The Valley Of Praise

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I can’t believe I’m writing this. I have too much to do. Two days away at a conference. Twenty-four hours of worship about to start tomorrow. Get ready for my message on Sunday (without googling one). Oh ya… be a pastor as well. Now this blog too?

But what I happened to read in my devotions today compelled me to write this in light of what we are about to launch into tomorrow with our Day and Night of Worship event.

It’s a message I should really be taking time to unpack and share as a sermon, but I can’t hold it back. The text is 2Chronicles 20. The king of Judah (Jehoshaphat) is about to have a ‘vast army’ come to engage with him. Alarmed, he goes to God. Actually, verse four says the whole nation of Judah sought God.

One of the Levites (tribe of priests) says is verse 15 that “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (that in itself is another message). That’s not the good part that jumped out at me. Read this…

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.’

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (vv. 21-22 NIV)

Here’s the thing: “Praise precedes promotion.” The victory came because they recognized that regardless of what things ‘looked’ like, it was God’s battle to win, thus their reason to praise Him.

Even more, the place where all the dead laid lying after the victory was called the “Valley of Beracah – the ‘Valley of Praise’.”

Oh man, I’m excited!!!! It does not matter what may be facing you in that valley right now… the movement against you may seem like a ‘vast army’… but it’s not YOUR battle… it’s HIS! And your role? You are called to praise… praise Him for His splendour, His holiness, His love that endures forever!

Tomorrow we are no different than King Jehoshaphat. We recognize that in order to move forward in victory, we will praise the One who has defeated the enemy, and will continue to do so.

In the valley we face, we will witness His praise!!!!

At least that’s how I see it,

 

 

C

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Where True Freedom Is Found

true-freedom1I was going through marginal notes / verses that I had underlined in the book of Exodus yesterday and something really interesting popped out at me.

Exodus is about the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading to the Promised Land. It’s about a journey. From bondage… to freedom. Burning bush. Plagues. Ten Commandments. Golden Calf. Stuff like that. Not a seamless line but a trek full of rebellion, remorse, and restoration. Kind of like our lives.

But what jumped out at me was how it ends. You would think, as a writer, that you would want to bring some sort of ‘closure’ to the purpose of the book. The journey should end with the arrival at the destination. Wouldn’t that make sense?

But it doesn’t happen that way. The last chapter starts wth the assembly of the tabernacle and tent of meeting that the Israelites were to use to meet and present their sacrifices to God.

But then God shows up. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34-35 NIV).

Maybe, just maybe… this ‘is’ the destination for the book of Exodus. For we all set out on a journey from brokenness to healing. We all yearn to be rescued from who we ‘are’ to who we know we ‘can be’. From bondage, to freedom.

And it is here that we see where freedom may be found… in His Presence. We come expecting. He comes filling.

2Corinthians 3:17 says “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom from our past. Freedom from the junk we’ve faced this past week. Freedom from what is stopping us from moving forward in His plan for our lives.

So today, as we roll out of beds all over the place and head to church, be reminded that being in His Presence is the chief end of the pursuit. That as we come together, we leave all that is holding us back and are led to experience the freedom of being found in His Presence.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

Fudgee-O’s and the Confessions of A Sugaholic!

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When I got up on the platform on Sunday morning I never really dreamed that I would be THAT honest about how vulnerable I was to temptation! If you didn’t get a chance to hear the message, you can watch it here.

So while we’re being honest, let’s at least admit that we ALL have problems with “Fudgee-O’s”… it’s simply that your version of temptation may be different than mine. For you it may be pornography, or alcohol, or gambling, or a host of other things.

But we all seem to show up to indulge in these temptations in the same place… the ‘dark playground’; that place that you go to ‘play’ where you know you shouldn’t be, but you still try to get as much fun out of your time there.

The sad reality, and unfortunately I speak from experience, is that the ‘dark playground’ is never really that fun of a place to be in the first place. Yes, for a moment you may get a rush from playing with your ‘toxic toys’, eating all those cookies, downing all that alcohol… but you know that lurking in the shadows are other people, just like you, hoarding their toys trying not to be noticed.

It’s not a fun playground to play in at all. For the whole time you are ‘in’ the playground, there is a part of you crying out, pleading with you to leave your toys on the ground and get out!

I shared James 4:7 on Sunday which says to “stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you.” (NCV). Reading on in verse 8 it shows us how to exactly do that… “Come near to God, and God will come near to you… you who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure.”

Really? All the times I’ve heard people repeat that verse to “come near to God and God will come near to you” is about Him helping me stay out of the ‘dark playground’?!?! Wow!!!! What a revelation! All I have to do is simply choose to start walking towards God instead of the dark playground… and HE will come near to me; perhaps even as fast as the Father looking for the prodigal son!

