Mud, Fun, and Worship

Mud, Fun, and Worship

By Patricia Knight

One drenching rainy day in the summertime our toddler son teased to play outside. Finally I relented and dressed him in his long rubber-coated pants, his rain jacket, hood, and boots, wondering if he could possibly move in such restrictive clothing.

Never underestimate the will of a toddler! Our son possessed the tenacious energy of most children his age. He grabbed his bicycle and rode it the length of our driveway, braking abruptly before reaching his boundary. In the narrow strip of land dividing adjoining house lots, a large, shallow mud puddle had formed. It was at that spot where he parked his bicycle with the training wheels straddling the murky circle.

He hopped onto the bicycle seat, then leaned his body forward into a horse jockey’s riding position, and peddled with all the muscle power his little legs could amass. His frantic peddling produced a cascading arc of thick mud, slathering slime all over his body like a spouting geyser. My little boy had been transformed into a chocolate Easter bunny replica, with only his white teeth exposed through a wide, satisfied grin. He was immersed in childhood ecstasy, and enjoyed sitting at the center of a mud blizzard, loving every minute of the onslaught.  

It is no surprise that Jesus instructed us to maintain child-like faith in Him. When His disciples assumed that little children encircling Jesus were usurping their Master’s limited time, He reminded them of the value of all children: “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Children naturally know how to laugh and play with unprecedented joy as they explore the wonders of their surroundings. Verbal squealing reveals their delirious delight, as they express bubbly glee with each new discovery. Almighty God, whose glory and authority remains on display throughout heaven and earth, gladly accepts the exalted praise of playful children.

Centuries ago, when a remnant of God’s people returned from a seventy-year exile in Babylon, their long separation from everything familiar left them with spiritual apathy reflected in disobedience, doubt, and disdain for the worship of their Lord. God assigned His prophet, Malachi, the task of confronting the Israelites with their sins and guiding them into a renewed enthusiastic, committed relationship with their heavenly Father.

And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Utilizing a vivid mental picture of frisky, frolicking animals released from the confinement of an enclosed pen, Malachi attempted to instill renewed passion, eagerness, and exhilaration into his countrymen’s lifestyle and worship.

2 Samuel 6:1-22 provides a graphic description of King David vivaciously dancing in the street. It was no ordinary occasion. Years earlier, the ark of God, the physical representation of God’s presence in Israelite worship, had been confiscated by their enemies, the Philistines. When King David located the ark, he immediately arranged for it to be reclaimed and transported to the temple. As the ark was ceremoniously carried through the streets of Jerusalem, David could no longer contain his excitement.  With grateful animation, “he danced before the Lord with all of his might while he and the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets” (2 Samuel  6:14-15).

King David jubilantly offered a spontaneous gesture of praise to his gracious Lord when he performed his solo dance. Because God knows the intent of our hearts, it is apparent He approved of the King’s unapologetic zeal in celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant, a constant reminder that God resided in their midst, encouraging a zealous expression of worship. David’s impetuous dance must have resembled the unpenned calves’ leap of joy in Malachi 4:2.

David’s wife, Michal, criticized what she considered an immoral act, calling her husband vulgar. David responded, “‘In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! I’ll dance to God’s glory more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll gladly look the fool…I’ll be honored to the end’” (2 Samuel 6:20-22, The Msg.) Michal was a sourpuss, and like her father, King Saul, a victim of jealousy and bitterness. She represented the opposite attitude of her husband, King David, who defended his courageous dance of ecstasy to honor the return of the ark of God.

Contrary to the world’s view of Christianity as a negative religion consisting primarily of “thou shalt not” regulations, there exists undeniable freedom in following Jesus. Christ himself said, “‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV). It is God’s plan that His children live an unsurpassed, fullness of life secured by Jesus at Calvary.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea abound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy” (Psalm 96:11-12). Is there any reason we should not join all of creation in praise to our Creator?

