Archive for the “worship” Category

We sure do have it backwards!

Part of the message I preached at our church last Sunday was about making worship a priority in our personal lives in 2016. I encouraged all of us to interrupt our busyness to focus on the Lord more regularly. I talked about how that would impact our corporate worship on Sunday mornings, but more importantly how it would impact our relationship with the Lord and our ability to carry the miracles He wants to birth through us. And I admitted that personal worship is an area in which I’ve become lax. Ouch!

So all week the Holy Spirit has been whispering to me “let’s do what you preached about on Sunday – let’s set aside some time and worship.” “How about today – can we do it today?” It’s been a positive urging, not a nag. It’s the Lord saying “come away with me, my love” (Song of Solomon 2:13b, paraphrased).

Finally tonight I did just that. As I sat with my head back and eyes closed, listening to a song about how much God loves me, sometimes singing along, sometimes not…my mind began to say “you know, you could be sorting that big stack of mail while you listen to this.” And then “You’re really wasting time just sitting here – you can listen to the music while you wash the dishes in the sink.”

And then it hit me – we sure do have it backwards! Our society has it backwards. Society values doing above all things. We have been programmed to think that doing something is better than sitting with the Lord. Even in our time with the Lord, we tend to think we need to be doing something – reading, studying or actively praying for needs.

When God’s highest priority is for us to worship and to listen. Jesus told Martha when she was so worried about getting everything done that Mary, who was sitting at his feet, had chosen the “better part” (Luke 10:42, NIV). For years, I regularly prayed, “Lord, show me the better part.” And over time, I became a worshiper. I learned how to choose the better part… But somehow that got lost in the busyness of last year.

There will always be tasks to do. There will always be things to keep us busy. There will always be things we’re leaving undone. That was as true for Mary as it is for us. But Mary chose to sit at the feet of the Lord. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says that “Mary has made the right choice.”

Wow did I have a challenging year last year. It seems like I was always trying to decide what the “right choice” was in situations for which I had no knowledge, training or wisdom. The right choice in each of those situations would have been to step away from them and sit at the feet of Jesus. (I’m afraid I didn’t make that choice as often as I should have. But you know what? God still loves me with a passionate love! I am loved by God with an everlasting love – even when I don’t make the best choice all the time – and so are you!)

We must go against our culture and training to choose the better part – to choose to relax into worship instead of sorting the mail or doing the dishes. Instead of spending more time at work or helping to plan the next great evangelism outreach. All those things are “needful” but as Jesus told Martha, we are “fussing far too much and getting [ourselves] worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42, The Message Bible)

One of my goals for 2016 is to stop fussing so much, to stop angsting over decisions – to make them and trust that the Lord’s got it – whatever it is. Choosing the “better part,” the only thing that is “essential” is what will make that goal achievable. So my bigger goal is to worship me. Want to join me?

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The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.”
Leviticus 16:2

I love being a New Testament Christian living in a time when we have embraced the tremendous love God has for us. I believe we have a greater understanding of intimacy with God than most people of previous generations.

Yet sometimes I wonder if we’ve embraced our freedom to approach His throne too whole-heartedly and abandoned the respect and holiness that the One who sits on the throne deserves and requires. The Lord told Moses that Aaron wasn’t to approach the Most Holy Place in whatever manner He desired. There were specific procedures that were to be followed.

3“This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.”
Leviticus 16:2-5 (NIV)

Aaron was to enter the presence of the Lord cleansed, wearing proper clothing, and with a sin offering and a burnt offering. I can’t help but see a correlation to how we ought to approach the Lord.

The Old Testament priests were to wash themselves before putting on their sacred garments. As New Testament believers, we are washed in the blood of Christ, which allows us to be clothed in His righteousness. We are cleansed of our sin by the blood of Jesus, the lamb who has already been slain for us. Because the wages of sin is death – that is, the price required to make atonement for the sin is death, the priests went into the sanctuary to shed the blood of the bull as an offering to cover their sin. Jesus shed His blood for our sins – the price has been paid for our sins.

