Tag Archives: God’s promises

Posture of Worship: The Place of Hope

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Does this holding this position look easy to you? Because it's not. (Image from Ballroom Dance Chicago blog)

Does this holding this position look easy to you? Because it’s not. (Image from Ballroom Dance Chicago blog)

On the dance floor, professional dancers are easy to spot: it’s all about their posture – how they move and carry themselves.  In the same way, those who are amateurs (or non-dancers!) are just as easily marked by their lack of appropriate posture.  Graceless bumbling, sloppy lines, and cringe-worthy missteps can result from poor posture.  Posture is a habit that must be either learned – or unlearned.

What does that have to do with anything at all?  Well, I had an inkling and did a quick Google search to confirm my suspicions: the word “posture” and the word “imposter” come from the same Latin root.  (Nifty, right?!  I certainly thought so!)  An imposter is someone who is simply a fake posing as the real thing – but imposters are easily spotted because they just can’t pull off the part.  Their posture marks them as inauthentic.  Either you’ve got the posture, or you’re nothing but an imposter.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 NKJV

I have been thinking a lot about hope recently.  I have been eager to write about this subject again, but each time I write about hope, it is always more of a challenge than I anticipate.  Sometimes it seems as though nothing goes the way I expect – and everyone feels this way on occasion.  You are likely familiar with some of the feelings that commonly accompany this thought: helplessness, uncertainty, frustration, disappointment – a sense of being adrift.  We must be diligent to acknowledge then eradicate these feelings before they devolve into what it possibly one of the most dangerous mindsets we could hold: hopelessness.  Though we truly feel these things, we must realize that they are not the Truth (which is that we have been renewed into the living hope that is Jesus Christ and the good inheritance we have through Him – check out 1 Pet. 1:3-5).  Hope is a raw, wild, beautiful subject that encompasses all the highs and lows of life, and it should be handled accordingly.  Connecting it to the idea of posture, I am going to make this statement:

True hope can only be experienced from a posture of worship.

I recently finished a two-month reading through the book of Exodus.  I am continually fascinated by the story of God’s people.  Throughout Exodus, we see how God released and continues to release His people from bondage.  As the Exodus story begins to unfold, Moses brought word to God’s people of God’s coming deliverance and showed them signs to prove the authenticity of the message.  At this point, the Israelites eagerly believed and bowed to worship God (Ex. 4:31).  We all love to hear a special word from God, to feel His presence strongly and clearly.  There’s just something about those precious moments that make worship the obvious and irresistible response.

But then things didn’t go as they had hoped.  When Moses went before Pharaoh to call for the release of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, Pharaoh scoffed and forced the Israelites to continue making bricks for his building projects – only now they had to do it without the benefit of being given the necessary straw.  Wait a minute – it didn’t have instant results?!  Pharaoh was supposed to set the Israelites free, right?!  God had promised to deliver them, so they suddenly felt they had the right to be angry that their situation was seemingly getting worse instead of better.  In their angst, the Israelites promptly gave up on the promises of Yahweh, and they immediately chose to blame Moses, crying out for God to judge Moses harshly (Ex. 5:18-21).  They quickly forgot the goodness of God – seriously, less than one chapter of Scripture separates these events!  Theirs was a small hope indeed, for they allowed it to be snuffed out the moment an unexpected circumstance arose.

Once again, God’s people were caught up in the hype of the moment: up, down, trusting, despairing – all as their circumstances dictated.  Giving up and blaming others (including God) are two common results of disappointment.  God’s people didn’t look for the bigger picture, and even Moses freaked out when they blamed him for the turn of circumstances (Ex. 5:22-23).  What was God’s response to this?  “Now you shall see what I will do…” (Ex. 6:1).  You see, God isn’t focused only on immediacy; He looks at the full story – the Story He has already written and knows from beginning to end (see Ps. 139:16-18).  God’s view isn’t limited to the scant sliver of time and space that we can see.

Life without true hope is like being trapped on a perpetual roller-coaster ride of emotions and circumstances.

Life without true hope is like being trapped on a perpetual roller-coaster ride of emotions and circumstances.

