Praise Your Way Out of the Whale

SMILING WHALE BLUE - BIGGER

In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet, under the inspiration of God, says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine; though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from  the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls; yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength. And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab. 3:17-19).

Habakkuk has made a decision of his will to refuse to let natural circumstances control him or his life. Natural circumstances give him absolutely no reason to praise God. Yet he decides to praise Him and exult in Him. Why? Because he has a reason that far outweighs the circumstances.

His exultation and rejoicing are in the fact that he knows God is his salvation. That word salvation, from the original Hebrew, means much more than having our sin washed away. The word translated salvation, in both Hebrew and Greek, means “deliverance, health, prosperity, protection, and peace.” Habakkuk knows that no matter what the trouble he faces, he has a God Who will deliver him and bring him out in victory, if he will remain faithful and keep his eyes on the Lord.

When Habakkuk talks about the Lord making his feet like hinds’ feet, he is referring to the fact that the hind, which lives high up in the mountainous areas, walks fearlessly along the steep sides of the mountains, and the narrow ledges over steep drop-offs. This dexterity comes from the fact that God made the hind to be able to leap from ledge to ledge in such a way that the two back feet come down in exactly the same spot that the two front feet just left. So the animal is perfectly confident as it leaps and walks in the most dangerous places.

The prophet realizes that as long as his trust is in his God, he can be confident that no matter how dangerous or treacherous the way in the midst of trouble, he will not fall, but will leap from point to point, as sure-footed as the hind. And he will come at last to the highest level of victory over the problem.

Habakkuk is not alone in recognizing the value of praising his God in the face of bewildering negative circumstances.  David, when he and his men returned to Ziklag (1 Samuel 30), found it had been burned down completely, and all their wives and children had been taken captive by the Amalekites. David and all of his mighty warriors were so distraught and horrified that the Word says they wept until they had no more power to weep. Then David’s men began to talk about stoning him, because he had been the one responsible for their being away from their homes at the time of the attack. David had absolutely nowhere to turn for help. No one even wanted to talk to him, let alone befriend him at that time. But the Word says “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

Once he turned away from what he could see and hear and feel, and began to build himself up on what he knew to be the truth about his God, David gained new spiritual strength, and put himself into a place of being able to hear from God. He then called for the priest to bring the ephod, which was a tool God had given Israel’s leaders to aid them in hearing from Him. After centering all of his attention on God, David was then in a place to hear what God told him. And because he was again in a place of faith, God was able to instruct him to pursue the enemy and recover everything he and his men had lost. God was able to give the victory, but David had to be able to receive it. And he could not do that in a state of hopelessness and despair — but only in a state of faith.

Another well-known Old Testament prophet speaks almost the same message in the midst of what I perceive as the most bazaar, hopeless situation that I can imagine. Jonah,  in chapter two of the book named for him, speaks while inside the belly of the whale. (Scripture calls it a ‘great fish,’ but ‘whale’ will suffice for this lesson.) He describes the total ugliness and hopelessness of his situation, but then he says, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to Thee, into Thy holy temple. … I will sacrifice to Thee with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”  (Jonah 2:7-9).

Here again, in the midst of the most severe trouble and the direst prognosis for the future, the prophet concentrates on the truth which outweighs all that he sees and feels:  God is the source of salvation (deliverance,) and therefore, is worthy to be praised. Jonah makes a decision to worship God and give Him the sacrifices of love and praise which are due Him.

Pastor John Osteen, of Houston, Texas, once made the point, while teaching on Jonah, that we have none of us ever been in so negative a situation as Jonah. He said no matter what we’re facing, we can look in some direction and see at least a little light or encouragement; but no matter where Jonah looked, all he could see, in any direction, was whale. How true. We should be thankful for even the smallest encouragement from any direction.

But Jonah, with absolutely no natural encouragement at all, made his decision and praised his God. And notice what happens in the very next verse:  “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.” The chronological order is very important here. Praise first; deliverance second. It is after we make a decision to praise God and acknowledge Him as our complete salvation that the Lord can move freely on our behalf.

You see, we must use our spiritual vision and see that very real salvation (deliverance, healing, prosperity) which is in the spirit realm. Being in the spirit realm, it is eternal and unchanging, and more powerful than any natural circumstances, which are always bound to change when pressured by things of the spirit. We don’t deny those circumstances, but we make up our mind that God’s Word is true — more true and more trustworthy than the circumstances.

Once that concept if firmly established in our hearts, then we will praise and worship our God, even though the fig tree is dead. Our praise and worship will release our faith and unlock the doors between Heaven and Earth, allowing the salvation and resurrection life of God to flow freely into our situation. That’s when we will begin to see circumstances change in manifested ways. Then the fig tree will blossom, and then the vine will begin to bear fruit. †


(Scripture references taken from New American Standard Bible, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.)

~



 

Touched

Have you ever watched sunlight caress a mountain? It moves over it slowly … steadily … possessively … eventually spreading its light and warmth into every possible crevice. It rests there as long as possible … moving away unwillingly … continuing to stretch itself … reaching out with little lingering fingers of light … trying to maintain contact as long as possible. That’s the way God touches those He loves.  Let Him touch you today.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

 

Are we having fun yet?  God is!

The Bible says that God takes great delight in us and rejoices over us with singing. (Zeph. 3).

It tells us that He enjoys listening in when we talk to each other about Him and that He is writing down our names in a special book because it gives Him pleasure to do so. (Malachi 3).

