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O Magnify the Lord

O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.

Psalms 34:3

I’ve been pondering lately on what it means to “Magnify the Lord.” He is most certainly and without doubt worthy to be magnified and exalted. To be praised and glorified. But how do we magnify God? The obvious answer is through praise and worship. We exalt Him with our words — our lips. But even praise and worship serves as a greater purpose which we will get into a little farther down.

Let’s start with the basics. What does it even mean to “magnify?”

Magnify (v):
1. To cause to be held in esteem or respect.
2. To increase in significance: intensify.
3. To enlarge in fact or appearance.

Going off of the first definition, how do we show God that we esteem and respect Him? I don’t know about you all but when my kids do what I’ve asked of them I feel very esteemed and respected. But do you know what feels even more amazing? Not having to ask. My daughter Grace, is an expert at knowing what’s expected of her. She sees the need and without me having to say a word, she just does it. (What a kid!) As our kids show us respect through their obedience, so we can magnify God through our obedience.

The second part of the definition tells us that to magnify causes something or someone to increase in significance. Someone of significance should affect a great portion of our lives. Father God was of such significance to Jesus that while He went through the torture of the crucifixion He said very little. What He did say gives us an idea of how significant the Father was. Most of what Jesus said was ministerial in nature. “Father forgive them” to His torturers. “Today you will be with me in paradise” to the thief. “Woman, behold your son” to his mother. But there was one phrase that rose above all the rest. One phrase that epitomized what Jesus found to be the most tortuous of all. “Father, why have you forsaken me?” The Bible doesn’t record a single word of complaint from Jesus about the physical pain he was going through. Father God was so significant to Jesus that separation from Him was more agonizing than the physical pain of crucifixion!

Would we feel that way? I hope so. Does God occupy such a significant part of our lives that we would cry out in such a way if we felt God depart from us? Or would we be like King Saul who didn’t know when the Holy Spirit departed? I think a lot of the church today wouldn’t notice — for this terribly tragic reason,  they do not know Him. But we can show God through our lives how we Magnify Him by giving Him our all. Every part. Even the ugly bits.

The final part of the definition — to enlarge in fact or appearance is a bit abstract. Can we make God bigger? Yeah, that’s a no. He’s without measure and we are not that powerful. In the natural we make things appear larger by looking in a magnifying glass or a microscope. Why do we do this? So we can see better. I have a magnifying mirror and a pair of tweezers in my purse because well, I’m part German and there are hairs where there aren’t supposed to be — but that’s off topic. When we use a microscope. It brings things from the realm of the unseen to the seen — from the unknowable to the knowable. That’s what worship does for us. Worship is our microscope, bringing that which we cannot see clearly, into focus. We magnify Him when we allow ourselves to gaze upon Him. To study Him. To know Him until what surrounds us becomes insignificant.

There’s an old chorus that says it beautifully:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.”

Saints, let’s magnify him through our obedience. Let’s magnify Him through giving Him everything we are. Let’s magnify him by allowing our worship to illuminate who He is. Because as we do, He doesn’t just become magnified in our lives. He becomes magnified in this world. 

And oh how this world needs Jesus.

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A Year for a Suddenly

I know you’re just itching to know what word I picked for this year. For those of you who are like, whaaat? Its grown in popularity over the years for people to pick a word — or words. Words that speak to them. Words that they want to see develop in their life over the coming year. I don’t often pick one (There are so many, how do you choose?) but when I do, its something that jumps up at me strongly. Words like: perspective and intention, are ones that I’ve had in the past.

A few weeks ago as I was getting ready for church I had Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne on, as I often do. I call it my pre-service service. He was talking about “suddenly.” It’s not first time I’ve heard a message on that subject, as my Pastor can preach a message on suddenly from Acts 2 that will blow your hair back! As I listened it just grew stronger and stronger. This was my word. We have been believing for some specific things over the last couple of years and while the answers have trickled in I felt God say, “This is your year for a suddenly.” And I am holding on to that with every ounce of faith within me.

Now you may say, suddenly, that’s a strange word to choose. First off, I didn’t choose it, it chose me. And secondly, that word appears in the Bible many times — not always in a good context — but we’ll just focus on the good this time around. Here are a few examples:

The shepherds in the time of Jesus’ birth had a suddenly. In Luke 2:13, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.”

The early church had a suddenly in Acts 2:2, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind.”

Paul certainly had a suddenly when he was knocked off his donkey in Acts 9:3.

The woman with the issue of blood had her suddenly in Matthew 9:20, when she pressed through the crowd and received her miracle.

