When God Says “No” To You, Say “Yes” To Him

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

When you are fully submitted to God’s rule, you acknowledge the fact that he reserves the right to say “no” to you anytime he wishes—and without explanation, if he so chooses. And you embrace it! It is a matter of maturity, trust and obedience to humbly, gratefully, praisefully surrender to what God thinks best—and it is always the pathway to even better blessings than your plan would have brought. When God says “no” to you, say “yes” to God!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 17:1-4

When David was settled in his palace, he summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant is out there under a tent!” Nathan replied to David, “Do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.” But that same night God said to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: You are not the one to build a house for me to live in.’”

King David wanted to build a house for God. It was a noble desire, and on the surface, it would seem that getting the green light would be a no brainer. David lived in a luxurious palace, and God had only a tent from Israel’s wilderness days to house his presence. Why not go all out, now that there was peace and prosperity in the land, to build an extraordinary temple to house the glory of the Lord?

But God said no. He reserves that right, you know! What might seem like a great idea to you and me, and it may very well be the best thing to come along since sliced bread, God might choose to put it on the back burner. He might even take it off our list of things we would like to do for God completely. God has his reasons, and sometimes he even gives us insight into why he closes the door on our desires. At other times, God simply says no, without further explanation.

In David’s case, God revealed the reason why he said no to David’s plans for the temple: he had shed too much blood as a warrior king, and the Lord desired a man of peace to build a place where all nations could come to experience his presence while they offered up their sacrifices of worship. (see 1 Chronicles 22:8) No, David wouldn’t build it, but his son would. And it would be a place that would be a marvel, an awe-inspiring house of worship that would stand for centuries as the centerpiece of worship to the God of Israel, the sovereign ruler of all the earth. (see 1 Chronicles 22:5)

Was David disappointed that the temple wouldn’t be listed as one of his major accomplishments? Perhaps. We don’t know for sure, but usually a strong desire like that brings up all kinds of emotions when we realize that it will never come to pass. David may have been saddened by the news, but his response was even nobler than his original desire:

When King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God! What more can I say to you about the way you have honored me? You know what your servant is really like. For the sake of your servant, O Lord, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known. Lord, there is no one like you.” (1 Chronicles 17:16-20)

And David’s psalm of praise extolling the wisdom and greatness of God in the aftermath of God’s rejection of his idea continues on for several more verses until the chapter ends. (1 Chronicles 17:20-27).

God said no, and David responded with humility (“who am I”), gratitude (“you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty”), submission (“according to your will”) and praise (“Lord, there is no one like you”).

I don’t know about you, but I think I might have felt a bit sorry for myself that God had ruined my plans. I might have even pouted. I hope not, but often that is the human reaction to having our dreams dashed. But when your life and all your plans are fully submitted to the Lordship of Almighty God, you acknowledge the fact that he reserves the right to say no to you anytime he wishes. And you embrace it! It is a matter of maturity, trust and obedience to humbly, gratefully, praisefully surrender to what God thinks best—and it is the pathway to even better blessings than your plan would have brought.

When God says no to you, say yes to God!

Going Deeper With God: Has the Lord blunted your plans. Give him praise!

Is Cultural Relativism Infecting Your Church’s Worship?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Worship is first and foremost for God’s benefit, not ours. If a singular focus on the glory of God doesn’t characterize our practice of praise, then we have missed the whole point of worship. True worship is all about God and very little about us, although in giving him praise, we ourselves enter into the indescribable richness of the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 16:4

David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the Lord—to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.

As David brings the Ark of the Covenant to the tent of meeting that he had erected for it in Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16, we glean much needed insight into the essential activities that are to make up the worship experience of God’s people. While the settings of worship change over time and culture, the purpose and content should never change. Worship leaders and worshipers would do well to absorb this chapter, given the cultural relativism that has infected much of the philosophy, planning and practice of corporate praise in the modern context.

