Joy without the happy clappy

Habakkuk 3:18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

happyclappyThis verse reminds me of a song we sang in church growing up.  It went something like: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.  Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice….”  And so on.  It was a happy clappy with simple lyrics.  People would yell back the echo of rejoice or start dancing to prove that they really were rejoicing.  If you were really into it you would clap on the offbeats.  Is that what it means to rejoice in the Lord and to take joy in Him?  Do you have to sing a cheesy song with almost no lyrics while clapping, shouting, and dancing? Let’s hope not.

So what does taking joy in the Lord look like?  Well, it can look like a lot of things.  It can look like dancing or  happy clapping.  It can look like singing from the top of your lungs.  But it can also look like standing still or kneeling.  It can look like silence and tranquility.  It can feel like you just won the lottery but it can also feel like peace in the midst of a storm.  When we think of joy, we think of happiness.  We think it is a feeling to be felt or an expression made on our faces.  However, joy from the Lord permeates emotion, will, mind, body, and spirit.

The joy that comes from the God of my salvation begins when I recognize Him as Savior.  It comes when I make a decision to put my trust in Him.  He breathes joy into my life as I take hold of Him.  It doesn’t matter whether I am laying on the beaches of Maui or deep in the trenches of battle.  It doesn’t matter if everyone likes me or I’ve just made 10 new enemies.  His joy doesn’t rely on my feeling of happiness, but rather on His absoluteness.  He is absolutely joy and peace and love.  And when I choose to “take joy” in Him, I get it.

So I choose to rejoice today.  I’m a little too tired to jump up and clap or shout hallelujah.  Life’s not easy enough to feel like I am on top of the world.  I don’t feel perfect or holy.  The sun’s not shining and I’m a bit low on vitamin D.  But I will rejoice.  Yes, today I will take joy in the God of my salvation!

Idols are dumb

Habakkuk 2:19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.

idolsI may have knocked on wood, but I’ve never talked to it.  I’m not crazy enough to talk to a rock and think it will give me some guidance.  I’m not foolish enough to tell a piece of wood to come to life.  Even if a piece of wood did come to life, I don’t think that would cause me to start getting my life direction from it.  Idolatry is plain dumb.  I mean, who would seriously turn to a piece of wood or stone for direction?  Really. I mean, who would turn to the TV, a horoscope, a boyfriend, a good luck charm, or a beer for guidance.  Oh… wait.

You know, that’s what idolatry is at it’s purest form – looking to someone other than God to save me or complete me.  It is putting my confidence and faith in something other than God and making that thing or person my functional savior.  As Christians we know that we have one Savior; His name is Jesus.  Yet we gather up all kinds of functional saviors.  We play the lotto in hopes that it will be our path to provision and security.  We go to the bottle to drown out all our stress and fears and failures.  Our teenagers looks to a boyfriend to make them feel special and valued.  Dr. Phil and Oprah are our in home therapists while that ancient book called the Bible (you know, the one with all the answers) sits on the coffee table collecting dust.

We laugh at the Israelites for having a couple of lifeless functional saviors, yet we have so many more.  We think they are stupid for trying to store up manna and yet we do the same thing with powerball tickets.  Listen, an idol is an idol is an idol.  There’s no way around it.  It plagued Israel for many years and it’s plaguing our culture even more.  The only way out is to make your real savior your functional one also.  It’s lining up your actions and your responses to what you believe.  Do you say that Jesus is your Savior?  Then act like it.  Go to him with your needs.  Turn to Him in times of trouble.  Seek His Word for direction.

My prayer: “Jesus you are my savior.  Come strip away the things that I turn to, that I think will save me or complete me.  I serve you alone today, Lord.  I worship you and none other.  I pray that in my life you would not only be my first, but my only.  I love you my Savior and my King!  Help me to rest in all that you have and all that you are.  Amen.”

Prepare to be amazed!

Habakkuk 1:5 “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

surpriseEvery once in a while, a person accomplishes a feat that is hard to believe possible.  We see it during the Olympics – records shattered that didn’t seem possible.  Or there’s the guy who skydived practically from space.  We are in an age of advance.  If you would have told someone 200 years ago that we would put a man on the moon, fly in airplanes, or even watch TV in our homes, they might have had a hard time believing it.  It’s amazing what humanity has come up with in recent history!

Even more so,  I wonder what God is going to come up with.  In Habakkuk 1:5, the Lord tells him that he is about to be amazed.  He was about to do something that would be hard to believe.  It was going to be mind-blowing!  No one would see it coming, not even this prophet of God.  The Lord was not about to be contained in a box.  He was preparing for something big!  And I think He still is.

I happen to think God is up to something big.  There’s this stirring in my spirit that God is getting ready to shake things up.  I have an anticipation for revival that is more than just a 1-month phenomenon.  Prepare yourself to be amazed, church.  God is up to something!  He’s got something up His sleeve.  It all started when He had Jesus up His sleeve.  He had a plan to rescue humanity and His plan isn’t over.   I believe that He is going to do something in our days that we wouldn’t believe even if we were told.  So raise your expectation!  Brace yourself for what He is about to do.  Prepare to be amazed, friends.  Prepare to be amazed!

 

Dumpster Diving God

Nahum 2:2 The LORD will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.

dumpster-dive

I’m starting to think God is a dumpster diver.  It’s not because He is hungry or homeless or in need.  It’s just that He seems to find some pretty good stuff in there.  He finds things that the world threw out and considered worthless.  He uncovers valuable gems that others thought had no value.  It’s dirty stuff He finds, too.  But He is a restoration master!  He can take what others thought was junk and make it into a work of art.  Yes, He finds some good stuff in there.

