God is Fighting for Us

On any given day, if you search the movie listings, you are likely to see a movie listed that tells the story of one or more superheroes. Bookstores are filled with books and graphic novels featuring beings, both human and non-human, whose mission is to protect the rest of us from evil. They are there to fight for us.


Of course, these are fictional characters played by actors and created in the imaginations of writers and illustrators. But, there is one book in which we can find someone who truly can and will fight for us, someone who is not fictional or played by an actor, but is as real as we are. That book is the Bible, the written word of God.

Throughout His word, God proves time and time again that He is willing to fight for His people. He assures us in Exodus 14:14 that He will fight for us and all we have to do is be still. He tells is in Deuteronomy 3:22 that we do not need to fear our enemy because He Himself will take up the fight for us.

In the book of 1 Samuel, God tells us of an earthly king, David who, as a boy, faced a Philistine giant named Goliath. Although he was outmatched, David was not afraid as he went out to face the giant. Why? Because David understood that he was not fighting Goliath alone. God would be right there with David to help him defeat his enemy.
 
When we face trials in our lives, when we are battling against the things that the enemy throws at us, we do not need to fear. We can be still, be at peace, because not only will our God fight for us, but He has already defeated our enemy through the sacrifice of His Son, the King of kings, Jesus Christ, who willingly gave His life for us. As we are reminded in Romans 8:31, if our God is for us, there is no one who can stand against us.   

 

"Come Me!"

There are many ways by which we can express our praise to God. We can use our mouths to speak, sing, or even shout our praise. We can use musical instruments to play songs of praise. We can use our feet to dance before the Lord. We can clap our hands as we sing our praise. And, we can lift our hands in praise.

The lifting of hands does not come naturally to everyone. Having been raised in a denomination where people did not lift their hands in church, it was foreign to me when I started to worship in a church where it was quite natural to do so. But, I have found that, not only is the lifting of hands Biblical, but it is also a gesture that expresses so much.

In the Bible, there are many references to the lifting of hands. In the Psalms, David mentions lifting his hands quite often. He lifts his hands to the Holy Place as he calls on the Lord for help (Psalm 28:2). Praising the Lord, he lifts his hands in the Lord’s name (Psalm 63:4). In Psalm 134:2, we are told to praise the Lord and to lift our hands in the sanctuary.

One of the Hebrew words for praise that appears in the Old Testament is yadah. This word means to throw the extended hand, to throw out the hand. Basically, to worship with extended hand. Another way to look at it is that we are casting are praise up to the Lord through the lifting up of our hands.

Beyond expressing praise, lifting our hands to the Lord can also express a number of other things. It can be a sign of joy, it can show surrender or submission to Him, and it can be our way of reaching out to our Father in heaven. What father can resist his child reaching out to him, looking for him to hold him?

When I lift my hands in praise to my heavenly Father, I am sometimes reminded of a memory from when I was a toddler. When I wanted my dad to pick me up and hold me in his arms, I would look up at him, lift up my hands to him, and say, “Come me!” I know that it touched his heart because he would talk about that, even when I was a grown man and a father myself. Imagine how our heavenly Father must feel when we lift up our hands to Him to praise Him and seek His face. 

But the King of kings Can!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, 
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; 
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men 
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
As I read those words of the old familiar nursery rhyme, a thought appeared in my mind–the king’s horses and the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. In fact, even the king couldn’t have done so–but the King of kings can!
I thought about this a bit and was reminded of the book of Genesis and the story of creation. On the sixth day of creation, God created the only living thing that was created in His image–man. In Genesis 2, we read that God placed man in the Garden of Eden, where man not only enjoyed the presence of God, but was given dominion over the rest of creation. In a sense, God placed man “on a wall.” 
Then came the “great fall.” Man sinned against God and was cast out of the garden and God’s presence. Just like with the character of Humpty Dumpty, man’s fall left him broken. He was alive but in pieces and could do nothing in his own power to put himself together again. No king’s men, no king’s horses, no earthly king could have restored man and made him whole. But…
Let’s fast forward through the Bible to the New Testament. Because of His great love and mercy, God decided to intervene. In the town of Bethlehem, a child was born who, as a man, would give up His own life to restore ours. That man, of course, was Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. He gave His life so that, if we believe in Him, we are restored to our relationship with God and will have eternal life (John 3:16). He died on Calvary’s cross, was buried, and then rose three days later to pick up all of our broken pieces. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, accomplished what no man, no thing, no earthly ruler could have–He put us together again!
Lord, I praise You for Your amazing love and faithfulness. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that we may enjoy eternal life in Your presence! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

In numerous verses, God’s word tells us that we should be thankful and that we should give Him thanks and praise. We are to give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20) and in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When we come before the presence of our God, we should do so with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2).

Today is Thanksgiving Day in our nation. All across the United States, we gather with our families and celebrate with a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, following the example set by the Pilgrims in 1621. But, what are we celebrating? What are we thankful for? And, better yet, to whom are we thankful?

As we sit down to our Thanksgiving meals today, my prayer is that all Americans will take the time to remember who has provided for us, who has blessed us with all that we have. Thanksgiving is a day set apart to thank God and to give Him praise.