We are no longer required to take a bull into the sanctuary and kill it. But we would do well to enter the sanctuary remembering that it has been done on our behalf. Such an attitude requires that we remember that we are sinners who are saved by grace. It means entering His presence in humility, asking for forgiveness for our sinful thoughts and actions of the previous week. It is only after we have accept God’s forgiveness that we are clothed in the sacred garments of the righteousness of Christ. It is from that position that we can come before His throne with boldness.

The priests also brought a burnt offering. The burnt offering was a complete offering — the entire offering was burned. It represents giving ourselves totally to God. To do less than that is not worthy of the great price He paid and is disrespectful. Yes, I fall far short of giving all I am to God, but I can enter His presence with the attitude in my heart that says “Yes, God. Here I am, send me. Whatever, whenever. Yes, God.” I know the reality is that when He asks me to do something we’re likely to have a conversation about it – which is a kind way of saying I don’t always respond with such enthusiasm and it may take a while for me to come around to the “Yes, God” action that matches the attitude. Nevertheless, I can have the attitude that I want to be fully and quickly obedient. The reality is that without the attitude, the action will never follow.

Entering God’s presence is about a whole lot more than songs that speak to our hearts and make us feel good. In truth, those songs are probably more about us and how we want to worship God than they are about God and how He wants us to worship Him. Don’t get me wrong. I love worship and I believe it pays a key role in preparing us to enter God’s presence. But I’m afraid that sometimes our focus is too centered on the enjoyment of the music than the proper attitude of our hearts.

Yes, let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Let’s also approach His throne with boldness – while simultaneously entering His presence with appropriate reverence and humility and with a recognition of our sinfulness and His holiness. Both are God’s reality. They ought to be ours.

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Jerusalem GateDedication of Jerusalem’s Wall – What a Celebration!
Nehemiah 12 describes what I can only imagine as a totally awesome worship, celebration and dedication of  event, but it’s easy to miss it because of all the details and names. So let’s remove some of that and catch a glimpse of the extravagant worship.

27For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem…
Nehemiah 12:27-28 (NLT)

This was no ordinary event. Israelite singers and musicians came together from all the regions. Perhaps you’ve participated in a large worship event. We used to attend a church that had regional retreats and people from a dozen states or so would come together – what a fantastic time of worship that was! A church in our community sometimes holds community-wide worship nights bringing together members of worship teams from several different churches. What a blessing! I attended two Promise Keepers events as a volunteer. I remember going into the stadium as the men gathered for worship at one of them. What an awesome sound as the men filled the stadium with powerful praise to God. I love those events. Better than any concert you’ve ever attended! Yet the worship described in Nehemiah 12 would have out-shined all of those.

The singers and musicians didn’t gather together in a building or stadium. They gathered outside and celebrated around the entire city. The first group celebrated on the east wall of the city, walking toward the Sheep Gate.

31I led the leaders of Judah to the top of the wall and organized two large choirs to give thanks. One of the choirs proceeded southward along the top of the wall to the Dung Gate. 32Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, 33  along with [other leaders]. 35Then came some priests who played trumpets… 36b[Other priests] used the musical instruments prescribed by David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe led this procession. 37At the Fountain Gate they went straight up the steps on the ascent of the city wall toward the City of David. They passed the house of David and then proceeded to the Water Gate on the east.
Nehemiah 12:31-37 (NLT)

Jerusalem Wall during Nehemiah's Time

The second group walked along the west wall of the city worshipping with instruments and songs. Imagine – two large choirs accompanied by instruments walking the perimeter of the city walls as they praised. You’ve undoubtedly seen videos of flash mobs in shopping malls or at hotels. This goes beyond any of those outstanding performances. And I hesitate to use the word performances because the Israelites weren’t performing. They were worshipping. And they ended their worship in the Temple of God:

38The second choir giving thanks went northward around the other way to meet them. I followed them, together with the other half of the people, along the top of the wall past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39then past the Ephraim Gate to the Old City Gate, past the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel, and on to the Tower of the Hundred. Then we continued on to the Sheep Gate and stopped at the Guard Gate [or Muster Gate].

