, God reminds Abraham these years later of something previously spoken. A promise only fulfilled through total obedience and all-out energy. “Leave it all!” God said, “Finish the journey!”

Faith or Fear

Both Terah and his son Abram said, “Yes,” to God. Both had faith to start the journey. One settled halfway; one finished.

What stops us halfway? What is our “but?”

My granddaughter almost stopped short with tangible, even palpable,fear. My fears hide more subtly in the shadows of denial.

I have learned, however, that whenever there is a hesitation to move into God’s destiny for me, even containing a promise written long ago, fear birthed my pause. The pit of hesitation bears many names: doubt, indecision, procrastination, reluctance, vacillation, or just plain unwillingness to take one more step. “But . . . “

Jesus reached out His hand to a sinking Peter,

“You of little faith,” he said,
“why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:31

Faith and fear never co-exist. Hope sinks in the weight of doubt. Perhaps like Peter, Terah started in faith, but halfway to the promise doubt crept in and he settled into death’s hold.

Fear overtook Elijah after the great victory on Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs 18-19). As a result, his ministry died and his mantle was passed to another.

Halfway

Paul refused to take Mark along,

“Barnabas wanted to take John,
also called Mark, with them,
but Paul did not think it wise to take him,
because he had deserted them in Pamphylia
and had not continued with them in the work.”
Acts 15:37-38

A powerful man, co-laboring with Paul for the work of the kingdom, quit. He “deserted them.” Ouch! That stings. At times, I’ve deserted halfway; other times, I’ve quit too soon.

Fortunately, years later another opportunity came for Mark to join Paul. Often where we quit, like Terah, we die. Vision dies; purpose dies; hope dies; promise dies; faith dies. We may live, but inside something is missing and lost forever.

Keep going! Don’t quit yet!

Love is the Answer

After Jesus’ death, he faced Peter in a soul-searching confrontation.

“Simon son of John, do you love
me more than these?”
John 21:15

“Do you love Me enough to leave your father, your family, your friends, your business, and your inheritance?”

“Simon son of John,
do you love me?”
John 21:16

“Peter, there will be no settling or going back to where you came from. Do you love me enough for that?”

Simon son of John,
do you love me?”
John 21:17

When we stand at the crossroads between settling halfway or reaching the finish, that is the question that matters. Where is love focused? Do we, do I, love Jesus enough to keep going, to not quit or settle. Love remains the critical ingredient necessary for faith to sustain and persevere.

“There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

To the Finish

We all face walls of doubt and fear. When there seems no way through, around or over, we settle. A graveyard of “What ifs?” spreads out in front of the barrier.

Like Abram, we need to remember again what “the LORD had said,” stirring faith to move again, to restart the journey, and un-pause our vision. Abram went miles beyond his father, seeing what his father failed to see.

“There he built an altar to the LORD
and called on the name of the LORD.”
Genesis 12:8

‘Called’ doesn’t refer to private prayer. Rather, when Abram ‘called on the name of the LORD,’ he was making a public declaration, preaching and proclaiming the faithfulness and greatness of Yahweh, the LORD God.

Abram kept going—unstoppable until God said stop. He lived to see the land that his ancestors would one day possess. He created a platform of declaration to others of the power of God to see us through to the end.

May I encourage us both, “Don’t settle! Keep going!” Let’s resist doing things halfway and missing out on what God has promised.

The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated

The golden rule, although existing in many cultures globally, is a biblical principle that has been passed down through generations. Certainly, my parents faithfully attempted to instill this foundational way of thinking and behaving into my conduct.

The golden rule points us to see others with value. Speaking the golden rule is easy; remembering it during critical moments, a little more difficult; harder still is consistently living by it.

Self Assessment

Matthew, the former tax collector, writes of the need for such a principle. Few people, now or then, admire those who work for the tax department, enforcing governmental laws of personal and corporate taxation. In Matthew’s day, tax collectors were considered traitors and thieves — mostly for good reason. Before Matthew was introduced to Jesus, his barometer scale of compassion probably ranked quite low. Filling his own coffers was one of his highest priorities, and he didn’t care who he stepped on to do it.

