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Sing Of The Lord

“Glory is his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. “ 1 Chronicles 16:10

Holy God when I seek to worship you through song today help me to distinguish between music that elevates You rather than me.  I want to lift up my voice in celebration of You – your glory and majesty and power.  Amen

Last year my husband and I were attending a church that had an excellent teaching pastor.  However, for various reasons we decided to keep looking for a church that fit more of our needs.  We had become friends with the pastor so I felt the need to talk with him about why this church just didn’t seem like the right place to call “home.”  Way down on my list was the music.  It wasn’t a gamechanger but I included it just for feedback.  My comment was that I was sure, because I’ve heard some before, there was music to be sung written after the 1800s.  He agreed and replied, “Yes, but I don’t like the ”Jesus Is My Boyfriend” music either.

Music has always played a role in the world’s religions – whether hummed, chanted, drummed, or played in an arena like a rock band.  But no other religion finds itself with a songbook as large, widespread and popular as Christianity.  We have songs to celebrate the life of Jesus, to thank the Lord for rescuing us, songs to remind us of the pain Jesus suffered for us, songs to inspire us to trust in the Lord and songs to glorify God.  And it’s important to pay attention to when we fall into the trap of honoring the work we do rather than the work God does.  We also don’t want to reduce Jesus to our “buddy” or as the pastor said, our boyfriend.

"Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!" Psalm 105:2

This got me thinking about the different types of Christian music and when we should be singing ones that are written solely for the purpose of glorifying God.  Now some of you might be thinking, “if it’s Christian music, doesn’t it all do that?”  If that’s your initial thought I’d like to challenge you to listen to the words of the favorite songs you hear on the radio, and maybe even in your church.  Are the lyrics really about you or about God’s glory, holiness, power and authority?  Here’s a popular song by Phil Wickham that I have in my Christian playlist:

"I searched through the Earth for something that could satisfy
A peace for the hurt I had buried deep inside
Knees on the floor, I finally found everything I needed
You lifted my soul and opened up my eyes

I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You, till I found You
I never dreamed anything could be better
Till I found You, till I found You
You're rewriting my story
And I'm brand new like a morning
Oh, I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You
Till I, till I found You"

In just these few lines the word “I” or “my” is repeated 16 times.  So who are we really singing about here? This song is perfect for expressing to the world how we were changed by our faith.  But it is not really a song glorifying God.

When my youngest was a teenager, she thought it funny when she would play a song in the car that had cuss words in it.  She wanted to see my reaction.  She didn’t think a few bad words here and there were important.  “It’s just a song,” she once said.  We are challenged, as Christians to watch everything that leaves our mouths, even songs.  What we have running on repeat in our head reflects where our heart lies.  When we come into worship are we singing about ourselves or our savior?  

When I selected the music for my wedding, I took care in the messages I wanted to send to my guests about this beautiful union.  Today, when I think of a song to sing glorifying God I want to take the same care.  To focus on Him, not me.


Here’s a few modern songs that glorify God.  Do you have a favorite song that glorifies God?  Add it in the comments!

Only A God by City Alight

Holy, Holy, Holy (various artists)

Worthy of It All by CeCe Winans

Ancient of Days by City Alight

Revelation Song by Kari Jobe

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) by Michael W. Smith

What A Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship & Brooke Ligertwood

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Laying By The Pool

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once, the man was cured. John 5:8

“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people.  In any way.  Any place.  Any time.”

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God.  To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.”  And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing.  According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.”  It was a defect.  

As Christianity spread across the world so did its values.  One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude.   It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values.  To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves.  To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior.  But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:

“I am meek and lowly in heart.”  Matthew 11:29

And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus.  So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal.  When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person?  Do we picture a courageous and bold person?  Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?

As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over.  I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal.  And it’s funny.  When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires.  The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.

About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.”  I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives.  As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II.  As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear.  Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over.  What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters.  Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.

