Frozen Chosen

Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.                                                      
2 Samuel 6: 14-15  
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.                                                       
Romans 12:1  
 
There’s a humorous graphic I’ve seen entitled “Non-denominational Guide to Official Worship Signals”, and it has twelve hand-drawn examples of varying levels of hand raising in worship, from rookie “Carry the TV” (picture hands down by the waist, palms turned upwards as if to carry a midsize television) to intermediate “My fish was this big” (arms stretched out about 18 inches apart) to pro “Goalposts + heartburn” (arms stretched out like goalposts with a related heart-covering arm movement), and lastly, to expert “Touchdown” (I’m hoping no explanation needed to picture this one). It makes me giggle, because I’ve seen each of these examples in various events and concerts I’ve been to. I myself have raised my hands at various levels, depending on how full of the Spirit I have felt (that’s a given) and the venue, though my comfort level admittedly doesn’t extend in the “expert” level as of yet.
 
This past Sunday six-year old Mateo stood in the front of the congregation and shared his praise of our Lord in song, his young voice not wavering a bit as he sang to Him. I marveled at his courage and at lack of inhibition in his captivating worship.
 
A couple of months ago Jericho sang “Revelation Song”, and I felt like I had a front-row ticket to the heavenly host singing a chorus of praise to our King. It was a bounty of praise and glory in vertical worship. From my vantage point as liturgist, I glanced out into the congregation and saw a few people raising their hands in worship.
 
Last month I was blessed to be able to see Tim Timmons, Tenth Avenue North, and MercyMe in concert with a friend from work. I was surrounded by thousands of believers who all sang along, most of them moved by the visceral presence of the Holy Spirit to raise their hands to praise the Giver of Life.


Judge Not

Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”                                                       Mark 2:15-17
 
I’m going to riff off of what Pastor Ray preached on Sunday morning, even down to the scripture reference. His words moved me to tears (as they pretty much do every Sunday, in a really good way), as I thought about the two individuals in the scenarios Ray painted as he talked. My teary thoughts led me to recall a story I’d read on Facebook about an Austin church who had attended a Gay Pride parade earlier this year and offered all types of free hugs: mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, and pastor. These church people hugged strangers like they were their own children and grandchildren. The members of the LGBTQ community who partook of these hugs were hungry for the love this church gave to them, for many longed for the touch that spoke volumes and gave them unconditional love and support that some of them lacked from their own families. (I’m crying rereading the article right now). I then started thinking about an episode of “Queer Eye” I watched earlier this year (for the uninitiated: it’s a remake of a show in the 1990s in which five homosexual men makeover someone, in the areas of teaching the guy who to improve his cooking, decorating, personal hygiene, wardrobe, and his overall interaction with people). This episode had the “Fab 5” (as they call themselves) visiting a young man and his mother in Georgia. She was a very involved church member; her son was gay. They were to meet the mother in a church, and one of the five couldn’t bring himself to enter it. He shared with the camera that he’d grown up in the church and was ostracized when he came out. He was so hurt by that act that he physically could not go inside a church. Needless to say, I sobbed watching that episode (on a positive note, he and the young man’s mother talked, her giving personality accepting and loving him. A good amount of healing seemed to occur). Read more…


The Foreshadowing of Christ

 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.                                     Genesis 50:20        

 
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                                     1 Corinthians 15: 56-57  
 
A couple of months ago I listened to a bible study on Genesis, and was intrigued by the story of Joseph. I’d learned it as a child, and studied it as an adult (even wrote a devotional on it not too long ago). I was keenly interested in the bible teacher’s explanation of things, and listened intently as he reviewed each verse. All throughout the study of Joseph’s study, the teacher has pointed out how Joseph has been a foreshadow of Jesus—similarities in how they were conspired against, sold for silver coins, falsely accused, flanked by two transgressors (Joseph with the wine steward and baker in prison; Jesus by the two thieves at the cross); both were thirty years old at the start of their work—just to name a few.  
 
When the teacher first pointed a couple of these out as we went through the story, the words that Joseph tells his brothers in the last chapter of Genesis came to mind: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” It is a gracious and declarative statement for Joseph to make, one that demonstrates how truly mature Joseph’s walk with the Lord was, and a great example of how we are called to respond to our enemies.


Cutting Off the Ends

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 

Mark 7:9

 
There’s the story of the newly married husband who observed his wife preparing to bake a ham for dinner. She cut off the ends of the ham, tossing them into the trash before putting the ham into a roasting pan. After she put the ham into the oven, he asked her why she cut off the ends of the ham, as it seemed an odd and wasteful thing to do. She shrugged her shoulders and told him that that’s how her mother prepared baked ham. Intrigued, he mentioned it to his mother-in-law the next time he saw her. She pondered his question for a moment before telling him that she learned it from her mother. His curiosity piqued, he called his wife’s grandmother to explore the rationale behind it. She told him matter-of-factly that she cut off the ends because she didn’t have a pan big enough to hold the whole ham.  
 