The suddenlies of God are powerful, transformative and, dare I say, SUDDEN. The shepherds were innocently herding their sheep when suddenly, their eyes were opened to the Messiah. The early church was on the defense, when BAM! Suddenly they received the power of the Holy Spirit and became those who were known to have turned the world right-side up. Paul was transformed suddenly on the road to Damascus from a man who persecuted the church to one who built the church. The woman with the issue of blood was suddenly changed from a desperate social pariah to a woman who was praise by Jesus for her faith.

Our suddenlies are no different. We’re all believing for things — and if we’re going to get God involved, let’s make those things big! Let’s stand this year. And having done all to stand, let’s stand some more. For our suddenly is surely coming.

Thoughts, Truth

Choices

Choices. We often think that our choices have no bearing or affect on other people. That our choices only affect ourselves. That is so far from the truth. I was talking with my daughter the other day about how important our choices are. We talked about the story in 1 Samuel 15 in which Saul was instructed to go up against the Amalekites and destroy them. In verse 3 Samuel instructs Saul to, “Attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” But Saul did not obey. He kept the king of the Amalekites alive and he took the best of the flock to sacrifice to the Lord. Was it wrong that Saul should desire to honor the Lord with a sacrifice? No. But his instructions were to leave nothing of the Amalekites alive.

The key to this whole passage lies in 1 Samuel 15:22 when Samuel tells Saul, “Has the Lord a great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Samuel then prophesies to Saul that God will remove him as king, that the kingdom would be ripped from him and given to another. 20 years later, Saul is killed in battle along with his sons and the prophecy is fulfilled. The irony? Saul’s death blow was delivered by an Amalekite. Saul’s disobedience not only affected him and his family, but the ripple affect was felt generations later. Hundreds of years passed before the affects were felt by a woman named Esther. Her people, exiled in Babylon, were threatened by a descendant of the Amalekite king, a murderous man named Haman. Haman took it upon himself to attempt to annihilate the entire the Jewish nation. But for the bravery of Queen Esther, he would have succeeded where Saul failed. Our choices, good and bad, can be felt for generations upon generations.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus had a choice when He went to the cross. He said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus spent all night in the garden of Gethsemane surrendering His will to the Father’s. Praying for another way to accomplish what God required of Him. If it were not His choice to make, I doubt He would have sweat great drops of blood in making it. If it were just a mindless act for Him it would not have been difficult. He had to choose to go the cross, knowing what would happen to Him. Knowing that his body would be broken for us. Knowing that He would be reviled and ridiculed. And most excruciatingly, that His Father would be required to turn his back on Him as our sin weighed heavy on His shoulders. But still Jesus chose obedience. And in His obedience the ripple effect can be felt 2,000 years later. Jesus’ decision to obey brought millions upon millions into relationship with the Father.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants my live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Like Saul and Jesus, our decisions will continue to speak long after we are gone. Choose life!

Thoughts, Truth

Bent, Not Broken

This week marks my 16th week of pregnancy. Little Bean is growing right on schedule for his or her September 11th due date. I have found it hard through this pregnancy not to think back to last summer when at 16 weeks we found out the little girl we were expecting had died a week before. So I reminisce, not to grieve, but to wonder at how God has brought us through. Closer. Stronger. More sure of God’s promises and plan than ever.

I find my self pondering on the shepherd boy and future king David—when his father sent him with food for his brothers who were on the front line of battle. As David approached to greet his brothers he heard Goliath—who for 40 days had been berating the Israelite army. As the mocking of the Philistine giant fell on David’s ears, an indignation filled him. In 1 Samuel 17:26 he asked the question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” We should be just as indignant when anything or anyone seeks to exalt themselves over the word and the promise of the Lord. The Israelites were the army of the Lord, the chosen people. We, however, are literally the children of the one true King. We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. When Jesus died and rose again He was seated at the right hand of God the Father. Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, stand therefore…” (Ephesians 6:13-14 NKJV) When we stand against an enemy, we stand in His righteousness and authority. There is nothing, absolutely nothing—be it sickness, disease, poverty, addiction, depression, or anything else—that has the right to defy us if we dwell in the secret place mentioned in Psalm 91. When David stood he used what he had and trusted God do the rest. Ephesians 6:10 tell us “to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” When we stand—we stand on what God has already done. He has already provided our healing, our provision, our deliverance, our redemption. So we stand, trusting that God has already provided anything and everything we have need of through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus. So, what do we have? We have the promises of God sure and steadfast. He has never and will never fail. So we we stand—bending but never breaking.

