The Life of the Party

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“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you . . . “ (Psalm 42:6)
I used to throw amazing “pity-parties.” Like celebrations of ancient royalty, I could stretch a good bad mood for days on end. Of course, these soirees were always a solo affair. No one ever seemed to want to come. But a good pity-party was best when it was just me and my dark thoughts. Well, I stand corrected. There was always one guest I could count on every time: Satan. He loved my parties almost as much as I did. He brought the snacks and fed me hopeless thoughts and dismal forecasts. He lowered the lights and played the music of loneliness: “See, nobody notices that you are down. Nobody cares about you. Nobody loves you.” He was the perfect companion and kept the “party mood” going.
But something happened – or Someone happened. God. I discovered an incredible thing: it is hard to keep a pity-party going when God is around. Misery flees when the love of God is present. Despair has no place where there is hope and peace and Joy. Lies cannot exist in the presence of the Truth. And Satan will not stick around when God is in the house.
I still have down days and I will always fight against depression, but I’ve discovered a new way to “party.” I invite God as my Guest of Honor. He feeds me with His goodness and love when I meditate on His Word. I listen to the Spirit now instead of Satan’s playlist. I take negative thoughts captive and replace them with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. God had brought light where there was once only darkness. He truly is the “Life of the party.”
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Don’t Let the World Change Your Song

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“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3).

For many years I sang in church choirs.  I am not a great singer, but I always tried to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 98:4).  I am an alto – I sing on the low female range.  I remember one church choir I was in, I was seated with a soprano to my left, a tenor directly behind me on my left and a bass directly behind me on my right.  Everyone was going in different vocal directions and I had the hardest time staying on my alto notes. Because the soprano was a strong singer, I was constantly being pulled in her direction.  I spoke to our choir director, and he told me he didn’t want to move me, but he did give me some good advice.  He told me to concentrate more on my note – and to lean just a little towards the alto to my right.  He said that he could hear me singing the correct notes, but at the same time, he could tell that I was listening to all the other singers around me and losing confidence in myself.  I will always remember what he told me, “You’re on the right notes, but you have to stay focused and not back off.”

I think about that often when the world is loud and I’m struggling to stay on the right way.  Many different voices are saying many different things, and they are apt to draw me away from what I know is true.  The culture wants me to embrace things that God’s Word has clearly forbidden.  The scholar wants me to trade truth for worldly philosophies that have no regard for God.  The unsaved world wants me to stop singing God’s praises altogether.  My choir director’s advice rings loud and clear: stay focused. Concentrate on what you know is right and true; lean in to godly wisdom and don’t back off.  This world is becoming more evil and more vocal every day. If we are not intentionally listening to God, you and I will be pulled away from what is right and true.  I love this word from Paul to his protégé Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14).  Stay the course.  Focus on the truth.  Let God’s Word drown out the voices of the world. The way of righteousness has not changed just because the music around you has. Beloved, don’t let the world change your song.

Don’t Fear-get about God

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“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

I love how little kids make up words.  Like calling pockets “snack-holes” or shoelaces “shoe-snakes.”  When my son was little he had a word that always made me smile – when his memory failed him, he didn’t forget, he said “I fear-get.”  I thought that was so cute – I wanted to box his teacher’s ears when she corrected him.

That is the perfect word for how some of us live.  We fear-get.  We give in to fear and we forget who our God is and what He is able to do.  We fear-get His power and His promises.  We fear-get His Word and His Spirit.

When Israel battled the Philistine army one enemy soldier caused the whole army to tremble in fear.  Goliath was a giant of a man – “over nine feet tall” – and he used his size to his advantage.  He loomed large and heckled Saul’s soldiers and “all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17: 4-11). Their fear caused them to forget their God and his power and promises as they trembled before their enemy.  Enter David, the young shepherd-boy with a sling, a pocket full of stones and an unwavering faith in the Lord.  He recognized the enemy was defying “the army of the Living God” of Israel (v. 36).   In other words, he knew this battle belonged to the Lord.  While David faced off against Goliath, Goliath faced off against God. And Goliath went down. Hard.

There are two important lessons to learn here.

The Israelite army trembled at the threats and ranting of Goliath.  At words.  They were afraid to stand against the giant because of words.  That is satan’s favorite ploy against us – he is a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) – but roaring can’t hurt you.  He’s just making a lot of loud noise. When we listen to satan’s words, we fear-get the Word of God and tremble like the army of Israel.

But when David went to confront Goliath, he went “in the name of the Lord Almighty” (v. 45).  He carried five smooth stones in his pouch – and the memory of how God had given him victory in the past.  Recalling how he had killed lions and bears in his shepherding work, David declared, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).  Unlike the Israelite army, David didn’t run from the enemy – he “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” (v. 48).  He loaded his sling with one stone and all the confidence He had in the Lord.  He didn’t fear-get a thing.