Are there instances in your life where cut off the ends of the proverbial ham? Many workplaces have a focus of process improvement or process engineering to avoid such instances, but I know that there are many who don’t, and it seems that the procedures that were in place during the Cuban Missile Crisis are still in place today (okay, I exaggerate some).   I’d venture to say that this “ham-end cutting” doesn’t happen a lot in our personal lives—I’d hope that as adults, we would understand why we do the things we do, instead of blindly doing them just because (though I might be a bit overly generous…it’s hard to say sometimes with people…).  
 
And now for the $64,000 question: what about our church life—are there times in which we find ourselves cutting off ham ends? Are there opportunities for you individually and us corporately to reexamine what we are doing and why we are doing it? I’m not advocating total anarchy as we decide to riot against the liturgy or music or the sacrament of Holy Communion (oh, please no). What I am suggesting, however, is that we become truly aware of why we are doing what we’re doing in our church service…that we understand our part in worship, and how and if we glorify our heavenly Father throughout it all. Read more…


Friendship

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel

Proverbs 27:9

  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

                              John 14: 16-17

 
For the past 25+ years, I have been blessed to be friends with my dear friend Cathy. We’ve worked together on three separate occasions throughout our careers, with each of those times strengthening our friendship even further. When our paths led us into different directions in between those times, we could meet up and easily resume a conversation from months before. From her I learned how not to judge people, especially myself. She provided shelter when I fled from an abusive relationship with a nine-month old on my hip. She offers support, guidance, and the deepest of bonds anyone could wish for. She isn’t afraid to give me feedback, work, personal, or otherwise, because she wants what’s best for me (“as iron sharpens iron…”).  
 
When we first became friends, we were both lost from God (our perspective, not His). As our friendship endured, our spiritual journeys took different paths, converging ever so often with touch points at key moments of despair and seeking. She dried my tears and lifted me up; I answered her questions about God and Jesus as best I could and prayed for her to know Him again.  
 
Just today, she emailed me the following story. Its author is anonymous, so I don’t think I’m breaking any copyright rules by printing it here.  


Welcoming All

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

                                    Matthew 25:34-40

 

There’s the story of a pastor who transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the mega church where he was later to be introduced as the head pastor. He is said to have waked around the church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people, and only three out of 7,000 people even said “hello” to him. When he asked people for change to buy food, no one in the church gave him any money. At the start of the service, he went to sit in the front, and was asked by the ushers to sit in the back. He was met with stares, dirty looks, and the scorn of people looking down on him.

 

Fast forward to the part of the service where the elders announced the introduction of the new pastor to the church, and were met with joyful clapping. All eyes were on the disguised pastor as he walked up to the front. He then recited the Scripture reference listed above (Matthew 25:34-40), and shared his interaction with them that morning. Many bowed their heads in shame. He then stated, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed the service until the following week.

 

I’ve researched the story, and apparently it is an urban legend. People do feel that it’s based, however, on the true story of a pastor who did something very similar, but with a smaller church and a much different result. This pastor, disguised as a homeless man, had about 20 people out of the 200-person congregation speak to him and offer some type of assistance. His sermon was a call to emulate Christ, not to judge other people by appearances. He ended his sermon with “Our goal should be to improve and change the lives of people as we live like Jesus. You see, we look at the outside of others and make judgments. God looks inside at our heart and sees the truth.”

Read more…



Personality Test

 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

                                    Galatians 1:10

 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

                                    2 Timothy 1:7

 

I shared a couple of devotionals ago my penchant for personality tests and identifying who they say I am, and then applying those insights to improve or inform my daily life and emotional growth.

 

One of the more meaningful tests I’ve taken was the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Early on in my career, our HR and Learning & Development departments did workshops using it, and would provide career counseling for employees to get into the areas for which they were best suited.

 

As I stated before, I am an ISFJ(Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. Read more of it here.) This website calls my type a Defender. Here’s a little description of my type:

Though sensitive, Defenders have excellent analytical abilities; though reserved, they have well-developed people skills and robust social relationships; and though they are generally a conservative type, Defenders are often receptive to change and new ideas.

 

Two quintessential pop culture examples that describe an ISFJ: an eCard that states “Locking your car doors at a light because someone on the corner looks shady or crazy…and then worrying that they heard the doors lock and you are hurting their feelings.” And from the Lord of the Rings: Sam’s character to Frodo’s, while they are on the way to Mordor: “I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you.”

