A New Song

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psalm 96 NASB

This beautiful psalm is perfect for the beginning of Advent as I anticipate Christ’s coming. Too often, I find myself singing the same old song and praying the same old prayers. This psalm lifts my heart and spirit and makes me want to join the forest and sing for joy.

Do I really think about Christ returning? I love the thought of Emmanuel and the sweet baby in the Christmas manger, but I cannot leave Him there or on the cross or in His ascension to heaven. He is coming again, and that makes me sing with great joy:)

I suppose it’s the judging that causes me to pause. I worry about how He will find me and what I will have to show Him. As soon as I say that, I remember that He is God and loves me more than I have room in my heart to hold or faith enough to understand. Judgment is going to come with Christ, but so is His love for me.  He knows, and I am learning, that this journey is about drawing near to Him and helping others do the same.

Sharing the journey is not easy because it opens my heart in uncomfortable ways, and that often gives me the urge to hide. The beautiful lessons of late have been about the difference in love in His kingdom and the world’s. Love is shared in heaven in ways it isn’t shared on earth. On earth, we hold tightly to love until it becomes lust. In His kingdom, love binds and frees at the same time. Kingdom love heals my heart and allows it to accept and give love in a way that unites and spreads.

It’s taken three years for me to understand the beautiful difference loving in God’s kingdom makes, but it’s been well worth the pain involved. All learning comes at a price; it forces me to change. That change is necessary for the growth needed to live and love in His kingdom. My heart has grown at least three sizes in three years, and it has never felt better. I thank God for loving friends and family who see me as He does and help me see the same. It allows His kingdom to come and His will to be done in my heart, and that makes me sing a new song, “and worship God in the beauty of holiness.” KJV

Tedious Trudge or Joyful Journey?

What’s the first thing you seek when you awake? If you’re like most, it’s a cup of coffee or something to eat. I like to linger in bed and talk to God before I start the day. My day is much better when I start it with Him. If I am worrying or whining, our time together isn’t time together at all. Worry makes it all about me, and that ruins the moment. The day goes from bad to worse. If I seek Him first thing in the morning and thank Him last thing in the evening, I find myself walking in His kingdom throughout the day.

Yesterday was a perfect example of being in His presence all day. I didn’t worry once, and God showed me how beautifully that affects my journey. Anytime I end up doing the children’s story, I know there is a lesson God is trying, without success, to teach me. I have the story today, and it’s about worry:) I’ve read and prayed over the scriptures for two weeks, and Pastor John shared the message God gave him about the powerful passage on seeking. I finally get it, and it is a transforming lesson indeed!

I hadn’t thought of the connection between worrying and seeking until John shared the message with me. Worry and trust are closely connected. If I worry, I don’t trust. If I trust, I don’t worry. It’s a simple message, but one with which I’ve struggled my entire life. Christ knows that worry causes me to miss God’s kingdom, and that makes life a tedious trudge instead of a joyful journey. God lets me decide which path to take, but He prefers I let go of worry and embrace the joy God’s kingdom has for me. Holding on to worry keeps me from seeking God’s kingdom; that makes me let go of worry as if it were a hot coal and seek God in a whole new way:)

Last night, I was getting my sparrow and lily ready for the story this morning,  and I was struck by the notion that worrying forces me to live life in a backward way. If I focus upon food, shelter, clothes, taking, making, getting, and doing, I don’t have time to seek God. Can you imagine what God’s world would look like if we all sought Him first? It would be His world and not ours. It would be His life and not mine. It would truly be “His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven:)” That was part of the powerful lesson this week.

So why do I worry? I worry because I don’t trust God. It’s as simple as that, and God will not let me add any ‘if’s, and’s or but’s to that lesson. I have been known to take a perfectly wonderful lesson God teaches and add a little something to it, and that’s worse than worrying. That’s playing God, and it gets me into more trouble than not trusting Him. I’m humbled when I think of His patience with me and very thankful He sees me as a child learning to walk in His kingdom. Otherwise, I’d be in big trouble.