You will recall the story: the ark had been captured by the Philistines under King Saul, but then returned to Israel not too long afterwards because it had created a health crisis among the people of that heathen nation. (1 Samuel 4-6) It was kept in the house of Abinadab for some time until the new king, David, decided to bring it to the central place of worship. But along the way, the transportation of this sacred furniture was mishandled, and the anger of the Lord broke out against the priest Uzzah, and he died on the spot. (2 Samuel 6) For that reason, the ark was left under the care of Obed-Edom for several months. While there, the Lord poured out blessings so profusely upon that household that David now realized it would be best to get the ark into the capital city—right away, but this time, the right way:

David was now afraid of the Lord, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?” David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The Ark of the Lord remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his entire household. Then King David was told, “The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s household and everything he has because of the Ark of God.” So David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration. (2 Samuel 6:9-12)

It was during this time of great celebration that David instituted much of the practices that have come to characterize the worship of God’s people, even to this day. And what did those practices entail? Of course, there was instrumental music and corporate singing along with choreographed movements and prescribed sacrifices, but it was really the content of those activities that came to characterize God-pleasing worship: the invocation of divine blessing, expressions of gratitude and outburst of praise. (1 Chronicles 16:4) The content of worship was a singular focus on the glory of God:

Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. (1 Chronicles 16:29)

I have a nagging sense that in far too many modern worship settings, the focus has shifted from offering praise for the primary purpose of pleasing God. Rather than ensuring the invocation of God’s blessing upon the people, rather than leading the people into expressions of thanks to God, rather than giving the people a pathway to verbalize their praise to God, worship leaders give too much focus, in my humble opinion, on the mechanics of worship. They fuss over the staging—the sound, the lighting and the background media, along with the style—it’s contemporariness and popularity, to create just the right mood to please the people rather than please the Lord.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love modern worship music. I think a lot of planning ought to go into a worship experience. I think staging can set a great mood and create a great experience for worshippers. But at the end of the day, if the experience doesn’t lead the worshiper to receive God’s blessing and call her to offer heartfelt gratitude to God and inspire him to offer focused praise extolling the splendor of God, it has fallen short of God-glorifying worship. It has missed the boat, and in fact, if that becomes a pattern, it is in danger of becoming idolatrous worship: worship done to please the worshiper more than to pleases the Lord.

Worship is first and foremost for God’s benefit, not ours. If a singular focus on the glory of God doesn’t characterize our practice of praise, then we have missed the whole point of worship. True worship is all about God and very little about us, although in giving him praise, we ourselves enter into the indescribable richness of the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Now most of us are not worship leaders in the formal sense, but each of us has been called to lead ourselves into daily moments of worships wherein we invoke God’s blessings, offer thanks to God and express our praise to him. So even if formal worship in the contemporary church context drifts from God-focused worship, you don’t have to.

Just remember, you are a worship leader before the Audience of One.

Going Deeper With God: Take a few minutes before you do anything else to invoke God’s blessing, offer gratitude to God, and pour forth your praise to God. You are on the stage before the Audience of One, so praise your heart out!

No, You Didn’t Marry The Wrong Person

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you want to avoid the “I married the wrong person” syndrome, you had better learn forgiveness—then practice it early and often, readily, unconditionally, and pre-emptively in the marriage.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 15:29

But as the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.

What kills marriages? Was it the wrong choice of a spouse? No, it is likely contempt for the spouse that was chosen. And it is quite likely that it was unforgiven mistakes that allowed the contempt to fester over time and fatally infect the marriage. What a tragedy! A marriage that began with so much promise was brought down by festering contempt—and it could have been prevented with some steady doses of forgiveness along the way.

The story of King David and his wife, Michal, the daughter of the late King Saul, is a cautionary tale of how contempt killed a once thriving relationship. In this account, which spans several books (1 and 2 Samuel) and several years, Michal could never let go of the belief that David had destroyed her father’s dynasty and had contributed to his, and her brothers’ deaths—at least in her mind. David never let go of the fact that Saul had stolen Michal and had given her to another man. (1 Samuel 25) And then we see in this story where Michal’s seething contempt broke the surface toward David, that in response, David held resentment toward Michael for the rest of their marriage—most likely the cause of her barrenness was because David withheld sexual affection from her.

Reality is, you are going to be hurt by your spouse, sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally, and sometimes severely. If you hold onto a hurt, the wound festers. It slowly poisons your relationship if you refuse to forgive, and if there is chronic unforgiveness, a barren marriage is guaranteed.