Read more…



The Formative Power of Trials

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you

                                    1 Peter 5:10

 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

                                    James 1:2-4

 

As I was listening to the story of Joseph from a bible study app, I was struck by how positive Joseph had seemed, despite all of the things that had happened to him: sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and subsequently thrown into prison, forgotten by Pharaoh’s baker and wine steward after having successfully interpreted their dreams, languishing there until Pharaoh has a need to have his dreams interpreted. I mean, if anyone had a reason to be down, it was Joseph—right? This young man went from being his father’s favorite child and in charge of his father’s flocks to a prison in a far away land, all through no fault of his own. His life was a figurative sine wave, as experience after experience happened to him, starting on a high note and bringing him down (sold into slavery), then up (overseer of Potiphar’s house), and again down (falsely accused and imprisoned), and up again (overseer of Egypt, second in power to Pharaoh). It would have been easy for us to understand if he’d gotten frustrated, or become angry, or at least stamped his foot and said, “Come on!! You’ve got to be kidding me. I helped those two goons and they couldn’t even remember me to Pharaoh like I asked?” (I can’t imagine having any other reaction than that).

 

But yet we know that Joseph had faith, and had a relationship with the Lord. His rebuke of Potiphar’s wife demonstrates the extent of his walk with God: “…There is no greater in this house than I, nor has he [Potiphar] kept anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Moses records in two separate occasions in Genesis 39 that the Lord was with Joseph, and caused Joseph to prosper, despite the circumstances he was in.

Read more…



Accountability Groups

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’  Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.  And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

                                    2 Kings 5:9-14

 

In just a few chapters ahead of where last week’s devotional was from, we find the story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Syria. We learn that Naaman was an honorable man, one highly thought of by the king due to the Syria’s recent victory. He, unfortunately though, had leprosy. Because of God’s perfect planning, Naaman was able to learn about the prophet Elisha and the potential he had to heal Naaman. The Syrian king sent Naaman to Israel in search of healing. Through circumstances (ahem. Rather, God’s perfect planning), Naaman was sent to the prophet’s house.

Now, Elisha did not meet Naaman in person. Instead, he gave instructions to Naaman through a messenger. Naaman’s instructions were to wash himself in the river Jordan seven times. That’s it. Easy peasy. Apparently, however, Elisha’s methods offended Naaman’s senisibilities: first off, Elisha didn’t meet with him personally, and secondly, how everything happened was not how Naaman pictured it would be. Naaman assumed that Elisha would come to Naaman, pray over him, wave his hand, and heal his leprosy. Since he didn’t do that, Naaman got upset and returned home. There were, after all, rivers in Syria that were better than all the waters of Israel.

Had it not been for the boldness of Naaman’s servants to gently rebuke Naaman, he would have remained a leper. Instead, when he had returned home, his servants pointed out that had Elisha suggested that Naaman do a grand gesture to be healed, Naaman would have definitely obeyed. If Naaman would have been willing to do a large thing, why wasn’t he willing to do a smaller, simpler task?

Naaman must have seen the logic, and humbled himself to perform this small but important task. “And his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” Because of his obedience, and in great humility, Naaman’s health was restored. Naaman returned to Elisha with a new and thankful heart, one that declared that there was “no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Read more…



Digging Ditches

And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ 

                                    2 Kings 3:16-17

 

I’ve written before how I’ve spent so much more time in the New Testament than in the Old, and have wondered what exactly I was supposed to get out of the Old Testament. Well, a while back the Holy Spirit piqued my interest about learning more about David, so I started with 1 Samuel, and have spent the better part of the past two months studying the old prophets and kings of Israel and Judah, and how they walked with or away from the Lord. I have found myself at times eager to get back to their stories and lives when I have days in which I don’t get to read the Word like I want to. It’s like returning to an old friend who has much to teach me.

 

In the third chapter of 2nd Kings, we find Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, doing evil in the Lord’s sight and facing a rebellion from the Moabites, who have refused to continue to pay the nation of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. Jehoram partners with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, as well as the king of Edom to fight against Moab. The three kings and their troops travel via the Wilderness of Edom for seven days, and there was no water for the army or for the animals. Frustrated Jehoram has given up, feeling that the Lord called the three of them together to deliver them into the hands of the Moabites. It is Jehoshaphat who suggests that they inquire of their next steps through a prophet of the Lord, and they are sent to Elisha.

 

Elisha shares with the three kings that they are to build ditches or trenches in the valley, to hold the water that he Lord would miraculously bring down upon them, through means other than a rainstorm with strong wind. The Lord, through Elisha, promises victory to the three, and instructs them to attack the cities and ruin the lands, leaving no trees and no water.

 

We don’t have any insight as to the kings’ reaction; we have only their obedience on record. One has to wonder, though, at the enthusiasm by which they and their troops met the challenge to dig trenches all over the valley. Remember, they had marched for seven days through the wilderness without any water to drink. The physical toll such an exercise had to have taken on them was extreme. Perhaps there was grumbling and resistance. Given Jehoram’s quick declaration of defeat, and the assumable lack of belief on the part of the king of Edom, I would presume that the lion’s share of obedience and faith rested in Jehoshaphat and that it was through his ability to encourage and inspire that they were able to build the ditches for the promised water.

Read more…