“So in everything, do to others
what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

When he met Jesus, however, his former mindset did an about-turn. He began to view those around him not for temporary benefit but from an eternal perspective. He also knew such a change of thinking came only through divine intervention. 

In the preceding verses, Matthew addressed the need for taking the plank out of my own eyes (vs 5). It amazes me how blatantly obvious the smallest failures of others appear while living ignorant of my own overbearing and incredibly dysfunctional behavioral patterns.

God forbid that we ignore the pain we see others suffering through. Before jumping into action, he challenges us to assume the responsibility of seriously assessing ourselves. Then Matthew calls us to do whatever is necessary to effectively help others. 

“. . . first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove
the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:5

Planks hurt! Specks hurt too! Oh how we need each other to help us see clearly.

God First

What wisdom Matthew has acquired in his short time with the Master! 

He points our attention to the loving Father. I know this is a long passage, but every word is worthy of our attention. 

Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-11

If we stop reading here, we easily assume that it is a one-way channel of blessing upon blessing coming toward us. We could stand at the door of prayer asking, seeking and knocking for more in our give-me-bags to satisfy our selfish desires and satiate our lustful appetites for the good things God offers. 

This, however, is the preamble for the real intent, as an appetizer to the full meal, of Matthew’s message. In short, he says, “Look, everyone! Look how loving and gracious our Father is! Does His mercy ever end? Will He ever shortchange you? Does He treat you carelessly?”

Golden Rule

If there are three words that I continually stumble upon as I’m reading the Bible, it is those little words “how much more.” No matter how generous, loving, good and gracious we believe God to be, He is so much more. Matthew says, “God is our pattern. The way He treats us has become the standard by which we treat all others.” 

“So in everything, do to others
what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

That’s it! The golden rule capsulizes everything God has written. This one principle satisfies everything else completely. “In everything,” in every way, to all people, treat them as God treats us.

Let’s get real! When I look at the level of this standard, I feel like I’m standing under a bar hanging 50 feet above my head with no means of reaching it. My failed attempts, through 67 years, only proves my powerlessness to achieve such a high mark. 

Who will help? How will I ever attain it? Through the grace of God alone — day by day asking Him to intervene in my life, moment by moment trusting Him, time and time again seeking forgiveness for my failure.

“As You Have Done”

Matthew knows full well the intervention of God that must occur for us to hold such high conduct. He isn’t presenting something new. Hundred’s of years prior, Obadiah gave a warning to Israel’s enemies, 

“. . . As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Obadiah 1:15

Israel’s enemies were guilty of “gloating” over them in their “misfortune,” “rejoicing” when “destruction” hit, and “boasting” when they were in trouble. Doing the wrong thing comes easy; doing the right thing takes practice and effort.

Sometimes, we do pretty good at following the golden rule principle with our friends. The real litmus test is how we respond to our enemies. Do we nurse a twisted gratification when they stumble and fall or when they are down and out?

My parents would often add, “Don’t kick someone when they’re down!” In other words, the golden rule includes lending a helping hand to those we least want to help, being kind to those who have treated us harshly, and refusing to judge those who have cast the broad net of judgment our way. 

God reminds us through Obadiah that the same portion we so generously give to others, either good or evil, will return to us. 

Sowing and Reaping

What a marvelous God we serve. God  refuses to lower the bar to meet our inadequacies. He sets the bar high, then lifts us over it. He presents the standard, then gives us everything we need to accomplish it.

“…I will not leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down,
nor relax my hold on you.
Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13:5 AMP

We don’t struggle alone to fulfill God’s mandate. The beauty and simplicity of the golden rule unfolds like a delicate flower, as we rest and trust in God to guide and help us. What we sow we will reap.

Paul writes to the Galatians, 

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows. . .
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:7-9

So friends, let’s keep going. Keep reaching. Keep aiming. We will attain the reward of living for and giving to others according to the golden rule. Let’s not give up! Reward may seem a long way off, but it might be sooner than we think.

