The Song God Loves to Sing

father and sonZephaniah 3:17

What is your favorite song?  If you are as crazy about music as I am… you have a list.  You don’t?  Okay… so I must be the crazy one.  My top ten includes:  #1 – When God Ran by Benny Hester — #2 – We Are the Reason by David Meese — #3 – She Believes in Me by Kenny Rogers.

As a teen I used to listen to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every week.  I was excited to hear at the beginning of a particular week’s broadcast that there was going to be “a brand new #1 song.”

There is a new #1 song in my heart today.  Sorry, Benny.  Sorry, David and Kenny.  You have all been moved down a notch.  My new #1 song is Zephaniah 3:17 –The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (NIV)

God’s song over me is my new #1!!!!

How about you?   What would it mean for you, if you could really hear… deep down in your soul… a melody that resonated how much God truly delights in you how he would rather sing over you than rebuke you?  I think that song would change your life.  It has mine.

Richard Foster tells the story of a friend of his who was walking in a shopping mall with his three-year-old son:

“Lyman [James] is a radio disk jockey. One of the best. He’s known on the radio as “Rymin’ Lyman.” He’s also the father of three lovely children, and one day he was spending the afternoon in a shopping mall with his three-year-old son Zackery. But it was just one of those days and Zackery was in a particularly cantankerous mood, fussing and fuming. Lyman tried everything to quiet his son. Nothing seemed to help. Zackery simply would not obey.

Then, I guess under some special inspiration, Lyman scooped up his son, and, holding him close to his chest, he began singing an impromptu love song to him. He just made it up. None of the words rhymed. He sang off-key. And yet, as best he could this father began sharing his heart with his son. “I love you, Zackery” he sang. “I’m so glad you’re my boy. You make me happy. I like the way you laugh.” Things like that. Zackery began to calm down. On they went from one store to the next. Quietly Lyman kept singing, making up words that didn’t rhyme and were sung off-key. And Zackery laid his head on his father’s shoulder, listening to this strange and wonderful song.

Finally they finished shopping and went to the car. As Lyman opened the door and prepared to buckle his son into the car seat, Zackery lifted up his head and said simply, “Sing it to me again Daddy! Sing it to me again!”

Foster added:  “You see, prayer is a little like that. With simplicity of heart we allow ourselves to be gathered up into the arms of the Abba of Jesus and let him sing his love song over us.”

Prayer is not just some duty I need to perform in order to be a “good little Christian.”  Is it a duty  to have to listen to a loved one express their devotion to us?  Not really.

The question is:  Have we gotten close enough to God to hear His song lately?

Well, that’s my brand new #1 song this week.  Next week? All I have to say is:  “Sing it to me again, God.  Sing it to me again!”

Finish Your Assignment

f paperActs 20:22-24

We all know the results of unfinished assignments.  In the class room if we don’t complete our assignment… we get an “f” or and “incomplete.”  In football, if we are playing defense we need to stay with our assignment or the opponents will score an easy 6 points.  In our daily life, if we don’t complete our paperwork properly (for our taxes, our car tags, etc.) we get to do them over again… hopefully without taxes and penalties.  We know there is sometimes a price to pay… and yet we still procrastinate.

In our passage today, Paul has been talking to the elders at the church in Ephesus.  He tells them that his future involves hard times and jail time (v. 23) and that he will likely not see them face to face again.  (v. 25)  But rather than try to side step what is to come… he embraces it.  To Paul it is a continuation and a fitting conclusion to the ministry given to him directly by Jesus.

22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

I find fascinating the part where Paul says:  “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself.”  This kind of flies in the face of the self esteem cult in our country.  How could Paul say that he was of no consequence?

I don’t think that Paul felt badly about himself or that he didn’t feel he had contributed significantly to the advancement of the Kingdom.  I think he meant two things:

1)  The Message was more important than the Messenger.

I picked up a book from the free bin at my favorite bookstore the other day.  It was from the 1920’s.  In Dale Carnegie’s book “Public Speaking and the Influencing of Business Men” I found this jewel regarding having confidence when you speak:  “Have a message, and then think of yourself as a Western Union boy instructed to deliver it.  We pay little attention to the boy.  It is the telegram that we want.  The message—that is the thing.  Keep your mind on it.  Know it like the back of your hand.  Believe it feelingly.  Then talk as if you were determined to say it.”

