Praise God!

It is Sunday.  A day to praise and worship God.  The Bible agreed this morning, as it opened here:

On that same day, David appointed Asaph and his brothers to sing for the first time these praises of the LORD:

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name; make known among the peoples his deeds.  Sing praise, play music; proclaim all his wondrous deeds.  Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!

Rely on the mighty LORD; constantly seek his face.

Recall the wondrous deeds he has done, his signs, and his words of judgment, You sons of Israel, his servants, offspring of Jacob, the chosen ones!  The LORD is our God; who rules the whole earth.  He remembers forever his covenant the pact imposed for a thousand generations— Which was made with Abraham, confirmed by oath to Isaac, And ratified as binding for Jacob, an everlasting covenant for Israel: “To you will I give the land of Canaan, your own allotted heritage.”  When they were few in number, a handful, and strangers there, Wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another, He let no one oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: “Do not touch my anointed, to my prophets do no harm.”

Sing to the LORD, all the earth, announce his salvation, day after day.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised; to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations all do nothing, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty go before him;  power and rejoicing are in his holy place.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; Give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts, and come before him; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; the world will surely stand fast, never to be moved. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let them say among the nations: The LORD is king.  Let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!  Then let all the trees of the forest exult before the LORD, who comes, who comes to rule the earth.

Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever; And say, “Save us, O God, our savior, gather us and deliver us from among the nations, That we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in praising you.  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!

Let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Amen!

Twice David tells us: Give thanks to God!  Being grateful seems like a lost attribute in today’s world (perhaps it was in ancient times as well).

Call on His name. Constantly seek His face.  Rely on God.  (How often do we forget to ask?  To call out to God when we need Him — and even when we think we don’t need Him?  How often do we doubt and fail to trust that His way is the right way — to be confident that we can rely on Him?)

Sing to the Lord.  Spread the joy of God. God has done mighty deeds.  Announce His salvation day after day.  Tell all the earth of his glory.   There can be no doubt that what the world needs now, is God!  Who is going to tell the world this?  It takes us all of us to do that.  Sing of God’s goodness.  Let all the earth rejoice!  Give all glory to God!

His love endures forever!

Thank you God for another beautiful day! Thank you for every breath and heartbeat that you provide even when we do not take full advantage of them, even when we do not use them to glorify your name.  You are my King!  You are my Savior!

Save us O God!

Make my roots deep and strong!

I need structure.  I need rules.  I need God. This is what the Bible told me when I opened it today.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.  Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.

But not so are the wicked, not so! They are like chaff driven by the wind.  Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just. Because the LORD knows the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Psalm 1:1-6

We all face wickedness, sometimes from within, sometimes it surrounds us.  It can be easy to be swayed by popular opinion, by what the world thinks is good, by whatever is “in” right now.  If we do not have a foundation, if we do not have God’s word, his law, it is much easier for us to get tossed about by whatever way the wind blows. But it we focus on God’s word, on his law, if we focus on God, we become planted in fertile soil, nourished by God’s flowing river, by His love.  Like a tree we may sway with the tumultuous winds around us, but we are firmly rooted in God.  We won’t get swept up in the wickedness around us.

God,  Your word is my joy!  I want my roots planted deep and strong! Help me to make the time to nourish and strengthen my roots in you.

 

 

God is Great!

God is truly great!  Today’s passage is awe-inspiring!

Now will I recall God’s works; what I have seen, I will describe.  By the LORD’s word his works were brought into being; he accepts the one who does his will.  As the shining sun is clear to all, so the glory of the LORD fills all his works; Yet even God’s holy ones must fail in recounting the wonders of the LORD, Though God has given his hosts the strength to stand firm before his glory.  He searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart; their secrets he understands.  For the Most High possesses all knowledge, and sees from of old the things that are to come.  He makes known the past and the future, and reveals the deepest secrets.  He lacks no understanding; no single thing escapes him.  He regulates the mighty deeds of his wisdom; he is from all eternity one and the same, With nothing added, nothing taken away; no need of a counselor for him!  How beautiful are all his works, delightful to gaze upon and a joy to behold!  Everything lives and abides forever; and to meet each need all things are preserved.  All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has he made in vain;  For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?

