Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Set of the Sail

I stood on the shore beside the sea;
The wind from the West blew fresh and free,
While past the rocks at the harbor's mouth
The ships went North, and the ships went South,
And some sailed out on an unknown quest,
And some sailed into the harbor's rest;
Yet ever the wind blew out of the West.

I said to one who had sailed the sea
That this was a marvel unto me;
For how can the ships go safely forth,
Some to the South and some to the North,
Far out to sea on their golden quest,
Or in to the harbor's calm and rest,
And ever the wind blew out of the West?

The sailor smiled as he answered me,
"Go where you will when you're on the sea,
Though head winds baffle and flaws delay,
You can keep the course by night and day,
Drive with the breeze or against the gale;
It will not matter what winds prevail,
For all depends on the set of the sail."

Voyager soul on the sea of life,
O'er waves of sorrow and sin and strife,
When fogs bewilder and foes betray,
Steer straight on your course from day to day;
Though unseen currents run deep and swift,
Where rocks are hidden and sandbars shift,
All helpless and aimless, you need not drift.

Oh, set your sail to the heavenly gale,
And then, no matter what winds prevail,
No reef shall wreck you, no calm delay,
No mist shall hinder, no storm shall stay;
Though far you wander and long you roam,
Through salt sea-spray o'er white sea-foam,
No wind that can blow but shall speed you home.

—Annie Johnson Flint

Monday, March 26, 2012



I'll stay where You've put me; I will, dear Lord,
Though I wanted so badly to go;
I was eager to march with the 'rank and file,'
Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.
I planned to keep step to the music loud,
To cheer when the banner unfurled,
To stand in the midst of the first straight and proud,
But I'll stay where You've put me.

I'll stay where You've put me, I'll work, dear Lord,
Though the field be narrow and small,
And the ground be fallow, and the stones lie thick,
And there seems to be no life at all.
The field is Thine own, only give me the seed,
I'll sow it with never a fear;
I'll till the dry soil while I wait for the rain,
And rejoice when the green blades appear;
I'll work where You've put me.

I'll stay where You've put me; I will, dear Lord,
I'll bear the day's burden and heat,
Always trusting Thee fully; when even has come
I'll lay heavy sheaves at Thy feet.
And then, when my earth's work is ended and done,
In the light of eternity's glow,
Life's record all closed, I surely shall find
I was better to stay than to go;
I'll stay where You've put me.


The Will of God

The Will of God
Frederick William Faber (1814–63)

I WORSHIP thee, sweet will of God!
And all thy ways adore;
To every day I live, I seem
To love thee more and more.

Thou wert the end, the blessed rule
Of our Saviour’s toils and tears;
Thou wert the passion of his heart
Those three and thirty years.

And he hath breath’d into my soul
A special love of thee,
A love to lose my will in his,
And by that loss be free.

I love to see thee bring to nought
The plans of wily men;
When simple hearts outwit the wise,
Oh, thou art loveliest then.

The headstrong world it presses hard
Upon the church full oft,
And then how easily thou turn’st
The hard ways into soft.

I love to kiss each print where thou
Hast set thine unseen feet;
I cannot fear thee, blessed will!
Thine empire is so sweet.

When obstacles and trials seem 25
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to thee.

I know not what it is to doubt,
My heart is ever gay;
I run no risk, for, come what will,
Thou always hast thy way.

I have no cares, O blessed will!
For all my cares are thine:
I live in triumph, Lord! for thou
Hast made thy triumphs mine.

And when it seems no chance or change
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And gayly waits on thee.

Man’s weakness, waiting upon God,
Its end can never miss,
For men on earth no work can do
More angel-like than this.

Ride on, ride on, triumphantly,
Thou glorious will, ride on!
Faith’s pilgrim sons behind thee take
The road that thou hast gone.

He always wins who sides with God,
To him no chance is lost;
God’s will is sweetest to him, when
It triumphs at his cost.

Ill that he blesses is our good,
And unbless’d good is ill;
And all is right that seems most wrong,
If it be his sweet will.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Undignified Worship - Robert Stearns

'Professionalism' has replaced genuine worship in the church. Are you ready to be undone? I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight'" (2 Sam. 6:21-22, NKJV).

