Go ahead and weep

“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Groanings that are too deep for words”
“Loud cry and tears”
“Crushed with grief to the point of death”

God can get really graphic when it comes to suffering. All of those words come from the Bible. The last one was uttered by Jesus as He prayed in Gethsemane.

Because the first step to overcoming is acceptance. An acknowledgment of our suffering. Being vulnerable in front of God, and being completely honest with Him about everything.

There’s no point in keeping a stiff upper lip when God knows you down to the deepest darkest recesses of your heart and mind!

So go ahead and weep, for at the end of that sorrow lies redemption.

Kids Teaching – Almighty Praise

Objective
As part of the Adoration / Praise Series, we will impart to kids that an all-powerful praise comes from the heart. It’s not about the nice music, nor the excellent performance. Real praise goes up to the heavens and makes God smile. It is the kind that comes from a pure, sincere, and humble heart.

Big Point
All powerful praise comes from the heart.

Teaching Video
Paul and Silas in Prison Video
00:40-3:08

God’s Word
3 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everyone’s chains came loose.
Acts 16:25-26 NIRV

Key Points

  1. Praise God from the start
  2. Praise God from the heart
  3. Praise God non-stop

Bible Verses

Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I pray to you. I wait for you in hope.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭5:3‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

The Lord is gracious, kind and tender. He is slow to get angry and full of love.
Psalm 145:8 NIRV

Teaching Reflection
What comes to your mind when you think about praise? Maybe, songs? Singing and dancing? Musical instruments?

In Christian church parlance, worship usually means “slow songs” and praise usually mean “fast, dance songs”.

There’s nothing wrong with this association. God is a God of order after all, and it’s good to have standards that we can adhere to.

Here though, we are talking about praise as that concept of lifting up our God most high, declaring that He is the greatest of all, and in the process, being edified in and of ourselves.

With Almighty Praise, we want to teach that it speaks of several things:
– giving honor to God
– thanksgiving
– driving away the enemy
– staying positive / encouraging
– declaring victory
– inviting God’s presence
– claiming God’s power
– focusing on God

Praise reaches for and achieves all of these things, and so much more! Because praise is a very powerful thing. When we praise, we do it with our bodies, so we spend strength and energy to do it, and in turn, it energizes, empowers, and refreshes us as well.

# 1 Praise God from the start

God wants us to think about Him the very minute that we wake up in the morning. He should be the first thought that we have in the day; even before doing anything else, we should be praising Him. We want praise to be a priority. We want praise to be so important to us that we never forget to do it every single day.

Also, we want praise to be something that starts for us even before we have a reason to praise Him. That means, we praise because God, full stop. Even before we have something to thank Him for, even before we have something to ask. Even before the sickness comes, or the sickness is healed. Even when the blessings are pouring in, or when the blessings have yet to come. From the very start we praise God!

# 2 Praise God from the heart

God wants our praise to be something that we feel here (in our hearts) and know here (in our minds). He wants it to be joyful! He allows it to be painful! It is always exciting. It can sometimes be tiring. But all throughout, God wants it to come from our heart.

When Paul and Silas were in chains in their jail cell, they were tired and hurting, being severely beaten. I would not have blamed them for just praying quietly and going to sleep at that point. But instead, they praised God all the more.

And that’s what made their praising all the more amazing, all the more powerful — because they still had hope in Jesus even their desperate situation! They can be hurting in their bodies, but in their hearts, they are still singing, and that’s the kind of praise that Jesus wants.

# 3 Praise God non-stop

And this is how often we praise Him! Endlessly! Every night and day and with no delay — just like that song says!

Praising God never stops. Whether we are sad or happy, winner or loser, hopeful, or despairing — all of our days we should be praising God.

Remember the chains binding Paul and Silas? Chains are a symbol of being trapped, right? They signify that a person can’t move, aren’t free. They’re usually very depressing.

But what did they do? They started praising. From the start of their situation, they praised God. From their heart, with their voices and with what movement they can do, they praised God. And non-stop, they praised until the walls of that prison fell down, and that is what we have to do every day, that is how we want to praise God every day: From the start, from the heart, and non-stop.

Link to Slides
The script for the entire teaching is in the speaker notes.

Here’s the thing

 

The easiest thing would be to leave.

Because it entails just running away. It means just up and leaving everything behind. No need to fix things. No need to mend relationships. No need to make an effort. Just leave everything and be done with it, and move on.

The easiest thing would be to stay.

Because, it retains the status quo. It means, just letting things stay the way that they are, and hoping for the best. It means making some small changes, some small sacrifices, making an effort to be a little bit better, and then having the things stay the same as they are, no big move, no big changes.

The hardest thing would be to leave.

