Thursday, October 31, 2013

Praise God Always

A couple of days ago, I wrote a bit about how Psalm 34 has been a psalm that I've been drawn to lately. There's much in the psalm that I decided I would take a few posts to focus on smaller segments of it.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
     His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
     let the afflicted here and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
     let us exalt His name together.
                                    Psalm 34:1-3

David began his cry to God with praise. Even when things in life were not going well, he began with praising God. That was where David turned in every situation - to God and to praise.

"I will extol the LORD at all times . . ."

Extol isn't a word we commonly use today, so I looked it up. It means "to praise highly; laud; eulogize." David was declaring that he would lift the name of God highly.

David also declared the he would lift God's name all the time. It wasn't a one time thing for him. It was something he would do all the time - whatever else he was doing.

". . . His praise will always be on my lips . . ."

David felt that lifting God's name high in every situation was important enough that he needed to repeat himself. Here he declares that words to lift God's name high will always be coming out of his mouth - whatever situation he may be in.

". . . I will glory in the LORD . . ."

When David speaks of glory here, he is talking about giving God honour and admiration. It is "adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving." And all of this would come about because of Who God is.

". . . let the afflicted here and rejoice . . ."

David knew that praise of God was the way out of any tough situation that we are facing. He wanted those who were in distress to hear the praise of God and be turned from their troubles to God.

". . . Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together."

David called all those who would be listening to join him in praising God in all circumstances. He called on people to praise God together with other people. It wasn't just something he was going to do. He knew the importance for all of us to do this and invited us to join him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Honest with God

I've always found the Psalms to speak very well to all aspects of life. The honesty about all of the emotions that come in life draws me in. David wrote many of them and he always seemed to be honest with God. I think that is a reason why we commonly call him a man after God's own heart. Instead of hiding it or trying to pretend it wasn't real, David took it all to God. He cried everything he was feeling out to God - the good, the bad, and the ugly. But he always came around to trusting God, no matter what he was bringing to God.

Lately, I've been drawn to Psalm 34. This psalm is filled with promises of God's hearing and answering the cries of those who call out to Him. And that He will restore those who call to Him in their trouble.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
     His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD;
     let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
     let us exalt His name together.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me;
     He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
     their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
     He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
     and He delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
     blessed if the one who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the LORD, you His holy people,
     for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
     but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
     I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
     and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
     and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
     seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
     and His ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
     to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
      He delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
     and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
     but the LORD delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bines,
     not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
     the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue His servants;
     no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

David was declaring to those who would be hearing this psalm God's protection for those who trust in Him who are in trouble. David wrote this psalm while he was on the run from Saul - a time when he really needed God to protect him from harm and rescue him from his enemies.

This is the same way we can call out to God and be honest with Him in our own lives.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Minute Friday:Together

It`s that time again. Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker`s blog. Five minutes of unedited writing that we then share. Today`s word is together.

Ì enjoy it when we spend time together.

She said those words as I climbed in my car. She walked away before I could respond. If she hadn`t I would have responded the same way.

I enjoyed spending time with her too. But this was the first time in three months we had taken the time to spend together. We had our list of excuses why it hadn`t worked for us to get together, but I wondered as I drove away how true our excuses really where.

Sure I had lots of things going on in my life, but I still always found time to spend with people if I wanted to. And I knew that she was home most evenings because we would chat online. But that online chat that we tried to make replace seeing each other face-to-face really didn`t do it. It didn`t replace spending time together - sitting across a table from each other having a conversation, walking along the lake while we talked.

I decided that I would make spending time with friends more of a priority as I drove home that night. With this friend and with others that it had been far too long since we sat down to talk.

Together . . . time with people we love and care about . . . it`s something we all need.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It`s Okay to be Not Okay

"How are you?"

"Fine. You?"


And then both people move on to other things - maybe the weather or a sports game, or maybe to different people to have the same short conversation with.

That's become a standard way for "how are you?" conversation to happen. And that's the case everywhere . . . on the street, in a coffee shop, in the grocery store . . . even in our churches.

But how often are we answering the "how are you?" question with "fine" when we're anything but fine?

How often would our real answer be that we're struggling with something? Or upset about something? Or grieving a loss? But we don't feel we can say that when someone asks how we are.

When did we decide it was not okay to be not okay?

When did we decide we had to live behind a façade?

And, most importantly, when did this thinking invade our churches?

When I think about it, the church should be the one place where it's okay to be not okay. The one place where we can be honest with each other about what is really going on below the surface.

The truth is, we're all broken people. We all have hurts. We all have struggles. But we feel this strange need to hide that from everyone else. We act like we have it all together when we're really falling apart.