There is nothing worse than worry. It causes the past and future to invade my present. It makes me old, wrinkles my face, sours my stomach, disrupts my sleep, ruins my health, and keeps me from God’s presence. Wow, do I need any more convincing? I finally got God’s message on Thanksgiving day, and that was perfect timing on His part. Seeing Ali after seven years was icing on the cake yesterday. I told her she was my sticker this week, and what a wonderful blessing it was to hug her tightly and reconnect beautifully.

Worry causes me to look at the clock, think about the cost, wonder if I’m able, etc… Thanksgiving 2012 will go down as the week God put worry in its proper place-behind me! I pray I will remember the lessons from Matthew 6:25-33 as long as I live. I know I will as I seek Him in prayer, look to His Word, and see His world as He desires. God certainly did His part in making the lesson this week memorable, and I know if I will put Him in His proper place-in front of me, the journey will be a joy-filled walk in His kingdom that will help me draw nearer to Him and those He places in my path:)

Bringing in the Sheaves:)

Psalm 126 is the perfect song for Thanksgiving, and so is the hymn it inspired. “Bringing in the Sheaves” was written in 1874 by Knowles Shawl. His words were set to George Minor’s music in 1880, and a wonderful hymn was born. I marvel at the ways God’s Word sprouts and spreads. I haven’t sung the old hymn in many years, but I was reminded of it as I read Psalm 126 last night.

Psalm 126:5-6 says “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” People have been replaced by machines in the field, but the message in Psalm 126 and the hymn remind me that God’s harvest is still personal and requires His children working together to bring the sweet news of salvation to the world.

Sowing is the hard part of the harvest and involves weeping, but reaping brings great joy. Tears water the seeds. Growth is painful and never gets easier, but I must continue to grow as long as I am in this world. Age both helps and hurts the growth process. Maturity shows me the necessity of growth, but age stiffens more than my muscles when it comes to sowing, growing, and reaping as God desires.

I’ve been stiff lately, and I know it is due to a lack of yielding.  I’ve come to a place of deciding if I’m going to go to the next level or stay where I am. The choice is mine. I’ve seen what happens when growing stops; dying begins. Joy departs, and rotting replaces reaping. “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” I prefer reaping to rotting, so I plan to keep growing.

I can’t go into God’s field picking and choosing what to reap or worrying about what happened to my seeds. God’s field is ripe for harvest, and that is all that matters. The song and the psalm use “we” and “those,” both plural. The harvest is best done together. It is God’s field, and He deserves all the credit and the glory. I am here to bring in sheaves with joy and glorify God in the process.

Planting a seed is important, but there are many factors which contribute to a seed’s growth. That is especially true in God’s field.  The only thing that matters is to  “lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” John 4:35 NASB Growing impatient while waiting for the harvest, wondering if the seed I planted is part of the harvest, and worrying about who’s in the field next to me get in way of the harvest and take joy away from bringing in God’s sheaves.

It’s easy to become weary, but it helps if I grow while I wait. If I simply sit back, settle, and become complacent, I will miss the beauty of the process God has in mind for my growth. Seeds take time to mature, and that’s why there is so much joy in reaping. The growing season mirrors the season of my own heart’s growing. There is a time to sow, a time to nurture, a time to wait, and a time to reap. Resting and quitting are very different ways to wait. I love this line from the poem “Don’t quit” by an unknown author. “When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.” 

Growing disciples is a beautiful process that requires deep personal connections in order for roots to reach deeply into Christ’s love. His love feeds and flows beautifully if I open my heart and develop relationships that allow me to walk in His kingdom and help with His harvest. Christ’s precious love makes me come rejoicing as I bring in the sheaves. Sharing it with others is what the harvest is all about:)

What’s Wrong With Worrying?