Corrie was the bold one.  She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home.  While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials.  Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do.  And each time she prayed.  And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command.  Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards.  She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office.  But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.

“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”  

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100.    And within a week they were in her hands.  The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”

Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them.  She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy.  Really, who could blame her?  And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.

“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote.  “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”  

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters.  He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened.  He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.

The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living.  A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort.  Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands. 

In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action.  Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving.  Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn.  He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations.  He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep.  He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy.  In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.

Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need.  And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.

I once took a leadership personality test at a conference.  The results weren’t that surprising.  I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing.  But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader.  That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.

Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader.  The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie.  But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout.  It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them.  It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks.  While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.

During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours.  The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:

“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”

“Perhaps a long, long time.  Perhaps many years.  But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.

I turned to stare at her.  “Whatever are you talking about?”

“These young women.  That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.

Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity?  Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.”  And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him?  Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”  

Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point.  He takes all types in His Great Army.  Get your mat and get moving.

“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”  

Warren Wiersbe

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Living In The Light

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 
2 Corinthians 4:6

I’ve been thinking a lot about separateness lately.  As the world seems to move farther and farther away from the message of Christ, I find myself feeling separated from so much of the goings on.  Politics, social and moral issues that the world promotes appear to be so upside down.  At times I’ve asked, “Where is God in all of this?”

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“What on earth is He up to?” is, I suppose, the better question.  Since the beginning of time God’s work has been about separateness.  He separated the dark from the light.  The land from the sea.  The heavens from the earth.  He even set apart man from beast.  And when He commanded that there would be light it also meant He would set apart good from evil.  From that day on He started working in our hearts to bring us into the light.  The light that Jesus gave direct access to through His sacrifice.

I’ve been visiting a new church with my husband.  The pastor is Adriel Sanchez.  Some of you may recognize him as one of the duo from Core Christianity – a podcast and radio show heard around the world.  His church has begun a new series on Genesis.  And he spoke on the creation of light and dark.  

God created beauty, order and light and He didn’t need ingredients.  He made them out of nothing, darkness.

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

He went on to put the Jewish (and eventually Christian) creation story in to context.  The Jews were most likely wandering in the desert when this story was possibly given to Moses from God.  Their lives were dark and chaotic.  And while other religions of the time, just like today, have their own creation story, those religions created gods out of what was created – the Sun God, Moon God, God of Nature, etc.  You’ll notice in Genesis that the sun and moon aren’t called those names.  Possibly to avoid man from elevating them to a worshipping status.  God created all the things that these other religions made into little gods.

We weren’t created to serve the sun, the moon, or nature.  They were created FOR man by God.

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

When you think about what God did for us humans it’s pretty amazing.  Think about a gift you received that was the best gift ever.  Do you remember how you thanked the person who gave it to you?  Now imagine this gift that God gave us.  The light, the land, the skies, the animals.  How could we ever thank Him enough?  All He has ever asked of us is to set ourselves apart from the darkness. 

Our hearts are like the wilderness – dark and chaotic.  And God says to our hearts, “Let there be light!

Pastor Adriel Sanchez

So let’s go back to C.S. Lewis’ imagery of rebuilding the house.  God is working on rebuilding the world.  God works on large scale projects while also working on our tiny little bathroom remodel.  It’s the same work schedule He has maintained throughout history. There’s a lot of knocking down walls going on.  And with that comes a lot of pushback from people who don’t want the light to enter in the room.  They enjoy living in the darkness in order to put themselves and their desires at their center.   

I’ve heard people talk disparaging about the Bible – its violence especially.  Many uneducated about the Bible take issue with destroying whole towns and killing off all the residents.  But put in context it was a major remodel taking place.  Those cities were rife with termites and rot.  Child sacrifices and unbridled sexual exploits all in the name of satisfying some fertility god were rampant.  They were just plain evil.  

