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What Does Your Heart Desire?

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This was the title of a sermon I delivered this morning at our church. Taken from Psalm 27, it speaks about what King David considered to be the most important thing in his life.

I’d like to share my text with you, as well a few notes that may be of encouragement to someone.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lordwhen I cry with my voice

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

If you have ever felt that overwhelming feeling like it’s you against the world, you can appreciate what David is saying here. I can relate to what he is saying, because just like a lot of you I’ve been in that scary place where I’m surrounded by trouble and despair.

David uses a military analogy to describe his approach to such a situation. Whether it’s a person or an army, or even war itself, should it come against him David said that he would be confident.

The question that immediately comes to mind is confident in what? What David was saying here was that I’ve experienced God’s deliverance many times over the course of my lifetime, and I believe He will do it again.

How about you? Do you believe God will do it again? Is he still able to deliver? I know He is more than able!

David then reveals something from the depths of his heart, something that people in positions of great power and authority rarely do.

He says that he has desired just one thing of the Lord, and that was to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Does that sound like something a man of war would say? How unusual would it be to hear a king say that his desire is to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple?

Pretty bizarre, if you ask me.

My mind immediately goes to thoughts of “is this the same David who committed adultery? The same David who conspired to murder? The same David of whom they sang of killing tens of thousands”?

Yes! Warts and all it was that David!

The David whose life was marred by sin and destruction.

The David who would pay dearly for the sins he committed.

The David who carried an enormous amount of baggage throughout his life.

Want to know something? All of us are marred. All of us carry with us the scars of our past.

Scripture reminds us that there is none righteous, not even one(Romans 3:10).

David was saying to the Lord that he desired to be in the presence of the Lord more than anything else. 

David was King, and as such could have asked for and received anything he desired. But it wasn’t riches, or real estate, or battlefield victories he wanted.

He wanted God. Despite his history and despite the mistakes of his past, what he longed for was intimacy with God.

What are you longing for today? What does your heart desire?

I find it encouraging that David wasn’t looking for entertainment in God’s house. He wasn’t looking to be seen. He wasn’t looking for accolades from the meek and lowly.

He simply wanted to dwell in God’s house, to bask in His presence.

Isn’t that why all of us should desire to be in God’s house? 

David also recognized that in God’s house was safety and security. In the time of trouble David said that God would hide him in His pavilion. In the secret of the tabernacle God would hide him.

God’s house was the one place that David felt safe from his enemies. As King of Israel, David had a target on his back, yet in God’s house he felt safe.

In Psalm 46:1 David declares that “God is our refuge, a very present help in trouble”. 

So many times in my own life I have ran to the Lord seeking refuge from the storm that was raging. Like David, I can testify that He is indeed a “very present help in trouble”.

As I ponder this Psalm of David about being in God’s house, my mind wanders back to an old gospel song that goes something like this:

“When I walk through the doors, I felt His presence.

And I knew this was the place where love abounds.

For this is the temple, Jehovah God abides here.

And we are standing in His presence, on holy ground”.

That’s how I see being in God’s house. A holy place on holy ground.

David then tells us that in God’s house he will offer sacrifices of joy, and that he will sing praises unto the Lord.

I wonder, is this what we do when we enter His courts? Do we come in to the presence of God with a complaint or a praise?

Something to think about, isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, I asked our congregation this morning how long will we remain mute in the house of God. What would it take for us to shake off the heavy bands and lift up holy hands in praise to the King of Kings?

I shared with them how that in Psalm 22:3 David had said “But thou are holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel”.

I am a firm believer that when we lift our praise and worship to the Almighty, He will come down and inhabit, or bask in our worship. Call me a fanatic, but that’s how I see it!

This is the Readers Digest version of my message this morning, and I sincerely hope you will derive some comfort from it.

I will close this blog just as I did the message this morning by asking the question:

“What Does Your Heart Desire”? 

Until the next time, may the Lord keep you safe in His arms.

Ron

 

 

 

What are YOU good at?

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The other day my wife handed me a piece of paper on which she had quickly written something she had heard somewhere. Here is her message:

“In the church we’ve gotten really good at worship, but not so good at service to the Lord.”

As I reflected on this it struck me in a profound way that what she said was very true. For so long our churches have focused so much of their resources on creating the perfect “worship environment”(whatever that is), that it’s come at the high cost of neglecting others, and more importantly, Him.

If we aren’t serving others, how are we Christlike?

If ministry is not our primary purpose, what exactly is our purpose?

If we aren’t being salt and light in this world, why does this world even need us?

