Have you ever had good motives but got shut down anyway? I was reading the account of David, when he was finally settled as king and he lived in a big fancy house, one befitting a king, of course. The prophet Samuel came to visit and David declared, "I want to build a house for God! It's not fair that I am in here while God is out in a tent." The passage doesn't infer what Samuel really thought about it, he simply told David, "Go ahead and do what you want. God is with you." But that night God decided to tell Samuel what He thought about it.
"But that night, the word of God came to Nathan saying, “Go and tell my servant David: This is God’s word on the matter: You’re going to build a ‘house’ for me to live in? Why, I haven’t lived in a ‘house’ from the time I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt till now. All that time I’ve moved about with nothing but a tent. And in all my travels with Israel, did I ever say to any of the leaders I commanded to shepherd Israel, ‘Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?’ 2 Samuel 7:4-7 (Message)
Clearly God isn't asking for much. Then He says this, "So here is what you are to tell my servant David: The God-of-the-Angel-Armies has this word for you: I took you from the pasture, tagging along after sheep, and made you prince over my people Israel. I was with you everywhere you went and mowed your enemies down before you. Now I’m making you famous, to be ranked with the great names on earth. And I’m going to set aside a place for my people Israel and plant them there so they’ll have their own home and not be knocked around any more. Nor will evil men afflict you as they always have, even during the days I set judges over my people Israel. Finally, I’m going to give you peace from all your enemies." 2 Samuel 8-11 (Message)
Usually when you're life is going well there is at least 1 or 2 people that make it their mission on earth to protect you from becoming arrogant and puffed up, so they will remind you where you came from. If you are someone who came from nothing, then you know that reminder doesn't feel very good. In fact, it often feels like a slap in the face, as if they will never allow you to enjoy flourishing. God begins His message to David with a reminder, only the motivation was something entirely different.
God was not judging David, or condescending, or accusing, or putting him down. In fact it was quite the opposite. His reminder that reduced him to nothing more than a shepherd came from a position of love and of relationship. He was upgrading David with a worldwide promotion! Just read what He said next!
“Furthermore, God has this message for you: God himself will build you a house! When your life is complete and you’re buried with your ancestors, then I’ll raise up your child, your own flesh and blood, to succeed you, and I’ll firmly establish his rule. He will build a house to honor me, and I will guarantee his kingdom’s rule permanently. I’ll be a father to him, and he’ll be a son to me. When he does wrong, I’ll discipline him in the usual ways, the pitfalls and obstacles of this mortal life. But I’ll never remove my gracious love from him, as I removed it from Saul, who preceded you and whom I most certainly did remove. Your family and your kingdom are permanently secured. I’m keeping my eye on them! And your royal throne will always be there, rock solid.” 2 Samuel 7:12-18 (Message)
Wow! I had always heard that God wouldn't let David build God a house because he was a man of war, or because his sin was too great. I heard it through the lens of punishment not promotion! There is not a hint of that attitude in this passage. It feels more like a one-up situation. "You say that you love me? I love you more! You're wanting to build me a house? I'm gonna build you a bigger one. You think you live in luxury now, just wait and see what I will do!"
There is a line in a worship song that I have sung a thousand times before, but suddenly it arrested my heart, "It's your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise". In y mind's eye everything I had relied on in the past was being stripped away. I was reduced to nothing but the breath in my lungs, realizing that when reduced to nothing, He had already given me all I needed. His breath became enough! His reminder was not a "you're such a worm" kind of word, in fact, it was quite the opposite. It was my Father saying, "My breath is heaven sent and it's all you need. Let's build from here. It is enough, you are enough, and I am able to finish what I began in you."
What a great beginning! After all, creation was formed with nothing more than His breath, wasn't it?
Here's what David had to say about it,
"God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we’re made of mud."
Psalms 103 (Message)
Maybe as you were reading this, you were condemning yourself with all the you shouldn't have's and if only's. You are forgetting the main point! Our Father sent His son to reconcile us back to Himself so we can have the kind of relationship with God that David had. He was human, he made mistakes, and look what God did! God is an expert at do-overs. Stop telling yourself all the things you don't have and start with your breath. If you have His breath in your lungs, it's the perfect foundation for all God is longing to bless you with. Breathe in. Breathe out. Trust God with the rest.
I turned to the man in line behind me. Seeing that he was not far from my age, and knowing what it took for me to come to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), I asked him a rather pointed question.
What did you leave to come here?
It's the same question that could be asked of any person surrendering their life to Christ for the first time or for the hundredth time. To the one who's life, like mine, has been turned upside down, to the one exhausted from trying to keep it all together, to the one who is running from addictions that always seem to linger in the shadows, what did you leave to come to Jesus? What exactly did it take?
