Dancing for the Lord

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
   you have loosed my sackcloth
   and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
   O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalms 30:11-12

I admit it, I never really understood what the point of dancing was when it came to worshipping God.  I know that sounds kind of dumb coming from me, but it’s true. To make matters worse, I’ve been prophesied over by many people who have said I am the Lord’s ballerina, or that I dance befor joy for the Lord.  I have always loved this idea, but at the same time, I’ve questioned it. Not that I questioned the validity of the prophecies, because in my spirit they have always felt very true, but I just didn’t get it. What does dancing have to do with anything?  Why dancing? I just kept imagining my goofy 80’s self dancing awkwardly to Duran Duran’s Rio. Ya. Exactly.

But the Lord has not been content to leave me in this place.  I have found myself asking and asking for Him to make it clear to me what he wanted me to know about dancing, and, more importantly, what my dancing for Him looked like.  I’m not talking about pirouettes or hip gyrations or the Nay Nay. I’m talking about dance as worship. And how does dancing for the Lord not seem weird and awkward, but instead something of great beauty and joy for the Lord.

That’s when I came to the famous “David dancing scene”.

12 And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 13 And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal.14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
2 Samuel 6:12-15

“David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. David, leading as a priest king, wearing a linen ephod, lead the people in celebration and proclamation of God’s victory and salvation. With every part of himself, he worshipped the Lord as a an act of extreme celebration.  He celebrated the arc and the presence of the Lord, and the blessing that the Presence would bring to God’s people.  He danced without fear of judgement. He danced for the Lord in celebration of God’s victory, power, and protection.

This got me thinking about when the first time dancing is mentioned in the Bible and what the circumstances of that instance might reveal to me.  Sure enough, the dancing came as a celebration of God’s victory for His people.

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
Exodus 15:20-21

After the Lord rescues the Israelites from Egypt, the whole group sings a victory song about how great God is and how trustworthy He is to save them.  And then all the ladies, led by Miriam the prophetess, dance before the Lord.  Miriam led the entire congregation in the celebration of God’s victory, by dancing before the Lord.

So, here’s what the Lord has been teaching me through all of this: dancing is a celebratory proclamation of God’s victory over my enemies. It is an expression of gratitude, worship, and celebration for deliverance.  If I have learned anything about God in my 49 years, it is that God is my deliverer. He has saved me from sin and death, and He has rescued me time and time again from the evil of this world. Whether inflicted on me by others, or inflicted on me by my own folly, God has faithfully rescued me.  I think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?

Lord, thank you for rescuing me from my sins and from this world’s pain.  You have made me your daughter. You have given me authority in accordance to the will of Lord Jesus, to have victory by His name.  I love you, Jesus! Dancing before You is to celebrate what you have done and to proclaim it with unabashed delight. You have given me victory!  You have given me joy. You have given me peace. I didn’t deserve any of it and yet You faithfully have given it to me! Indeed, Your promises are true and I will trust You and delight in You forever.  Amen.

 

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All Because of Good Intentions

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

I feel really sorry for Saul.  He was handsome and strong and a head taller than everyone.  He looked good. In the eyes of the world he was the perfect leader, and yet he was an utter failure.  I think that’s why God chose him. Had Saul submitted to God when he made his decisions, he would have been blessed by the Lord.  But Saul had a lot more confidence in worldly strength than he did in God.

It’s sad, because on the surface it appears as though Saul did inquire of God.  He constantly inquired of the Lord after he made a decision to do something, he had the Arc of the Covenant with them, and he even had a priest traveling with him, ephod and all.  “…The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod…” 1 Samuel 14:2-3 But appearances and tradition are never what God wants from us.   Saul never looked to God until after he’d made up his mind what he wanted to do. He decided his plans were great (probably because he’d been chosen by God, so who needs to ask God again, right?) and then asked God for a blessing after he’d made up his own mind. He did it when he performed the sacrifice to God, instead of waiting on Samuel.  And he did it before going into battle with the Philistines.

Saul’s son Jonathan, on the other hand, boldly moved forward to defeat his enemies by trusting in the power of God to provide the victory even against all odds.  We know this because Jonathan sees an oportunity to attack the Philistines in a really strategic way, and moves forward to act with only his armor bearer to help him!  But where Jonathan differed from Saul is in this: Jonathan inquired of the Lord before He asked. He felt confident that his plan was solid, but he still asked God to make it clear by asking for a sign, and didn’t move until he’d gotten the clear sign of God’s promised victory.  (See 1 Samuel 14 for all the details.)

