God-Song

Sometimes God says to us:

You don’t seem to realize – I’m singing my Song over you. If you run from it, I’m going to keep singing. At the top of My lungs. But it’s up to you to listen. If you keep running, and I stay where I am, the Song is going to be muffled. You’re still going to hear it, but it’s going to sound further and further away, and more and more muffled, that when you do turn around to listen to it, you’re not going to be able to hear My words, and the Song is going to sound differently to you than what I’m actually singing.

The Shunammite woman cried to Elisha for help, and told him, “As sure as God lives and you live, you’re not leaving me behind” (2 Kings 4:30). Because of her recklessly bold faith and determination, her son was given another chance at life. A life was saved. She refused to leave the presence of the one who had the message and power of God.

Someone I know prays that way. She relentlessly holds onto what she feels and boldly prays before the Throne of Grace. She calls out, searching for Him – “Don’t leave, Jesus!” With her hands outstretched and her heart revealed, she calls out for Him, knowing others may deem her strange. She’s not worried. She’s in the presence of her Lover, and she can’t help but cling to Him.

David prayed the same way –

“I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing; To live with Him in His house my whole life long” – Psalm 27:4.

Solomon tells the story of a man and woman in love, and how the woman sought after her Love. She ran through the streets at night searching for him, calling out to every passerby to find him.

I longed for my Lover. I wanted Him desperately. His absence was painful.

So I got up, went out and roved the city, hunting through streets and down alleys. I wanted my Lover in the worst way!

I looked high and low and didn’t find Him. And then the night watchmen found me as they patrolled the darkened city.

“Have you seen my Dear Lost Love?” I asked.

No sooner had I left them than I found Him, found my Dear Lost Love.

I threw my arms around Him and held Him tight, wouldn’t let go until I had Him home again, safe at home beside the fire. (Song of Songs 3:1b-7)

Oh, that we would hold on to God’s voice and presence! That we would seek after Him, unashamed of our cry. She refuses to worry about the watchmen, about what they would think of her.

Let the absence of the Song be painful. Let the memory of Your arms be insufficient. Nothing good comes out of complacency, and I for one refuse to let the God-Song being sung over me grow muffled.

What do you hear Him singing over you?

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God’s Side

This totally slapped me in the face, ate my lunch, and made me reevaluate my life.

Psalms 12:5
Into the hovels of the poor,
Into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks:
“I’ve had enough; I’m on my way
To heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.”

God says He’s on His way to heal the ache. My question is how will He do this? One way, which we all hope for and wait for, is for Him to miraculously give them all jobs, homes, money, just straight from the sky. It’d be nice.

But Ockham’s Razor suggests a more simple way – He would use His hands and feet. 
What are His hands and feet?

We are.

But how is that even possible? It obviously hasn’t happened yet. There are still homeless and jobless and poverty-stricken people. Then I realized – How would God be able to do these wonderful things if we continue to refuse to be used in this capacity? Continue to make excuses?

It’s impossible for God to work in the lives of the “least of these” if we bind His hands and feet.

We can’t just choose to stay in the “house of the righteous” and never step out to invite more in. You can set the table, bake the good food, clean the house, even mow the grass outside, but if no one knows about it, what good is it? Is it all just worth a self-righteous pat on the back? A reveling in our own good works?

The nice house is no use without a new face to enjoy it and appreciate the good food they’ve never tasted, the clean house they’ve never experienced… You wouldn’t plan a party, not invite anyone, and then get mad if no one came but those who planned. It’s up to us to get them there.

I always pray and ask for the chance to reach someone in need. But I felt God speak straight to me about this very subject this morning – this is what I felt He said to me:

Don’t just ask for the opportunity to reach them. SEIZE the opportunity. MAKE the opportunity. Ride with the window down and cash in hand, ready to give to the man with a cardboard sign on the side of the road. It doesn’t matter what the money is used for once you give it. DO IT – GIVE IT – to the least of these. That’s all I asked for.

I didn’t say to gauge who was the least of the least, who by sheer poverty was the most deserving of your blessings. If they have less than you, that’s the least.

Alcoholics? The least.
Drug Addicts? The least.
Homeless? The least.
Jobless? The least.
Broken homes? The least.

The question WHY is not important.
Just be my hands and feet. 
Stop worrying about the details.

Psalms 14:5 says, “God takes the side of victims.”

It doesn’t say what kind of victim, how dire the victim’s situation, what that victim is doing after being victimized… It just says victims. God is on their side.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be on God’s side.

Lord, Make Me Like Gomer.

The title of this may shock a few of you- Liz, why are you asking to be made into one like a prostitute? Let me explain…
Hosea. I can’t get over this prophet, this living parable of God’s love. I can’t get over his loyal, sacrificial love for Gomer, the wife God chose for him.

“Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has beome a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God. Hosea did it.” (Hosea 1:2)

Yes, I just used the word “whore,” and yes, it really is in the bible. Shocker.
God told Hosea to do this because of the way His own bride, the country of Israel, had treated Him. And the part that is even more amazing – “Hosea did it.” Hosea married a whore. To prove God’s love.