If we aren’t anointed and equipped for service, then who is doing the work of the ministry?

Father, as David prayed, so do I.

Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me that serving others is serving You. Take the blinders from my eyes that I might see the needs that are all around me. Help me to understand that my neighborhood is my mission field, that souls hang in the balance, and that yes, I am my brothers keeper. Instruct me in your ways Lord, and let me not fail to praise you for the untold blessings that have been given to me. Amen

Ron

 

 

Worthy is the Lamb

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I guess it’s just a fact of life that some people think way too highly of themselves. Preachers, politicians, athletes, entertainers all seek the praise and adulation of others. Some people never learn the difference between being confident and egotistical, unfortunately.

Who is worthy to receive worship, praise, adoration, and honor from the saints of God? There is no man or woman past, present, or future who is so deserving. That right is reserved for Jesus Christ alone, the perfect Lamb that was slain for our transgressions.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. Revelation 5:8-14  NKJV

The day is coming saints of God, indeed our turn is coming, when we too will gather around the throne and cry “Worthy is the Lamb!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

How Great is Your God?

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Taking a walk this beautiful October morning, the breeze in my face, the sounds of dozens of different species of birds filling the air, I sense the presence of One who is mightier than I.

Surrounded by His creation in all of its glory, is nothing short of amazing. Sunlight breaking through the trees for example, is something no human produced laser light show could ever replicate. Billions of tiny droplets of dew reflect the morning sun in a kaleidoscope of color as it climbs higher in the Eastern sky. 

Sunrise

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

 

Even the normally distracting sounds of speeding cars and trucks rushing by on their way to work seem to be pushed into the background on this incredible day.

This is how it was meant to be. It’s as if He has chosen this very day, these precious moments, to reveal Himself in a new and powerful way.

I am awestruck by what I am experiencing. More than that, I am humbled as I sense His presence surround me.

This day has reminded me of the beautiful worship song “How Great is our God”. One of the most powerful lyrics in that song declares that his is the “Name above all names, Worthy of our praise”. Name above all names

How incredible would it be if all of God’s children would take just a few moments each day to praise that name that is above all names?

How great is YOUR God?

 

Does your praise come with a price tag?

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A recent post from Mitch Teemly struck a nerve with me because it dealt with something that has been heavy on my heart for some time now, that being the subject of the cost of sacrificial praise.

In his post, Mitch uses a picture that contains the following scripture verse to illustrate his point that humility makes us real.

“Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”    II Samuel 24:24

There are many such scriptures that call for God’s children to bring to Him a sacrifice of praise, but what exactly does this mean?

When we think about the word sacrifice, we might think of it in a way that means there is a cost involved, or we may look at it from the viewpoint of our having to expend ourselves physically.

When we think of the word praise however, our first thoughts are usually of the joy and happiness coming from our heart. When we combine the words sacrifice and praise together in a Spiritual sense, we find that it is hard to think of one without the other.

Sacrifice and Praise. Praise and Sacrifice. Sacrifice of Praise.

So how do these words apply to us in real life?

My wife and I were just talking about this very thing the other day. If you’re like me, there have probably been more than a few times when something you prayed for did not happen. I was telling her that if I were to create a balance sheet with answered prayers on one side, and unanswered prayers on the other, I’m afraid that the unanswered prayer side would tilt the balance sheet that way.

Let’s be honest here, there are many times when God does not come through for us the way we envision He should.

  • The arteries remain blocked
  • The cancer has spread
  • The promotion went to someone else
  • The divorce is going to happen
  • The bank wants the car

When life presents these things to us, the first question from most of us is where is God? When circumstances force us to make decisions that we would never otherwise make, it becomes easy to think that God has forgotten us.

In the midst of life altering events such as these, praise can be hard to come by. Agree?

Yet every child of God has been given the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5). The enemy, of course, tries to make us believe otherwise, yet God remains faithful to His children.

We are also taught to continually offer praise unto our God. Note the word continually.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

For us to praise God in times of despair requires personal sacrifice on our part. It’s not easy to praise God when your world is caving in all around you, and I’m sure many of you can attest to this. It also takes a great deal of trust.

It takes a purposeful act on our part to lay aside the hurt and pain that life sometimes throws at us. You have to want to do this. In order for us to lay ourselves upon the altar of sacrifice and give praise to God for outcomes we do not always understand, we have to want to do this.

Its called Sacrifice.

Yes, this kind of praise will cost you something. It is not cheap praise. It is not meaningless praise. It is not a recitation from a prayer book. This praise comes from the depths of our hearts. From the place that extracts the greatest cost from us.

