High Anxiety?

I don’t know about you, but working to keep calm is becoming a full time job!  Whooo-eee! So much craziness going on in this world! So much evil and danger; so many troubles and trials; so many opinions and points of view.  So many cares.

If there was ever a time to hide in the shelter of a great rock in a weary land, it is now.  That rock is Jesus…

Isaiah 32: 1-2 “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.  And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”    

Weary Land

Fight with all of your might to stay close to Jesus.  Read the Word like you life depended on it! It does!  Sing your praises to the Lord every day; moment by moment!  He inhabits them!  Pray like you can move mountains!  You can!  In the name of Jesus!

To be honest, I have been having a time of it holding on to my peace. But, thank God, He knows and cares!  I walked into church this Sunday and was handed the bulletin, as usual, to find a real “bulletin” straight from Jesus right on the front cover!  His praying handsmessage to me was accompanied by music and underlined by sermon.   Yes, Lord!  I hear You!    (Here’s a photo of the “Bulletin.”) The Bible says we are called to peace…(Colossians 3:15) Called to peace.  And in unity with His church.  Being thankful!

I have a ways to go yet, but it seems to me that unity and thanksgiving are the keys.

I have spent a lot of time in prayer lately.  I have a prayer board with the names of 23 adults, many organizations/missions,  and 12 very sick children and babies with incredible health needs.  Not to mention praying for revival; praying for our troops; praying for this country.  I have been taking prayer seriously!  Only I have become a little anxious, and concerned as I have taken on all of these needs.  Hm, something is a little “off.”

I heard a sermon once about the balanced Christian having two wings: prayer and praise.  I think I have become a very lopsided bird.   🙁

As Pastor Gary Osborne so faithfully preached in tune to God’s “Bulletin” to me:  “Thanksgiving is the hallmark of a growing, mature Christian.”  “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1Thessalonians 5:18 

Praise and thanksgiving are the weapons of our warfare!   I should know better than to go out to battle without wielding those!  God is so faithful to grab you by the nape of the neck and give a hardy reminder of what He has already taught you! (Just in case you forget, like I did of late.)

So…I am making myself a Thanksgiving Board…like my Prayer Board…so that I will have those good things always before my eyes; coming before His Presence with Thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; and letting the peace of God rule in my heart!  I may have a way to go, but  my Shepherd is faithful to lead!

Let’s Pray:  Father how we need to be reminded to be thankful!  Not just once a year, but every day!  Help us to remember that You are GOOD all the time, and to count our blessings every day. Help us to cultivate  thankful hearts of praise so that Your peace will rule in our hearts while we walk in this valley of shadows.  In Jesus’ name’

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

“…before the Lord!”

Some of you may not know this…but, I have been known to be very emotional in my praise and worship. I sing loudly; I shout; I dance; I cry, …a lot! I have even been known to get so excited that I run up and down, and spin around!  I have been known to raise a few eyebrows and set some tongues awaggin’.  I guess I have been a little “undignified” when it comes to praising Jesus.

I have read a few articles lately criticizing emotion in worship.  Saying that it is shallow and stimulating only to the flesh.  Is that what the Bible says?  Did you know that there is a pattern for our worship in the Bible?  There is!  Take a look at Acts 15: 15-18 & Amos 9: 11  The Apostles were discussing how the church should be set up, and who it should include. James quoted the prophet Amos saying:

 “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:   That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”

David-dances-before-the-Ark-1024x641

Remember that David was a man after God’s own heart!  (ISamuel 13:14 & Acts 13:22)  He wanted the Presence of the Lord to be nearby! As he brought the Ark of God up to Jerusalem, he danced before it with all of his might. His wife, Michel was watching from a window and despised him for being so undignified. After all, David was King of Israel! Why, he had thrown aside his kingly robe to humble himself before the King of Kings!  His answer to Michel’s accusations?  “It was before the Lord!  …I will yet be more vile (undignified) than this, and will be base in mine own sight!”  (2Samuel 6:22)

I think we would all do well to withhold judgement of those who lose themselves in praise and worship.  The consequence for Michel’s judging attitude was that she was denied children.  She remained barren for the rest of her life.

Like Moses for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, David sought the Lord for the patterns and principles which included  emphasis on the Presence of the Lord open to all; the Principle of Preparation; the Principle of Appointment of musicians and their leaders evidenced by skill and anointing; the Principle of Separation and Sanctification; the Principle of Authority and Order; and the Principle of Continual Praising with all of their might.  If the church follows these principles, it is building worship according to the pattern given to us.  Worshipping ..“before the Lord!”

                      Psalm 150

 Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

And then there is the ever popular Psalm 103: 1

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Our souls include our minds, our wills, and our emotions!  Are we using all that is within us to bless Him?