As a pastor or teacher in a church, one will do so much better if the focus isn’t on how one will be perceived as the messenger.  The emphasis has got to be one how the audience is receiving the message.  What people thought of Paul was of no consequence to him.  What people thought of “the gospel of the grace of God” was paramount.

2)  It is more about the WE mission, and less about the ME mission.

I recently read the story of Second Lieutenant Karl Marlantes, who, at the age of 23 was in charge of 40 marines during an intense battle in the Vietnam War.  Marlantes and his men were in the jungle waiting to retake a hill the enemy possessed after U.S. jets bombed it. The jets then came and bombed the wrong hill. This left Marlantes and his men without cover and vulnerable.  It would only take a minutes before enemy rockets and mortars would find his troops.

Marlantes knew what he had to do next. He writes:

“If I didn’t get up and lead, we’d get wiped out …. I did a lot of things that day … but the one I’m most proud of is that I simply stood up, in the middle of that flying metal, and started up the hill …. I simply ran forward up the steep hill, zigzagging for the bunker, all by myself, hoping [my own soldiers] wouldn’t hit me in the back. It’s hard to zigzag while running uphill loaded down with ammunition and grenades.”

Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw something moving.   He continued by writing:

“It was a marine! He was about 15 meters below me, zigzagging, falling, up and running again. Immediately behind him a long ragged line of Marines came moving and weaving up the hill behind me. Behind the line were spots of crumpled bodies, lying where they’d been hit. They’d all come with me …. Everyone was intermingled, weaving, rushing and covering, taking on each hole and bunker one at a time in groups …. We, the group, just rushed forward all at once. We couldn’t be stopped. Just individuals among us were stopped … but we couldn’t be …. I was we, no longer me.  (Stewart Ruch, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Karl Marlantes, “The Truth About Being a Hero,” The Wall Street Journal (8-20-11)

You know you have a good church is when it stops being about the “me”…. and starts to be about the “we”.

———-

Paul was not worried about who got the honor.  Paul was not worried about how he was perceived as a messenger.  What mattered was that his assignment got done!  Do you have any assignments that you have yet to complete for the Kingdom?

Finish the course and ministry assigned to you by Jesus.  There is no better way to leave a legacy!

He Breaks Horses

horsesIsaiah 30: 15-18

I love the beginning of this passage:  “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”  But unfortunately I am all too familiar with the second part of verse 15:  “…but you would have none of it.”  We are all too willing to accept the rest and quietness… the repentance and trust part?  Not so much.

We are more willing to run from our problems than to bring them to God and find deliverance.   (v. 16) “You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.”  This could mean anything from going on a spending spree when you’re flat broke, to stuffing all of your over due bills in a drawer before even opening them, to putting off a phone call you need make but are too ashamed or frightened to do.  Quietness and rest have flown from you… and you cannot face the mess you have made… so it’s off to the races.

But the running does you no good.  Your problems have faster horses.  (vv. 16b) “Therefore your pursuers will be swift.”  Any runners out there?  Are you fleeing from God?  Unwilling to own up to past mistakes… unwilling to seek treatment for self inflicted wounds… unwilling to dismount your rebellious thoroughbred? Beware… God knows a thing or two about horses.  (Job 39:19-25)  He made them and He can break them.

Did you ever wonder what God thinks about us runners?  Verse 18 tells us:  “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait from him!”

The word for longing in Hebrew is “châkâh”.  It has as its root the Hebrew word for “carving” or “engraving.”  The connection appears to be the idea of piercing.  What pierces the heart of God?  The idea of being gracious to you… and yet “you will have no part of it.”   He stands to dispense his compassion and grace in abundance.  (Eph. 1:7-8)  But who receives it?  Not those “heading for the hills.” But those that in stillness,… wait.  The rewards for repentance and trust are awesome and fill the end of the chapter:  Answered Prayer (v. 19b), Guidance (v. 21), Fruitfulness (v. 23-26), Victory (v. 27-33) and Joy (v. 29).

Ready to stop running and let God love you?  Then, calm down thoroughbred!  Let him break you down.  Wait on Him… He longs to give you the rest and quiet you’ve always longed for.