Worry seems harmless enough. Doesn’t it show that I’m staying on top of things? Isn’t it a sign of maturity and responsibility? Shouldn’t I be thinking ahead and solving problems? Isn’t it important to ponder past mistakes? The answer, according to Matthew 6:25-33, is a clear no!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” NASB

The scriptures from Matthew’s gospel make it perfectly clear that God does not want me to worry. I’ve learned to see worry as a measure of my faith. Fretting shows a lack of faith, and worry is a sin. That keeps worry at a distance. If I believe God is who He says He is, worry has no place in my life. That’s very easy to say, but I’m afraid it isn’t as easy to live out. Seeking God’s kingdom and remembering Christ’s righteousness help me hang out with the Holy Spirit and tell worry to take a hike:)

My stubborn need to be in control and know what is coming are the seeds at the center of my worry wart. God promises to be with me always, and that is more than enough to calm my fear. Fear flees in His presence. Living in the moment is sometimes very unpleasant, but knowing that God shares the hurt reminds me of another beautiful promise.

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30 NASB

There are many more examples of such reassurance in God’s Word.  Joel 2:21-27 tells me He is in with me, and He is my God.  I still fall prey to fear and let worry take up space in my heart and mind, but I’m learning to look to His Word and let it surround me. It embraces and stills as nothing else. Keeping God’s Word near my heart and in my head is the best way to learn from and find joy in this amazing journey:)

Still Ready

To be ready to do God’s will, my heart must be still. The human heart is never physically still, and the healthy heart will beat anywhere from 40 to 100 beats per minute depending upon age, size, condition and activity levels.  It is the strongest and most important muscle in my body. The stillness God requires isn’t about motion or muscle; it’s about focus and love.

Worry is the biggest obstacle when it comes to my heart being still. The Greek word translated as ‘worry’ in Matthew 6:25-33 means “split attention or divided concern.” That makes perfect sense when I think about my own tendency to worry. If I think about God and truly believe He is who He says He is, then my attention is no longer split. If I pray “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done” with my whole heart, my concern is no longer divided. When I read the beautifully reassuring words from Matthew, my worry turns to stillness as faith replaces fear.

 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”NASB

What other words do I need? I am learning to read God’s Word with a stillness that centers my focus and so centers my heart and life. The stillness lasts as long as my focus:) I’m doing better in many ways, but I have a long way to go before I stay still. Perhaps that will only come when I am in heaven. When I experience the sweet stillness that comes when my focus is completely upon God, I get a tiny taste of what is to come. It’s more than enough to make me want more!

The world is great at grabbing my attention and taking it away from the sweet center Christ provides, and my concern is easily divided when I fall into the trap of listening to voices other than God’s. Knowing I can do nothing without Him and everything with Him reminds me to keep my focus upon Him and seek His kingdom and righteousness first, last, and always with a single-heartedness that will help me be still and know He is God. It also helps me to eagerly await His return in a way that helps His kingdom come and His will be done. That’s what walking in God’s kingdom is all about:)

Revelation

Revelation was always a book of gloom and doom that frightened me, so I avoided it like the plague. I just couldn’t understand the imagery and felt lost any time I delved into John’s revelation. Several years ago, I heard Dr. Robert Canoy from Gardner Webb University discuss the book in a way that touched my heart and opened my eyes. I invite you to listen to the five-part study of this beautiful book and pray it blesses you as much as it blesses me. Revelation now fills me with hope, and I believe that’s just what God has in mind:)

Special thanks to Dr. Canoy of Gardner Webb University for allowing me to share it and to Dr. John Tagliarini for inviting him to lead us in revival. 

Dr. Robert Canoy “The Sweetest Name I Know”

Part 2 of Dr. Robert Canoy’s Revelation Series

Part 3 of Dr. Robert Canoy’s Revelation Series

Part 4 of Dr. Robert Canoy’s Revelation Series

Part 5 of Dr. Robert Canoy’s Revelation Series