Don’t Worry; Be Happy! The Battle for Peace of Mind!

If you’re like me a “Don’t worry; be happy!” admonition isn’t exactly effective. The battle for peace of mind can’t be minimized. The struggle many people at times face is significant and life altering, causing emotions to sway like a skyscraper during an earthquake.

Sometimes even temporary issues can send one into extreme frustration or anxiety, whether the pivot point is a serious health problem, financial crisis, relational issues, or any number of other life events large and small. Paul challenged the Corinthians to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor:10:5)

That sounds like attempting to have a dozen toddlers sit still for a photo. Toddlers don’t stay still and neither do my thoughts or over-active imagination.

Nonetheless, God places on us the full responsibility for the thoughts we choose to dwell on. So how can we and do we win this battle for a mind at peace? Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us groping for our own solutions to this immense problem.

Rejoice

When hope seems lost and expectation for improvements buried and gone, the command to rejoice sounds cruel at best. Unless of course, the one giving the instruction was himself familiar with facing life and death situations.

“I am in chains for Christ . . .
and will continue to rejoice . . .
I eagerly expect and hope that
I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:13,18-21

Maybe that is sufficient evidence to heed the advice of Paul whose struggle, pain and loss far exceed our own. When the chips are down and all natural support is stripped away, he concludes that everything apart from Christ is “garbage.” (3:8) In essence, he reminds us all that life is short and eternity is long.

Paul sets the context for his encouragement just before reminding us all that the “Lord is near!” When we sense that deliverance is close at hand, we have the capacity to endure much more than we previously thought possible.

Rejoice in the Lord always
[delight, gladden yourselves in Him];
again I say, Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4

Don’t Worry; Be Happy

Paul, through personal example, demonstrates the possibility of maintaining joy in difficult situations. Then he adds to his clear command to rejoice, another, “Don’t worry!” During less intense problems it’s perhaps easier to find something to be grateful for and happy about, but when you’re facing foreclosure, your marriage is heading to divorce court, or the illness is diagnosed as terminal, “Don’t worry; be happy” sounds empty and unrealistic.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything,
but in every circumstance and in everything,
by prayer and petition (definite requests),
with thanksgiving,
continue to make your wants known to God.”
Philippians 4:6

Gradually, I’m beginning to understand Paul’s admonition. Prayer changes everything, starting with me and my perspective. Thankfulness perhaps improves the nature of our thoughts and emotions more than any other quality. Jesus encouraged his listeners that God knows and loves each of us so much that He even knows how many hairs we have on our heads. (Luke 7) Apparently, that’s about 150,000 hairs per person. Then He says,

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more. . .”

When you consider there are about 1 billion trillion stars in the known universe and God has each one not just numbered but named, we understand how great God is and how much He really does care. (Ps 147:4) Suddenly, I view God and my life from a new context.

It is only as I fully know my need, that I come to know the goodness and greatness of my God. Maybe, “Don’t worry; be happy” isn’t such a far stretch after all.

Peace in the Storm

As I take those things that rob me of joy and shadow me with fear, placing them in prayer before God, peace becomes possible.

“And God’s peace [shall be yours,
that tranquil state of a soul assured
of the salvation through Christ,
and so fearing nothing from God
and being content with its earthly lot
of whatever sort that is, that peace]
which transcends all understanding shall garrison
and mount guard over your
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

I’m beginning to see the strategy for winning this battle over depression and anxiety. I’m not sure about anyone else, but for me, the decades long struggle with mental illness proved to be largely a spiritual issue. I can say, at least in part, that I’ve been transformed by the renewing of my mind, aligning it to who God is and what He declares. (Rom 12:2)

Though once impossible, now “Don’t worry; be happy!” is completely attainable.