Because, it means, finding new work, establishing new relationships, getting used to new people and new routines. It means packing everything up, and then unpacking in a new place. It means having to learn new things, and confronting new uncertainties.

The hardest thing would be to stay.

Because it means compromising on emotions and ideals, and having to let go of personal preferences. It means having to deal, day in and day out, with current circumstances that have already proven to be stressful. It means having to give up certain liberties and privileges that were once thought to be completely free and open.

2coffees.JPGBut the best thing is that, the answer to all these questions, and any others that might be asked in the future, and all other questions that have been asked in the past, can be found in God’s love.

It seems reductive.   And oversimplified.  But the correct answer is and always will be God’s love.

So.  Seen through the eyes of glory, before asking whether to stay or to leave, one should ask first, where is God in all this?  Am I considering His presence, acknowledging His purpose in any direction that I take?  Am I responding in a loving way to the situation, or am I reacting out of hand?

Is His love driving my decisions, by His spiritual standards, or am I letting the world dictate what I should be doing, how I should be leading my life, according to its flawed biases?

The first step is to believe that He is the answer, that His truth is the first step in any decision making process.  The second step is to trust that His way will work for you, that His Words will light your path, that His Spirit has already gone before You even before you have made the decision.

And the third step is to just Go.  Stay or leave, easy or hard — these now just become semantics, defining and framing the real world plans that you have to make.  Whatever you ultimately decide, just make sure that you are living in Love, going in Peace, and serving with Joy in the Lord.

Life is a Beautiful Mess

‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭26:4-5, 9-10, 12-13, 19-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God created us to be in families, and these families to be in communities, and these communities in turn to belong to local churches. He is quite intentional about this — that we should all love one another, uphold one another in love, and live together in harmony.

In His wisdom, God put us in this big, wide, wonderful, wacky, weird world, and it is here that we are to live out the calling He set upon us – to love Him above all else, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

salad.JPGBut because life is a beautiful mess sometimes, its hard to live out that calling. It’s hard to be good, when there are so many things around us tempting us to be bad. So many distractions! Shiny objects as far as the eye can see…

Take this story from the life of Paul for example. Paul used to reject Jesus, but then he was converted, and he started to serve him with his entire life. That’s not an exaggeration. Paul changed his entire life — his name, his career, his living conditions, his personal identity, his comfort — everything, in order to answer Jesus’ calling. He had to forget everything that he believed in, disavow all that he held dear, all for Jesus.

And in the midst of his faithfulness, right smack in the middle of his ministry, he gets slapped with this — a trial for him to defend his beliefs. Talk about red tape. Instead of being allowed to get on with the work, he had to stop it to address all the accusations that were laid out before him.

Paul was really someone special. God gave him a heart that was a patient and kind, and a mind that was clear and focused. He never wavered. They called him crazy, they said he was out of his mind, but he still he kept to his principles and never lost sight of his goal.

Even during his trial, he was still evangelising! Right when he was supposed to be defending himself, he was still trying to lead others to God.

God, I pray for this kind of intense, laser like focus! Eyes on the prize at all times. My head set in the game, my heart set on the goal, my life set on completing the good work.

It’s a wide, wonderful, wacky, world indeed. Good thing we have an equally wide, wonderful, and wacky God to guide as through it.

“Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

By the power of grace

“I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.”Psalms 88:4-7 ESV

sad.JPGThe psalmist here is definitely not pulling any stops. He’s not beating around the bush, this is hard core dramatics! It’s not even, “kill me now.” It’s, “Dead. I’m already dead.”

And according to the intro, the psalmist’s name here is Heman. I love it, because it’s so ironic. You would think someone named like the cartoon hero “He-Man” would have a bit more backbone.

At first I was like, way to lose faith, Heman. Where’s your hope? Where’s your trust in the Lord?

It doesn’t help that there’s no redemption moment; at the end of it he’s still where he is when he started praying: down in the dumps.

Can you just hear the soundtrack, “Hello darkness, my old friend…”?

But still, I love that this chapter exists. Because it tells us that, sometimes, it is ok to wallow. Sometimes, there is no recourse but to despair.

Not permanently of course. Not like, for your entire life. Not even for an extended season. But for just around 18 verses? It’s acceptable.

There’s this tired old argument people say that I don’t like, “Well, we’re only human.” Being human is not an excuse! We are emotional precisely because we are human beings created in the likeness of God. And God, as is shown in His Word right here, is a beautifully, exquisitely, emotional God.

I like that word — “exquisite”. It perfectly describes Him, and His works. Even His lamentations are beautiful.

So go ahead — emote, express, exhort! God created you to be exactly who you are!

Just remember to always keep God in the equation. Don’t forget from whence these “feelings” came.