Perhaps a playful mud bath, kicking up your heels, or dancing in a street parade offend your worship preferences. If so, contemplate approaches to glorify Jesus with heartfelt jubilation. Or follow the example of my friend who surprised me by answering my recent phone call not with a typical “hello” greeting, but by belting out the Hallelujah chorus, an unequivocal reminder for both of us to praise God for an extravagant, abundant life.

May we join the Psalmist expressing exultation for God’s rich blessings!

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart.
I’m writing the book on your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
I’m singing your song, High God”
(Psalm 9:1-2,The Msg.).

Sunday Praise and Worship: Psalm 150

Sometimes it is good to keep our praise and worship simple. So today let’s worship our Lord by praising Him as David did with Psalm 150:

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Thy Will Be Done

A couple of years ago I read John MacArthur’s wonderful book, Alone with God: Rediscovering the Power and Passion of Prayer 1 and learned so much! I was particularly struck by a section in Chapter 6, “Your Will Be Done,” where Dr. MacArthur shares this part of Philip Keller’s A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer

Caution: you will never again sing Change My Heart, Oh God (by Ron Kenoly) without remembering this powerful story.

Author Philip Keller, while visiting in Pakistan, readJeremiah 18:2, which says, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I shall announce My words to you.” So he and a missionary went to a potter’s house in that city. In his book, A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer, he writes,

In sincerity and earnestness I asked the old master craftsman to show me every step in the creation of a masterpiece …. On his shelves were gleaming goblets, lovely vases, and exquisite bowls of breathtaking beauty.

Then, crooking a bony finger toward me, he led the way to a small, dark, closed shed at the back of his shop. When he opened its rickety door, a repulsive, overpowering stench of decaying matter engulfed me. For a moment I stepped back from the edge of the gaping dark pit in the floor of the shed. “This is where the work begins!” he said, kneeling down beside the black, nauseating hole. With his long, thin arm, he reached down into the darkness. His slim, skilled fingers felt around amid the lumpy clay, searching for a fragment of material exactly suited to his task.

“I add special kinds of grass to the mud,” he remarked. “As it rots and decays, its organic content increases the colloidal quality of the clay. Then it sticks together better.” Finally his knowing hands brought up a lump of dark mud from the horrible pit where the clay had been tramped and mixed for hours by his hard, bony feet.

With tremendous impact the first verses from Psalm 40 came to my heart. In a new and suddenly illuminating way I saw what the psalmist meant when he wrote long ago, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay.” As carefully as the potter selected his clay, so God used special care in choosing me ….

The great slab of granite, carved from the rough rock of the high Hindu Kush mountains behind his home, whirled quietly. It was operated by a very crude, treadle-like device that was moved by his feet, very much like our antique sewing machines.

As the stone gathered momentum, I was taken in memory toJeremiah 18: 3. “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.”

But what stood out most before my mind at this point was the fact that beside the potter’s stool, on either side of him, stood two basins of water. Not once did he touch the clay, now spinning swiftly at the center of the wheel, without first dipping his hands in the water. As he began to apply his delicate fingers and smooth palms to the mound of mud, it was always through the medium of the moisture of his hands. And it was fascinating to see how swiftly but surely the clay responded to the pressure applied to it through those moistened hands. Silently, smoothly, the form of a graceful goblet began to take shape beneath those hands. The water was the medium through which the master craftsman’s will and wishes were being transmitted to the clay. His will actually was being done in earth.

For me this was a most moving demonstration of the simple, yet mysterious truth that my Father’s will and wishes are expressed and transmitted to me through the water of His own Word ….

Suddenly, as I watched, to my utter astonishment, I saw the stone stop. Why? I looked closely. The potter removed a small particle of grit from the goblet …. Then just as suddenly the stone stopped again. He removed another hard object ….

Suddenly he stopped the stone again. He pointed disconsolately to a deep, ragged gouge that cut and scarred the goblet’s side. It was ruined beyond repair! In dismay he crushed it down beneath his hands….