40The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. So did I, together with the group of leaders who were with me. 41We went together with the trumpet-playing priests… 42and the singers…. They played and sang loudly under the direction of Jezrahiah the choir director.

43Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.
Nehemiah 12:38-43 (NLT)

I love the juxtapositioning of worship with sacrifice and joy. We don’t often associate worship with sacrifice or sacrifice with joy. God’s like that. He brings together worship and sacrifice and joy. All that we sacrifice to Him is a form of worship. All that we sacrifice to Him both brings Him joy and is an act of joy on our part. Even when it’s hard.

The Israelites gathered in the city and went to the top of the wall they had just completed. From there the broke into two groups. One went in one direction, the other in the other direction. Both groups playing their instruments and singing worshiping God. So loudly that they could be heard far away. Without any modern sound system!

God is worthy of our extravagant praise! It is offensive to offer less. It is a discipline to put aside the things of the week and the frustration of the day when we step into worship, but it’s a discipline and sacrifice that not only honors Him, it brings us into His presence – which of course, is to our tremendous benefit.

Friends, I challenge you to outdo yourself during worship in the coming month. Don’t just stand or sit and sing the words that appear in the hymnal or on the screen. Worship Him! And make it your lifestyle.

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9“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10So take this seriously. The LORD has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 (NLT)

That’s the advice King David gave his son Solomon shortly before his death. I find the first sentence to be quite interesting – learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately – emphasis mine, of course. Those key words learn, know and intimately teach us important lessons about our relationship with God:

We learn to know Him intimately. It doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t even come naturally.

“Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10a (NLT)

Being still doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But we can learn to be still. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and satan’s temptations. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and our emotions. If we want to know God intimately, we must learn to know him. We must study His ways and follow His leading. And in learning, there is error. We won’t always get it right. But we can confess any sin in those errors, turn toward Him again and He accepts us and teaches us more.

We learn to know Him intimately. We don’t learn about Him, we learn to know Him. I know many things about President Obama. But I don’t know him. I’ve never met the man or anyone in his family. I’ve watched him in various situations over the years, seen a movie about his upbringing and life influences, but I’ve never talked to him to learn what makes his heart beat. I don’t know Him intimately.

We’re not just to learn to know things about God, we’re to learn to know God. That means meeting with Him, not just reading our Bibles. It means having fellowship with Him, not just singing praise songs.

We learn to know Him intimately. God doesn’t want a surface relationship. He wants intimacy. And intimacy means that we must also be vulnerable to Him. He already knows all our stuff, so let’s just admit it and be transparent with God. When worship becomes tender with the fullness of the Spirit, let’s not rush past it. Let’s learn to be still in God’s presence.

The wonderful thing is that God wants us to know Him intimately. Yes, we must learn to know Him intimately, but we have His assurance that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. We have His promise that He will be found by us. He wants intimacy with us. Let’s pursue it!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8 (NKJV)

The word translated pure in this verse also means clean or cleansed. Only those who have had their heart cleansed by God are blessed, for they shall see Him. Last week we looked at 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (RSV)

The root of the word translated “cleanse” in 1 John 1:9 is the word translated “pure” in Matthew 5:8. The application is clear: God will cleanse the heart of those who confess their sins and those with cleansed hearts will see God. Put more simply, those who confess their sins will see God.

What does it mean to “see God”? The word translated “see” is “optanomai” and is defined by Strong’s Greek Dictionary as meaning “to gaze [as with] wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable.” The definition goes on to explain that it differs from other Greek words that may be translated “see” but mean:

  • “merely mechanical, passive or casual vision”
  • “earnest but more continued inspection”
  • “watching from a distance”

Why do I include this detail about the word “see”? Because I find the differences in the words fascinating. Those with a pure heart will gaze upon the Lord in awe or amazement. We won’t just look at Him in passing. We won’t seriously inspect Him. We won’t watch Him from a distance. We will gaze at Him in awe or amazement. We will look at Him with love in our eyes. We will worship Him. We’ll draw close to Him and as we draw closer, I’m convinced we’ll be even more in awe of Him.