Like the Israelites, I forget to worship continually.  Instead, I remember to worship only when life is going “well” (according to my standards), and I begin to grumble or fret when they don’t.  Like God’s people, I can become distraught when my circumstances don’t match my expectations about His promises.  I forget to remain in a posture of worshipful trust and instead choose to let my faulty perceptions tell me what to believe about life, about myself, and sometimes even about the nature of God.  When I revert from a posture of worship to a posture of hopelessness or fear, I become an imposter, trying to fake a life of trust and obedience.  If I say, “God, I trust you” but am consumed by despair when I don’t like my circumstances or outcomes, I am merely an imposter who isn’t truly living with the hope I profess. Genuine trust flows only from a posture of worship, and genuine hope can find a home only in the life of a person who is living from a posture of worship.

In the altar-call, vision-from-the-Lord moments of life, it feels easy to choose a posture of worship, and these moments are both totally valid understandably meaningful.  What I’ve realized, however, is that we, as Christians, often don’t know what to do after those moments, when we finally stop weeping (or laughing), the meeting ends, or another obligation arises that requires our attention.  Two imperfect responses are common: either we simply “collect ourselves” and go on precisely as we did before, or we decide that our lives would be best served by living one “Jesus-high” to the next.  But neither of these responses indicates a true posture of worship.  The act of “doing worship” (singing songs, etc.) and the intentional maintenance of a posture of worship in daily life are not necessarily equivalent.  Specifically in regard to the second response, while I won’t argue that houses of prayer, worship movements, or revival-style meetings are valid ways to continue seeking God, it has become popular in Christendom (especially for people of my generation) to become fixated on the act of worshipping without necessarily learning how to live from a true posture of worship.

Okay, so perhaps we don’t always really know what to do with God’s promises and the things that He speaks to us.  Often, like the Israelites, we eagerly receive, claim, and cling to God’s promises – then we create a mental script of how we think these promises will play out.  We concoct genius plans of how to get to where God has told us we are going, becoming easily enamored by the “how” of the promises.  Then, in mere moments, our plans can come tumbling down around us when circumstances don’t proceed as we thought they should (or hoped they would).  In these instances, we unfortunately often choose to blame God.  But if we do that, we must realize that means we are blaming God for our inaccurate assumptions about life.  We know that God’s promises to us are faithful and true because “He is faithful in all He does” (Ps. 33:4), and all His promises are made “yes” and “amen” to us through Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20).  And if we truly believe that God is faithful and true in all His ways, then it is not Him who needs to change but us.

I can say this confidently not because I always get it right but because I frequently get it wrong.  When life doesn’t go the way I hope, it becomes all too easy to embrace a martyr-like sense of hopelessness.  (That is, I allow myself to have the mindset of “Here I am, obeying God, wallowing through life until a better someday.”  As I said, it’s a false sense of suffering, and ultimately it will hamper my ability to actually see the good that God is doing.)  I am a person who finds a great deal of both pleasure and security in planning for and thinking about the future.  (If life is a journey, I’d like a map, please!)  I have plenty of God-dreams and goals, and I thought I knew the route I’d take to get to those things – but it turns out that I have been wrong numerous times.  A recent pattern in my life has been that God is continually stripping away my so-called plans – plans that I was excited about and had invested a lot of my hope in.  And as my plans have been stripped away, I have had to honestly confront the source of my hope: is it in my plans, or is it truly in God, whom I claim to trust whole-heartedly?  Am I living in true Hope, or am I an imposter, skimming by in my own strength and trying to live one “Jesus-high” moment to the next?  I’ve been asking God a lot of questions and doing a lot of soul-searching lately, and through it I have been learning both humility and trust.  (It’s amazing how God always manages to teach me those things, and how there is always more for me to learn!)

True hope grounds us, holding us steady.

True hope grounds us, holding us steady.

Disappointment, when handled appropriately, provides an excellent opportunity for reevaluating priorities and beliefs.  Why?  According to Romans 5:5, “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  This is true Hope: that, enabled and guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, we live and rest in the consistent goodness and utter faithfulness of God’s nature, which is the foundation of His promises.

This is the posture of worship.  Hope becomes our anthem as we recognize that our lives are secure in the Living Hope that is our “living God and everlasting King” (Jer. 10:10).  Everything else will disappoint, but hope grounded in our God will never fail us.  Coming to God in the steady hope of faith, we “must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).  When worshipping our God becomes the focus of our lives, hope is a natural result, leaving us free to live in joyful expectation of seeing “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).  When we have true hope, we are no longer subject to the ups and downs of circumstances or the changeable cries of our emotions.  I don’t know about you, but I crave the freedom that comes from living in and with true hope.