And while God was using other people and the Jews to destroy those darkened places He made it a point to work in each and every Israelite’s heart.  He cared about behavior but He cared more for bringing light to their hearts and minds.  They were to act like people set apart from the darkness. He cared enough about us, as individuals, to first send His Son and then leave us with the light of His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us.

It’s hard to live set apart from the world.  It may cause our faith, at times, to wane.  But I’m finding when I change my question from “Where is God?” to “What on earth is He up to?” it helps me to see His work in me and the world.  For when I see my Savior I surely want to be remodeled, a house full of light.

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Always With You

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 
Isaiah 43:2

Early in our marriage my husband and I started a lifelong habit of calling each other at the end of our workday.  We’d let the other know ahead of time if we would be late or what our ETA was.  When we both worked it served as a way to talk about our dinner plans.  After 32 years of marriage my husband still calls or texts me when he is on his way home.  It was borne out of an incident when he didn’t call me.  My first reaction was to think he’d been in a car accident.  And as the time slipped by my worries grew.  By the time he got home I was in tears from fear of his demise.  He couldn’t understand why I was so upset.  He’d just been out surfing after work with some friends.

So, while the habit of touching base became a good thing it also became a bit of a fear-based obsession with me.  My husband spent many hours driving for his work.  He frequently drove the more than 200 miles to and from Los Angeles.  I worried constantly he would be killed in a car crash.  I lost sleep over it.  I fretted when he didn’t arrive exactly when he thought he would.

I finally realized one day my fears were a result of the fear of being left alone.  I was certain if I lost him no one would ever love me again. 

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 
Deuteronomy 31:8

We hear the words that God is with us always.  A Christian friend, who was struggling with marriage and family problems, confessed that sometimes we need a real, physical hug.  We need to feel like we are loved and belong.  That we haven’t been orphaned.  Frequently in my prayers for people I ask God to help them feel his hand on their shoulder.  I realize it’s what I really need when I struggle – to feel and know His physical presence in my life.  

Sometimes He will show Himself in the face of a friend.  Sometimes it’s in words from one of my daughters.  He shows Himself in a song that comes on the radio. And sometimes the Holy Spirit will burn inside me.  When needed, I have felt His hand on my shoulder.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
John 14:18

I was listening to a podcast the other day where the women spoke of this need to feel God’s love for them. They knew the scriptures and could easily quote them.  But they acknowledged that just knowing them wouldn’t suffice.  We need to repeat them and truly believe them.  The devil is constantly looking for ways to tear us away from God’s love.  So, when we feel that loneliness, that fear of being forgotten we need to refocus on God.  We may need to cry out to Him.  We may need to sit in quiet mediation to hear Him. 

There’s been a few occasions in the last couple months where I’ve felt rejected by people who should love me.  Thankfully, in my maturing faith, I’ve turned to Jesus more and more to remind me of the one who always loves me, no matter what.  And He has shown up to comfort me.

Here’s some beautiful scripture to remember and soak in today for anyone who might feel alone.  For anyone who might feel as though they have been left behind or forgotten.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
But whoever loves God is known by God. 
1 Corinthians 8:3
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! 
Psalms 66:20
Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. 
Psalms 109:26
No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 
John 16:27
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”  
Psalms 91:14-16
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9
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I Call Him “Lord”

From the west, people will fear the 
name of the Lord, and from the rising 
of the sun, they will revere his glory. 
Isaiah 59:19 

I admit it.  I have a difficult time with authority.  I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it.  I’m not sure how this developed in me.  It’s not like, as a child, my parents encouraged me to question.  In fact, we weren’t to question at all for fear of punishment.  I’ve heard it said that we either grow up to be like our parents or work so desperately to be the opposite.  For me, I think I so wanted to be heard and to be “right” for once that the desire became my personality.

