Singing in the Cave

Singing comes natural when life is good, the bills are paid, the family is well and the future looks bright. However, when the news isn’t good, singing often escapes us. David taught us in Psalm 57 to sing in the cave. Running for his life, with his enemies camped all around him, he wrote:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1, ESV)

Before David sang, he cried out to God. His singing never glossed over his fear, never ignored his dilemma. When you’re in the cave, there’s no need to pretend life is good. Problems are problems. Hurts are hurts. Bad news is bad news. A troubling diagnosis is a troubling diagnosis. David calls his enemies lions, fiery beasts with spears for teeth and swords for a tongue!

But he doesn’t stay there.

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (Psalm 57:7, ESV)

This is the same Psalm! David is still sitting in the same cave. Saul is still pursuing him. None of that has changed. When you’re in the cave, you will have to will what you do not feel. David reflects on the character of God (he wills to see God in spite of his circumstances) and as a result reflects the character of God (he feels God’s presence).

What is your song? When life unravels, what fills your mind? Your house? Your car? Beginning today we will release songs we have recorded here at Grace. Savor them. Memorize them. Sing them!

Here’s one we sang recently at Grace. Worship. Enjoy.

 

Worship Wars

Every day we engage in an gruesome war, a colossal battle. Multiple opportunities vie for our attention. Work wants more attention. Family demands devotion. Sports scream for more time. God knew this would happen. Before there were iPods and iPads, God called this. His 10 Commandments bear out the reality that our devotion will deviate, that our desires will become distracted. Consider the first four commandments:

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:1-8 ESV)

When you consider God’s commands to have no other gods, what gods come to your mind that people have instead of God today? Do you see any of these in your life? Your family?

You shall not make any idols (carved image). What images do we tend to worship in our culture today? (Movie stars. Athletes. Academically elite.)

You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. What do you think it means to take God’s name in vain? As a parent how does it feel when your child says your name but doesn’t respect you? In that moment, he or she is using your name in vain. So it is with God. God will not be used–he is to be revered and respected.

Remember the Sabbath. Slow down. Take a break. Remember God. Worship him. What are your worship habits? Do your children know Sunday worship is a priority? Or is it something you do when it is convenient?

You will worship something.

Make sure it is the Lord God.

What joy.

Lord, I Run to You

God is crazy about you! He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV) He did the unthinkable…giving up his “only begotten son.” When we turn to other gods, He is obviously jealous.

Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22 ESV)

God’s love for us allows him to be provoked to jealousy. He doesn’t want anyone or anything to come close to taking his place in our lives. We have never been loved, nor will we ever be loved, as deeply as God loves us. Idols can be obvious…or they can be subtle. Kyle Idleman, in his book Gods at War, writes:

“Where Is Your Sanctuary? Where do you go when you’re hurting? Let’s say it’s been a terrible day at the office. You come home and go — where? To the refrigerator for comfort food like ice cream? To the phone to vent with your most trusted friend? Do you seek escape in novels or movies or video games or pornography? Where do you look for emotional rescue? The Bible tells us that God is our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble — so much so that we will not fear though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Ps. 46:1 – 2). That strikes me as a good place to run. But it’s so easy to forget, so easy for us to run in other directions. Where we go says a lot about who we are. The “high ground” we seek reveals the geography of our values.”

If you have the time (about 7 minutes) worship the Lord as Tommy Walker beautifully sings, “Lord, I Run to You.”

I Wonder What Would Happen

Wonder with me what would happen this Sunday in churches across our troubled, needy world if…

  • unity-hands-796x450The people gathered as one man  And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. (Nehemiah 8:1a) What if the rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated, healthy and unhealthy, grieving and rejoicing, Republican and Democrat, simple and wise, came together laying aside all differences. What if no one noticed clothes or cars, skin color or diplomas earned, political affiliation or personal taste. What if God’s people Sunday gathered with no distinction except for being the people of God.
  • The people had one desire And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. (Nehemiah 8:1b) 45,000+ people gathered with one request of Ezra, their priest and scribe. Bring out the book! They wanted to hear from God. This marked a significant departure from Israel’s normal form of worship. Prior to this, their focus was on the temple with its grandeur and glory. Though the temple had been rebuilt, it wasn’t near as grand nor glorious as it once was. Their attention now turned to the Book, God’s law he had given them through Moses.

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:1-3 ESV)

  • The people had one response  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:5-6 ESV) They worshiped God. When they heard the words of God, they worshiped God. They didn’t look at their watches, play games on their smart phones, wonder where their neighbor bought the outfit they were wearing. They fell on their faces in awe of reverence of their great God. They worshiped the God of the book.

I wonder what would happen this Sunday if people showed up as one man with one desire and one response.

Keep Calm and Worship

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanWikipedia reports it like this:

Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. Although 2.45 million copies were printed, and although the Blitz happened, the poster was hardly ever publicly displayed and was little known until a copy was rediscovered in 2000.

Between September of 1940 and May of 1941 London was bombed 71 times. 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on cities in England. One million houses in London were either destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 citizens of England were killed. War is bloody and dangerous.

2 Chronicles reports it like this:

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. (2 Chronicles 20:22-23 ESV)

Three enemies are storming Jerusalem. All conventional wisdom says do anything but sing. Plan your strategy. Draw your swords. Man your stations. Certainly there are times when conventional wisdom works. Then there are times when conventional wisdom falls short, when you’re outnumbered, when the enemy is just too strong and the odds are stacked against you.

What can you do in those times?

Keep calm and pray. Remember Jehoshaphat’s prayer? We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you. Jehoshaphat prayed God’s character and remembered God’s works.

Keep calm and worship. He did the most unconventional thing: he placed the worship leaders in front of the generals, the praise team in front of the army. The choir marched into battle first. You see, we have the advantage of knowing the outcome. Jehoshaphat didn’t. He had the diagnosis, not the prognosis.

I love the progression of events! And when they began to sing and pray, the Lord. Their sacrifice of praise filled the halls of heaven. God acted on their behalf. He created confusion in the enemy camp, turned them on one another, and his people watched it unfold.

Whatever you’re facing today, sing. I know it sounds simple, maybe even trite. It isn’t. Worship in spite of your circumstances. Do not allow your current predicament to rob you of giving God the praise He deserves. Do not allow your current crisis to curtail your worship of the crucified and risen Christ.

Keep calm and worship.

High Places in Low Times

Circumstances happen to everyone. Life is filled with ups and downs, with mountains and valleys, with heavenly times and hellish times.

Habakkuk faced his own set of problems. The country he loved was devastated by the invading Chaldeans. Because of their sin God raised up a people who ransacked the nation, destroyed the landscape, and carried them off into exile. Habakkuk was a righteous man suffering with the unrighteous.

You would expect him to be angry, frustrated, perhaps even bitter. But he wrote a song and here is the refrain:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Continue reading → High Places in Low Times