The crucial issue is this: Are we a people after God’s own heart, or are we putting on a show for the people who are around us.  Can we say with David that our worship is “before the Lord?”   Is He our audience of One?  Remember, you can only judge yourself on this issue. You should never try to judge anyone else’s motives or heart. Leave it to church leadership to bring correction, if they need to.  Focus on Jesus alone, and enter into His Presence with your praise. Give Him the glory due His name.  And enjoy it!

Let’s Pray:  Father of All, help us to learn to praise you the way your word instructs us. We want to give You all the glory that is Your due. Help us to increase our praise vocabulary to recognise your greatness and majesty.  Be blessed by our praises, Lord, as we grow in Your grace.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoicing 101

“Rejoice and be exceeding glad!”  Ready, set, Go!!  Do it!! Right now!!    Hmmmmm….Maybe we need rejoicing lessons! After all, we are commanded to rejoice, just like we are commanded to “pray without ceasing,” or to “praise ye the Lord.”   This is what I call one of the “Selah” thoughts.  You know, one of those things we need to ponder; to stop and think  over. Rejoice in the Lord

Throughout the scriptures God calls His people to rejoicing, and often tells us that there is a blessing in it. Because there are several different Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible that are translated as some form of “joy” or “rejoicing,” lets take a look at a few to see how  He wants us to rejoice!

Samach (saw-makh) and Suws (soos) have similar meanings: to be bright; merry; cheerful; to be glad

Lev.23: 40 “…ye shall rejoice before the Lord seven days.” (Feast of Tabernacles)

Deut. 12:18 “…thou shalt rejoice before the Lord in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.”

Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful.

So we are to be cheerful and glad; and to enjoy the presence of the Lord.  We can do that, right? OK, there are other ways the Lord has commanded us to rejoice. Ways that require a little action on our part.

Ranan (raw-nahn) : to creak (or emit a stridant sound); to shout aloud for joy; to cry out; to sing aloud, to triumph.

Psalm 33:1 Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.

Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud…”

Psalm 20:5  We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners.

This kind of rejoicing is done with a loud, strident voice, and brings to mind the creaking, undulating cry common to so many middle eastern cultures that signifies intense emotion such as warning, triumph,  or joy.

Giyl, guwl (gheel, gool):  to spin around (under the influence of  violent emotion) i.e.usually rejoice -be glad, joyful, joy, rejoice exceedingly.

1Chron.16: 31  “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice…” (interesting choice of words since the earth does literally spin around)

Psalm 2: 10,11  “…be wise, …be instructed…serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

Zeph. 3: 17 “…he (the Lord) will joy over you with singing” (The Lord in a cosmic dance over YOU!)

Zech. 9: 9  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion ….”  (let your feet dance a spinning dance of joy)

Alaz (aw-laz) and Alats (aw-lats): to jump or leap for joy!

Habakkuk 3:18 “Yet will I rejoice (alaz) in the Lord, and joy (giyl) in the God of my salvation.”

Psalm 68:3 “…let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.”

Exceedingly rejoice!!  Leap for joy!!  Spinning around under the influence of great emotion! The word of God says that even Jesus rejoiced like that.  Let’s take a look at Jesus in the New Testament.

Luke 10:21  “ In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”    Now, I always read this verse seeing Jesus in my mind’s eye very somber, dignified, and solemn. Hands folded and speaking with a deep, serious, priestly voice; perhaps in quiet prayer.  The word here is:

Agalliao (ag-al-lee-ah-o):  to leap for joy; to rejoice exceedingly Leaping sheep

Now that puts a very different light on it doesn’t it?  Jesus was excited!  He was emotionally joyful that the disciples had returned with good reports, and that they had finally gotten it!  The power in the name of Jesus!  Look how human Jesus was in His response!  You can almost imagine hi-fives all around! Praising God for this advance in the Kingdom!

And know this: Jesus prayed to the Father for us, that this same kind of joy  (His own “agalliao”) would be found in us!  John 17:13   “…that they might have my joy (agalliao) fulfilled in themselves.”  

That is the exceedingly great joy. The kind that you can’t contain. The kind that makes you leap for joy and cry aloud; to run and tell it on the mountains!  The Jesus kind of joy!  So be cheerful! Be merry and glad!  Shout it out in a loud, strident voice.  Spin around in a cosmic dance with the Father as He spins for joy in His song over you.  Leap for the joy!  Let His joy be fulfilled in you!  For the joy of the Lord is your strength!

Let’s pray:  Glorious Lord, fill us with Your joy, that we might be strong to glorify Your name.  May our cup of joy overflow unto the world around us that the world might be drawn to You! In Jesus’ name

Amen!

 

Beauty for Ashes

I love God’s Word!  It is alive and powerful! The Bible says that it is able to divide the soul and the spirit, and that it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart!  ( Hebrews 4:12)  Wow!  That is something to think about!

Quick and Powerful

I believe that there is something to be treasured in every single word and phrase of the Bible. But there are some parts of it that are especially precious to me because they have spoken with immediacy to the need of the moment, and to the deepest needs of my soul.  Isaiah 61 is one of those special chapters to me. Especially verse 3.

