Saturday, November 17, 2007

Be Lifted Up!

You can walk into most churches today, regardless of the denomination, and watch the people sitting in their pews, heads bowed low, hands in their laps, lips silent and often with a look of sadness in their eyes. God never meant it to be this way. He has other plans for man. We can read throughout the Word of God how sinners have heads bowed in shame as in Ezra 9:6 “O my God: I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”
But the man or woman of God can come to Him without shame, with heads lifted high looking to the King of Kings as He prepares to return in His glory. "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.'' (Luke 21:28) For too long the church of Jesus Christ has been acting just like the sinful world around it. The longer they look at their circumstances instead of to the God of all circumstances, the more they tend to do things the wrong way. God intends for all believers everywhere to have heads and eyes and voices and hands that are lifted high to God. It makes the Christian stand out from the crowd.
Lift Up Your Eyes
We all know the verses in Psalms 21:1-2 that tells us “I will lift up my eyes to the hills From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Often, believers will find themselves doing just that in their time of devotion and prayer...but get them into the house of God, and everything changes. We bow our heads, and close our eyes. Reverence is fine, but somehow, I think God is looking for more than just passive reverence. He wants us to look to Him in faith, with eyes of faith. If he is going to appear in the clouds as the disciples saw him go to heaven, somehow we must be looking up! Other pagan religions tend to send most of their time bowing to their false gods. Moslems are not allowed to pray looking up. The Koran forbids it. But our God tells us to lift our heads...and see him coming in the clouds of glory.
Lift Up Your Voice
Some lepers once came to Jesus looking for their healing. They were loud, and bold. “And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'' (Luke 17:13) When we have a need, we need to get just as bold and brash. Their problem had already humbled them, so they recognized their solution and went after it with all they had left, their voices. We are a lot like those lepers in that we have a need, and He has the answer.
There’s one nice thing about getting older, and that is that often, I no longer tend to worry about what other people think. I tend to want to please God more than man. After all, the older I get, the closer I get to the time when I will meet God face to face. On that day, whenever it should be, if God should ask me, “Why didn’t you praise me, unashamed?” I won’t have to say, I was worried about what my ‘neighbors’ were thinking. It has made me a more vocal and demonstrative person of praise. It has made me bolder in my prayer life. When I praise Him unashamed, others tend to do it too. When I praise Him out loud, it not only feels good to me, but it also lets others know how I feel about God. Sometimes it is even a shock treatment to the world when we hear someone cursing Him, and we in turn say “Praise the Lord!” They stop dead in their tracks. I know God is not deaf, but somehow I think He loves to hear the sound of his children praising Him, just as I love to hear the sound of my children or grandchildren as they talk to me. It won’t ruin your vocal chords to lift your voice to God and tell Him out loud how much you love Him! Try it. Get used to the sound of your voice. If you’re shy, try it alone, then try it in a praise or prayer time with others. Genuine praise is not silent! Unclench your teeth and open your mouth and lift your voice to the King!
Lift your Hands
It’s almost amusing to watch a rookie preacher trying to preach with his hands in his pockets. Hands are needed to fully express oneself. Some use them more than others. But just try to explain something without the use of your hands. It’s funny to watch people even on their cell phones using hand gestures that the hearer cannot see. The use of hands is a language, not just to the deaf community, but to the hearing as well. When we lift our hands, it generally means one of two things and God wants both of them in our lives. The first is surrender… as in a robbery...when the thief comes in the room with a loaded weapon. Our first response is to put up our hands in complete surrender. God is looking for us to completely surrender to Him. Too often we still want to control and we push our hands deeper into our pockets. The second meaning of lifted hands is intimacy. When a child comes up to you with hands lifted up, it means they want you to pick them up in your arms and hold them. They want to be carried. They want closeness and intimacy. They long to cuddle in your arms and feel safe and secure. What better position for the child of God—to be reaching for Him, longing for Him, wanting to be safe in His loving arms. That’s worship! Psalm 134:2 tells us “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.” Not only is it OK to do in church, but our bodies are also a sanctuary of praise. So wherever you are you can praise HIM!
Lift Up Your Soul
King David was not ashamed to praise the Lord and he made a habit of lifting his soul to the Lord. “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalm 25:1-2) Somehow from this verse it sounds
to me like David knew that if he were too ashamed of his faith in God, if he failed to lift up his soul to God, the result was ‘enemy take over.’ None of us likes to fail, likes to relinquish control to the enemy. We want to be victorious in our walk with God. We want victory over depression, over bad habits over sin, over discouragement, over everything that would draw us away from God. One way the Word teaches us to overcome is to first of all, draw near to God, then resist the enemy and then finally, submit ourselves completely to God, and the result is that He will in turn draw near to us. (James 4:7-8) That submission to God comes when we purify our hearts and our hands, when we walk before God without a double mindedness. God honors our honesty before Him. When we lift up our souls to God, we are saying, “I can’t handle this by myself! I need God in my life!” God responds by coming into an unequal partnership with us. We have nothing to offer, and He has everything to give. That’s what God’s covenant blessing is all about.
Be Lifted Up!
Its one thing to do the lifting and another to be the one who is lifted. Jesus said in John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Jesus was lifted in a way you and I will never know. He was lifted to hang upon a cross. Because of what He suffered, you and I can come to Him and be spiritually lifted up. The Israelites in the wilderness were bitten by snakes in Numbers 21 because they had been complaining about God and Moses. When God had Moses make a snake and put it up on a pole, those who looked upon it were healed. The serpent was a picture of sin. Christ became our sin and when He was lifted up, and we look to Him, we too are healed.
Unfortunately, we all still have a major sin problem. And in our humanistic, self-centered, self-sufficient world, we think we can handle things all by ourselves. The sooner we relinquish control, admit our problem and look to the answer, the less we suffer. Lift up your heads, your voices, your eyes, your hands, your souls, and look to the One who is waiting for you, the One who has the answers. Are you willing to let go of all the stuff in your hands? Are you willing to surrender to the One who is waiting with open arms to hug you and hold you close? Are you willing to open your clenched teeth and pour out your soul in prayer and praise to the One who is listening to the every cry of His child? Not one sound misses His ears!
When it seems like all hell is breaking loose around you and ‘normal’ is no where to be found, it’s time to recognize the One who is waiting in the wings, longing for His children. Hold your heads high and be lifted up! "It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking. And then—then!—they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!" Luke 21:25-28 (The Message Bible) J. Johnson