Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

Treasured

Has anyone ever said something so complimentary or encouraging to you that you took those words and filed them away in your mind so that you could remember them when things weren’t going so well? For some, a simple word of encouragement said in passing could become a lifeline later on.

Still recovering from childbirth, the shepherds—who had heard about a savior from a heavenly host—came to praise and glorify God in the presence of the baby Jesus.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19 (NIV)

Later, when Jesus was a boy, Mary and Joseph realised he’d been left behind in Jerusalem. When they finally found him, the boy Jesus didn’t seem at all concerned.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:49 (NIV)

Jesus obediently returned to Nazareth with his mother, Mary and her husband Joseph.

But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:51b (NIV)

I imagine that, as Jesus grew, that there were more instances like these where Mary was reminded that Jesus wasn’t like her other children. He was more. And, as she treasured up these moments, I doubt she knew how greatly she would need them in the years to come.

When her son was arrested, beaten, hung on a cross, and laid to rest, I am sure that many of these words would have come rushing back to her. Though her baby boy was gone, she knew that there was purpose in his life, death, and eventual resurrection.

Most of us will never have to go through anything like what Mary went through as a mother, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t treasure up things in our hearts.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

If words from family, friends, or peers can serve to comfort us in difficulty, how much more will the Word of God bring to us? Not only is the Word comforting, it is Life. The more we treasure in our hearts, the greater access we have to it when we need it most.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

Read: Joshua 7-8, Luke 2:25-52

Empty-handed

Read: Exodus 34-36, Matthew 23:1-22

Exodus 34:20

Rule number one of Bible reading: look at the context. You don’t only need to know what a verse is saying, but you need to know what else is being said in connection to it. In the Bible I use, this verse stands alone. It its own paragraph. The context is God giving instructions to Moses to give to Israel.

How often do we hear someone say that they have nothing to give? Apparently this argument mattered not to God. No one in Israel was to approach God with nothing. Even the poorest person had to come with something. If God demanded something of His people then, why should we believe that He would expect anything less from us now?

The truth is that, even if we have absolutely nothing, we still have something to give. So long as we breathe, we don’t have to approach God with empty hands. But we do. Too often we go to God with outstretched hands, begging Him to put something in them. But that’s not what He wants from us. Yes, He wants us on our knees, not as beggars, but humble servants.

So long as breath fills your lungs, you have something to offer God. You can offer Him your praise and thanks. You can offer Him your service. You can offer Him your life.

If we claim that we have nothing to give, what we’re really saying is that God isn’t quite enough. He didn’t do a good enough job creating us. He missed something.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my God is enough. He did enough. He didn’t miss anything. At the very least, I owe Him my life.

The next time you approach God, consider His instruction to Israel. Do you go to Him with open hands hoping for crumbs? Or do you go to him with hands outstretched offering the heart that pulses in your chest. Does He want your begging or your service?

What’s in your hands?

 

Heart not head

Read: Exodus 25-26, Matthew 21:1-22

Once Israel had been set free from the Egyptians, it was time for them to seek God in earnest. All other gods and worship had to be cast aside. God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was to be worshiped. Set apart because He had set Israel apart. A place, a tabernacle, needed to be assembled as a place for the presence of God to rest.

This wasn’t to be any old tent. God had given Moses a lot of very specific instructions that needed to be met exactly. Materials were required. Israel didn’t have a building fund. They didn’t have time to set up a donation campaign. No fundraising events were held.

Exodus 25:2

A freewill offering was taken up and work began to fulfill the specifications for the tabernacle. Nowhere in the text do we find a scenario where the supplies were not enough and a second offering had to be received. The people gave according to the prompting of their hearts.

What does it mean to be prompted by ones heart? Does it mean that we give when we feel like it? Are we generous only when we have the means to do so? Or is it simply a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit?

I believe it is the latter. Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that the heart is the seat of affections and passions. Israel had just been freed from centuries of slavery. It’s probably safe to say that they were passionate about their freedom and the One who had brought it about. Their generous offerings were a part of their worship.

Giving is worship. Worship should be inspired not by how we feel or what we have, but by whom we worship.

The only way [we can] worship in spirit and in truth [is] to know the One whom [we are] seeking to worship.

Kevin J. Navarro, The Complete Worship Leader

The more we know God, the more we will be in tune with His Spirit and the more we will be prompted to give generously. Giving is the only area in which God actually asks us to test him.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

In any sort of worship—from song to giving—we must be dependent on our hearts, the seat of our affections, for direction. We must listen closely to that part of us which is joined with God. Our heads will always lead us away from generous worship, but our hearts will always lead us toward it.

