Ezra 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Styles come and go, but He never changes

My laptop PC had served me well for several years.  I understand most of the nuances and foibles of my Windows PC, and I’m comfortable with it, like a pair of well broken-in shoes.  It was with reluctance that I accepted the necessity to buy a new laptop, but it was time. Voices were encouraging me to make a change, a change for the better they said, change to a…Mac.  Help! They promise no viruses, user-friendly computing, amazing video editing and on and on.  I like things the way they are, and who needs change?  Maybe…no…well, I just don’t know…but it may be the way to go…but it’s just not me…I could learn to like it…to Mac or not to Mac. Hmmm… 

@ Ezra 3
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets…With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (3:10,11-13)  Change can be difficult.

I am almost positive I have heard the “joyful shouting and the weeping mingled together” in some of our church services throughout the land.  Church just isn’t the same as it was years ago.  Newer music, relaxed style of dress and quicker paced services are just a few of the changes that many churches have grown into over the past few years.  Many seasoned believers feel disconnected from the church where they had experienced so many wonderful moments with the Lord – the new Temple is just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

History reveals quite a shake-up in the church world when the now somewhat disconnected believers were younger.  Coming out of more liturgical services, they started to accept gospel songs, clapping, raising hands to God and even shouting at times.  I’ve read that the elders from their former churches thought they had lost all respect and reverence for God; but of course, they had not.  Their new-found freedom in the Lord was in keeping with the day in which they lived, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the church.  But to some, the new Temple was just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

After 40 years in youth and young adult ministry, I can say that the current generation, with very few exceptions, does not really understand the style of the past.  As a rule, it doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t reach them and without some new wineskins for the new wine God is pouring out today, they may be lost for eternity.

When I worship in church today, beyond the music and the style, I am most blessed by seeing people’s lives changed by the power of God, and that is really the bottom line for me.  If I didn’t see this taking place in my church, I would find a place where it was happening.  Methods and music style, whether new or old, without the touch of God are simply entertainment.  The temple may not look anything like the temple of my youth, but I’m not going to weep because too many young lives are finding the Savior.  Hear my joyful shouting!

Moving Forward:  I’m rejoicing today over lives being changed by the power of God.  It may be a different approach, but it’s the same God and the same power. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 131-133

2 Samuel 5-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Holy Spirit dwells in us

When I read the story of Uzzah and the Ark, I always think of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Indiana’s arrogant archaeologist rival opened the Ark of the Covenant and then melted into the floor because of the power it contained.  The hero was spared because he respected its power and refused to look on it.  No doubt the author and filmmakers had read some scriptures and took some liberties, but the story does give us pause to consider the unfathomable power of God. 

@ 2 Samuel 6
“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God…God struck him dead because of this.” (6-7)  Frightening.  Uzzah’s motivation was to be helpful, but his action was careless, as was David’s.  Had David followed God’s law in moving the Ark, on poles carried by Levites, Uzzah would never have had to make the choice he did.  It seems that both men in their enthusiasm to move the Ark to Jerusalem failed to reverence its power source.

After Uzzah’s death, David understood the power connected to the Ark and was afraid to have this power source with him in Jerusalem.  Had I been present in the procession that day when David was determining what to do with the Ark, I’d like to think I would have been waving, jumping up and down and calling out, “I’ll take it!  I won’t touch it!”  Can you imagine the very presence of God dwelling in your home?  Blessings for your entire household?

Oh!  That’s right!  His Spirit does dwell with us!  Once we are purified by the blood of Jesus, we house the very Spirit of God, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  We are not reduced to puddles on the floor in His presence because without this purification, we could never host the Holy Spirit in our homes and experience His wisdom and power in our lives.  But do we really understand the Power within us?

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of hosting the Holy Spirit in my home, and wonder how often I fail to reverence its power source.  Today it’s not a problem of reaching out to touch it as with Uzzah, but it’s more a problem of failing to touch it.  So often I face a challenge, fix this or that problem and carry its stress all by myself when the power source of all Heaven is dwelling in me. “And the Holy Spirit [dwelling in us] helps us in our weakness…pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Perhaps our lack in trusting and using this powerful Source within us is a form of disrespect as well.  Because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we may not experience a physical meltdown, but we may go through an emotional or spiritual meltdown even though this great power to overcome all challenges is available to us.  With a purified heart, we have no need to fear an Uzzah experience.  The Spirit is on our side and waiting to help us.  Go ahead, reach out and touch Him! 

Moving Forward:  Unafraid, my heart sings for more, “More Love, More Power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart…” (J. Del Hierro)  Blessings for my entire household! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 51-53

Job 25-26 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He captures our attention with His Almighty power

The other night I heard the loudest and longest rumble of thunder I had ever heard, loud enough to jolt me to my feet out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. It took quite some time for me to relax back to sleep, but in the process I remembered a little dog we had at one time who was terrified of thunder. At the first clap, he was under a table, behind a sofa or under my feet, and he shook so badly that he could have been used for a back massage. Poor thing.

Thunder in and of itself doesn’t hurt us, but it definitely gets our attention. It announces the presence of storms that are sometimes powerful enough to change the landscape around us. Thunder is mentioned many times in the Bible, most often in respect to the most powerful entity in the Universe – the power of God.

@ Job 26
After being compared by Bildad to a maggot and worm in his insignificance, Job still had the presence of mind to deliver a beautiful portrayal of the God of creation and the earth’s reaction to His power. “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke.” (7-11)

The eternal – always was and forever will be – God accomplished all of this in just a blink of His time, “These are just the beginning of all that He does, merely a whisper of His power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of His power?” (14) Earth, sky, moon, oceans, day and night, animal, mankind – merely a whisper of His power. Job was asking, “Who could even imagine His thunder?” There isn’t a place hidden enough, deep enough or safe enough to stop our trembling at the thought of the thunder of His power. In light of this, I am sometimes in awe that I would find it necessary to advise the Lord on how He should handle any given situation. I mean, really.

I believe God has manifested to us the thunder of His power on this earth to a measure. And even still, I can’t comprehend it; I can’t grasp the enormity of it. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’…Then Jesus shouted out again, and He released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened.” (Matthew 27:45-52) The thunder of His Redemption power! I think I hear a rumble…

“Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it…‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.” (Matthew 28:2-6) The thunder of His Resurrection power! His thunderous power has rumbled through the centuries to save our sinful souls and to give us eternal life with Him. And with His thunder He captured not only our attention, but He has captured our souls!

Moving Forward: I can’t understand the power that changed my life and enables me to sit in His Presence, but it is as real as the earth spinning through the Universe and the moon hanging in the sky – so thankful today for the power of the cross.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 1-6