Surrender seems to be a very uneven exchange. We get to lay down all the baggage, all the mess, all the shame, guilt, fear, loss, all of it, to receive His unmerited favor, His grace, His mercy, His peace, His love, His all! He withholds nothing! Because He paid for our freedom with His life, we become blameless. It's an unfair trade.
Psalms 84:11 tells us, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."
Wow! How can God really be that good?
Anything good in our lives that we cling so tightly to is insignificant when we finally realize that all He wants for us in this exchange is more good! Why do we prolong our agony by hiding things from Him? Why do we fight so hard to maintain control? And why do we beat the wind with our fearful complaints when we belong to the Almighty One?
This quote from Charles Spurgeon has been lingering in the forefront of my waking thoughts. "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages." What vivid imagery! Like a punch to the gut! What truth! We scarcely value the wave until we get a little further on in the journey. Hindsight, you know. Can I learn to trust Him while the wave is crashing? I want to!
So the stranger, the man behind me in line, when I asked him my potentially painful question, "what did you leave to come here?", without skipping a beat, he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Everything...and nothing." Doesn't that beautifully sum up surrender in three little words?
Someone reading this today is at that pivotal point of surrender. You may feel like you have been forsaken, even abandoned. But let me assure you, He sees. And He's got you. I encourage you to read this beautiful passage of scripture out loud, and insert your name. Repeat it often, until it gets in your bones.
"Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, (insert your name)
or, whine, Israel, (your name) saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out."
Isaiah 40:27 (Message)
I pray that today you sense the nearness of your God who is standing by you with outstretched arms, ready to rescue you from the waves and set your feet upon the Rock. He will walk with you through surrender, into the greatest adventure of your life.
The first day of school jitters. Ugh, it felt ridiculous. "I'm a grown woman...I'm too old for this nonsense", I kept telling myself. Yet there I was, standing in line with a thousand others, probably thinking the same thing.
The older we get the more responsibilities we carry. Our family, our children, our jobs, our future, our retirement, we fight for these things our entire lives. I have been a mother for 25 years! From a pastoral perspective, I have been the mother of a church for many years too. Charged with keeping a close and careful eye on all who were a part of my church family. It was as if God connected wifi to the precious people there, and only a few of us had the password. What a privilege to carry the code. As I watched with my natural eyes, He supernaturally downloaded to my heart the encouragement and exhortation they needed to grow.
Now there I was standing in line to register for school at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and it just felt awkward. It felt like I just did not fit. I did not have the wifi password for these people! That overwhelming feeling began making me think about all the people who enter churches for the first time all around the world, and how they must feel. Perhaps it feels like stepping into a secret club where they don't yet know the customs or language of that community. It takes a lot of courage to stay.
We as Christians carry heaven within us. We are to carry the very nature of God, the culture of heaven into every situation we walk in to. It is absolutely counter cultural to society around us. Least is greatest, first is last, week is strong. to the normal human, it is upside down. In fact, Jesus was constantly instilling heaven's culture into those around Him. He said to enter the Kingdom, we must become like children.
Well, I did that this week. I became one of the kids. As I stand back a survey my first day, I am left with 4 thoughts:
1. When I feel off kilter, I can lean on the One who knows me by name.
2. I don't have to carry the weight of the world, I can cast my cares on Him.
3. He wants me to come to Him as a child and begin to delight and wonder as only a kid could.
4. Be patient with myself, fitting into a new family takes time.
1 John 3:2 says it so well, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (NIV)
Maybe you are like me, maybe you have a tendency to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Today I would like to encourage you. Take just a moment and get alone with God. Close your eyes, see yourself as a child and climb up on Papa's lap and just sit there. Let Him hold you close. It is in His presence that peace comes, that your true identity is revealed as a son or daughter of this Father who loves you so very much. He is for you! He is cheering you on. Let Him be strong when you feel weak. Be the kid you were created to be.
I think His greatest desire is for us to enjoy His presence, let Him be in charge, and simply enjoy being one of His kids.
When it was my ministry to lead worship, I became one of those abandoned, crazy loud, holding nothing back kind of leaders. I was compelled and determined to practice what I preached. To teach about the importance of surrender, and then not exhibit it would be complete hypocrisy in my mind. All in. Every time. Putting my heart on display every single time. Vulnerable. Tenacious. Determined to cut through the junk of the world and drag people straight into the throne room. Some would not go. No matter what, surrender seemed beyond their desire or capability, but I went anyway.
After I left that assignment, I remember vividly the first time I sat in a worship service at my new church. I was a just another face in the crowd, just the way I wanted it. But when the worship set began, I knew I had a choice. Just because no one knew me, didn't mean that God didn't see me standing there, about 12 rows back, tucked in between strangers. I was not a stranger or invisible to Him.
