Have you come closer to Christ in the past week? The world taunts His word and ways with little regard for honor and allegiance to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our duty is to LOVE and keep going forth in faith, even when things seem so wrong in this world. We must remember to love the sinner, not the sin, and that God is the judge. That’s not our job even though we get tied up in things with work, home, politics, church, sports, moral issues, laws, everyday life that pulls on our faith, beliefs, and decisions that are hard “for such a time as this.”
I often use that quote from one of my favorite Bible stories. Have you read the story of Queen Esther lately? Find it in your Bible and refresh your memory as you read of the times when things were not right with the world in which Queen Esther lived. She faced making a decision that could have meant losing her life. Before giving an answer, she wisely waited. Before going ahead with some off-the-cuff comments that could have caused rioting or even greater division among the people, she chose to ponder and pray. Sound familiar to what we watch on nightly news? The rioting, killing, murderous stories are shown over and over with details highlighted that can take the whole story out of context. That’s the way many read the Bible. Some challenge truths in the Bible by emphasizing certain words or not sharing the complete scripture that can distort God’s Word. Oh that we, as a people today, would wait on the Lord and think before doing foolish things that hurt others and remove God as the cornerstone of our country.
Anyway, Queen Esther did not jump the gun and cause an uproar with rioting and ridiculous remarks for or against those who were doing wrong. She cautiously reacted in love, even though she disliked the situation, making life hard for the Jews. She asked for people to join her in fasting and praying over the issues at hand, realizing that God was her strength in times of plenty and times of problems. Do we realize that today? When was the last time we called special prayer meeting about issues in our land? Have we fasted? Are we bound in God’s love and protection with His hedge around us “for such a time as this”?
I challenge you to fast and pray with an intimate connection to God that will bless you and guide you in ways you can only imagine. We have many books in our library at TIM’s Gift on fasting and I invite you to stop by and check one out. Search your Bible for help on this topic. Most of all, search your heart as you make choices to do things like fasting, praying, taking time to get away as Jesus did, and seeking God’s guidance that can bring you closer to the Lord and loved ones.
He still speaks. Are we listening? Are we sure we’re listening? Yes, Preacher Jones, we are listening. And our pastor at First Baptist, Dr. Ray Ammons, is preaching his heart out where you once stood and asked that question over and over. How fantastic it is being a part of the family of God! I pray that you have a church home where you are loved, accepted, and can praise and worship God freely as He leads. We are not to judge here but sometimes I feel King David would be a great singer, dancer, and instrumentalist to come down and do a summer concert series in our churches.
Wow… wouldn’t that be glorious? I can only imagine but will never give up hope for some of us “stiff-necked” worshipers – who miss blessings of praising our Lord with harp, cymbal and all the things King David mentioned in Psalms – to get up, lift our hands, get out of the standing still mode and praise our Lord out loud with love and joy in our hearts. While respecting styles of worship and genres of music is important, we must not get lost in “having it our way”!
Does the Holy Spirit have His way in your church, your home, your heart? When time limits and fear of freely and respectfully worshiping God prevail, the movement of God’s Holy Spirit can be quenched. Read Psalms and contemplate the divine power that flowed from King David worshi,ping and praising God through the good and bad seasons of his life. He would probably be banned from most churches today, especially in times when he openly sinned against God. Sin is sin in God’s eyes even though we may not have committed murdered or taken someone’s spouse. Yet, old King David understood who his Redeemer was, where his strength came from, who gave him victory over Goliath, and who was with him in wars, and he repented when he sinned. He did not pretend but passionately confessed and asked God to forgive him. He was a man after God’s own heart.
Are we passionately serving God and truly repenting when we find ourselves sinking in sin? King David would tell us to live out loud in love, take risks (step in faith) while believing in God to guide us, give generously, dance and sing in honor to our heavenly Father, and trust God for the victory.
A caution light is flashing here for some have already stopped reading this message. We must be respectful and real in our praise and worship. Surely, we have witnessed praise and worship when we wonder if there is sincerity and honor to God in actions of those we watch with raised eyebrows. This caution light blinks both ways. WE are not the judge of those who worship in ways that we do not embrace. Yet, we could be missing blessings aplenty by not allowing the Holy Spirit to move us beyond the limits we have set (or man-made denominational rules have set) that just might not be pleasing to God. The Pharisees thought they had it all right with rules and regulations they believed were right. Such mindsets can keep us standing still with folded arms and silent lips when God would love to see us smiling, praising at the altar with repentant hearts, worshiping with honor, reverence, and a joy that tells the world we are happy in Jesus and heading to glory when our time here is done. This precious praise and worship is ours for the asking! When our hearts are in tune to His, celebrations of praise and worship will be filled with the wonder of His love.
As you have read, my Fourth of July message didn’t make it this week either. However, this story is God stirring my heart to share what many people do not want to read and some misunderstand. This question makes a good ending for all of us to ponder. IF we cannot enjoy extended, energetic, exciting praise, powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, and heart-wrenching, heavy-duty worshiping God…how do we expect to enjoy heaven?
Next week, I will share what happened during July 4th celebrations.
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.