Worshiping in the Boat

Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’.” Matthew 14:33

In this passage, Jesus had walked upon the water as the disciples in the boat fought a raging storm in the dark. Jesus walked on water? Reigned with power and authority over the forces of ‘nature’? Certainly, yes He did.

But the disciples ‘worshiped on the boat’ – without strobe lights, fog machines, tuned instruments or perfected choir? How is that possible?

Jesus said,

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

God almighty is seeking, looking for, those who will worship in spirit and in truth?   I want Him to find what He’s looking for in me!

I want the boat worship. I want to receive Jesus, acknowledging His power and authority, and meditate on His divine accomplishment on the cross. I want to be led into worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth.

“Christians are guilty of telling more lies to God on Sundays than on any other day….Because it is on Sundays that they sing so many hymns such as, “All to Jesus I surrender”… excerpt, Zac Poonen,  God-Centred Prayer

Human talent, resource, and technology has made ‘worship’ a business…

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Are we attempting to ‘conjure up’ the presence of God?

Many church goers are satisfied with entertaining ‘performance worship’. The emotional appeasement is uplifting, encouraging and even medicinal. But is that anything like the worship in the boat?

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:31

I am searching my own heart, asking…

1. Would I sincerely take the words of the songs I am singing and speak them during prayer time to the Lord? Do I have a prayer time to meet with the Lord?

2. Is the music and song or the ‘atmosphere’ engaging my flesh with rhythm and tempo or are songs drawing me into scriptural truths?

3. Am I engaging in something contrived and artificial?

4. Is worship (adornment, deep honor and reverence) already in my heart before I gather with others or is the gathering working up a group cheer for God?

5. Can I sing the songs, even sing the Psalms, during dark storms –  when my circumstances have horribly changed  – with assurance that God has not changed?

There is value in presenting God our best praise and thanksgiving, especially that unbelievers may see that our God is worthy of all exuberant praise.  But lowly fishermen did not rehearse worship to get it right or impress in any way. The presence of God brought them to their knees, their hearts prostrate, filled with awe.

If Jesus walked into our home during our prayer time (or anytime) we would not pull out a guitar, flash vibrant lights nor would we sway and bop. We would fall to our knees with the weight of our nothingness next to His sovereignty. We would worship.

“Lord in heaven, I do want to worship You in spirit and in truth. Help me to understand what that simply means. Help me to wait on You, even if I must stroke the oars through a dark storm. Give us all a true anticipation of Your presence and prepare our hearts to bow down to You. More than anything Father, I want You to find what You’re looking for in me. In Jesus name, amen”.

May the Lord personally bless you!

Restricting God – Let Me Count the Ways…

Many of us are frequently stirred and humbled by the testimonies of missionaries and servants of God. From Biblical times to present day, men and women proclaim the power of God as He leads them to hidden places of suffering. Surrendered vessels who seem totally insignificant become agents of Most High God, affecting lives for eternity.

And we want that too! Who wouldn’t want their temporary life here to matter in God’s Kingdom? Who, knowing the Lord, wouldn’t want all His purposes and intentions come to fruition? And so we too cry out, perhaps at an altar, perhaps in our private prayer….

“Lord, use me, send me! I want my life to matter, to count…”

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THEN our flesh speaks ‘sense’ into our cry,

“BUT Lord…”
….don’t send me any place hot, you know how I hate the heat. I would be miserable
….you know I couldn’t go very far, you know my limits, I have responsibilities…
….don’t send me to blah-blah, I could never eat that food, and the bugs are ginormous. Agh, Lord send someone else there
….send me to truly needy people, not to those blah-blah; they’re always trying to rip off the system
….I would serve in a hospital ministry but the germs… and who really knows if those comatose people can even hear the Gospel?
….prisons are, well, dangerous. I’m too old….I’m too young
….please don’t call me to serve in my own neighborhood,  that’s too boring!
….if I go there, if I do that – wouldn’t I lose everything?

By the time we’re finished we’re no longer stirred…we’re discouraged!

Underneath is unbelief  which doesn’t really restrict God but restricts us from grasping His best for our lives.

American Christianity may have a foundational flaw embedded from our culture of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘opportunity’ and ‘freedom’. We defend the rights to excel, possess, invest and express.  True Christianity smashes that self-reliant lifestyle. No one naturally wants to die to ‘self’ but when we resist complete surrender, resist the cross of Christ, we risk missing His perfect call upon our lives.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  Jonah 2:8

I for one am not at the place of total surrender. I want to be though, especially in these last days where prophecy points to the soon return of our Lord. I hope for a deeper burden for the lost, not stoked by fleeting and temporal emotions, but one birthed by the Holy Spirit which defies my emotions and intellect.

