Saturday, February 26, 2011

Worship in the Midst of Your Battle

Last week I looked at the importance of “stop” (stop and seek the Lord), “look” (look to God for help) and “listen” (listen to what God has to say to you) when you are facing a battle in your life.

All of this is found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-19. But this week I want to look at two other verses that are important to consider when we are facing a battle. Verses 18-19, “Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”

You see…while God was fighting the battle, they didn’t choose to sit back and watch. They didn’t gloat in what God was doing, nor did they wring their hands in worry about the outcome. When the Lord fights our battles we just need to worship, praise and thank Him.

I wish that I could tell you this is something I have down pat and that this is something I automatically do when the heat is on…but it isn’t. It is something I am still working on. I tend to let stress overtake me.

Ever have a period of time when it seems like things are all just going wrong? Well, the past couple of weeks have been a little rough going around my home. It seems like virtually every area is being affected.

Health-wise, there have been some ongoing issues with my youngest son, which has caused some struggles with his grades.

Money-wise there have been some medical bills piling up and due to a combination of poor planning and somewhat ignorance of how taxes work when you are self-employed; we found out that we owe the government.

Hope-wise due to the money situation, my hopes of being able to attend a writer’s conference in July seems to be diminishing before my eyes.

Possession-wise my van started driving funny and I also discovered that someone had sideswiped it, not bothering to stop and let me know (but they did leave behind some pieces of my van).

Relationship-wise we have been dealing with a lot of division with our kids…I think the hormones are in over-drive in our home!

When health, money, hope, possessions and relationships seem to be a battle it can be difficult to respond with worship and praise…but that is really where the true victory is. The victory isn’t even in solutions. While I would love nothing more than to see my son never deal with another one of his health issues…and money to drop into my lap…and to be able to take that trip to North Carolina…and to have someone step up and admit they hit my van…and our kids to suddenly love on one another…

Well, the real victory—as great as all of this would be—is in being able to praise the Lord in the MIDST of the battle, not just at the end when everything eventually works out. Because I know it does—God is always faithful.

Jehoshaphat was in the midst of a battle yet he chose to bow his face to the ground and worship the Lord…may this be our first response when we are facing battles in our life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stop, Look and Listen!

When children are young they are taught about safety in crossing streets. You probably remember being told to “stop, look and listen” before you crossed. It was a way to help keep you out of danger.

In 2 Chronicles 20:1-19 there is a story of a battle that can be likened to some of the spiritual battles that we face. But just as there is safety in learning how to cross a street, spiritually there is safety when we stop, look and listen. To put everything into context, Judah was about to be invaded and they were going to be seriously outnumbered.

The king at this time was Jehoshaphat and he was in great fear. He knew that they didn’t stand a chance. They were facing a battle they just couldn’t win. But Jehoshaphat implemented a spiritual “stop, look and listen.”

STOP – Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord…(verse 3) How often do we attempt to move ahead when a battle has come upon us? We try to do things in our own power. We try to make things happen. But Jehoshaphat knew that he could do nothing but stop and seek the Lord.

Too often we are quick to pick up the phone and call someone. We seek outside advice or we just want someone to agree with us that things really are as bad as they look. Jehoshaphat used his life line to not phone a friend but to call upon God.

In the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem he began to pray out loud declaring His power and might. He recognized that no one could stand against God. He recalled the former things that God had done.

Stop and remember. Recall all the ways that God has come through before. Instead of getting worked up and worrying, declare the praises of His works.

LOOK - For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You (verse 12)

Where did Jehoshaphat look to? Man? His own abilities? The circumstances? No, he looked to God. He had no idea what he was going to do about this mighty multitude coming against him but he knew where to look.

Jehoshaphat has prayed and in the midst of their prayer gathering the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man named Jahaziel and he begins to declare the very next step they are to take.

LISTEN – Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s (verses 15)

God has something to say to you in the midst of your battle. When you take the time to stop and look upon Him, you are ready to listen to His orders. He didn’t give a play-by-play plan of what was going to happen. He didn’t give the end result of the battle. Instead, he told the people that they didn’t need to fear or be dismayed because this wasn’t going to be their battle to fight. It would be His.

They would just need to stand and see the salvation of the Lord for He would be with them. When the enemy is coming against us hard and strong we don’t necessarily have to do anything. We may need to just wait on God and watch Him do His thing.

Oh there is so much more to this story, which I am going to save for next week. But for now think about stop, look and listen the next time you are facing a battle.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

When Submission Feels Unfair

Have you ever felt like God was being unfair? I have probably had some of those moments in my life where it did feel like I was being dished a heaping plate of unfairness.