You see, a real sacrifice of praise is not dependent upon God answering all of our prayers with a resounding YES! Real praise comes from a deep sense of knowing that no matter the answer, God is faithful and He can be trusted to know what is best for us.

When we choose to praise God even in the midst of the storm, God is glorified. I have learned through the years that the praise that is tried by fire is precious to God, and He will in no way reject such a sacrificial praise.

After David’s greatest sin had been uncovered, he humbled himself and acknowledged that what God demanded from him was not to be another animal sacrifice. God wanted nothing more from David that did not cost him personally.

No, God demanded something personal from David. He wanted his heart.

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”    Psalms 51:16-17 

How amazing it is to find that this same David, who has previously told someone that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that did not cost him anything, is now being brought to the point of realizing that what God wanted wasn’t a burnt offering, or an animal sacrifice.

What God wanted from David was the same thing He wants from all of us. God wanted David’s broken heart, for from a broken and a contrite heart comes sacrificial praise. Praise that costs something.

Does your praise come with a price tag?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

No Matter What…

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I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I have not forgotten how you spoke peace into my heart when I was at my lowest point so many years ago. Job 38:1,which I had read many times before, suddenly came alive in my heart that day when I realized that you are God even in the midst of the most violent storm. I knew at that moment you were going to rescue my soul from the waters that sought to drown me.

I have never forgotten that “encounter”.

It has sustained me and encouraged me more times than I can remember. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart,as if You knew all along that this would be a defining moment between us.A reference point that I could draw from again and again.

Like I am now.

Your word has been a constant in my life. Is it any wonder the Word of God has been described as “a lamp unto my feet”? Surely there can be no greater road map in this life than your word,a guide that directs us even in the darkest of nights. Like an old familiar friend, it always calls me back to its pages should I become slothful and inattentive to its beckoning voice.

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Through the years I have rejoiced at the transforming power of your word. I have been witness to seeing the hardest hearts melt when confronted with the message of hope and renewal found within its pages. I have seen grown men and women literally run to the alter under the convicting,yet loving wooing of the Holy Spirit.

I often marvel at what some men consider to be miraculous,or at the numbers of people seeking miracles, when by the simple act of a wayward soul repenting of their sins the angels of heaven begin to rejoice. What else can men do here on earth that causes celebration in heaven? Can anything be more miraculous than the Creator reclaiming one of His own?rejoicing-among


As much as I wish it were not so, I have also been witness to my own failures. I have faltered,fallen short on countless occasions,and no doubt disappointed many people. I find that even at this stage of my life there is still much I do not understand about this covenant relationship with our Lord. There are days when I still have more questions than answers. Is this how it is supposed to be? That this sense of wonderment about unanswered questions will serve as our own “thorn in the flesh” to keep us on our knees?

You know how hard I have tried to become one of “them”,to fit in with the crowd. I’ve joined their ranks. Several times. Sat through the classes. Studied their course materials.Taken and passed the exams. Have the sheepskin in the frame. Attended their conferences. Shook hands with the “right people”. Held titles and positions. Yet for all of that, I did not fit in. I could not bring myself to “go along to get along” when my conscious balked at the shallowness of it all. For this I am branded a “what might have been”. I’ve heard “I don’t know what to do with you” more than once.

Still,no matter what,I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I will praise you,for I remember your kindness to me these many years. Though men and denominations have long ago abandoned me,and many others like me by the side of the road,yet you remain faithful to me.Your mercy endures forever.

I confess that I struggle to understand why my phone never rings. Why my inbox remains empty. Why the invitations have all dried up. Why so many that I poured into over the years have forgotten that I exist. Could it be that since I am no longer in a position to help them ascend the ladder,I am of no value to them? The “amens”, the slaps on the back,the firm handshakes of approval,now there is nothing but silence.

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Except from you O God.I hear your voice calling out to me daily.

Actually, I do understand. I am an embarrassment to the Laodicean church of this generation. There is no place for the likes of me in a church that has become so much like the world as to be nearly indistinguishable from it. I speak the truth in love,which means I refuse to soften the message for the sake of men; to do so would be to prostitute your Word.I am an anomaly,a throwback to a long forgotten age, an age before political correctness ensnared the church in its damning choke hold. I know no other way.

I will remember what you have done for me O God.

Where you are leading me I do not know,but time has proven that I can trust you to take me safely there.How I will get there remains a mystery,yet I know that you have it all worked out.

No Matter What.

I will praise You in this storm.