Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. ~ Psalm 81:1
Joy! Joy! Joy! That’s what we feel when we watch our daughter begin to praise our great God. She can be in the other room, distracted, but as soon as music comes on, she begins to clap her hands and—if she’s able—she’ll also twirl. It’s so amazing and heart-touching to watch.
And every parent, if they get the joy and honor of raising their kids to know Jesus and in a home under His influence, feels the same way when they see their kids praising God Almighty. I remember how much joy I felt this past Easter when my brother and his family came to visit our church. His two little girls where having a lot of separation anxiety and so they sat in the adult service with us. The younger of the two asked me to hold her the whole time. I didn’t mind at all. I will never forget when she asked me why all the people were raising their hands and I told her that they were reaching out to Jesus and asked her if she knew Jesus. When she said yes, my heart was so full. The same full that I feel when I watch my 15-month old worship. It’s the same full that was in my mom’s voice when she told me about the day my brother and I accepted Christ. She described it at length as if it had only happened yesterday, but actually, it’s been 26 years.
Father, I thank you that You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I thank you that with as much joy as we feel to watch our children come to You and desire to know you more, I know that You are even more touched by it. Lord, thank you for precious memories such as these. I pray that we would always touch Your heart with joy, just as our children touch ours when we see them delight in You. Father, I thank you and I praise you. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18
Some may wonder how will they know if they are living by the Spirit versus living by the law. Living by the law or under the law is like following rules, only not following them because they are the rules but because you might get caught not following the rules. Take the speed limit for instance, does a person go the speed limit because they want to or because they have to. Living by the Spirit is like going the speed limit because you want to, not because you have to. When you are led by the Spirit you don’t feel the need for speed on the highway, you’re happy to cruise, taking in the sights, the sounds and feeling with wind in your face. Those fruits of the Spirit, the peace, joy and self control are abundant when you are led by the Spirit.
Now turn that around and look through a different lens. A person sees the speed limit and ignores it, choosing to speed down the road of life. Then they see someone ahead of them going the posted speed, obeying the law because they want to, what do you think they feel? Maybe jealous because that other person seems so peaceful. Then comes hatred for those silly rule followers. Do you think the speed racer person is filled with kindness? how about patience? goodness? Yeah…no! More like fits of rage and selfish ambition. And you thought road rage was a new thing? Oh and while haul’n down the road of life, breaking all kinds of rules, just because they want to (that’s the sinful nature by the way) the only sights a person might take time to enjoy is something they shouldn’t be looking at. Like that pretty car in the next lane, “humm…why can’t I have one like that” they might begin to wonder.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5: 24-25
So is it just a given that if we belong to Christ Jesus that we will be led by the Spirit? Well my car has four wheels and is designed to take me where I need to go, but only if I start the engine, put gas in it and steer it in the direction I want go. So maybe accepting Jesus as my savior starts my journey, but I have to put fuel in (the word) and I need a driver to lead me in the right direction, that would be the Spirit. So maybe not so much a given as it is a decision to follow and a be submissive to be led, not because you have to, but because you want to.
Father God I praise you for providing a Savior for my sins, thank you for your word to nourish and enrich my life, and thank you for the Spirit that guides me through my life so that I can produce sweet abundant fruit for your glory. Amen.
Writers block, Distractions? NO, I do NOT have any of those. My brain is constantly spinning and life is going on around me, people are moving by at fast paces, children are laughing in the background, families are arguing in the stores, men are begging for food on sidewalks, I am on the side of the road taking photos of a car bumper lying in the middle of the highway all while cars are zooming by, I am waking up late/missing the bus for the kids thus finding myself smack dab in the hallway of the school still in my pajamas searching for my child’s folder that his brother had taken by accident; and all the while..LIFE GOES ON…I whirl right by as soon as those moments are past. I HAVE to get to my appointment and then to the store to get the stuff to make the things so family can eat so they will go to bed and then I can have quiet and rest. This week has been a whirlwind of events ranging from : 1)having yet ANOTHER birthday , 2) receiving a very hard to swallow pill of a phone call regarding my child, 3) having someone from my past (whom I thought had been left there) confront me trying to cause temptation to resurface within me, 4) hearing that another friend whom had fallen deep into sin was now wanting to make changes in their life and was asking for my family’s insights and prayers. 5)having to explain to someone the reasons behind a firm decision I had made knowing it was none of their business but if I did not share it they would not stop asking me “why, why, why?” THE NOISE, THE VIVID SCENES carved deep into my heart and brain. Where do I find solitude and peace???
I was invited two days ago to attend a celebrate recovery event to listen and support a friend whom had been asked to share her testimony of God’s working in her life. I found myself still there after she was done speaking and decided to go into one of the smaller groups because another friend was there so I figured I could support her because why else would I go in? I DO NOT have ANY issues. I’m involved in church, I write for a Christian Bible blog, I sing on a worship team, I have a lot of good friends and am “on the right track.” My past has some ups and down, sure, but that is over and done with now. As I sat listening to others share, something happened within me that for the first time in 33, YES COUNT THEM, 33 years, God completely knocked me over the head, brought me to my knees in a moment of complete vulnerability and I confronted some very deep things that had been thrown to the wayside and overlooked because of my deep rooted PRIDE that I had forgotten about! I had chosen to not admit that I was struggling in these areas, but somehow believed I could mask it for so long and it would magically not weigh me down. There were no alter calls or any pressure to share by any of the others who were there, but I felt God’s pricking on my heart. As I obeyed, I released guilt, sorrow, pain, pride, envy, anger, stressors, thoughts of “what will others think of a,b, or c”. There I sat in one breath feeling completely renewed and suddenly in my human state was fearing that the direct acknowledgement of these issues would surely reveal that I was a hypocrite in some manner of speaking and could never be used by God again.