And so we go back to poor Saul.  This earthly king, chosen by God, who looked the part well and surrounded himself with all kinds of powerful heroes in order to ensure his military victories.  He made sacrifices. He had the Arc. He had his priest. He even had a prophet. The people loved him! After all, they constantly deferred to him, saying, “Do what seems good to you!” (1 Samuel 14:41)  He had everything he needed to look and act like the best darn victorious king who ever lived. And that was his downfall. It became all about him and not about God.

Justifying our bad behavior for the sake of serving God is a terrible crime!  How many times have I justified an act of my own choosing because I had decided it was best without looking to God for wisdom and permission first?  Seriously! If I’m being honest with myself, I do it all the time! Even though the Lord has told me that I need to limit nutritionless food to honor him with my body, I justify dessert because I’m celebrating or I crave it, or I’m free in Christ.  I go on fad diets, justifying the extremes in order to get quick results. I make plans for vacation because I need a break instead of needing sabbath rest, or I read a book instead of read my Bible because I’m tired, or I don’t have time.  If I think about it too hard, I think I could quickly fall into shame over it all!

But that’s not why I’m here.  That’s not why God put me on this planet.  He put me here to worship Him, to partner with me in love and friendship, and to have us be together in all things.  He wants me to be unified with Him and with His Church. I make presumptions that I know what God wants from me, so I don’t need to inquire of Him, and that only leads to rebellion. Rebellion to my solitary purpose in Christ is a stepping stone for sin and more rebellion.  And that disobedience from good intentions leads me further and further away from my King, which is definitely not God’s good plan for me!

I look again to Samuel’s words to Saul after yet another huge failure with good intentions that would lead to God’s rejection of him as King:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

Sadly, Saul’s response to this fall from grace is to blame the people he was leading.  

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

His intentions were so pure, weren’t they?! (Yes that’s sarcasm.) And yet, how many times have I been blind to my own excuses and good intentions? So. Many. Times.  I’m so thankful to have the sealed promise of the Holy Spirit within me to convict me of my wrongdoing and correct the flaws of my thinking. Our Lord is not content to leave us where we are.  When we sin against Him and go to Him for guidance through repentance, He is quick to show us what we’ve done and what we need to do differently. It hurts. It’s no fun. Frankly, it sucks. But it is so good, too! Unlike Saul, I have the glorious forgiveness of Messiah, Jesus, to pay for my failings and shortcomings, to pay for my sin, and to give me life and victory.  And He is so quick to forgive and to teach, that the mercy that flows through Him to me would spill out of me into others, and thus share the fruit and life that comes from submitting to the will of God.

 

Harsh. True. Humbling.

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:13-14

Saul gave up the beautiful blessing of Godly leadership over himself and his people, and he gave up the legacy of being the line from which Messiah would come.  Saul had everything a man could want: looks, strength, a commanding presence. He looked like the perfect person to be a king. But in fact, Saul was fearful, arrogant, and unwilling to follow God.  The world is a liar! It is self serving and shallow. It puts looks above the substance of the heart. It glorifies self sufficiency and a handsome appearance over humble servanthood and an obedient heart.  And Saul was the poster boy of worldly royalty.  

Even though Samuel had warned the people of the folly in demanding a human king, the people would not listen.  The result was utter failure. Their human king wanted God’s blessing, but wasn’t willing to obey God in order to receive it.  Saul didn’t want to share the glory. He didn’t want to wait on the Lord. He let fear and arrogance be his compass. And it led to grievous sin against God.  God is not a lucky charm. He is the Almighty Creator, Our Mighty Defender, Our Solid Rock! And Saul’s impatience made the Solid Rock of Yahweh nothing more than a stepping stone to his own glory.  Saul’s arrogant, fear-driven foolishness became the cornerstone of his defeat. He gave up God’s blessing because he was driven by his own desire and fear, and not by trust in the Lord.

What do I give up when I act against God’s will for my life? 

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:21-25

Harsh.  True.  Humbling.  

Lord Jesus, help me not to give up the truth for a lie because of fear or arrogance or desire for glory!  Humble me and encourage me after Your own heart, that I might be able to walk in the truth for the rest of my life.  I recieve Your loving forgiveness that I never earned or deserved, and I accept again Your leadership in my life. Keep me from fear based decisions by building up my faith and confidence in who You are.  Help me know You better and trust You more. Draw me nearer to You, so Your light surrounds me and casts out all darkness. Create in me a clean heart, O God! Restore me to Yourself. Cast me not away from Your presence!  Lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your Namesake. I will trust You. I am Yours.

