Posts tagged ‘Israel’

Evolution of Praise

First off, allow me to say that however one chooses to praise God is not for me to judge. I love watching all kinds of praisers. It’s all beautiful to me. This post, however, is just a look at my own evolution as a praiser and lover of God, because the way that I give myself to Him now is far different from where I used to be.

I grew up in a Missionary baptist church. I loved it for what it was. I accepted salvation there. I was baptized there. I preached my first sermon there. That church gave me my formative development as a person and as a Christian. I still consider that my genesis. I heard many types of preachers there. There were the fiery ones, the expositive ones, the quietly effective ones, etc. We sang hymns, and had a church choir that actually had SATB voices, with people who knew the technical aspects of beautiful music. SO we praised God with polish and refinement. There was no lifting of hands, merely a quiet reverence for God.

This was fine with me, because at that point in my life, I was not fully committed to God, and so I figured that singing my best was the best way that I could give God praise. Going to churches with “free praisers” scared me. I thought that “those” people were absolutely out of their minds. My friends and I would make fun of people who danced and lifted their hands. We were bougie. “Look at that woman shouting!” “Look at that old man doing that jig!” We were ignorant. We barely knew God. We had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. We served God out of a duty to the church.

When I got married, I moved over to my wife’s church. We would visit there frequently while we were engaged, and this church was in the midst of a powerful revival in the Holy Spirit. Even while I didn’t understand what was happening around me, I knew that even the air was different. The music was catchy, with a great beat and some great vocals. The singing, while not always pretty and refined, was so sincere. The people clapped and sang at the top of their lungs. This was a raw atmosphere. People danced and passed out. The Pastor of the church walked on the pews when he got “happy” during service. Sometimes, (EGAD), he didn’t even preach and the people just sat moaned for God. What was this? It wasn’t until I joined the church and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit that I really began to understand what praise was. Even then, I praised God out of my emotion. I would dance and do a high step. I would clap and shout. Deep inside of me though, something was missing. I knew it, but I so enjoyed praising in that atmosphere. Man, just thinking about it makes me smile.

When my wife and I moved to the church we currently reside in, something strange happened. Over the last 7 years, I have received training in the knowledge of who God is, why He is so worthy of my highest praise, and how to let go. I’ve spent time in the word with God. I have encountered a God who had been a distant relative before, but has not become my closest friend. I have experience God in ways that I never would have imagined, and He has completely shattered everything that I thought that I knew about Him time after time after time. With each “rediscovery”, I have felt my level of exuberance in praise increase. I have gone from standing completely still and lifting my hands, to jumping up and down like a wild man, crying out so loudly that I can barely sing, dancing on stage. I have gone from being reserved and wondering what everyone else was doing, to closing my eyes and becoming “undignified” in the presence of my God.

One of my favorite stories about David is when the Ark of the Covenant came back. The Bible talks about how David took off his clothes and dances in his skivvies in front of all of his subjects and the people of Israel. When his wife questioned his sanity, he proudly declared that he would become even more undignified, because God’s Presence returning was worth every celebration…and more. Now, David was a king. He went hard for God in front of everyone without a single ounce of embarrassment. He knew that he was celebrating for an audience of One.

And this is where I am right now. The God that I now know is simply too good for me to sit still. I know Him too well now to just give Him a cursory nod and keep on moving. I choose to exhaust my limbs and move my body, I choose to offer up my voice with all of it’s imperfections and cracks. I choose to not let singing the wrong notes bother me. I choose rather, to focus on Him, knowing that He inhabits my praise, and while it is not perfect, it is all for Him, and Him alone.

Simply put, as I’be grown in Him, I’ve grown in my willingness to give Him my all in praise. I do know this, though. However you choose to praise God is a praise that God accepts willingly from you. You don’t have to imitate anyone else. All He wants is a praise that comes from your heart, and however that looks for you, if your heart is engaged, God is pleased.

Have a great evening! Be blessed, peeps.

