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Posts Tagged ‘Zephaniah 3:17’

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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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Confession time: During my growing up years I was a bit worried that life in heaven would involve a lot of cloud-sitting and harp-playing. To be honest, it sounded a bit boring to worship through all eternity. Just how many songs could we play and sing?

However, it sure beat the alternative, so I resigned myself to a bit of boredom and told myself, Once we get there, we won’t know any better, and we’ll be perfectly content singing and strumming.

That shows you how little I understood about heavenly worship (or earthly worship either, for that matter). It will not be a passive occupation of dreary repetition!

I expect our celestial worship will be something like a Christian concert by a favorite artist when…

 

Christian-Concert

 

…our hearts pump excitedly to experience the music of an admired vocalist. We thoroughly enjoy the performance of all the old, familiar songs we’ve grown to love. We are not bored, even though we know well the lyrics and melodies. We sing along, happily remembering the good old days when the song was first introduced.

But we also delight in a new melody—something fresh and different that thrills our spirits. And the whole time, through old and new, we revel in the companionship of others who share the memories and take great pleasure in the music with us. (Joy is augmented when shared with kindred spirits.) Each song concludes with much clapping and shouting among the concert-goers.

Of course, when we get to heaven, our favorite Artist will be the King of glory himself, who will rejoice over us with his singing (Zechariah 3:17).  Can you imagine it?!

 

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It’s also likely we’ll enjoy familiar old songs we’ve heard before and grown to love. John the Revelator gives us indication.

When he was invited up to heaven, John heard the saints singing a song of Moses. Even in the first century A.D., that was an old song, celebrating the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Revelation 15:3-4; Psalm 111:2-4).

More than likely, we, too, will remember and sing of the great and marvelous deeds the Lord God Almighty has performed (Psalm 86:10). We’ll celebrate his glorious attributes, and revel in the blessed companionship of other believers who also love the supreme Artist, and take great joy in joining the song.

Our praise will be further enhanced with musical instruments (1).   Each section of the orchestra provides symbolism of our King’s magnificence:

  • Horns – his splendor and majesty (just as trumpeters on earth have heralded royalty through the centuries.)
  • Strings – his peace and serenity
  • Percussion – his power and strength
  • Woodwinds – his love and gentle compassion

We will sing and play and perhaps even dance in a great crescendo of worship (2), celebrating God’s mighty acts of power and surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:2, 4). It will be a good and glorious time (147:1)!

 

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Shame on me for ever thinking that worship for eternity might become boring. It’s going to be the most heart-pumping, soul-stirring, exciting concert yet (3).

However!  The crescendo has already begun here on earth. Just as David urged, we can praise God every day and continue from now to eternity (Psalm 145:2).

The glorious crescendo of worship and celebration, praise and thanksgiving, joy and wonder will never end!

_________________________

Notes:

(1) Instruments are played in heaven. Revelation 5:8 and 8:6-12 give indication of harps and trumpets. Perhaps there are more which John did not see!

(2) That phrase, crescendo of worship, comes from Bible teacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, in his book, Be Exultant, p. 25

(3) In addition to glorious worship, we will be occupied by fulfilling, satisfying work, just as Adam and Eve were given responsibilities in the perfect Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.clipart.me; http://www.rockingodhouse.com; http://www.defininggrace.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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One custom of our church community includes the babies and toddlers. Toward the end of the worship service, many parents collect their little ones and bring them to the sanctuary for the closing praise songs.

When our two-year old granddaughter, Elena, arrives, she starts out in Mommy’s arms, then clambers to Daddy, then over to Papa (my husband, Steve), and finally to Nana—that’s me.

Last Sunday she was particularly affectionate—arms around my neck, head nestled on my shoulder. Every now and then she’d lift her head to give me a kiss on the cheek.   I held her close and kissed her silken hair.

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(Who could resist snuggling with this?!)

 

Please understand: Elena is a typical toddler. She knows what she wants and when she wants it (usually NOW!). Her expressive cries can be quite vociferous.   But those traits of stubbornness and impatience—seen in most toddlers–don’t diminish my love for her. Not a bit.

I reveled in that moment of tenderness at church, while swaying to the music and singing of our love for God. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself as the child, held in the close embrace of my Father, who lovingly forgives my sins and casts them as far as the east is from the west.

What an astounding privilege he grants us—to participate in close, familial communion with him, the King of the Universe!