She didn’t straighten up when they got married. Where she had once engaged in fornication, she now committed adultery. When she definitely didn’t deserve it, Hosea continued to give his love exclusively to her. He took her back after every failure.

God called him to be the example, to show not only His love and faithfulness, but also His frustration toward His people. God not only told Hosea who to marry, He also told him what to name his children, furthering the parable-life Hosea was to lead.

“Name him Jezreel… I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel”
“Name this one No-Mercy… I’ve run out of mercy; there’s no more forgiveness”
“Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me, and I, God, am a nobody to you”

He named each child according to His feelings and anger toward the people. But the beauty of God’s love comes as His anger is appeased and his feelings change:

“In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody… There’ll be no stopping them.”
“Rename your brothers ‘God’s Somebody. Rename your sisters ‘All Mercy.'” (Hosea 2:1)

God may take us through trial, but He doesn’t desert us, and He doesn’t keep us there. Even though we do wrong and feel as if there is no mercy, no joy, no hope to ever come out of a situation, feel as if we are nobodies, God can take out the shame and turn it into peace – our guilt into testimony.

And another thought – what would Hosea had been without Gomer? What would he have been withoutGomer’s faults? Could he have been such a prophet without the life-story?

Hosea proves and reiterates the idea that, in order to be truly used of God, we need to be open to being nobodies. Be open to be a failure; to having problems. God finds little to no glory is a “perfect” life. His true goodness is shown to those in great trial and failure.

Could the Israelites known of God’s love and power and mercy so clearly had they not experienced slavery, oppression and poverty?

Even so, could WE have known to love Jesus without the need for a cross? It’s through God solving our problems, meeting our needs, saving our sins, with divine intervention that His glory is made manifest in our lives. Judson Corwall says, “Great deliverance brings great worship.” The failure of yesterday is the testimony and memorial of God’s love today.

May we never become so “perfect” and put together that we are no longer in need of a savior.

Lord, make me like Gomer.

Caleb

There have only been a few men, who in the Bible, are called “My Servant” by God. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah, and Job (not to mention King Nebuchadnezzar, Zerubbabel and Eliakim) were all a part of this fellowship. However, along with these men of major importance, – kings, priests, prophets and men of great trial- comes one who does not seem to fit with the rest.

Caleb.

Caleb was a warrior. He stood firmly by the leadership of his day, Moses and Joshua, and was a confidant to Joshua. He was the only other spy who stood by with Joshua claiming the promise God had for His people in Canaan, and was the only one of his generation allowed to see the promise of the inheritance given to the Israelites come to pass.

The reason for this is that Caleb would not forsake God. He would not stand by and watch his family go the way of idolatry while others in the camp bowed down to a golden calf and complained about Moses’ leadership. Because of this, Caleb was noticed especially by God.

“But My servant, Caleb – this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows Me passionately” (Number 14:24).

Within the ranks of the great men deemed by God to be His servants, Caleb found a place. A place familiar with one “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), and the Patriarch of God’s Chosen.

There is another called especially by God to be His servant.

Me. You. Us.

The Lord clearly uses His own servant, Isaiah, to tell us this in Isaiah 41:9:

I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

Once again in Isaiah 43:10-11:

“You’re my handpicked servant So that you’ll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am. Previous to me there was no such thing as a god, nor will there be after me. I, yes I, am God. I’m the only Savior there is. I spoke, I saved.”

Within these words, God calls you. He calls me. He calls us His servants, those called to be as Caleb and have a “different spirit;” to “follow him passionately.”

I will follow Him – There is no one else for me. Let me be like Caleb – with a different spirit, willingly following after Christ even when it’s not convenient. Even when others complain of the level of commitment God asks of us. Let me be one of those who stand up, compelled by Christ’s love for us, to be what He asks us to be.

Service or a Concert?

I constantly try to find ways to be better. Better at singing, better at playing, better at music ministry in general. Today, I was thinking about worship services and concerts. What is the difference? What makes worship services before a message more effective? The way I see it, and the experiences I have had, may not be the best explanation, but this is my take on it.

Concert

At a concert, you are being entertained. You take in the songs and the music and the personalities showing you a good time. You are able to have fun and ignore who you are for a while. You wait for your favorite songs and talk to your neighbor during the ones you don’t like. There can be wordy songs – you are there for the experience, and most likely you just sing along with the ones you know. It’s about you having a good time and getting your money’s worth. New songs are just added bonuses – little gifts from the artist to you to enjoy and be one of the first to hear it. Live, aerobic, vocal runs are exciting because MAN HOW DO THEY DO THAT!?! Singing one of the artist’s older songs is about reminiscing. Musicians who do crazy tricks on their instruments are GODS and seriously, HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?!