What makes you fear-get?  What makes you tremble and fear-get God’s love, grace, mercy, hope, power and promises.  What makes you fear-get His Word?  What makes you fear-get who you are in Christ?  What makes you fear-get all the God has done for you?  David Jeremiah says, “When we recognize how God has been our help in ages past, we’ll remember He’s our hope for years to come.”  Beloved, the mighty God of David is your God too.  He delivered Israel and He will deliver you.  Don’t give in to the rants of the enemy.  Don’t fear-get about God.

Shaken and Stirred

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Oswald Chambers said, “Beware of the danger of spiritual relaxation.”  If every day as a Christian is an easy-breezy-peazy day, then we are in trouble. Following Jesus is not intended to be some blissful nirvana. It’s a climb, a race, a battle, a challenge. It’s a step-by-step, day-by-day, prayer-by-prayer trek over desert sand and rocky mountains and treacherous trails through hostile territory. That’s the life the Apostles experienced. That’s the life the martyrs endured. Their faith was tried and tested in the fires, and it came forth as gold. The Christians with the strongest, deepest faith are the ones who defy opposition, persecution, threats, and even death for the name of Jesus. The most dangerous state for a Christian is when all is right in their little world.
Jeremiah 48:11 points this out: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another. So she tastes as she did and her aroma is unchanged.” In making wine, the grapes are first crushed to extract the juice which is placed in bottles or wine skins and allowed to ferment. During fermentation, the dregs, or sediment, settle at the bottom of the container. After forty days the wine is “shaken up” – poured into another container to allow the dregs to be removed. If the dregs remain, the wine becomes too sweet and thick and it is spoiled. Moab had always been largely at peace, and their turmoil-free life had made them spoiled. The Lord said the same of Jerusalem, “I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs . . . (Zephaniah 1:12)”
Has your life – and your faith – been shaken lately? James says, “Count it all joy . . .” (James 1:2). God is sifting out the dregs, the dangerously sweet stuff that spoils you. He is making your life an offering worthy of Christ. Is it hard? You bet. Is it painful? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Just ask the saints who endured. They’re the ones singing songs of joy and praise around the throne.

A Snowflake in an Avalanche

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“O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you” (Daniel 9:8).

I quote a lot of people, but I never thought I would quote Voltaire, the French Enlightenment philosopher who was an outspoken critic of Christianity, but I ran across one of his quotes and thought it was very powerful. “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Stop and think about that for a moment. An avalanche can be traced back to millions of harmless, individual snowflakes that come together to create a massive wall of white with destructive power. But who would lay the blame on a single, lacy snowflake?
That thought brings two things to mind. As Christians we look around in shock at the world that has turned from acceptance to hatred for the church. We shake our heads at the lack of morals of this country and the laws that declare wrong as right and right as wrong. And we look in disbelief at “churches” who have embraced and celebrate sin, putting a religious stamp of approval on what God has declared unnatural and ungodly. I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of moral deterioration in just my lifetime. And we sit, like frogs in a steaming stewpot wondering, “What happened? How did we get to this point?” We got here by ignoring the snowflakes. The church turned a blind eye to the first signs of compromise. We didn’t want to raise a fuss. It’s such a little thing, we shouldn’t make a big deal over it. We need to pick our battles. We have to be culturally relevant. We don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. One wink at sin, one shrug of our religious shoulders – then another and another and another. And here we are in a sin-saturated nation with no voice to say otherwise.
The truth is, we are each individually responsible for the state of the nation. We overlooked the snowflakes of compromise in our own lives long before they started swirling in the culture. We turned the disciplines of holy living – Bible study, prayer, service, faithfulness to the church– into suggestions for living your best life. We made the church one option among many in our busy, over-scheduled lives. We decided purity wasn’t as important as entertainment and freedom in Christ meant no restrictions. The snowflakes eventually caused an avalanche that pushed us over the edge and away from God.
But the same principle can turn it all around. What if you and I decided, as individuals to turn our hearts back to God, to return to the disciplines of holy living and the priority of righteousness? What if we spent time in Bible study and prayer every day? What if we determined to make purity and faithfulness the rule rather than the exception? What if we followed the Spirit without compromise? What if we purged the sin from our homes and our lives? What if the church turned back to God in repentance and godly sorrow? What if we taught the Scriptures rather than cultural, feel-good-about-myself messages? What if we decided that our kids needed the church more than they needed sports? What if we recognized that we’re supposed to be different than the culture around us? What if we accepted the responsibility for the state of our nation? What if we cried out to God for revival? What if every person who claims the name of Christ told just one lost person about Jesus? What if – one believer at a time, one church at a time – we created an avalanche of godliness and holiness that could push us back to God?
If one snowflake can be part of a wall of destruction, then one believer can be part of a wall of restoration. I believe it’s possible. I also I believe it is necessary. I believe our nation is in a precarious position, so near the edge of a very steep cliff. We are in danger of falling into a dark abyss from which we might never recover. The time for personal godliness is now. The time for the church to repent is now. We must walk back the compromises we’ve made – in our lives and in the church – while there is still time. A single snowflake is not the problem, but it is part of the problem. A single committed believer is not the whole solution, but you and I can be part of the solution. On our own we have little influence or power, but together with God, we can change this nation. We must – before it’s too late.