Thinking

For a  brain like mine that was once deeply rutted with “stinking-thinking,” rerouting thought patterns has taken persistence and time. That’s why Paul continues his exhortation,

“. . . whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence
and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable,
whatever is kind and winsome and gracious,
if there is any virtue and excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think on and weigh and take account of
these things [fix your minds on them].”
Philippians 4:8

My thoughts are becoming increasingly a more accurate reflection of this description. At times, however, it is downright scary how ragged, selfish, and putrid any random thought rolling through my head might be. But just imagine! Imagine how different life would be if every thought was taken captive and aligned with Christ through this short, albeit challenging, list.

Practice

If I stop reading here, however, I will miss the mark. “Don’t worry; be happy!” will remain an elusive impossibility. To embed these truths deeply in my life, they must be practiced.

Practice what you have learned
and received and heard and seen in me,
model your way of living on it,
and the God of peace
(of untroubled, undisturbed well-being)
will be yours.”
Philippians 4:9

Reading our Bibles and knowing the truth begins the process but will leave us lacking if we settle for knowledge alone. Winning the battle for the mind takes effort — a praying and petitioning God kind of effort, plus diligently censoring our thought life kind of effort. When we willingly practice and model what we have learned, that process continues until radical mind-renewing, mind-healing transformation occurs.

Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace, remains untroubled and undisturbed. He grants us His perfect peace that supernaturally garrisons and guards our hearts and minds. Then, through Christ, “Don’t worry; be happy!” becomes a daily reality and peace truly does win.

Psalm 81 – Open Wide Your Mouth and I Will Fill It

God says, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” But what does He mean and how inclusive is this guarantee? These are the questions I asked my friend when she reminded me of God’s promise to supply. Though I already knew the verse, our conversation sent me on a quest to find out more.

The first image that came to my mind as she spoke was of a nest of hungry birds desperately chirping and cheeping upon their parent’s approached with a thick juicy worm — each tiny featherless upstart demanding more. Yes, that’s me! The one right in the middle insisting to be filled!

But as with all promises in the Bible, fulfillment is contingent on our response to God. He is more than willing and able to come through for us, but are we positioning ourselves to receive the fullness of His promise?

Worship God

Psalm 81 can be divided into three distinct sections, the first of which calls us to worship God for who He is.

Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram’s horn . . .”
Psalm 81:1-3 

Loosen up your voices, tune up the instruments, get ready for a noisy, all-out shindig! This is God we are celebrating, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow celebrity. No instrument is too large or too small; it isn’t too soon to start. “Begin the music!” the psalmist announces, “Let’s get this praise rolling!”

This isn’t a new admonition. As a matter of fact, it’s been in existence since God brought His people out of Egypt. That was a LONG time ago. Surely you remember! Well, maybe it wasn’t literal Egypt for each of us, but we’ve all known our share of sins cruel chains of oppression. Those who have claimed the Name of Jesus have experienced the freedom of His deliverance.

But then we catch the first startling glimpse of trouble.

Unknown God

“I heard an unknown voice say . . . ”
Psalm 81:5

What? Did I read that right? The God who once set us free is now “unknown?” How could they, and for that matter I, forget? Oh, but it’s our human nature to easily forget the greatness and goodness of our God.

“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”
Psalm 81:6-7

Since God has done so much for each of us, you would think we would always remember his goodness. Surely, after all the grace and mercy He has shown, we would remain grateful. Even though the call to remember resounds throughout the Bible, we too forget. We forget not just His deeds but the sound of His voice — His voice that reveals His unchanging character and love.

The title for the second segment to this psalm could easily be, “My Forgetful Children.” As a mother of many, all too often I felt the exasperation of not being listened to and my wise counsel left unheeded. (Of course, what sounded wise to a mother didn’t always ring true to fledgling children — then or now!)

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
Psalm 81:10

“Open Wide Your Mouth”

Little birds open wide their mouths because their very lives depend on it. My problem isn’t forgetting to open my mouth or making my need known, but rather how I attempt to satisfy that need. As another friend once told me, “There are many non-gods we can go to.”

