He Who Calls

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Today on the commute to work I was listening to Hillsong’s No Other Name album as I normally do. I haven’t in a while because I’ve forgotten to charge my iPod but I remembered to the other day. I was feeling a little woozy on the bus and decided to take out my headphones and listen to it.

I was remembering how early on (when I started to first come to Hillsong) I would listen to my iPod and various Hillsong albums and have my eyes closed on the bus to or from work. More often than not I would see a vision of myself smiling and singing and dancing and lifting my hands to the songs. Maybe that seems normal but for me, prior to Hillsong, I can count on one hand or a few fingers the amount of times I’ve lifted my hands in worship. It was just never my thing. I never judged people who did, but I didn’t want to feel guilted into worshiping how other people do just to feel like I was doing Christianity properly.

Fast forward in time and now it feels weird not no lift my hands in worship. And that’s a cool thing. I remembered who I was and now who I am and it dawned on me that maybe God was showing me what He would see me doing one day. I wasn’t yet there, but He exists outside of time and had revealed something to me.

Anyway, I was listening to whatever song came on this morning and I saw myself singing and dancing around on stage like we usually do at church in choir, in the background, with the worship team on any given Sunday. But this time I was singing two lines. I wrote them in my phone which is why I included them in today’s picture. The first was “He who calls me to crush the heads of snakes”. And a few minutes later the second was “He who calls me to dance on graves”. I started to imagine me dancing on stage and looking down as the floor was covered in snakes. They didn’t try to bite me, they didn’t try to squeeze me, it was like no one was phased by it. Then I stopped day-dreaming and whatever the next song was started.

I decided today at work to look up these two things in the Bible. First snakes and then graves.

Here are some examples of verses that talk about snakes:

Psalm 91:1-13 You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you— under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon. Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you. You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses. Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

Luke 10:18-20

Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”

How cool is that? It makes total sense now right? My first reaction whenever I’ve had any sort of dreams or visions is to go to the Bible first and see if it’s actually from God. I have my fair share of pointless or disturbing or random dreams and not all of them are worth exploring. But I was so excited after reading these verses because I got a few important points out of them:

  • God rescues me from hazardous situations i.e. “snakes” which can be many obstacles, negative comments about you, gossip, sinful temptations, etc.
  • Wikipedia defines snakes in one sections as “Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.” In other words…there are different kinds of snakes. Some who appear non-threatening but can literally consume you or destroy you through consistent pressure and some that you know you should avoid completely because they are lethal. Wow.
  • Psalm 91 says that I’ll watch safely from a distance kind of like how I saw this vision and no matter the amount of snakes, I knew that I was safe and smiling and dancing like nothing was wrong
  • God is showing me what He has done for me i.e. I have safe passage as I walk on “snakes” through life because of His authority over and presence in me

Here are some examples of verses that talk about graves:

Psalm 30:2-3

God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. God, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.

Jonah 2:1-9

[ At the Bottom of the Sea ] Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: “In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry. You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave, With ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’ Ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight. My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root. I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever— Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I’m worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God!”

Matthew 27:51-53

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

Once again I found these verses amazingly cool! Here are some takeaways from what I read:

  • When we are “6 feet under” and have been pronounced “dead” in areas of our life, whether these are dreams, relationships, our optimism, whatever it might be we need to remember that when we call out for help God will pull us out of the grave. He pulled himself out of the grave and rose from the dead, and as children of God we have access to that same resurrection power. We have reason to hope.
  • Prior the Hillsong I had a lot of hardships ranging from an abusive relationship to a dysfunctional relationship with my father to betrayals by friends and just overall despair and depression. When entering Hillsong I was desperate for a change. I was always in church every Sunday throughout my life and always considered myself to be born-again, but that doesn’t mean you are immune to life. Life happens, hurt happens, but you can choose what kind of seed your life has. I mean this in the Matthew 13 kind of way. For those of you who don’t know it says: “A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” I think in my pre-Hillsong season I had seeds, I had moments where growth sprouted through different seasons but through various storms I withered and weeds began to strangle me. My hope withered, my view of God withered, and had I grown stronger roots I wouldn’t have died as quickly. You see? So I relate to Jonah in the part where he says “I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple”. So often I felt unloved or betrayed by God. That He saw me but wasn’t acting on my behalf. That I was being punished for some past sinful behavior. That He didn’t love me as much as He loved other Christians.
  • As low as you think you’ve gone, God can quickly pull you out. Jonah knows this first hand: “I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever— Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God”
  • I forget some times that when Jesus rose from the dead that other people rose with Him. In other words, nothing that looks dead in a Christian’s life can stay dead.

I love this song from this morning because it is a simple picture of what God has accomplished in just two years. “He who calls me to crush the heads of snakes/He who calls me to dance on graves”.

Be hopeful that whatever is trying to devour you, God has equipped you to crush. Be excited that whatever looks long dead, God will make come alive. God calls us by name and we see this proven in the Bible when He calls out to Adam, Moses, Samuel, and many other people. Never become bitter and believe that God has forgotten you or doesn’t know who you are. He does. And if He can show Himself faithful to me and speak to me I know He can call out for you too.

Judah Smith 10/17/14 “Home Sweet Home”

I was just feeling heavy-hearted. I feel like this once in a while and literally my internal voice will say to me “I want to go home”. It sometimes feels childlike to say that. Like I’m at work. Or I’m out doing something and for whatever reason I just want to go home. I was remembering today that one of the teachings during the Hillsong Conference touched on this very topic. I recorded the message for later use while listening to it live and today decided to listen to it again at my desk during my day at work. Just listening to Judah’s voice made me happy. It reminded me of the great time of preaching and worship during those three nights and two days. I often feel this way after events such as this and even after Sunday services at church. I just want to be in that place forever. I don’t want to go back into my stress or my “real life” during the week. I want to dwell there in those moments 24/7.