And, for what? So people will look at us a certain way.

Behind those facades we put up of having it all together are some lonely people who really aren't as okay as they try to make people think they are.

This way of thinking has to change. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus says, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Jesus didn't come for those who had it all together. He came for those who are broken and hurting. And His church should be a safe place for them to come and be exactly as they are.

The church should be a place where it's okay to be not okay. Because it's only when we fix our eyes on Jesus that anything makes sense and we can be healed. And while we're walking through it, we need a safe place to be not okay. That place should be the church.

How you doing at being honest about being not okay?

It has to start somewhere if we're going to get rid of the facades we're living behind that make us lonely. Maybe in your circle it needs to start with you deciding it's okay to be not okay and sharing that with those around you. Yes, it's a risk, but it's a necessary one if things are going to change and it's going to become okay to be not okay.

It doesn't mean you have to tell your whole story to everyone you talk to - sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. It starts with answering the question "how are you?" with something other than fine - with something that's true to how you really are. And then see where the conversation goes from there.

It's okay to be not okay. That should be true in our churches and our lives.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

God is Faithful to His Promises

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

This verse is one I have often missed the depth of because it's in the middle of a number of verses on meeting together and encouraging one another. But this short verse contains a great reminder for us.

As followers of Christ we profess hope in Jesus Christ to save us and offer us forgiveness for our sins. This is a hope we can hold onto without concern. It is true. That's why we can boldly share it with others and why we're told to. That's why we can hold onto it no matter what comes our way.

The second part of this verse is what's important. It gives us the reason why we can hold onto hope in Jesus Christ without wondering if it's stable.

God is faithful. He will keep His promises. And He has promised that Jesus' sacrifice was enough and gives us direct access to Him. We can live in the assurance that God's promise is true because He is faithful.

Scripture is full of promises God made that He kept.
  • God promised Noah that He would never destroy the whole earth again with a flood. (Genesis 8:20-9:17)
  • God promised Joshua He would go with him always. (Joshua 1:1-9)
  • God promised Moses He would give him the words to say to Pharaoh and favour with the Israelites. (Exodus 3 & 4)
  • Jesus promised He would be with us always. (Matthew 28:20)
Based on these and many more examples, we can be confident that God will keep His promises because He is faithful.

Reading Scripture and seeing that God always keeps His promises gives me hope. We have hope because we serve a God Who is faithful to His word. We can cling to the promises He has made based on the past.

We serve a faithful God!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live What You Say You Believe

If you're a regular reader here, you've probably noticed I took a bit of a break from writing here in the last week or so. It wasn't planned or I would have told you about it in advance. Sometimes life just seems to necessitate pulling back for a time.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a couple of posts that came from a Bible study I'm doing with some women from my church. I was talking about changing our view when God interrupts our plans and beginning to see those times as divine interventions - as opportunities to join God in His purposes. I also talked about how we respond to those divine interventions.

Looking back at my life, I could see times when God interrupted my plans and invited me to join in on His. And I could see how I responded them.

But what I didn't know when I wrote those posts was that God was about to interrupt my plans again. He wasn't going to just let it be something I wrote about.

And isn't that how God works? He doesn't want things to just be head knowledge. He wants them to get down deep into our hearts. And for that to happen we have to live it. Because when we walk through the experience we have to decide if what we say we believe is what we actually believe.

That is one thing I've learned about God - He wants us to live it. He doesn't want it to be something we just talk about. He wants us to be transformed by what we say we believe and live it out.

When is the last time God took something that you could talk about to others and made sure you were also living it?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The God of Second Chances

"Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time . . ." (Jonah 3:1)

I love what this verse says about God and second chances.

Jonah had been told by God to go to Ninevah and preach against them. He went as far as he could in the other direction because he didn't want to go preach to his enemies.

But, even after running from what God told him to do, Jonah wasn't disqualified from doing what God had asked him to do. God gave him a second chance to do what he had originally been asked to do.

God spoke to Jonah again. God gave Jonah the same job again. And the second time Jonah followed through with what God said.

And the good news is that God offers the same opportunity to us. Just like Jonah, we often run the other way from things God tells us to do. When we don't want to do those things, we will look for ways not to do them.

But, if we realize the error of our ways and stop running from God, He gives us a second chance too. We get the opportunity to do what God says the second (or third or fourth, or 100th) time.

We serve a God of second chances. The requirement to get that second chance is that we stop running from what God is saying.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Impact of Encouragement

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

Many times before when I've read this verse, I've wondered how it all fit together. It almost seemed like two different thoughts. Until today . . . the two fit together when I read it today.

