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February 26, 2014

I have the honor in the next few days to spend some time with a pair of churches in Clinton, Oklahoma as their keynote speaker for a conference/meeting time they have each year on the first week of March. While I will miss my family dearly, I felt it was important to accept this call to go and work alongside them for a few days. It is an exciting opportunity, and I am truly blessed to have the chance to speak with them!

The over-arching theme for our time together is “Beyond”. God has plans for us as individuals and us corporately as the Church which are beyond our ability to understand. Beyond these walls… beyond our conventions… beyond our personal desires… beyond our wildest dreams… 

Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

I know many of us have heard that verse hundreds, if not thousands of times, and each time it becomes easier to say “yeah yeah, I get it…” and go on with status quo ruling the day. But that’s not God’s design for us. See, God explains His plan for us in two passages of Scripture. Go with me to Matthew chapter 22.

Matthew 22:37-40 – “Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Part of God’s ultimate plan for us is to love Him with all we have and all we are, all the while loving those around us who have been created in His image. Through this we prosper personally in our walk and maturity, and others prosper because they have the opportunity to come and know the saving knowledge of Christ in their lives.

Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Another part of God’s ultimate plan is for those who love Him with all they are and love those around them to give away what they’ve been given. We as followers of Christ have been given the gift of personally knowing what true freedom feels like. God’s mandate is that we would take what we’ve been given and share it with the world.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

God’s final piece lines up with Matthew 28’s mandate. We who are made new in Christ have indeed received the Holy Spirit, and it is our mission to be witnesses in our community, in our city, state, nation, and across the globe.

God’s plan to prosper us and give us a hope and a future both personally and corporately hinges on whether or not we are willing to undertake the aspects of the plan. Anyone who has ever been in the military, played an organized sport, or played in a marching band understands this concept. The plan is made plain, but if we don’t execute our part in it, it does not come to fruition.

That’s pretty daunting, right? It might leave you wondering where to begin, or if you’ll be able to even complete one objective, much less all of them. It doesn’t help when God doesn’t give you more than one or two steps at a time. Oh sure, the path from where you’ve come is fully lighted, but the step in front of you is the only one you can see ahead. We can lock up, freeze up, and give up if we’re not careful. We need Selah.

What is Selah? I’m glad you asked!

The main use of the word “Selah” in the Bible are found in the Psalms, along with three mentions in Habbakuk. Selah (celah) is from the Hebrew root word “calah” which means “to hang”, and implies the idea of measuring or weighing. In Biblical history, money, food, and other valuables were weighed by hanging or suspending them on some sort of balance scale to determine their value.

The Psalms show 73 instances of the word “Selah”, and when taken in the context of measuring or weighing, the consensus of most scholars is that the Psalmist was stating the importance of pausing and reflecting upon what was just read or sung.

I want to take this a step further. I believe God desires for His people to pause and reflect on who He is. His character… His ways… His Word… His Son…  We’ve all heard the saying: hindsight is always 20/20. Remember when I mentioned earlier that we can all see the path behind us, but only the step in front of us?  I believe that is intentional, as it causes us to “Selah”… to pause and reflect on where we’ve been, and how God has led us to this point.  

Take a moment and watch this video.

Our world is full of distractions. School, work, friends, foes, family, news, weather, etc… whatever you can think of can become a distraction. However, good things can become a distraction as well. Church events, meetings, studies, trips, etc… each of these and more, which we would call “good” or “godly” things, can become just as much of a distraction to our ability to see what God has done and is doing. God calls us to “Selah”… to pause and reflect… to measure and be measured…

We must be willing to measure what we read in God’s Word, and be measured by God through His Word. True “Selah” requires a pause… a breath… a quiet heart and a contrite spirit. If we are to measure and be measured, it is important to follow Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 5.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 – “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do no be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

Measuring requires intellectual knowledge God’s Word. Being measured, however, requires an intimate knowledge of God and a willingness to be intimate with Him. God is already intimate with us, as He formed our very being. He knows us inside and out. That’s how He wants us to know Him: to be so passionate about knowing Him that we become one with Him. In order to get beyond where we currently are… in order to get beyond status quo… beyond our preconceived notions of who God is, what the church is here for… we must be willing and able to submit to transparency with one another and intimacy with God.

NOTE: Transparency does not mean that you share your deepest, darkest pain with everyone who calls themselves a Christ-follower. It does, however, mean that you live a life which is authentic and real. No masks, no pretense…

With that in mind, I encourage you to spend some time practicing “Selah”. Stop. Remember the One who has plans for us. Take a moment to put the distractions, personal agendas, opinions, hurts, responsibilities, and people aside. Pause and reflect. Measure and be measured.

Take your Bible and turn to Revelation Chapter 4. Read this passage.

Revelation 4:1-11 – After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Take a moment to internally pour over this picture of the throne room of God. Imagine walking into this scene. What would your reaction be?

This is the God we pray to. The God who was and is and is to come. The God who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power, who created all things by His will… The God who has plans for you to prosper and not come to harm. The God who desires for you to “Selah” with Him. With that in mind, spend some time in silent prayer giving thanks and praise to Him.

Now, with your mind and heart in proper alignment with God, I want you to spend the next several moments praying for others. You can be as general or as specific as you like in your requests, but this is a safe place. This is what God desires. His people praying for each other, lifting each other up just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands during the battle against the Amalekites. Take some time and pray for others now.

Finally, allow me to pray for you.

Father God, I come before you as a man interceding for my brothers and sisters who are reading this post. Whether they be many or few, it is important to me that I lift them up to you. You are worthy of all praise and honor, God, and we unfortunately don’t give you nearly the amount of time or effort you deserve. I ask, Father for you to provide moments of “Selah” for each person who calls upon your name. I pray for moments i their lives where they can pause and reflect… where they can measure what they’ve read in your Word and simultaneously be measured by the Word. May they find time each day to put this into practice… may they continually be centered on you, ready to fulfill the plans you have for them, that they might prosper and not come to harm; that they might have a hope and a future in you. 

In the name and power of Jesus I pray, Amen.

I want you to know, I realize special moments of pause and reflection are hard to come by. I know in my own life there’s not always enough time strung together to spend an hour in quiet reflection. Life in my house with my wife and three children is super busy, and things can get out of hand quickly. With that in mind, I want to challenge you to do the following:

Picture with me a remote control. You’ve got a play button, and a pause button. Take a sticky-note and put the two little strips on it that signify the pause button. Hang that sticky note on your bathroom mirror. Hang another one next to the coffee pot in the kitchen. Maybe another one on the dash of your car, and another on your desk at work or school. Every time you see that note, take a moment or two to talk with God. Take a momentary “Selah” and pause to reflect on what God’s doing in your life. Measure the Word and be measured by the Word for just a minute or two. If you do that a few times a day, you’ll find you’ve spent more time with God than ever before!

Remember what the verse directly AFTER Jeremiah 29:11 says…

Jeremiah 29:12-13 – “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

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