Someone has said that forgiveness is the fragrance of the rose petal that’s left on the heel of the shoe that crushed it. Here is God’s truth for married couples: Forgiveness is the fragrance that gives your marriage a sweet aroma. If you want to avoid the “I married the wrong person” syndrome, you had better learn forgiveness—then practice it early and often, readily, unconditionally, and pre-emptively in the marriage.

You may feel like you have married the wrong person, but the truth is, you have not. There are a few exceptions, but you are probably not one of them. You don’t need a better spouse, you need to be a better spouse. And here’s where you start:

First, accept responsibility for your actions. You cannot control your spouse’s actions and you cannot control your spouse’s attitudes. But you can control yours!

Galatians 6:5 says, “Each person must be responsible for himself.” That means you have to accept responsibility for healing your marriage. You must quit the blame game and take responsibility for your part of the problem, and your part of the solution.

Second, believe your marriage can change. You may be confused, disappointed, and feeling that your marriage is hopeless, but God doesn’t feel that way; he hasn’t given up. The Bible says in Matthew 19, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

From a human standpoint, you may think your marriage is in the coffin and they are nailing the lid shut, but if you could see it from God’s perspective, you would see nothing but life, health, happiness and fruitfulness, for a long time to come. How you perceive your marriage—either negatively or positively, either through eyes of faith or eyes that see only failure—will have the greatest impact on whether or not you can experience healing and growth. So begin to ask God to give you a new perspective on your spouse and on your marriage.

And third, commit to doing whatever it takes to restore your marriage. Pray, get professional help if you need it, take marriage classes at your church, and most of all, seek—or give—forgiveness. Dig in for a long obedience in the same direction, even if you don’t feel like it, and see how God will change your marriage—and you—in the process.

Great marriages just don’t happen; it takes real and sustained effort. Galatians 6:9 says, “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”

What Paul is saying is do the right thing whether you feel like it or not, and God will bless your obedience. Good feelings eventually follow faithful action. It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. If you wait for the feeling to come to start being nice to your spouse, it isn’t going to come. Make the choice to obey God, because according to Philippians 2:13, “God who is at work within you will give you the will and the power to achieve His purpose.” That is God’s promise to you! Philippians 4:13 exhorts, “For I can do everything [that means even to love again somebody that I have come to hate] with the help of Christ who gives me the strength that I need.”

The truth is, maybe you married a lousy person, but don’t give up without giving God his rightful chance to bring healing and health to your home. And giving God a chance is your choice!

Going Deeper With God: Is your marriage in a desperate state? Then take desperate measures! Pray, get professional help if you need it, seek—or give—forgiveness, and take marriage classes at your church. Dig in for a long obedience in the same direction, even if you don’t feel like it, and see how God will change your marriage—and you in the process.

Fully Devoted

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

A flawed heart does not mean you cannot be wholehearted toward God. How is that? When you are aware of your flaws and are sincerely repentant when those flaws take action to become sin, when your ultimate motive is to please and honor God, when you characteristically seek God for direction in your life, when you desire to give God the glory for your successes, there you have the makings of a heart after God.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 14:8-12

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he marched out to meet them. The Philistines arrived and made a raid in the valley of Rephaim. So David asked God, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord replied, “Yes, go ahead. I will hand them over to you.” So David and his troops went up to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “God did it!” David exclaimed. “He used me to burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” So they named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”). The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, so David gave orders to burn them.

God himself wrote King David’s epitaph, saying of him, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22) Is that the same David we read about in 1 and 2 Samuel, as well as here in 1 Chronicles?

Just in the last chapter, David got angry with God and sulked over the death of Uzzah for mishandling the Ark of the Covenant. (1 Chronicles 13:11) In the aftermath of that event, David got mad at his wife, Michal, and refused to engage in normal marital relations with her—for the rest of her life. (2 Samuel 6:16-23) And those are just two of the more “minor” questionable episodes in David’s life. In his earlier days, he had wanted to murder a man for refusing to feed his fighting men but took his wife instead after this foolish man had dropped dead. (1 Samuel 25) There was the whole affair episode with Bathsheba and the cover-up to the affair when he had the woman’s husband murdered, then took her as his wife. (2 Samuel 11) And there was the time he angered the Lord by arrogantly counting his fighting men. (2 Samuel 24)

To put it mildly, David was a less than perfect man. So why did God forever designate him as a man after God’s own heart? Well, to be certain, only God knows his own reasons, but he knew what was in David’s heart. David was not perfect—no one is—but he seemed to have a heart that was tender toward God, and while he blew it bigly throughout his life, he also repented bigly after these unfortunate episodes. Even though he was a flawed man, he was wholehearted toward the Lord.