If we don’t position our lives in a posture of worship, we will never experience God’s goodness not because He has ceased to be good but because we will be chronically blind to it.  So how can we choose and maintain a posture of worship in our lives?

The answer is simple: choose worship.  Always.

There is no better way to combat hopelessness, depression, and despair than to choose to worship God.  Your attitude will affect everything else, including how you respond to situations and how you perceive your life.  If you can’t get your eyes off yourself and onto God, you are never going to be able to live in the fullness of hope.  When we choose to rejoice in God’s goodness and sovereignty, we find ourselves more able to stop clinging and to make room in our lives for Him to work His best in and through us.  Practically, this may look like committing to listening only to worship music for a certain period of time.  (I do not merely mean “Christian” music but legitimate, solid music that exalts the Lord rather than self and tunes your heart to what God is saying and doing).  Perhaps it means getting into the habit of telling God “thank you” more often, considering all the good He has done and is yet to do.  Or maybe for you it means engaging fully in corporate worship with your church (even when you don’t feel like worshipping.)  I encourage you (and myself): you have control over your emotions.  Choose to worship and allow your spirit to rise to the occasion rather than wallowing in self-pity.  Position yourself to receive and live in hope.

It is important to understand that a posture of worship is not necessarily physical.  Maintaining a posture of worship is oftentimes about your spiritual, mental, and emotional state.  However, sometimes, when despair and fear begin to creep in and hope seems to be nothing more than a distant yearning, we need to intentionally put our physical bodies in a posture of worship.  There comes a time when you need to get on your face before God – literally.  (From experience, I recommend choosing a spot with a rug or carpet.)

 “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise…”
– Heb. 10:35-36

What are you doing to maintain or improve your posture, my friends?  Hope is not just for “someday” – it is right now, beautiful, wild, and alive in Jesus, the final culmination of God’s every promise and good plan for you.  Today and every day that follows, may we choose to live from a perpetual posture of true worship and embrace the freedom of hope that comes with it.  This is how my conversation with God began this week, and I hope it will be a new beginning for you as well:

Lord, I invite You to replace the bad, the good, and even the “better” with Your best in my life.  When I remain in a posture of worship, despair and grumbling find no purchase.  Fear slips away in the sweetness of your Presence.  This is where I belong, what I was created for: a life of worship.  Position my heart to worship and listen.  Posture my flesh to be in continual subjection to Your Spirit.  I choose worship; I choose freedom to worship You in the fullness of hope and abundant life.  Tune my life, my mind, my heart, and my flesh to the music of Your Spirit.  Amen.

Black and white Hope

Timeless Trust

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A very wonderful and wise lady at my church said that we wouldn’t have to say, “I trust you” if there were no question of the path.  Isn’t that so true?  “I trust you” isn’t something we randomly say to start a conversation like a “Hey, how are you doing?” sort of greeting; it is something deep and personal that we say when we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.  Real trust is always revealed in the face of uncertain circumstances.

Yet trust is a tricky thing because it makes us vulnerable.  Trust is about relying on someone or something other than yourself to come through for you, and that can feel scary – dangerous, even.  And that is where we run into trouble trusting God.  Oh, we know we are supposed to trust Him, knowing that His plans are best and that He is good.  So, like good Christians, we place our “trust” in God – but just in case He doesn’t come through on His promises, we devise a back-up plan, a Plan B to implement when Plan A just isn’t working out.

In The Princess Bride, Westley told Buttercup that he would always come for her because that is what true love does – it keeps promises and always prevails.  Always, Westley said.  Now, long story short: Westley left, Buttercup ended up engaged to the horrid Prince Humperdinck, Westley came back only to be parted from Buttercup again.  Then the prince was going to force Buttercup to marry him.  At the wedding ceremony, Buttercup waited in all the defiance of her certainty that Westley was coming.  She goaded the prince, gloating that Westley was coming to rescue her.

And then the hasty ceremony was over, and her words broke something deep inside me: “He didn’t come.”  He didn’t come.  How often do we say that about God?  We find ourselves in situations, waiting expectantly for certain, even promised outcomes, and then we hit the point where our situation becomes so hopeless, so unalterable, that we give up on trusting Him.

"He didn't come."

“He didn’t come” — Do you sometimes feel like that?