Would anyone join me in prayer?

“Lord, thank you for saving me and abiding within me. I believe that, no matter what failures mark my life, no matter how ordinary or limited I perceive my life, You are not limited and You can never fail. I pray for a calling, a heavenly burden that will overshadow and nullify every fear and obstacle. Help me to trust You, Lord. Don’t let me imagine remote and ‘fantastic’ things while missing the ‘woman at the well’. Loosen my grip on the things of this world and help me to walk with a view of eternity. In Jesus name, Amen.”

“God promises not just to save us but to give us a full and meaningful life.”  

“We are called to be a testimony to the world that God is alive.”

(Pastor Carter Conlon, Times Square Church)

 

 

Diving Back Into Life Giving Waters

hot springs in armenia

Hot Springs in Armenia – medicinal but not life giving!

When I was five my mother taught me the 23rd Psalm. She told me to repeat it in bed whenever I had bad dreams. Perhaps ongoing repetitions lulled me back to sleep; I doubt I knew about “shepherds” or how they “maketh me lie down in green pastures”.
Now, many years later, I am finding ongoing treasures in this Psalm, different in life seasons. This week, during a time of emotional heaviness, I read, as if for the first time, the 3rd verse,

“He restores my soul”

Other versions read:

“He refreshes my soul”
“He renews my strength”
“He revives my life”
“He brings back my soul”

I began praying for the Lord to restore and heal my soul and believe in His promise to do it.

Intellectual memorizing and reciting scripture is often the death blow to the life giving power of God’s words. This foundational practice of formal religions effectively squelches the Holy Spirit. The “Lord’s Prayer”, often spoken and sung as one long sentence, grants a feeling of piety but hardly ‘connects’ with the Lord. How many people ‘pray’ that prayer and really expect an answer?

Evangelicals also limit the freedom of the Holy Spirit by endlessly using one verse, John 3:16, as if that alone is all that need be said. But we serve a personal God that reaches every person differently. Jesus never repeated the same words verbatim to everyone He met yet His words were healing, provoking, convicting and powerful – delivered differently, depending on who He was addressing and what was needed to be said!

Any verse can become a ‘mantra’. I’m asking today for a newness in scripture reading, where I’m not predicting the next verse from memory but prayerfully opening my heart to a newness from the Holy Spirit. I want His word to actually be for me…

“…living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit….”

“Lord, shake our hearts in these last days. Let every ‘formula’ in our prayer to and sharing of You fall to the ground. Today as we open Your word, let us see it as “living and active” and personal. Inspire us and refresh us with a personal word for others that they may hunger to know You as well.  Lead us, Lord, to joyously dig beyond the surface….”

“For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17)

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.  Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”   (Isaiah 12:2-3)

 

(Springs: “a place where water wells up from an underground, unseen source”)

“You, Lord, Care for People and Animals”…Maggie!

“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.”  Psalm 36:6

One may recall from previous post, “The Lord Taketh Away…Maggie!” (3/5/17) that I tearfully purchased a burial pod for my furry friend in February this year. But six months after the significant diagnoses of megacolon, liver mass, pancreatitis, cholangiohepatitis, and anemia, Maggie is still here and on the go!

Maggie in PA for Summit School of Ministry graduation…

Maggie in PA (2)

Graduation can wait…room service please!!

Why is this important? The Lord often reveals His truths and glory through His creation, whether through the lion’s boldness, the ant’s diligence, or the beauty of the lily of the valley. In fact, the Lord can reveal His truths through any and all the circumstances in our life…which includes the life of Maggie! God is not bound by any report of man whether it is a negative, even terminal, medical report, a ‘pink slip’, divorce paper or ominous threat. When such a report comes, it may be time for the ‘burial pod’ but faith should open our heart to whatever the Lord reveals for His purpose and pleasure.

When the Lord calls us to “go” or to “do”, He will enable us, provide for us, and fulfill His purposes through us in spite of limitations and obstacles. It is through those challenges that faith muscles grow and God’s word is proven.

May this truth take root – God is not deterred when the sun is setting on our life. Age, dwindling resources, and increasing weakness are not hardships to God who declares, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord is not looking for super Christians, only surrendered vessels in whom He can dwell. Whether He allows or brings us into storms of hardship, disappointment, sickness, or betrayal we can hold onto the promise of Romans 8:28 which represents the sovereignty of God. For those who are His, all circumstances, events, calamities and details – even enemies – are under His control.