Have you ever noticed that the lifting of hands usually means one of two things? One is surrender, of course. As kids we all grew up playing with our friends, mimicking what we saw on tv, we'd play cops and robbers and say things like, "This is a stick up, put your hands up," or "Stop, In the name of the law! Put your hands up," or we'd play war and say, "get your hands up and surrender, or else!" Open palms is actually a universal sign of honesty. It shows we have nothing to hide, no weapons. That's where handshaking came from - I extend my open hand with nothing concealed and no weapons up my sleeve.
So when we worship, hands up often signals surrender, both to heaven who is watching, but mostly to your own heart. Nothing concealed. No hidden motives up my sleeve.
Hands up can mean something very different though, especially seen in sports. When an athlete wins, it signals victory. In DailyMail.com, David Matsumoto, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, is quoted saying: 'Triumph has its own signature expression that is immediate, automatic and universal across cultures.'
Could the raising of hands also mean the same thing in worship? I believe so. As an act of faith, when times are hard, when we are heartbroken, or confused, or even exhausted, raising our hands can be a signal to the enemy that we have the victory because we are in Christ and trusting Him to complete the work He has started in us.
Remember when Moses was watching the Israelites in battle and as long as he kept his hands up the victory was theirs. But when he got tired and put his arms down, they began to lose! I believe that our hearts need to be postured in this way everyday, we worship from a place of surrender and trust, but also from a place of victory!
(As a side note: for pete's sake, surround yourself with people who will hold your arms up when you get tired. Tell somebody you need help!)
Jehoshaphat was leading the people of Israel against a frighteningly barbaric enemy and the Lord instructed him to do something remarkable.
"The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs! They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa.
As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!” After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.
As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead."
2 Chronicles 20:18-23 (Message)
So as I stood there, lost in the crowd, I willed myself to worship. I determined in my heart to live the same way hidden as I had lived on the stage. Full on, battle ready, fully surrendered, totally engaged. The victory was mine. Not because I won it, not because I deserved it, not because I earned it. Victory is mine (and yours) because HE WON IT!
Jesus fights for you and He sees you hiding there in the crowd, and He even now, is watching over His word to complete it in your life. Lift your voice and your hands and shout to the God who saves, who's love never quits.
Let this video inspire you to live in victory today. Will to RISE. (That's what I'm doing.) Come on, we can do it together.
Have you ever written a song? It can be an incredibly vulnerable experience. I suppose one gets better at it, more comfortable with having their innermost thoughts exposed for public scrutiny, but song writing has never been my favorite thing.
I am slowly learning about the kind and attentive nature of God. When times are really tough, (and they have been), when things don't seem to be moving in the right direction, (and the haven't), I was reminded how important it is to convince myself of who God really is. The Bible tells us that He has counted every hair on our heads. That He takes such attention to detail to clothe the lilies of the field and that He will also provide for us. It says that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
So I realized if I am not experiencing His provision at this moment, it's not an indictment on His character, it MUST be something God wants to mold and change within me. Something very deep He wants to etch upon my heart.
So I stopped my complaining spirit. I ended the worry and fear. Surprisingly, it wasn't a huge thing I had to do to change this habit. You may be wondering what I did.
I began to sing a new song to the Lord.
I began using my voice to declare His goodness. His provision. His care for me. His love and kindness. It encouraged my heart. It changed the atmosphere around me.
Honestly, I have been practicing this new habit for about a week. By myself. No one but my dog Lily can hear me. Oh, except my own spirit, and God, of course. I have not been particularly impressed with the melody line yet, and my words have been intentionally simple and descriptive, far from eloquent. But what a difference a few days of singing a new song can make!
Not only has my atmosphere shifted, but financially things are starting to shift as well. Yesterday I had two lovely surprises from unexpected sources. One was as simple as a friend buying one of my books, but padding my account so I could get a Starbucks. How sweet and kind is God to care for me in the smallest detail?
At Bethel Church, every time the offering is taken, we hold our money in the air and make some extravagant declarations. They put the words on the big screens and we recite together, declarations of "jobs and better jobs... unexpected blessings... checks in the mail..." I must admit that at first I felt like a phony reciting these profoundly wild declarations. In my head I would be asking, "do I even believe these words? Is God really this crazy-good?" But then I thought, well, it couldn't hurt and week after week, I have felt my own hope rising and my own ideas about my Father changing.
Today I want to encourage you to try it. It doesn't matter how it sounds to your ears, God loves the sound of your song. No one else can sing it but you. Could He be waiting to hear your song to release what He has been storing up for you? I will close today's blog with this amazing passage of scripture out of the Psalms.
"O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence."
Psalms 103:1-5 (Message)
Sing these words with your own melody. Release God's presence into your situation. Release your own heart and feel hope rise within you. Things will begin to shift. I promise.