If I were to translate the thought of Matthew 5:8 I would write “Blessed are the pure in heart because they shall enter God’s presence.” It is when we are in His presence that we look upon Him with love in our eyes, when we gaze at His beauty, and when we are awed by all that we can comprehend that He is. We aren’t inspecting, we’re appreciating. We’re enjoying. We’re loving.

King David knew the relationship between a pure heart and being in God’s presence. He is the writer of both Psalm 24 and 51.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:10-11 (NIV)

3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.
Psalm 24:3-5 (NIV)

Do you need God’s presence today? Those with repentant hearts will also have pure hearts. Confess your sins and God will be faithful to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then, having a clean heart, you may stand in God’s holy place and you will see Him. That’s a blessing you don’t want to miss!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartLord, I want to know You and I want to know Your ways. Yet I get caught up in this world at times. Grab my attention – remind me that You are waiting to respond to me. Teach me Your ways so that I see You at work in this world. Lord, develop in me a heart to seek You in every situation and every moment.

That’s the prayer we ended with in the first blog of our focus on a seeking heart. Have you been praying it faithfully? Or something like it, anyway? I hope so. But if not, that’s OK. You can always start today! God’s mercies are new every morning. Seek Him for them today!

This week I want to focus on developing a heart that seeks God. We have His promise that when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Seeking God is not about doing all the right things, although developing the Christian disciplines is a good thing. It’s about connecting with God. It’s about continuing to pursue Him until you have connected with Him. It’s not about knowing things about God. It’s about knowing God. And to truly know God, you must have an experience with Him. Having an experience with God means more than simply reading Scripture and praying. It means lingering with Him. It means not giving up until you have touched the hem of His garment.

In his excellent book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney wrote this:

When you pursue God with all your heart, soul, and body, He will turn to meet you and you will come out of it ruined for the world.
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 14)

Expect God to turn and meet you and expect to be changed! Expect the things of this world to hold less value for you – because when you have touched the eternal, the temporal loses its shine.

Because the things of this world are always before us, however, we can easily become deceived that they have value and we become “satisfied” with them. Satisfied with an easy life. Satisfied with prestige. Satisfied with having a happy family life. Being content is good, but being satisfied can lead to complacency and that kills our motivation to pursue God. Again, to quote Tommy Tenney:

There is much more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don’t press in for God’s best. Yes, God is moving among us and working in our lives, but we have been content to comb the carpet for crumbs as opposed to having the abundant loaves of hot bread God has prepared for us in the ovens of Heaven!
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 23)

Pursuing God with all your heart will change you! But don’t be scared! It’s a good change.

How do you pursue God whole hearted?
How do you develop a seeking heart?

The first step is developing the God Chaser mindset – be determined and diligent about seeking Him. Don’t settle for reading your Bible a few minutes a day. Don’t settle for short prayers. Don’t settle for doing the same things you’ve always done and getting the same results. Don’t settle! I’m going to discuss spiritual disciplines here, but more important than practicing the disciplines is how you practice them. Practice them with persistence and with expectation. Look for God! Connect with God. Otherwise, it just becomes more doing and more learning about God. And we want to know Him, not just know more about Him.

Bible Reading
Don’t rush through it. Linger over it. Pray through it. Read smaller portions so that you can digest them fully. In our Resting at the River’s Edge reading, we have the opportunity to see the whole picture because we are reading larger portions of Scripture. That’s a good thing. It’s also a good thing to take time each week to read smaller portions and mull them over. Read the passage in several different translations. Ask questions about the text – What’s the background? Why would the disciplines say that or do that? What’s that word mean? What does the passage reveal about the nature of God? Most importantly, ask God directly, “Lord, what do You have for me in this passage? How should I apply this passage to my life?”