The problem is that we put limits on our trust – particularly time limits.  When things don’t happen and promises aren’t fulfilled according to our concept of a “timely manner,” our trust falters.  After the marriage ceremony, Buttercup’s trust in Westley failed.  She had gone past the point of no return, and so she jumped, in a matter of minutes, to her back-up plan.  As she prepared for suicide (a dramatic but not entirely uncommon back-up plan), Westley revealed his presence.  Of course, she is delighted to see him but is also grieved at her recent marriage to the prince.  Yet Westley announces that it wasn’t what it seemed – she isn’t really married to that cad and is free to leave with Westley instead.  You see, Westley and Buttercup had different perspectives.  Buttercup was so caught up in her disappointment that things weren’t “working out” that she failed to see circumstances as they really were.

I find that this is a very honest depiction of our relationship with God: time-bound trust, unmet expectations, uncertain outcomes – and a back-up plan to “save” us from disappointment and make us feel secure.  My dear friends, we have to give up our back-up-plan way of life.  What does that mean?  It means that you give yourself fully to what God is doing in you and through you.  It means that you don’t plot out what you will do if (insert promise here) doesn’t come to pass (even though God said it would).  It also means – and this is very important – that you don’t plan how you will be “happy” if God doesn’t come through for you. 

Now, don’t get indignant about that statement; let me explain.  I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be content with life or that we shouldn’t find joy in simply being in relationship with our King.  After all, that is more than enough because He is more than enough.  But we cannot spend our time planning on how we will be good, happy Christians if God’s promises fail because that is the same as renouncing our trust in Him; if we are thinking this way, we are basically affirming that He isn’t “coming for us.”  I have done this many times – even recently (as in yesterday): sitting and thinking about how I will decide to be “content” even if my God-dreams never become reality.  Warning bells should have been going off in my head long ago – or perhaps they were and I was too busy being a “happy Christian” to hear them.  There is a MAJOR problem here: this kind of thinking is reliant on lies about God’s goodness and faithfulness (or lack thereof).

I never considered it bad to have a back-up plan, and I never considered it incongruous to have a back-up plan even as I claim to trust God completely.  In fact, I never even realized that I had back-up plans for my life until I realized that none of them would work out.  Sometimes God has to take all other options away for us to realize that our trust needs to be in Him alone.  I’m not even out of college, and I had back-up plans for my back-up plans for the rest of my life.  I sensed the Lord smiling knowingly as He asked me this last week, “And how is that working out for you?” as I stood amidst my crumbling, last-resort plans.  Obviously it wasn’t working out so well.

Now, take note that nothing happened to break God’s promises in my life; the only thing that had a break-down was my plans for “just in case” God’s promises don’t come through.  This brings up an interesting point: not only can we follow our own plans for our lives, we can also (and perhaps more dangerously) be following God’s plan for our life in our own strength.  That is why we desperately need to listen to the heart of Proverbs 3:5-6:

The path is straight and sure, but that doesn't mean you can see its end.

The path is straight and sure, but that doesn’t mean you can see its end.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct [make smooth, make straight] your paths.”

The truth is that, in order to “trust in the Lord with all your heart,” you actually can’t lean on your own knowledge, your own strength, your own back-up plans.  Relying on your own strength will make your path confusing and fraught with worry, and when you are trusting in your own strength – even while following God’s plans – you will never be able to see the fullness of His blessing and faithfulness in your life.  According to these verses, all we are required to do is trust Him; we don’t have to strain or struggle to discern the route or try to “figure things out.”  And notice that the promise that God will direct you, making your path smooth and straight, doesn’t mean that you get to see your path beginning to end.  God calls us to take part in His adventure, and He guarantees His goodness toward us.

It is hard to give up your back-up plan when your every fear rises up to scream that you need to protect yourself and that God’s promises cannot be trusted.   But we can refute and lay aside these fears with strength and victory, by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace.  Know all His promises are “yes and amen” (2 Cor. 1:20) and that He is always faithful even when we are faithless because He cannot deny His nature (2 Tim. 2:13).

And so I will leave you with the words of the Lord from Isaiah 55:10-11.  May these beautiful words of life stir up a fresh hope within you as you wait for the sure promises of our Lord, who always comes for you; and may He expand your trust beyond the boundaries of time into the limitlessness of eternity:

spring buds“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may bring seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”