In case you missed that, and this might seem a bit controversial, a flawed heart does not mean one cannot be wholehearted toward God. How is that? When one is aware of their flaws and is sincerely repentant when those flaws take action to become sin, when one’s ultimate motive is to please and honor God, when one characteristically seeks God for direction in their life, when one desires to give God the glory for their successes, there you have the makings of a heart after God.

In the story of 1 Chronicles 14, notice how David, unlike King Saul, sought the Lord before he went to war. Then when David and his troops defeated the Philistines, he gave God full credit for his victory. Unlike Saul, he took none of the glory for himself. He didn’t set up a statue to himself to commemorate his greatness, unlike Saul. (1 Samuel 15:12) Unlike Saul, David didn’t secure the spoils of war for his own pleasure (1 Samuel 15:8), but instead, he burned all the idolatrous implements of the heathen Philistines. David’s victory over his enemy gives us a glimpse into a flawed heart that also happened to be a heart fully devoted to God.

But I am saying by this that the ends justify the means? Not at all! Human sin brings horrible consequences, and David’s life is Exhibit A—a cautionary tale that we should never cheapen God’s grace by presuming he will forgive our sin in advance of committing them. We are obligated to bring those flaws before God for cleansing, deliverance and victory over them. But at the end of the day, if the preponderance of our heart’s desires have been “after God,” the Lord himself will write our epitaph as a person “after my own heart.”

Do you want to be great in God’s eyes? You are probably thinking, “Who, me? Not likely; not going to happen.” Relax, you qualify, because you don’t have to be perfect, you only need to offer a heart that is fully devoted to God. And he will even help you with that if you ask him.

Going Deeper With God: Do you want to give God a heart that is fully devoted to him? Ask for his help—he is in the heart transformation business.

Getting Too Casual With God (or Why Did God Kill Uzzah?)

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is a danger in getting too casual with God and forgetting that he is holy. When our response to him becomes predictable, when our praise is offered on autopilot, when our faith is expressed flippantly and when we begin to worship a “better” form of worship, we have committed the sin of Uzzah—growing so familiar with God that we loose a sense of wonder and reverence for his presence. When that happens, our worship is dying a slow, perhaps imperceptible, but sure death. So how do you arrest the dangerous drift of casual Christianity? Return to your first love!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 13:9-10

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

Why did God kill Uzzah? That’s quite a title for an uplifting devotional, wouldn’t you say? But really, why did God kill this man? Doesn’t this story, if you have read it, bother you, at least a little bit? Seriously, wasn’t Uzzah doing a good thing by securing the Ark of the Covenant when the oxen that were pulling the cart stumbled, threatening to topple this most sacred object? And if God struck Uzzah dead, what does this say about how we worship God?

Well, as always, context is everything. So let me mention a couple of lessons we need to consider in getting our minds around this strange story of Uzzah’s death:

First of all, it is fatal to take charge of God. That is how Eugene Peterson describes Uzzah’s act in his book on the life of David, Leap Over A Wall. You see, Uzzah was a priest. He had been consecrated to oversee the care of the Ark of the Covenant, and he had been at it for 30 years. For three decades, he hung out with the holy. Most important to understanding this story, this priest knew the law of God and the regulations about moving the Ark.

So, Peterson points out, Uzzah’s reflexive act wasn’t a mistake of the moment, it was a piece of his lifelong obsession with managing the Ark and controlling the presence of God. This was thirty years in the making. He had become selective in his obedience to God, which had led to cutting corners in his worship. In his mind, the cart was a better, more efficient way to worship. Peterson writes,

A well-designed ox-cart is undeniably more efficient for moving the Ark about than plodding Levites. But it’s also impersonal—the replacement of consecrated persons by an efficient machine, the impersonal crowding out the personal. Uzzah is the patron saint of those who uncritically embrace technology without regard to the nature of God.

