In God We Trust: Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

Today, I needed a break. So I got up from my new home-office desk, formerly known as the dining room table, and decided to take a walk outside. It was beautiful. The morning air still had a crispness to it. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the green leaves still had enough dew on them to sparkle in the sunlight. Beautiful. And as I walked and continued to be struck by the beauty in God’s creation, a peace settled over me. And I found myself crying out to God: Help Me! The world you have created is so beautiful. Help me to find the beauty and stop getting caught up in the negativity.

I have noticed that I am becoming caught in the negativity that is plaguing our country. I am beginning to feel more anger and even hate towards “the other side” on whatever the issue may be. As I walked, I asked God to take this away from me, let me focus back on His world, not the mess that we have created. And I began to resolve to stop looking at Facebook, to stop watching the media and to pray more.

And then I came across Sharlene, an older lady who was also taking a walk (a short walk just two driveways down from her house). We said good morning and commented on what a beautiful day it was. And instead of continuing on my walk I paused for a moment to enjoy the beauty with her. And Sharlene, who I had never met or spoken to before, told me that she starts every day by reading the bible. And today she read:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.

Psalm 118:24

My entire being rejoiced as she spoke, because the words she was saying resonated with exactly what I had just been thinking and praying to God. I was uplifted and filled with joy by this chance encounter. We chatted for a while longer and then continued in our opposite directions.

And when I arrived back home to my desk/dining room table, I opened the Bible to read the rest of Psalm 118.  And what a clear answer to my prayer it is:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

Let Israel say:

his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Aaron say,

his mercy endures forever.

Let those who fear the LORD say,

his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

The LORD is with me; I am not afraid;

what can mortals do against me?

The LORD is with me as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on my foes.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

I was hard pressed and falling,

but the LORD came to my help.

 

The LORD, my strength and might, has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous:

“The LORD’s right hand works valiantly; the LORD’s right hand is raised;

the LORD’s right hand works valiantly.”

I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and thank the LORD.

This is the LORD’s own gate, through it the righteous enter.

I thank you for you answered me;

you have been my savior.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

 

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice in it and be glad.

LORD, grant salvation!

LORD, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God and has enlightened us.

Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;

my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

 

Psalm 118

 

“In danger I called on the Lord.”  I have been in danger.  In danger from the world around me.  Not so much the physical danger, as much as my soul has been in danger.  And no mask can protect me or others from that.  But the Lord is with me and has answered me!  How great is our God!!  He has set me free!

The words in this psalm are so powerful!  “What can mortals do against me?”  Nothing.  Nothing if I am right with God. “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.  Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.”  No politician can save us.  We need to put our trust and hope in God, not any politician, democrat or republican.  In God we trust!  If only our country would turn back to this.   I cannot control the country, but I can control me: In God I trust!  I can resist the negative temptations of the world:

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

This is truly the day the Lord has made.  The beauty that surrounds us is all created by God.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Let us stop looking for sorrow and anger.  Let us stop focusing on the negativity.  God is great!  His mercy endures forever!  Thank God for that because our own mercy towards each other is short tempered and short lived!

God,

You are amazing!  Thank you for this beautiful day!  Thank you for opening my eyes and answering my prayers.  You alone are my God.  In you alone I put my trust!  Help me to keep my eyes focused on you!  There is so much to rejoice about with you, so much to be thankful for!

 

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

Do you ever wonder what God is calling you to do?  I think about it constantly.  I know His plan is bigger than me.  I know He is calling me to do more.  But what is it He wants from me?  What is it He wants for me?

As I was racking my brain and struggling with what God wants me to do, I heard this verse on the radio:

We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

I love these lines: Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  

Maybe I am trying to think (and worry) too big.  Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  This is the will of God.  If I focus on these three things…  how could I be anything but happy?  How could I not be following God’s will?  No matter the circumstance, if I can rejoice at the goodness around me, the life God has given me, the love that God showers on me; if I can give thanks for everything I receive, every blessing I have, every moment that I enjoy; and if I can pray about everything else, I cannot help but think I will be satisfied.  I will be happy.  I will be living God’s will (even if I never accomplish anything else, even if I screw up along the way, even if the world is dark around me). Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  I can choose to find the good and rejoice.  I can choose to be thankful, instead of always wanting more.  I can focus my fears, my worries, my pain into prayer.

God,

I rejoice in your goodness!  Thank you for allowing me another day on this earth.  Thank you for blessing me with so much.  Help me to remember your love and your blessings, particularly when darkness tries to invade.  I pray for your help and your guidance.  On paper, this can seem so easy, but in life it can become so hard.

 

 

 

A day for rejoicing!

Today is a day for rejoicing!  Why?  Because a friend received good news from the doctor!  Because I found something I had lost!  Because God is here!

Is there ever a day that is not worthy of rejoicing — even on our darkest days there is reason to rejoice — to find joy in God!