It also says He laughs at his enemies because He knows they are defeated. (Psalm 2).

And the New Testament tells us that Jesus was anointed with gladness above all of His contemporaries. (Heb.  1).

So it makes sense that God’s Word admonishes us to rejoice always. (Phil.4).  And we have good reason to do so, because we have a God who loves just hanging out with us and having a good time.

So whatever else is on your list for today — stop and make a little time to hang out with the Lord of the universe. He’s waiting to enjoy some time with you.

Love – Through the Eyes of Opie Taylor

In an episode of the uniquely popular TV program The Andy Griffith Show, an episode entitled “The Rivals,” Andy tries to help his son Opie come to terms with the troubling symptoms of being in the throes of first love. As they sit together in the living room, Opie opens the conversation: “Paw, when you like someone a whole lot, that means you love ’em, don’t it?”

It depends,” says Andy.

Well, when I’m with Karen, I get a lump in my throat, my ears ring, and my knees get all squiggly. Does that mean I’m in love?’

Either that or you’ve got a real bad case of the measles.”

Paw, if I marry Karen someday, her name becomes Taylor, don’t it?”

That’s right, and all your children become Taylors too.”

Children? … I don’t think we’d have any children, Paw. We already know enough kids to play with.”

And so – with childhood’s blurry vision of the details of this state called marriage — Opie easily dismisses one of the most important results of engaging in the deepest mysteries of the marriage covenant. Children are a very visible product of those mysteries.

But there are other products as well. Many of them are not so easily seen or identified, but they can be just as important and just as life-changing. There is a sense of fulfillment and a greater sense of wholeness. There’s a sense of security and oneness that melts away all the coldness of being alone. And there’s a new knowledge of self – an understanding of oneself on a new level. The man and woman who have previously been “their own person” have now, for the first time, realized that they are much more complex and much more capable of enjoying that complexity as a result of this new relationship and the new identity that results from it.

But all of this change is not easy. Nor is it simple. In fact, it is so complex that sometimes it’s weeks, or unfortunately even years, before one or both partners actually realize that they have become a part of a brand new whole and are no longer exactly the same persons they were before marriage.

That realization could be frightening if not seen through the plan of God. He, after all, is Love (1 John 4:8). He created this thing called marriage – and the sex that is an integral part of it. And guess what? He knows what He’s talking about. His plan is that each partner in this holy covenant relationship will find in the mate the answer to longings that have never been fulfilled; the key to opening doors in the soul that have never been unlocked; and the love that saturates and nurtures our unique gifts and abilities so that they mature and bring us to the highest and best we can be. In short, it’s this new person, conceived from the two, that is finally complete and whole in a way that nothing but a “covenant” marriage relationship can accomplish.

It is true that our mate cannot fill the place in us that is reserved for God Himself. And we will never be truly whole until He is at home in us, giving us all of Himself. But it is God Himself who has told us clearly, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him. … And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ … For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2: 18, 22-24, NAS). God said of his “perfect” man that he needed a woman to be complete. And He created the woman to be so much a part of the man that she would have a need of him to be complete as well. Isn’t it interesting that this “need” of each other was created into us as part of our perfection? And this unique completeness that results is probably the one most powerful and thrilling product of a man and woman entering into and enjoying the blessed mysteries of God’s kind of marriage.

I know in this 21st century – especially in the hollowed political halls of this world — it is not considered “politically correct” to make such statements. But, thank God, there is still one Document that supersedes all the political attitudes and postures of every society on the face of the earth. It still supersedes every new “law” on the books that would try to make marriage something different from the commitment of one male and one female partner in covenant with each other and with the God who created them. Thank God that Document — The Word of God – The Holy Bible – still gives the human race the blessed, supernatural opportunity to experience total completeness through love – when they enter into it the way God Himself created it to be experienced.

Truly, a Valentine gift to be treasured forever.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Out In The Fields With God”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of my favorite poets.  In fact, she is one of my favorite people.  In preparation for my life’s work as a teacher and a writer, I naturally studied tons and tons of literature and history, and Elizabeth — along with her husband Robert — have always stood out to me like beacons in a usually dark and unloving world.  This poem is one that I have always identified with very closely, and I hope, as I post it here on my blog, that it allows you,  my readers  to ‘connect’ with it as well and draw the comfort and hope that it offers into your own lives.

OUT IN THE FIELDS WITH GOD

FIELDS ABOVE SEA

 

The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday
Among the fields above the sea,
Among the winds that play,
Among the lowing of the herd,
The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
The humming of the bees.

The foolish fears of what might pass
I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass,
Among the new-mown hay,
Among the hushing of the corn,
Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born —
Out in the fields with God.

 

 

~

~~~

An Interesting Conversation

Time: Creation, Day 6

Place: Heaven, looking down at Earth

Participants: God, One Inquisitive Angel

Conversation:

Angel to God: “What are you doing, God?”

God: “Creating a man.”

Angel: “What are you going to do with him?

God: “Love him.”

Angel: “What will he do for you?”

God: “Give me pleasure.”

Angel: “Will he give you pleasure that is different from what the rest of your creation gives you?”

God: “Oh, yes.  He will be a speaking spirit just like me, who will have the ability to choose by his own free will to love me and communicate with me constantly.”

Angel: “Have you thought that he might use his free will to choose not to love you?  He could end up giving you a lot of trouble.”

God: “Oh yes, he will give me a lot of trouble.  But he is worth it!”

Oh, that we would see ourselves as God sees us!

 

~