I was in Israel a few weeks ago at the Western Wall, praying. As I left the courtyard, I noticed about 15 young Israeli soldiers coming to pray at the wall.

When they finished, they headed to the courtyard and began singing songs from the book of Psalms at the top of their voices and clapping their hands.

Soon, passers-by gathered around the group of young men and began clapping and singing with them. Then, the young men, clad in military uniforms, grabbed one another by the arms and began dancing in circles. An elderly rabbi passed nearby, and they reached out for his blessing, pulling him into the group. There was no sound system, no worship leader, no banners, no PowerPoint presentation or slick overheads. There were simply the musical prayers and declarations of these sons of David, being lifted toward the heavens not only with their voices, but also with their hearts and souls--and feet.

I tried to imagine a cultural equivalent in the American church to what I was observing. I could not.

One of the concerns I have about worship in the church today is that we've become much too professional. Somehow we've begun equating music and worship, as if they're the same. Clearly, that's a mistake. Worship is the "intangible" that is released when the soul begins to proclaim the greatness of God and enter into His presence. It's a spiritual thing that goes much deeper than the music that accompanies it.

So let's consider our current worship paradigm: 90-minute worship-team rehearsals, well-rehearsed modulations, carefully written horn parts, color-coordinated outfits for the vocal team, slick video productions to "enhance" the experience with scenes from nature. Selah.

My concern is that in our motivation to worship with excellence--which, by the way, I support and agree with--we may be falling prey to the spirit of entertainment and performance that pervades our society.

God's Word suggests He receives our worship not because its style or level of excellence but because of our sincerity and the condition of our hearts. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--These, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

The true goal of any worship service must be for people to encounter the presence of God. Authentic encounters evoke a variety of reactions in people--crying, repentance, joy, celebration, silence and deep, intense, gut-level shouting.

Genuine worship means people let go of their desire to control the worship experience and their response to it, and let the presence of God meet with them in a way that only He can.

Where is our undignified worship? Where are our tears, our shouts, our heartfelt love songs, our ecstatic dancing and leaping, our genuine, silent awe of His manifest presence? When is the last time we were undone?

And what about excellence?

First, let me say that I have a degree in music and place a high value on musical excellence. To me, there are few things worse than bringing sloppy, half-prepared offerings and saying, "Here You are, Lord."

But the biggest need for excellence relates to the condition of the musicians' and worshipers' hearts. The goal should be to bring together skilled musicians who play skillfully before the Lord because this is who they are. This is markedly different than aiming to perform a perfect rendition of a certain song or planning an extravagant number of key changes and segues. When this happens, the worship service becomes little more than a mini-performance.

Perhaps with all of our church correctness, we need to be confronted by a wildly dancing David once again. What we need is for sweaty, wild, joy-filled, single-minded David to interrupt our air-conditioned, PowerPoint worlds and remind us that worship is about the heart--about God.

In the final analysis, the question is fairly simple: Is our emphasis on aesthetically pleasing our senses or on a spiritual, authentic encounter with the God of the universe?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Holy Spirit Faithful Guide

Holy Spirit, faithful Guide, ever near the Christian's side;
Gently lead us by the hand, pilgrims in a desert land.
Weary souls fore'er rejoice, while they hear that sweetest voice,
Whispering softly, "Wanderer, come, follow Me, I'll guide thee home."

Ever present, truest Friend, ever near Thine aid to lend,
Leave us not to doubt and fear, groping on in darkness drear.
When the storms are raging sore, hearts grow faint and hopes give o'er.
Whispering softly, "Wanderer, come, follow Me, I'll guide thee home."

When our days of toil cease, waiting still for sweet release,
Nothing left but heaven and prayer, wondering if our names are there;
Wading deep the dismal flood, pleading naught but Jesus' blood,
Whispering softly, "Wanderer, come, follow Me, I'll guide thee home."

Are You a Target for Seduction? - Beth Moore

Are You a Target for Seduction? - Beth Moore

Many people who by the grace of God have never been "had" by the devil wrongly assume that all departures from godliness are nothing but rebellion and proofs of inauthenticity. They have no idea of the suffering involved when someone with a genuine heart for God slips from the path.

I don't know how many times I've repeated the statement I'm about to make, but I'll keep saying it until at least one skeptic hears, "Not everyone in a stronghold of sin is having a good time."

The times in my life when the powers of darkness seemed to rage most violently against me were seasons when I had never loved God more. I was not walking in sin prior to either of the times I fought my hardest battles with the kingdom of darkness.

In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the apostle Paul wrote: "But [now] I am fearful, lest that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds may be corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (The Amplified Bible).

How does a wholeheartedly, sincerely, and purely devoted servant of Jesus Christ become vulnerable to demonic seduction? If you're thinking, Surely there is something that the enemy is latching onto, you are absolutely right. At the same time I will tell you that the thing Satan latches onto often is not sin.

How the Godly Are Beguiled

None of us is ever sinless, but where this kind of victim is concerned, the enemy more often latches onto weakness—a hidden spot of vulnerability. Satan knows that weakness can turn to sin in a heartbeat when exposed to the right amount of pressure.

I have become more and more convinced that victims of seduction share certain vulnerabilities at the time of their attacks. Please consider carefully this list of the weaknesses that many Christians carry in their hearts, minds and souls.

1. Ignorance. Without exception, the No. 1 element that sets believers up for seduction is ignorance. Throughout the remainder of the list, you will see signs of ignorance—things the seduced did not know.

Speaking of the high priest who served in the Old Testament tabernacle, the writer of Hebrews said, "He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness" (Heb. 5:2, NIV). We are at great risk of going astray over ignorance and weakness.

In The Amplified Bible, 2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us to forgive, "to keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions." The apostle Paul and his well-educated crew may not have been ignorant of Satan's schemes, but most of us are.

How many times have I looked at some of the ways I allowed Satan to defeat me in the past and cried to myself: "How could you be so stupid! You idiot! Haven't you learned anything?"

Long after I was set free, I was still punishing myself unmercifully. So much so, the self-condemnation became its own form of bondage.

The last thing I want to do is give the enemy another moment's satisfaction. That's exactly what self-condemnation does. Let's be delivered from it.

2. Spiritual passion that exceeds biblical knowledge. The Scriptures talk about the serpent getting to our hearts through our minds (see 2 Cor. 11:3). The person described in this verse has wholehearted devotion to Christ, but his mind still is vulnerable.

Most of our minds are, too—until we have a horrible scare that teaches us to love God with our whole mind and not just our whole heart. The church in Corinth was passionate but lacked the knowledge to provide a firm foundation.

Paul's thesis on tearing down strongholds is this: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5, KJV). If we don't have the knowledge of God, we are ill-equipped to recognize imaginations that are exalting themselves over God.

We can't have just knowledge about warfare to defeat Satan. We need the knowledge of God! Our only means of getting it is through an intense relationship with God through His Word.

You might be wondering, "Why do so many godly pastors fall to the seduction of Satan when they are constantly preparing sermons?" Let me tell you what I think.

I think many of them unknowingly fall into the trap of spending time in the Word almost entirely for message preparation. Satan desires the destruction of anyone who keeps his or her sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) sharpened by personal use.

He knows that weapon becomes dull once the believer's use of Scripture becomes mechanical. I believe that many of those in ministry who have fallen for seduction were so busy doing the work of God that they slipped away from pure intimacy with God.

We must remember that God doesn't want only to talk through us; He wants also to talk to us—intimately. When we cease letting God speak to us, it is only a matter of time before He will cease speaking through us.

Allow me to offer a word of caution on the other side of this issue. Yes, spiritual passion exceeding biblical knowledge is a definite weakness. But biblical knowledge without a heart passionately in love with Christ is terribly dangerous. If we are not given to godly passion, we will be tempted by counterfeits.

3. A lack of discernment. I am convinced that discernment is one of the most important criteria in the devoted believer's life to provide protection from seduction. Most victims of seduction have not had a history of particularly great discernment.

Glance at the following Scriptures and relate them to our subject matter:

"Rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge" (Prov. 19:25, NIV). Those who have discernment don't get defensive and start rationalizing when they're rebuked! Instead, they gain knowledge.

"This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9-10).

After God broke my cycle of defeat, I began praying, "God, I can't do anything to change the past. I have been neither pure nor blameless, but would You enable me by the power of Your Word and through the filling of Your Holy Spirit to live every day of my remaining years in purity?"