Meditation is a Biblical practice. It is the practice of rolling something over and over in our minds, turning it this way and that, looking at its many facets to find all its beauty and significance. After reading a small passage of Scripture, meditate on it. Highlight a key verse and carry it with you throughout the day. Think about it often. Consider how many times today you thought about something that happened yesterday – perhaps a conversation you had with someone, perhaps a television program you watched, perhaps the words to a song that has your attention. God’s Word is infinitely more important than any of those things. Mull over the Word of God, not last night’s episode of your favorite show. As you stay focused on Scripture, you’ll find that your thoughts change and your conversation will change. You’ll also find that God reveals more and more about that small verse you’re meditating on. You’ll find a whole treasure chest of diamonds in the passage.

“What do you see?”
In his book Developing Your Prophetic Gifting (Sovereign Word Publishing, 1994), Graham Cooke analyzes how God often gave prophetic messages to his prophets in the Old Testament. Again and again, God would ask them “what do you see?” The prophet would describe the picture in front of them – a pot boiling over from the north (Jeremiah 1:13) or good and bad figs (Jeremiah 24:3) – and God would give its prophetic significance – an enemy about to attack from the north (Jeremiah 1:14) or God’s intention for His people (Jeremiah 24:4-10).

I learned from that to ask God to reveal prophetic meaning in scenes that catch my attention. A child that distracted me during worship one Sunday morning became a lesson about how I am prone to wander outside the boundaries God has set for me (as the little boy was want to do that morning) and then pout when God sits me in a chair for being disobedient (again, mirroring the behavior of the child when his mother disciplined him). If I had not asked God if there was a message in the scene I was watching, I would have missed it entirely.

Ken Gire gives many examples of this in his book Windows of the Soul. It is a book about seeing God through glimpses of every day life – like watching a scene through a window.

To see what is in those windows we first have to stop, and then, as C.S. Lewis advised, “we must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there.”

God speaks through many things. The field of a sluggard and the fruit of someone’s life are just two of them.

How many times, though, have we passed those fields without stopping to see what was there? How many times have we seen the fruit of someone’s labor but not the soul of the laborer. How many times have we seen but not learned, watched but not wondered what lesson this person’s life could be teaching us?
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire, Zondervan Publishing House, pages 42 and 43

Breathing Prayer
Begin to think of prayer as an ongoing dialog that you have with God throughout the day. I call that “breathing prayer.” In other words, develop an ongoing prayer life – one that mirrors our breathing – regular, constant and refreshing. It is life-giving. As we inhale we listen for God’s answers and His heart; as we exhale we ask our questions of Him or breathe our thanksgiving. This imagery and practice can help center us in the midst of a chaotic day. It’s in or from that center that we find God. We won’t find Him when we are reacting to or become a part of the chaos around us. But we’re likely to find Him when we pause to seek Him. A simple inhaling of God’s peace and exhaling of the stress of this world, then a second inhaling to ask Him what He is doing in the situation and exhaling while we listen and look. Two deep breaths. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking you don’t have time to take two deep breaths.

Lingering Prayer
Seek God by lingering with Him. Transform your prayer life by losing your shopping list! Don’t view prayer as the mall you go to periodically to pick up a few things you need. Think of prayer as time you linger with God. Time you spend with your best friend getting to know Him. I remember one summer in high school when I would spend hours sitting on a backyard swing with a couple of friends just talking. For the life of me I can’t imagine what we talked about for hours day after day, but it’s one of my most vivid memories of that time. Sitting on the swing, moving slightly back and forth as I talked with my friends.

Find a place where you can meet with God just to talk. Then visit that place frequently. Read Scripture a bit, then ask Him questions and wait for answers. This is a relatively new practice of mine and you know what? He answers my questions. Sometimes I have to ask them a few days or weeks in a row – I don’t know why He does that, but it’s my experience. Perhaps He just wants to make sure I’m serious. I don’t know. But I do know that He answers.

Remember, though, this is time with a friend. It’s not a time when you demand answers. Attitude is everything. He isn’t likely to answer questions that are asked with wrong motives, and there will undoubtedly be questions that He doesn’t answer. Sometimes He just asks us to trust Him. But it’s OK to ask. So go ahead and linger with God awhile and ask Him those questions you have.