Do you think that’s a pattern in our day? Do you think we have a tendency to manage God into more convenient forms of worship? Do you think we sometimes approach worship in terms of what’s better for us rather than what’s preferable to God? Do you think we fiddle with worship in order to make it more attractive to potential worshipers than what makes it attractive to God? When we program worship in terms of what’s better, more comfortable, more attractive to us, with little or no consideration for what pleases the heart of God, we too, have moved from a passion for God to a pattern of control and convenience.

That leads to a second lesson: Our friend Uzzah should cause us to post some warning signs around the church: “Danger! Beware of the God.” Seriously, we need a constant reminder of the holiness of God generally in our lives and specifically in our times of worship because we all face the temptation of confining God to times and places and styles of expression that are good for us, but not necessarily honoring of God. God will not be controlled!

That is prescisely why we have signs posted along the way throughout Scripture: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to take seriously the cultivation of the fear of the Lord. At all costs, we must avoid reducing God to our specifications.

Yes, beware of the God! There is a danger in our day of getting too casual with God and forgetting that he is holy. When our response to God becomes so predictable, when our praise is offered on autopilot, when we give ourselves to God flippantly and when we begin to worship a “better” form of worship, we have committed the sin of Uzzah!

If we think and act like Uzzah—so familiar with God that we loose a sense of wonder and reverence for the Object of worship and we begin to cut corners, sooner or later we too, will be dead, at least in our spirits. The church worship service is a breeding ground for this. If we are not careful, what begins as authentic worship erodes and shrivels, until finally, nothing is left but deadness to God. We become like the religious people that Jesus described in his day as “whitewashed tombs…full of dead men’s bones.” (Matthew 23:27) Uzzah’s death wasn’t sudden; it was years in the making. Years of managing worship and obeying selectively had suffocated passion and praise right out of his life.

So from this reading, here is the question for you today: Have you hung around the holy so long that, like Uzzah, you have lost your sense of wonder for worshiping God? If you have, the good news is that through repentance and returning to your first love, Jesus himself offers to restore your passion for the holiness of God.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)

Will you let him in so he can rekindle the love and passion he longs to receive from you?

Going Deeper With God: If Jesus is indeed standing and knocking at the door of your heart today, why not let him in?

The Greatest Place in the World

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The fact of the matter is, you are in God’s hands. Right now! He has your back. He is watching over you. He is carrying you forward and will bring you to the place that he desires. And at the end of the day, at the time, in the place and under the circumstances of his choosing, he will bring you to the eternal dwellings. God is in control of you. And that, my friend, is the world’s greatest place!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 12:16-17

Other Benjamites and some men from Judah also came to David in his stronghold. David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in peace to help me, I am ready for you to join me. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when my hands are free from violence, may the God of our ancestors see it and judge you.”

The fact of the matter is, you are in God’s hands. Right now! He has your back. He is watching over you. He is carrying you forward and will bring you to the place that he desires. And at the end of the day, at the time, in the place and under the circumstances of his choosing, he will bring you to the eternal dwellings. God is in control of you.

Perhaps you don’t realize that, or maybe you do, but you are not choosing by faith to live in the daily reality of God’s control over your life. If that is the case, you will wrestle with fear and anxiety. You may even struggle with anger and depression. You will be upset over many things, from the circumstances that you perceive are coming against your life to the upheaval that you perceive is ruining the larger world around you. The peace of God that passes all understanding is not guarding your heart and mind. That is what happens to people when they have not surrendered control of their world to the care and competence of Almighty God.

David did! In the long journey from his anointing to be the next king of Israel in the place of the backslidden King Saul—which turned out to be many difficult years living as a fugitive—to his actual coronation, God began to bring a support team around David. Courageous and skilled warriors began to join David, making him a formidable force. But as these fighting men came to him, it was certainly possible that some of them were actually spies from Saul; infiltrators bent on capturing or killing him. After all, as a fugitive on the lam, David still had a price on his head. He was in an exceedingly vulnerable place.

So how did David handle it? How did he stay sane, how did he remain focused, and he did he keep walking an honorable path of obedience as God prepared the kingdom of Israel for his eventual leadership? He trusted, that is what he did. He placed himself in God’s hand, entrusting his health, safety and promotion to the care and competence of the Almighty. Knowing that the timing and circumstances of his advancement were well above his pay grade, he surrendered himself to the purposes of his Great Shepherd.