Feelings

I’ve Been Run Over

I’ve gotta tell you. I’m not often rendered speechless but God has certainly out done Himself over the last couple of days. We have been looking off and on at vans—we really needed a larger vehicle. The kids are getting bigger and will soon want to go places with friends and our car was just too small. We weren’t in a hurry (we actually started looking several years ago.) Two days ago I happened upon a vehicle on the website of the dealership we like to go through. It was much nicer than the other vans we had seen in our price range. And loaded with everything we wanted and then some. (Isn’t that just like God? Much more than, more than enough!) The van was listed for $3000 under Blue Book value. Vince and I discussed it and said if we get it for the price and monthly payment we want, let’s go for it. We went and looked and it was nicer than I could have hoped for! Price, trade-in value, payment, timeframe was exactly what we wanted. We were overjoyed (even though we had been car-payment free the last couple of years), so we brought it home.

That would have been enough in and of itself to make me exceedingly grateful but that is not the end of the story. I was “moving in” this morning, transferring all the stuff into the van that was taken from the car, when Vince called me. He said, “Man, God sure has overtaken us, hasn’t He?” I agreed with him, thinking he was talking about the van. He wasn’t. Apparently his boss called him this morning and offered him $1/hr raise—without Vince even asking for it! The raise more than covers our newly acquired car payment (which was very manageable for us already.) I had written previously about him getting a $2/hr raise (and then some) two months ago—that one also came without asking for it. So it was a complete shock coming so soon after the last one. It was like God was saying, “You thought the van was good? Watch this! I will find you the van of your dreams and cover the payment!” The word of God says in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high abve all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Now, if you’re going to tell me that God doesn’t desire to bless His children not only spiritually but physically, you have come too late. Because I just feel plum run over.

Truth

Identity Crisis

Let me start by saying that God is not the devil. I know what you’re thinking… Duh, I know that! But do you really? I have a feeling that if God could go through an identity crisis He certainly would when people attribute the works of the devil to Him. Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Steal. Kill. Destroy. Those are the works of an enemy that is out for our very souls. Jesus is the life giver. If sickness comes, be it a cancer diagnosis or a common cold—that comes not from God but from the enemy. If loss comes, through death or failed relationships—again, that is the enemy. Poverty? Lack? Yep, you guessed it. That stinking, lying devil.

It’s amazing how many people can blame God for the terrible things that happen. This past July I was pregnant with a little girl we named Isabel. I should have been due this December but something unthinkable happened. At my 17th week the doctor could not find a heartbeat. As I went through that whole awful experience, never once did I think that God caused it. God is the giver of all good things. James 1:17 tells us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Not only does every good and perfect gift come from Him but He has no variation. Which means He never changes. He has been good, He is good, and He always will be good.

There is no scenario that would ever exist in which I as a parent would inflict harm or pain on my children to teach them a lesson. But somehow people get it into their heads that God does that very thing. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” If I were to paraphrase it would go something like this: if you who are fallible and imperfect can treat your kids well and desire the best for them, how much more would I, your Heavenly Father want for you!

Now can God use the trials and pain to make us and mold us? Can He take the shattered and broken pieces of our lives and make something beautiful out of them? Absolutely. But does He cause them? Absolutely not. We live in a fallen world. A world in which, contrary to popular belief, God is not in control. I will explore that thought in a future blog. But in a nutshell. If He were truly in control He sure is making a mess of things. He put man in authority down here and Adam handed his authority over to satan. Jesus had to go to the cross to win that authority back for us.

So next time you walk through a hardship or temptation, instead of using your mouth to blame God. Use it to declare His word over your life. God intended us to take authority over our situation. He has put all things under our feet.

Truth

Count the Cost

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

Have you ever thought—I mean really thought of the price Jesus paid for your redemption? I think sometimes we tend to gloss over what Jesus went through as he hung on the cross. We forget what He had to become to secure our redemption. Jesus knew what His mission was. Not only to remove our sin but to become it. To bring His Father’s creation back into a right relationship with Him.

Jesus came. He left the glory of heaven, stripped himself of deity and became a man with a divine purpose. To give us an example of a human walking in the authority and power of almighty God. He said what the Father said, He did what the Father did. But His ultimate mission was to die. He knew that and He still chose to do it. He knew his blood would have to run down that cross in order for us to be redeemed. He knew that He would have to become every vile thing that the heart of man would ever contemplate. That the sins of every man and woman would be laid to His charge. My sin. Your sin. And He knew that would result in the most painful thing of all. Separation from His Father.

Jesus knew the cost. And as He died He felt it. That loneliness He had never known before as His Father turned His face away from Him. That feeling is something we never need know. He bore the chains so we could be free. He carried our sin so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus saw the bigger picture. That in His death would come life for all those who would believe on Him.

