Thursday, June 19, 2008
Last night we were playing dark hide and seek outside with our children. This game happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Corty, our youngest is an incredible hide and seek player himself, but playing under the cover of darkness is frightening for him. Last night he said to me as we were huddled into a corner, "Mommy, we have to be still as statues." Yes, we do--or we are found out. Corton was willing to be still as a statue as long as he was cradled in my arms, but had I put him down, he would have gone running as fast as he could for what he was most comfortable with--the light of the house. He chose to trust me though and loved every moment of our game. Choosing to trust God when obeying Him doesn't fit what we want or what we see as the most sensible choice is an act of faith--acting on evidence not seen or emotions not felt. The result of choosing to trust will always be blessing, but let's be honest, the courage to make that choice is sometimes very difficult to muster. When it comes to trust I tend to struggle with two different veins--trusting God with our past and trusting God with present circumstances that go against what common sense would dictate. My husband and I often reflect on the decisions of our past and wonder "what if" we had done this or that. In those moments we have a choice to make--do we trust the sovereignty of God even in decisions that appear to have been wrong and claim the truth of Romans 9 that He does indeed work all things together for our good or do we wallow in frustration over outcomes in life of which we aren't certain? When it comes to the present circumstances in which we often find ourselves, it is challenging for me to stare down a situation and then look at God and say without hesitation, your ways are better. Today, I'd like to discuss trusting God with present circumstances and Lord willing tomorrow I'll discuss trusting God with our past. Yesterday I wrote about the freeze-tag games of the heart--how Jehoshaphat guided his people to victory by fasting, prayer and then a willingness to obey God and be still while God fought the battle they faced. I just know if I had been there I would have created dissension among the ranks of the people. "Guys, I think our king has really lost perspective. He's not being responsible. We need to be prepared. Let's at least arm ourselves and hide our women and children. Don't you think that's the most prudent decision? Our children are a stewardship from God--we need to take them to a cave somewhere and put guards out front. Then we can go to the place of battle." Can't you hear me saying that? Apparently though, the people just obeyed God without question. Nowhere in this account does scripture mention even one individual who disagrees or dares to argue with the direction the nation takes. God spoke. They trusted and obeyed. Walk with me through the scriptural path of this story beginning in verse 18 of II Chronicles chapter 20. God had just told Jehoshaphat and his people tomorrow you will go out to battle and you won't fight, but you'll win. At this point, I would have said, 'wait a minute. we need to check our reception. I don't think we heard Him right.' But Jehoshaphat "bowed down with his face toward the ground, and all the people of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord and worshipped him." In our families, we can set the ball rolling when it comes to the act of trusting God. When we get down on our faces before God and worship--declare to God His worthiness to be trusted--we are laying the footwork for blessing. Obedience precedes blessing every single time in scripture. I hesitate to say that because I never want anyone to misunderstand me and think I am saying that God will give us red convertibles and fancy houses if we obey Him. I hope you know my heart when I say that God cannot give us the abundance His word promises unless we place ourselves in a position ready to receive His outpouring. We must be on our knees in submission, surrender and worship in order to receive from God. As a mother, I realize that often I set the tone for response to circumstances in our home. When uncomfortable things happen it's me who needs to immediately acknowledge God in that circumstance--the children will follow suit just as the people of Judah followed Jehoshaphat's lead. Mommy's are so good at putting children to sleep. We cradle them in our arms, whisper "shhhhh, shhhhh, close your eyes" into the lobes of their soft ears and we sing quiet songs of peace as they drift off to a place where they are completely safe. This is in effect what we do when we guide our family to the feet of God. "Shh, close your eyes. You are safe. Let's go to our heavenly Father. Shhh." We need to practise the art of lulling our family to peaceful slumber in the arms of A Mighty God. Right after they fell on their faces before God, some Levites got up and the Bible says they "loudly" praised the Lord. (19) The concept of pre-praise seems presumptuous to me. I'd sure hate to be made a fool of. Remember Y2K? All those sincere individuals who insisted the world was coming to an end and we needed to be prepared? Members of my family gathered kerosene heaters and barrels of fuel and filled closets with canned goods. They were prepared. In the end we found ourselves celebrating with friends toasting in the new year as the clock struck twelve and nothing happened but the sound of clanking glasses and blissful wishes for a new year. Wouldn't it be so embarrassing to start praising the goodness of God in a situation only to have him refuse to exercise His power? It would be, yes. But, God's not an abandoner--He doesn't hang us out to dry. He is faithful to His Word and we need to become pre-praisers so confident in the abilities of our Heavenly Father that with boldness we say to our friends and family, "God is good and we know He will make a way in this situation." We can't know what way He will make--only God knows the plans He has for us--but we can know they are good. The next morning scripture says they marched out and Jehoshaphat reassured them with a tender address. "Oh Judah...trust in the Lord your God and you will be safe!" (20b) He understood there must have been a few Sarah's in the group just shaking in their boots. Have you ever said to your children at bedtime when they are feeling frightened and alone, "Oh, Johny, you are safe little one." If you were here with me and we were sitting knee to knee and face to face, I'd look into your eyes and speak the same to you and whatever situation you or your loved ones are facing. "Dear friends, trust in the Lord your loving Father and you will be safe. You will be okay." We need to hear those words. We need to speak those words and we need to believe them. Then Jehoshaphat made the conscious choice to appoint people to make music of praise to God declaring His splendor. Remember, he did this before the battle had been won. And they sang, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his loyal love endures." (21b) Sometimes the thing that gets my faith really moving is good praise music. I can turn a CD on and the Spirit of God can gently massage the fear from my heart like a masseuse rubs the tension and kinks out of a weary back. We need to be intentional about choosing praise before we've found resolution in the events of life. I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between the choice to praise and the movement of God. Verse 22 says, "When they began to shout and praise, The Lord suddenly attacked." They may have been afraid, they may not have agreed or even understood how this battle was going to be won, but they trusted the goodness and power of God, they obeyed His clear directions, and they praised His loyalty and faithfulness before He ever moved one finger against their enemy. And as the sound waves of their praise rose to the heavens like the fragrance of a burning sacrifice the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God came down and obliterated every single breath from their enemy. Hebrews 13:15 says, "...let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. And do not neglect to do good..." Oh, how we need to choose the sacrifice of praise and then simply obey. I told you yesterday that God has allowed two situations in our life recently that call for a freezing of my spirit as I stand steady and still awaiting the moving of God. Those situations also call for pre-praise. Today, I am choosing to declare the goodness, the faithfulness, the ableness of God in these areas. He will move. I have no idea how He will act--what He will do, but He is good and His loyal love endures forever. Of that I am as confident as I am of the air I breath. I am waiting to see a display of God's heavenly fireworks and I know they will be spectacular!