Sirach 42:15-25

Read that again.  It is powerful.  He accepts the one who does his will.  We know that.  But it is hard.  There is some comfort though: even the holy ones will fail in recounting the wonders of the Lord.  We are not alone in our failures.  Even when we fail, even when we fall into the dark abyss, God searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart.  No matter where we hide, He can find us.  No matter how dark we may think a heart becomes, He can penetrate it.  No one is a lost cause. He understand the secrets that we hide from the world.  And we all have secrets.  We all have a darkness we hide.

All of us differ, yet none of us has he made in vain.  For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?

God is great and He has made us great.  All goodness comes from Him.  We come from Him.  Let us praise God for His goodness and His power!

For him each messenger succeeds, and at his bidding accomplishes his will.  More than this we need not add; let the last word be, he is the all!  Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works;  Awesome indeed is the LORD, and wonderful his power.  Lift up your voices to glorify the LORD as much as you can, for there is still more. Extol him with renewed strength, do not grow weary, for you cannot fathom him.  For who has seen him and can describe him?  Who can praise him as he is?  Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have I seen.  It is the LORD who has made all things; to those who fear him he gives wisdom.

Sirach 43:26-33

God is greater than we can even imagine.  We cannot fathom Him.  Think about these words: Greater is He than all His works.  Only a few of His works have we seen.  There is still more.

God,

You are all almighty!  I try to place you into a box here on earth, something I can comprehend.  I vainly attempt to comprehend what I cannot understand.  Your power is beyond my comprehension.  Your love is beyond my comprehension.  I know it is great.  I know you are great!  I am in awe.  All glory and praise to you!  I want to know you better.  I want to serve you better.

I know that You are the King of the World!

My prayer is that I may serve as your messenger, that I may do your will!

Battle against Evil

There are many battles in life.  We hear about them all the time.  Military battles like the battle at Yorktown, the battle of the Alamo, the battle at Gettysburg.  Court battles like Marbury vs. Madison, Brown vs. Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade.  Sports battles or rivalries like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Cowboys and the Redskins, the Bengals and the Steelers. Everyday battles like the battles with our children over bedtime or eating vegetables.  We have all heard the saying, you have to pick your battle.  In other words, if we are going to spend energy and resources fighting something, we want to make sure it is worth it.

There really is only one battle worth fighting.  The battle against evil.  And we need to fight it every day.  Sometimes we may try to take the easy way and hide from it.  Sometimes we forget how to fight it.  In tonight’s bible verse, God tells us how to fight the battle:

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:10-17

When our favorite sports team is playing we put on the team jersey, we may wave a team flag or scarf or foam finger, we chant the team name or sing the team song.  All for a battle that is (ultimately) meaningless.  For the most important battle of our life — what do we put on?  Are we wearing God’s jersey?  Are we waving His flag? Are we chanting His name or singing his word?

We know how to fight battles.  Let’s fight this one together!  Put on God’s armor! Hold faith as a shield!  When our faith is strong, what can penetrate it?  Take the helmet of salvation!  God’s salvation — our protection.  Take the sword of the Spirit!  The word of God is powerful like a sword — it pierces to the heart.  It destroys evil.  It is the offensive weapon.  Our faith is our defense — our shield to protect us when evil strikes.

Our struggle is not with flesh and blood.  The struggle goes much deeper.  But we can draw strength from God for every battle.  Our prayers are our victory chants.

God,

You are great!  I want to be on your team!

Let’s Go with God!

Let’s Go with God!

Let’s Go with God!

L-E-T-S-G-O! Let’s go!

The Lord is My Shepherd

It is fitting that tonight the Bible opened to this Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.