This desire has helped me in many ways.  At work I was always seen as someone with new solutions and ideas.  I could cut through red tape and simplify processes.  And until I garnered some maturity, I did all that like a bull in a china shop.  But this way of living life can make it difficult to submit, especially to a force that is unseen.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of 
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and 
instruction.  
Proverbs 1:7

When you read Proverbs the very first words are about wisdom and instruction.  And sure, we can study our Bibles, listen intently to our pastors while scribbling notes in our Bibles but true submission to our Lord is more than that.

For a long time, I really just didn’t understand the concept of “fearing the Lord” and submission.  Of course, given my nature it wasn’t like I was interested in the first place.  I also wonder how many pastors these days even talk about “fearing God?”

If God is love, then why does He command us to fear Him? The fear of the Lord isn’t about being afraid of God; it’s about revering Him above all else. When we do that, we position ourselves to receive all the benefits that come with putting God first in our lives.

Dr. Charles Stanley

We humans are afraid of a lot of things – some of which we don’t even realize.  We fear being made fun of, we fear being left out, we fear being unloved.  I saw a movie that really brought this concept home called Defending Your Life.  The main character, played by Albert Brooks, is a worrier.  His fears become so overwhelming that he is stuck in a never-ending loop of inaction and regret.  And then he gets hit by a bus.  He finds himself in a waystation of sorts where he needs to defend the pitiful life he had on earth.  And he meets a wonderful woman played by Meryl Streep.  She’s opposite of him – jumped in on all that life had to offer.  

It struck me that our days are filled with decisions that are made either based on fear of the world or fear of God.  Do we go about our lives trying to keep our head down so the world and people around us won’t take issue with us?  Or do we acknowledge that our Lord is sovereign over all and He has behavioral and moral requirements of us?  Do we submit to the flesh or to the spirit?

Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. 

A. W. Tozer, Pursuit of God

I’ve come to acknowledge that while it is okay to call Jesus, “Rabbi,” or teacher I also need to call Him, “My Lord.”  Because when I do it places Him above me, above all.  When I call Him, “My Lord,”  it means I need to submit to His will.  My fear comes in as a concern that I want to be sure to serve Him and Him alone.  Am I living a life that would please Him, not the world?

I don’t want to be like that Albert Brooks character when I face my Lord.  Full of regret for having missed opportunities to place God as my life director.  

I have a friend who is fascinated by all things British royal family.  She knows just about everything you’d want to know about the monarchy.  Shouldn’t we be that way about our one true Lord?  Sitting in awe at His feet.  Anxiously awaiting His orders.  At the ready to do His bidding.  Hoping to please Him at every turn.  And fearing His disappointment.

By faith Noah, when warned about things 
not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark 
to save his family.  
Hebrews 11:7

If there were ever a man who had a lot to fear when it came to being judged by the people around him it was Noah. I mean, what a lunatic! Building a giant boat with no water to be seen. His “holy fear” kept him aligned with the will of his Lord.

It’s so easy to fall into a humdrum world-centered life.  And it’s easy to make our prayer and worship life be rote.  But if we can just picture that each morning when we rise, we step into our Lord’s magnificently built palace.   Are you ready to approach His throne and submit to His Holy authority?  Are you sitting in awe at His feet today, marveling at His awesome power and might?  Let’s all sing at the top of our lungs today in worship of our Lord — and let the world tease us. We know who is smiling.

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Fight or Flight

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the 
fiery ordeal that has come on you to test 
you, as though something strange were 
happening to you.  
1 Peter 4:12

I’d wanted to get my motorcycle license since I was 16 years old.  For any of you counting that’s about 37 years ago.  Back then, my mind and body were young and better equipped to handle the fast moving issues surrounding the dangers of riding.  So, when I finally made a lifelong dream come true, I decided to take a motorcycle safety class.  In order to pass the class, we were required to learn and practice a few emergency maneuvers.  In one situation we were to swerve, at a fairly fast speed, to the left and to the right in a tight “z.”  In another we had to learn how to safely make a quick stop.  In both, the decision had to be made in a blink of an eye to stay in the fight to be upright or to take flight from the bike.

