Sing A New Song!

worship

O sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day.

Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works and wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

Psalm 96:1-3

Sing a new song…
A song of faithfulness
A song of thanksgiving
A song of change and changing
A song of Your direction
A song of Your goodness
Your mercies, new with each sunrise

Sing a new song…
A song of joy in the midst of trial
A song of hope in the midst of despair
A song of life when surrounded by death
A song of praise even when my feet are in stocks and my hands are in chains

Sing a new song…
A song of trust when facing the unknown
A song of joy even when my pockets are empty
A song of excitement even though I cannot see my hand in front of my face
A song of a good future and a hope even when I am blind

Sing a new song…
Through tears if necessary
Through sorrow as it comes
Through painful circumstances and fiery trials
Through the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves

Sing a new song…
Because outwardly we are wasting
But inwardly we are being renewed day by day

Sing a new song…
Because weeping may last for the night
But joy comes in the morning

Sing a new song…
Because these light and momentary afflictions
Pale in the face of His glory

Sing a new song…
Because the lost and dying world needs to see
That we have hope no matter what

Sing a new song…
Because they will know we are Christians
By our love

Sing a new song…
Because His heart is worthy of our praise
Even when the purpose of His hand eludes us.

Sing a new song…
Because we are living on the title page
Of a glorious book that begins with our final breath

Sing a new song…
Because the storm is raging
But He is in the boat

Sing a new song…
Of joy
Of perseverance
Of hope
Of praise
Of thankfulness
Of mercy
Of kindness
Of loving

Lift your head!
And choose to sing a new song!
Not based on your feelings
Not based on your bank account
Not based on your marital status
Not based on what lies ahead
Not based on your past
Not based on your abilities
Not based on how you see these circumstances
Not based on your political party
Not based on your limited perception

Sing a new song
Because of Who He is
And because you are His

Because of the redemption bought at the cross
And the fact that the tomb is empty

Because of the promises He has made
And that they are all “YES” in Christ

Because He IS in control
And because joy comes when you surrender

Sing a new song
Not because you feel it
But because He is worthy.

Sing a new song!

Faith, Flaming Arrows and the Good Fight

shield of faith

Zip! Thwack!
You can hear the arrow as it hits the target, embedding deeply in tender flesh.
“If God really loved you, He wouldn’t be holding out on you.”

Zip! Thwack!
“If He really meant what He said, your circumstances would have changed by now. He obviously didn’t mean it.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Actually, God probably isn’t the problem. It’s you. You keep Him from answering your prayers. It’s a shame how you are always failing, always messing up, always doing the wrong thing. People think you’re so great. But you’re not. If you were, God would have answered your prayer by now.”

Zip! Thwack!
“Look at how bad things are! They aren’t going to get any better. This is hopeless. You are helpless.”

Zip! Thwack!
“You can’t really trust Him, you know.”

Arrows.
Darts.
Fiery ones.

Lies from the enemy.
All designed to make you doubt the character of God.
Doubt His goodness.
Doubt that He is for you and not against you.

Lies designed to make you believe only what your five senses tell you.
To make you focus on the circumstances you are in.
And the ways out of it that you can see.
The plans you can make, understand and manipulate.

All Christ-followers face these lies of the enemy.
These flaming darts.
Which is why God has given us the shield of faith.

Faith in what? What does that look like?
My ability to deal with the lies?
My ability to discern them?
My ability to fight?

Faith in myself always, always fails.
Because I am not a worthy object of faith.
I am a fallen human being in desperate need of saving.

So this shield of faith is cannot be about me gritting my teeth and conjuring up more faith from somewhere inside of me.
Rather, this shield of faith HAS TO BE about me putting my confidence in the only worthy object of it – God.
Not the God I imagine Him to be or claim Him to be or think Him to be.
But Who He is.

As revealed by His Word.
By the cross.
By the empty tomb.
By the record of history.
And the glory of His creation all around me.

His character.
His heart.
His goodness.
His mercy.
He.
Himself.

Yes, this shield of faith is about me choosing to believe.
But not believing in my belief.
But rather putting all my faith, all my trust, all of me in the Truth about who God is.

