The Biggest Bully of All

I was never, thankfully, bullied as a child.  I know many people were.  Most of us can imagine what it would be like.  We have seen it in movies, read it in books, heard of it happening to other children.  I am sure that Satan inspired bullying.  He is a bully himself.  Yesterday using a passage in Scripture, God revealed to me the biggest bully of them all.

Isaiah 37:9-11, 14-20 (Msg)

“Just then the Assyrian king received an intelligence report on King Tirhakah of Ethopia:  ‘He is on his way to make war on you.’  On hearing that, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with instructions to deliver this message:…” The message that is about to be delivered to King Hezekiah is from the King of Assyria, Sennacherib.  Listen to his message to King Hezekiah.

“…’Don’t let your God, on whom you so naïvely lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won’t fall to the King of Assyria.  Use your head!   Look around at what the kings of Assyria have done all over the world–one country after another devastated!  And do you think you’re going to get off?  Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them’…”  Wow!  With these messages and these words, a spirit of intimidation has now entered the scene.  Basically, he is telling the king that there is no hope for him, not even in his God.  No one else has been able to survive this king and certainly not Hezekiah.  I am pretty sure that Hezekiah is intimidated (as we will see from his reaction following).  Assyria is a strong nation and they have conquered kingdoms right and left.  Hezekiah’s kingdom is next.  Intimidation can only affect you in places that you are vulnerable.  A professional body builder or wrestler would not be affected by a bully saying he was going to beat them up.  That would have no effect because the body builder knows his strength.  Satan can only use intimidation in the places of your heart where there is a weakness.  This speaks to me that this is a sign that shows me areas that God wants to continue to heal, restore and redeem.  Let’s see what Hezekiah does with this intimidation by this bully, the King of Assyria.

“Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it…”  Can you just see everyone in the throne room gauging his reaction?  They are wondering if they should be scared and they are going to take their cue from their leader.  They look to him for how to respond to this situation.  Hezekiah’s reaction is not only about him, a nation depends on how he choses to react.  Literally, his reaction will either cause them to run in fear and forsake God or trust that God will deliver them.  Let’s continue to see what Hezekiah does.

“…Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God…”  He doesn’t send a bullying message back.  He does not run from the throne room in fear.  He does not even call all of his military generals to devise a plan.  Can’t you see it?  He marches into the temple and spreads out the message before the Ark of the Covenant.  With the message spread before God, Hezekiah says this, “…’God-of-the-Angel-Armies, enthroned over the cherubim-angels, you are God, the only God there is, God of all kingdoms on earth.  You made heaven and earth.  Listen, O God, and hear.  Look, O God, and see.  Mark all these words of Sennacherib that he sent to mock the living God.  It’s quite true, O God, that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the nations and their lands.  They’ve thrown their gods into the trash and burned them–no great achievement since they were no-gods anyway, gods made in workshops, carved from wood and chiseled from rock.  An end to the no-gods!  But now step in, O God, our God.  Save us from him.  Let all the kingdoms of earth know that you and you alone are God.”  Hezekiah did not deny the truth of the situation.  He took the spirit of intimidation to the only One who can deal with it, God.  He put it back on God to save and deliver.  He asked God what to do next in dealing with this spirit of intimidation and the King of Assyria.  (Continue reading vs. 21-38 to see what God told him to do.)

Lately, Satan has done his best to intimidate me in certain areas of my life.  I have run to God for healing and restoration of these parts of my heart.  The spirit of intimidation kept talking though.  Bottom line is, bullying wears you down.  You begin to believe the words, they take hold and they just keep running laps in your heart and mind.  This story gave me new hope and a new direction.  March into God’s throne, spread the words uttered by the spirit of intimidation before God and put it back on God.  It is up to Him to save me, to guide and direct me against this spirit.

Only then can I turn to the spirit of intimidation and say, “My dad and my big brother are going to beat you up….oh, wait…they already have….and they are going to again in the future.”

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Better than any movie you will ever see!

(The following is an excerpt from Renovation of the Heart In Daily Practice)

In the progression toward complete identification of our will with God’s, first there is surrender.  When we surrender our will to God, we consent to his supremacy in all things.  We may not be able to do his will, but we are willing to will it.  In this condition there is still much grumbling and complaining about our lives and about God.

If grace and wisdom prevail in our surrendered life, we move on to abandonment.  No part of us holds back from God’s will any longer.  Typically, at this point, surrender now covers all the circumstances of life.  We begin to live in this astonishing reality:  Irredeemable harm does not befall those who willingly live in the hand of God.

Beyond abandonment is contentment with the will of God, not only with His being who He is and ordaining what He has ordained in general but also with the lot that has fallen to us.  At this point, gratitude and joy are the steady tone of our lives.  We are now assured that God has done, and will always do well by us–no matter what!  Dreary, foot-dragging surrender to God is a far, distant country. Duplicity looks like utter foolishness in which no sane person would be involved.

Beyond contentment lies intelligent, energetic participation in accomplishing God’s will in our world.  We are no longer spectators but are caught up in a vivid and eternal drama in which we play an essential part.  We embrace our imposed circumstances, no matter how tragic they seem, and act for good in a power beyond ourselves.  “We are reigning–exercising dominion–in life by One, Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:17, PAR), looking toward an eternity reigning with God through ages of ages (Revelations 22:5).

Our tiny will is not the source of our strength.  Instead, we are carried along by the power of the divine drama within which we live actively engaged.  This is the real meaning of “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20).  The strongest human will is always the one that is surrendered to God’s will and acts with it.

Progressing in this forward movement from surrender to abandonment to contentment to participation is the mysterious secret of the wise saints, some of whom you and I may have encountered.  Believe that you may become one of them.  As you do, your life will never, ever be boring because you’ll understand that interacting with God creates a divine daily drama that makes the average life in our culture look boring.

(end of excerpt)

Where are you at in the movie “Divine Daily Drama”?  Where do you want to be?  What would it take to progress you to that point in the movie?  It will be worth every moment and you will not want to miss it!

“”Whatever impresses you, attracts you.  Whatever you pursue becomes your purpose.”

–Finding Favor with the King

Isaiah 41:10

“Don’t panic.  I am with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

Decluttering…the bane of my exsistence

Every January, I decide to go through every nook and cranny of my house and declutter.  (I think I decided in 2008 not to do it because there is no way we collected all this stuff in a year!)  Stuff accumulates.  I think I could probably ignore it, rent a storage facility, keep buying Rubbermaid containers…etc.  Then one day, you will see me on one of those reality tv shows where they come in and clean out your home.  You know the one where the mom is crying because they are giving away a teddy bear that her daughter had when she was 5 and now the daughter is 40.  You know the ones I mean…I will be on one of those.  I have no wish to take part in a show like that.  So I take part in this necessary evil (okay, maybe it’s not evil but it “feels” evil) called “decluttering”.

As I have worked on  decluttering my home, going on 2 weeks now, it has made me think about my heart and my spiritual life.  Just as we accumulate physical stuff, we accumulate “heart” stuff.  How long has it been since I’ve decluttered in there?  What would decluttering my heart look like?  Is it necessary?  Do I even want to attempt this?

This past year a friend shared a phrase with me that I have not been able to shake.  You know the phrases that you know God is going to make apply to you and not just your friend.  This is the phrase:  “Give God permission to redefine your (yours and God’s) relationship.”  For weeks I tried to ignore this.  It did not work.  I figured I had to listen.  It started simply, I just uttered a prayer every morning and night, “God, I give you permission to redefine our relationship.”  Nothing much happened for the first week of so.  Then God began to surface ideas and images that I had associated with Him.  Things that started out being founded in the truth of His Word but as the years progressed, I added my flavor and stamp to them.  Some of these things were as deep as bedrock.  As He began to challenge these ideas and images, I continually had to go back to His Word to find the new definition for our relationship.  I had to let go of many ideas about God that were not truthful but had brought me much security in my relationship with God over the years.  I had to come to this place of “entitlement” in certain areas of my relationship with God.  Instead of places of “blessing”.

I have by no means finished decluttering my house or my heart.  But I pray that I never get so used to all the “stuff” that I tend not even see that it is there.  Most of the people on those clean-your-house reality shows say, “It started so small and even though it got bigger, I just never really ‘saw’ it.  I walked by it everyday but I did not ‘see’ it.”

God, may I always see what is in my heart that is clutter.  I give you permission to show me the things that need to go to make more room for you.

“The single most important thing in our mind is our idea of God and the images associatated with it.”

–Renovation of the Heart

Luke 12:32

“Do not be afraid little (Tammy), for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

Worship

Lately God has been speaking to me about worship and how much of my worship is about me.  At first, I was a little offended…I know how to worship God.  But God wanted to show me something different.

Here are some things that He has shown me about worship.

–I was made for worship.  It is in my innermost being to worship something.  Only I can choose WHAT I will worship.

–“If a man cannot pray, he is gagged; if he cannot kneel, he is in irons.”  G. K. Chesterson  Praying and kneeling are a part of worship.

–Worship is about devotion.  Ultimately what we are devoted to will shape our lives.

–In worship we fall into the arms of God and say, “Have your way with me.”  How often do I say that?  Not often, I am afraid.  I worship on my terms and to my comfort limit…not His terms and His comfort limit.

–The early church father sometimes spoke of a dancing Trinity…Worship is a response to God’s invitation to join the dance and learn basic rhythms and steps that help us respond to God.

–Years ago, I heard John Bevere say this, “Worship is not a slow song.”

–Grumbling and complaining are surefire ways to kill a spirit that longs to worship.

Psalms 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise His name.”  If I break this verse down to its basic components, thanksgiving or giving thanks for all the things that God has done for me gets me in the gate but that does not usher me into His presence.  I am just hanging out in His yard, serenading Him through the window.  If I want to enter His courts, His house, the Holy of Holies…it begins with praise.  More often than not, praising Him when I feel like it and when I do not.  Praising God breaks through spiritual barriers that otherwise would never be touched.  It is a conscious act of will.

What is praise?  Taking joyful passionate pleasure in God and in the glorious nature of His people, His Word, the world and His purposes.  It is a way for us to direct our spirit (remember, we must worship Him in spirit and in truth) towards delighting in the attention and never-changing presence of the Trinity. (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)  That will actually fuel our celebration, our praise.

It is not about music.  It is not about what words I can say that sound worshipful.  It is about directing my spirit, soul and body into worship, praise and thanksgiving for Him.  It is not about what that will benefit me in the end but it is ultimately about benefiting God, blessing Him above all else.  In the end worship can actually enlarge our capacity to enjoy and serve God.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

–Martin Luther King Jr.

Luke 12:7

“Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”

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