The key to both safety maneuvers is where our focus lay – straight ahead.  Our tendency, as new riders, is to look down at the front wheel.  This is a sure fire way to crash, as I found out during one quick stop practice.

I’ve now been riding for about four years.  But it is in the back of my mind at all times that I’m not sure how I will react when faced with a real emergency.  I have the knowledge but not the wisdom of experience.  Will I stay in the fight or take flight?

Isn’t our faith journey a lot like that?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, because 
you know that the testing of your faith produces 
perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, not 
lacking anything. 
James 1: 2-4

We, through our faith teachers and reading the Word, gather up our knowledge of God and how His son, Jesus, loves us so much.  But until we have faced an emergency, a faith testing, we cannot truly know how we will respond.

I think one of great crossroads in the New Testament is when Peter professes to Jesus that he will always stand by his friend.  And when the faith trial came, he fled.  Not once, not twice but, three times.  And we ask ourselves, what would we have done?

Peter had the knowledge of Jesus but not the wisdom of a faith tested.  And even after he realized the truth of the situation and witnessed Christ’s death, he still turned away for a time by going back to his old life of fishing rather than carrying out his friend’s commission.  

I’m so grateful that the one player in the story of humanity never takes flight from us – God.  He is the “long sufferer” in our thousands-year old journey.  At each turn where we have either forgotten or abandoned Him, God has stayed the course and given us grace.

I once was so angry with God that I made the decision to stop believing in Him.  I remember yelling up to the heavens, “I don’t trust you and I don’t believe in you anymore!”

I spent the next few weeks in a tug-o-war of sorts.  At one moment I would find myself arguing with God and then another reminding myself not to talk to someone I didn’t believe in.  And He never left me.

And let us run with perseverance the race 
marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, 
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve had minor emergencies while out on my motorcycle – cars swerving in front of me, lights quickly changing from green to red – where I’ve accessed that knowledge from my safety class.  It’s wisdom building.  And God has given me minor trials along the way.  With each opportunity to decide whether I stay upright, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus or to take flight, I build up my wisdom and faith muscles.

Peter, who although had the blessed opportunity to stand alongside Jesus for three years, had to face his own trials in order to fully mature from knowledge of God to having the wisdom and faith of His character and ways.  When he took his eyes off Jesus, he was given grace. Jesus returned to him over and over.

As Christ followers, we know the entire story from which draw upon.  And at every life emergency my hope is that we continue to stay upright with eyes fixed on Him.

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Awaken

So then, let us not be like others, 
who are asleep, but let us be awake 
and sober.  
1 Thessalonians 5:6

I just finished a study on the book of Numbers.  It finds Israel wandering about the desert grumbling, complaining and disobeying God at every turn.  And God gives mercy over and over at Moses’ pleading.  Until He doesn’t.  There’s so much death in this book because of the unfaithfulness.  Some because God allows the Israelites to try their own path, leading to deaths during wars.  And some because God rains down His punishment with plagues.

It’s so easy for us to read what happened thousands of years ago and judge the Israelites.  They were asleep to God’s ways and character.  

At the end of one of my commentaries was the statement that from God’s point of view there are only three locations in the Israelite journey and only three locations in our own journey.

  1. Egypt: the land of bondage
  2. The Wilderness: the land of unbelief, doubt and falling short
  3. Canaan: the land of inheritance

The question for us is, which location do we currently find ourselves in?

Throughout the Bible we find an underlying message about growing in our faith.  The sooner we recognize where we are and why we are there, the sooner we can move along on our journey.  

For I know that good itself does not 
dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 
For I have the desire to do what is good, 
but I cannot carry it out. 
Romans 7:18

This statement by Peter is so self-reflective.  He has one foot in the wilderness while reaching with the other into the land of inheritance.  He actively searches his heart and soul, asking God to reveal the blemishes and the blind spots.

