A God Above All Other gods

I read through 1 Samuel 5 & 6 this morning in order to stay on track. Together they tell the story of the Philistines taking Ark of the Covenant into their land, its effect upon their people and land, and their ultimate return of it to Israel.

I didn’t really understand the part about Dagon in the beginning of chapter 5, so I did a little research. Dagon was a god of the Philistines and in bringing the Ark back to their land they brought it to a temple of Dagon’s where they left it by a statue of the god. This makes more sense as then the next day they find the statue of Dagon face down in front of the ark and they “put him back in his place (v 3).”

I cannot imagine what they thought upon seeing this scene; a statue of a god they worshipped looking as if it was worshipping a symbol of a God from another land. Perhaps, at first, they thought it an accident, for they just picked the statue up and put it back. But the next day it had fallen again, this time its head and hands cut off. Not broken off from having fallen, but cut off, intentionally so. This shook them up more as so they began to move the Ark around their land to different cities. In each place its effects were felt; tumors, death, mice infesting the land.

The Philistines had heard about what happened in Egypt, they knew all about the plagues and the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. They also attributed this to the God of the Israelites, and so they learned from those mistakes and sent the Ark back to Israel, not on its own, but with guilt offerings to this God as well.

I find it so interesting that the Philistines were aware of God, they had heard of what He had done in Egypt and yet they waged war against Israel. God allowed them to win, perhaps to the purpose of showing the Philistines His power directly. In sending the Ark back, they watched the cows pulling it in a cart go right back to the land of Israel; a sure sign that it was this God who worked these things against them. And while many Israelites died in the battle with the Philistines, God ultimately won that battle, by no help, really, from them.

It doesn’t say that the Philistines then came to worship Israel’s God, though they had evidence that He was higher than one of their own. They paid Him tribute, offering sacrifices, in the hope that He would cure them of the ailments He inflicted upon them. But they did not then follow Him, though they had come to see the truth.

How many people see evidence of God’s existence and still refuse to acknowledge Him for who He is? How many times do we, half-heartedly, pray or do things that we think will “placate” God without really trusting in who His is and what He is capable of?

When the Ark makes it back to Israel, there are people there, even, who die (God’s own people) because they looked upon the Ark and were not worthy to do so. Those around said,”Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20a). A holy God cannot abide sin. No one can stand before Him, be they other “gods”, or even His own people. That was true then. It is true now, as God doesn’t change. He still cannot abide sin.

BUT…

God, Himself, took on sin. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived a perfect life that we could not. Being fully God and fully man, He was able to stand before the Father, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because of Him, we are able to stand before the Father and not be struck down, for He sees Christ’s righteousness upon us.

Now, whether I think we’ll actually be able to stand on our feet before God Almighty, that’s another conversation altogether. I, myself, think I’ll be on my knees or, more likely, on my face, before Him; knowing the great gift I’ve been given but such a loving and unobligated giver. Knowing I’ve been saved, by no merit of my own.

I pray you know of the great gift God has given us, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And not only that you know of it, but that you are living it out daily. Because of it, we are able to stand before Him justified, Non-guilty. And while we will all bow before Him one day, those who find themselves in Christ will not perish.

If you’re unsure about all of this, I highly encourage you to do some investigating. Pick up a Bible and read the book of John. Talk to someone you know and trust who is a believer. Visit churches near you to learn more about it all. I pray the LORD will reveal Himself to you so that you may see Him, truly see Him, all He has done for you, and your great need of Him.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

Feet of a Deer

For who is God besides our Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He make my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

A deer’s feet are such that they can bound quickly and steadily through uneven ground and not fall even when the terrain is most treacherous. God does the same for us – we might not get through the rough spots as quickly as a deer, but He helps us stay steady and not fall.

I “just happened” to come across these verses this morning and sent them along to a friend to encourage her. Little did I know that God would work these verses out in me this very day.

If you know me, you may, or may not, know how this crazy brain of mine latches on to thoughts sometimes and will not let go. It happened this morning on my way to work. I tried rationalizing and talking myself out of it; “You don’t need to be thinking about that; let it go and move on,” which never really works. I don’t know about you, but often this is my first reaction. Why, I ask you, do we look to ourselves to fix these problems when we have the God of the universe on our side? Eventually my thoughts will go to Him, but not too often first thing; I’m working on that.

After getting to work, the anxiety began to grow and I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own. I texted the same friend asking for prayer and I went to a quiet place where I could get some work done, alone and out of the public eye. After praying myself and just standing in one spot for 5 or so minutes, wondering where to start, I busied myself and got to work. After an hour, it had mostly subsided, and I returned to my desk for some more organizing and such. There was still a knot in my stomach though and after a few more hours I decided a change of scenery would be best. I left a few hours early and went to my friend’s house.

