The Valley Of Praise

Valley of Praise.png

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

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

“I Did It My Way” Wasn’t A Worship Song

frank sinatra

A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:23 NIV)

I don’t think “Ol’ Blue Eyes” would have gotten very far with that song had it been written for the church. Not sure that Hillsongs would have picked it up for their album or if you’d see many of the Southern Gospel quartets belting it out on any of the recent Gaither videos. Seems to almost be the antithesis of what worship is really supposed to be about.

But Jesus was addressing an issue with the woman in this passage. The Samaritans were trying to worship God the way that ‘they’ felt comfortable doing. They wanted to place God through the filter of ‘their’ form of religious practice, not actually place ‘themselves’ through the filter of God’s desire.

We can often put limits on how often, how deep, and how sincere we enter into times of worship. We tell God that we’ll give Him ‘this’ and ‘that’… but we won’t worship Him ‘here’ and ‘there’.

And there lies the dilemma of our encounters with God. The moment that we dictate how we plan on expressing our worship to God… then ‘we’ control the worship… which then doesn’t become really effective worship at all. For when we hold back on giving Him His worth, aren’t we therefore calling the shots on what is acceptable or not for Him? Are we no better than a woman at a side of a well saying that ‘their’ way was better… even if it didn’t find support in the Bible?

I pray that all of our worship this week, however it is expressed, is firmly and deeply rooted in the desire to know Him more, pursue His Presence more, and sincerely express to Him just how Great He is… not how it best fits us… but how it best glorifies Him.

At least that’s how I see it,

Craig

What A Morning!

Well I’m just taking a break in between the services and wanted to say how excited I am about the morning.

This morning I got to experience Evangel first-hand… no more stories, guesses, or wondering. I was so impressed with the people’s friendliness, the passion for the Word of God, and the praise and worship. There were so many great people that we got to meet and they really went out of their way to make us feel at home.

It’s surreal to think that this was the beginning of a great and wonderful journey as we grow in our faith with God.

It was definitely a very exciting day. Can’t wait for the next one. Isn’t that the way church is supposed to be?

At least that’s how I see it,

 

Craig