We can spend a lot of time, like the Israelites seeing what God is and does.  We can hear the good work He does in others.  But do we, like Moses, truly understand God’s actions?  Do we still ask “why” and wishing we could go back to Egypt?  Or do we ask God to do even more work in us so that we are constantly changing, stripping away our old selves for His glory?

We want to be awake, vivacious, alive in our faith journey.  We need to not just know “of” God but truly know Him – His character, how He works and how much He loves to see us grow.

You either obey, ignore or resist.  

Warren Wiersbe on the will of God

We humans like to blame the outside world for being stuck.  For not reaching our full potential.  We blame our church for not inspiring us.  We blame our circumstances for not having time for God.  We blame fellow Christians who have hurt us.   But the Holy Spirit resides in us.  It is a personal journey lived out for all to see.  King David, in Psalm 51 does some deep reflection on where he is in his faith journey.

For I know my transgressions, and my 
sin is always before me. Against you, 
you only, have I sinned and done what 
is evil in your sight; 
Psalm 51:3-4

The Israelites blamed Moses and God for not quickly and without hardship reaching the Promised Land.  They lacked David’s self-reflection.  They sat for so many years in the Land of the Wilderness.  It took me almost 20 years of wandering to finally wake up and begin understanding God.  So, I have no place to judge them. 

If you are stuck it’s time to look inward.  It’s time to shake off your sleepiness and do a deep dive with God into your own heart.  Only then can He lead you to the Land of Inheritance.

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Unity Strengthens

Be on your guard; stand firm in the 
faith; be courageous; be strong. 
1 Cor 16:13

Isn’t it just like us humans, when dealing with multiple leaders, to try and take sides?  Whether it be a job, a volunteer position, in our families, a group of friends, or at our churches so many of us seek to align ourselves with the best and strongest.  If you’ve ever watched an episode of Survivor, you’ll see how drawn we are to this concept.  But alliances and divisions lead to others being on the “out” and others being “in.”   And so often if our seeking of alliances has anything to do with our church it only serves to erode our faith. 

We see behavior that is ungodly.  We, ourselves, take to gossip or manipulation.  We celebrate the uplifted position of who we follow and revel in the failures of the “other side.”  All along its our own relationship with Christ that is suffering. 

When Paul wrote this letter, he was working with the up and coming faith leader Apollos.  Within the Corinth church people had created a division amongst the two men.  Who was the better leader to follow?  It doesn’t appear that Apollos had anything to do with the strife taking place.  In fact, Apollos seemed to try and head off any favoritism issues by telling Paul he wasn’t ready to return to Corinth.  

In Jesus’ world everyone has the opportunity to be “in.” And as Christians, we are to fight against our tendencies to divide and conquer.  We are to be always “on our guard” when we see these types of rifts arise around us.  It takes courage to stand up to gossipers and the pull of others to align ourselves with the “right people.”  It is faith-strengthening whenever we turn our backs on how the world wants us to act and turn toward how Jesus expects us to act.

A church I was at for almost 20 years was ruined by this type of behavior.  It was reduced to almost ashes by people gathering up others to “their side.”  And it’s sad to say it started within the pastoral and elder level.  What we needed were a few courageous and strong faithful Christians to speak the truth and say “enough is enough.”  The destruction of many people’s faith was truly one of the most disturbing things I have witnessed in a church.

“And yet, what are some Churches but semi-religious clubs, mere conventions of people gathered together? They have not in them that holy soul which is the essence of unity.”

Charles Spurgeon

We can’t take a stand for our faith if we aren’t willing to step outside of our worldly, envious, fearful ways.  When we go along and try to play the game of “who’s the best” and then try to align ourselves with them we fall prey to the devil’s divisiveness.

But when we stand firm in our faith and are courageous against those who wish to divide, God stands beside us cheering us on.  And our faith is reignited when we walk with closely Him.