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Friday, April 9, 2010

Open up to God

Psalm 34:1-10; 19-20 (The Message) "I bless GOD every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. I live and breathe GOD; if things aren't going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let's get the word out. GOD met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. When I was desperate, I called out, and GOD got me out of a tight spot. GOD's angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray. Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see - how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship GOD if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness. Young lions on the prowl get hungry, but GOD-seekers are full of GOD...Disciples so often get into trouble; still, GOD is there every time. He's your bodyguard, shielding every bone; not even a finger gets broken."

I am deviating a little this morning from Psalm 119 because I think the message of Psalm 34 reminds us of the passion of David's heart in following his God; the anticipation of his hope in a God bigger than any of his problems. David is encouraged each time he reaches out to God, despite the circumstance, or how he got to where he is presently standing. In his "tight spots" of life - he finds God standing alongside.

God is unchangeable in his character - consistent in compassion, care, and constant attentiveness to our every need. David describes his heart attitude as one of looking with expectation toward his heavenly Father, never hiding from him, and trusting God for his protection. David also describes some action that he takes as he goes through his day: 1) He looks to God to be his protector, guide, and deliverer; 2) He calls out to God in his times of need, knowing that God will always hear; and 3) He worships God, knowing that his worship of God will open wide the doors of access to his heavenly father.

David wants us the understand that if we look expectantly, we will receive abundantly. What exactly do we expect from God today? What is it we are looking for God to accomplish in our lives? Exactly how are we conveying our expectations to God? Do we convey our expectations with an attitude of "God, you owe me this much" or "God, if you will..."? The attitude of our heart is revealed in our expectation.

David first "looks" to God as the one who wants to know our deepest, intimate feelings - those things that make us who we are, give us a sense of unique personality. The importance of being honest about how we "feel" with God about a circumstance, a struggle we might be enduring, or just the difficulties of a relationship, is that God knows the exact impact of those feelings on our actions. He knows that we often rely on our feelings to direct our course of action (although this is not a reliable source for our action). So, he asks us to be open about what we are feeling in order to help us interpret those feelings in the full light of his total knowledge of the situation we are facing.

To "look" implies that we exercise the power of vision so as to examine - it carries the idea that we inspect closely or test the condition of what is being examined. We are exercising some scrutiny over that which we feel - seeing if it lines up with our understanding of how God acts, how he wants us to interpret life (remembering to apply the filters of his Word in finding the interpretation). We "scrutinize" our feelings by bringing them to God and asking him to bring some "balance" to them - weeding out the unrealistic feelings (those we should not be relying on as motivators for our actions). Then he directs us into action, relying on what he has revealed to us in the times we have allowed this careful examination of our inner man.

When we direct our attention to God in confusing circumstances, he delights in bringing us clarity. Part of David's heart attitude is that he is willing to direct his attention to God's plan, running to him when all of life seems to leave him in a place of desperation or turmoil. He is ready to receive from God, because he has opened himself in times of worship and adoration of the King of Kings, focusing his attention on his Lord. David has an expectant heart, knowing the faithfulness of his God.

To have an expectant heart means that he approaches God with an anticipation of what God will reveal - not with preconceived ideas, but with an openness that says, "God, show me your plan here". Expectancy carries with it the idea of being willing to wait. Ugh! Wait? Are you kidding? When I come to God, I want the answers perfectly laid out, clearly defined, spoken in the plainest way possible! Oh, and if your don't mind, God, could you please write it down for me, complete with the full list of details and timeline for how you are going to accomplish this!?!

There are some aspects of an expectant heart that I want us to grasp this morning. First, our eyes are open to see what God is doing around us. When our eyes are really open and attentive to God's action in our lives, we are focused on him like a member of a great orchestra would be ever so attentive to the subtle moves of the orchestra leader's baton. With each subtle movement of God's hand, he "draws out" the beauty of his instruments - you and I - until we are moving in total unity with his every command. In unity with him, we are a sweet-sounding symphony of worship!

Second, expectancy of heart involves the attitude of waiting - in earnest expectation for all that God has, enthusiastically embracing his every move. There is a sense of urgency in our spirit that drives us into times of communion with our heavenly Father because there we find his comfort, his tender touch, and his leading hand. There, in his presence, we come to an assurance of his "shielding power" - even when we have managed to get ourselves in trouble, he comes alongside to lift us out of the mire of our circumstances and failures.

Last, but certainly not least, an expectant heart is one that is willing to wait. Waiting is more than a passive, uninvolved passing of time. It is the attitude of "being on the edge of your seat" - being willing to reach out beyond what is probably comfortable to us. In the times of waiting, we learn to be "stretched" in our faith - growing in our assurance of God's plan and in anticipation of his next move. Although we may not like the process of waiting, it is part of expectancy. I have had animals most of my life (cats, dogs, geese, chickens, turtles, birds, and yes, even a pet alligator). One thing I have observed with animals is that they have an ability to be "trained" in their waiting - the dog can learn to "sit", looking expectantly for the small treat that awaits them in the form of a small kibble or friendly pat from it's master's hand.

I am not saying that we are like dogs in the hands of a trainer, but I am thinking we can learn something about waiting in earnest expectancy of the touch of our Master's hand. Quietly reflecting on his Word, open to his teaching, and worshipful in our waiting. In those moments of deep communion with God, he will meet us and bring an assurance to our minds and hearts that will stabilize our walk and direct our course of action for each new day. As we learn to trust God with our deepest feelings, allowing him to bring balance into our lives, he will reveal his heart to us. Come into his presence today - enjoy your time with him.