Elderly Maggie attends All Night Prayer (Commemorate Armenian MartyrsPray for Their Unborn posted 4/12/17)

Maggie at all night prayer (2)

Well, nearly all night!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Our ‘own understanding’ leads us to ‘figure it out’, ‘plan ahead’ and ‘move forward’ without hearing from God. While the world rewards ‘self-starters’, the ‘empowered’ and ‘ambitious’, the Lord is seeking surrendered followers who wait and trust Him with the lead.

Maggie and Bible 2

“Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

God knows when every “sparrow falls to the ground” and He knows the exact day Maggie will ‘fall to the ground’. Until then and until that day comes for us, we are not bound by any bad report of man.  If “our lives are hidden in Christ” He has reign over our lives and will “order our steps” as we surrender to Him.

“Lord, I pray that we can live each day with faith that You’re in charge, that You have all authority, and that You are well able to order our steps. I pray for a hunger to know your word more and meditate upon it so it takes root and lives within me. Help me to commit and obey. May the reports of ‘man’ – no matter how ominous or weighty – never cause us to shutter but compel us to seek you, trust you and wait upon you for direction.  Amen.” .

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11

The Importance of Failure in Our Walk With God

That Sunday morning started out good and got even better during church. The Lord allowed another ‘chance encounter’ with someone who needed prayer and counsel. This time a single mother was outside the sanctuary, weeping and distraught. I was so grateful for the words to minister and was elated later when I saw her come inside and join the service.

I was feeling so ‘good’ in fact I prayed, “Oh Lord, don’t let me think I’m anyone special or that it is in me to restore or uplift anybody. Humble me Lord.” The last part of the prayer made me a bit nervous….

That afternoon, at a ministry meeting, the director spoke about engaging troubled and rebellious people, a frequent occurrence in a large urban church. He discussed techniques to verbally disarm and defuse hostile people and lead them effectively to comply. Ah, didn’t I know all this? Hadn’t I practiced these interventions?

Later that same afternoon, in walks a woman with children wanting assistance from church ministry. While she and the kids were treated to a meal at a nearby diner, she returned wanting further assistance. She did not need shelter but apparently money. Someone gave her the impression that she might get such help after the service.

She waited in the lobby as the service went on and, not interested in ‘church’ she grew impatient, disregarding the promptings of ushers and others not to sit on the floor, to supervise her kids, etc. Our ministry was asked to intervene, I took the lead. When I approached and assessed her angry face, all the ‘disarming techniques’ fell to the ground. I explained that she must comply. She refused and dismissed me. I responded with a statement that, not only got her off the floor but unleashed the rest of her pent up fury. While the pastor was preaching in the sanctuary, she yelled out obscenities and curses upon me in the lobby. Apologies were futile as my pointed words somehow broke a floodgate of anger. My husband berated me and the woman stormed out of the lobby, continuing her ranting out on the sidewalk.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel lower, she yelled out from the sidewalk, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!!” No, I surely didn’t know and would probably never know. Her statement so indicted me, and in front of everyone! I felt like such a loser and to think just that morning….

I was feeling so ‘good’ in fact I prayed, “Oh Lord, don’t let me think I’m anyone special or that it is in me to restore or uplift anybody. Humble me Lord.”

Agh! I was humbled in front of the brethren whose esteem I value. I did not at all feel like ‘anyone special’ but rather especially terrible.

The Lord graciously exposed the pride in my heart, enough pride to feel sufficient in my own capabilities. I had assessed a situation with my own reasoning, without the spiritual discernment or compassion to reach beyond a person’s presenting hostility. James chapter 3 points to the power of our words, so apropos is verse 5, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. Yet, lest the devil tempt us with self-condemnation James assures us that, “We all stumble in many ways.”

Importantly, I truly sensed that while the Lord was exposing and humbling, His promise and purpose for my life did not diminish. In fact, with correction and surrender, I am confident to continue, knowing that in Christ my failures don’t define me but can truly refine me.

I am thankful for a heavenly Father who (painfully) chastises, not at all to condemn, but to refine and mature so that we may move forward and better represent Him. Ultimately however, it is God’s will that we be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) towards which He will reveal, chastise and humble our un-Christ-like ways.

Has this ever happened to you?