I’ve been asking Him lately what it is about me that pleases Him. I’m not asking because I want the pat on my back. I’m asking so that I can do more what pleases Him. For the first few weeks, He answered the question I didn’t ask – He told me what didn’t please him. Oops! So I worked on those things. Then He told me something that pleases Him. I want to bring joy to God’s heart, so I’m doing more of that.

Linger with God and He’ll answer your questions, too.

Study Nature and Science
God has revealed so much of Himself through nature and science. When we look at the tremendous variety in every species of plant, animal and humans, we see just a glimpse of God’s infinite creativity. When we look at the stars we see the immensity of God. When we look at how the universe is held together, we see God’s preciseness. When we look at our bodies, we recognize with the psalmist that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Combine these studies with some of the other disciplines to hear God’s heart about creation and to learn His purposes.

Don’t just sing, worship. Close your eyes. Think about the meaning of the words. Pray as you sing them. Sing them again and again until their meaning moves from your head to your heart to your soul. Sing aloud when you’re alone, not just at church on Sunday morning. Worship Him. Enter into His presence.

I journal because it focuses me to write more in quantity and specificity than I would think. In other words, it causes me to go deeper than I would if I weren’t writing. If I were only thinking about a passage, I would easily become distracted and miss the opportunity to delve more deeply into the treasure of God’s Word. If I am only thinking a prayer, I would stop at the surface level. When I write (type) them out, I find that my repentance is more genuine (because I become specific about what I am asking forgiveness for), my pleading more sincere and desperate, my desire to hear from God more urgent. I would offer a caution here – I sometimes physically remove my fingers from the keyboard when I am lingering with God because my typing can become a distraction to simply enjoying His presence.

Putting it Into Practice
Do I do all these things? Yes. Do I do all them all the time? No. Not even close. And that’s OK. This isn’t meant to be a list of things you should be doing all the time (although you should consistently be in God’s Word and in prayer). It is meant as ideas to help you seek and experience God in a greater way. May I challenge you over the next couple of weeks to try one of these methods that are new to you? Not just once, but a few times. Because God is ready to respond. He is waiting to be caught.

Resource Links
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney

Developing Your Prophetic Gifting by Graham Cooke

Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire

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I laid in bed for more than half an hour before getting up this morning. I was frustrated with someone. Frustrated at what they were doing. Frustrated at what they were not doing. They just weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing!

Oh, my, that sounds so arrogant when I actually put it on paper! It didn’t sound so arrogant in my mind earlier this morning. It sounded right! But of course it wasn’t right – it was arrogant. And even if what I think should be done is correct, I am wrong in my response to the situation.

That’s not to say I wasn’t praying in the midst of my frustration fretting…but each sentence prayer led to more frustrated fretting. I’m guessing you’ve been in my situation before. Ten minutes of frustrated fretting, a sentence prayer – maybe even two sentences – and I’m back to fretting.

I’ve been dealing with this issue for awhile and I’ve been trusting God…but this morning frustration was getting the best of me.

Finally I got out of bed and sat with my cup of tea and piece of toast and began to read my Bible. Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule has us in Revelations and I was enjoying it so much a read a head a few chapters. (I love it when that happens.) I came to these verses:

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

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

14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
Revelation 5:13-14 (NLT)

Oh, Lord! Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to You! “And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.”

I spent more than half an hour fretting in frustration this morning when I could have been worshiping the Lamb! What a waste of precious time!

I serve a God who is infinitely worthy of my worship. All blessing and honor and glory and power belong to Him. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. He existed before anything else existed. He created all things. He holds them together. He will exist when all that I know (except Him) has passed away. He is the eternal, all loving, all knowing, all powerful God. And still He is my friend. I spend time fretting in frustration. And He is my friend. I make wrong choices. And He is my friend. Whether I have a great day or a horrible one…He is still my friend. My Friend who loves and saves and empowers. My Savior who gives peace and joy and healing. My God who is worthy of all my worship. My God who is worth more than I can ever pay.