Which is why I think it could really be called the shield of thankfulness.
The shield of praise.
And the shield of remembering.

Because when the darts come, thankfulness protects my heart.
The enemy says, “God is not good.”
Thankfulness says, “But I have seen His goodness in these specific ways” as I list them out.

The enemy says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Praise says, “Here’s a reminder of His character, His faithfulness, His transcendence. He is God. I am not.”

The enemy says, “God is holding out on you.”
Remembering says, “I have seen in my history – and so many others – the faithful love of the Lord. I cannot see what He is doing in the days ahead – but I can look back at His track record and choose to trust.”

The Roman shield that Paul modeled the armor after in his letter to the church at Ephesus was a frame with layers and layers of leather stretched over it. Before battle, the shield would be dipped in water to make it ready to put out flaming arrows.

The shield of faith is made up of layers and layers of history.
Personal history with the God who saves.
Stories from the lives of people I know who have seen Him work.
Reports from recent history where He has intervened.
And the record of Scripture, the true stories of His story.

And over, within, throughout each of those layers, more layers of thankfulness.
Gratitude for what He has done.
That His character has always proven trustworthy.
That He has always turned the darkest nights into dawn.
That He has come through time after time after time.
In my life. In those lives. In the faithfulness of His story.

I have stretched those layers over the frame by studying His Word.
Learning from His people.
Asking His Spirit to enlighten my heart.
And recording what He has done so I can remember it well.
Rehearsing thankfulness in the days before the battle.
Learning His history and character when the arrows are not flying.
So when the fly, I am ready. The layers are stretched. The shield is thick.

And then, when the arrows start to fly, I dip those layers in the refreshing water of praise.
I lift my voice to sing, to pray, to shout His goodness.
I whisper praises through tears and brokenness.
I soak in His Word, drenching those layers with Living Water.

And when those fiery darts land they find no purchase.
The thoughts come.
The arrows fly.
But the shield refutes them. Refuses them. Repels them.

Not the shield of me trusting me.
But the shield of my thankfulness for the character of God, even amid difficult circumstances.
My remembrance of Who He is even as the lies fly.
And my praise for His character, trusting His heart even when I cannot see His hand at work.

And what was a flaming arrow intended for my destruction bounces off, drenched. Instead of taking me down, it becomes a burnt-out matchstick, sizzling weakly at my feet.

On Sunrise and the Burning Season

hazy

The sun rose this morning in Guatemala.
It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise.
Pretty, but not gorgeous.
That is mostly because we are in the middle of burning season.
During these last few weeks as dry season ends, farmers burn off the residual layers of their crops to prepare for planting and the rainy season.
So, while much of the rest of the world is seeing better air quality from lack of human activity, our air is hazy and thick most of the time.

Which means that this morning I saw some pretty colors.
The sky lightened for sure.
But it was a quiet sunrise.
And for the better part of it, I could not see the sun at all.
I saw the effects – but the sun itself was hidden in the haze.

But it struck me again as I watched.
Even when I cannot see the sun, it is there.
I know that if I were able to be in a plane at this moment, I would see something completely different.
We would be above the haze, above the burning.
I would most definitely be able to see the sun.
I would not be able to look at it directly, of course, because the radiance would far outshine what my eyes can handle.
But it would be a completely different perspective, above the burning.

Because, whether I see it or not, the sun is there.
Hazy, cloudy, rainy – it is there.
Clear, crisp, clean – it is there.
The sun is always there.
And it rises every morning.


The Son rose that morning.
The actual event was quiet.
Not spectacular.
One moment, He was dead.
The next, He was alive.

But the effect of that Sonrise?
Oh my goodness!

Life-changing.
Revolutionary.
Staggering.
Radical.

Death was defeated.
Satan’s head was crushed.
Victory was won.
The grave had no grip on Him, so it has no grip on me.
Which means fear is defeated as well.

Sin is paid for.
Fellowship, relationship, friendship with God is restored.
The path is open for me to come directly to God.
No priest needed.
No sacrifice needed.
No veil between the two of us.

Incredible Sonrise!
It changes everything!

Even when the world is in burning season like it is now.

Especially when we are in burning season like we are now.