To come anywhere close to my deep hope, I am going to need lots of discernment. Celebrate the fact that God honors the heartfelt petition for discernment and will graciously give it and more.

4. A lack of self-discernment. David, a man who fell into sin after godliness, wrote this very private prayer: "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression" (Ps. 19:12-13).

In this particular verse, the Hebrew word translated "error" is shgiyah. According to the "Old Testament Lexical Aids" of the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (AMG Publishers), it means "error, transgression, sin committed inadvertently." It stands in contrast to the psalmist's petition for God to keep him also from willful sins.

We commit some sins willfully and presumptuously. We commit others inadvertently. The former flows from rebellion and the latter from error, ignorance and weakness.

Our weaknesses and areas of ignorance can quickly lead to sins committed inadvertently. However, Satan's seduction is purposeful and utterly intended for evil. Nothing about it is accidental or coincidental.

In the book of Proverbs, most of the seducers and seductresses were intentional in their actions. Most, but not all.

Could it be that some who are used as puppets for Satan's seductions have themselves been seduced? I think so. In fact, the seduced may become seducers if they fail to let God radically deal with them through and through.

One of our best defenses is to recognize where our own personal weak places are. We've got to replace our self-condemnation with self-discernment.

5. Exposure to or experience with false worship or depravity in the past. I am convinced that one reason the apostle Paul was so worried about the Corinthian church is that they had been exposed to so much false worship and depravity (see 2 Cor. 11:4). In addition, they were surrounded by ungodliness in their attempts to live godly lives.

Any level of exposure can open a door in the mind that Satan might decide to take for his advantage. I've heard people talk about finding pornographic magazines in their father's things when they were young. Such a discovery frequently has a huge effect on that life and gives Satan a trump card for later.

Experience can open an even wider door than exposure. As a child, I was not only exposed to things I shouldn't have been but also forced to experience some things no child should ever experience.

I tucked many of those memories as far down in my subconscious as possible. The problem was, Satan had stuffed them in his pocket for later.

In addition to being victimized, I also made numerous poor choices. Don't think he didn't use those against me as well.

Thankfully, God has taught me volumes, and I am no longer easy prey. Still, I will always have to be on guard because I have a past that other, less vulnerable believers don't have.

If we don't let God deal with every part of our pasts—hurts, secrets, errors in judgment, mistakes or sins—any one of them can be like a hibernating bear. Satan, the prowling lion, stalks the mouth of the cave, waiting for just the "right" season.

What to Do About the Past

Beloved, Satan plays hardball. When we have a disaster, we can count on his being right there confronting us at our weakest point.

We can't just put our pasts behind us. We've got to put our pasts in front of God.

The very thing Satan used against me was precisely that I had not done anything about my past! We can take our pasts to Jesus. We need Him to take full authority over them so that they are no longer a playground for the enemy.

God longs to let us see our pasts against the backdrop of His glory. Let Him redeem every bit of your past, not just the injustices but the willful sins and the excruciating losses (see Ps. 130:7).

For 30 years Satan used my past in various ways until I allowed God to snatch it from him and use it for Himself. I have given God permission to take every one of my memories captive to Christ.

Now I see my abuses and sins in the forgiving, nail-scarred hands of Jesus where He is cleansing them and transforming them into the stuff of mercy. Now, God uses them every single day in ministry, in parenting and in friendships.

Satan targets sincere believers through their sins as well as their weaknesses. One of the times when Satan used my sins against me, I had already repented of them. But I had never asked God to heal me completely, redeem my past, sanctify me and help me to forgive myself.

Until I allowed God to take full authority over them, my past sins were still areas of vulnerability where Satan could prey. Thank goodness, they're not anymore, and yours don't have to be, either.

God is so inconceivably faithful. Hear His tender voice speak to you now. "'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid'" (Matt. 14:27).

I've learned to give Him full authority over my past and bring every part of it under His wings and into His possession. Trust God with every inch of your past, present and future. Because until you do, you are susceptible to seduction.

Beth Moore is a well-known author and Bible teacher whose public speaking engagements carry her all over the United States and throughout the world. Her latest Bible study, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, was published by LifeWay Christian Resources and is based on her recent best-selling book by the same name. Moore lives in Houston with her husband, Keith. Adapted from When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore, copyright © 2002. Published by Broadman & Holman. Used by permission.