Worship Services

At a worship service, you are being changed. You don’t just listen to songs – you interact with songs and they are used to help you enter the Throne Room of God. It’s not about how good the singer sounds – it’s about how anointed the singing is. Too many words and too many new songs can distract your attention from where it’s supposed to be – on the character of God. Songs need to be easy to learn and easy with which to sing along. Repetition helps ingrain, not just the words in your mind, but the message on your heart. Older songs remind you that the grace and goodness of God is still real and His love is never ending. Worship leaders are not supposed to bring the attention to themselves but rather point your attention to Jesus.  Too many vocal aerobics cause you to focus on the singer rather than the God of creation. Musicians who stay “busy” on their instrument cause you to lose the message of the song, and instead cause you to marvel in the talent of those on the platform.

I’m not saying that musicians and singers should not try to be the best they can be when leading a worship service. I’m just saying that it’s not about their talent. It’s about their worship and the anointing God pours through them. As a singer, I know it is super easy to get carried away with a certain run or an awesome high note, especially when you know that you’re doing right. As a piano player, I know that being able to do a really cool trick can make you want to do it more than necessary. However, it’s not a concert. It’s not a performance. It’s about Jesus being glorified. It’s about leading the congregation (not the audience) into God’s presence so they – and you – can be in the right mindset to be changed by the message. A worship service is supposed to prepare the worshipers for the message God has to speak to them through the minister.

Please, as worship leaders, make sure every worship “set” you prepare is geared toward creating this atmosphere. It cannot be to showcase your voice or your talents. It is vitally important that those in the service feel that intense drawing from God – He said that if He would be lifted up, He would draw all men unto Himself. OUR job, as worship leaders, is to lift Him up so He can draw all men unto Himself. Let’s not get it confused! It’s about HIM – not about us!

-EA

God’s Mercies Carry The Day

I reread for the millionth time Psalm 51 this morning. David cries out to God,

“Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down ” (Psalm 51:1-3).

But first, let’s go to Aaron. As a note, this entire chapter is amazing, and you should read the whole thing to get the point. I also recommend Francine Rivers’ book, The Priest, to get a fresh perspective of the life of Aaron. But for my purpose here, I’ll just include this:

“Moses said to Aaron, “What on Earth did these people ever do to you that you involved them in this huge sin?” Aaron said, “Master, don’t be angry. You know this people and how set on evil they are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. This Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.’ So I said, ‘Who has gold?’ And they took off their jewelry and gave it to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf” (Exodus 31:21-24).

Aaron sinned atrociously. He led a group of 3,000 people to sin with him, all of whom God punished. Aaron was left to atone for the sins of the people. He would daily lift the sacrifices to push the sins back another year. He knew it was wrong. You can’t convince me that Aaron didn’t feel tremendous guilt and shame for what he had done against the Lord.

His sin stared him down.

His sin could only be pushed back, never to be removed. No matter how many atoning sacrifices he did, he was constantly aware of this.

His sins stared him down.

In Leviticus 10, his elder sons fell in the same trap, committing false worship, but for much different reasons. Aaron did it out of buckling to the pressure; his sons did it out of pride and drunkenness. God did not show them the grace He had to Aaron. They both died for their lack of reverence for the Holy of Holies. Aaron could do nothing, not even mourn. He couldn’t touch his sons, because the priest had God’s anointing on him.

Francince Rivers depicts his pain so vividly, and says, “Aaron fought back tears, fought down the anguished cry that threated to choke him. The Lord is holy, The Lord is holy! He fixed his mind of the Lord’s holiness, bending to it” (pg. 137).

She goes on to say, with such perfect visualization of this horrible event,”Even after the atoning sacrifices, Aaron still felt his sin heavy upon him. If only the Lord would erase them forever. if only…” (pgs. 138-139)

Aaron’s sin was staring him down.

Now to David.

David sinned with Bathsheba. He lied, stole, murdered, and committed adultery. He constantly felt his sin staring him down. Psalm 51 is his repentant cry for a holy God to wipe away his sin. He pleads with God – “Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.” However, no sacrifices, no repentance, was great enough to wash it away. It could only be pushed back. David would live with his sin forever. The guilt, the shame, it was to stay with him forever as a reminder of the sins he had committed against God.

His sin was staring him down.

Now to one less known, one less revered in the eyes of a nation.

I’ve sinned. I’ve lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, and therefore committed fornication in my heart, and hated, and therefore murdered in my heart. Only against God have I sinned. But there’s a difference between me and these men, and countless before.

My sins are not staring me down.

Where Aaron was the Israelites’ High Priest, Jesus came and was our final High Priest. He didn’t just offer a sacrifice to push it back. He removed it, as far as the east is from the west. “God’s mercy carries the day” (Psalm 52:1).

I can stand tall in His mercy, in His grace, knowing all He sees is His offering and His sacrifice. He loves even me. There is no sin too great for his sacrifice to cover, or to remove, because, you see,

He died for everyone.

No exceptions.

See Romans 3:23 for that confirmation: Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners.

David says, ” Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.” (Romans 4:6-7)

David was saying this as a hope. We can say it as a declaration.

I leave you with this:

Acts 2:38

And Peter said unto them, repent, be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall be filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The hope of so many has become the reality for us.

It can all be taken away! Your sins don’t have to stare you down.