All the things that we have depended on – our own resources, our abilities to protect ourselves, our entertainment, even our livelihoods, are stripped away.
We have been laid bare.
Down to the soil of who we are.
Without the trappings.
Without the idols.
Without our self-sufficiency.

Even when the haze of pain and suffering hangs heavy in the air.
Even when it feels hopeless.
And we feel helpless.
Even then, the Son is risen!

And when I allow my spirit to rise above the haze, above the clouds, above the burning, I can see Him.
I can see that He is still seated on His throne at the right hand of God the Father.
I can see that He is still the Glue that holds all things together.
I can see that He is still the Lamb Who Was Slain and the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for this sheep.
I can see that He is indeed Worthy.
Worthy of every praise
Worthy of all of my life
Worthy of my trust even when I do not understand
Worthy of my worship
Worthy of being the only God I bow before
Worthy of every song I could ever sing
Worthy of every gift I have
Worthy of ALL my time, attention and effort
He. Is. Worthy.

I can barely look at Him in all His glory.
My human eyes and finite mind cannot fully comprehend what I am seeing.
Who I am seeing.

But my whole perspective shifts when I rise above the haze.
When I look to the Sonrise.
When I intentionally set my eyes on the Son.

I am transformed.
Renewed.
Strengthened for the long days ahead.
The unknowns.
The uncertainties.
Secure in the knowledge that the Son IS there.
Even when I cannot see Him.
Even when He is hidden in the haze, the smoke, the pollution of suffering.
He is there.


And then I am reminded of the purpose of this season.
The reason the farmers are burning the fields.
The reason the air is thick with smoke.

It is so the seed can be sown.
The crops planted.
And the harvest eventually gathered in.

The burning away of the old makes room for the new.
The fire of suffering does the same thing in my soul.
It forces me down to the bare essentials.
The reality of who I am and Who God is.
The acknowledgement that I am not in control.
Not able to heal.
Not able to save myself.

But it leaves behind fresh ground, ready for new.
Renewed life.
Restored fellowship.
Revival.
In me.
In you.
In His bride, the Church.
So that the world may know the He is real.
And He is risen.
Just as He said.


The Son rose today.
That reality changes everything.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Calling All Warriors!

Calling all warriors

This post is for Christ-followers.
If you are not one, it will sound like foolishness.
If you are one, it should sound like hope.

Here are the lies that the enemy of our souls wants us to believe right now:
We are helpless in the face of this virus, economic uncertainty and world events.
And we are hopeless because we are helpless.

LIES.
Utter, complete, ridiculous lies.

Believer, there are TWO worlds.
In this physical one that we experience with our five senses, we are stuck.
Stuck at home.
Stuck with all kinds of precautions, rules and fears.
Stuck with unknowns like when, and why and how.

And the enemy wants you to be stuck.
To shut down.
To be depressed or sad or angry or self-focused or fear-focused or overwhelmed.
He wants you to not only experience those feelings – which are real and valid.
He wants you to live in them.
Wallow in them.
And operate out of them.

Because if he can shut you down and trap you in your feelings, then he can shut down the battle you are called to fight.
He can turn you from the warrior you are to the weakling he wants you to be.
He can convince you that you do not have the victory, even though you do!

So he will feed the negative emotions as long as you allow him to do so.

He wants to feed your fears in this world.
He wants you to believe that you can do nothing.
That you are a victim of your circumstances.

Or he is trying to tell you that you can do everything.
That you can control the outcomes.

Both of those are lies.

Because if he can shut you down in the physical world, then you are no threat to him in the spiritual.

He has to work that way – through deception.
Because HE HAS NO POWER OVER YOU.
He is defeated.
He is weak.
The God who lives in you is GREATER.
More powerful.
Able.
You have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead living in you!

That means the only power the enemy holds in your life is the power you give him.
The only places he is allowed are the places you let him in.
The only control he has is what you hand over to him.

So he uses the only weapon he has against you: lies.
He works hard to feed the lies.
Keep you centered on how you feel.
Feed the fears.
Feed the deceptions.
Because if the enemy can get you to believe the lies, then you are defeated.
Not because you are – but because you think you are.
You believe you are.