She is right. If I forget who God is and lose awareness of His voice, I will seek fulfillment in many other places. As horrifying as it sounds, it’s true. And I’m not alone! We live in fleshly bodies that refuse to be satisfied, filling our proverbial mouths with lust, greed, and gluttony of various kinds. Humanity reeks. We are too often like self-made garburators of the vile and disgraceful.

Our electronic devices buzz with incessant pollution to minds and souls, drawing us ever deeper into a new, yet all to familiar, bondage God once delivered us from. Oh, but God’s heart cries to us still,

Hear me, my people, and I will warn you —
if you would only listen to me . . .
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
Psalm 81:8-10

In spite of our failure to hear and to heed, God calls with open arms, “Come back to me and I will satisfy your hunger.”

“But my People”

The third segment of this psalm might be called, “They Would Not!” This is only my opinion, but I think the greatest crisis of mankind is forgetting that we are people made in the image of God, with purpose and destiny. When we fail to remember our God, we quickly fail to remember who we are as well.

“But my people would not listen to me . . .
If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!”
Psalm 81:11-14

Do I close my mouth long enough to listen, refusing to self-gratify, self-satisfy or self-proclaim? Do I open wide my mouth to acknowledge my God with singing and shouting His praise? Maybe not with cymbals and ram’s horns, but noisy acclamation of His greatness? Will I remember that I am His and follow Him?

If I will, and that is the BIG “if,” the promise is mine! When I open wide my mouth, no matter what the need, God will fill it.

“You Will Be Fed”

God brings us back to the promise. If only they will lay aside all their “would nots” the promise still stands.

“. . . you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Psalm 81:16

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Whatever the root of our hunger, whatever the need or longing, God is good enough, strong enough, and loving enough to fill it. But He is waiting to hear our voices sing and shout, for the ram’s horn to blast His praise; He’s waiting for us to turn our ears intently toward His voice; He is waiting for us to remember all He has done for us; He’s waiting for us to catch the passion of His heart, to turn from lesser things. When we do, He’s prepared to swoop low, satisfying every deep craving within.

Our God is enough! No other god will do!  “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it!”

 

David, A Man of Wholehearted Devotion to God

Only a few biblical personalities are said to possess wholehearted devotion to God.  What qualifies such a description? How can one develop this attribute? Who were these individuals?

All were exceptional yet ordinary people. They are people God continues to look for and calls us to emulate.

“For the eyes of the LORD move
to and fro throughout the earth
that He may strongly support
those whose heart is completely His.”
2 Chronicles 16:9

The list of those who possessed wholeheartedly committed to God reads like a who’s who in the spiritual hall of fame:

  • Noah was called “righteous and perfect in his generations” and built a means of salvation for all who would listen. (Gen 6:9)
  • Mary Magdalene followed Christ with wholehearted devotion in her worship, attentiveness to his teaching, faithfulness at His crucifixion and stalwart declaration of His resurrection to His unbelieving followers.
  • Job was declared to be a “perfect and upright man, one that fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8)
  • Because of Hannah’s unwavering commitment and sacrificial devotion her nation was turned to God in a single generation (1 Sam 1 & 2)
  • Hezekiah’s self assessment reads, “I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion” (Is 38:3)

What about Abram and his wife Sara, Esther and Mordecai, or many New Testament forerunners, world changers, fearless defenders and promoters of the faith? The Bible says of Jehoshaphat,

“His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD…”
2 Chronicles 17:6

Above All Others

The Hebrew words often translated as “devotion” have the sense of “being complete or full, whole and wholesome, innocent, and having integrity.” It also stands for “truth, virtue and uprightness.”

The person the Bible describes as having wholehearted devotion above all others is, beyond a doubt, King David. Every succeeding king and ruler would be measured by the devotion found in this godly man.

David was a young shepherd tending “a few sheep” — out of sight, unnoticed, and insignificant by all earthly perspective. In obscurity, however, David’s heart became a God-shaped container of radical devotion to the one and only true God!