In 1863, in the midst of a great civil war, it was President Abraham Lincoln who first proclaimed that the last Thursday of November should be set apart as a “day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” In his proclamation, Lincoln talked about the strife our nation was in, but also about the great things about our nation. He followed that by saying, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” Lincoln went on to say that we should “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of our nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

Those words sound as pertinent today as they did when Lincoln wrote them!

May we all take the time, not just on this Thanksgiving Day but every day, to seek the face of the One who has provided all that we have and to give Him thanks and praise. His love for us endures forever and for that we should be truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and God bless you!

How Do We Respond to the Works of God?

How do we respond to the works of God? As we look at His creation–the beauty of nature, the complexity of the life He has created, the miracle of life–are we filled with awe? When we see a life changed by His word, by His presence, are we amazed at what He has done? And, when we think about the sacrifice He made, giving His Son, Jesus, as a ransom for our sins, are we filled with wonder that a God so powerful, so holy, and so righteous could really love us that much? All these things should (and do!) stir up awe, amazement, wonder, and fear of the One who has done them. But, what is the appropriate response to God’s mighty works?

I believe that the answer to that question is praise. After the initial feelings of awe and wonder–after the “wow!”–should come an outpouring of praise. As I thought about this, I went to His word and found some verses that confirmed it to me.

In Matthew 9:1-8, a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus. When Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and go home, the man is immediately healed and gets up and walks. The crowd reacts in awe and amazement, but what stood out to me was that their response was to praise God. In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus encounters a large crowd carrying the body of a dead man, the son of a widow. Jesus’ heart goes out to the woman and he touches the dead man, who sits up and begins to talk. Again, the crowd of people is filled with awe and amazement and again, their response was to praise God.

I found another example of this in Revelation 15. Here, after the anti-Christ has been defeated, those who have been victorious over him marvel over God’s mighty works. Their response? They give Him praise! As I read that passage of Scripture, I also saw another confirmation of the importance of music to God. Before the people begin to praise Him, God gives them instruments–harps. Then they begin to sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb as they praise God.

Lord, Your creation is amazing. When I sit and look at all You have made, I am awed. When I see Your mighty works and reflect on Your sacrifice for us, I am amazed. Let my response always be to give You the praise You deserve. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

SHOUT!

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team is down by one run. There’s a runner on second base with two outs. The count is no balls and two strikes. The batter is down to his final strike. The pitcher winds up and throws. The batter sets and swings. With a loud crack, the bat connects with the ball, sending it clear over the head of the left fielder–a home run! The home team wins! The crowd claps in polite admiration.
If you’ve ever been to a ball game, you know that last line is far from the truth. When the home team wins like that, the crowd erupts in shouts of joy. Now, if we can react like that to something as insignificant as a baseball game, how should we react to the greatness and the wonders of our God? With a smile and a polite round of applause? With a whispered word of praise? Or, should we open our mouths and not just sing but shout our praise?
The Bible is not a quiet book. Throughout God’s word, we see many references to the word shout, as well as words like shouts, shouted, and shouting. Many of these references speak of God’s people shouting His praise. In many of the psalms, we are told to shout our praises. In Joshua 6, God told the Israelites to shout at the walled city of Jericho and what happened? The walls fell down and they took the city.
A large number of the references to shouting in the Bible are shouts for joy. When God moves in our lives, when He comes through for us in a time of need, we should be so filled with joy that we just want to shout it out and let the whole world know how great our God is. A shout of praise lets God and everyone around us know how joyful we feel. A shout of praise can also be a powerful weapon. Just as the shout of the Israelites was able to tear down the walls of Jericho, so our shouts of praise can tear down strongholds in our lives.
Are you joyful? Do you need God to fight for you or tear down a stronghold? Then get ready, open your mouth and–SHOUT!  

A Heart Surrendered to the Lord is Like a Fountain of Praise

“Worship the Lord with your life and praise Him with your mouth. A heart surrendered to the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit becomes like a fountain, pouring out praise.”

Those are the words I heard the Lord speak to my heart one morning. God’s word clearly tells us that our lives should be our living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1). He has shown us incredible love, grace, and mercy, and our response should be to offer Him our lives–not just part of them, but all of them–as a sacrifice of praise. By doing so, we are presenting our worship to God, worship that is not just true and proper but holy and pleasing to Him. We are being obedient to His word. Our hearts should be filled with worship. When they are, our mouths cannot help but speak (or sing!) His praise.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of the story of Zechariah in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. Zechariah was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son, whom he was to name John. Because Elizabeth, like Zechariah, was advanced in age, Zechariah doubted what Gabriel told him. As a result, his mouth was shut up and he was unable to speak. When Elizabeth did give birth, in obedience to the Lord, Zechariah confirmed that the child’s name would be John. Immediately, his voice was restored by God. And what was the first thing he did when his voice was restored? He opened his mouth in praise to God. His heart was so full of worship that it just bubbled up from his mouth in the form of praise.

Lord, in obedience to You, I give my life to You as a sacrifice because of Your great love and mercy. May that sacrifice be pleasing in Your sight. Let my heart be so full of love, fear, and awe of you that praise will always be on my lips. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

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