In our early marriage, I found a card to give to my husband (or maybe he gave it to me – I’m not really sure anymore). “I love you…” was written on the front; on the inside it read “More than I could ever say, more than you could ever know.” Isn’t that the absolute perfect card? It said (and says) everything about our love. We’ve been married more than thirty years (thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!) and we still quote the card to one another.

The card’s message is even more appropriate between my God and me. He loves me more than He could ever say, more than I could ever know. Is anything impossible for God? Does He love more than He could ever say? Well, I won’t contradict Scripture…but… He can say it and He has, but we won’t fully comprehend that love until we are in eternity with Him. So perhaps the message changes for Him “I love you…More than I can say to you while you are in this physical body; more than you will know until you are in eternity with Me.” But that’s a bit awkward. (You think?) I’m OK with the shorthand version, knowing that my God loves me more…

And I love Him more than I could ever say (in this life) and more than He’ll ever know – but He does know! He knows how much I love Him more than I know and can express! OK, the sappy card doesn’t apply in this situation either. But again, I’m OK with the sentiment – He loves me and I love Him more than can be adequately expressed, more than can be accurately perceived. More…

Worshiping the One who is worthy, loving the One who is worthy – it’s way better than fretting.

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My guess is that you’re planning your Thanksgiving weekend, and perhaps your holiday season. Don’t forget Jesus. Purposefully write in your calendar some time over the long Thanksgiving weekend during which you will sit with Jesus giving thanks. Use a small portion of that time to plan out times to spend with God during the month of December. Purpose to lay the world aside and spend time with the Jesus. Purpose to do the most important things this season, not just the urgent ones.

While I strongly encourage you not to plan a full schedule of things to do during those times with the Lord, a simple plan can be a good thing.

Three Reasons Why You Should l Have a Basic Plan for Your Time With God

  1. It can help you transition from full speed ahead in the world to peaceful worship and rest during your time with the Lord (without such a plan sometimes it feels like a crash landing instead of a spirit-led transition). Sometimes when we’ve rushed to our appointment with God it can be hard to settle into His presence.
  2. It can help you transition from servant to friend. If simply sitting at God’s feet isn’t something you do regularly, having a plan may help you adjust from a mode of serving God to enjoying Him.
  3. It can help you transition from purpose-driven thinking to presence thinking. If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting time or being selfish when you are resting in His presence (forgive me, Lord). Having a plan gets me over the initial hump because I am doing something – I’m following my list of things to do. Don’t read this the wrong way. I’m not saying we approach our time with God as an item to check off our To-Do lists. What I’m saying is that having the basic plan helps me resist the feeling that I’m wasting time at the beginning of my time with the Lord. It helps me engage. Once I’ve engaged, I’m no longer working the plan, I’m enjoying God.

Here are some ideas for your time with God. Don’t do all these things each time you meet Him. Plan the number of things you’re going to do according to the time you have. If I only had fifteen minutes, I would only do one, maybe two of these things. If I scheduled fifteen minutes every other day, I’d focus on different activities each time, cycling through them and then returning to those I found most helpful.

Worship – Whether through song or prayer or activity, let worship take you into the presence of God. Don’t rush from song to song or prayer topic to prayer topic. Linger. Play the same song several times. Pray different things about the same awesome character trait of God. (For example, “Lord, your love is incredible. It covers my sin. It surrounds me like a comforting blanket, protecting me, shielding me and healing me. Your love brings peace. Your love – how can I know the depth, breadth, height and width of it? I can’t, and knowing that it is bigger than me reminds me of how awesome you are. Lord, your love is incredible. It is by your love that your purposes are accomplished in my life. It is by your love that I can sit here with you at peace. It is in your love that I can do all things. Lord, your love is incredible.” Remember, don’t rush the prayer, linger over each phrase.)

Thanksgiving and praise – Scripture says that we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). That’s what I want to do during my time with God – enter His inner sanctuary to meet with Him. Doing it His way only makes sense.

