On Worry…

On Worry…
Worry says God doesn’t know the future.
Worry says God doesn’t know what he is doing.
Worry says that I, within myself, am smarter, stronger, faster, better, more able and more intelligent than God.
Worry says that God may know about my concerns but He must not care.
Worry says I have to control this situation. Person. Outcome.
Worry says God may not provide.
Or if He does, it won’t be in the way I want. The way I believe is best for me.
Worry sets my heart on a person. Or a thing. Or a circumstance. Putting them in first place in my heart. My mind. My train of thought.
Worry forgets that heaven is waiting. That this life is brief. And definitely not all there is.
Worry takes a tiny possibility and gives it teeth.
Which become fangs.
That imbue poison into my life.

Worship says that God is God.
He created all of this.
And He exists in the past, present and future.
Worship says that He is the strongest, fastest, best and most able. Of anyone. Including me.
Worship declares that God cares. Enough to send His only Son to die for me. Enough to give me saving grace, sustaining grace and finishing-the-race-well grace.
Worship proclaims God’s provision, remembering what He has done in the past and trusting that He hasn’t changed, even though my circumstances have.
Worship proclaims that He is a good, good Father who longs to give me what is best for me if only I will get out of His way.
Worship shouts that God is in control. Sovereign. On the throne.
And it kicks everyone and everything off the throne of my heart, putting God in the place that is rightfully His.
Worship takes a tiny thing that worry has made huge – me – and puts it – puts me – in my proper place in the universe.
I am a speck of dust.
A flower quickly fading.
A single blade of grass in a massive meadow.
And yet, I am a beloved speck of dust.
A cherished flower.
A vital-to-the-Creator blade of grass.
Worth creating.
Worth dying for.
Worth listening to.
Worth loving.
And worth an eternity full of joy, with no sin, no problems, no cares. An eternity that is coming quickly. And one that will show this life for what it is – a brief blip on the screen of forever.

I am not worth all this because I am fabulous, but because He is.
And because He chooses to love me. Provide for me. Carry me through.

Worship in place of worry.
Every time. Heartbeat to heartbeat. Thought to thought.
Replacing each worry with a declaration of God’s worth.
Remembering.
Declaring.
Proclaiming.
Living worship.
Living loved.
Because I am.
And you are as well.

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Jehoshaphat That!

I have a new strategy for this summer.
No matter what comes my way, I am determined to “Jehoshaphat That!”
Whatever “that” might be.

Let me explain.
As you may know, summer is my busiest season in ministry.
And with all the busyness comes a ton of spiritual battle as well.
Couple that with the weariness that is inevitable and it is a long and draining season.

But about a week ago I was reading in 2 Chronicles during my quiet time.
It was a story I have read many times before.
But this time when I read it, I realized that it lays out a very effective strategy for doing ministry.
Doing relationships.
Doing life.
A way to “Jehoshaphat That!”

So here’s how the story goes…
Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah.
He had ill-advisedly allied himself with Ahab, the King of Israel.
Hundreds of years earlier, those two kingdoms had been one – but they had split apart as part of God’s judgement against Solomon’s sin of idolatry. Over the years Judah and Israel occasionally fought each other. And every once in a great while, they joined forces against a common enemy.

So Ahab, the wicked, idol-worshipping King of Israel had concocted a plan where he would invite Jehoshaphat and his God-fearing kingdom of Judah to join forces with him against a host of surrounding armies. He actually tried to protect himself by having Jehoshaphat go out in all his royal garb while Ahab dressed as a common soldier. That way, if things went badly – and they did – Ahab could more easily escape. However, that plan did not end well for Ahab – he ended up being shot and killed by a “stray” arrow while God helped Jehoshaphat escape.

However, these surrounding nations still wanted war. So they set out against Judah. When King Jehoshaphat learned that they were coming back for more, he did what every great leader does first – he cried out to God. In fact, I love how the Amplified Version tells it. It says, “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord.” The King also called for the entire nation to fast and pray with him, seeking God’s help.

