Joyfully Serving My Master

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Location: Indiana, United States

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Thinking Train

I was reminding a friend who is currently going through some significant physical trials about controlling her thinking during trials. We talked about Job and Joseph. We talked about the power and love of God who is in complete control of the situation and promises to use that difficulty for the good of the one who loves Him and also for His own glory. We talked about resting in God instead of worrying about personal pain. We talked about the thinking train.

What is the thinking train? Simply it is a very easy way to remember how to deal with difficult situations. The engine of the train is our THINKING. Philippians 4:8 directs us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise. Quite frankly I usually don't have to go past the true before I realize that my thinking needs to be changed. The second car in the thinking train is DOING. Once my thinking is lined up with what God wants, then I can start obeying Him and doing what I should be doing. The caboose of the train is FEELING. Basically I need to focus on how to think and what to do that will please God, then I can trust God to deal with how I feel. Jesus in John 13:17 said, "If you know these things, you are happy if you do them." In this passage Jesus clearly and simply tells us the correct place that our thinking should have. First we think right thoughts, then we do right actions, and finally we will be blessed or happy. Right feelings do not come until AFTER the right thinking has produced right actions.

As is so often the case in my life, soon after spending time with my friend encouraging her to think right and do right and let God take care of the feelings, I found myself struggling with my own feelings. God is so good to remind me vividly of my own sin and show me how to get right with Him again. I had just told someone else what to do with hard feelings. Would I take my own counsel? More importantly, would I trust God to take care of my feelings as I work on thinking and doing right? No, it's not always easy to think and do right when I feel rotten. But that is the only real solution. Yet God is so faithful to bless me and give me the good feelings once I have gotten to the other side of the thinking and doing struggle. And along the way He comforts me, helps me and gives me strength. What a great and awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Prayer of a Leader

2 Chronicles 6 gives us Solomon's speech/prayer at the temple dedication. Here we have the wisest man and greatest leader ever to have lived at what was probably the most important moment of his life. I believe there are some important lessons for us to learn about how to lead and how to live.

1. Solomon recognized God. "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts" (vs 14). Solomon had worked very hard. He had hired and conscripted hundreds upon hundreds of skilled craftsmen and laborers to build this temple. Yet Solomon realized that his own work and position was not the key to this crowing achievement. It was God's work that made everything possible.

2. Solomon recognized the sinfulness of man. Solomon realized that though there was great fervor for God on that day of dedication, there would come a day when the people of Israel would turn away from God again. He prayed for God's restoration in several instances of sin. In verse 36 Solomon says, "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin)." We certainly don't have to read very far to see that both Solomon himself with all his hundreds of wives, and all of Israel do indeed fall into sin.

3. Solomon pled with God for restoration when he and Israel would turn from their sin back to God. He realized that God would punish the sin, but that the punishment was not cruelty. God allowed consequences for man's sin because of His great love. God wants His people to have a loving relationship with Himself and when they push Him aside, sometimes the only way to bring them back is by allowing them to suffer for a time.

What a humble speech for so great a man to make on such a celebrated day. May I remember on those days of success that God gave the success, that I have and will blow it again, and that I need to be prepared to fall upon the mercy of God for restoration when I have learned my lesson.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Take joy in what You hear

I was telling my son a personal story today of a way that God humbled me and taught me an important lesson about worship. I'd like to repeat that story here to remind me that worship is not about how worthy I am, but about how worthy God is.

When I was in college I enjoyed singing. Two of my friends and I used to sing in a trio. We occasionally sang in churches, and once even won a campus competition. Our favorite thing to do though was to go into a rec room with great acoustics and sing one song after another, playing around with different harmonies. We loved it. Often I would go out in the woods to pray and would end up singing my prayers to God. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. And there was nothing like singing with a couple thousand other college students during daily chapels. My heart thrilled every time.

One spring I lost my voice. And it stayed lost for almost three months. I could talk to people, but the minute I tried to sustain a note I would again have no voice whatsoever. I felt like I had lost an arm. I found myself chaffing at being denied my voice. I couldn't understand why God would take it away from me. After all, didn't I use that voice to praise Him? Didn't I help others worship when I sang for church? Wasn't it a good thing to sing hymns and praises together with the rest of the student body? I had a big why in my heart that began to disintegrate into ugly bitterness.

Then God had mercy on me. No, He didn't give me my voice back right away. But He taught me one of the most important lessons I learned in college. And He used one of the most simple songs we sang in chapel to melt my proud and bitter heart, and cause me to worship in spirit and in truth as He truly desires.

I was in chapel, mouthing the words to songs as the rest of the student body sang loudly. After two months of not singing, I was very good at lip syncing during chapel and church. We had sung several songs and came to the simple chorus, "I Love You, Lord." We began to sing and each verse hit home harder than the last until I found my self weeping with repentance over my sinful heart. Here's the song and the lesson I learned to pray with each verse:

I love you, Lord.
And I lift my voice. [though nobody around me can hear it]
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice. [I can rejoice in worshipping God, and worship doesn't take a pretty voice]
Take joy my King, in what You hear [because you're the only one who can hear my song]
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.

It didn't matter that nobody else could hear me. It didn't matter that I couldn't sing in front of a church. I realized that so much of what I had done in my singing before was to bring glory to myself. I wanted people to hear that I had a pretty voice. I wanted to be noticed for the harmonies that I could sing. I ... I ... I. But I finally realized that what I had been doing, though it may have been pretty and had good words, was not worship. It was just singing. And it was worthless.

That song stuck with me. I had beautiful times of confession, praise, adoration, and genuine worship over the next month of my outward silence musically. I learned what it means to worship God from my heart. Finally God did choose to restore my voice. Singing was never quite the same again. Sure, I had my moments of pride. But then God would bring to my mind the lessons I learned so hard, and I was much quicker to repent and begin to worship in ways that He desires.

I told that story to my son today because he asked me to sing a song for him. And you see, I can't sing right now. I haven't been able to sing for the last two months. I'm in the same place I was back in college. But I haven't been without a voice. I have the privilege of making the sweet sound of worship that God alone can hear. And that's enough for me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

God's Love in a List

I've finally gotten to the end of 1 Chronicles, right where there are a few chapters full of names. I have to admit that my first reaction to studying lists of names was not one of jumping for joy. Quite frankly I have always found those lists to be rather boring. So before I began my study time I asked God to help me learn more about Him through His Word, since I know that ALL scripture is profitable -- and God doesn't use 100% words unless He really means them. So I began reading.

I read about those in charge of the divisions of the army, and about the officers of the tribes, those in charge of storehouses, supplies, camels, donkeys, flocks, etc. As I went on it struck me that I didn't know any of the names being mentionned. I probably won't remember any of them tomorrow either. Then the Holy Spirit started turning the light on the Holy Scriptures. I may not know any of those people mentionned, but God knew them by name and cared enough for them to list them in His Bible. So I read the next unknown name, and thought to myself, "and God knew and loved him." Then I read the next unknown name, "and if God knew and loved this guy, then He knows and loves me too."

I started getting excited as I read. Person after person that have passed into the obscurity of time, yet God knew and loved each and every one of them. I found great hope as I read on with increasing interest and excitement. It doesn't matter if anyone on this earth knows my name. It doesn't matter if my work and life one day quickly fade into obscurity. For I know that God knows me intimately, and He loves me so much that He sent His own Son to die for me in order to offer me eternal life with Him. The words I was reading may have been a list of names, but the lesson I learned was one of the intimate love of a God who knows us each by name.