Have you ever felt this way?

I think it often comes when I am overwhelmed, non-confrontational, and just overall not in a happy place. We all go through times like this when we’d much rather be at home with the kids, or in bed, or snuggling up by a fireplace watching movies. Whatever your “home” image looks like. But today it dawned on me that what I really actually want is to be at peace, at home, with Jesus. Sometimes I just want to feel safe. I want to re-calibrate. I want to refuel. After listening to this message I don’t feel 100% night and day but I certainly feel better than I did before.

I hope this encourages you:

Major Points from “Home Sweet Home”:

  • Is my soul healthy? Is my soul well? Is it well with your soul?
  • Scripture says “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” – 3 John 1:2 ESV
  • God is concerned with the inside far more than the outside–this is why the mind, soul, heart, and spirit are mentioned so much in the Bible.
  • Judah travels a lot and hates traveling and loves the feeling of relaxation and the natural exhale you let out when you are finally back home. This is something about being home because is your space and your sanctuary. You need to go home and you need to visit home often. People were designed to have homes – if you do not visit your home often it affects your personality, your emotions, and your overall health.
  • When was the last time my soul was home? How is my soul? In order to find out we have to go back to Creation.
  • Man was created as a shell/deactivated. When Adam was created there was no mention that he was human, alive, or living until he receives the breath of God. Genesis 2:7 KJV “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
  • When you speak about your soul you are simultaeously speaking about the breath of God. We are all living on borrowed breath. Therefore your soul is the breath of God.
  • To be truly human we must use the breath He gave us and use it to bring Him praise–all of creation is a theater for God’s glory
  • All of creation yearns for Jesus’s return (hills, lakes, trees, etc) all understand they exist to worship God. The trees get it. Their limbs shake in excitement waiting for Him to come. They can’t wait. (This is a wild thought isn’t it?)
  • In scripture Jesus is told that he must make people stop praising Him. Jesus replies that even if a human won’t praise me–even the rocks and trees will grow hands and mouths to praise me.
  • Luke 19:37-38 “Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:

    Blessed is he who comes,
        the king in God’s name!
    All’s well in heaven!
        Glory in the high places!

    39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”

  •  Psalm 103 has 22 verses which is equivalent to 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet..it’s the A-Z of life–beginning and ending with “bless the Lord”
  • The Hebrew mind would have read the Psalm and instead of merely understanding it to say praise the Lord oh my soul they would recognize that it is really saying “praise the Lord oh my breath”
  • Judah’s friend is a recent follower of Jesus. Was convinced of Jesus being the real deal when he read the book of John after seeing someone else was reading that book. He explained his experience as follows “it was like coming home” something within him knew this was home. This book was home. What it was saying was home.
  • You can go home even when you’re not physically in your home. This can be through reading the Bible, singing a song, listening to a song, anything that brings your soul home no matter where you are physically.
  • Concluding story of Mary and Martha—“Mary has chosen the better thing.” Perfect illustration because it takes place in a house. Mary is literally home but she is at home in Jesus’s presence. Luke 10:42 shows Jesus addressing the condition of Martha’s soul: “But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

So today no matter where you are, does your soul need to go home? I encourage you to take a moment whether it be in your bedroom, in a public bathroom, in a dressing room, or on your lunch break to visit home. Give rest to your weary soul. I can guarantee you will feel more rested than when you started.

Photo Credit: https://www.premierproductions.com/tour/hillsong-conference-usa-2014/new-york-city-ny

Monday Inspiration 8.4.14

 

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It is definitely a weakness of mine to believe the lie that I am not beautiful. I think that’s just life for a lot of women today. There will always be the ideal beauty: a fuller chest, a thin waist, curvy hips, slender legs, straight white teeth, long wavy tresses of hair, etc etc etc. It is not hard to find fault in your appearance if you are honest. But today I remembered something. I remembered that even Christ himself was not considered “beautiful” by the world’s standards. Don’t believe me?:

 

Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message
       and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He (Jesus) grew up before him like a tender shoot,
       and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
       nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3He was despised and rejected by men,
       a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
       Like one from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

 

Wow right? I think when we sing songs or praise Jesus we tend to think about His beauty. Here are just three examples off the top of my head:

“No Other Name” – “His face shines brighter than the Sun”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus” – “Look full in His wonderful face”

“Oh Lord, You’re beautiful/Your face is all I see”

 

I think because of this we just assume that Christ was stunning to look at. But it clearly says in the Bible he wasn’t anything special to the point where he is compared to someone whom others would hide their faces from. And yet—it does not stop people from loving him. Today, yesterday, forever all of the Earth will one day sing his praises. 

You see? God could create anything. The highest beauty and yet, his own son–Jesus was not visually remarkable. I think this is actually perfect because it shows that physical beauty is not as important as inner beauty. Christ lives inside of us as Christians. Therefore if Christ is beautiful in Spirit he makes me beautiful because he lives in me. Christ also looks at our hearts and if we are generous and loving and all God–honoring things–that is what true beauty is.

So today if there is anything you look in the mirror at and find fault with–just remember you are a child of the King. His beauty exceeds the standards of beauty here on Earth. His face shines brighter than the Sun:

2 Corinthians 3:18 MSG

All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

 

Photo Credit: Etsy.com