We must make a decision. Do we disregard the price that He paid for us? Or do we acknowledge that He provided for everything we would ever have need of and walk in His footsteps. Laying down our lives for those who do not yet know. We must count the cost, take up our cross and follow Him. This Christian walk is not for the faint of heart. Jesus said in Matthew 10:22, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” He also said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Make a decision friends. Trust God to fill you with His Spirit. That we may walk as He walked—in the grace, power, and authority of almighty God. That we would come to the realization that our sacrifice, however small in comparison to His, will be worth it.

Thoughts

Condemnation vs. Conviction

I think these days many people confuse condemnation with conviction. Condemnation points only to a problem, giving no answer. Conviction shows you the problem with the answer. Condemnation points only to our failures. Conviction says, “You made a mistake. You failed. Let me show you how to overcome.”

“A father disciplines those He loves…” I think I remember reading that somewhere. Conviction, like discipline doesn’t necessarily feel good but it is necessary. If neither of these existed we would have a bunch of spoiled, worthless, weak people walking around. I shudder to think of the child who is left to his own devices. I can’t number the times my mom and dad “convicted” me. Most of the time I got mad. Then after cooling off I realized they were right.

God is our Father, He certainly has the right to speak into our lives. Pastors are the authority God has placed over us on this earth, they should be able to speak into our lives. Other Christians should be free to do the same. Its what the Word of God instructs us to do, not to condemn, but to convict. When someone says something to us, instead of going into “offense” mode, why can’t we just turn the mirror on ourselves and see if there’s anything there that needs changing? If not, fine… but odds are there will be something that needs work. I have yet to find a perfect person. I have yet to find someone who has all the answers. Its time that we start acting like the grown ups that we are instead of little children. Hmmm…  I think I read that somewhere too. Oh yeah, and can we quit assuming the worst about people? Sometimes, however misguided, they can have our best interest at heart.

Thoughts, Truth

What You Really Need

About thirteen years ago I was a 22 year-old single woman working in a back office department at a major bank in downtown Seattle. There were many things in life that I was believing for—a husband, a home, and children to name a few. Some people have dreams of a certain profession but for me, nothing I could imagine ever felt more satisfying than first and foremost being a wife and a mom. And I had seen in my mind’s eye how I thought that would happen.

I don’t know where this saying comes from or who said it but I have heard that “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” That is so true. I had my future all laid out. At the time I was good friends with a family that had a son my age. His family loved me and we got along well. I had made it up in my mind, not even really having romantic feelings for this young man, that this is what God had in store for me. He was a Christian, I was a Christian. I loved his sisters as my own. I could make this work.

At the time, I was living in Tacoma and commuted to Seattle. I had to catch my bus by 6:00am to make it to work by 8:00am. So I used those two hours for my devotions and prayer time. There was one particular day of devotions that I will never forget. The weekend before, I had spent some time at my friends’ house and the son and I were sitting at the table in the dining room talking. When the dad left the room he dimmed the lights on us. (Smooth, very smooth…)  I rationalized the situation. I settled it in my mind. But that day on the bus God took over. I was beginning to read in the book of Acts. When I got to Acts 3 it hit me like a lightning bolt. The passage begins with Peter and John going to the temple for prayer. As they walked they approached a man who had been lame since birth. As they passed him, he asked them for money. They didn’t have any to give him, instead they told him to “rise up and walk.” And he was healed from that very hour.

As I read that, God spoke to me so clearly. “Ask me for what you want, but don’t be surprised when I give you what you really need.” The lame man thought he knew what he needed—money. But God knew what he really needed—healing, provision. You can make all the plans you want for your life. But ultimately, God has the best plan for you. You can follow your own plan and it will probably be alright but it won’t be His best. I think about what I would have missed if I had followed my own will. I am so grateful I listened to His voice and followed His leading. He truly knows what we really need.

Feelings, Thoughts

Consider the Lilies

I dropped my in-laws off at the airport Monday after an awesome, week-long visit. We camped, we took part in the wonderful Washington State Fair, and we shopped until we dropped. They are such wonderful, down-to-earth, give you the shirt off their back kind of people and we always love when they visit. We hadn’t laid eyes on them in two years. (Except for FaceTime. Thanks Apple!) So when we heard they were coming we started making plans. September can be extremely beautiful in Washington State… Or it can be extremely wet and you never know which of those two extremes it will be until it’s upon you. Every plan we made took advantage of our gorgeous outdoors. Yeah, I took a chance. So when I checked the weather the week before they were set to arrive and saw rain… Rain… RAIN! All week! I will be honest. I panicked. And then I remembered my God. My God who cares about the little things. My God who set the stars in their place. My God who gave us ALL authority. And we had a little chat. I remembered who I was in Him and I stood. And would you believe we had gorgeous weather the entire time we were camping and the day we went to the Fair it was almost 80? That’s my King!

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27-40)