And never ever lose sight of where your help comes from.

Like I said, Heman doesn’t exactly recover at the end of this psalm. It doesn’t matter. He didn’t need to. Sometimes in our lives, this psalm is exactly what we need to hear.


Intentional sorrow anyone?  Click here to find out how you can be purposeful even in your grief.

Unburnt

1:
Unburnt through the fire
Untouched by the flames
Walking through the waters
Unswayed by the waves

The ocean parts before me
His fire lights my way

2:
Walking through the valleys
Running through the hills
Raging storms surround me
Unmoved by the winds

The mountains fall before me
And hurricanes stand still
The skies proclaim Your glory
As Jesus is revealed

Chorus:
The King of all creation and
The Lord of the earth
You hold us closely in Your hands
And closer to Your heart
The very stones cry out Your name
They sing Your majesty
Hallelujah
Oh, hallelujah

3:
Unburnt through the fire
Untouched by the flames
Walking through the waters
Unswayed by the waves

The skies proclaim Your glory
As Jesus is revealed

(Repeat Chorus)

Bridge:
I walk through the valley
I walk though the hills
The sea parts before me
In You I am still


When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:2 NLT

You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Psalm 65:7 NLT

You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
Psalm 89:9 NIV

This original song speaks about how miraculous God is, and how He works in the supernatural in every aspect of our lives. It speaks of how, through every trial, He helps us to overcome.

House Targaryen ain’t got nothing on this.

Who I Am In the Lord

I wrote this a while back, but it’s always good to be reminded.


I am a woman of fire, and my heart is emblazoned with His name.  Everyday I burn with longing to be with my God; everyday I yearn for His truth.  I live with a passion for life lived to the full, accepting the charge and challenge to fight for the Lord if needed.  I am aflame with His Word, and the holy light inside me shines forth, making me sparkle, making me blaze.

I am a woman of earth, and my body is a temple for the Lord, strong and supple, and I am a tireless workforce. My hands are capable and willing and open.  I know a mother’s ways, and my household is always ready to receive.  I support, and I nurture, and I serve.

I am a woman of water, and my spirit pours forth with grace and gentleness, and I let myself be molded according to His heavenly will.   I get my fill to the overflowing from the ocean of graces made available to me by the Father.   I can come as soft as summer rain, refreshing, sweet and pure and clean.  I can come as a tempestuous typhoon, righteous, strong, and certain and secure in my worth in the Lord.

I am a woman of wind, and my soul flows freely in praise and in worship.  I can fly as I set my feet to dancing, as I lose myself in joyful songs that rejoice in Him.  I can stroke the air and make it sing, the notes lilting and swaying in the breeze, my voice an instrument for the Lord.

I am woman, hear me roar.  I am eagle, watch me soar.  I am beautiful by design, by holy creation, and I reside in my Father’s heart.

I am your mother, and your sister, and your friend, and your teacher, and your helper, and your partner.  I can be anything I want to be.  But most of all, most important of all, I am His daughter.

And no one can ever take that away from me.


Horoscopes ain’t got nothing on this.  Click here to find out everything that the Lord created you to be.

Delicious

Fasting. I’ve done it so many times before. In different ways. And in different durations.

And I said it was easy. I said, no big deal, because I am not new to starvation. Feeling hungry is not a new sensation for me. Food had never been a priority.

But even in this, God finds new ways to keep His commands fresh and new for me.

Because I am fasting again now, and it feels… different. It feels burdensome, and challenging. I feel hunger pangs, that familiar clawing in my stomach that arises from intestines twisting against each other with nothing to digest.

And yet three words come to me right now. Three surprising and borderline ridiculous sentiments to be having at a time like this:

cevicheDelicious, delightful, and delicate.

My tongue, which at this very moment is craving for something to physically taste, is somehow being sated in the midst of its lack. That was a very clumsy sentence, but I know no other way to describe it. Something about all this “nothingness” tastes delicious.

And it is all so delightful. It brightens my heart to realise that this long in the game, I could still be given this singular experience. For something that I have done countless times before, God is still giving me the wonderful gift of His presence.

To be honest, the third word was more of my mind forcing a rhythm. But when I found it, it fit. If I am not careful, these feelings that I am having can be ephemeral, not because God withholds, but because I can be easily distracted, easily tempted. I have to continue seeking after His presence, His essence, His Spirit; I have to remember that all of these are within my grasp only if when I fast, I hold fast to Him.