Psalm 23:1-6

I have always equated this psalm with death.  But as I read it now, I see that it is all about life! With the Lord as our shepherd, what can we need?  He provides us with everything.  Green pastures to lie down.  (Think about a beautiful green pasture.  I cannot help but smile when I think of a bright green pasture lit against a blue sky.  Peaceful.  God provides us with rest for our mind and body.  There is so much around us that is just beautiful and peaceful if we stop and look.)  Still waters — to restore us.  Water to drink.  Water to wash over us.  Water to restore us and give us new life.

He guides us along right paths. (Oh, how I wish I would stop trying to explore on my own!)

And then the death part — even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…  I will fear no evil for you are with me.  At our darkest times, God is with us.   David goes from talking about “the Lord” to talking very familiarly about “you” because in our darkest times, God is right there.  He is not a far off being, referred to in the third person.  He is right there, as a friend, as a confidant, as a protector.  “I will fear no evil for you are with me.”  He is there as a father: “your rod and your staff comfort me.”

This is not about death — this is about life.  Life here on earth where God walks with us, provides for us and pursues us with His goodness and mercy.  Our cup overflows with God’s love.  And life with God for endless days.  God sets His table before us — He invites us to join Him.  He pursues us with His goodness and mercy.   He pursues us.  Imagine the power if we pursue Him.

Oh Lord,

I ask you to be with those who are walking through the shadow of death.  Lift them up.  Show them your goodness and mercy.

Thank you for pursuing me and never giving up.  I pledge to pursue you.

God’s Love

I don’t believe there is a better place for the bible to open than to these words:

I love you, says the LORD

Malachi 1:2

Plain words.  Easy to understand.  And yet, easy for us to forget.  But even when we forget, God calls us back.

Since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.

Return to me, that I may return to you, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:7

I love you Lord!  Your love is undeniable, unwavering, all encompassing. Your love is faithful, even when we are not.  Thank you!  I want to know your love so deeply.  I want to know how to love like you do.

 

Light will break the darkness

Life is hard.  Pain and suffering surrounds us.  It is impossible to avoid.  In Ephesians, Paul provides us with Rules for the New Life:

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.

The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.

No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.

All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.

[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:25-32

These are not easy rules.  But even in these rules, there is recognition that we will be angry.  Life sometimes stinks.  We will be angry.  But Paul warns do not let the sun set on your anger, do not leave room for the devil.  Be angry.  But reconcile with God.  Don’t go to bed angry.  Anger creates weakness; it creates cracks for the devil to infiltrate.  Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.  We are sealed with God’s Spirit.  We cannot rid ourselves of Him, no matter how hard we may sometimes try.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.  Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.  Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.  So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, or it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Ephesians 5:1-14

We have all been darkness.  We have all been in darkness.  God calls us to the light.  This life is temporary.  We have a short time to live and love on earth.  We have a short time to fight off the devil and the pain and suffering that exploits our weakness.  This will pass.  Love.  Be thankful.  Expose the darkness — do not hide it away.  Be angry, but do not dwell on the anger.  Bring it back to God.  Live in the light — God’s light.  Jesus has conquered death — we just have to conquer this short life on earth.

Lord,

I do not always understand your ways.  I am sometimes quick to anger.  Forgive me for my weakness.  Forgive me for my doubt when things do not go my way.  I want to live in your light.  I want to live like Christ.  Help me to love more freely.  Help me to reconcile with you when I fail.  It is easy to have faith when things go well.  Keep my faith strong when things go wrong.

 

Strengthen us O Lord

Tonight a friend needs prayers and strength.  And the Bible opened here:

For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened,  that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.

Romans 1:11-12

Sometimes we need to lean on each other’s faith.

Lord, I pray that you watch over those who are hurting tonight.  Keep them safe.  Hold them close.  Heal them, Lord.  We believe!  We have faith!  We know that you can do all things.  We pray for your healing powers tonight.

Don’t Forget

There are so many days that we are blessed that we take for granted.  This past week I have seen two signs on churches reminding us that today is a gift, don’t waste it.  But it seems like so many things can get in the way of life…   at least the life I want to lead.  So many things get in the way of our relationship with God.