Maybe that’s where He found you.  In the second chapter of Nahum, the prophet states that destroyers have laid the people of Jacob to waste and ruined them.  They were trampled on, destroyed, thrown out with the garbage.  There they lay in the dumpster waiting for the garbage truck to pick them up.  They were without hope wallowing in their worthless life.  But their dumpster diving God was on His way.  He was going to restore their splendor, clean them up, and make them new.

That’s what God does.  He reaches down into that dumpster  and pulls each one of us out.  When we feel outcast, He finds us.  When the world calls us worthless, He gives us worth.  When we are covered in the slime of sin – He extends His hand, His grace, and His forgiveness.  Yes, my God is a great dumpster diver!  And for this I am ever thankful.  I am thankful that He is willing to push through the garbage and find me in barren places.  I am thankful that He finds value in those who find no value in themselves.  As the king and psalmist David once said: “God you have pulled me out of the dumpster… er, I mean, pit.”  Thank you Lord!

Lose the shackles

Nahum 1:13 For I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.

Anyone who has ever been in an oppressive situation can testify to the suffocating nature of being stuck.  It may have been an abusive relationship, a terrible job situation, or actual prison.  The Israelites understood this feeling too.  At the time this prophecy was written, they were under harsh oppression by the nation of Assyria.  This wasn’t just physical discomfort – it was robbery, destruction, and murder.  This was some serious pain.  They needed a deliverer, a rescue from the pain.  Through the prophet Nahum, God spoke the most life giving words many of them had ever heard: “I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.”

We don’t have an Assyrian enemy in our everyday lives.  But we do have an enemy.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).  Before we came to know Christ, we were held captive by the enemy.  Sin ruled our hearts and kept us in bondage. Then Jesus came into our lives.  When He did, He broke off the enemy’s yoke from you and tore off your shackles.  He neutralized sin’s power over you and gave you the ability to live for Him!  You are free!  You are no longer in chains!  Hallelujah!

So then, why do you sometimes feel like you still are? Why are you still addicted?  Why does fear rule over you?  Why do you still have thoughts of taking your life?  It’s because even though you are free in Christ, the enemy is still hanging on like a bad hang nail.  Left untreated it will infect your body and hurt like crazy.  You see, the enemy still wants to destroy you.  He has lost your soul to Christ like He lost to Christ on the cross.  He’s ticked off and he hates God’s children. So you must press in to the fullness of life God has for you.  If you are God’s child, you don’t have to deal with addiction any longer.  You don’t have to struggle with fear.

Listen: the Lord says, “I will NOW break off the enemy’s yoke from you and tear off your shackles!”  Receive it today.  Receive His freedom.  Find a brother or sister in the Lord and ask them to pray with you.  Be done with the enemy’s grip on your life.  Find true freedom and true deliverance in the Lord your God.  Lose the shackles, friends.  Lose the shackles.  Christ set you free, so live in it!

When your world falls apart

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

What do you do when your world falls apart?  You just lost your job.  Your husband left you.  The bank is calling looking for your mortgage payment.  Your kids are out ruining their lives and you feel powerless to stop them.  People look at you and judge you with their eyes.  You feel alone and afraid.  As much as this sounds like a country song, it’s unfortunately the story of someone you know.  It might even be your story.  So what do you do when your world falls apart?

In Micah 7, Israel’s world was falling apart.  Micah was a man called to be a voice for the Lord.  He stood alone. He stood for the Lord.  The best people were wicked at best; the worst, absolutely repulsive.  These people make America look good.  Really, they were gross.  He says that Godly people have vanished from the land.  He states that both of their hands are good at accomplishing evil.  Yes, Israel was falling apart at the seams.  People were turning on each other, households were dividing, and friends betrayed friends.  It was the way of life.

Not for Micah.  He said, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD…”  He was determined to be different.  He would swim upstream.  When everyone was running one way, he would determine to run the other.  When they were all walking away from the Lord looking for hope and peace in all the wrong places, He would look to the Lord.  The Lord would be his hope.  God would be his Savior.  God would hear him and answer his prayer.  The world can run its way all it wants.  It can rebel against God and find depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and death.  It can look to wrong places and come up empty.  But not Micah… and not me.  I will watch in hope for the Lord, I will wait for God my Savior; and He will hear me. 

 

 

Justice or Mercy?

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Bad things happen in this world.  People conjure up all kinds of evil and hurt others.  Some people go to jail; other times they don’t, even when they should.  We know as Christians that we are supposed to love and forgive, but what about people getting what they deserve?  Is it right for me to want justice?  I feel like maybe I am just supposed to forgive but something in me wants them to pay.  I want to be Christlike and love, but it’s hard.  Justice or mercy? Punishment or forgiveness?  Which is it?

Both.  According to Micah 6:8, the answer is both.  He says to act justly and love mercy.  Wait – how can I do both?  How can I desire justice and mercy at the same time? It seems like if I want to see someone punished then I am not forgiving them.  Friends, this is simply not true.  Forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it is a choice.  I can forgive someone and still expect justice.  I can love mercy and still desire discipline.  But there’s only way way for these seemingly opposite concepts to coexist – humility.

If I am going to genuinely act justly AND love mercy, I have to be walking humbly with my God.  I need an awareness of His grace on my life.  I need to be aware that I, too, deserve to be held accountable for my sins.  And at times, I am.  I face the consequences for the wrong I have done.  But I face them with mercy.  I face them with His forgiveness. I face them with the love of God who will walk me through the mess I have made.  There’s nothing wrong with justice and there’s nothing wrong with mercy… and there’s everything right with walking humbly with your God.