“Heavenly Father, I pray for all of us who have failed in any way, made a wrong choice, or fell into a temptation.  I pray that we all receive your correction in love, resist every temptation of self-condemnation, and rest assured of your fellowship and promise . For those who don’t know You and Your loving fellowship, I pray that they enter into relationship, repenting of every wrongdoing and receiving full pardon and new life by trusting in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose, conquering death.  May we all know freedom from condemnation and abundant life through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

When the Lord “Taketh Away”…Maggie!

“…the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

Soon after Maggie’s fabulous New Year Resolutions (see December 2016: Resolutions? Maggie Knows the Best!) she went to her vet with constipation and another seemingly minor complaint.  Surely simple interventions would resolve the problems and we’d be on our way….

“Haven’t you noticed that Maggie’s lost weight over the past few months?  She’s lost 2 pounds!”  The concern on Dr. Chiverton’s face seemed odd, I thought slimming down was a good thing.  However, x-rays, a sonogram and overview of blood work analysis yielded bad news…liver tumor, pancreatitis, and the final stage of chronic constipation – megacolon.  I saw the results and know what they mean for a 16 year old cat, “I want to treat her, make her comfortable, but I don’t want to prop up her life artificially to make me happy.”  With that I left Maggie in the clinic hospital.

maggie-in-hospital

Maggie during visiting hours….

A challenge loomed ahead as a planned trip with my elderly parents was set four days later.  Could I leave my loyal and loving companion?  Might she pass away while I’m gone?  Could I disappoint my elderly parents?  I prayed and could not discard the conclusion to go.  I hired a vet tech to oversee and administer meds.   “She’ll be okay” my husband said but to me I saw her weak and fading away…

I do believe in the sovereignty of God and His desire to reveal Himself to us and that He often does so when we are oppressed and in turmoil.  He honors our decision to go forth as He leads even when our feet are iron clad. 

I went through the motions at the airport with a heavy heart.  As time passed and thoughts swirled, pain gripped my heart.  I walked slowly to a vendor for bottled water and suddenly these words rose up clearly and etched into my soul,

“In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:10 

With a deep exhale, a great weight was lifted from me and the following days passed lightly, even enjoyably.

Maggie did survive but soon returned to the hospital.  This time I began perusing ‘final destination’ plans for my furry good friend.   “I believe God’s going to heal Maggie”, said husband Bob.  I almost chuckled when he added, “she can be with us another 5 years.”  I was hoping for another 5 weeks, when the ground wouldn’t be so frozen….

As I sat in the waiting room praying, contemplating and further perusing, another verse pressed upon my heart,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above….” James 1:17

I never doubted that Maggie was a good and perfect gift from my heavenly Father.  After finding her and her litter at an abandoned brownstone, she was the friend who sat beside me during times of grief, cuddled alongside when others betrayed,and  remained constant when life events brought upheaval and confusion.   Maggie is a ‘good and perfect gift’.  From that my heart grasped the further truth:  when God gives a good and perfect gift, His hand is seen in the beginning and in the end.  I sincerely and decidedly handed Maggie back to the Lord,” I give her back to you Lord” and my worries lifted.

And what is Maggie’s status?

podphoto

We’ll be storing this away for now!

Subsequent exams show her colon shrunk.  Recent blood screens find liver enzymes normal.  Is the tumor gone?  I don’t know.  Maggie’s eating again, gained 3 ounces in two weeks and, pardon me but she’s even pooping!  It hardly gets better.

Animals may be nicer but are not more important than people however, spiritual lessons and intimate fellowship with the Lord has immeasurable value.  When scripture transforms from written word to living word, we hear from heaven.  We will not ‘throw away’ the burial pod but will trust the Lord to keep that which we committed to Him.  We trust Him to prepare us for every life event – the giving and the taking away – and anticipate His lovingkindness even or especially when brokenhearted.

“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10)  Maggie agrees….

maggie-slaps-five

and slaps a low five!

Resolutions? Maggie Knows The Best!

In fact, there is no need to wait for a calendar change or ‘ball drop’ to start these….

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

maggie-reads

                                               “I will seek Him with all my heart…”

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior;  my God will hear me”.  Micah 7:7

maggie-at-window-1

                                                     “I will wait upon the Lord”

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8

maggie-snoozing

“I will rest on His promises”

I pray that we find the Lord in greater measure.  And that God’s word encourage us as we wait upon Him through trial and storm, finding rest through the Holy Spirit.  

May the Lord order our steps into the New Year.  God bless you!