So… what do we now do with this awesome news?!? There is an answer to the dark playground… and that is the Light of the Father. I know, it seems so simple… and I also know that the playground will keep on calling and telling you that ‘this’ time it will be SO much better than the other times… ALL the cookies will taste as good as the first! But let’s be honest, we all know that is a lie. The pleasure is NEVER worth the pain.

So I’ll walk past those Fudgee-O’s today. Any encounter those cookies have with me never ends well. Instead I’ll choose to come closer to God knowing that He will come closer to me. Because as you and I both know, the longer you stay away from the dark playground, the more you wonder why you ever chose to go play there in the first place.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

When God says, “Don’t preach.”

when god says don't preach

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to write down my thoughts about what happened at Evangel Church this past Sunday. I thought that if wrote it down on social media it would come off the wrong way. But to not say ‘anything’ I felt was horribly unfair to hiding what God did. So I thought I would blog about it.

Church on Sunday was something I will probably never forget. I’ve had a few days now to think more about what happened; about what God was doing in the hearts of all of us as a church family.

The service was an hour and a half of “God’s agenda… not ours.” From the moment the congregation started singing I knew that something different was going to happen. There was no emotional reprieve… only momentum. With each verse, each chorus, each song the level of anticipation and sense of God’s Presence grew. It was like being on a date between the Maker and the Made that hit it off from the get go and was only getting better as the date went on.

I looked around and people had already started to come up into the altar area on their own. People were hungry. People ARE hungry for what God is doing. By the time I went up after the ‘singing’ (we ended up singing for another 30 minutes afterwards) I called others to join those already up at the front. Called people to come up who were lacking the Presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Called for those who were sick to be prayed for by anyone around them.

There was ministry EVERYWHERE…. People crying. People praying for those who were crying. People standing with hands raised. People curled up on the floor weeping. Presence… everywhere.

Let me be clear. There was no ‘smoking gun’ for the service. No new song. No ‘special’ event that tipped the scales. There wasn’t a new formula for us to now try to mimic.

There was though a sense of expectancy in the room. I could already sense it during the preservice prayer. We were waiting. We were longing. We were desiring more of God.

What I have found over the years is that we only get more of God in our lives one way… by releasing more of ourselves. Surrender. It’s not about God deciding to give us more of Himself. He gave us His Son! He built the broken bridge of relationship all the way over to us… except for one last step. That step is the only step towards God we need to take.

I didn’t feel right preaching on Sunday. It was already noon. Our time of worship made celebrating communion one of the most memorable I’ve ever experienced. We ‘felt’ the joy of what we gained from Jesus’ sacrifice. His Presence.

Jeremiah 2:2 says “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me.” I got to see what I’ve been ‘seeing’ for a long time for Evangel. A Bride totally in love with the Groom; and a Groom loving on the Bride that He laid down His life for.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

When “It Doesn’t Matter”… Matters

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I opened my Bible on a Sunday evening in front of a group of men and women amidst the buzz of fluorescent bulbs and the smell of ‘church’ coffee and read aloud a well known and well read passage, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1Samuel 16:7 NIV).

I closed my Bible and looked at the crowd waiting for my response. With a hand raised in the air I asked, “How many people are glad that God looks at our hearts!” With almost immediacy hands raised all around the room with amens drowning out the hum of the lights.

“Me too!” I said. “Too bad people who come through our church doors still look at the outward appearance whether we like it or not.”

Dropped the mic. Walked out of the room.

Ok, I didn’t do quite that… but I could have. I had made my point and no one could argue.

Yet church folk argue it every Sunday. “Why change this?” “You’re wasting your money on things that don’t matter.” “No one really cares about that!”

Let me be honest with you. In the light of eternity, do the ‘things’ inside the church matter? I dare say they probably don’t matter much at all. Salvation is not dependent on our leaky roofs, grungy bathrooms, shoddy lawn care, and poor building maintenance.

But in the light of ‘their’ eternity, the women and men who do not yet know of God’s perfect grace, I would dare say that these ‘things’ that we perhaps overlook every single Sunday now really become a ‘life or death’ situation. Because whether we like it or not, ‘they’ are not overlooking these things at all. If anything, they’ve already made up their minds on how you view your church before the first note is even played. I know, it’s not fair. You saved your best for last… but sorry, they’ve unfortunately already checked out.

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That was the case with the Queen of Sheba in 1Kings 10. When she came to see King Solomon she said that it wasn’t only his wisdom that overwhelmed her; but the attention to detail in all of the buildings, supplies, and personnel that surrounded and served her. The impact that he made on her did not rest solely on what he had to say but actually was woven together with the overall experience she had from beginning to end. The whole encounter impressed her.

What about your church? What matters most? Better yet, what matters least at your church… and do those things still seem to impress those who come through the doors?

For thankfully God looks at the heart, and ultimately, we would love to have the chance to share that story of grace with those who come through our doors. So maybe if we show them that they matter to ‘us’, we’ll get the opportunity to share that they matter to ‘Him’ as well.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C