We went for a run and I got to talk it through with her. While we were no where near as quick as deer, I felt God doing just what the psalmist describes in the verses above. He was getting me through the rocky terrain and helping me stand on the heights, so that I might be able to look at it all from a different angle. To see it objectively from a distance, rather than getting trampled in the midst of it all.

How good He is to enable us to do that! I pray I’m able to keep that mindset as I don’t think this particular trial is yet at end. Not thinking about it as much is half the battle; handing it over to Him is the other. Though I have no doubt that when I let go (and not pick it back up) He will be faithful in taking the burden from me and helping me bound along the path He’s set before me to whatever lies ahead.

Praying He is making your feet like the feet of a deer; that you may not falter when the terrain is rocky.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Joy-filled Worship

Standing in front of the congregation at church this morning, singing praise and worship to the Lord, there was joy in the room that I could not only feel, but also see. Most of the time I have a dual focus; 1) worshiping my Lord and Savior and 2) making sure I change the slides at the right time so the congregation can follow along :).  I do not often look at individuals in front of me because I feel awkward doing so, almost as if I’m an intruder in something that is very special to each person. This morning, though, I couldn’t help it. As we started service with “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” my eye was caught by one of my Sisters joyfully singing and moving to the music. I heard her separate from the rest of the congregation and no other word could better express her whole being than joy-filled. It was contagious and I could feel the smile broadening on my face and my spirit lifting as I sang praise to God. ‘This is what worship should feel like,’ I thought to myself as the song continued.

While acts of worship come in various forms (from singing and praying to giving and studying His Word), I have always been especially moved by worshiping through song. I sing at my church with the music team that can consist of 2-5 people on any given Sunday. I am not standing in front of the congregation to perform for them, but rather, I am standing and singing praise to my God, giving glory to Him, and encouraging others to do the same. Every now and again I am reminded of where my focus should be and last week it happened as I was watching TV.

Strange, you think. Well, I do, too, but let me explain. I was at a friend’s house indulgently watching her TV (I do not have cable at my house) and caught “Dancing with the Stars.” I remembered hearing that Candace Cameron Bure was on this season and wondered if she was still in the competition. To my delight, she was (and still is!). The remaining stars had meetings with someone they respected and looked up to and they showed a short conversation Candace had with Angela Thomas (Angela’s thoughts on taping the segment can be found here) who is a Bible teacher and author. I was thrilled when I heard them discussing the joy that is evident in Candace when she is dancing and that is because her joy is complete in Jesus Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.  – Psalm 16:11a

And then Candace spoke of how, while she does enjoy dancing in front of all the people, she is really performing for an audience of One. I was just so amazed by seeing her so strongly and solidly standing in her faith in an arena that very rarely shows appreciation for such convictions. You can watch it for yourself here. When I relayed that part of the show to a younger friend of mine she commented, “It kind of makes you think, ‘What am I doing?’ doesn’t it?” Had I been 12 as well, I might have thought the same thing. Instead I was able to explain to her that our faith is something we live out and is evident to the people around us. We have influence that reaches much further than we imagine and God uses it for His glory when we stand in and exhibit that faith, whether we are on national television or hanging out with our friends. What matters most is that audience of One. As long as it is Him we are serving, praising, worshiping; as long as He is our focus, nothing else really matters.

And that’s when I thought of myself, standing up in front of church, and wondered how often I really do focus on my audience of One and how often the words come out of my mouth but my mind and heart are elsewhere. When the latter happens, I know there is no joy there; how can there be when my focus is on how I’m going to get my finances in order or how I do so wish a guy would walk into my life and sweep me off my feet….yea, not so much where my focus should be. But when we focus on the One who gave it all on our behalf, taking our sin upon Himself that we might become His righteousness, then and there do we find our joy and rightfully worship the only One who is truly worthy of any of it. Then can we lift up our hands and give it all to our audience of One.

Praying you are able to find your joy complete in the only One who can complete us all,

Love & Blessings,

KJ

An Answered Prayer

I have a horrible habit of hitting the snooze button in the morning. It’s become such a habit that there are mornings when I don’t even know I’ve been doing it until it’s 45 minutes past the time my alarm was set for (snooze only works up to 25 minutes past) and I have 30 minutes, or less, to get ready for work. Needless to say, this morning was a snooze morning (though I spent some of that time in bed thinking about taking the day off). In the end, I got up and started getting ready for work. As I did so, though, I just had this feeling of dread and just wanted the day to be over as soon as possible.