I do not have an astounding across the board theme and story depiction for these four chapters I am writing about today, but there is ONE thought and 3 verses that stood out to me!
Psalms 79:8-9 “Oh, do not hold us guilty for our former sins! Let your tender-hearted mercies quickly meet our needs. For we are brought low to the dust. Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the honor of your name. Oh, save us and forgive our sins for the sake of your name.” 2 Samuel 24:25 “David built an altar there to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer, and the plague was stopped.”
My “plague” that has burdened me for so many years and eaten away at my inner being HAS BEEN STOPPED. God can and will continue to use me just as he used David amidst his wrongs and JESUS is the answer to “Where I find my solitude and peace”. No more whirlwinds and scurrying by missing out on the heart of the matter just to ensure that the surface of it is “completed”.
Precious Father, I am unworthy of your mercy and grace, yet here I sit being surrounded by it and your never-ending love. You have taught me that eloquence and “perfectionism” is not a requirement to be used for your glory. You simply desire me, in my brokenness. For that I am eternally grateful. Use me, lead me, guide me and slow me down so that I do not find myself having to scrape off a mask again just to see what I am missing around me. Amen.
Although I’ve known of this song for years, it speaks direct louder volumes to me today!
What is the real question here… to work on not being tempted? Or is it not to sin… after all, doesn’t temptation lead to sin? Well… it can, and often does, but it doesn’t have to. Experiencing temptation, in and of itself, is not sin… nor is it an indicator that we are not living the kind of life Jesus would want from us… after all, Jesus was tempted, but Jesus remained without sin. So… when does temptation become sin?
Recently, on an incredibly gorgeous day on campus, I asked some students the question, when did Eve’s temptation in the garden turn into sin? Was it when she first dialoged with the serpent? Was it when she first saw the fruit seeing it as something very desirable? How about when she held the fruit… is that when temptation turned into sin? Or, was Eve really innocent up until the moment when the fruit first touched her lips? Going further, if eat had taken a bite of the fruit, changed her mind and spit it out, could the sin be reversed to become an un-sin??
All of us are struggling with personal battles. And, in a society that continues to push over the top temptations everywhere we look, recognizing the difference between temptation and sin is a critical matter. So how do we address this issue? Once our temptation is expressed in an outward manner, is it too late? I believe that once my heart is focused on the object of desire, I am engaged in sin. For, the desire of our hearts will be carried out over time, for when desire is conceived, sin is birth, and, left unchecked… mature sin can bring about death (James 1:15). Some have tried to justify the duration of time temptation is present as it relates to sin. It seems to me that regardless of how long the “gestation period” is for sin, once we allow desire to conceive, sin is birthed!
The writer in 2 Samuel 23 refers to David as “the man who was raised on high”… this humble individual was indeed raised on high by God… he was referred to as the “anointed one”. David constantly proved himself to be a man of courage. And courage inspires courage… and David was a man of courage. But David was not without sin either… God’s “anointed one”… with his mind already set on the things of the flesh at the time he encountered Bathsheba, David was unprepared to resist the temptation that he faced… so much so that he crossed the line into adultery and later murder. But Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that the line is initially crossed in our hearts before it manifests into sinful behavior (Matthew 5:28). Therefore, if our goal is to commit to a sin-less life, we must look at what are hearts are set on. Seeking God in all things in faith will help prepare our hearts with the proper attitude rather than just proper behavior since attitude is a matter of the heart and behaviors originate in the mind (Galatians 3:26-29, Psalm 78:72).
Heavenly Father… help me to focus on You… let me act as I would if you were sitting next to me on the couch… in the car while I’m driving… in all places. Lord you know my weaknesses… you were tempted and did not fall… help me to know that strength as I strive to be more like you in my heart and mind. You have wisdom that I yearn to know… please be with me and share your heart with me so I can know you better. Amen.
David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. 2 Samuel 22:1 NLT.
The day we loaded up the kids’ play set in our real estate agent’s box truck, my husband set the radio to my favorite station. I had never driven a big truck like that, and it was intimidating to me. He turned it around so all I had to do was put it in drive and go. We were starting a new chapter of our lives in many respects. When I turned the corner that led to our next house, a song came on the radio: Move, by Mercy Me.
I laughed at the soundtrack life offered up.
That was the year I picked “worship” as a focus word.
That year, God taught me a lot about worship.
When I couldn’t think of a song to praise him, he gave me song. And when I couldn’t find the voice to worship him, he gave me tears. He showed me how to worship not just with my lips, but with my life.
There were other songs during that time I walked in the valley. And when I hear those songs today, I straddle a line of before and after, and I can praise God for his faithfulness, his provision, his protection, and his mercy.
I hung out with David a lot during that time. His mess, his faith, his fear, his cry–all taught me about worship and how to do it from the pit. My cave looked different. And my enemies did too. But my God is still the same: rock, fortress, savior, refuge.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. 4 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:2-4 NLT
Father, I learned so much those years in struggle and depression. Thank you for walking beside me.
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