But recently I was feeling this way as I was reading through the Old Testament. What kept standing out to me was the way women were treated. It just seemed like they were treated as if they were less valuable than men. I was thinking, “Well this is a little unfair God.”

But then I read this verse, which I have probably read a number of times but never really noticed it. This is from the Message Bible, Deuteronomy 24:5: When a man takes a new wife, he is not to go out with the army or be given any business or work duties. He gets one year off simply to be at home making his wife happy.

Maybe it’s just me but that I find that pretty amazing. A new husband was kept from going out to battle; he wasn’t to be tied to anything that would take him away from what God intended him to do…make his wife happy. Suddenly I didn’t think God was so unfair after all.

That is a pretty significant responsibility if you really think about, to spend an entire year focused on your marriage and making your wife happy. I used to think the whole of “submitting to your husband” thing was just too difficult, too far out there. It’s just too hard to do. Why does the husband get off so easy? Why does he get to be submitted to?

Well first of all, the reality is that as believers we are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) but even more than that, if you really think about it we have the better end of the deal. We may have to submit but what is the call of our husbands?

Ephesians 5:25-29 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

I would say that’s a pretty tall order. God has designed marriage in a way that isn’t really about fairness. He created man and woman in His image and it’s really not about one having superiority over another.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the “woe is me, I have to do this for my spouse” we should be thinking about the higher calling of pleasing Christ and that means doing as His Word says.

And there is nothing in His Word that is unfair.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dealing with the "Ites" in Your Life

Some of my favorite stories from the Bible are the battles. My father, who served in Vietnam, instilled in me as a young child an interest in war. I have seen most of the war movies with some of them being pretty gruesome. Perhaps it’s not the most “girly” type of movie to enjoy but I do anyway.

The battle stories in the Bible serve as lessons in the battles we face today. I’m not talking about a physical battle but the spiritual battles we wage war with. In one of the first battles the Israelites would encounter after leaving Egypt, they were about to embark into the Promised Land.

In Deuteronomy 7 God begins to inform the Israelites of the victories they will have. It’s a bunch of “ites” that He points out are…”greater and mightier” than they are. We all have a lot of “ites” in our lives that are greater than our own will power or our desire to do better.

Yet it is God who works in us to conquer and destroy them, just as He promised would happen to Israel. However God knew Israel’s weaknesses and so He gave them some warnings about not intermarrying with them, showing them mercy or making covenants.
As we begin to see the “ites” be delivered from us, we sometimes want to hold on and intermarry or make a promise. “God, if you don’t make me give up this relationship, then I promise I will do such and such.”

Yet for us to experience real deliverance, we have to be willing to take this battle all the way. It’s going to get ugly, uncomfortable and it may get gruesome but it is necessary.

Why did God ask the Israelites to not intermingle with the “ites”? He knew the outcome. He knew it would cause their children to turn away from following God and they would in turn, follow other gods. This is a good lesson for any parent. In your pursuit of hanging onto your “ites” are you wiling to sacrifice your child for it?

In your justification to “just have one beer,” are you willing to risk that your child may end up one day becoming an alcoholic? Is your “ite,” whatever it is really worth it? Now please don’t accuse me of being legalistic. This is about fighting those “ites” in your life that if they aren’t dealt with, can end up affecting your children.

God also told the Israelites that they needed to put some action into their decision to conquer the “ites.” They were to destroy their altars, break down their sacred pillars, cut down their wooden images and burn their carved images. There was to be no trace of them left.

Every remnant of their “ite” was to be utterly and completely destroyed. Yet it’s interesting because later on in this portion of scripture He says “and the Lord Your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you” (verse 22).

So while God had this plan to destroy the “ites” in their life it wasn’t going to happen at once. I have found this very thing played out in my life as a Christian. Just as an example when my husband and I got married we were not living as believers. I wouldn’t come to know the Lord until almost five years later and he would be yet another year past that.

We were dealing with a lot of serious “ites” in our lives. Not one single person we knew thought our marriage was ever going to make it. I don’t think we thought it was going to make it. But with God’s help, once we came into a relationship with Him we had new hope.

Our “ites” didn’t disappear overnight. Little by little He has been dealing with the “ites” in our marriage. Here I am, almost 20 years later and only now feeling like we are finally getting to the end of those “ites” that had crept into our marriage so many years ago.

It can be a disappointing fact to face for those who first come to know the Lord. They think everything will be okay. They don’t realize that choices they have made and the way they have lived is going to take some work to get through. Little by little…but like the Israelites, we are never alone. This battle is not ours but the Lord’s.