Testify, Magnify, Glorify

pathI see you in the beauty of the day
In every blade of grass
In the whisper of the breeze
The swaying of the trees
I see you in the blue of the sky
In the shapes the clouds make
They spell out Your name
They draw out Your face
They cry out Your majesty

I want to testify to Your goodness Lord
I want to magnify Your name
I want everyone to know
Everyone to sing
Everyone to glorify

Singing out, crying out, calling out to Your goodness
Every fiber of my being crying out for You

I want to fly, if I can, go straight to heaven

I close my eyes and everything fades away
Leaving only me and You

And I can’t help but cast my eyes down
I can’t look at You directly
But You take my hand in Yours
Enfold me in a warm embrace
And Your goodness overwhelms
And I feel strong, I feel whole
I feel healed
Unbroken
Released
You raise me up, put a halo on my head
And I am like a child
Finding favor in my Father’s eyes

How I long to be near you Father
How I long to be in Your presence always
Without You I am nothing
With You I can be everything

September 26, 2009

Praising in Prison

prison1

“A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:22-23‬a NLT‬‬

Regard our characters. They are black and blue from having been stripped and repeatedly beaten. With wooden rods no less. And with not even the protection of clothes on their bodies.

Also, by this time the crowd had turned into an angry mob. Most probably the soldiers who captured them are also caught up in the negative energy. The violence must have been amped up to an unreasonable scale.

And all for what? For worshiping Jesus. For preaching His Name. For spreading the Word of God. In a very peaceable, uncompromising manner.

Have you been through such persecution while doing the work of God? Have you ever experienced such vehement opposition in the name of Jesus?

prison3

“The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:23b-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The scene is set. Imagine a dark and dingy jail cell. It must have had stone walls. There must have been bars made of thick, sturdy wood. Or maybe iron. It is somber and imposing.

And it was an inner dungeon, so double up on the hopelessness of the situation.

It must not have been very large, but floor space doesn’t really matter right now. Because our heroes are clamped with irons at the feet, and trapped in an agonising position.

What is your prison right now? In what ways have you found yourself bound, and unable to move?

prison5

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we take this verse on its own, without the context of the rest of the story, it sounds completely reasonable and makes perfect sense. Praying and singing hymns to God — how divine! How utterly in line with ministry work, and Gospel sharing.

But consider the situation. They were doing these even as the bruises were still bright on their flesh, even as their bones still ached from the fresh beating.

And the Bible said, the other prisoners were listening. I have no doubt that some among them were laughing and mocking as they heard those songs. Who would sing in a dark dreary place such as this?

I like to think they were using their chains to make music, clanking their irons in time to the beat, setting a rhythm that went with their worship.

For they must have been praising. They must have! Beaten black and blue, chained with irons in an inner dungeon — they weren’t expecting this at all. So whether it was for relief and rescue, acceptance or redemption, they *must* have been praising God.

Have you ever tried praising God in the midst of your sorrow and pain? How did it go?

prison6

“Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:26‬ ‭NLT

‬‬Then suddenly, an earthquake.

I will not be surprised to find out that this region of the world isn’t even on a faultline.

This earthquake was so powerful that the chains of every prisoner fell off. The doors fell off their hinges.

And all the prisoners were set free.

Think about that last part. Every prisoner, those who listened, and those who mocked.

God doesn’t discriminate. You can be a sinner or a saint. God will save you no matter what.

Has there ever been a time when you felt that you weren’t worthy of salvation? Or when you felt that God was blessing you even though you didn’t deserve it at all?

prison4

“The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!””
Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:27-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I wanted them to run! In the words of Gandalf the Grey, “Fly you fools!” For prisoners such as these, especially innocent men, escape must have been the ultimate objective.

But they didn’t.

The jailer expected them to run. So much so that he was ready to kill himself over his certainty.

I’m sure all the prisoners expected themselves to run. Saint or sinner, when you’re in prison and the doors open, you run!

But something stopped them from leaving.

Despite what must have been their most basic responses (fight or flight! Kill or be killed!), they stayed.

In defiance of their own personalities, of what the world dictates that they should do.

Has there ever been a time when you did something completely opposite to how you would normally react? When you felt the Spirit moving so tangibly that you just obeyed despite yourself?

prison2

“The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:29-32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

And there it was. The Word of God will not be imprisoned. The Great Commission will not be held back.

I wonder how big the jailer’s household was? I wonder if they are good or bad, rich or poor? They lived in or near the jail. It’s safe to say the majority of them must not have been living very good lives.

Regardless though. Salvation is free and is meant for everyone.

See how God put all the pieces into play for us to hear this message? It was a roller coaster ride right from the start. An angry mob! A scary jail! Beatings, and chains! Iron and wood and stone! Singing and praising!

And then an earthquake, and a not so great escape. A suicidal jailer. An entire household saved.

And then, there’s us. Christians, hundreds of years hence, who are able to read this story and know, beyond doubt, that praise is powerful, and God is great.

Amen.

%d bloggers like this: