Everyday, thousands of people pass by our church. I wonder what they say? Everyday, thousands of people pass in front of our home. They know the foreigners live here. I wonder what they say. I wonder what our neighbors say to each other when we are not around. I wonder what they say when we pass by their shops.
We carry His name on us, so what they think of us will also impact their thoughts of God.
Jerusalem. Mount Zion. The city where God chose to place His name.
Psalm 48:2 "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King."
As people thought of Jerusalem, so were their thoughts of God. At the time this was written, people had a respect of God. They feared Him. As enemies or outsiders passed by, they would hasten their steps. They knew God was with the people of Jerusalem.
Psalm 48:4-6 "For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail."
We are Christians. Jesus's name is attached to us. People know it. But what makes a difference is when they know we have been with Him and He is with us.
Acts 4:12-13 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
When people pass by us, do they fear and have respect because of our God? Have we carried the name of Christ in such a manner that they have something to respect? Are we spending time with Jesus so that His holy scent permeates our lives and His power is clearly seen working and moving in and through us? Are we living in such a way that people see Jesus and not us?
As people passed by Jerusalem, they weren't afraid of the military might. They were petrified of the fact that God was there and He was with His people. What do they see when they pass by me?
"Indoor voices!" I said it over and over again to our children when they were young. There is something about young children. When they get excited, their volume goes up to a feverish pitch. Sometimes their excessive volume is an irritation to me, but most times it actually makes me giggle. You can almost see their excitement and joy emanating from their bodies in waves of sound. It takes a while to teach them the time and the place for being noisy. (Especially when I sometimes am guilty, too! I get excited and my volume button goes up!)
Recently, we had a couple of younger children staying with us at our home. I found myself again saying that familiar command: "Indoor voices, please!" They would be quieter for just a few sentences, but then their excitement would build as they told some amazing and thrilling story. Their little bodies would wiggle as they continued talking and the tension began building. Before they knew it, their volume was once again on overload as they smiled, giggled, and of course shouted their story with glee. (Kids are way too much fun to watch.)
Psalm 47 isn't saying, "Indoor voices, please!" It is saying, "Turn the volume up, you guys! It's time to praise!"
Psalm 47:1 "O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph."
Does God excite you? When you and I sit and think about the God we serve, it should create a rise in volume as if we were children getting excited about a story we want to tell. Maybe we have lost our "praise voices" and opted for "indoor voices" because we have forgotten to dwell on the goodness of God. We have forgotten to think about the attributes of our Father. We have neglected meditating and studying about how amazing our Saviour Jesus is. We have lost our song. We have lost our shout. We have opted for polite indoor voices when He is worthy of our excitement-driven noise.
Psalm 47:5-7 "God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding."
Enduring a major earthquake was difficult, but the most devastating and frightening part of it was not buildings falling, people screaming, and the horrible rumbling. Those things were scary, most certainly! But the most frightening thing was more fundamental than that. It took a while for my mind to begin processing it. The most frightening part was the ground which had been stable and secure my whole life was moving and no longer dependable. From the moment I was born, the earth beneath me was steady and sure. I walked with confidence on it from the day I learned to walk. I jumped, skipped, hopped, rolled, ran, and crawled on a firm foundation of dirt, grass, and rock miles deep and seemingly impenetrable. But on April 25, 2015, the truth that I had believed my whole life was shattered and revealed as a lie. The ground could indeed move and shake violently. It is difficult to explain the mental and emotional strain I endured trying to process this new fact. The human mind will struggle to comprehend such a radical notion. Such challenges are what create things like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) And, yes, our family still deals with PTSD.
Psalm 46:1-3 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah."
The truth is that even the earth beneath our feet is unreliable for safety. We cannot count on it. The mountains move and shake. They can be removed. We experienced that, too, as we saw landslides that wiped out entire mountain sides, covering and burying entire villages. (These verses in Psalm 46 never meant so much to me as they do now after the earthquake.) But we don't have to fear. Why?
Man's kingdoms can be shaken, removed, and destroyed.
Psalm 46:6 "The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted."
Man often acts like he is invincible, but no matter how strong the military, no matter how strong the government, no matter how strong the economy, and no matter how strong the people, any country is vulnerable. Any country and people can be removed. A simple shake of the ground... a devastating storm... a cunning enemy.
But God's kingdom?
Psalm 46:5 "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early."
God is stable. His kingdom is unmovable. His throne is impenetrable. Unlike the day when my trust in the ground beneath me was shattered, the reliability of God will never change. That's what makes Him the best refuge and help in our times of trouble. He is unchanging and immovable. That's why we can be still... that's why we can run to Him in confidence. When we stand upon Him and His truth we are standing on a firm foundation that will never be shaken. It will never be moved. It is even more solid and trustworthy of a foundation than the very earth we walk upon.
Psalm 46:10-11 "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah."
I love the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. My husband and I have been privileged to go there twice. It is an exquisite mansion, and its splendor and beauty is captivating. It is grand and breathtaking. But I have a confession. When I went through the Biltmore House both times, I not only enjoyed the charm of its expensive furnishings and history, but I also looked for reminders of its temporary nature. I loved the massive curtains, but I also noticed where a few were worn or slightly faded. I loved the wallpapers, but I also noticed there were occasional spots where the paper was beginning to curl at the corners. I loved the paint, but there were places where paint had begun to chip and peel. As magnificent as this house is, it (like everything else on the earth) is a temporary kingdom. It is fading. It requires an enormous amount of effort for its upkeep and yet it is a losing battle.
In Psalm 45, David is captivated by the majesty of God. He is focused on God as King. His words describe the Lord's power, royalty, majesty, and sovereignty. His speech indites (gushes in words) the matter of just how regal, righteous, and pure God the King is.
Psalm 45:3 "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things."
I was captivated by the splendor of a place that was fading and faltering-- a place that would one day fall away and its temporary nature showed through in spots. David was captivated by the eternal, unfading, unfaltering King whose kingdom would never decay and fall away. His throne will never chip, crack, peel, or crumble.
Psalm 45:6 "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre."
Though we may find a sense of beauty, wonder, and awe in earthly abodes that fade away, let us never lose our sense of awe in the King and kingdom which will stand in all its perfect glory forever. Let us take time to ponder and meditate upon His glory and majesty.
One of my favorite things about where we live is that we always have a story to tell. We could talk for hours about how God worked in amazing ways. We could tell you of the time God saved me from being launched off of my scooter when I drove over an open manhole. We could tell you how God used a devastating earthquake to open doors for ministry. We could tell you how God saved a man out of Hinduism 6 weeks before his death. We had been sharing the Gospel with him for years. We could go on and on.
I love reading biographies of great men and women of God who the Lord used throughout history. The men and women weren't anything special, but they served an amazing God who changed their lives and them used them in His service.
Psalm 44:1 "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old."
David loved stories, too. He loved hearing how God worked throughout the history of his people. Generation to generation, the stories were passed down. There were stories of battles like the battle of Jericho. There were stories about God parting waters like the Red Sea. There were stories of manna that fed the people in the wilderness. Oh, how David loved those stories! But David longed for more stories of his own. He loved the story of how God defeated the giant Goliath. He loved the story of the time God helped him kill a lion and bear. They were great stories and they were his own testimonies of God's great power working in his life. But David didn't want those stories to be his last stories. He wanted God to work in his life every day! He didn't want stories about David's greatness. He wanted stories about God working in impossible situations so that God would get all the glory!
Psalm 44:6 "For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me."
Psalm 44:8 "In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah."
Do you have stories of God working in amazing ways? If you aren't faithfully in the battle, your stories will be limited. You will have to keep telling the same story over and over about how God worked 20 years ago. If you want fresh and exciting stories, you will have to quit sitting on the sidelines. People who are in the battle daily will have daily battlefield stories of God's goodness, grace, and glory. People on the sidelines are satisfied with telling other people's stories of how amazing God is. People in the battle daily are encouraged by other people's stories, but they also are zealous about sharing their own stories. They love seeing God work in their lives personally.
I want to be one of those people. I want to be on the battlefield experiencing God doing great things in and through me. I want to be a storyteller with something to say. I want to be able to boast and brag on my God all day long about things He is doing in my life personally.