Even David’s son Solomon, the wisest of all men, was unable to emulate his father’s example,

“…his heart was not
fully devoted to the LORD his God,
as the heart of David his father had been.” 
1 Kings 11:4

I appreciate the honesty with which David judges his own heart, however. He, as much as any other man, knew the pitfalls of walking wholly committed to God while living with human passions, desires and weaknesses. 

I’m trying my best to walk in the way of integrity,
especially in my own home.
But I need your help!
I’m wondering, Lord, when will you appear?
I despise what is evil
and anything that moves my heart away from you.
I will not let evil hold me in its grip.
Every perverse and crooked way I have put away from my heart,
for I will have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness.”
Psalm 101:2-4 TPT

A Committed Path

Do you ever feel like David? “I’m trying, Lord, but I could use some help!” I sure do!

Wholehearted devotion requires a commitment, a predetermined resolve to allow nothing and no one to separate us from our allegiance to God. But how exactly did David foster and protect such an attitude?

David makes no excuses for himself. A quick glance at Psalm 51 reveals his all-to-real struggle with human weakness.

“For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me…”
Psalm 51:3

Four key elements are evident in David’s life: a soft heart, value for God’s Word, persistence in prayer, and unrestrained worship. All are essential to obtaining wholehearted devotion.

Soft Heart

David’s hope and anchor rested in his personal relationship with his Heavenly Father. A soft heart, quick to repent, always leads to wholeness and restoration.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 51:10-11 

Humility, a quickness to forgive, concern for the oppressed, and genuine love stood as witness to the softness of David’s heart. 

Value God’s Word

David wisely established godly disciplines to live above reproach. The Hebrew word for “fully devoted” also  means “truth, virtue, uprightness and righteousness.” It is impossible to possess these attributes without saturating ourselves in the oil of divine truth, the Word of God.

David attributed many defining benefits to God’s Word.

“… perfect, refreshing the soul…
trustworthy, making wise the simple…
giving joy to the heart…
radiant, giving light to the eyes…
pure, enduring forever…
 firm, and all of them are righteous… 
more precious than gold…
 sweeter than … honey from the honeycomb.”
Psalm 19: 7-10

Persistence in Prayer

Maintaining an undivided heart toward God also requires transparency and vulnerability. David recognized God’s law as a perfect light shining upon his heart, revealing what would otherwise remain hidden even from Himself. He prayed,

“But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgressions.”
Psalm 19:12,13

Because hidden faults and willful sins are common to us all, Jesus told us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God lovingly reveals our hidden faults when we ask — either speaking through the Holy Spirit or mentors and trusted supporters He has positioned in our lives. 

Unrestrained Worship

The Hebrew word for “steadfast” also means “get ready or be prepared.” The attitude of prayer turns the key to wholehearted devotion, while the practice of worship opens the door, preparing us for godliness.

The psalms ring with David’s anthems of adoration and worship. Communion with God in prayer, combined with worship, prepares the hard ground of our hearts, tenderizing and mellowing it into fallow soil, yielded to God.

“You, God, are my God, 
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1-3

Wholehearted devotion recognizes God as the sufficient Source of all we need.

God’s Promise

Let’s finish where we began,

“For the eyes of the LORD move
to and fro throughout the earth
that He may strongly support
those whose heart is completely His.”
2 Chronicles 16:9

God is looking, scanning the nations, browsing the streets of our cities, searching through our homes, peering into pulpits and pews, desiring to find someone, anyone, he can “strongly support”! His eyes are watching for those He can strengthen, fill with unwavering courage, and give power to overcome all opposition, because that is what strongly support truly means.

Oddly enough, this same word for “strongly support” defines David’s “triumph, prevail, and defeat” over Goliath (1 Sam 17:50). When God found a boy whose heart was fully devoted to Him, He moved with strong support to help the lad. The shepherd’s stone hit the mark with supernatural accuracy and force.  The giant fell never to rise again!

As God gazes upon our generation, may He find many, young and old, men and women, with wholehearted devotion to Him above all else.

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“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.

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(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!

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.”.