I think the psalms always provide good words for rejoicing — today, the Bible opened to Psalm 40:

Surely, I wait for the LORD; who bends down to me and hears my cry,  Draws me up from the pit of destruction, out of the muddy clay,  Sets my feet upon rock, steadies my steps, And puts a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God.

Many shall look on in fear and they shall trust in the LORD. Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.

You, yes you, O LORD, my God, have done many wondrous deeds!  And in your plans for us there is none to equal you.  Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount.  Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, “See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!”

When I sing of your righteousness in a great assembly, See, I do not restrain my lips; as you, LORD, know.  I do not conceal your righteousness within my heart; I speak of your loyalty and your salvation. I do not hide your mercy or faithfulness from a great assembly.

LORD, may you not withhold your compassion from me; May your mercy and your faithfulness continually protect me.

Psalm 40:2-12

My God you have done wondrous things!  And in your plans for us there is none equal to you!  I wish everyone could know and see the comfort you offer, the plans you have, the goodness that comes from knowing you.  The joy that only you can provide.

Unfortunately, today, I also learned of a man who jumped to his death, apparently a suicide, off a downtown building.  It aches my heart to know that you were so close and he could not see.  Help those who are hurting to find security in you.  Help me to help those who are hurting to find security in you.

Thank you God for drawing me from the pit of destruction.  Thank you for setting me on your firm rock.  Help me to share your comfort with others, to rejoice in your goodness.  Grant me your compassion and grant me compassion for others.  Protect me O Lord.  Help me to always know, even on my darkest day, that my security is in you.

Rejoice!

I want to rejoice in the Lord!  That is what I woke up thinking.  And I thought to myself, I hope the Bible opens to a joyful section.  It opened to the book of Micah, and not knowing much about Micah, my first thought was a groan.  But once I started reading Micah, I could not put it down!  (Micah is not a long book, so again don’t be overly impressed.)  It is chock full of goodness, particularly if you skip over the first section, “Oracles of Punishment,” and dive right into “Oracles of Salvation.”  Allow me to share my favorite passages:

On that day—oracle of the LORD—I will gather the lame, And I will assemble the outcasts, and those whom I have afflicted.  I will make of the lame a remnant, and of the weak a strong nation; The LORD shall be king over them on Mount Zion, from now on and forever.

Micah 4:6-7

I love the idea of forever!  And love that our physical limitations will be meaningless!

But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, Then the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel.  He shall take his place as shepherd by the strength of the LORD, by the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall dwell securely, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: he shall be peace.

Micah 5:1-4

How can I not rejoice about the foretelling of Jesus’ birth!  The last line sends warm love through me, each time I read over it: “he shall be peace.”

With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow before God most high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my crime, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:6-8

What God asks of us, is really quite simple: do justice, love goodness, walk humbly with God.  I am struck by the juxtaposition of this with the question right before it: “shall I give my firstborn for my crime, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”  As a mother, I cannot even imagine the thought of doing this.  But of course, God does not require anything like this from us.  His request of us, really is quite simple, and quite painless, and indeed will make us happy.  But still we struggle with it. So God takes on the ultimate sacrifice for us, He gives His son as a sacrifice for our sins.

And then Micah shouts out in confidence in the Lord:

But as for me, I will look to the LORD, I will wait for God my savior; my God will hear me! Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! though I have fallen, I will arise; though I sit in darkness, the LORD is my light. I will endure the wrath of the LORD because I have sinned against him, Until he pleads my case, and establishes my right. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see his righteousness.

Micah 7:7-9

I echo these words.  I look to the Lord!  I wait for God my savior!  Though I have fallen, I will rise!  Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light!  Despite my sin, the Lord will bring me forth to light and I will see His righteousness!

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but instead delights in mercy, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our iniquities?  You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.

Micah 7:18-19

Praise God!

Joy & Peace

It is late Friday night.  It has been a very long week.  I have been gone since 5 am this morning and just now getting home at 11:30 at night.  The  weekend plans are packed with 3 soccer games, 1 baseball game, 2 meetings and probably 4-5 hours of work, maybe more.  And at some point I need to pack and prepare for a three-day trip.  I am tired.  And there is no foreseeable rest in sight.

I quickly opened the Bible tonight, ready to just crawl into bed and collapse.  Here is what God told me:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

The section is labeled “Joy and Peace”. And that is exactly what I need right now.  God always knows just what to say!  I rejoice in the Lord!  He is mighty indeed and He is near. I will let go of my anxieties (hand them over to God) and in prayer and petition, make my requests known to God.    Lord, I need rest.  I need help.  I look to you.  I put my trust in you. Lead me, guide me, hold me.

Now I just need to think about what is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and gracious and excellent and worthy of praise.  I think about God because what else is all of these things? GOD.  God and all that He creates.  The beautiful sunrise breaking through the darkness of night.  The new buds on the trees and the daffodils starting to bloom.  The newborn calf and the 5-year old’s laugh.  Friends forged in faith.  LOVE.

Peace

Joy

Thank you God!