“To appoint (assign) unto those that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

Life in this fallen world will leave you with plenty to mourn over; to experience a spirit of heaviness. In the Old Testament, when there was cause for grief, a person would tear his garments and throw ashes upon his head.  Ashes upon the head was a sign of great sorrow. That is why it is the custom of some churches to put ashes on their foreheads on “Ash Wednesday” as a sign of repentence, or being sorrowful for one’s sins.  Woven and sewn by hand,  clothes were a valuable commodity. Ripping your precious garment was a sign of deep grief

It should interest us to know that these are the words that Jesus read in the synagogue to signify the beginning of His ministry.  He said these words were fulfilled that day. (Read Isaiah 61 again to see what Jesus came to do for us.) He came to give us beauty for our ashes; oil of joy; and new garments. Beauty for Ashes

The Hebrew word here for beauty is “pe-hayr:” an embellishment, ie) fancy head dress, as worn by the brides of ancient Israel.  He is speaking here of His Bride! He is giving us a bridal garment; the anointing of His Holy Spirit for the joy of belonging to Him; and brand new garments, white and clean, as we sing our song of praise to Him.

This is the great exchange!  Our sin and grief, for joy unspeakable as the Bride of the Redeemer. Our filthy rags, for a robe of righteousness. Our cry of mourning for a song of praise.

Think of it! As we sorrow and mourn over our sins, He lifts us up, washes us clean, dresses us in our wedding garments, and puts a new song in our hearts!   Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

 

Let’s Pray:   Father of mercy and grace, we thank You that You did not leave us dying in our sins, but You came to buy us back to yourself.  Help us to become trees of righteousness, planted in Your Kingdom.  help us to value what You have provided for us in this great exchange, that You might be glorified!   In Jesus’ name,

Amen

The Hero I Never Met

Since November is a good month for counting your blessings, I’ve been giving mine a lot of thought.  Among the blessings I treasure the most is the godly heritage of my grandparents, Gertrude and Julian Parker Netherland.  Grandma passed on when I was about three years old, but she is one of my first memories.  She was much loved and regaled for her strong faith and sweet character.  Grandpa, on the other hand, died before I was born, but he made his mark on my life all the same.

Grandpa June Netherland  He was famous in our family for two things: his great faith, and his expertise as a gravestone carver.   His children loved to tell the stories of his life, but it was not until I started researching our family tree that I discovered the whole truth of his life and legacy.

Tragedy and pain struck his life over and over again. Having lost both parents by the time he was six, he married quite young. His beautiful young wife died at the tender age of 22, leaving him with a 4 year old and a 6 month old. Six days later the baby died.

Later he met and married my grandmother. Their happy life was marred by the deaths of their first baby and then, later, a four year old child.

But he never became bitter or hard-hearted. So much loss and grief in one man’s life…but he kept his faith, preached the Gospel, and ran his race with patience and love. I wish I could have known him. My prayer is that he is looking down from Heaven above as one of the “great cloud of witnesses” and cheering on his descendents as we run our races. We have his genes…I hope we have his heart, too.

Grandpa's Tools

Here’s a little story I wrote about Grandpa June and his days as a lay preacher who followed the call to preach to the poor in the hills of Kentucky. This story was told and re-told at family gatherings through the years.

 Now June wasn’t a tall man, but he was stocky. He was a gravestone carver, and used to man handlin’ big ol’ granite stones. He was a devout Baptist man, a lay preacher, who used to take a tent out into the hills and preach to the poor folks there. One day as he was preachin’ the Word, a fellow who had been into his whiskey, came staggerin’ into the meeting, cussin’ and swearin’ and trying to interrupt. He came right up to Grandpa and was about to punch him, when Grandpa June grabbed his arm and twisted him into a hammer lock. He kept right on preachin’, never missin’ a beat, while holding this gent tight as can be. I hear that June sure had the attention of every person in the tent that day. I don’t know how many souls got saved, but I hope they all did! I never got to meet my Grandpa…Julian P. “June” Netherland, but he is my hero…He suffered much loss & tragedy in his lifetime, and never became bitter, but loved and served his Lord ’til his dying day.

Julian Parker Netherland passed away August 7, 1934, from lung disease resulting from breathing so much granite dust as he carved the memorials of so many other people. He was 52 years old. He was laid to rest in his beloved Kentucky.

Let’s pray:  Heavenly Father, we thank you that you set the solitary in families. You place us into our tribes and with our kindred.  But especially, you have adopted us each into the Family of God. Help us to recognise and appreciate our blessings and  your plan for our lives. And may we leave a godly legacy behind.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Here’s a link to the “Count Your Blessings” Scavenger Hunt hosted by my friend Christin Ditchfield for November that got me thinking about the many ways God has blessed me.

http://www.christinditchfield.com/

Enjoy this beautiful  song from Amanda Cook: Heroes.    I know my Grandpa June knew how to dance upon his disappointments!