Day in and day out our glorious and powerful God draws near to us:

 

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  • Through creation. Just this morning, he draped pink cloud-ribbons across a crystalline sky, turning our minds to him and his infinite genius. Almighty God orchestrates every intricate aspect of life on our planet, yet we can know him as our gracious and compassionate Father.
  • Through his Word. Just this week I had occasion to study the word, abide, found in John 14:6. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (KJV). First I looked up the word in the dictionary, and discovered abide means much more than just being with someone. Abide also includes persevering under (!) and tolerating (!), in addition to remaining in one place, to continue or endure.   I had to smile at the tongue-in-cheek humor. And I prayed, “Oh, Lord, thank you for loving me that much!
  • Through people. A young woman at our new church has been enthusiastically friendly.   And though I’ve told her I appreciate her kindness, I doubt she can fully understand how her interest, hugs, and effervescence have ministered to me. God draws near with his joy each time we meet.
  • Through circumstances.  Hugs and kisses from a toddler are just one precious example that makes me mindful of God’s love for me.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Father, I shake my head in wonder to think

You long for us to be your familial friends.

I praise you for your abundant, gracious love,

Motivating you to reveal yourself

Through creation,

People, circumstances,

Your word, and more.

In fact, you are intimately involved

In every moment of our lives.

Thank you for blessing us

With your abiding presence,

Even though it requires of you

Great tolerance and perseverance!

We cling to you, our Source of

Strength, wisdom, and provision.

You are with us and in us,

Always drawing us closer to you.

Thank you for never giving up

And never letting go.

 

(2 Corinthians 6:16, 18; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 19:1-4;

Matthew 5:14, 16; Psalm 92:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17;

Psalm 139:1-5; Zephaniah 3:17; James 1:17;

Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; James 4:8;

Philippians 1:6; John 10:28.)

(Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg, and http://www.wallpaperup.com.)

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Music.

It has the power to thrill our hearts, calm our fears, and strengthen our resolve.

Music energizes, encourages, and inspires. It even augments our connection to God.

So it’s no wonder that, in the Bible:

  • There are more than 400 references to singing.
  • There are fifty direct commands to sing.
  • The longest book is a collection of songs.

It would seem that music is important to God.  In fact, God himself sings.

 

GOD SINGS

David proclaimed,

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(“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance — Psalm 32:7”)

 Granted, we may not hear an actual melody, but the power of his Word sings comfort, hope, and strength into our spirits., much as we can “sing high praises” of someone, without a tune.

The sons of Korah, who were temple musicians, composed Psalm 42. In verse eight they state, “At night his song is with me.” Job also spoke of God “who gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10).  In other words, even when we face dark circumstances, God gives his song of help, salvation, and deliverance.

One more affirmation that God sings is found in this uplifting verse from Zephaniah:

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(“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,

he will rejoice over you with singing”–3:17.)

His songs can inspire courage, like a rousing march.  His songs can be like sweet lullabies, expressing peace and love.  And they can be joyful and upbeat, expressing delight in who we are becoming.

The power of God’s songs is in his attributes expressed.

 

NATURE SINGS

An anonymous psalmist wrote:

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“All the earth bows down to you, [God]; they sing praise to you,

they sing praise to your name–Psalm 66:4.”)

Other scriptures offer more specificity:

  • Trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:33).
  • Meadows, flocks, valleys, and grain shout for joy and sing (Psalm 66:13).
  • Birds of the air sing among the branches (Psalm 104:12).
  • The heavens sing for joy (Isaiah 44:23).
  • Mountains burst into song (Isaiah 49:13).

Did you notice a theme? All creation sings for joy to their Maker.

Perhaps the biblical poets were speaking metaphorically, giving musical voices to creation where none really exist (except for the birds, of course). However, is it not possible that a choral symphony is wafting on the wind–it’s just that our human ears cannot hear that particular range of decibels? (Just like we can’t hear a dog whistle.)

Imagine:

  • Trees providing sweeping arias
  • Meadows and valleys echoing the refrain
  • Birds creating the grace notes
  • The heavens resounding in a mighty chorus of melody and harmonies
  • The mountains booming deep, rich bass notes

The power of nature’s song may very well be ringing around us this very moment.

 

WE SING

 

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Praise God he has given us the ability to sing also. What a precious gift to fuse melody, harmonies, and rhythm that augment the meaning of our words—sometimes even supersede the necessity of words—as we express our praise, gratitude, devotion and love to God.

But what if we can’t sing or play an instrument? What then?

Meet Antonio, a lover of music who lived long ago. Imagine his bitter disappointment as he grew from boyhood to youth and realized he would never sing or play an instrument well.

But a wise friend told him, “There are many ways to make music. What matters is the song in the heart.” That friend happened to be a violin-maker. And because of his influence, Antonio was encouraged to become a violin-maker himself. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Antonio Stradivarius?

We would all do well to remember his friend’s wise words:

What matters is the song in our hearts.

Ephesians-5-19

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Ephesians 5:19-20)

The power of our songs is to touch God’s heart.

(Art & photo credits:  www.dreamstime.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.cards.ccojubilee.org; http://www.etsy.com; http://www.christianitymalaysia.com; www,denisehighes.com.)

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4294b8e0861224468e7e42b56456b714

 

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:

1313

  • 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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