Prayer – Don’t pray your laundry list of needs (whether for yourself or others), but have a conversation with God. Have you ever asked God “Lord, what gave you pleasure today? What blessed you?” I never have! The idea just came to me as I was writing this, and it seems like a good one. I’m going to incorporate this into my times with Him! I’m looking forward to “hearing” His answers. (I put the word “hearing” in quotes because I don’t anticipate hearing an audible voice. But I do anticipate receiving an impression from God that will bring me joy as I get to know Him better.)

Read Scripture meditatively – If fifteen minutes is all you have, spend ten of them on one or two verses. Pray it back to God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you through the verse. Then sit and listen for His response.

Express yourself creatively – Journal, paint, write a song or poem – Express yourself to God in some tangible way. It may feel awkward at first, but just go with it. He won’t be a critical judge of it any more than you were when your children drew their first picture of mom and dad.

The point is, schedule some time with God. Time just to be with Him. If you don’t schedule it, it’s unlikely that it will happen. (Although God’s been known to force the issue – it’s generally much better to put Him first than to have Him bring it to your attention that you haven’t been.)

Enjoy your time with God during this Christmas season and I am confident that you will enjoy the season.


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I was running late on Thursday. Getting ready for the Bible study Phil and I lead at a local nursing home, everything went wrong. We’re studying Acts and I was modifying a map of Paul’s second journey to make the lines more visible to residents with eyes that don’t see nearly as well as they used to (I can identify with that!). The modification too much longer than I anticipated. Then the printer jammed. I broke a part off the printer while trying to clear the paper jam. So I reconciled myself to only taking half as many copies as I needed. (For this I spent the last hour?) Ten minutes till Bible study is supposed to start. On a good day it’s a 9 minute trip, but there’s construction on Main Street so I have to take the long way. And I hate running in at the last minute. The members of the study are understanding and gracious, but I don’t like the subtle message it sends. Rushing in at the last minute makes them feel like they’re an interruption in our day filled with more important things. Better to get there early and chat a bit.

But I digress. I am sure you’ve had lots of mornings like mine was on Thursday. Maybe every morning is a Thursday morning for you. Before you’re out of the house you’ve experienced failure, frustration and maybe even financial setbacks. Ugh. It doesn’t make for a Christ-centered day. It doesn’t have us carrying the peace of God and joy of living with Him into every situation we find ourselves. I was acutely aware that I was headed into a Bible study feeling less than spiritually ready for it.

God is so Good! On Wednesday evening, we’d had our small group meeting. Phil and I had driven separately (I hate that). On the way home, I had a CD playing louder than usual. I remember thinking as I turned the car off “That’s going to be too loud when you turn the car on tomorrow.” I made a conscious decision not to turn the volume down. That’s very unusual for me.

Thursday morning, then, I got into my car, and plopped my Bible and my maps on the seat next to me, wishing I could deposit my frustration somewhere just as easily. Now for the record, I could have (as you could each time you find yourself in my situation), but I wasn’t thinking about taking every thought captive or rejoicing in the Lord or casting my cares upon Him. I was thinking about too few maps and too little time and hoping Phil had prepared for the actual lesson better than I had.

Then I started my car. Immediately, the words washed over me “Thank You for the way that You love us. How you love us!” Whew! It was like someone had doused me in “relaxation lotion” or something. Instantly every part of me went from wired a bit too tight to no tension at all. Instantly I was at peace. As the song continued “Jesus, Faithful King, Lord with grateful hearts we sing – How great is the love, how great is the love of our Savior” my heart swelled and my faith grew. (Thank you, Paul Baloche, the writer of the song. It’s available on his album Glorious.)

I was still running late, I still had only half the number of copies I needed, and I still had a jammed, broken printer. And all was right with the world!

Thank You, Lord, for the way You love us!

It’s a lesson I need to learn often because this world pulls the lesson away from me every chance it gets – a moment stolen from the world to spend with the Lord makes all the difference. Stopping what I’m doing to worship Him never ruins our day.

Take a worship break:

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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