Gideon

I found this among my things and thought it was worth sharing. be blessed and have a great weekend!

 

In my reading over the weekend, I read about Gideon. I’ve heard about him before, mainly him testing God with the whole fleece deal. But, what I didn’t know was how many times he had God proved Himself and that He was calling Gideon to be a hero for Israel. He practically made God jump through hoops, and God jumped through each and every one of them. He encountered the Angel of the Lord underneath the tree and had him wait while he ran back to his house to get some meat and bread so that the Angel could perform a miracle. All my life, I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t test God or ask for fleeces because that shows a lack of faith, but this morning I was thinking about Gideon and a question came to mind.

I asked God why HE allowed Gideon to put Him through all of those paces. The whole fleece deal to me seemed like Gideon was stalling while trying to find a way out of that responsibility on one hand, but then God reminded me of something. Gideon was a part of that next generation of Israelites who no longer remembered the great miracles that God had performed for Joshua’s and Moses’ people. He couldn’t relate to the sun staying in the sky or the Red Sea parting, or even the conquest of Canaan. I can only imagine Gideon sitting in an environment of idol worship all around him, even in his own household, then hearing the voice of God coming through loud and clear calling him a man of great valor. When God spoke those words to him, it spoke volumes to me. God spoke to Gideon as HE saw him, not as Gideon saw Himself. It’s apparent that Gideon had a very low opinion of himself, or else he might not have been so hesitant to obey, but God saw beyond the present state towards the created state. So, it’s only right that God spoke to Gideon in the light of what he had been created to be in order to shake him from the stupor of what he was! But, I digress. When I asked God why He allowed Gideon to put Him through all of these tests, God answered me. He told me that because of Gideon’s environment, it required actions outside of the way that He was choosing to move at that point in time. Gideon was not used to living a life of faith the way his forefathers had, so in order to get his attention, God moved in a way that Gideon could perceive with his natural eyes that strengthened his spiritual awareness. Each time that Gideon had an encounter with God; it moved him further and further along in his faith to the point where he moved with fervor to accomplish God’s plans.

I’ve always heard that God meets us where we are and seeks to bring us up to His level. God has shown me this so clearly in the life of Gideon. He used whatever means were at His disposal to raise up a new Judge for Israel.

How great is a God who is willing to exhaust His inexhaustible resources to reach a people who have turned their backs wholeheartedly on Him. As unworthy as we are, His grace and mercy still seek to reach into our hearts and grip us; never letting go.

There is a purpose for you that goes beyond what you can see with your physical eyes. God has placed a mantle of greatness on your life. An ordinary life will not do for one of God’s chosen. This world needs extraordinary, and that’s what God’s grace will enable us to do if we will listen to His voice and be willing to step out in the knowledge that God will never leave us, and that God will never lead us wrong. Have faith in God.

I pray that God will continue moving among us. Lord, wake us up from our drunkenness. Awaken us to who we are in You and what you have predestined us to accomplish in Your name. Your mercy is great, but Your love is greater still, and if you have chosen us for a purpose, Lord please love us with such intensity that our hearts burn within us to accomplish the will of our Father, which is in heaven. Amen.

Breaking New Ground: Let’s Talk About ‘Fight Club’

At our church, the new series is entitled “Breaking New Ground”. It is a series that I believe is a good jump start for the year, and could be a harbinger of things to come in our lives if we pay attention. God IS wanting us to break new ground. Doing the same old things and hoping for different results is crazy. Thing is, breaking new ground can be a very difficult thing for us to do. I was thinking about this while watching a movie and hearing a bible verse quote last  night. The verse referenced Jacob and how he fought with God and left with a blessing and a dislocated hip.  Here is the scripture from Genesis 32:24-27

“After about midnight A Man appeared out of nowhere as if to attach Jacob. Jacob fought Him off because HE did not want to die in his sins before making peace with his brother. The two of them wrestled and fought for hours until just before daybreak. When the Stranger saw that Jacob would not let Him go, He reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, and instantly it was out of joint. Then Jacob knew that he had been contending with Someone with more than human power. So Jacob clung to Him and pleaded for mercy. The Stranger said, ‘Let me go, because it will soon be daybreak.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let go until you assure me of forgiveness for what I have done to my brother and promise to bless me when I meet him, so he’ll forgive me too.’ The Man asked, ‘What is your name?’ He answered, ‘Jacob!’ The Man declared, ‘I’m changing your name. You’ll no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have wrestled with me, and I will give you the assurance of forgiveness and the blessing for which you have struggled.’