Did you notice the opening verse? Men from the tribe of Benjamin joined him. If you will remember, Benjamin was the tribe of King Saul. These warriors were relatives of the current king, and perhaps they still carried some family loyalties to their monarch cousin. In letting them into his inner circle, David was risking his very life, and the lives of his family and friends. But take note of David’s trust in God’s protection as he opens the door to these people:

“If you have come in peace and to help me, you are most welcome to join this company; but if you have come to betray me to my enemies, innocent as I am, the God of our ancestors will see through you and bring judgment on you.” (1 Chronicles 12:17, MSG)

When we come to the point where we can leave our health and welfare, our success and wealth, our fame and security with Almighty God, we will have arrived at the greatest place in the world: the hands of God. Again, God already holds us there, but until we acknowledge that he’s got us, and until we surrender our entire being—body, mind and soul—to his care and competence, we will not be fully at peace. But when we do, we will arrive at that place uncommon to most human beings—the place of which David so eloquently wrote in what we call the Twenty-Third Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

There is no better place in the world to be than in the care of the Good Shepherd. And we get there by surrendering our trust into his hands.

Going Deeper With God: Read Psalm 23 every morning this week before you leave your house.

The Power of Team

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God typically works in plurals. He is not primarily interested in creating superstars, but in creating winning teams. Abraham had his fighting men, Jethro gave Moses his team of judges, Jesus had his disciples, Paul had his unsung heroes, and David had his mighty men. God works in teams, even when he puts a single individual as the front of that pack. But the leader would be nothing without the pack.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 11:10

These were the chiefs of David’s mighty warriors—they, together with all Israel, gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised.

Do you desire to do great things for God with your life? That is a good thing to want, and God may just grant it. That is why it is never a bad idea to ask God to use you for big things. And why not? God is in the prayer-answering business, and big, bold prayers don’t scare him at all. In fact, the largeness of our prayer honors our Heavenly Father in that it places great confidence in his sufficiency and generosity. One of my life verses, 2 Chronicles 16:9, tells us that God is actually looking for people with that kind of audacious faith in him:

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

But when you ask for big things, don’t forget that God typically works in plurals. He is not primarily interested in creating superstars, but in creating winning teams. Abraham had his fighting men, Jethro gave Moses his team of judges, Jesus had his disciples, Paul had his unsung heroes, and David had his mighty men. God works in teams, even when he puts a single individual as the front of that pack. But the leader would be nothing without the pack.

1 Chronicles 11 is a long list of names that have mostly been forgotten, but neither God, David, nor the author of the Chronicles—likely Ezra the priest—forgot these mighty men of valor and their super-human achievements. They were men of strength, fearlessness, skill and tremendous loyalty to David. David would not have made it to the throne without them, nor would he have maintained his rule over Israel, given the enemies who lined up to bring him down, without his mighty men.

So yes, desiring to accomplish great exploits for God with your one and only life is a noble thing. Praying for extraordinary courage, Holy Spirit infused skill, and divine favor is a good thing—and you should. But since God alone is the one who is to receive the credit for our accomplishments, and since he has a track record of doing great things through great teams, it would rather be a much better prayer to ask, “God, bring around me men and women of valor, skill and loyalty to help me accomplish something great for you.” Or perhaps the wiser prayer would be, “God, make me a person of valor, skill and loyalty, and place me on a team that you can use to do great exploits.”

God wants to use you to do great things. So start looking for the people he will place you with to do them!

Going Deeper With God: God does his kingdom work today through the church. And every church is made up of friends of Christ. But every church also has enemies of the Gospel. Even your church! That means, like David, your pastor needs mighty men and women of God to help keep the church strong. Given that, here is your two-part assignment as someone who desires to be a person of valor: First, take the time to express your gratitude to God for those true friends who make the advancement of the Gospel possible in your church. And not only thank God for them, thank them, too. Second, simply and steadfastly stay alert to anyone that would cause a division in your fellowship—and don’t let them. Satan’s chief strategy to weaken your church is to divide it—and he usually begins with small, subtle cracks! Your job is to stand your ground for as long as it takes to preserve the calling of your church!