God in the Darkness

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It was thirteen years ago, but I remember it like I am still there. My season of great darkness. To this day I don’t understand why, but the enemy came down on me with both feet. It was an emotional breakdown and it was spiritual oppression. It manifested physically in sleepless nights and body aches with no medical explanation. I could not stop the tears and the constant thoughts of self-destruction. I truly believed I was losing my mind. I had been writing for several years, and I threw all my notebooks in the fireplace because I didn’t think I would ever have normal, sane thoughts again. And I thought God had abandoned me. The enemy kept telling me so. One day my then 12 year old son came through the kitchen singing, “Jesus loves me,” but he stopped short of the chorus. I said, “please keep singing” but he said, “you finish it Mom, I’m going out to play.” But I couldn’t sing “Yes, Jesus loves me,” because I didn’t believe He did.
One morning in the very wee hours, I sat on my back porch, wrapped in a blanket with my Bible in my lap. The only thing I knew for sure was it I had any hope of survival, I had to stay connected to God, even if I wasn’t sure He wanted to stay connected to me. I was reading Exodus 3 and the story of Moses and the burning bush. When Moses asked God’s name, I “heard” in my heart, “Child, who am I?” “You are God,” I answered, “who else could you be?” “Oh, there is so much more to me than you ever imagined. Know me.” I remembered a little book I had picked up for five bucks at a women’s retreat a few years before, that had a list of the names of God with Scripture references. I started at the first name and day-by-day worked my way through that list. God met me and revealed Himself to me every morning, name by name. I researched more names and for three years I studied until the fog dissipated and I could breath again. He saved my sanity and my life.
Now I know that He is El Emunah – the Faithful God and He is Yahweh Sali – the Lord my Rock and He is Yahweh Gibbor Milchamah – the Lord Mighty in Battle. But most of all I know that He is El Hayyay – God of my life. And He’s proven it over and over and over again.

Guard Your Heart

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“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

I grew up a military kid, and I remember well the guards posted at the base entrance.  Their sole job was to keep the base secure from people and things entering that posed a threat.  We had a sticker on our car that allowed us to pass right on through – we though it was so cool that the guard would salute my mom and a car full of kids when he saw that sticker.  But if a car approached without that authorization the guard stopped them to determine who they were and why they wanted to enter the base.  If the guard had any inclination that the person was up to no good, access was denied, and on occasion an arrest was made.  That is the same idea we see in this verse.  We have to post a guard and deny access to anything that poses a threat to our heart – to our spiritual and emotional wellspring.  But here’s what sticks out in my mind: the bases we lived on had multiple entrances, and every entrance had a guard.  Every possible route onto the base was secured.  Now let’s go back to our Proverbs passage.  Read a little further (vs. 24-27) and you will see that Solomon gives us four posts we need to secure: Guard your mouth, guard your eyes, guard your steps, and guard your direction.

Guard your mouth:Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” – Jesus warned, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ (Matthew 15:11).  Our words – and our actions – spring from our heart. When our words are perverse and corrupt, it means our hearts are perverse and corrupt.  But our words also feed our heart.  It’s a cyclical effect – what comes out of my mouth comes from my heart and goes back into my heart again.   David said it this way, “He wore cursing as his garment; it entered his body like water, into his bones like oil” (Psalm 109:18).

Guard your eyes: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” – watch what you’re looking at, listening to and absorbing into your heart.   And I don’t just mean avoid looking at inappropriate stuff like pornography – which should go without saying.  I’m also talking about looking at things that just dull our spirits.  Here’s my confession:  some days I come home physically and mentally wiped out.  All I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or scroll the internet on my phone for funny memes.  Now I’m not looking at anything bad, but I’m also not looking at anything godly.  I’m not feeding my heart – I’m dulling it. Computer programmers call it GIGO: Garbage In – Garbage Out.  I call it The Sponge Principle.

Guard your steps: “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm” – watch your step.  One of the worst ankle injuries I ever incurred happened when I wasn’t watching where I was planting my foot and I stepped awkwardly off a curb and nearly broke my ankle.  The world is full of curbs and potholes and ditches that can easily trip us up and Satan is always planting landmines in our path.  We need to pay careful attention to where we set our feet – make sure the way is firm and free of danger.

Guard your direction: “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” – keep going in the right direction.  How do we know for sure what is the right way?  God has given us a road map – the Bible and a personal Guide – the Holy Spirit.   By storing up God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), meditating on the Scriptures (Psalm 19:14), continually, intentionally seeking God with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), keeping in step with the Spirit (Romans 8:5), and staying in community with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25), we can stay on the good way.

Base security is a vital part of our military operations and the well-being of our nation.  Heart security is no less important to our lives; our faith, witness and ministry are at stake.  You and I need to post our guards and secure every access to our hearts and protect the “wellspring of our lives.”  Guard your heart well Beloved.