You’ve heard this story before. You’ve heard it preached before. I know you have, cause I have too! While it’s not been numerous, I have heard the story. Usually it comes from the slant of holding on to God until He blesses us, but now I think there is something new to me that God is trying to show me. And Pastor Gene, if you’re reading this, I hope I’m not taking one of your sermon topics for the new series!

Breaking new ground can be really difficult. We are creatures of habit, and as such, we tend to repeat the same things in the same way. As a result, we find ourselves in ruts without the vision to see our way out. Jacob was no different. His very name meant “One who deceives”. I think he lived up to that name, even as he tried to change. I think that God had been dealing with Jacob as he lived with Laban for all of those years, so that leading up to this time, Jacob was ready for something new to happen in his life. He realized that his newness of life could not truly begin until Esau forgave him for his taking the birthright that was Esau’s by law. Jacob had been in isolation, basically, for years. And this brings us to this chapter in Genesis. As I’m understanding it now, I believe that in breaking new ground in our lives, sometimes we will have to fight for the ground that we intend to conquer. Joshua and the Israelites had to overcome the land of Canaan, before they could begin to settle in it and break new ground for their own crops and lives. Moses had to fight with his own insecurities before God could move him to Egypt to bring the Israelites out. There is this element of fighting that we see throughout scripture. Whether it is physical fighting or spiritual fighting, we must contend.

And so, when God appears and Jacob begins to fight with Him, this is Jacob taking ownership of his life, and fighting for his destiny. Can you imagine this scene? Jacob wrestling with God? Holding on for dear life? Perhaps even getting some punches in over the course of the encounter? I can imagine Go being pleased. He could see a man who was willing to go beyond and do anything in his human power to change, and be a new creation. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why God changed His name, and gave him a new future. He was willing to fight for the right to break new ground in his life.

See, the newness in our lives is not always easy to come by. There will often be obstacles that we will have to overcome to truly see the new things. The comforting thing here is that we have God on our side, and He has promised to never leave us. He won’t forsake us. Even more, He will give us the strength to fight. In many instances, God even fought and won the battle  without the Israelites lifting a finger except to praise Him after everything was over. We should be prepared and willing to do whatever it takes to allow the change in us that God desires to bring about.

So, I guess the questions is, “are you ready? Are you willing? Will you fight?” I’m learning more and more that the Kingdom of God is no place for wimps, those who are unwilling to take a stand, unwilling to pick up a sword, unwilling to fight. If  you are willing to fight as Jacob fought, with the same desperation and determination, then prepare yourself. You are about to break new ground!

Until next time, be blessed!

 

Pregnant. Yes, YOU!!

I taught on this at my church about 4 years ago, and for some reason it popped into my head last night. Well, I know why actually. In my own life, God has refocused me on this whole idea. It’s a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, as I believe it affects the things that we do, say, and think. It establishes patterns in our lives, and we often have no idea why. Well, I’m here to give you a little insight into what may be happening in your life. You’re pregnant. Wait, wait, wait, before you faint or go running to get a pregnancy test, let me explain.

 

We spend so much of our lives searching for a meaning to what we do. We have dreams that we have had since birth, that stay with us for one reason or another. Why? Why do you have that urge to do something that people might think is crazy?

