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Archive for the ‘God’s Delight’ Category

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident.

 

lunch

 

So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

 

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we haven’t achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

Zephaniah-317-

 

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

 

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

Reblogged from June 15, 2015.

 

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Eons ago when I was in seventh or eighth grade, Mom, Dad, and I made our way one evening to the shoe store downtown. As we trudged up the slight incline toward the entrance, I ended up walking behind them, in order to leave room on the sidewalk for pedestrians coming from the other way.

Imagine my mortification when my parents clasped hands.

“Please! Not in public!” I begged.

After all, they were old—in their mid-thirties. And at age thirteen, I was embarrassed enough to be seen in public with them. But to be in the company of parents showing affection? That was too much.

As adults we smile at the immature and almost comical responses of most young teenagers toward their parents. They like to pretend Mom and Dad don’t exist, in support of their burgeoning, highly exaggerated independence. They conveniently forget who pays the bills, helps with homework, does the chauffeuring, and provides care in countless other ways.

Some of those teens never lose that sense of highly exaggerated independence, even as they grow into adulthood. They conveniently forget who still provides care for them in countless ways: God. To ignore him as if he doesn’t exist is to behave like a middle schooler.

God deserves not only our attention but our worship. Think of it this way: If an Olympic gymnast out-performs the competition with a nearly flawless performance, she deserves applause from the crowd and that shiny gold medallion. We do not scorn the adoration and accolades she receives; she’s earned it.

 

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Hasn’t God earned the same, only more so?

“OK,” we say. “So God deserves to be worshiped. But does he really need it? After all, he is completely sufficient within himself. Doesn’t it seem rather self-serving for God to want our worship?

Far from.

God knows: if our worship is not centered on him, we easily fall into the worship of other things: career, material goods, leisure, adventure—any number of pursuits that can consume our attention. Not that it’s wrong to enjoy these things, but they will never provide deep down soul-satisfaction.

God made us with that deep-down place; it’s reserved for him. That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments is about worship (Exodus 20:3).

 

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In addition:

Worship determines what we become.

 

“What we worship determines what we become.”

— Harvey F. Ammerman

 

Ammerman further explains: “If we worship material possessions, we become more materialistic. If we worship self, we become more selfish still” (1). If we worship the adrenalin rush of exciting pursuits, we’ll continually look for more exhilarating thrills.

God wants us to worship him so we’ll become more like him—gracious, good, compassionate, and kind (Exodus 34:6).

 

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Worship communicates God’s presence to men.

 

“It is in the process of being worshiped

that God communicates his presence to men.”

–C. S. Lewis

 

Adoration, praise, and gratitude create an atmosphere in which we can meet with God almighty (Psalm 89:15-17). And such encounters always result in joy (Psalm 16:11). Sometimes that occurs in a glorious, public celebration with other worshipers; sometimes it occurs in sweet, private communion.

Worship is a necessary outlet of the spirit.

C. S. Lewis also wrote: “Enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.”

When we hear superbly good news, our natural inclination is to tell others about it. We’re social beings, after all. Research has suggested that when we share a positive experience with someone else, we are essentially enjoying it again as we relive the moment in the retelling and savor the experience once more (2).

It’s the way God made us – not only to expand our enjoyment with family and friends, but with him, our Heavenly Father.

 

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We need to worship.

To know him and be known by him, to experience him is a God-given pleasure that nothing else can satisfy.

 

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

Notes:

(1) from Quote, Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Books, 1977.

(2) http://www.psycnet.apa.org

 

Photo & art credits:  www.pinterest.com (5).

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on worship.  Please leave a comment below!

 

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Logic said his chances were slim to win the 400-meter race at the 1924 Olympics. After all:

  • Four hundred meters is a long sprint; he was a short sprinter.
  • Two other competitors in the race had achieved world records in this event.
  • He had been assigned the least desirable lane.

But when the starting gun fired, Eric Liddell quickly took the lead and pounded around the track at a steady pace—his head thrown back, arms pumping at his sides. Against the odds, Eric crossed the finish line first to win the gold medal. In fact, he set a new world record.

In the film, Chariots of Fire (1981), about Eric’s rise to Olympic gold, his character says, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” The scriptwriter was actually responsible for those words, but the attitude behind them surely reflected the strong faith-experience of the real Liddell.

 

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No doubt about it: Eric was gifted by God to run. And when he used that gift, Eric felt confident God was pleased, because he was fulfilling one of the purposes for which God had created him.