“And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter” (Jer. 18:4). Seldom had any lesson come home to me with such tremendous clarity and force. Why was this rare and beautiful masterpiece ruined in the master’s hands? Because he had run into resistance. It was like a thunderclap of truth bursting about me!

Why is my Father’s will – His intention to turn out truly beautiful people – brought to nought again and again? Why, despite His best efforts and endless patience with human beings, do they end up a disaster? Simply because they resist His will.

The sobering, searching, searing question I had to ask myself in the humble surroundings of that simple potter’s shed was this: Am I going to be a piece of fine china or just a finger bowl? Is my life going to be a gorgeous goblet fit to hold the fine wine of God’s very life from which others can drink and be refreshed? Or am I going to be just a crude finger bowl in which passers-by will dabble their fingers briefly then pass on and forget about it? It was one of the most solemn moments in all of my spiritual experiences.

“Father, Thy will be done in earth [in clay], in me, as it is done in heaven.”


1 Copyright © Third Edition, July 1, 2011. Alone With God, John MacArthur Jr. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

2 Copyright © 1976. A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer, Philip Keller. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

#Waiting

This is simply a random thought I had the other day when someone mentioned how difficult it often is to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting

There are times when we wait and pray about something
for what seems like forever,
but since God is perfect,
that means His plans are perfect ─
which means the waiting time is part of
His perfect plan for us.
This is part of His refining and pruning process
to bring us closer to Him and His will for us.

Sunday Praise and Worship: Great Are You Lord

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I love the song “Great Are You Lord” by One Sonic Society. No matter where we are, we can always pour out our praise to the Lord through Scripture, prayer and music. 

10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly.
And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord,
the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.

11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the victory and the majesty,
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
and you are exalted as head above all.

12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might,
and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

13 And now we thank you, our God,
and praise your glorious name.

—1 Chronicles 29:10-13

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

What Christianity Offers that World Religions Don’t

Shared from the Radical.net blog.

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What Christianity Offers
that World Religions Don’t

By Patrick T. Dolan

Standing behind a row of worshipers in Kolkata, I saw the blackened figure of Kali. Around the idol’s neck lay a garland of skulls. Hanging from her earlobes were earrings draped with dead infants. Her dead eyes stared transfixed and her lolling red tongue revealed her vicious appetite for destruction and blood. At her feet, a man laid the severed head of a goat which was decapitated for ritual sacrifice. As people squeezed into the narrow passageway in front of the idol, their moans and prayers created a cacophony of desperation, but Kali was unable to answer.

Reaching Up in Vain

Almost every major world religion shares a similar story. The details are different, but each tells a tale of human beings attempting to reach up to the divine for purpose, blessing, and hope. Hindus yearn for the gods and goddesses’ blessing, so they offer daily sacrifice at their preferred shrine. Jains aim at perfection through non-violence, but no matter how diligent, negative karma floods their lives like water rushing in a boat with a cracked hull. Sikhs worship the one divine light, but their acceptance is based upon their dedication to a specific code of conduct and diet; however, moral effort cannot heal the corruption of a soul. Islam teaches that people must submit to Allah and perform five religious acts in order to please him, but even then, there is no guarantee of salvation. Buddhists renounce desire thinking they will eliminate personal suffering. They live within rigid guidelines hoping to achieve divinity or nirvana. Orthodox Jews wait for messiah and perform, as much as possible, the religious requirements of the law in hopes of gaining God’s favor.

Read the rest here.

Enduring Love

February is traditionally the month of celebrating love. The following is the love story of a very close friend and a wonderful way to end this love month!

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Enduring Love

Boarding the Greyhound bus late, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space.  She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the dim overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald, and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the handsome stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first holiday weekend. She had just enough time to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter that may have materialized from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates; of enviable cultural and educational experiences.

Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The day he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with ebullient love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled; prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors any amount of trust and reliance, accepting minuscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20, NIV). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small amount of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith will gradually mature into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing amounts of submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16, NIV)
.

God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, designating us as His current disciples.

God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated nearly fifty years ago when He answered a dubious prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70 mph!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).