Monday, January 26, 2015

Hung-Up Harps


[Photo of a willow tree]

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and
wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps.”
—Psalm 137:1-2

We don’t know who from the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem wrote the words in the Scripture above. The Bible tells us that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down, the temple burned, and all the articles of worship used there carried away to Babylon. We also know that this enemy abducted the chief priest and others who worked in the temple.

All of the people mourned at the loss of their homeland and their beloved temple. But, none mourned as much as those who had prepared for rituals in the temple and daily served and led in worship to Jehovah, the One True God.

We hear their heavy hearts in this statement above. They had lost all they had known and loved, including their music. Their hearts simply could no longer sing the songs they once knew, so they hung up their harps.

What did the Babylonians require of these Jewish exiles? They probably served as slaves in whatever capacity the enemy could conjure up. And, under these wicked taskmasters, the exiles could no longer worship freely, or with joy, as they had in Jerusalem.

Tell me, has the Lord asked you to “hang up your harp” at least for a season? Has a twist of fate taken your familiar and gifted service from you? Have the people you served moved on without you? Has your family left the nest? Have they given your beloved job to someone younger? Have you had to trade your familiar home with its cozy kitchen for retirement living?

Has God asked you, by this unwanted development in your life, to serve Him in another role—one for which you feel totally unprepared or ill-equipped? Sometimes God takes us away from the familiar so that we might learn a hard lesson from Him.

Consider Moses, who grew up in the palace in Egypt, but was forced to flee at the age of forty into the desert to tend sheep for another forty years. We know that eventually God called Moses out of the desert and back to Egypt to negotiate with the king for the release of the entire nation of God’s chosen people. God had a reason for taking Moses’ “harp” from him.

We learn in Psalm 126 that the Jewish people taken captive into Babylon returned to Jerusalem after seventy years. Once back in their homeland, God again filled their mouths with songs. Psalm 126:1-2 tells us:

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”

Once again, God again made use of the harps that for seventy years had hung on those poplars. He also may allow you to take up your “harp” again. Or, He may teach you to play and sing to a different instrument. But, we know that God does all things well, and though you may not sing the songs of joy you once did, He will again make music through your life if you allow Him to make the choice!



Monday, January 19, 2015

Keeping Watch


[Photo of two children watching for their dad to come home]

“Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors, waiting at
my doorway. For whoever finds me finds
life and receives favor from the Lord.”
—Proverbs 8:34-35

Daddy’s coming! Can you just hear the rumble of rushing feet toward the door? Or “It’s almost time for Daddy to come home!” Can you see the same eager children rush to the window? They enjoy keeping watch because they know for whom they watch.

What overwhelming joy these children bring to a parent who comes home to this kind of anticipation. Imagine God’s pleasure in us as we sit and watch for Him, as we read His Word, or come to Him in prayer.

Psalm 63:1-3 expresses that exact kind of longing for God’s presence:

“O God, you are my God, earnestly [early, eagerly] I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”

This same kind of eager anticipation for the fellowship with God that He desires from us can be ours daily. But, we must set aside a time for that to happen. A quick devotional thought from a book over breakfast seems more like a teenager on her way out the door yelling, “Hi, Dad, Bye, Dad!”

At any time of the day or night, God will hear us and bless us with His presence. Many find that setting aside time first thing in the morning offers the best opportunity to meet with God. Even David, in Psalm 5:3, expresses his enjoyment of the morning hour spent with God. David writes:

“In the morning O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Coming to God in anticipation should result in far more than simply a time of requesting this blessing or that. We should eagerly pause and listen for His voice and His direction. We should rehearse His character, His goodness, His greatness, along with His love and care.

What sweet fellowship God desires with us, if we will come with that kind of love and humility—watching for Him, and listening for what He wants to say, in addition to talking with Him about the things we need.

If this kind of intimate fellowship with God seems new to you, why not start by reading the Psalms. These “songs” reveal the heart within so many of God’s followers. The Psalms will give you the words you might need to express the depth of praise and devotion you wish to give to God.

Let us watch for Him daily, and enjoy the anticipation of His coming!



Monday, January 12, 2015

Broken Jars


[Drawing of a light shining from within a cracked vessel]

“He [Gideon] returned to the camp of Israel and
called out, ’Get up! The Lord has given the
Midianite camp into your hands.’ Dividing the
three hundred men into three companies, he
placed trumpets and empty jars in the
hands of all of them, with torches inside.”
—Judges 7:15-16

Ordinary clay pots! So much for modern warfare and a slick master attack plan! According to Judges 7:12, the Israelite army of three hundred must have looked puny and weak to the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the other Eastern peoples who had settled in the valley below “as thick as locusts.”

Yet, the Unseen Captain of the Israelite army had commanded that Gideon place jars with torches inside as the only weaponry they would carry against their enemies. At a signal from the trumpets, every man was to shout and smash his clay pot.

Apparently, this tactic issued by God effectively won the Israelites the battle that day. In Judges 7:22-25, we read that the sudden sound and light threw the Midianite army into fear and chaos in such a way that they turned on each other and fled.

Paul the apostle, in 2 Corinthians 4:7 compares those of us who carry the torch of Christ’s light as jars of clay:

But we have this treasure [the glory of God] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

It seems that God would rather use a broken pot to show forth His glory than a sophisticated spot light.

Maybe you feel that your life has become broken through your own sinful mistakes, others’ deeds against you, or unfortunate circumstances. Do you fear that you have become so broken that God can never use you for His special purposes again?

Take heed to the story of Gideon and His powerful Champion in the fight. This same Champion, the Lord Jesus, who indwells you through His Holy Spirit, has a powerful usefulness for you.

In a mysterious, supernatural alchemy of God’s love and wisdom, He elects to purposefully use those who have become broken to carry His light. He uses the cracks and holes in the broken clay of our lives for His marvelous light to shine through.

Let us be encouraged today that God has a plan to use you in new ways to carry His light to others. Praise Him for His powerful creativity in our behalf!



Monday, January 5, 2015

In a Snowbank


[Photo of an old car in a snowbank]

“Let him who walks in the dark, who
has no light, trust in the name
of the Lord and rely on his God.”
—Isaiah 50:10

I can remember a few times as a child getting “stuck” in the snow. Sometimes the snow banks towered above the cars on the road, so it was no wonder the occupants would need help from a tractor or truck to pull them out.

There have been times in my adult life when I’ve felt like my life has been driven into a snow bank, with no way forward and no way back and with an inability to even see out of the windows! In those times, I have had no choice but to call on the Lord to help me out of the perplexing circumstances around me.

If you’ve ever waited for a tow truck to come to your rescue, you know that often you wait a very long time. In the same way, God sometimes makes us wait for His rescue, too.

God has told us in Hebrews 13:5:

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Though we cannot see where we are or where we are going, we can know He will be there beside us and will rescue us. No matter how dark this winter experience of our lives may seem, eventually God will bring us the newness of spring.

We don’t like to trust what we cannot see, touch, feel, hear, or taste. But, if we rely totally on our five senses to help us trust God, we are not exercising faith.

Remember the story recorded about the disciple Thomas whose absence from the meeting where the risen Lord appeared prompted him to say in John 20:25:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it [the resurrection].”

The following week, Thomas joined the disciples when Jesus appeared. Jesus had Thomas use his senses of sight and touch to verify the nail holes and scars in His side and then said to Thomas in John 20:29:

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

All of us need more faith. When we find ourselves buried in some snow drift of life with no way out, and no sense of where we are or where we are headed, we must remember and pray the words of Mark 9:24:

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”