But those famous words from the film beg the question:

How can a person know when the invisible God experiences pleasure?

Scripture is the obvious place to begin our search for answers. In fact, the first book of the Bible—the first chapter no less—gives us indication. Seven times as God was creating the universe he “saw that it was good.” God takes pleasure in what he has made.

His pleasure is especially evident in the creation of humanity. He knit each of us together—not just bones, muscle, and organs—but personality traits, modes of intelligence, talents, interests, and more. Each of us is an incredible feat of engineering, a breath-taking masterpiece (Psalm 139:13, Ephesians 2:10). With so many variables at his disposal, God creates each person with precise uniqueness for distinct purposes.

 

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God also plans out each of our lives: the places where we’ll live, the people we’ll meet, the events we’ll experience (Psalm 139:16).

 

“God formed us for his pleasure…

and meant us to see him and live with him

and draw our life from his smile.”

A. W. Tozer

(The Pursuit of God, p. 32, emphasis added)

 

In Psalm 147, we’re told, “The Lord delights in those who fear* him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).

What might that delight or pleasure feel like to us?

Perhaps a warm contentment in the spirit—the way we feel when someone we respect smiles upon us with approval. Perhaps deep confidence as we live by his wisdom.

With God, such sublime moments are not necessarily random events.   We can be assured to experience God’s pleasure as we:

  • Take joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11) through worship—anytime, anywhere.
  • Radiate his joy to others. There is blessing in being a blessing.
  • Make right choices – especially the tough ones.

Eric Liddell surely sensed God’s pleasure as deep confidence when he made the tough choice not to run in his best event, the 100-meter, in the 1924 Olympics. The race was scheduled on a Sunday, and Eric took seriously God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath set apart for worship and rest.

 

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When does God experience pleasure from our lives?

Consider Eric Liddell’s statement in the film, only let’s personalize it based on the way God has created each of us. Prayerfully fill in these blanks:

 

“God made me ____________. When I __________, I feel his pleasure.

 

One of my statements might read: “God made me a grandmother. When I play a rousing game of tag or hide ‘n’ seek with Elena and Sophie, I feel God’s pleasure.”

I’d love to hear your responses. Please share in the comment section below!

Meanwhile…

My mind cannot fathom the incredible privilege you have given us, Lord God. Thank you for ordaining the reciprocal process of pleasure between us: we enjoy bringing you delight, and you allow us to feel your pleasure. My mind cannot fathom it: I bring delight to the King of glory! I rejoice in you and praise you with all my heart.

 

———————————–

 

* “Fear of God” in the ancient Hebrew refers to awe, respect, and reverence for him.

 

Sources of information about Eric Liddell:

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.swordofthespirit.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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“Matt* and Loren* are coming to visit the weekend after next. Would you be able to join us for dinner that Saturday night?” I asked, Dave*, the worship leader of our church.

I had just arrived at ensemble practice.  Dave was already there organizing music.

“Yeah, I’ll come. It’ll be great to catch up with them.” Matt and Loren were mutual friends who had moved away.

“We’ll probably eat around six, but come early—say five? That’ll give us more time to chat,” I added.

Dave whipped a pen off the piano and wrote a note to himself—on his hand.

I had to smile. Dave was/is one of the most creative, musically talented young men I’ve ever met. Not only is he a concert-trained pianist, he’s a composer with a gift for turning artful melodies into worship.

But in those days, he would have been the first to tell you that keeping track of details or appointments was a challenge; thus the notes-on-the-hand habit. If the commitment was right there in front of him, he’d most likely remember to put it on his calendar later. The message wouldn’t be forgotten amidst all the ideas and musical themes racing through his head.

I know someone else who writes information on the palm of his hand. The information is your name and mine. The someone? Our Heavenly Father.

 

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(“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

–Isaiah 49:16 NIV)

Of course, this assurance was addressed to the people of Israel, but it’s applicable to each of us, because: 1) those of us who believe in Jesus have been adopted into Abraham’s family (Galatians 3:6-9), and 2) God does not lose sight of the individual within the multitude (Luke 3:3-7).

“God loves each of us as if there was only one of us.”

–St. Augustine

But don’t think of God’s love as perfunctory or pity-driven.

You are a treasure to your Heavenly Father—the delight of his heart (Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalm 149:4).

 

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You and I are constantly in his thoughts (Psalm 139 17-18).