 

Let’s look at it this way. In most cases, you can tell that a woman is pregnant because things begin to happen which are outside the normal scope of her actions. For instance, before we knew that my wife was pregnant with our middle son, I noticed that my wife’s normally laidback temperament had been replaced by some kind of ferocious alien entity! I mean, she was snapping at me and everybody else! So, one day I told her to go get a pregnancy test, and it confirmed what I thought. She was pregnant. Let’s look at it from a different perspective. When David was anointed King of Israel, he went back to tending sheep for a while. Now, the Bible doesn’t say this, but I am positive that his mind state was much more involved than normal. Sure, he was still as faithful as ever to tending and protecting his sheep, but I’m willing to bet that his mind raced with what had just happened. He was pregnant.

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not the only person to ever experience a pregnancy of the Holy Spirit. She is just the only one to ever experience it physically from the beginning. Every one of us, from birth, are impregnated with purpose, potential, and power. Our bellies are brimming with dreams, desires, and greatness. Our pregnancies begin in the spiritual, when God speaks His will over our lives. The Bible says that even before we were born, God knew us, and He had a plan for our lives. It is this plan that sits inside of us growing in maturity over time, ready to begin showing outward signs when God starts the countdown.

 

So, let’s look at this in terms of a physical pregnancy, because there are always sure signs that there is something happening. A natural pregnancy has 3 trimesters, and I believe that this mirrors what happens in a spiritual pregnancy. After all, God tells us in Hebrews that what is seen was modeled after that which is unseen; therefore, our natural world is but an imitation of the spiritual world.

 

The first trimester for a woman is a time of excitement. It’s when she finds out that she is expecting. From there, the hopes and dreams for the pregnancy begin to take form. She wonders what sex the baby is. She wonders how the rest of her pregnancy will take form. Her body begins the automatic process of creating a womb for the fetus to grow in, an incubator of sorts. She may notice her energy levels drop, and her appetite begin to increase. Clothing also begins to fit a little differently. This is because the new life is requiring more of her than what she has been accustomed to in her pre-pregnancy life. This is very much what happens with the pregnancy of the spirit. We begin to notice changes in ourselves and our outlooks. Things that once fit our lives, begin to take on a lesser importance. Our perspectives shift and bit, and we usually are not sure why. At some point in the first trimester, God will give us a dream, an urging, a vision, or something that gets our attention. For Abraham, it was God telling him to simply get up and go into a new land that God was going to show him. That was his pregnancy test that showed positive. Bingo Abram, you’re gonna be a papa!!

 

During the first trimester, that one glimpse that God gives, or that one dream God shows you, gets you amped up for what’s to come. Your appetite for God can increase exponentially, as you can’t get enough and are obsessed with finding out more. You can begin making your own plans, or deciding your own fate, tailoring it to fit within what God has shown you, or tailoring what God has shown you to fit within your own desires. That part is a danger. We will talk more about that later. The only difference here is that there is increased energy as you pour more and more of yourself out to God, and watch as He pours more and more of His spirit into you.

 

The second trimester is marked by a noticeable bump in energy in a pregnant woman. She begins to feel more like her normal self, even as her body begins rapid expansion. The fetus is growing. Appetite is increasing. Cravings begin developing. The baby bump begins showing, and people want to touch in order to feel apart of the experience. Privately, the mother may start speaking to the baby, and it’s usually during this trimester that the sex is revealed. Names are given sometimes. I remember that finding out the sex for each of our 3 children was always a high point in the pregnancy. We are the kind of parents who love having names picked out beforehand, just because we feel that it is important to begin calling our child by it’s name. We chose names that speak towards destiny and point to God. For instance, our first child’s name means “Wise Child of Faith”, our second means “ Bold” and “Gift of God”, and our last means “Humble” and “Who is like the Lord”. These names have a deep spiritual meaning, and we have seen how each child is becoming the very thing that we call them every day. It’s exciting!