Today the Bible reminded me of the cycle that has gone on since the beginning of time.  God takes care of us, provides for us, saves us.  We become satisfied; we become proud; we forget about God:

I, the LORD, am your God, since the land of Egypt; gods apart from me you do not know; there is no savior but me.

I fed you in the wilderness, in the parched land.  When I fed them, they were satisfied; when satisfied, they became proud,

therefore they forgot me.

Hosea 13:4-6

I have  fallen into this cycle in my own life.  As God tells us repeatedly throughout the Bible, even though we may forget, all is not lost.  All is never lost:

Return, Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have stumbled because of your iniquity.  Take with you words, and return to the LORD;

Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and take what is good.  Let us offer the fruit of our lips.  Assyria will not save us, nor will we mount horses;  We will never again say, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.”

I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from them.

Hosea 14:2-5

Lord, forgive me.  I continue to stumble.  I know your path is straight.  And yet I stumble off of it.  There is nothing I can do that can compare to you.  Nothing on earth, nothing I can create, no work that I can perform can save me.  Only you can save me. I turn to you, Lord.  I turn to you for your grace, and your mercy.  I turn to you for your love and forgiveness which never waivers.

An instruction manual

I must confess.  Life has taken me away from where I need to be.  As a result, I am out of focus and need a little instruction to get back.  Tonight the Bible opened to book of Tobit:

So he called his son Tobiah; and when he came, he said to him: “Son, when I die, give me a decent burial. Honor your mother, and do not abandon her as long as she lives. Do whatever pleases her, and do not grieve her spirit in any way.  Remember, son, how she went through many dangers for you while you were in her womb. When she dies, bury her in the same grave with me.

“Through all your days, son, keep the Lord in mind, and do not seek to sin or to transgress the commandments. Perform righteous deeds all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wickedness.   For those who act with fidelity, all who practice righteousness, will prosper in their affairs.

“Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you.  Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little.  You will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity.  For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps one from entering into Darkness.  Almsgiving is a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who practice it.

“Be on your guard, son, against every kind of fornication, and above all, marry a woman of your own ancestral family. Do not marry a foreign woman, one who is not of your father’s tribe, because we are descendants of the prophets, who were the first to speak the truth. Noah prophesied first, then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our ancestors from the beginning of time. Son, remember that all of them took wives from among their own kindred and were blessed in their children, and that their posterity would inherit the land.  Therefore, son, love your kindred. Do not act arrogantly toward any of them, the sons and daughters of your people, by refusing to take a wife for yourself from among them. For in arrogance there is ruin and great instability. In idleness there is loss and dire poverty, for idleness is the mother of famine.

“Do not keep with you overnight the wages of those who have worked for you, but pay them at once. If you serve God thus, you will receive your reward. Be on your guard, son, in everything you do; be wise in all that you say and discipline yourself in all your conduct.  Do to no one what you yourself hate. Do not drink wine till you become drunk or let drunkenness accompany you on your way.

“Give to the hungry some of your food, and to the naked some of your clothing. Whatever you have left over, give away as alms; and do not let your eye begrudge the alms that you give.   Pour out your wine and your bread on the grave of the righteous, but do not share them with sinners.

“Seek counsel from every wise person, and do not think lightly of any useful advice.  At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things. Whomever the Lord chooses to raise is raised; and whomever the Lord chooses to cast down is cast down to the recesses of Hades. So now, son, keep in mind these my commandments, and never let them be erased from your heart.

“Now, I must tell you, son, that I have deposited in trust ten talents of silver with Gabael, the son of Gabri, at Rages in Media.  Do not fear, son, that we have lived in poverty. You will have great wealth, if you fear God, avoid all sin, and do what is good before the Lord your God.”

Tobit 4:3-21

This really seems to capture it all.

Lord, Help me to follow your wise counsel.  Help me regain my focus on the important things.  Help me to do what is good.  Make my paths straight and my plans, or more importantly your plans, prosper.