 

Cages

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

Jesus, I’m haunted.  The sins of my past, both big and small, haunt me and I’ve grown too comfortable with just accepting that feeling.  I’ve let myself think that there is no way to move past them. I’ve believed the enemy’s lies, Lord. And I’m sorry.  I’ve let him put me into a million different cages of fear, doubt, shame, and sorrow. Lord help me, I’ve been comfortable there.  I’ve been so comfortable. It’s all I’ve known for so long.

You’ve promised me your blood has paid the price for my sins, no matter what they were, no matter who they hurt.  You’ve promised me that my sins are forgiven, that you’ve paid the eternal price for them and have had victory. I’ve known that in my head since I was a little girl, ever since you saved me, Jesus.  But I’ve let my callouses build up, I’ve let them be a shield instead of You. I’ve tried to fight my own battles, even as you cried out to me to let You fight instead.

I’m tired of accepting defeat.  I’m tired of listening to lies. I’m tired of beating myself up for the wrongs I’ve committed against You.  I’m tired of carrying the weight of their burdon, Lord. Help me to release them. Help me to be humble enough to accept Your forgiveness, because I know that it is pride and shame that have kept me from believing Your blood is enough.  Help me to have the humility to give up control so that I can receive the victory I can never find on my own.

I’m sorry, Lord.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  Help me, Jesus. Help me to receive Your salvation fresh and new right now.  Help me to walk in Your victory and Your peace. Your blood was enough. Your blood IS enough.  You are enough. Help me, Jesus. Help me to move forward. Help me to have hope. Help me let go.  Get me out of all these cages I’ve put myself in and let me be done with it forever.

For the Sake of Your Goodness, God

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your stead fast love remember me,
   for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
Psalm 25:7

All I can think about when I read this Psalm, Lord, is how easy it is for You to forgive my sins and the sins of the world.  I can easily get caught up in the ugliness of my sin and the filth that sin has covered me in. Each moment I feel the death of this world slowly creeping in on me.  My body is dying. The world around me is dying. And every sin I commit leads to more and more death.

But for the sake of Your goodness, you can forgive me.

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
   pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Psalm 25:11

For the sake of Your name, You pardon us of all our guilt.  All of my guilt. Your name is holy and righteous and good. It is perfect.  Your name is above all names. Your glory is revealed in everything You have made.  The majesty of Your breath brings eternal life and peace. Because of Your name, you forgive and cleanse and pardon.  I am forgiven, cleansed and pardoned.

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

I don’t need to feel ashamed.  I don’t need to be afraid. I don’t need to feel dirty or broken anymore, God.  I can come to You filthy and broken, and because of Your name, because of Your mercy, because of Your righteousness, You have and do offer me forgiveness through Your beautiful Son, Jesus, my Lord.

I’m sorry for all the times I have walked in shame and fear, forgetting Your goodness and righteousness.  I’m sorry that I have tried to rely on my feeble ability to try and cleanse myself in order to come into Your presence.  So, I ask that You help turn me around, God. Turn me back to Your smile of love and mercy. Turn me back so that I can fall into Your arms of comfort and healing.

I love You, God.  Thank You for being Good.

Consider my affliction and my trouble,
   and forgive all my sins.
Psalm 25:18

Wisdom in the Secret Heart

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:6

I’ve been dealing with a lot of old stuff in counseling.  Stuff that’s been hidden deep inside me for a very long time.  And I’ve been realizing how much I have lied to myself to protect myself from the truth of my past.  I’ve lied to myself to stay safe, but I haven’t been safe.  I am wounded.  And healing can only come in the revelation of the wound and the power of God to heal it in me.

I’ve always looked at the idea of “wisdom in the secret heart” as a deep wisdom, a deep understanding or teaching of God’s Word in my inner being.  And that’s certainly true!  But I’ve been discovering just how deep the Lord is willing to go with me if I’m willing to let Him take me there.   And it’s way deeper than human knowledge can even comprehend.

It’s scary.   It’s so scary that I’m writing this blog post right now and instead of my standard “prayer format”, I’m just putting it out there stream of consciousness style.  I guess the details are fine to stay between me and God.  He is showing me the things that have been there all this time.  The things I’ve lied to myself over for many, many years.  I’d let the enemy convince me that keeping it hidden from my own mind would heal me.