This is one of those things that happens for a few days, about once a month (thank you, Eve). My brain doesn’t think properly and my emotions run more rampant than usual (if you know me, you will understand). A time when I think of a year or so ago when a friend of mine reminded me that we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens in love.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

And the law of Christ that Paul is referring to? You should find this at least somewhat familiar:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

I will admit, I do not have too much of a problem when it comes to helping someone “carry their burden.” God has graciously given me a heart that longs to help and wants to feel needed. However; when it comes to asking someone to help me bear a burden, there are times I’d rather not. There are times when I am prideful and don’t want anyone else to know I can’t do something on my own (can we say sin?). There are times when I worry that I will just be slighted and will be no better off having asked for help (ummm, sin). And then there are the times when I want to wallow in my despair and hide away from everyone, even God (you got it, sin. Plus, that last part…not possible).

The discussion with my friend focused on the aspect that in order for others to share in bearing our burdens, we must first tell them what burdens we might be carrying. She also helped me see it from a different point of view; see if you can follow. When we are able to bless someone by helping them out it makes us feel good, right? We feel needed and are happy we were able to help, yes? How would you feel if your friend was going through a rough time, knew you could help, but never told you? Not so good, huh? And that’s exactly the point – when we do not ask for help with our burdens, we take away someone’s opportunity to be a blessing. So, in essence, when we keep to ourselves, we’re being selfish (you guessed it, sin).

So, for the past year or so, since I had that conversation, I’ve been working on this; telling others of my burdens so they can help bear them. And to their credit (but probably, mostly God’s), none of them have said, “Oh, no. Here comes Kellie. I wonder what’s wrong today?” (at least not to my face 🙂 ).

Today was a day I needed to do that; I needed to share. I drove to work feeling numb, despite the praise music flooding my speakers. I felt a weight bearing down on me and, even though it had hardly begun, I couldn’t wait for the day to end. I battled between asking for help and trying to pray, but my ind just wouldn’t stay focused. Though I had slept a little late I actually got to work a few minutes early. I knew what I had to do; I had to ask for help. I texted a friend, a dear Sister, asking for prayer. Before I even walked through the library doors I got a simple response, “Starting now.” I admit, my spirit lifted, just the slightest, knowing she was petitioning for me.

I headed in and started my day. Maybe 15 minutes after that, God answered her prayer in a very obvious fashion. A dear Brother, who just happened to be in the area, dropped in for a visit. He said he drove by the library and thought, “Kellie’s probably working. I should at least see if she is since I’m here.” We chatted and my mood did a 180, and I knew, as soon as I saw him, that it was the Lord’s provision that He sent to get me through my day. No words can really describe how I felt in that moment, how I feel now writing it all out, except to say that God is so good and I am so thankful that He uses His people to pass along His blessings.

If I had any doubt (or if you do) about sharing burdens in the future, it was driven away by the facebook status of Paul David Tripp that I saw when I got home from work today: “If you’re God’s child you must remind yourself today that your walk with God is designed to be a community project from beginning to end.” If you need further proof, how’s this?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:1-7

I pray we all will have the courage to share our burdens and also bless others by lending a hand to theirs as well. We are Family and it is what we are called to do.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Encouragement for the Day

So, I realize that last week I deemed Fridays the day where I share creative things I have been doing/making…however, I am now mostly working on Christmas presents and don’t want to spoil the surprises for anyone (I’ll have lots of things to post come January 🙂 ).

Instead, I have a psalm I’d like to share. A verse of it was referenced in today’s entry of Jesus Calling and I thought I would read the whole thing. So glad I did – what an encouragement for today! I hope it does the same for you.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

So amazing to think to know that not only are His plans for me secure, but I, myself, am secure in Him. As I walk this path of life, He will never abandon me. In knowing that, there is such an amazing feeling of peace and love that washes over me; a feeling of confidence and strength imbeds itself in my very soul. This is what life is supposed to be. This is what He has given us life to be. His children who rest in His love and peace, for we tend to be restless and anxious on our own. His children who draw strength and confidence from Him, for we are weak and unsure by ourselves. His children who fully accept His gift of grace, given to us through the ultimate sacrifice – His Son, dying on a cross as atonement for our sin, that we might have a relationship, a personal relationship with the Creator Himself, because without it, we are all lost. His children who give Him all the glory, for there is no way we could do it all on our own.

Are you acting as a child of the Almighty God today? Take a moment to stop and think about all of the good things He has blessed you with. The times you held it together when it all seemed to be falling apart? That was Him. The times you were so full of joy you felt like you would burst from smiling so much? That was Him. Realize all He has freely given you, and give Him thanks, glory, and honor for it all. He deserves so much more, but it is the least we can do.

Love & Blessings,

KJ