I love how God's Word comes alive in new and fresh ways every time we read it, if we're listening for what He has to say. That means we can read the Bible many times and never get bored with what we're reading.

Back to the verse from Hebrews . . .

The writer of Hebrews is calling on those who claim to be followers of Christ to encourage each other on a regular basis. And the encouragement is to keep us following the path God has laid out for us and to keep us from getting stuck in a pattern of sin that pulls us from God.

When you're walking through life on your own, it's easy to get pulled off course. It's easy to begin to stray into an area of sin in your life and not realize the danger until you're in trouble because of it. It's Satan's specialty to subtly lead us off course - just a little bit at first, but over time it grows until we're really far off course.

I believe the writer of Hebrews gives us the prescription for staying on the right path more often and turning back sooner when we do get off course. The prescription is having other followers of Christ in our lives to encourage us to keep going the right way - even when it's hard.

We need people in our lives who can help us to keep going. Who will pray for us when we're struggling. Who will warn us when we start heading in the wrong direction. God made us to need people in our lives for that.

The culture we live in tells us we don't need anybody else, but the Bible says something different. The Bible tells us we need to learn to live in community with others.

It's probably easier in lots of ways to keep relationship with others distant. It means we can put ourselves first and do whatever we want. But, it's dangerous to live that way.

The truth is that living in relationship with other people is dangerous too. We take a risk to allow people to get close enough to encourage us when it's hard and warn us when we start to wander.

But it's a risk with a reward for taking it because it's only when we open ourselves up to relationships with others that we really get to live.
Do you have people in your life who encourage you regularly?
Do you have people in your life who warn you when you're beginning to head off course?
Are you that kind of person for others?

Friday, October 4, 2013

How Do You Respond to Interruptions?

A couple of days ago I wrote about a Bible study I'm a part of on the book of Jonah. I talked about seeing things as interruptions or changing our view for them to be divine interventions. Today, I want to talk about how we respond to those in our lives.

When God comes along and interrupts our plans, we have a choice in how we respond to that interruption. And how we respond will often line up with whether we see it as an interruption or a divine intervention.

Jonah saw God's job for him as an interruption. He didn't want to go to Ninevah and preach to them. He wanted to stay where he was in Jerusalem and keep doing what he was already doing. So, Jonah tried to run from God's new job for him - as far as he could in the other direction.

As we've been studying this, I've started to wonder what would have been different in Jonah's response if he had seen it as a divine intervention instead. What if Jonah had seen God's new job for him as an opportunity to participate in God's work? What would have looked different?

We are often faced with the same choice Jonah had. God has come along and interrupted our lives in some way and we have to decide what we're going to do.

Are we going to run from it?

Or are we going to step into it even if it doesn't seem like what we want in the moment?

We always have the choice. God will always leave us with the choice when He comes with an invitation to join Him in His purposes.

Has God interrupted your life recently?

How are you responding to it?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Interruption or Divine Intervention?

This fall I'm doing a study on Jonah - the prophet - with a group of ladies from my church. It's been a great study so far.

The subtitle for the study we're doing is "navigating a life interrupted." When I read that it intrigued me. Who hasn't had life interrupted? Who hasn't found those interruptions hard to navigate at time?

For these first couple of weeks we've been talking about our perspective on interruptions to our lives and how we respond to them.

It only takes a few verses in Jonah for us to see God interrupting Jonah's life. Jonah was a prophet to Israel - tasked with taking God's message to His own people. Then, God came and gave Him a different assignment.

God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach. Ninevah wasn't just a city that was not part of the nation of Israel. Ninevah was Israel's enemy. They were a brutal people and it is likely that Israel suffered loss at their hands. Now God was telling Jonah that was where He wanted Jonah to go and preach a message of repentance.

Talk about an interruption . . . God took Jonah's nice, relatively easy life and turned it upside-down with a new assignment.

Have you ever had God do that in your life? Take your plans and the life you've grown comfortable with and turn it upside-down with something new or different He brings your way?

Jonah had a couple of options in how he could see God's change of plans for him. Jonah could see it as an interruption to his life. Or he could see it as a divine intervention.

It changes everything when we see it as a divine intervention when God steps in and changes our plans.

What is a divine intervention? It's when God invites you to be a part of His purposes on earth in a way that may look differently than you planned.

It changes everything when we begin to see things as divine interventions rather than interruptions. Interruptions are often seen as rude or inconvenient or unwanted. Divine interventions are significant opportunities to join God in His plans.

How do you see interruptions to your plans?

What would change if you began to see them as divine interventions instead?