But I’ve relied on myself to heal these wounds for a long, long time.  I even convinced myself that I was trusting God to heal me in the midst of my own suffering.  But God has used it.  He is faithful to teach me wisdom in the secret heart no matter how stubborn I am and no matter how many times I fall for Satan’s tricks.  He is patient with me and quick to forgive.

All this sin that others inflicted on me.  All this sin I inflicted on myself to hide with shame what happened.  All of it has been revealed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 56:10

God is able to clean what has been stained inside of me.  God is able to heal the wounds and restore me.  But restoration can only come once the wounds are revealed.  And the wounds couldn’t be revealed until I was willing to acknowledge them.  I can look back at so many experiences in my life and see how the Lord has been gently trying to show me the way and help me to get there.  And through it all I’ve gone deeper and deeper and deeper as I submitted to His teaching and His love for me.

I’ve confessed and cried out to God.  I’ve offered prayers of repentence and cries for mercy.  And the Lord has heard me.  And He’s taken me deeper.  He’s taken me to the deepest knowledge of my broken spirit and my broken heart.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

But it wasn’t until I gave up everything–and I’m still in the midst of giving it all up–that I’ve realized the truth of this wisdom in the secret heart.  This wisdom of deep repentence, not regret, not fear, but deep and profound repentence for all the years of hiding it I’ve tried to sustain.  It was never hidden from God.  And His love for me remained.  When people stole my innocence and scarred my soul, the Lord was there, and He wanted to heal me.  As He wept for my injury, and wept for my abusers, and wept for the damage it did to all of us, He remembered the cross of Calvary and offered it to me.

And only now have I finally recieved the start of that wisdom from the secret heart.  That wisdom that brings confession, repentence, forgiveness, and restoration.  There is profound peace in that.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:12-15

Sifted Like Wheat

“And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:15-16

Jesus, the Passover came just as you had planned, and You knew You would soon endure deep physical and mental suffering.  The Passover meal is such a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people, and I know You longed to commemorate that moment with your friends, and encourage them before the trials that would soon come.  Suffering is so hard, Lord. The reminder and celebration of Your faithfulness is imperative in dealing with the struggles that plague our lives. We so easily forget Your faithfulness and enduring love.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Luke 22:19-20

Lord, you served us in Your suffering.  You said that the blood You would shed for us would be a new promise for us:  A promise of salvation forever. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb protected the Israelites from death, so, too, Your blood was offered as a new promise of life and safety to anyone who would agree to accept Your promise.  

Following You is hard, God.  Following You also means following the road You had to travel: the road of suffering.  And You never told anyone that following You would be easy. Instead You quickly let Your friends know that following You would come at a great cost.  

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32

Lord Jesus, I have often felt “sifted like wheat”.  I’ve struggled and faltered and my faith has been at times so weak, and at other times strong enough to move mountains.  But Lord, it has been hard. Satan doesn’t mess around. And I have been hurt! At times, by my own folly, I have fallen into pits.  At other times, I held strong to Your promises and still fell into pits of destruction and pain.

“Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Luke 22:33

Isn’t that just how life goes?  I am weak. I am strong. I am weak.  I am strong. But You are always strong.  I make promises to You that I can’t keep. My flesh is weak, no matter how strong my spirit is.  But Lord, Your Spirit in me is always strong. Your Spirit in me will get me through the trials that I face, both the ones of my own making, and the ones set before me by the enemy.  

It was the enemy that set about to kill You.  And it was the enemy that tried to destroy You.  But Your plan all along was to love Your enemies and die for them, no matter how much they hated You.  So, you let the enemy sift You like wheat, tearing your flesh from your body, hurling insults at You, driving You like an animal to Your death, until You were displayed on a cross for all the world to see, and proclaimed, “It is finished!”  

You had the last laugh, Lord Jesus!  You broke the bonds of sin and death on that day and defeated the enemy with Your victory.  Your resurrection proved You were God and had dominion over life itself. And You offer that life to any who would receive it.  

So, I want to receive Your life fresh today, Lord.  Help me to endure the trials that come. Humble me to receive Your power at work within me and help me to encourage those around me to endure just as You did.  I don’t want to arrogantly proclaim, I will follow You anywhere. Instead, let me humbly say, I will trust You no matter what happens.

I trust You, Jesus.  You are faithful.