Don’t shoot the messenger

We all have people in our lives that we’d rather not have in our lives. An annoying coworker. A nosy neighbour. That weird uncle that only shows up at holidays. We avoid these people at all costs and even begrudge them when something good happens in their lives. We hold on to our dislike—hate even—like a security blanket. So long as that person keeps doing the things we dislike, we can grip our sense of superiority over them.

Jonah experienced a similar feeling when God brought him to a certain city in a rather roundabout way. Jonah finally made it to the city of Nineveh by way of fish. It probably wasn’t the most popular mode of transportation in his day, but it did the trick. Jonah was finally where God told him to be—surrounded by people he didn’t like. Not only did he have to be there, he had to share a certain message.

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

Jonah 3:4 (NLT)

Still believing himself to be above the people in the city, Jonah shared his message with a great sense of satisfaction and then found a prime spot to watch the promised destruction. Yet that destruction would never come. Because, in spite of his hatred for the people of Nineveh, they had received and embraced his message.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

Jonah 3:5 (NLT)

I doubt this was the response Jonah was expecting. In a city he hated, Jonah was forced to watch as his reluctant message was acted upon. Repentance ran rampant.

What all the saints make a matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it.

Matthew Henry

The account of Jonah is not merely a story of delayed obedience. It is a story of attitude, of mercy, of grace. And it is an account that show us that, even if our attitudes do not reflect our message, God can still work in the hearts of even the greatest sinners. But, unlike Jonah, when our message is received, our hearts should rejoice along with those who have received the gift of grace.

It is the neighbour we like the least that needs the most love. Hesitation on our part to share the Gospel is like shooting the messenger before he even has a chance to tell his story. We do ourselves and our neighbour a disservice by holding on to our hatred and dislike. We want to show our superiority while God wants to show His grace.

Immediate obedience to God’s instruction is far easier on our egos than waiting until the last possible moment.  Let us share in the glory of God’s grace rather than hoarding our own personal comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 9

Sshhh…

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where everything is quiet and the peace of the Lord is permeating the room and you’re all just basking in the presence of God… then someone just has to fill the silence with what is usually a loud and long-winded prayer? There seem to be those who cannot abide the silence. Well, heaven is one long, unending praise and worship service. Maybe, but sometimes, worship includes silence.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1 (NLT)

There are several theories as to the purpose or reason for this silence. Some believe that it is heaven—the elders and the angels surrounding the throne—waiting in expectation for what will follow the breaking of the seventh seal. Others believe that the cries of the saints below were so great that it silenced the heavenly host.

I believe that the silence itself is just as important as the reason.

There is a time for loud, boisterous, joyful praise. And there is a time for quiet contemplative worship. And there is yet a time for silence. How else are we to hear what God is saying if we never take the time to listen? We know from the Old Testament accounts that God can speak through a burning bush or He can speak in a still, small voice. Sometimes He needs to get our attention and other times we need to give Him our attention.

Whatever the reason for the half hour of silence in Revelation, all of heaven stood at attention. They waited. They listened. They prepared. There was a pause. A weighted silence.

Prayer, praise, worship—these things do not necessarily require sound on our part. Sometimes, the silence can hold more weight than words. If heaven can handle silence, so can we.

Daily Bible reading: Obadiah 1, Revelation 8

The wait

Do you ever wonder what this world would be like if Adam had never sinned? If no one had ever fallen prey to the enemy’s lies? Would we even have four seasons? Would leaves ever fall off trees? Would fruit ever spoil? And what about us? Would we still be wandering in paradise blissfully unaware of our nakedness? Taking strolls through the forest with God?

I wonder, like humanity, how much the rest of creation is aware of its fallen state. Romans 8:19 says that all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. It’s not only humans who wait for Jesus’ glorious return, but all of creation. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Romans 8:20-21).

In Revelation 5, we see a progression of praise. First it’s just the elders around the throne. Then they are joined by thousands and millions of angels. And, finally, the rest of the chorus joins in a culmination of the entirety of God’s creation.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever”

Revelation 5:13 (NLT)

I love the sound of a large choir, but can you imaging the entire universe singing God’s praise? For millennia, creation has been waiting, anticipating the time when we can all sing out. Like a bubble waiting to burst or a bud waiting to bloom, but only infinitely more powerful, beautiful, and wonderful. All of creation—animate and inanimate—longs for the day when we can all bow before the throne and join with the elders and the angels to sing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.

Revelation 4:8b (NLT)

Just the thought of that kind of praise and worship stirs my heart. An eternal, universally worship service will surely be worth the wait.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 1-3, Revelation 5