So he focuses your eyes on the fears.
The what-ifs
The unknowns
Your helplessness
Your inabilities

GUESS WHAT???
You have always been helpless!
You have always been unable!
You have always been insufficient to meet your needs!
You have always been helpless!

Which is a GLORIOUS truth!!!

Because there is a second world.
The REAL world.
The eternal one.

And in that world, Jesus says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” while at the same time he says, “in Me, you can do everything I have called you to do!”

You ARE helpless – but He is your help in time of need.
You ARE weak – but in your weakness, He is strong.
You ARE powerless – but He is the Almighty.
You ARE falling to pieces – but He is the glue that holds the universe together.
You ARE broken – but He is the one who restores.
You ARE walking through fire and flood – but He is the one who walks with you through it.

So I say, please, please live in the REAL world.
Set your eyes, your heart, your mind on the spiritual world.
Because here is the truth that the enemy does NOT want you to know, believe and operate in:

In the REAL world, you have ALREADY been given everything you need for life and godliness.
In that world, Satan’s head has been crushed by the cross and the empty tomb.
In that world, you are clothed in righteousness, in pure white garments.
In that world, you are outfitted with strong armor and powerful weapons.
In that world, you are ALREADY the victor!
Because the tomb is ALREADY empty!
The debt is ALREADY paid!

So are you helpless and hopeless?
Oh no!
You are a warrior!
Called to fight in this battle for souls.
Called to fight the fear, discouragement, hopelessness, and despair.
Called to use the weapons of our warfare.

To take every thought captive to Christ.
To seek the face of the Living God.
To fall on your knees in prayer.
And to lift high your hands in praise.

To sharpen your sword by spending time in the Word.
To use this time to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To share the Good News with a lost and dying world instead of filling your time with the bad news in the media.
To lift up those around you with encouraging words and the hope that you have.
To set your eyes on things above, on the truth that this world is not all there is, that this is just a blip on the screen of time and eternity.

To walk in LIVING HOPE.

What does that look like practically?
For me, it means turning on the praise music more often than the news.
It means reaching out with encouragement in every way I know how through every avenue I have.
It means listening to uplifting podcasts.
Reading encouraging things.
Praying for whoever crosses my mind when they cross my mind.
Rehearsing truth over and over again in my mind.
And when fears creep in, telling them that my God is greater.
Repeating Scripture.
Taking walks with God.
Being still and listening to His voice.
Writing encouraging stuff down.
And seeking His face.
Looking for ways to serve.
Including serving by obeying the government God has established.
Starting each day with, “God, I have very little to do today in the physical world. But You have a good plan for my day. So guide my steps and guard my thoughts as only You can. Use me today.”
And remembering that prayer is not the last resort but the first line of offense.
Not defense.
OFFENSE.

Please, please, brothers and sisters in the Lord: don’t waste this opportunity to engage in battle. The enemy intends this time for evil. But God is using it for good. He is calling you to be a part of the victory!

Will you do battle in His name, one day at a time, one event at a time, one disappointment at a time? Or will you lay down, defeated?

Will you live in fear or in victory? Will you live in complaining or in praise? Will you battle people or will you battle the real enemy? Will you come out of this better in the Lord or bitter in your spirit?

These are moment by moment choices. And ones that only you can decide.

A P.S.  I usually include the references for each truth from Scripture in the piece.  But this time, they are here so you can really chew on them if you want to do so:

  • Called to battle, the armor we have: Ephesians 6
  • Unable to do anything without Christ, all things in Christ: John 15, Philippians 4
  • Same power at work in you that raised Jesus from the dead: Ephesians 1, Romans 8
  • Being transformed by the renewing of your mind: Romans 12
  • Help in time of need: Hebrews 4
  • Walking with you through fire and flood: Isaiah 43
  • Setting your mind on things above: Colossians 3
  • Taking every thought captive to Christ: 2 Corinthians 10
  • When you are weak, He is strong: 2 Corinthians 12
  • He is the glue that holds all things: Colossians 1
  • You are broken but He restores: 2 Corinthians 4
  • Given all you need for life and godliness already: 2 Peter 1
  • Praise as a weapon: Psalm 8
  • Obeying government: Romans 13