The Chronicler recorded Jehoshaphat’s prayer for posterity and this is what he said: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven? And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, there is no one able to take a stand against You.” In other words, King Jehoshaphat reminded God of His character and heart, who He is and all He can do. Had God forgotten that? No, of course not. But in reminding God of those things, Jehoshaphat was doing two things: he was reminding himself of those Truths and he was declaring his dependence on God. He laid aside any pride that said, “I’m the King, I’ve got this” and instead humbled himself before the King of Kings.

In the next part of his prayer, the terrified king lays out the specifics of the problem before the King of Kings. And sure enough, God answers through a priest named Jahaziel. He tells King Jehoshaphat, “The Lord says this to you: ‘Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Go down against them tomorrow. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the river valley, in front of the Wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; take your positions, stand and witness the salvation of the Lord who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.’”

Here’s the thing.
God didn’t give them a specific battle strategy. He had done that for other leaders and kings in their history. But this time there is no real battle plan, just a command to head for a certain spot. And the reminder that He will be with them and that they do not have to be afraid.

In light of the lack of specific instructions, I LOVE what King Jehoshaphat does next.
It is the crux of the strategy.
He sends out the chief worshippers first.
Not the commanders.
Not the calvary.
Not the most experienced soldiers.
But the priests.
The religious leaders.
The worship leaders.

And as they get their praise party on, God worked on their behalf.
They didn’t even realize it at first.
It wasn’t until they sent a scout up a watchtower that they realized that God had done exactly what He said He would do. He fought the battle for them. When they looked out of over the enemy troops, they realized they were ALL dead. They had turned on each other – so that, while the people were busy praising, the enemy was busy dying.

And then they got to reap the spoils. In fact, the Bible says it took them three days to gather all the goodies from the fallen armies! But check out what they did after they had gathered it all – they had another praise party, thanking God for all He had done!

And that, my friends, is how you “Jehoshaphat That!”
But to make it simpler, I’ve broken what Jehoshaphat did into steps that I hope you find easy to apply.

Step One: Tell God the problem.
Or problems. In all their gory detail, lay it all out before Him. Yes, He already knows. But because He is a good, good Dad, He loves to hear from His kids. Lay it all out – the tiny and the huge, the gory and the gross – whatever “it” is, He wants to hear about it!

Step Two: Declare the Truth about Who He is and who you are.
Claim His promises. Stand on His Word. Remember what He has done. And thank Him for what He will do. Again, He knows these things. But when you speak His Word into the situation, you will be changed. You will do what Peter told the early church to do: “… humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. (I Peter 5)
And then He will do what only He can do. The very best thing – even if it is not what you think it should be. And He will do it at the right time. In the right way. Because He is for you and not against you.

Step Three: Believe. And because you believe, worship.
Just that simple. For King Jehoshaphat, God had to speak through an earthly messenger. But you and I are so incredibly blessed to have two things King Jehoshaphat did not have – the inspired Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is where you can find God’s answer to any situation – by reading His Word and asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate it for you. How will you know it is God and not your own heart? Those two things – His Word and the message from His Spirit will always match. And, when you apply them, they are always matchless in power.

Your job is figure out God’s heart on the matter through His Word.
And then to trust and obey. Believe what He says. And obey it.

That’s how you demonstrate that you actually trust Him – by living life His way. Make your life a “living sacrifice, for this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12) and you will be amazed at what He can – and will – accomplish! Instead of agonizing, strategizing, and striving to send in all of your resources and best strategies to face “that”, leave the battle to Him as you lead with praise.

Step Four: Stand back and watch what God will do.
He is God alone.
And He is good.
Everything He does is right.
And, as Isaiah put it, “…since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 64)

And finally,
Step Five: Collect the spoils, conducting a praise party as you go, giving God all the glory.
Because He deserves it.
After all, He did all the work.
Your job was to trust and obey; His was to give the victory.
You may not see it in your timetable – but you will see at just the right time.

And that, my friends, is how you “Jehoshaphat That!”

That’s my plan for tackling all the challenges ahead.
I hope it’s yours as well!

The Day Before

Good morning, Blog World!

Two weeks from today I will be “Shipwrecked” for Vacation Bible School.  In light of that, I decided today to do a re-post of one of the first blogs I ever wrote.  I hope it blesses you – because it really is (still) “The Day Before”.