 

In the spiritual pregnancy, you can see the same kinds of things happening. You will begin to see outward manifestations of your “baby”. God continues expanding you, and His spirit in you, so that the things which could harm His purpose no longer fit into your life. His purpose is to create a singular focus and determination to depend on Him and Him alone. This is a time during which you might feel lonely. There may be sadness as you watch your circumstances begin to change. Your normal, everyday life is shaken. Changes come and leave you wondering what is going to come next. What I have observed in people and in my own life is that during the second trimester, we begin to recognize the gravity of what God has placed within us, and it scares us. For first time parents, there is always a little fear about how to raise a kid, and whether they will know what to do. The same principle applies in the spirit. When we see the bigness of what God wants to birth through us, it’ll rock us to our cores. There will be fear. There will be uneasiness. During this period, it is of the utmost importance that we push past all of this and lean on our strengthening relationship with God to help us rest in Him. Rest will be important, because just around the corner will be a time of working.

 

Now we are into the third trimester. At this stage, the mother is usually asking, “HOW MUCH LONGER!!!!” Lol. Time seems to slow down to a drag. There are pains in parts of the body that she never even knew that she had. There is swelling as fluid is retained. The baby’s movements are now much more pronounced. Clothing can be an issue, as growth happens at a rate of almost a lbs per two weeks. It’s a crazy time. The mother can become frustrated, irritated at the drop of a dime. Emotions are all over the place as hormone production levels increase. The tension is high as everything inside of the body is preparing for the birth, which comes often in violent manner as the baby is forceably expelled from the mother, if the birth is natural. But even if the birth is a cesarean, there is even more cutting and pulling and tugging. It’s a horrible time, but a beautiful result.

 

Now, it’s here where all of the feasting on God bears the greatest results. The birth is the hardest part in the life of the believer. It’s hard on those around us, as they can not understand what we are going through. They can’t see your dream. They can’t see the magnitude of the vision. They can only pat you on the back and give you well wishes and prayers as you are visibly suffering! There are several instances in Isaiah where God speaks of the Israelites as babies being born, and the travailing of their birthing. The pain associated with the birthing of God’s dream in you will be unlike anything you have ever experienced. It will hurt. You will cry. You will wail. But, God is going to tell you to push. He will coach you to push past your distractions. Push past your fears. Push past your doubters. Push past every inclination to run away from your destiny. Push, Push, PUSH, because if you don’t push, you will never see the physical manifestation of what God has been preparing you to do all of your life!

 

YES, it’s gonna hurt, but here’s the beauty of the entire process. Imagine if you will, lying on the birthing table with a storm of people rushing to and fro around you. Listen to the beeping of the monitors. Feel the sweat on your skin as you feel the pressure bearing down on you. Now, look down and see God standing there with a big smile on His face, ready to receive. See, the glory in all of this goes to God, because we give Him back the dream and the vision. We give Him the destiny after we birth it, and in return, He gives us the strength and power to care for it and bring it to maturity! And when we finally see the results of the months and months, or years and years, of pregnancy…our only response will be to glorify God for what He has done through us.

 

Thing is, all of us are somewhere in our pregnancy. Depending on our yielding and submission to God, we may progress a little faster, but understand that it is all on God’s timing. It takes much longer than 9 months though. Also, we can not dictate to God how quickly the process must move. He feeds the baby. He fills us. He fulfills His destiny through us. During your pregnancy, you must be careful to surround yourself with people who will support you, whether they can see where you’re going or not. Satan will seek at every turn to kill your dream, and put an end to your destiny before it even begins heading in the right direction.

 

I could type so much more. I could show you so many instances in the Bible where this process is laid out, but I don’t have the time. I’m also sure that you don’t want to read a 6 part blog post. Lol. The thing that I want to get across to you, is that you have such potential, purpose, and power within you. You don’t even realize the full scope of it yet. Almost 10 years ago, God called me to ministry. I felt Him calling me to Pastor. Almost 10 years later, I’ve always felt like I was not close. If anything, I began to question whether God actually called me at all. Almost 10 years later God showed me a glimpse of the end result, but I can also see that this thing is far off. I’m only in the second trimester. Don’t lose hope. God has a plan. Trust Him to see it through.

 

Happy Birthing to you!!

 

Until next time, be blessed.