And the imagery of our names engraved (cut, carved, or etched) on his palms brings to mind several important truths:

  1. God cannot and will not forget us or abandon us.
  1. His omniscient knowledge doesn’t just include our names, but also who we are—our personalities, dreams, circumstances, strengths and weaknesses—everything about us—is on his mind.
  1. Our images engraved on God’s palms represent an incredible role reversal. In ancient times, slaves bore the brand mark of their masters. But our Master has sacrificially submitted himself to inscribe our names on his palms.
  1. The image represents who we are becoming in God’s view, which is undoubtedly different from ours. “Reality is not what we see; reality is what God sees” (Biblical Illustrator). And that reality is perfection.

 

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(“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever

those who are being made holy.”

–Hebrews 10:14 NIV)

 

Of course, that one sacrifice was Jesus, who bled and died on a cross so we might be made right with God and receive the gift of eternal life.

As a result, Isaiah 49:16 (about our names written on God’s palms)  has taken on new meaning:

 

“See, I have engraved you—in blood—on the palms of my hands.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *

I praise you, Heavenly Father, that it is totally impossible for you to forget your own.  How humbling to realize I am engraved on your hands—hands that withstood the nails for me. But gratitude alone is terribly insufficient.

I want your name, Lord, engraved on my palms, so I might become that perfected reality you already see.

 

*Names have been changed.

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (3)

 

 

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident. (And why were the first and second graders seated farthest from the serving line? I never had the nerve to ask.)

lunch

So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we have not achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

Zephaniah-317-

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attend.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s very talented. I think the mom is teaching her.”

It would be delightful to hear them, I thought.

Several months later, I happened to attend their church when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my reaction arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music. However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother like an angel—pure, innocent, and tender.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you,”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of*– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who fear (reverence) him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Share your story in the Comment section below.

 

*Ephesians 3:18

 

(Photo credit:  www.visualphotos.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remember the old song, Kids Under Construction, by Bill and Gloria Gaither?

The chorus went like this:

“Kids under construction –

Maybe the paint is still wet.

Kids under construction –

The Lord may not be finished yet.”

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  Well, it’s not just the little folks that require refurbishing. Most of us still need our:

  • Patience polished from time to time
  • Kindness cultivated every now and then
  • Joy rejuvenated on a regular basis
  • Self-centeredness scoured away occasionally
  • Faith uplifted once in a while

 

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If we’re not careful, such realities can push us toward discouragement. Thoughts like these begin to peck away at our spirits:

“I’ll never measure up. Why even try? What’s the point?”

Might it be we’re even harder on ourselves than God? Might he actually take pleasure in our imperfectly right efforts toward spiritual growth?

Think of Charlie Brown’s small and scraggly Christmas tree. Imperfect? Definitely. Heart-warming and charming nonetheless? Oh, yes.

Think of the pleasure listening to a young child sing—off-key, with unsteady rhythm and incorrect words. But everybody loves the performance anyway.

 

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Think of dust—how it shrouds our belongings and irritates our allergies. But sprinkle a bit in a sunbeam and instantly we’re mesmerized by the magical display of glitter and shine.

Think of the wrong word written or spoken at the right time and how the result can produce uproarious laughter.

When my husband, Steve, began his ministry, he was assigned to a congregation of mostly older folks. One Sunday the bulletin listed the first hymn as, “’Tis So Sweet to Rust in Jesus.”  

And that brings me to Mrs. Bisso’s muffins. Mrs. Bisso was a member of that same church, and lived down the street. She loved to bake. It wasn’t long after our arrival before Mrs. Bisso began to regularly supply us with muffins. Sometimes she’d call at 6:30 or so in the morning to let us know she’d be over in a few minutes with fresh muffins for our breakfast. Hold the oatmeal!

Problem is, Mrs. Bisso’s muffins were always over-baked—rather thoroughly. That meant, even if we cut off the black bottoms, the sharp, charred flavor still permeated all the way through to the tops.

 

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But dear Mrs. Bisso took such pleasure in baking for us, we continued to enthuse over her burnt offerings—batch after batch after batch.

All these thirty-some years since that time, we’ve occasionally remembered and smiled nostalgically about Mrs. Bisso’s muffins.  After all, her heart was in the right place, and she gave so lovingly and generously of her time and effort.

You see? There is much for us to celebrate in the imperfectly right.   And I think God does, too.

 

(Photo credits:  www.drexelchurch.org; http://www.highlandschristianfellowship.org; http://www.christchurchlikely.org.uk;  www.salmonavocado.com.)

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