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In my daily quiet time I am currently in Exodus and the life of Moses.  This morning he met God at the bush that was on fire but not burning up.  It had been 40 years since Moses killed the Egyptian slave master and had to flee for his life.  It had been 40 years of an entirely different life – from palace to nomad, from Prince to shepherd, from a life of privilege to a life of toil.  I am sure that Moses thought his life was going to stay that way until he died.  But God had other plans.  Those thoughts led me to writing this in my journal today.  I hope it encourages you!

The day before…

The day before You showed up in a burning bush Moses had done the same thing he did for 40 years – keep sheep in the wilderness.

The day before David was anointed to be the next King of Israel he was just a boy, out in the fields, tending the sheep.

The day before he killed Goliath he was just the kid brother sent by his father to check on the older boys at war.

The day before Mary found out she was to be the mother of God she was just a girl dreaming of her new life with her fiancé.

The day before You healed the lepers, the lame, and the blind they had been in the same state that they had been in for days, months, years – outcast, crippled, disabled, “other”.

The day before You were crucified the disciples thought it was going to be another Passover like the decades of Passovers they had celebrated before.

The day before You rose the disciples were grief stricken and shocked, just as they had been since Thursday night.

The day before You return will be just like any other – shopping, eating, drinking, working out, going to work – and then it will all be over.

 

You are the God of surprise, and of the miraculous intervention!

When Your time is right, nothing can stop the forward movement of what You intend to do.

Your plans cannot be thwarted.

The question is, am I on board with You?

In step with You?

Careful to obey?

Careful to follow?

Letting Your Spirit guide my life?

Letting Your Word by the bottom line by which I live?

 

Because I have the freedom to make the choice to not follow, not believe, not love, not seek You.

The day before David seduced Bathsheba he was a bored king in an empty palace because he had sent men to war instead of going himself.

The day before Cain killed Abel he was a jealous older brother, bothered by the fact that God had not accepted his offering.

The day before Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it he was a weary leader, frustrated by the constant unbelief and complaining of his people.

The day before Peter denied ever knowing Jesus he was a cocky, self-sure man, certain of his own faithfulness.

The day before Aaron made the golden calf for the people to worship he was a worried older brother, wondering what was taking Moses so long on the mountain.

 

So today may be an “ordinary” day.

But it is a day where I must choose one way or the other.

Do I live today full out for You, expectant about the ways You are going to work, fully trusting You, eager to obey?

Do I live today saturated in Your Word and prayer so that I will know the lies of the enemy when I hear them?

Do I live today with my eyes and ears wide open to the spiritual realities around me – knowing that everything – politics, race relations, the weather, all of my relationships – they are all spiritual battles first before they are anything else?

Do I live today committed to obedience, to keeping short accounts with You?

 

Or do I live today in apathy?

Not praying because I haven’t seen You move recently?

Not believing because what I need feels impossible?

Not trusting because I am allowing sin to have free reign?

Worrying because I don’t believe You are in control?

Allowing my emotions to run the day rather than Truth?

Following my heart rather than Your Word?

Feeding a bad attitude because of an injustice rather than forgiving as You forgave?

Believing I know better than You do what is best in my life?

Dragging my feet in obedience or rushing ahead of You because You seem to not be listening?

 

Because today is the day before.

Before what, I don’t know.

It could be the day before I blow it big because I yield to temptation.

Or it could be the day before You show up in an extraordinary way, answering a deep cry of my heart.

It could be the day before You return.

Or it could be the day before someone I love chooses to trust You with their eternity because I shared Your love with them.

So how will I live THIS ordinary day? Because, after all, it is the day before.

On Fruits and Roots…

I recently read a devotional by James MacDonald about fruit and roots. And it got me thinking about my own experiences in weeding.

Have you ever pulled a dandelion out of a garden?
You dig and you yank and you finally get that thing out.
Or so you think.
But give it a week or two and it is right back, in the same spot.
Growing exactly where you don’t want it.
Because you didn’t get the root.

Have you ever pulled a weedy thing – a sinful thought or behavior – out of your life?
Asked for forgiveness for something?
Confessed your sin, determined to not do it again?
And then, a week or two later – or an hour or two later – it is right back, in the same spot.
Showing up in your life exactly where you don’t want it.

It’s probably because you dealt with the fruit – but you didn’t get the root.
You asked for forgiveness for snapping at your kids – but you didn’t deal with the simmering anger that led your tongue there in the first place.
You confessed that you once again overate to deal with the emotions you are feeling – but you didn’t deal with the fact that food is the idol in your life, taking the place of God.
You told the Lord you were sorry that your driving behavior was ugly on the way to work – but you didn’t dig out the root, which is a lack of love for others that is driving your behavior.

We all do it.
We deal with what is on the surface in our lives – the things that we can’t ignore any more – but rarely do we address the root of the problem.
Sometimes – perhaps often – that’s because we don’t even realize that the root is there.
We are blind to it.
Not really knowing our own hearts, our own minds.
Not realizing that the fruit that so frustrates us is repeatedly ripening on the same vine, over and over again.

Other times we aren’t blind to it.
We see that there is a problem.
And we really don’t like the fruit.
We confess it and God forgives – but we never see lasting change.
Mostly because we feel like it is unchangeable.
We feel helpless.
So instead of dealing with the root, we operate on a sinful auto-pilot.
“I was born this way.”
“I can’t help it.”

Or, worse yet, we blame someone else for the fruit, naming them as the root of our sinful choices.
“Well, if you knew how he treated me, you would understand.”
“Did you see what she did? She deserves for me to treat her that way!”
However, I am not called to live out his holiness or her walk with God.
I am responsible for my sinful thoughts, attitudes and actions.
Jesus died to take the punishment and I have accepted His work on my behalf, so I will not have to face the ultimate penalty.
But He also came to bring me abundant life.
A life that reflects Him.
Because God says, “Be holy as I am holy.” (I Peter 1)
So I cannot make cheap grace – that wasn’t cheap at all – a reason for blowing off holiness.

Ugh.
Do your toes hurt?
Because I am stomping on mine.

So, what to do?
How do you – and I – deal with the fruit AND the root?

Good news.
You don’t.
We don’t.
Because WE can’t.

We have to let the Holy Spirit do His job.
He alone has the power to expose the root.
Give us His heart for it.
And then extricate it from our hearts.

So let’s make this practical.
Let’s say that the fruit that you see in your life is an untamed tongue.
You repeatedly say the thing you don’t want to say.
Or use the tone you don’t want to use.
Or fly off the handle verbally.
What steps can you take to get to the root?

First, ask the Holy Spirit to do His job, to give you His heart for your sin.
How does God feel about your mouth? Your words? Your heart?
What does the Bible say about it?
Do some digging there and find out.
After all, He created your tongue for His glory.
So what does He want you to do – or not do – with it?
In this case, you’ll discover He has quite a lot to say about your words and how you use them.
For example, just one verse of many on this topic, from Ephesians 4:
“Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].”

After you determine from His Word what the Truth is about your behavior, ask God to show you the root of your sin.
Your quick tongue may be because you have a lake of molten anger simmering just below the surface that you haven’t dealt with.
A person you haven’t forgiven.
A circumstance you haven’t surrendered.
Control you haven’t yielded.

Ask God – He will show you the root.

And once you have identified it, ask Him for the power to remove it.
The power to not watch or listen to the things that feed the root.
The grace to forgive and let go of the grudge.
The strength to rise above your circumstances, trusting Him wholeheartedly.
The grace to let go of the reigns and yield control.

You do not have the strength to pull the roots on your own.
But the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you.” (Ephesians 1)

And “He that began and good work in you will continue until Jesus returns” (Philippians 1)

In addition, God has “bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1)

And “those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not grow tired.” (Isaiah 40)

Because, every part of this life, and especially our battle with sin is “’not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord”. (Zechariah 4)

Deal with the root and the sinful fruit has no place to grow.
Better yet, replace that root with time in the Word.
Time in prayer.
Time with God’s people, worshiping Him and lifting Him high.
An accountability partner who knows about the root and the fruit and will pray with and for you as you deal with it.

Deal with the roots of your sin.
Replace them with the things of God.
And watch God replace the bad fruit with the fruit of His Spirit: “…love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control…” (Galatians 5)